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Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:57 AM

Best Bets - Northern Trust

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The Northern Trust
Liberty National Golf Course – Par 71 - 7,353 yards


No matter what sport it is, whenever you get to talk about “playoffs” the excitement always takes on another level. The PGA Tour may do their playoffs a bit differently, but for the players who finished in the top 125 of the Fed-Ex Cup points race, the mantra of playoff golf is the same as athletes in any other sport: survive and advance. Considering there is a $10 million check as the top prize, you'd better believe the intensity on their side of things kicks up as well.

This week we get the first of three playoff events on the PGA Tour, as the Northern Trust heads to Liberty National for the first time since the 2013 Barclays event. It's a long track at nearly 7,400 yards that can play even longer if the wind becomes a nuisance, and wind be damned, you'd better be able to consistently find the fairway here, because the alternative is thick, luscious, long rough to deal with. Small, and extremely fast greens wait at the end of the 18 tee boxes, so guys better be able to produce with the flatstick when needed, and scrambling around to avoid too many big numbers is important here as well. The winning score for the 2013 Barclays was -11 (Adam Scott), and in 2009 it was -9, so don't expect to see a birdie fest like we have for the majority of these non-Major, non-WGC events we've had for a month or so. Playoffs are supposed to be tough, and that's what Liberty National sets up to be.

Guys who succeed here need to be on in every aspect of their game, as longer guys will have an advantage no question, but they've got to use that length to put the ball in the right spots along the course. Strokes Gained: Total, as generic as that stat may sound, is a good place to start, as is approach and scrambling numbers given that there isn't a need to go super low here to be among the leaders. Make your birdies when you can, drill your par putts when necessary, and avoid doubles or the dreaded 'other' on the scorecard and you should be alright.

Finally, we can't forget about those in the field that managed to play here more recently then the 2013 Barclays. The most recent President's Cup (2017) was held here with the US side winning that event 19-11. This week's field as 10 of the 12 team members from both the US and International side involved, and even that more recent battle with Liberty National is valuable experience for those 20 guys to fall back on this week. Two of them make this week's list of golfers to watch, while the third name has played a lot of great golf of late without getting to the winner's circle. Let's get to this week's names:

Golfers to Watch:

Dustin Johnson (16/1) – It's been 12 weeks since DJ finished inside the Top 20 at an event this year, and that's likely a big part of why many are willing to overlook him a bit this week given how deep and talented this field is. Recent form can be a big stat for many out there, and while it is important, it never should be the main reason that puts you on, or keeps you off a talented golfer that has many other things lining up for him.

In DJ's case, he ranks tops in the field (3rd overall) in Strokes Gained: Total among those 20 names from the 2017 President's Cup competition, an event that he finished as the top point-getter for either side (4.5 points on a 4-0-1 record). His length will always play well here as long as he's accurate, something he wasn't in the 2013 Barclays with a MC, but a 15th place finish in 2009 that was well before the height of his powers among the game's best suggests he shouldn't have too much trouble navigating his way around this track.

This year DJ is ranks 2nd in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, and his 37th ranking in Strokes Gained: Putting is the worst he sits in any of those SG categories. The driving accuracy has taken a hit and it's why both his recent form and market avoidance of him this week has taken up conversation, but for as nasty as the rough can be at Liberty National, it's not like the fairways are the width of a ruler, as they've got plenty of width to them to work with.

It's DJ's “average” recent form that has forced oddsmakers to push his number down to the 16-1 range, and that's a few points higher then it probably should be in my opinion. For a guy who is still the third favorite in the field who's not been at his best of late tells you that should everything click for Johnson this week, oddsmakers still think very highly of him. He's won this tournament before (albeit at a different course in 2011), has 3 career wins in Fed-Ex Cup playoff events, and would love to fire that first shot in the chase for $10 million. Bettors should expect at least a Top 10 from DJ this week.

Tommy Fleetwood (25/1) – When a course has very penal penalties for guys who consistently find themselves in the rough, how can you not consider a guy who's nickname in some circles is “Fairway Jesus.”

Fleetwood is the one guy in this week's piece that didn't play here in the 2017 President's Cup (he can't as an Englishman), but he is someone that recent form bettors will take more of a liking too. His last four starts include finishes of 4th, 2nd, 23rd, and 13th (the runner-up was at the British Open) as he's basically done everything but win over the past six weeks. He's 7th on Tour in the Strokes Gained: Total stat this season, and his ability to hit fairway after fairway should keep his name among the leaders this weekend.

The knock on backing Fleetwood this week is two-fold in that his price is a little too steep at +2500, considering he's never played Liberty National in competition before. However, a longer course that demands accuracy/length off the tee and typically needs wind as it's best defense is not something any English golfer is a stranger too, and for someone like Fleetwood who's been so close to multiple Majors in recent years, maybe it will take a win in the playoffs to kick start his push over that hump.

You'd like to see +2500 be a bit higher given the depth of the field, but with the 2019 British Open still so fresh in the memories of most, that was never going to be the case. Either way, a win at those odds is still a solid payday for those looking to spend this Sunday praying for 'Fairway Jesus.'

