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After Brooks Koepka at 20/1 at the PGA Championship, we landed Brandt Snedeker last week at the Wyndham Championship at 28/1 - wins in 2 consecutive weeks is always a very pleasing result. Indeed across both the European & PGA Tours that puts our combined Betting Previews at just under 200 points of profit for 2018 to date, including 8 individual tournament winners.
On the PGA Tour we now move into the FedEx Cup Playoffs. The FedEx Cup has grown massively in popularity since its inception in 2008 - the spectacle of watching the world's best golfers fight it out across a whole month of top-level competition has become a real highlight of the golfing calendar. In essence, this week is where the PGA Tour gets serious as the winner of The Northern Trust, Deutsche Bank Championship and BMW Championship will receive 2,000 points (regular season winners receive 500 points), plus each tournament has an increased prize fund of $9 million with $1.75 million going to the tournament winner - that's not too far away from a Major victory in cash terms.
In addition to the increased $36 million of tournament prizes available, there's also a $35 million FedEx Cup fund. The 2018 FedEx Cup champion will receive a cool $10 million, whilst the runner-up receives £3 million. 30th place (Tour Championship qualifier in last spot) receives $175,000 with the 125th ranked player after this week receiving $70,000. Qualifier Rickie Fowler does not play at Ridgewood due to a right oblique injury. Rory McIlroy is resting till Boston next week, plus both Bud Cauley and Patrick Rodgers are non-starters. Henrik Stenson also withdrew on Monday nursing an injured wrist, leaving a field of 120.
Over on the European Tour, Paul Williams previews the D+D Real Czech Masters - you can read his thoughts on that event here.
Paddy Power are attacking this week's The Northern Trust and are offering a massive 8 places each-way at 1/5 odds. If you haven't already got a Paddy Power account then new customers can access a £/€20 risk-free bet which is refunded in CASH if it loses. 18+, T&Cs apply: Promo code YSKA01 required – use this qualifying link to claim.
Course Guide: The course at Ridgewood is actually a hybrid of the toughest holes across 3 9-hole courses, namely the East, Center and West Courses located at the Country Club. The A.W. Tillinghast design is a truly classical test with plenty of dogleg holes which shape both ways, tree-lined fairways and tough bunkering. The greens this week are the smallest that the players will have faced since Colonial and feature a fast, undulating Bentgrass/Poa Annua mix putting surface.
Ridgewood Country Club, Paramus, New Jersey: Designer: A.W. Tillinghast 1929 with Rees Jones re-design 1988 & Hanse re-design 2010 & 2015; Course Type: Classical; Par: 71; Length: 7,385 yards; Water Hazards: 1; Fairways: Bent Ryegrass Poa Annua; Rough: Kentucky Bluegrass Per Rye 3.5"; Greens: 5,605 sq.ft average featuring Poa Annua with 10% Bentgrass; Stimpmeter: 11ft; Scoring Avg 2008: 71.41 (+0.41), Rank 24 of 54 courses. 2010: 70.97 (-0.03), Rank 24 of 54 courses. 2014: 70.81 (-0.19), Rank 31 of 48 courses.
Ridgewood Fairway Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for Ridgewood CC and how they compare to recent courses that we've seen on Tour:
Course Designer Links: For research purposes other A.W. Tillinghast designs include:
Course Overview: The Ridgewood we see this week will be slightly different to the one we last saw back in 2014. A Gil Hanse-led renovation post-2014 has seen the continuation of the course move back towards its A.W. Tillinghast roots. New tees have been constructed, adding 66 yards to the course. 15,000 square feet of original greens have been recovered, taking the average green size up to over 5,600 square feet. Bunkers have been re-shaped taking them back to their Tillinghast roots, with fescue areas added on a few holes.
Ridgewood is a fair, classical test that appeals to the best all-round players. The course plays as a par 35-36=71 at a modest 7,385 yards, but winning scores of -8 (Singh), -12 (Kuchar) and -14 (Mahan) highlight that the course can't be purely overpowered. Fairways are fairly tight and are tree-lined, so the penalty for missing them is often a blocked second shot. Green complexes may be slightly larger in 2018, but are very well defended. Indeed the main characteristic of the course are the 78 bunkers which are deep and feature steep faces. Fairway and green bunkering is tough and that in combination with small contoured green complexes makes achieving greens in regulation critical. Throw in a set of 3 long par-5s which were some of the hardest outside of the Major Championships in 2014 and you have a difficult golf course to master. Statistically the par-5s ranked as the 7th hardest on the PGA tour in 2014.
