The Northern Trust
So it was all about Brandt Snedeker at the Wyndham Championship last week as after opening up with a 59, despite a few wobbles along the way and being put under pressure down the stretch on Sunday by CT Pan, Sneds managed to close things out for a wire to wire victory.
From our point of view it was a disappointing showing as a whole from our main team, although Webb Simpson did recoup us some place money.
In addition our trader Martin Flores played well for the first two days and therefore provided a good return.
So we move on to the home stretch of the PGA Tour, yes, it’s Play Off time…
Firstly for those who may be new this year to following the PGA Tour I’ll briefly recap the format as it stands.
As we know all season long players have been jockeying for position in 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.
After this weeks points are allocated 25 players will be ‘culled’ and those ranked inside the top 100 move on to the Dell Technologies Championship.
The following week the field will be whittled down to the Top 70 for the BMW Championship before finally the top 30 ranked players move on to the Holy Grail of the Tour Championship, at East Lake GC in Atlanta.
The riches for reaching East Lake are massive as not only will all 30 players who make the field have a mathematical possibility of winning the $10 Million Fedex Cup first prize [all be it a minute mathematical possibility for those ranked nearer the bottom end of the top 30 coming in], but there is circa $1.5 million on offer for winning the individual event with good money going right down to whoever finishes in last place on the week.
In addition to the $10 Million awarded to the Fedex Cup winner there is also a large pot of ‘bonus’ money distributed to the other 29 players who have reached East Lake based on their final Fedex Cup finishing position.
This will be £3 Million plus for whoever finishes second going right down to circa £200k for 30th place.
Further more on top of the prize money on offer that week players who qualify for the Tour Championship automatically gain entrance in to all four of the following years Major Championships.
With regards to the distribution of Fedex Cup points this is also all change once we head in to the Play Offs as from the Northern Trust onwards points quadruple from those awarded during the regular season for equivalent results.
This means that it is quite possible for a player to come in to the Play Offs in say 100th place and make it all the way to the final 30 in Atlanta.
Equally you can have a really solid season and come in ranked in 40th place but if you have two really bad weeks in the first two events you may well not make in to the BMW Championship.
In a nutshell there is one key word that sums up success in the Fedex Cup play Offs, ‘momentum’, and latching on to the players who have it over the next few weeks will be the key for us.
Having explained above how the Fedex Cup Play Off’s currently work it’s worth noting that from 2019 it will be ‘all change’.
This is because as part of the revamped PGA Tour schedule from the 2018/19 season onwards there will be three Play Off events not four ,with the field being cut straight from 125 players to 70 players before the final 30 move on to the Tour Championship.
In addition the Play Offs will conclude earlier by the end of August.
Getting back to this week though the Play Offs get underway at Ridgewood CC in Paramus, New Jersey with The Northern Trust.
This will be the fourth time Ridgewood CC has hosted The Northern Trust [formerly known as the Barclays] as it was held here in 2008, 2010 and most recently in 2014.
As you would expect for this event the field on show is a very strong one with only two leading players Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler choosing to skip the event.
The favourite at the time of writing is Dustin Johnson. DJ is then followed in the market by Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Jason Day and the resurgent Tiger Woods.
Ridgewood CC is a par 71 measuring just over 7300yds.
The greens are Bent Grass with Poa Annua.
The course was designed by A W Tillinghast in 1929 and underwent a Gil Hanse redesign in 2010.
The course is very much a classical test with tight tree lined fairways and small greens.
Other notable courses designed by Tillinghast include Bethpage Black, which hosted this event in 2012 and 2016 along with the 2009 US Open and Winged Foot, which hosted the 2006 US Open and is due to do so again in 2020.
So let’s take a look at the last ten winners of The Northern Trust since 2008.
The winners of these events have been as follows;
2017 D Johnson
2016 P Reed
2015 J Day
2014 Hunter Mahan**
2013 A Scott
2012 N Watney
2011 D Johnson
2010 M Kuchar**
2009 H Slocum
2008 V Singh**
**Denotes event played at this weeks venue Ridgewood CC.
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 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 four 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 regards to the recent form of the winners of the Barclays coming in to the event, the pattern shown here seems to have evolved over the last few years.
