GOLF analyst Lewis Blain (@LewisBlainSport) shares his betting thoughts ahead of the Northern Trust from New Jersey.
Northern Trust | 8th-11th August 2019 | Sky Sports
The FedEx Cup play-offs begin this week as the Tour heads to New Jersey for The Northern Trust, held at Liberty National Golf Course.
Webb Simpson and Rory Sabbatini gave us a share of the spoils with place returns last week and this event looks just as tasty with a fabulous range of odds on offer.
- Liberty National GC, New Jersey, USA.
- Par 71 @ around 7,370 yards.
- Has hosted the '09 and '13 Barclays (FedEx Cup event) and the 2017 Presidents Cup.
- Small and tricky Bentgrass greens, used to be really slopey/bumpy but that was reduced after complaints in 09 – still not completely flat.
- Fairways fairly wide – again, widened after complaints.
- Previous leaderboards suggest that pure flushers succeed here so the key stats for us are SG: T2G and SG: Ball-Striking ('13's top-15 were littered – Scott won, Rose/Woodland/Tiger all second, Bubba/Fowler/Webb all up there.)
- Par-5s as always seem to be the best scoring opportunities.
- Five par-4s between 450-500 yards so worth considering.
- Correlated courses are hard to distinguish having only been here a few times over the years… I'll mention a few here but that doesn't guarantee much help as previous stops would – Augusta National, Bethpage Black, Doral, Firestone, Torrey Pines, Riviera, Muirfield Village plus maybe PGA National, TPC Louisana/Potomac/Summerlin.
- Top 70 in FedEx Cup rankings progress.
- Presidents Cup standings come into play with top 10 gaining auto qualification at the BMW. Eyes on the fringe players here.
Patrick Cantlay (22/1 Betfair)
This year's Memorial winner (Murfield Village) looks the clear and away pick for me this week. He could follow in the footsteps of Bryson DeChambeau who won the Memorial before going on to win this event later in the calendar. He's also won the Shriners at TPC Summerlin and that is a potential correlated course (we'll soon find out).
In terms of performance this season and over recent rounds – Cantlay is 3rd in SG: T2G (season), 3rd in the field for SG: BS (last 24 rounds), 1st for par-5 scoring (L24), 2nd for bogey avoidance (L24) and 6th for par-4 scoring 450-500 yards (L24).
We can see that Cantlay has continued in decent nick since his Memorial win by recording three performances in the top-21 in four tournaments – with a T12 at the recent WGC the pinnacle of the lot so maybe he's gearing up for another go at a win sometime soon. He also finished 3rd at Bethpage Black (PGA Champ) and T9 at the Masters this year. Good signs.
In terms of Presidents Cup standings he's 8th in the US team which looks likely to get him in but just to be sure he will want to ensure a couple of decent performances over the next couple of weeks to save him the hassle of hoping for a captain's pick – US Open winner Gary Woodland, Tony Finau and Rickie Fowler are right behind him which is extra pressure to maintain his spot.
Xander Schauffele (30/1 Coral)
I am convinced that Xander Schauffele wins something big again soon. I did think it would be one of the majors but alas we are without until next year's Masters. He could still win the FedEx Cup, he's 4th in the rankings and only 1,000-odd points behind big Brooks Koepka. The winner of this receives double that at 2,000 points so maybe a huge incentive to win.
Three of his four PGA Tour wins have come in reduced field events and this is technically one of those – with wins at the Tournament of Champions, a WGC as well as the elusive Tour Championship at East Lake two years ago. He's a big game hunter which is reinforced by his major finishes this year – T2 Masters, T16 PGA Championship and T3 US Open.
There is nothing to suggest why he should be longer than Tommy Fleetwood, never won on the PGA Tour and Webb Simpson who has just one more win than Xander yet he has been pro for 7 years longer. Tiger and Rickie have looked a bit rough lately too so I would have him up nearer the 22/1-25/1 mark than 30s plus this week.
Patrick Reed (45/1 SkyBet)
Patrick Reed will be a popular pick this week as he's rounding into some decent form – it's five straight top-23 finishes including a T5 at the Rocket Mortgage and a 10th at the US Open. His performances over recent rounds in terms of stats reflect that improvement too – over the last 24 rounds he is 11th for SG:T2G and 3rd for par-5 scoring. Two lovely signs.
The big motivation for him is the fact he needs to put a string of stunning results together to even qualify for the Presidents Cup team outright – look, he's Mr America and he qualified for the Ryder Cup in the very same manner last year. He's 17th in the rankings which is well off the mark. He may even need a string of performances to ensure a captain's pick.
He's won at Bethpage Black in the FedEx Cup playoffs in 2016 which is a good sign for this week as well as a WGC at Doral. Don't forget he's the Masters winner too. It's time to get aboard the Reed train as much as it hurts to do so.
Bubba Watson (80/1 SkyBet)
Bubba Watson is an interesting risk this week. It's his price that appeals the most but he tends to do well at courses he likes and funnily enough they are the courses he does well at…. He's won the Masters twice, he's won at Riviera three times – both courses that could hint to success here (he's also won the Travelers twice just to back up my point.)
In 2013, he scored a T13 round here so I guess it suits him. He has also won at Torrey Pines and TPC Louisana which could be a good sign too.
He has trended upwards over the last two events, improving his SG: T2G and SG: APP numbers – a T51 at the Open was followed by his latest outing, a T9 at the WGC. He always scores on par-5s but the rest of his game is quite streaky so hopefully we can catch him on an upward trend here.
Bubba is 19th in the Presidents Cup rankings so it is unlikely he reaches auto qualification but he can certainly throw his name into the hat with a couple of good playoff performances. He's actually said he doesn't want to play but would rather be a captain – well, he'll have to prove his way into that too.
Further motivation is required if he is to progress to the BMW Championship as if it were decided right now, he would miss out by one place – he's 71st in the FedEx Cup!
Top 20 Finish: Kyle Stanley (13/2 Paddy Power)
A rare but logical top 20 bet this week. I don't think Kyle Stanley can win this but he can certainly get his name up in the top 20 for the week. He's made six straight cuts, two of which were a top-20 and one was a T21. His latest outing was a T13 at the Wyndham and I'm keen to hop aboard him this week in some form as he's quite a streaky player.
Stanley is 97th in the FedEx Cup rankings, 200 or so points off making the BMW next week so he could really do with some sort of decent showing around Liberty National this week.
Those six straight cuts also saw him pick up strokes T2G as well as on APP so the game to succeed around here is there. When he's putted well (positively gained strokes) in that time he has secured T21 or better and for straight tournaments in the green with putting suggests that attribute is there too.
Historically he's played well at potential decent correlated courses – he's won at TPC Potomac, famously collapsed to lose in a playoff at Torrey Pines and has also lost in a playoff at Muirfield Village – where our main pick Cantlay as won. He's finished in the top-10 there a few times and has also shown up at TPC Louisana.
Northern Trust – Patrick Cantlay (22/1 each-way Betfair)
Northern Trust – Xander Schauffele (30/1 each-way Coral)
Northern Trust – Patrick Reed (45/1 each-way SkyBet)
Northern Trust – Bubba Watson (80/1 each-way SkyBet)
Northern Trust – Top 20 Finish: Kyle Stanley (13/2 Paddy Power)