Ridgewood's defence tends to be greens that are difficult to hit allied to a predominant Poa Annua putting surface that isn't every player's cup of tea. Greens with Poa Annua are renowned for becoming increasingly difficult as play progresses and a real feature of the last 2 renewals here is that putting from within 10 feet is difficult. On a course where Going for the Green on the par-5s is the tallest of orders, look out for players who can convert and score well on a mixed difficulty set of par-4s. Kuchar, who went into the tournament off the back of 9 top 10 finishes (Singh had 6 T10s including a win at Firestone) on the PGA Tour, shot -7/-6 across the par-4s/5s to win a play-off from long term leader Martin Laird in 2010. Hunter Mahan who had 4 T10s in 2014 including 7th at the PGA Championship before arriving in New Jersey, shot -7/-4 across the par-4s/5s.
Winners: 2017: Dustin Johnson (-13); 2016: Patrick Reed (-9); 2015: Jason Day (-19); 2014: Hunter Mahan (-14); 2013: Adam Scott (-11); 2012: Nick Watney (-10); 2011: Dustin Johnson (-19); 2010: Matt Kuchar (-12).
Tournament Stats: We've published some key player statistics for this week's event that are well worth a look. Naturally they'll help to shape a view on players who could go well this week: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Top 20 Finishes. NEW! Combined Current and Course Form is now available here.
Published Predictor Model: Our published predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 10 of my published predictor are Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm, Justin Rose, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Ryan Moore, Patrick Reed and Hideki Matsuyama.
Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on a 10-tournament window that stretches back to the U.S. Open and includes both PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:
Winners & Prices: 2017: Dustin Johnson 14/1; 2016: Reed 50/1; 2015: Day 10/1; 2014: Mahan 50/1; 2013: Scott 16/1; 2012: Watney 70/1; 2011: D Johnson 35/1; 2010: Kuchar 40/1. Average: 36/1. Past 4 Renewals Average: 31/1. For a full summary of winner's odds on the PGA Tour since 2010 click here.
Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Paramus, New Jersey, is here. I'm expecting soft conditions again this week in New Jersey - a theme we've seen across recent weeks. 43mm of rain fell last week and in total there's been 140mm in early August. With up to 80% chance of thunderstorms on Pro-Am Wednesday, I think Ridgewood is going to be a very receptive golf course this week. With dry and warm - up to 29 degrees Celsius - conditions forecast and no wind to trouble the best golfers in the world, I'd expect another mid-score golf tournament this week at the tight, but scoreable Ridgewood.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the past 3 winners here, gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:
Tournament Skill Averages:
So let's take a view from players as to how Ridgewood Country Club has set up in the past and what specific skills it requires:
Hunter Mahan: "Yeah, this is kind of a no‑nonsense golf course. You've got to hit it well off the tee. I think of all the tournaments we probably played this year, this one is the most demanding off the tee. You've got to really hit it in the fairway. You can't play out of the rough on this golf course. The rough is too thick and you can't attack the greens. Even if you do get a decent lie, it's pretty tough to get it anywhere near a hole. So hit fairways, hitting greens, giving yourself a lot of good looks is‑‑ like everyone says, it's the best way to play this golf course. Even if it's pretty safe off the tee, greens are so big, you still can be somewhat aggressive on your seconds. But if you don't place it in the fairway, you're not going to score out here."
Jim Furyk: "It's a great golf course. I think it's the best of the four we play. There's really no weak golf course in this rotation and obviously Bethpage hosting a couple U.S. Opens, and I think the PGA‑to be and is a wonderful golf course in its own right. But this is my favourite of the bunch. It's still got a lot of length in the middle of it. Holes, say, 6 through 13, there's a lot of length in those holes and you have to play well through those. The golf course is in great shape. I'm a big fan of Tillinghast work, but I just find it's got a great mix of holes, it's got some short holes, it's got some long. I think it's the prettiest of the four golf courses as far as from tee‑to‑green. It's got a mix of flat greens and it's got some really severe. But it probably just looks the best to my eye if that makes sense. I like Plainfield and I've played well at Liberty National and Bethpage is a great golf course, but in my opinion, this is maybe not the hardest of the four, I mean, Bethpage is probably the hardest. But I think it's the best and the best test of golf in my opinion for shot value."
