The Northern Trust Preview

After the drama at the Wyndham Championship last week the top-125 in the FedEx Cup standings and the field this week are now confirmed. Should anyone withdraw this week, they will not be replaced, such are the rules in the FedEx Cup Play-Offs.

For more on the current picture in the FedEx Cup standings, check out an early look at it here.

Onto this week and there is a new course for the players to get stuck into, Glen Oaks Club in Westbury, New York. This event has been played at four different courses since the inception of the FedEx Cup in 2007. Bethpage Black, Liberty National Golf Club, Plainfield Country Club and Ridgewood Country Club have all played host to this event (previously known as The Barclays) over the last decade, but Glen Oaks will now have its first chance to get in on the act.

The Course and what it will take to win The Northern Trust

Glen Oaks Club (Composite), 7,350 Yards, Par 70

Whilst most players won’t have seen this layout and the course itself has never hosted a professional event, one player did spend time playing the course in 2016.

Scott Brown decided to take himself to Glen Oaks after missing the cut at this event last year, at the nearby Bethpage Black. This came bout after a recommendation from a nearby head pro, Mark Brown.

Looking at some quotes from him when describing the course it appears there is some correlation between here and Augusta National, home of The Masters. “It’s a fabulous golf course, similar (in style) to Augusta National in that you have to play shots to certain quadrants of the greens”. He also said “It’s not crazy tight and it’s fun to play. The greens are firm and you have a lot of options for shots around the green.” This is all sounds very similar to Augusta, so the link makes sense.

Mark Brown, the head professional at the nearby Tam O’Shanter Club in Glen head, who had recommended Scott Brown visited, was also quoted saying “We call it the Augusta of the north”. Tim Shifflett, the head pro at Glen Oaks when questioned said “I know people say that, but I just don’t like that expression. “It certainly wasn’t our intent when we renovated”.

Another head professional, Jason Caron of Mill River Club in Oyster Bay said the expression fit and that “Seriously, Glen Oaks is that good”.

When as many people say the same thing, you have to take notice. Whilst it may be slightly naïve to base any selections this week purely on a player’s form at Augusta, it is at least a helpful nod in the right direction. With an unknown quantity like Glen Oaks, it is always nice to have something to work around and an Augusta link gives some help in doing so.

Glen Oaks hired Craig Currier, who had previously worked at Bethpage Black ahead of the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Open’s, as the new course superintendent. He also worked at Augusta previously, so again it makes sense that there is links to that course.

Currier and head professional, Shifflett were tasked with hiring an architect and in the end landed on Joel Weiman, who worked with Currier on Bethpage Black.

With the personnel in charge in mind, form at Bethpage Black may also stand up here so those that have form at both Augusta and Bethpage Black (2012 & 2016 The Barclays) should be considered this week.

Form in The Barclays event in general should be considered anyway, given it is always held in New York or New Jersey, regardless of which of the four courses it has been played at. The event has also been played at the same time of year since 2007, so similar weather conditions will have applied.

With Scott Brown saying it isn’t a tight course and the constant comparisons with Augusta, there may be some freedom off the tee this week, putting an onus on approach play instead.

There are four par-4’s over 470 yards and scoring on these holes may well be pivotal, so much like Augusta, Par 4 Performance may well be key this week. Also like Augusta it may well be advantageous to get it a fair way off the tee, so Driving Distance may be worth a look.

Strokes Gained: Approach and Par 4 Performance will be the standout statistics for me this week, whilst Strokes Gained: Around the Green and Scrambling could also be a factor given the bunkers and run-offs around the greens.

Unfortunately though at this point any takes on stats are speculative at best, so I don’t want to get too wrapped up statistically.

Current form as ever will be key and if you can couple that with form at the correlating courses mentioned, that would be a good area to start.

Here are my picks for 2017 Northern Trust.

Jason Day 20/1 (Betfred 6 places 1/4 odds) 2 pts e/w:

Jason Day looks to have found some consistency again and when that happens it is time to stand up and take notice.

Day is still win-less so far this season, however he has twice gone close finishing 2nd at the AT&T Byron Nelson and T5 at Pebble Beach earlier in the year.

More recently Day contended at the US PGA Championship and had it have not been for a third round 77, he may well have won his second major title, and the US PGA Championship for the second time in three years. Day shot an 8 on the par-4 18th in round three and that derailed his chances of winning massively.

Day fired opening and closing round 70’s either side of a very impressive 66 second-round which propelled him right into contention, behind Kevin Kisner and Hideki Matsuyama. Whilst Day couldn’t get the job done on his last start, I think he has shown enough to contend again, at a course he should enjoy.