As you can see from the table below over the past five years all of the winners have been ‘primed’, in form and ready to win, whereas over the previous five years only one winner, Kuchar [at this venue] had done much in his previous two starts.
This could of course be pure coincidence, however I prefer to think that as the profile of the Fedex Cup has grown bigger and bigger and this has coincided with the strength in depth of the elite players at the top of the game growing, the likelihood has become greater that the trophy will go to one of the inform elite players who tee it up on the week.
Three Previous Starts – most Recent First
2017 D Johnson 13 17 18
2016 P Reed 22 11 13
2015 J Day 1 12 1
2014 H 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
2009 H Slocum MC 47 37
2008 V Singh** MC MC 1
**Denotes event played at this weeks venue Ridgewood CC.
One other thing I looked at was 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 four. 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.
From a winning score point of view I have purely looked at the three events held at this weeks venue, Ridgewood CC over the past ten years.
In 2014 Mahan won with a score of -14, in 2010 Kuchar won with -12, whilst in 2008 it was -8 total that got the job done for VJ.
It would appear therefore that over time the players have got more to grips with the challenges the course holds.
Finally looking at the leaderboards from these three events held at Ridgewood it would seem fairly clear to me that strong iron play is a key component to success at this venue.
I say this as in 2008 you had VJ at the top of affairs followed by Garcia, Kevin Sutherland, Matthew Goggin & Kevin Streelman, all of whom were/still are known as strong iron players.
In 2010 you then had Kuchar winning with Streelman popping up again along with Stricker high up on the leaderboard, whilst in 2014 Mahan triumphed with Els, Kuchar, McGirt, Furyk & Fowler all finishing in the top 10.
The good news is that at the time of writing we are looking at four days for the event, which hopefully will be storm, and therefore interruption free.
Leading in however there is some rain and storms in the forecast for Wednesday so we could again see the pattern of players being greeted by a soft course that firms up as the week progresses.
Wind does not look to be an issue with nothing over 10mph in the forecast for the week.
As I always say though…this could all change!
I have gone with five players this week as follows;
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA –50-1 - 1pt e/w 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED 15th
As I alluded to above one of the key things for me with the Fedex Cup Play Offs is momentum, the other key ingredient I see is ‘timing’.
To expand further….The PGA tour and indeed the world of professional golf in general in this modern day and age has almost become a 12 month a year game.
Players on the PGA Tour start there year literally a few days in to January in Hawaii and keep going through the peaks and troughs of four Majors, WGC’s, Play Offs, Ryder Cup’s/Presidents Cups, right in to the new season with a further WGC and other events in Asia.
If that isn’t enough if you are one of the games big names and you so desire there is then plenty of opportunity to fill your late November/December calendar with some nice globe hopping events, which reward those willing to put in the air miles with some nice appearance fees.
Inevitably with this level of year round intensity players will pick up injuries, have slumps in form and potentially suffer at times from mental burn out.
For me this week, and potentially over the next three as well, we don’t necessarily want to be looking for the players who have been right at the top of their game all year and who have already picked up two or three trophy’s and/or a major but a quality player who has had a slightly disappointing year but who is clicking in to form and is looking to salvage their year.
To back this thought up further you only need to look at the fact that four of the last seven winners were ranked between 15 & 69 in the Fedex Cup standings going in to the first play off event, whilst only two, Thomas last year and Spieth in 2015 were ranked in the top 8 going in to the first event.
In 2016 Rory was a perfect example of this. Whilst he had secured a victory in the Irish Open in the summer, the year had been a disappointing one for him on the PGA Tour and he came in to the Play Offs ranked in 36th place. Four weeks and two wins later however he was $10 Million richer.
So with this theory in mind the first player that jumps out for me this week is Hideki Matsuyama.
As we know Hideki’s season has been blighted by a wrist injury which saw him miss six weeks of action back in February and March.
Since then Hideki has managed his schedule fairly cautiously making only ten starts on the PGA Tour since the Masters.
In these ten starts Hideki has notched five top 20 finishes so it’s not as though he has been playing dreadfully, however he has failed to reach his customary heady heights.