Louis Oosthuizen (60/1) – Dustin Johnson may have been the guy who earned the most points overall in the 2017 President's Cup, but on the International side of things, that honor ended up going to Oosthuizen. Louis' strength has always been in tougher events on Tour where the winning score doesn't need to be around -20, and if he can get his approach game in check for the four days (128th in SG: Approach), there are plenty of reasons to support him this week.

For one, he's 5th in SG: Around the Green on Tour this year and with scrambling for those crucial pars being a key part of whomever finds success at Liberty National this weekend, Oosthuizen won't leave his name out of that conversation.

Secondly, he's also quite accurate off the tee with a 67.27% driving accuracy number this year (39th ranking on Tour) and can hopefully translate that into plenty of GIR's and go from there. His birdie average (78th) leaves a bit to be desired, but as I mentioned before, that's not as important this week at Liberty National. “Survive and advance” is something Oosthuizen has always excelled at in tough events, and should the wind pick up over the duration of the tournament, he's not going to be one to shy away from being just as good by flighting his ball down and go from there.

The Northern Trust Odds
Brooks Koepka 8/1
Rory McIlroy 12/1
Dustin Johnson 16/1
Jon Rahm 16/1
Justin Rose 20/1
Patrick Cantlay 20/1
Justin Thomas 20/1
Rickie Fowler 25/1
Tommy Fleetwood 25/1
Webb Simpson 25/1
Tiger Woods 30/1
Xander Schauffele 30/1
Francesco Molinari 40/1
Adam Scott 40/1
Jason Day 50/1
Bryson Dechambeau 50/1
Tony Finau 50/1
Matt Kuchar 50/1
Jordan Spieth 50/1
Hideki Matsuyama 50/1
Patrick Reed 50/1
Collin Morikawa 50/1
Billy Horschel 60/1
Shane Lowry 60/1
Louis Oosthuizen 60/1
Marc Leishman 60/1
Gary Woodland 60/1
Byeong Hun An 60/1
Rafael Cabrera Bello 80/1
Chez Reavie 80/1
Rory Sabbatini 80/1
Brandt Snedeker 80/1
Ian Poulter 80/1
Sungjae Im 80/1
Matthew Wolff 80/1
Joaquin Niemann 80/1
Jason Kokrak 80/1
Tyrrell Hatton 100/1
Sergio Garcia 100/1
Bubba Watson 100/1
Kevin Kisner 100/1
Lucas Glover 100/1
Charles Howell III 100/1
Ryan Moore 100/1
Cameron Smith 100/1
Andrew Putnam 100/1
J.T. Poston 125/1
Keegan Bradley 125/1
Jim Furyk 125/1
Si Woo Kim 125/1
Brian Harman 125/1
Abraham Ancer 125/1
Adam Hadwin 125/1
Scott Piercy 125/1
Kyle Stanley 125/1
Aaron Wise 125/1
Danny Willett 125/1
Phil Mickelson 150/1
Branden Grace 150/1
Bud Cauley 150/1
Russell Henley 150/1
Emiliano Grillo 150/1
Russell Knox 150/1
Ryan Palmer 150/1
Kevin Streelman 150/1
Martin Laird 150/1
Kevin Na 150/1
Dylan Frittelli 150/1
Sepp Straka 150/1
Graeme McDowell 200/1
Brice Garnett 200/1
Denny McCarthy 200/1
Nick Taylor 200/1
Corey Conners 200/1
Nate Lashley 200/1
Nick Watney 200/1
Vaughn Taylor 200/1
J.B. Holmes 250/1
Kiradech Aphibarnrat 250/1
Charley Hoffman 250/1
Roger Sloan 250/1
Wyndham Clark 250/1
Andrew Landry 250/1
Jhonattan Vegas 250/1
Sam Ryder 250/1
Sebastian Munoz 250/1
Mackenzie Hughes 250/1
Brian Stuard 250/1
Keith Mitchell 250/1
Luke List 250/1
C.T. Pan 250/1
J.J. Spaun 250/1
Troy Merritt 250/1
Cameron Tringale 250/1
Pat Perez 300/1
Kevin Tway 300/1
Danny Lee 300/1
Matt Jones 300/1
Joel Dahmen 300/1
Ryan Armour 300/1
Harold Varner III 300/1
Sung Kang 300/1
Kyoung-Hoon Lee 300/1
Adam Schenk 300/1
Michael Thompson 300/1
Patton Kizzire 300/1
Scott Brown 300/1
Peter Malnati 300/1
Matt Every 300/1
Patrick Rodgers 300/1
Scott Stallings 300/1
Carlos Ortiz 300/1
Chesson Hadley 300/1
Aaron Baddeley 300/1
Cameron Champ 500/1
Max Homa 500/1
Kelly Kraft 500/1
Talor Gooch 500/1
Brian Gay 500/1
Jonas Blixt 500/1
Chris Stroud 500/1
Adam Long 500/1

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