2021 The Northern Trust Picks and Predictions

Aug. 19, 2021

Golf Expert

The PGA Tour playoffs have finally arrived and this three-week blitz with a $15 million bonus prize to the winner, the big money players on Tour all plan on having their best stuff. With quadruple the FexEx Cup points at stake these next two weeks, huge swings in the standings are going to be there for everyone simply trying to survive and advance each week.

For everyone at the top of the standings, it's all about getting to the Tour Championship with as big of a starting score as you can. The points leader after next week's BMW Championship starts at -10 in the Tour Championship with the player 2nd in points two shots behind at -8 and on down the list. With the eventual Tour Championship winner from the two years this format has been used being 5th (Rory McIlroy in 2019) and 1st (Dustin Johnson 2020) in points going into the Tour Championship, the results these next two weeks are going to determine a lot.

Golf Betting Resources
2021 The Northern Trust

  • Date: Thursday Aug. 19 - Sunday Aug. 22, 2021
  • Venue: Liberty National Golf Course
  • Location: Jersey City, New Jersey
  • Par-Yardage: 71, 7,410 yards
  • Defending Champion: Dustin Johnson
  • TV: CBS, Golf Channel
  • Vegas Expert Picks
  • Betting Odds

Liberty National last hosted the Northern Trust in 2019 when Patrick Reed won with a -16 score, as he and most of the other Top 10 finishers excelled in two things: dialing in their irons and making birdies when the approaches were good, and scrambling and saving pars when the small greens at Liberty National were missed.

A hot putter on top of all that is going to be the final tool of separation, but in terms of searching for skill sets to hone in on, guys that are better with the irons in all aspects – approach and around-the-green – should get a leg up. At 7,400 yards guys are still going to need to have some length, but hitting the fairways is still far more important, especially when the leaderboard is going to be tight again. Reed won with -16 back in 2019, but 10th place finished at -11, five strokes back. If guys are missing their spots on Sunday, ugly numbers can pop up here.

But the Top 5 from 2019 were also the only five players to have all four rounds in the 60's that week, so consistently making the best decisions and executing well on those decisions is going to be how guys climb the leaderboard this week.

Sam Burns has seen a Top 20 result in three of his last four events, including a playoff appearance in the WGC St. Jude Invitational. (AP)

The Northern Trust
Betting Odds

If a consistent top tier golf game for having four rounds in the 60's is the goal, starting, and staying at the top of the odds board in these playoffs tends to be the best way to go. Since the start of 2015, the list of names who've won those 22 playoff events are: Jason Day (x2), Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed (x2), Rory McIlroy (x3), Dustin Johnson (x4), Justin Thomas (x2), Marc Leishman, Xander Schauffele, Bryson DeChambeau (x2), Keegan Bradley, Tiger Woods, and Jon Rahm.

The vast majority of those names were priced among the favorites for the tournaments they ultimately captured, as the playoffs are going to be a three-week event where it's really going to be hard to go much past the 50-1 range.

Playoff winners in that range just haven't happened all that often over the years, and in cases that they do, you either just accept getting beat, or if one of your pre-tourney favored selections is one of the names that ultimately ends up being in the race late, there would have been some interesting hedging opportunities presented at some point during the weekend.

I wouldn't venture too far away from some chalk in these playoffs events the next few weeks, as the talent pool is just too good at the top, and with monetary motivation at the highest point it can be all season long, there is no reason not to expect the best to be at their best.

World No. 1 Jon Rahm (+800) comes into the week as the favorite, with Jordan Spieth (+1200), Dustin Johnson (+1600), Collin Morikawa (+1600), and Xander Schauffele (+1800) as the other names below +2000. Determining whether or not to back one of those guys at those prices in this caliber field is a tough question to answer at times too.

The next group of guys are Rory McIlroy (+2200), Brooks Koekpa (+2200), Bryson DeChambeau (+2500), Justin Thomas (+2500), Abraham Ancer (+2800), Paul Casey (+2800), Daniel Berger (+2800), and Scottie Scheffler (+2800), so if the argument is that one of the sub-2000 guys is overpriced, almost by default one of these names will in this next range will feel under priced. That's alright, tough to poke too many holes in the games of all those players too.

When you consider that of those five names priced under +2000 we've got the Top 4 ranked players in the world and #12 Jordan Spieth, anyone with a better ranking than 12th and a bigger price this week already has a case (Thomas, DeChambeau, Koepka, Cantlay, English, Ancer). But Speith's strengths with the irons and on/around the greens should always play well at Liberty National.

Makes it a very tough week to handicap but it never hurts to try.

The Northern Trust Contenders

  • Jon Rahm +1100
  • Collin Morikawa +1700
  • Dustin Johnson +1700
  • Jordan Spieth +1800
  • Rory McIlroy +2000
  • More Golfers
  • (Odds Subject to Change)

Golfers to Watch - The Northern Trust
Top Picks and Predictions

Contender to Back
Jon Rahm +1100

The price has me feeling a little sick about taking Rahm pre-tournament this week, and I do think I will be holding back some percentage of the stake allotment for a potential in-play on Rahm during the weekend. It's expected to be a crowded leaderboard regardless, and if Rahm's coming from a chase pack, I'm willing to hold back some stake to fire then. It helps not being in love with taking the favorite in the best field of the year, but Rahm's game checks out very well for Liberty National too.

Rahm finished T3 here back in 2019 as he just couldn't go low enough on the weekend with a 69-69 finish. Putting is the weakest Strokes Gained category he's got in his game at 63rd, but when he's still a positive (0.203) and ranks 2nd in tee-to-green and 1st in overall, I'm willing to live with whatever Rahm's putter brings this week.