Bubba Watson: "Played 18 holes this morning. It's very, very tough. It's a great golf course. If you're hitting in the fairways, you're going to make some birdies and you're going to play the golf course very well. If you miss the fairways, it's very tough. This is U.S. Open‑type rough. Very beautiful golf course. I don't think we've seen a course in this perfect of shape in a long time. The greens were perfect. Everything was great except the rough was really, really high. This is a U.S. Open‑type rough. So it's going to be very good; if you miss the fairways, it's going to be very tough."
Matt Kuchar: "Old‑style golf, I think it's classic. Every hole is framed, whether it's by rough or trees or bunkers. You just have everything framed very well. I feel like I've had success on courses like this, and it's not a‑ I don't know if I can pinpoint it exactly other than I step up on a hole and I know exactly what I'm supposed to do when I tee off here. Some places, you don't have quite as good of eye line, some places just don't feel right and something about the framing of kind of tree‑lined fairways that just I love, whether it's Hilton Head, you see trees on each side of you. Here, same way. It just really gives you a good idea of what you're supposed to do and I feel like I drive the ball, it's one of my strengths is putting the ball in the fairway and I think here that's a premium. So always feel a little more comfortable on the difficult driving golf courses."
Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the last 8 winners of this event:
Incoming form of winners since 2010:
First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their wave and winning score since 2010. Full First Round Leader stats are here.
For the record, here's the breakdown of pure Poa Annua and Bentgrass/Poa Annua mix PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:
The Ryder Cup will also have an impact across both The Northern Trust and the Deutsche Bank Championship next week. We already know the 8 automatic qualifiers for the American team, but automatic qualification is still available into Team Europe for 8 players across the European and World points standings. Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari, Jon Rahm and Justin Rose are all locks, with the other 2 automatic spots up for grabs between Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Paul Casey, Thorbjorn Olesen, Ian Poulter and Russell Knox. 2018 sees automatic qualification for Team Europe being completed after the Deutsche Bank / Made in Denmark.
With 3 (Team USA) and 4 (Team Europe) Captain's Picks also being announced after Boston. It's noticeable that Jhonattan Vegas (entered tournament at position 9 in President's Cup rankings), Patrick Reed (made Ryder Cup Captain's Pick), Hunter Mahan (made Ryder Cup Captain's Pick), Graham Delaet (made President's Cup), Nick Watney (failed) and Brandt Snedeker (made Ryder Cup Captain's Pick) across the past 7 renewals all produced late charges to make their respective Ryder Cup / President's Cup teams.
In terms of other factors to look out for, the initial FedEx Cup Playoff tournament since 2009 - when the current structure was put in place - has been won by players ranked 124th, 9th, 19th, 49th, 11th, 62nd, 2nd, 7th and 4th going into the tournament. Jason Day (FEC Rank 2) changed the dynamics 3 years ago winning The Barclays (as it was then) 2 weeks after capturing his first Major Championship at Whistling Straits, but his closest rival at Plainfield was Henrik Stenson who was ranked a lowly (for him) 41st in the FedEx Cup. That trend continued last year at Glen Oaks when Dustin Johnson (FEC Rank 4) won in a play off from Jordan Spieth (FEC Rank 2).
So in essence the tournament tends to be a stake in the ground for a player in the FEC top 5 arriving in New York or an early 'moving week' for high quality players who enter the week playing well and who need to position themselves for later Playoff events or Ryder Cup/Presidents Cup selection.
These events are big tournaments to win and all Barclays/Northern Trust winners in the Playoff era have been multiple PGA Tour event winners, with 7 of the past 8 renewals all being won by players who had previous 'up-state' victories on the PGA Tour in North America. Patrick Reed broke that trend in 2016, but the Texan had already finished 4th at Firestone, 4th at TPC Boston and 9th in this tournament previous to locking up his Ryder Cup spot when winning at Bethpage Black.
