The Northern Trust
It was a profitable all be it frustrating week for us at the Wyndham with Si Woo Kim and Kevin Kisner tying for third place and both bagging us full place returns behind shock winner Jim Herman.
Si Woo’s inability to close things out having held a two shot lead going in to Sunday was particularly frustrating as even a solid 67/66 would have been good enough to at least make a play off.
Unfortunately though the young Korean let frustration get the better of him on the sixth tee after he was very unlucky with his approach to the Par 5 fifth. His decision to take driver on six, which resulted in a lost ball, coupled with a wayward drive on eight basically cost him three shots, and even though he rallied to play some great stuff around the turn the damage was done.
So we move on to the home stretch of the PGA Tour, yes, it’s Play Off time…
As regular followers of the PGA Tour will know the Fedex Cup Play Offs were re vamped last year with two main purposes in mind of firstly, shoehorning everything in to the desired finishing time line of the end of August before the main NFL season kicks off and secondly to simplify what the powers that be thought was too confusing a format to the average viewer by the time we reached the Tour Championship at East Lake.
So let’s briefly recap the revised format.
As we know all season long players have been jockeying for position in the Fedex Cup race to ensure they finished the regular season in the top 125 ranked players, and with the regular season concluding at last weeks Wyndham Championship those achieving that have moved on to this weeks first Play Off event, The Northern Trust.
As per last year the event for the top 100 players, which used to come second in the schedule is no more meaning that the top 125 is reduced straight down to a Top 70 who will head on to the BMW.
The second big change last year, which I wont go in to huge detail on here [as I will do in a couple of weeks time in my preview!] is that the Tour Championship now operates a handicapping system whereby the player who leads the Fedex Cup point race going in to the week will start the week on -10, the second place player on -8, the third on -7 and so on down to those ranked 26-30th who’ll start at Level par.
With this change the player who then finishes the week on the lowest score will be the Fedex Cup champion and deemed the winner of the Tour Championship even if they have not shot the best four day total if the handicap were discounted.
So, getting back to this week and the Play Offs get underway at TPC Boston in Norton, Massachusetts with The Northern Trust.
While this will be the first time TPC Boston has hosted The Northern Trust [formerly known as the Barclays] it is important to note that the course hosted the Dell Technologies Championship [formerly the Deutsche Bank Championship], which used to be the second Play Off event from its inception in 2003 right through to its demise in 2018 so we have plenty of course history to go on.
As you would expect for this event the field on show is a very strong one with all of those eligible to play set to tee it up.
At the time of writing Bryson Dechambeau who won the last edition of the Dell Technologies held here in 2018 just edges favouritism from Justin Thomas. This pair are then closely followed by two time course winner Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm.
TPC Boston is a par 71 measuring just over 7340yds.
The greens are Bent Grass.
The course was designed by Arnold Palmer in 2001 and underwent a Gil Hanse redesign in 2006.
Other Arnold Palmer designs/redesigns used on tour are TPC Twin Cities the home of the recently held 3M Open and Bay Hill host of the API.
When historically hosting the Dell Technologies the course would set up for low scoring with the Par 5 2nd hole, which measures 542 yards and the par 5 18th hole, which measures 530 yards both offering eagle opportunities.
The Par 4s on offer have also historically been one of the easier sets of Par 4s on the tour.
Having said that it should be noted though that over the final three years The Dell was held here due to firmer conditions TPC Boston wasn’t quite as much of a pushover as it was in previous years and with warm dry weather in the forecast this week we look set for similar conditions.
So let’s take a look at the last ten winners of The Northern Trust since 2010.
The winners of these events have been as follows;
2019 P Reed
2018 B Dechambeau
2017 D Johnson
2016 P Reed
2015 J Day
2014 Hunter Mahan
2013 A Scott
2012 N Watney
2011 D Johnson
2010 M Kuchar
As you can clearly see with this list of winners as a rule play off victories tend to be shared out by the elite players of the game and by and large this is something that we will see has been the historical pattern over the years in all of the play off events, as we go through the next three weeks.
There have of course been some exceptions over the years with the most noticeable one at the Northern Trust coming in the form of Heath Slocum’s win back in 2009. All in all though when looking for the winner over the next few weeks it will no doubt pay to focus on the higher end of the market.
With the tournament jumping around from venue to venue over the years and with this weeks host venue being better known for hosting the Dell Technologies Championship for many years it would be foolish not to focus as much as anything on the final leaderboards from this event over the recent years. As such here is a list of the winners at TPC Boston from 2010 inclusive along with the players who finished second and third.