Coming back from another layoff is a question mark that has made partially waiting part of the plan as well, but he was highly motivated to be at his best after his last forced break and there is some major cash on the line these next three weeks.

Ranking 3rd in GIR % (71.62) on Tour is what I do think puts him over the top at least in that group of favorites. Yes, Morikawa ranks 2nd and is fractionally better (71.81 GIR %), I don't think what he gives up on/around the greens – Morikawa ranks 70th in SG: around-the-green and 170th in SG: putting – is the best fit for taking him and the better price over Rahm.

Rahm's got a bit more length to everything he does as well, and on a course like this, I think that's another slight edge that works in his favor.

Mid-Range Value
Paul Casey, Scottie Scheffler +2800

Scheffler and Casey are ranked 20th and 21st in the world entering the week, and both make the card for slightly different reasons.

Casey is here for his statistical fit (2nd in SG: Approach, 28th in SG: around-the-green), and like Rahm, I'll live with whatever putting results the flatstick brings for Casey this week. Lately those results haven't been too bad either, as Casey's on a run from his T4th at the PGA Championship of finishing 7th, 36th, 15th, 4th, and 5th, in his last six starts.

He did skip this event back in 2019 as he was sitting 7th in the standings at the time and could afford too, so course history is a slight concern, but I don't believe it will be much of an issue with the way Casey has been striking the ball.

Scheffler doesn't have the gaudy stat lines that would make him the best fit for most this week, but as someone who I think has a similar career arc to what we've seen from Xander Schauffele already, a big win should be on the horizon for Scheffler.

Here is a guy who finished 5th 2nd and 14th in the three WGC events in 2021, and he also went 18th, 8th, 7th, 8th, in the four Majors this year. He's yet to break through with that first win on Tour and Schauffele's first Tour win came just under three months before he won the 2017 Tour Championship, so there is a bit of a difference there, but Scheffler is a guy that's been knocking on the door of taking down a big tournament for some time now. He's never finished worse than 19th in his six Major starts since the start of the 2020 season, and he's solid enough everywhere that if he gets a week where he can play slightly above his head for all four days a runaway win is possible.

Scheffler's shown that he can compete with these guys right now, and with market support potentially waning a bit given all his close calls this year, I don't mind this spot to jump on board with him. Sitting 21st in the FedEx Cup standings there is no concern about playing next week at all either, and an outing where the results are meaningful but not necessary are ones where I don't mind siding with the belief we will see the best out of the player.

Six straight Top 20'sin Major's should give you know fear about Scheffler being able to compete with this field. You just might have to hope he can mentally get over the hump on Sunday if the opportunity to do so is there.

Long Shot Pick
Tony Finau +5500

The combination of ranking 38th in SG: Approach and 14th in SG: Around-the-greens for Finau has him fitting onto the card this week. He's another guy that's been searching for that breakthrough win on Tour for many years now, and if he can just keep his putter hot enough for four rounds then that win eventually should come.

Another comparison to Scheffler is that Finau sits 23rd in the playoff standings and has no worries about a tee time next week. He did get Liberty National for a 65 in Round 1 back in 2019 which had him T5th at the time, but that -6 score was what he finished the tournament with on Sunday.

Finau's history of having a tough time closing the deal and no Top 10's since the PGA Championship back in May have him falling into a price range that's hard to completely agree with. Similar to backing Bryson a few weeks ago when he was above +3000 and was 2nd heading into Sunday, Finau's skills can far outplay this price when he gets going.

Understand the win equity may not be the same with him given how his career has gone, but I'm willing to see what happens with him at these odds.

72 Hole Matchup
Sam Burns -120 over Branden Grace

If consistency through four rounds is what you are looking for, I'll lay the small price with Burns, who with a win and seven Top 10 finishes this year had as many victories and three more Top 10's than Grace did.

Burns has parlayed that success this year into sitting 10th in the playoff standings right now, and like those other names I mentioned that can freewheel it a bit with no fear of missing out on next week are the ones you could see go really low.

Burns has a game that's strong everywhere but around the greens, and I'd much rather have to worry about that here than Grace and his potential struggles off the tee, in accuracy and distance. Grace has played here before which should help, but even if Burns is scrambling a bit more than he should, it's nowhere near as disastrous in a head-to-head matchup as it would be in the outright market. And if Burns doesn't have to agonize over his chipping game and has his irons dialed into these small greens, well, he easily should have a chance to beat everyone if his 14th ranked SG: Putting game goes to work.

It's actually a bit of a cheap price on a guy that I believe has far more upside this week.

How to Bet on Golf

Golf betting has gained much more exposure and interest in the past few years, and with plenty of plus-money prices littered throughout the various forms of golf wagers, the chance for bigger scores is part of the reason behind that increased popularity.

2021 Golf Betting Schedule

Sportsbooks ensure that there are no shortage of wagering options on golf tournaments every week, and it isn't all about picking the winner. Grabbing the outright winner of a golf tournament is the best way to get that 'big score' but it's also the hardest wager to cash. After all, a typical professional golf tournament has a field of 140+ different players to consider.

Understanding Golf Odds and Bets

Most golf odds are listed in the fractional format – 10/1 on Dustin Johnson for example – and in that particular case you would multiply the amount bet by that first number to project your winnings. So a $100 bet on DJ to win that particular event would win you $1000.

If you are more comfortable with the American version of odds listings that you typically see across the other major North American sports – ie +1000 – these numbers are easily convertible. Online and app based books may already have that option built in, but the easiest way to do it yourself is to add two zeros to the first number in the fraction. So a 10/1 price on DJ converts to +1000 in that format.

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