My selections are as follows:
Tiger Woods 2.5pts EW 16/1 with Bet £/€10 get £/€30 for new customers, 18+, T&Cs apply*. (7 places EW, 1/5 odds):
Ridgewood could be the perfect course for Tiger Woods to capture the PGA Tour win that the golfing world craves - that first win for over 5 years, since the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. In essence, Ridgewood is everything that Bellerive wasn't: yes both are old-style, classical, tree-lined golf courses; but Bellerive - which had to be set-up to absorb the extreme Missouri heat - simply allowed the bombers to excel. As Tiger himself described it in his post 4th Round interview, "Brooksy, what he's doing back there is, it's tough to beat when the guy hits is 340 down the middle, that's tough." Ridgewood though should be far more to his liking - a less than driver course where strategy and classical game-play, rather than power, will ultimately prevail. A course where the par-5s aren't reachable in the main and where the par-4s will likely be the battle ground.
It's worth going back to 2010 where Tiger last played here: bereft of confidence after a winless season and arriving off the back of 28th at the Whistling Straits-hosted PGA Championship, Tiger played tactically at Ridgewood - a course which more than allows that approach - with 3-wood and 2-irons usage off the tee. 1st for Driving Accuracy, 6th for Greens in Regulation, 9th for Ball-Striking and 6th in All-Round that week, it was purely the putter on Friday and Saturday which restricted him to a 12th place finish. He led after a -6/65 on Thursday and book-ended the week with a closing -4/67 to finish 5 shots back of Matt Kuchar and Martin Laird. 8 years on we must presume that the TW arriving in Paramus, New Jersey is both hungry and confident to seriously challenge this week.
A bit of a Tillinghast specialist - 1st (2002) and 6th (2009) at Bethpage Black, plus 4th at Baltusrol (2005) - we know that Tiger excels on the Poa Annua which he grew up playing in California. 8 wins at Firestone (Bent/Poa Annua), 8 wins at Torrey Pines (Poa Annua), 3 wins at Warwick Hills (Bent/Poa Annua) and 2 wins at Pebble Beach (Poa Annua) highlight that Woods feels at home on putting surfaces many cannot get on with. 2nd at the PGA Championship featured 2nd for Strokes Gained Approach, 8th for SG Tee to Green, 10th for Proximity to Hole, 10th for SG Putting and 4th for Putting Average. 1st for Birdies made, his weekend performance of -10/130 was vintage Tiger Woods. At 20th in the FedEx Cup he needs to hit the ground running if he wants to seriously challenge for the FedEx Cup and his pragmatism, allied to Ridgewood's defence against aggressive driver usage, make him a must-back. RESULT: T40
Jordan Spieth 2pts EW 25/1 with Get a £30 welcome bonus** for new customers, 18+, T&Cs apply (6 places, 1/5 odds)
To find Jordan Spieth surrounded by the likes of Billy Horschel, rookie Beau Hossler and Byeong-Hun An at 43rd in the FedEx Cup standings is a new situation for the 3-time Major Champion. Let's be frank, season 2017/18 has been a disaster for the 25 year-old Texan who for some reason was advised to re-build his putting stroke after Tiger's World challenge tournament late in 2017. It sounded a bad idea in Kapalua when he mentioned it in a post-round interview and undoubtedly his putting this season has been way below what we've become accustomed to. 140th in Strokes Gained Putting, 80th in Putting Average and 131st in 3-Putt Avoidance are season long PGA Tour statistics I would never thought possible for Jordan Spieth and just for context they compare to 42nd in SG Putting, 2nd in Putting Average and 7th in 3-Putt Avoidance last season. No wins for 13 months since Royal Lytham last July is a bleak stretch for the ex World Number 1 and you certainly could question why I'm getting involved this week in New Jersey.