2018 WINNER - B Dechambeau – 2nd J Rose – 3rd C Smith
2017 WINNER – J Thomas – 2nd J Spieth – 3rd M Leishman
2016 WINNER – R McIlroy – 2nd P Casey – 3rd J Walker
2015 WINNER – R Fowler – 2nd H Stenson – 3rd C Hoffman
2014 WINNER – C Kirk – T2nd – G Ogilvy, R Henley, B Horschel
2013 WINNER – H Stenson – 2nd S Stricker – 3rd G Delaet.
2012 WINNER – R McIlroy – 2nd L Oosthuizen – 3rd T Woods
2011 WINNER – W Simpson – 2nd C Reavie – T3rd J Day, L Donald & B Snedeker.
2010 WINNER – C Hoffman – T2nd J Day, L Donald & G Ogilvy
With regards to the recent form of the winners of the Northern Trust coming in to the event a pattern had developed over recent years, which can be seen from the table below.
As you can see from this table all of the winners from 2013-2017 had been in strong form coming in to the week leading to a conclusion that we should look for a marquee player with good momentum coming in. In 2018 Bryson Dechambeau somewhat bucked this trend and took the trophy on the back of some fairly mediocre form, however last years winner Patrick Reed bought solid form recent form in to the event.
Three Previous Starts – Most Recent First
2019 P Reed 22 12 10
2018 B Dechambeau MC 30 51
2017 D Johnson 13 17 18
2016 P Reed 22 11 13
2015 J Day 1 12 1
2014 Hunter Mahan 7 15 MC
2013 A Scott 5 14 3
2012 N Watney 31 MC 19
2011 D Johnson MC 48 2
2010 M Kuchar 10 9 21
One other thing I have looked at is how many of the past ten winners had already won on the PGA Tour that season. The answer to this was actually quite surprising as it was only five. It could be therefore we are looking for an ‘elite’ player this week who hasn’t had the best of seasons but has turned the corner recently and is now primed and fresh to make a play-off run at just the right time.
The winning score over the past ten events held at TPC Boston was as low as -22 earlier in the decade, however over the final five years that the course was used for the Dell event we have seen -15 win for three consecutive years before Justin Thomas won with -17 in 2018 and Bryson Dechambeau won with -16 in 2018.
Fingers crossed after a disrupted week last week we are hopefully set for four sunny days in Boston, although Sunday does show a small chance of a storm…
Temperatures look set for the low 80s all week whilst wind does not look to be too much of an issue although we could see gusts creep up to 15mph on Friday and Saturday.
As I always say though…this could all change!
I have gone with six players this week as follows;
JASON DAY –25-1 – 2pts e/w 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
While you could of course make a strong case for any of those right at the top of the market the player who sits just behind the top tier in the betting and who I can’t get away from this week is Jason Day.
Day is sure to be a popular pick this week with the case for him being one of those obvious ones that leaps off the page in front of you.
A former world number one The Australian has had a very tough time of things over the past twelve months with only one top ten at Pebble Beach to show for his efforts until lately.
Recently though an amicable split from long time swing coach and mentor Colin Swatton appears to have sparked Day back in to life and after posting a seventh place finish at the Workday back in July he has gone on to notch three further consecutive top six finishes.
The key to Day’s renaissance has been his long game and his approach play in particular and after ranking tenth in Strokes-Gained-Approach-To-The-Green at the WGC Fedex St Jude he lead the field in this department at the PGA at Harding Park.
Always known as a strong putter it has been the flatstick that has let the 32yr old down of late however at the PGA he talked positively about how he felt his putting touch was returning.
In great form Day arrives this week at a venue that he has only missed the cut at once in eleven consecutive visits and where he has posted three top seven finishes over the years so he is obviously comfortable here.
In addition to Jason’s strong course form it should also be noted that he is a former winner of The Northern Trust having posted a victory in the event in 2015, which while of course played on a different track, tells us he is comfortable playing in the North East and enjoys the Play Off time of year. Furthermore Day also has a victory at the Arnold Palmer redesigned Bay Hill, to his name, which links well here.
When backing Day you of course need to be wary of his history of back trouble, which has hampered him a lot over recent years however he talked at the PGA about a new attitude of not feeling sorry for himself and taking a more positive outlook and this certainly appears to be helping him. In addition it was very encouraging to see his back hold up with no apparent ill effects in the cooler damp conditions of San Francisco.