Despite Day seemingly struggling for most of the season, Day still ranks a very impressive 2nd in Strokes Gained: Around-The-Green and that is particularly pleasing ahead of this event.

The Australian’s form has been trending in the right direction since the Open Championship where he finished T27. Day followed that up with a T24 at the Bridgestone Invitational and whilst that was in a more limited field there were still some positive signs that week.

Seeing him in contention and eventually finishing inside the top-10 at Quail Hollow was enough for me to believe he can win this week, especially given his form on the correlating courses. Day has three top-10’s including a 2nd and a 3rd in his seven starts at Augusta National, whilst he also finished T24 and T4 at the 2012 and 2016 Barclays respectively.

Day has won twice in the last nine play-off appearances he has now withdrawn from, with five more top-10’s and two top-15’s in the other six appearances. He clearly thrives under the pressure of these events and will look to reap the rewards of that once again this week.

I am happy to chance Day at 20/1, with the now prolific winner looking to return to his best at the most opportune time. A former winner of this event in the nearby New Jersey in 2015, Day will have fond memories at this event.

Brian Harman 100/1 (General) 0.5pt e/w:

Brian Harman has had a successful season finishing inside the top-25 thirteen times in the nineteen cuts he has made. During that span he has one win, one 2nd, a 3rd and four more top-10’s.

The win came at the Wells Fargo Championship whilst the 2nd, possibly more impressively came at the U.S. Open. A T13 on his last start at the US PGA was further evidence that he is a man for the big stage now and he can add to his already impressive season with another win here this week.

Whilst Harman doesn’t rank highly in Strokes Gained: Approach-The-Green, he does rank high in the short game categories. Harman ranks 1st in Total Putting and inside the top-9 in Strokes Gained: Putting, Putting Average, 3-Putt Avoidance and Total Putting Average. On top of his excellent putting stats, Harman ranks 19th in both Scrambling and Strokes Gained: Around-The-Green which I feel are important this week.

Harman also ranks 11th in Par 4 Scoring Average and T24 in Par 4 Performance, again impressive statistics ahead of this week.

On top of this all Harman finished T5 at this event at Bethpage Black in 2012 and impressed again four years later, finishing T22 at the same course and event. With the Bethpage Black form behind him and some solid current form, Harman looks good value this week.

Harman currently sits 10th in the FedEx Cup rankings, is in form and fits well statistically so 100/1 about him after he added his second PGA Tour win this season makes plenty of sense to me.

Ryan Moore 100/1 (Betfred & Skybet 6 places 1/4 odds, Betfair & PaddyPower 7 places 1/5 odds) 0.5pt e/w:

A disappointing season for Ryan Moore seems to be on the up of late, finishing inside the top-28 in each of his last three events.

At the WGC Bridgestone Invitational Moore opened up with a round of 73 and it looked like his poor form would continue, however over the next three rounds he broke 70 in each and finished T28.

Moore then went on to play at the US PGA Championship, opening with a pair of 71’s before shooting his worst round of the week, a 73 on Saturday. Moore bounced back with a 69 on the Sunday and finished a very respectable T13.

Again last week it was one bad round that cost Moore, with a final round 70 which saw him fall short at the Wyndham Championship, finishing T24. Opening with rounds of 67-65-68 last week suggests he’s showing some form and should the putter get warm this week, he can contend at a course similar to those he’s enjoyed in the past.

Moore played Bethpage Black three times, finishing T10 at the 2009 U.S. Open and he continued that form when playing The Barclays in 2012 and 2016. A final-round 75 at the 2012 Barclays cost him the chance to contend at Bethpage, and a level-par round would have seen him finish in a tie for 5th. Four years later, Moore returned to Bethpage and finished T7 and just three shots shy of winner, Patrick Reed.

Not only does Moore have form at Bethpage, he has also shown a liking for Augusta National in the past. Moore played Augusta twice as an amateur, finishing T45 in 2003 before returning in 2005 where he finished T13 and took the Low Amateur honours. In total Moore has played the Masters nine times, missing just two cuts and has finished inside the top-14 four times.

Despite a lacklustre season, Moore did post his best ever finish at Augusta this year, finishing T9 and I hope his best finish in this event comes this year also.

Highlighting his average season are his largely poor stats but one area he does still excel in is Strokes Gained: Approach-The-Green ranking T24 which is an additional bonus for me.

At 100/1 you are getting a five-time PGA Tour winner who has a knack of finishing well in big events at crucial stages of the season.

Total Points Staked this week: 4

Profit/Loss for 2017: -19