Thing is there are sure signs that Jordan is on an uptrend and 25/1 won't be a price that we'll see for too much longer. 3rd at Augusta and the 54-hole leader at Carnoustie as the defending champion when not having his best form shows the calibre of the man and at the PGA Championship a fortnight ago, Spieth showed huge up-signs. On a soft course that suited the bombers almost exclusively, a double-bogey on his first hole was a disastrous start and an opening round 71 took him out of contention, but over the closing 54 holes his -9/201 total was tied 6th best in the field. He hit 77.8% of Greens in Regulation across his final 54 holes, but more importantly he was 2nd for Strokes Gained Putting and 9th for Putting Average - that's his best putting performance for exactly 12 months. I've always been a believer that players win when they have confidence in their key strengths and Jordan stated after his closing -4/66 at Bellerive, "So it was just really, really close to being precise enough to win this week. Good news is I've got a week off now to nail it in and feel like I stepped into the playoffs with my game in the best shape it's been this entire year. The putting was phenomenal. I was probably top-5 in putting for the week, which is great. It's been a long time since I've been there. And the rest of the game's moving in the right direction. Comfort level with my swing is 75% and I know exactly the 25% I need to make up. I know Ridgewood, so I know the shots necessary to be able to get that comfort level to 100 percent." The tight confines of Ridgewood, with its small greens, will suit Spieth far more than Bellerive did and it's worth remembering that Jordan is a 3-time winner 'up-state' who has also played well on Poa Annua greens across Pebble Beach (1st), TPC River Highlands (1st) and Glen Oaks (2nd) last year. He's due. RESULT: T25
Adam Scott 1pt EW 45/1 with New customers: Bet £10 get £30 & 30 free spins. 18+, T&Cs apply*** (7 EW, 1/5 odds):
At 73rd in the FedEx Cup standings, to extend his season Adam Scott will need strong results across both Ridgewood and TPC Boston. He certainly rolled back the years at Bellerive where his renewed confidence with the putter delivered back-to-back -5/65s which deposited him in the last group on Sunday with eventual winner Brooks Koepka. He kept that pressure on in the final round where birdies across the 7th, 8th, 10th, 12th and 13th put Koepka under all sorts of pressure, multiplied by the Tiger Woods effect 2 groups ahead. In the end Adam came up short, but he certainly won the hearts of all watching, especially with the close bond he had with Jarrod Lyle.
Winless since 2016, the stature of a tournament such as the Northern Trust Open is the kind of title Scott wins and his performances here in 2010 and 2014 show plenty of promise. Rounds of 66-71-68 placed him 3 shots back from 54-hole leader Martin Laird in the 2nd-last group on Sunday with Jason Day. He eventually finished 9th. 2014 saw Scott lead after 36 holes before falling back to finish 15th, but undoubtedly the tree-lined, classical nature of the course suits both Scott and Australian players eyes in general. Asked about his thoughts on the near future after finishing 3rd at Bellerive, Adam answered, "It feels good because I feel like generally I performed well in that situation, playing in a final group of a major or playing in contention late on Sunday in a Major. But there's always things to work on when you're not the winner, I think. I certainly want to keep improving. I can't stop here. I'd like to play really well the next few weeks in the playoffs and try and make a run all the way through and then take some satisfaction out of this year." If the renewed confidence with the putter continues, the former World Number 1 could be a factor here after being 6th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green at Bellerive. RESULT: T5
Gary Woodland 1pt EW 66/1 with Bet £/€10 get £/€30 for new customers, 18+, T&Cs apply*. (7 places EW, 1/5 odds):
Another player to get a huge boost from the PGA Championship must be Gary Woodland. He had his most successful Major Championship at Bellerive and the soft conditions again this week will again suit him. Long but accurate off the tee, Woodland was 4th for Ball Striking in St Louis, but more pertinently 28th for Putting Average, which delivered an excellent 6th place finish. Spurred on by the success that Butch and Claude Harmon's stable are having right now, Woodland enlisted the services of Phil Kenyon for his putting and Pete Cowen for his short game at Carnoustie recently. Results have undoubtedly been positive. 67th at the Open, became 22nd at Glen Abbey, became 17th at Firestone and 6th at Bellerive. But the most impressive part of Woodland's performance in Missouri wasn't the Thursday -6/64 or the Friday -4/66 in my eyes, which saw the Kansas man as both the 18 and 36 hole leader; instead it was the way he played under the Sunday spotlight with Tiger Woods. Many a professional would have crumbled as Tiger charged towards the top of the leaderboard, in the knowledge that tens of thousands on the course and millions around the world were watching and willing TW to deliver. But all credit to Gary who shot 3 birdies in a back-nine 33 to capture his best ever Major finish. I'm of the opinion he takes that confidence into this week. At 33rd in the FedEx Cup he needs results if he wants to get to Atlanta, and whilst the Ryder Cup spotlight is firmly on DeChambeau, Schauffele and Finau, a run of form across New York and Boston could deliver selection from Jim Furyk. 13th at Plainfield (2011), 2nd at Liberty National (2013), 13th here at Ridgewood (2014), and 4th at Bethpage Black (2016) highlights a player who loves playing in the Metropolitan area. We also know he's very comfortable on Poa Annua greens. RESULT: T48
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