The PGA regular season is over and the battle for the FedEx cup will be fought over the next three weekends, beginning with the Northern Trust Championship in Jersey City where the top 125 ranked players of the season will be cut down to 70 for next week’s BMW Championship in Chicago. The top 30 from Chicago will go on to Atlanta to compete in the Tour Championship with a $15 million bonus for 1st place and each player’s starting stroke dependant on their position in the rankings.
Liberty National is a 7,370 yard, Par 71 course. A former landfill and oil refinery, the site has undergone a $300 million transformation to become a world class golf facility with views of the Hudson River and the New York skyline. It has hosted the Northern Trust twice before in 2009 and 2013 and it hosted the President’s Cup in 2017. The Northern Trusts were won here on scores of –9 and –11 and it’s unlikely to be much lower than that this time around. It can be unpredictably windy, so caution and accuracy are likely to be best rewarded.
The biggest names in golf show up here on Thursday and most of them have expectations of collecting a share of the huge bonus prizes on offer in three weeks time. The top three in the rankings (Koepka (8/1), McIlroy (10/1), Kuchar (50/1)) tee off together at 13:16 with McIlroy potential value at 6/4 to win that grouping. Although he has had an excellent season, with 7 top 5 finishes and 2 wins on tour, it’s his Open performance that many will remember, and Rory will want to finish the year off on a high.
This is Woods’(28/1) first event since his disappointing performance in the Open and only his 5th event since winning the Masters in April. He looked underprepared in Portrush, but expect a better showing here, a venue he hasn’t won at yet but has finished second at on two occasions in the last decade. He has committed to playing in next week’s event if he makes the top 70 here as he attempts to make it back to East Lake, the scene of his incredible comeback win last year after 5 years without a tour victory. Three events, back to back, may be too much to ask for a man with a bad back of his own, but he can certainly go well here off a nice break. He tees off on Thursday morning with JT Poston (100/1) who is fresh from his first PGA tour win at the Wyndham last weekend.
This year’s US Open winner Gary Woodland (66/1) will be familiar with the course as he plays and practices at Liberty National regularly. He comes here ranked 7th overall in strokes gained tee to green, and 6th in strokes gained ball striking, two key traits this weekend and he is overdue a big performance.
Another interesting player this weekend is Justin Thomas (18/1), coming off the back of two top 12 finishes, and his game ranks at the top of the key categories needed to compete around this course. If his putting holds up, he could be value at 18/1
Other players to note are Adam Scott (40/1) who shot a final round 66 here when he won this in 2013, and champion from last year, Bryson DeChambeau (40/1).
Justin Thomas (18/1)