A prolific winner at his best Day’s trajectory seems to be firmly on the up and even at the understandably more restrictive odds based on his recent form he is a ‘must bet’ for me this week.
BILLY HORSCHEL – 60-1 – 1.5pts E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
Another player who certainly enjoys this time of year is Billy Horschel and with momentum on his side I am keen to be on board this week.
Horschel of course memorably lifted the full Fedex Cup spoils back in 2014 thanks to two victories in the Play Off series so we know that he is more than capable of delivering the goods in this company when the mood takes him.
Since finishing seventh at the Workday Horschel has produced a strong run of form, which culminated in a second place finish at the Wyndham at the weekend, an event that in all honesty he really should have won.
Rather than be down on himself though Horschel was very upbeat in his post tournament interviews in Greensboro about the state of all aspects of his game and the direction he is heading and with his coach Todd Anderson due to fly in this week it sounded like he couldn’t wait to get stuck in to the Play Off’s.
Sometimes of course when a player talks positively it can be a case of trying to create a good mindset, however if we look at Horschel’s numbers at Sedgefield we see that he was second in putting for the week, fifth in Driving Accuracy, tenth from tee to green and 11th in approach play so this certainly backs his comments up.
Looking at Horschel’s history at TPC Boston he really should have won here in 2014 so he can certainly handle the course.
Talking of that 2014 edition and those with long memories will remember that Billy had the chance to win the tournament on the 72nd hole or at least make a play off however he chunked his approach badly at the par 5 18th with a 6 iron in to the water thus handing the trophy to Chris Kirk, however rather than be dispirited he bounced back to win the following two events on route to his Fedex Cup triumph and while there was no such glaring error at the weekend I can’t but help draw a comparison in my mind to how he will feel this week arriving here after the near miss at The Wyndham.
All in all Horschel, as he proved again in 2018, is always a man to have on side when he enters the Play Offs in form and I am happy to run with the hot hand this week.
ABRAHAM ANCER – 55 -1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
Looking at a course which in no particular order has seen the likes of Stenson, Scott, Fowler, Hoffman, Thomas, Rose and Delaet flourish over the years tells you that strong approach play, setting up plenty of opportunities, is well rewarded and as my team for the week unfolds it will become clear that I am pursuing this angle and the next player that ticks this box for me is Abraham Ancer.
Ancer who came close to a PGA Tour breakthrough at the 2019 Northern Trust before finishing second also had his chances at TPC Boston in 2018 as he held the 54 hole lead before slipping on Sunday to a closing 73 and seventh place.
What really strikes me about that 2018 performance is that despite losing between 1.5 and 2.5 strokes to the field in Sunday from tee to green, in approach play and in putting, the Mexican still finished eighth in the tee to green stats and 15th in approach play, telling you how well he struck the ball and took to the course in general in his opening three rounds of 66 69 and 65 before the Sunday pressure told.
This year Ancer arrives in Massachusetts in the midst of another incredibly consistent season, which sees him currently sit 13th in the Fedex Cup standings having posted four top ten finishes.
Still winless on the PGA Tour it is surely only a matter of time before the 29yr old makes the breakthrough and having chosen to sit last week at the Wyndham out he arrives here fresh and ready for a Play Off run.
Ancer is one of those players that has the type of all-round steady game that has flourished at this venue and I can see him making a big splash here this week.
SI WOO KIM – 70-1 –1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 39th
Having sat through Si Woo’s front nine on Sunday I had to think long and hard about pulling the trigger again, however ultimately we should not let two bad decisions/swings cloud how well he played at Sedgefield for the vast majority of the week.
As we know Sedgefield CC is one of Kim’s favourite hunting grounds on tour so it is not an automatic that a good performance in N Carolina should lead to backing him in Boston, however the bigger picture here is not just his efforts last week but how well he has been playing from tee to green of late.
For evidence of this we only need to go back a further seven days and look at the Korean’s performance at TPC Harding Park where he finished 13th to see that he finished the week eighth from tee to green and 15th in approach play on his way to four sub 70 rounds.
At the Wyndham of course this stellar long game was then on display again as despite negative numbers on Sunday he finished the week third from tee to green.
Kim as we know has been working with Claude Harmon III for the past twelve months and there is no doubt that things are clicking in to full gear for this talented 25yr old and I would like to think that the renowned coach will be very much focusing with Kim on the positives from last week in his post event analysis.