For only the second time since his comeback though Hideki has now just played three weeks running and for the first time, with the initial benefit of the Bridgestone being a ‘no cut’ event, he has played twelve rounds over this period, and this has allowed him to build momentum.
Interestingly as well Hideki knew he was in the field for the Northern Trust yet he chose to add the Wyndham to his schedule at the last minute. Clearly therefore there are no lingering concerns about the wrist.
At the Wyndham Hideki started fairly slowly however after making the cut on the number he produced rounds of 64 and 65 over the weekend to finish in 11th place.
Over the week Hideki ranked 6th for GIR, 7th for SGTTG and 4th for SGATG. Clearly therefore his long game is in good shape.
At his best Hideki is a fantastic iron player and therefore you would think his game would be well suited to the requirements of Ridgewood CC.
To back this up we do have some evidence in that Hideki played solidly to finish 30th here back in 2014.
As I mentioned at the outset in a field of this quality you would expect the trophy to end up in the hands of one of the games big names and Hideki when on song is of course one of the best out there.
In a field therefore where most of the class acts expected to win are priced at 25-1 right down to single figures I am happy to take a chance at 50-1 that Hideki can push on from last week and take home the trophy.
ADAM SCOTT – 40-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 FINISHED 5th
Along similar thought lines to above I am also happy to take a chance that Adam Scott can ride the crest of the wave from his 3rd place at the PGA Championship and land his fourteenth PGA Tour trophy.
As with Hideki it has been a pretty poor year for the Aussie with, until the PGA, nothing better to show than a 9th place finish at the Byron Nelson.
As we all know the root of Adam’s problems have been with the putter and his SGP numbers for this season are a train wreck.
As a result however Scott has recently returned somewhat controversially to the ‘not quite anchored’ version of the long putter.
This certainly made a huge difference in this department at the PGA as he ended the week 19th in SGP.
With Scott’s sublime tee to green game not in doubt you wouldn’t have to be the Nostradamus of the golf tipping world to predict that if Adam can keep this putting improvement up that he will be winning golf tournaments again very soon.
Based on the fact that his last two visits to Ridgewood CC in 2014 and 2010 yielded finishes of 15th and 9th place you would have to think that this is a layout that suits Adam and he obviously falls in to the category of quality iron players, which as I mentioned earlier have previously thrived here.
To me therefore it really is all about whether he can build on the putting improvements shown at the PGA and on the prices on offer I am happy to take the chance that he can.
JORDAN SPIETH – 25 -1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 6 FINISHED 25th
Continuing my theme of elite golfers who have cut a forlorn figure at times through 2018 I can’t resist including Jordan Spieth in my team this week.
Whilst you get used to discussing Adam Scott’s putting woes preventing him from winning it is unusual for you to find yourself doing the same with Jordan Spieth, however that has very much been the case this year.
Ranking at present at 140th in SGP on the season it was therefore hugely encouraging to see Jordan end the week 2nd in this category at the PGA Championship and to me this is the green light to bring him on side.
Indeed all of Jordan’s numbers at Bellerive were pretty encouraging and it was only a couple of horror holes over the week that stopped him from really getting in the mix.
All in all though Jordan’s 12th place finish was a really positive week and there is no doubt he is getting closer.
Winless on the PGA Tour this season and currently sitting in 43rd position in the Fedex Cup race he is in a very similar position to the one that Rory was in going in to the play offs in 2016 and I would not be remotely surprised if, like Rory, we saw Jordan walking away with the whole pot in four weeks time.
Spieth has made one previous trip to Ridgewood back in 2014 when he finished a creditable 22nd , however off course he did not back then have the experience and CV he does now, so I am quite certain he can improve on that this week and for the reasons noted above I am very keen to have him onside.
GARY WOODLAND – 60-1 –1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 FINISHED 48th
Going further down the betting another player I am keen to have on side this week who performed well at the PGA Championship is Gary Woodland.
Woodland has long been considered as a player who could break right in to the top echelons of the game and sit along side the JT’s, Koepka’s etc, however for whatever reasons it hasn’t quite happened for him.
After a rich early season vain of form Gary land a long overdue third PGA tour title back in January at the Phoenix Open.
After this though he unfortunately went on another disappointing slump in form, which saw him finish no better than 49th in a stroke play event over the next four months.
At the Memorial however Gary finished 23rd and since then he has made his next six cuts culminating in his 6th place finish at Bellerive.
Whilst Gary wouldn’t be seen as one of the games elite who you would expect to land the Play Off events it’s not too much of a stretch to see him winning in this company and his 13th place finish here back in 2014 certainly offers encouragement.
Currently sitting 5th in GIR for the season he should feel comfortable on this track and I am hopeful he can produce a big week for us this week.
KEVIN STREELMAN 125-1 –1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 FINISHED 40th
For my final pick this week I am going to go slightly more leftfield and run with a player who has very strong local connections to Ridgewood CC and who has played really well here in the past. That man is Kevin Streelman.
Whilst Streelman is on paper an Illinois man his parents were originally from Glen Rock, New Jersey, some 10 miles or so away from this weeks venue.
Furthermore his grand parents are actually buried in a the cemetery beyond the 7th hole at the venue.
On this basis this is of course a hugely poignant week for Kevin.
On his first two visits to this event at Ridgewood Kevin rode the emotions of the week and the huge local support that he received to finishes of 4th place in 2008 and 3rd place in 2010.
In 2014 for whatever reasons Kevin had a disappointing week here result wise, finishing 46th.
To be fair that week he was in poor form coming in and it may also be that he put himself under more pressure that year at the event to look to win as he had landed two PGA titles over the previous 18 months.
Roll on another four years and there is no doubt that Kevin will be relishing a return to Ridgewood CC.
This season his form has been mostly really solid and it is just that lack of the one week with the really hot putter that has prevented him from returning to the winners enclosure.
His last two outings have resulted in missed cuts, however there was no disgrace in rounds of 72 and 70 at Bellerive.
Go back a few weeks prior to that and Kevin finished 7th at the John Deere so his game is clearly in reasonable order.
Although Kevin’s local ties are no doubt part of what has inspired him in the past to play well here I am sure that his ball striking skills are also well suited to the course.
My hope therefore is that with Kevin currently sat 4th for the season in GIR that he can ride the home support to another big week in New Jersey this week.
UPDATED 21st AUGUST
TRADER - JAMIE LOVEMARK FINISHED 34th - BEST PRICE TRADED 7
Last week I chose to go with Martin Flores as our trader pick on a hunch that a return to Sedgefield would inspire a better performance from him and this proved to be a good call.
This week I am again choosing our trader pick more on a combination of a hunch along with the price on offer rather than any one point I can put my finger on.
The man I have chosen to go with on this basis is Jamie Lovemark.
Jamie currently sits 86th in the Fedex Cup rankings so he is basically a lock for the Dell Technologies event next week, however he needs a couple of decent weeks or one really good one if he is to make week three of the Play Offs at the BMW.
Other than a top 5 finish back in the Fall at the CJ Cup and a 6th place finish at the Honda in the spring Jamie has struggled to put a really big week together this season and instead has produced a season of really solid steady finishes.
What is interesting though is that rather than produce his best performances on tracks which traditionally favour the bigger hitters, which Jamie is, over recent seasons including this one Lovemark has actually tended to produce his better results on shorter, quirkier tracks.
This can be seen by top 30 finishes this season at Sawgrass, The Travelers, The Greenbrier and last week at the Wyndham, while last season he had top 10 finishes at the RSM, The Sony and the Greenbrier.
Coming in to this week then on the back of another solid week at the Wyndham I have suspicions that Ridgewood CC may well suit Jamie.
One reason for thinking this and perhaps one of the reasons why Jamie has played well at Sawgrass for example is that he currently sits 3rd in Strokes Gained Around The Green.for the season, and this level of short game should be a big asset on these smaller than average greens.
If you conducted a poll of PGA Tour players asking them who is the most talented player on tour yet to win on the PGA Tour I suspect Jamie's name would be very near the top of the list Jamie.
Whilst it is surely only a matter of time before that elusive first win comes Lovemark's way it may of course not be his time this week, however with the level of consistency he has shown this season and with a nice early tee time on Thursday I can see him proving to be a very good trader for us this week based on the initial price on offer.
CURRENTLY TRADING @ 420+