Only a few weeks back Kim sat in a precarious position in the Fedex Cup standings with regards to making the Play Offs at all, however he arrives here now in 82nd position and a good week away from moving on further - something which his history here of 15 40 35 in three visits shows he is capable of delivering.
It is often said that to win a golf tournament you need that little bit of luck on Sunday and there is no doubt that with his approach to the fifth being unrewarded and the ultimate penalty of the lost ball on six that Sunday at Sedgefield just wasn’t Si Woo’s day.
My hope is that this week he can bounce back strongly and maintain his great form and if so it could just be his turn instead this coming Sunday.
RUSSELL HENLEY - 125-1 –1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED T8th
Another who caught the eye at the Wyndham was Russell Henley and the fact that he began to find some momentum with the putter over the weekend makes him another ‘must back’ for me this time out.
As we know one swallow doesn’t necessarily make a summer, however the fact that he gained over 4.5 strokes to the field with the flat stick on Saturday and Sunday must be hugely encouraging to a player who has gone from being one of the best putters out there to the depths of despair in this department.
Currently 101st in the Fedex Cup standings Henley sits third for the season in approach play but 161st in putting so the problem is there in the numbers for all to see and it looked like he was heading for another similar week at the Wyndham before, after just making the cut, he posted 63 and 65 over the weekend.
This week Henley I am hoping will arrive in Boston buoyed by his performance at Sedgefield and if so, and of course if his ball striking doesn’t desert him, we could well see a repeat of his performance at this venue in 2014 where he held a share of the 54 hole lead before finishing in a tie for second.
Henley as we know is a player who is not afraid of the bigger names having famously taken down McIlroy at the Honda Classic in 2014. A winner again on tour in 2017 I am sure it wont be lost on Russell that he is due a return to the winners enclosure again and if he can maintain the improvement with the putter and align it to his long game he could go very close to win number four on tour this week.
EMILLIANO GRILLO - 150-1 –1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 44th
For my final play this week I shall roll the dice with another strong ball striker who has found some form of late, Emilliano Grillo.
Grillo it has to be said has largely struggled over the past couple of seasons and prior to the last few weeks bar an out of the blue third place in Puerto Rico the 19/20 campaign had delivered nothing.
Recently however Grillo appears to have turned a corner posting another third place at the 3M Open but this time backing it up with a ninth place at the Barracuda and a 66th at the PGA, a performance which promised a lot more before a disappointing finish on Sunday.
In addition to Grillo’s recent form, what particularly catches my eye is his body of work across Arnold Palmer linked courses on tour as in addition to his third place at the 3M recently he has performed well at Bay Hill over the years, and most pertinently of course for this week has finished 33 22 7 in his three visits here, improving his performance on each occasion.
Fifteenth on tour in approach play, fifth in old fashioned GIR and 33rd in Driving Accuracy there is clearly not much wrong with Grillo’s long game this season, as we know with him it is all about the putter and if he can hole his share I can see him giving us a big run at juicy each way odds.
UPDATED 18th AUGUST
FANTASY DRAFT KINGS PICKS
PICK 1 - JASON KOKRAK - DK VALUE- $6800 - FINISHED 13th - 92 DK POINTS
For my first pick this week I am going to side with Jason Kokrak.
Since a third place finish in the first event after lockdown, The Charles Schwab Challenge it has been a very disappointing summer for Kokrak, until last week that is when he bounced back with a 15th place at the Wyndham Championship.
The timing couldn't have been better for Kokrak as this week on the back of that solid effort he arrives at a course that has been kind to him over the years with five made cuts in six visits including a best of eighth in 2016.
There is no doubt that the Canadian has been a frustrating man to follow with regards to getting in the winners enclosure on the PGA Tour, however he regularly pops up with solid efforts in big company such as his eighth place at the WGC event last fall or his three top 20s in the Play Off's last year and I am expecting another strong showing from him this week.
PICK 2 - KEEGAN BRADLEY - DK VALUE $6600 - FINISHED 29th - 81 DK POINTS
The former PGA champion Keegan Bradley has been largely underwhelming since the tour resumed in June although he has played the weekend five times in seven starts.
Bradley does though tend to play solidly at Play Off time of year and of course he won the BMW Championship in 2018.
His record in the North East in general is strong having attended college in the New York area and he has regularly turned in a decent effort at TPC Boston over the years having made the cut on each of his last six visits, a run, which has included three top 20s.
Capable of mixing it with the best on his day Bradley looks good value at $6600 to fill out some line ups and deliver a solid week.