This week sees the start of the 2017 FedEx Cup Playoffs and we have a new sponsor of the opening tournament. The PGA Tour's 4-legged climax always starts with a visit to New York and 2017 sees Northern Trust as sponsor taking over from Barclays. A long-standing PGA Tour supporter, many will remember the Northern Trust Open which took place between 2008 - 2016 at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles. So a new sponsor this week, but more importantly for punters The Northern Trust is being hosted by a course which has never been visited by the PGA Tour - step forward the Glen Oaks Club on Long Island.
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 4 weeks 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 a prize fund of $8.5 million with $1.53 million going to the tournament winner - that's not too far away from a Major victory in cash terms.
In addition to the $32 million of tournament prizes available, there's also a $35 million FedEx Cup fund. The 2017 FedEx Cup champion will receive a cool $10 million, whilst the runner-up receives £3 million. 30th place (East Lake qualifier in last spot) receives $175,000 with the 125th ranked player after this week receiving $70,000. Qualifier Brandt Snedeker announced last week that he will not play for the rest of 2017 due to continued rib issues. Dominic Bozzelli, Sergio Garcia, Scott Piercy and Adam Scott have all decided to miss out this week, leaving a field of 120.
Over on the European Tour, Paul Williams previews the Made In Denmark event - you can read his thoughts on that event here.
The Northern Trust - Featured Bookmaker
For the eleventh consecutive week on a PGA Tour event, Betfair Sportsbook have gone 7 places each-way at 1/5 odds at The Northern Trust. Betfair have two promotions to choose from for new customers: £100 Welcome Bonus (UK only) or Bet £/€10, Get £/€30. T&Cs apply:
Course Guide: Glen Oaks was founded in 1924 but moved to its current site on Long Island in 1971 where Joe Finger designed 27 holes. The course received a well-received redesign in 2014 by Joel Weiman and the club also recruited respected course superintendent Craig Currier from Bethpage Black - indeed it was Currier who proposed Glen Oaks as a course for the 2017 Northern Trust to the PGA Tour. Set in lush parkland, the players this week will tackle a composite 18 holes which will feature Holes 1-3 and 6-9 from the White Course, 4-5 from the Red Course and all nine of the Blue Course. Locals from the Metropolitan section of the PGA of America call Glen Oaks the 'Augusta of the North', although it will play just a tad shorter as a 7,350 yard, Par 70.
Glen Oaks Club, Old Westbury, New York: Designer: Joe Finger 1971; Course Type: Parkland; Par: 70; Length: 7,346 yards; Holes with Water Hazards: 6; Fairways: Bentgrass; Rough: Bentgrass, Perennial Ryegrass, with fescue 3.5"; Greens: Poa Annua with Bentgrass; Tournament Stimp: 12.5ft.
Course Overview: A new course always provides a greater challenge for punters. Despite being within 2 miles of Bethpage Black, we shall see a different type of course at Glen Oaks this week which many are describing as the 'Augusta of the North.' First impressions back up this claim, with the course being described as having generous fairways off the tee and Glen Oaks' fairways are also framed by trees. More similarity with Augusta National comes from the fact that the course is visually immaculate and meticulously manicured. Fairways are described as wide and the course is maintained from tree-line to tree-line. Expect driver seeing plenty of action here this week.
Greens feature Poa Annua grass predominantly with a little Bentgrass and the complexes themselves are described as being far trickier than Bethpage Black by Greg Currier. The course redesign, which was completed here in the autumn of 2014, was led by Joel Weiman (designer), Craig Currier (course superintendent) and Tim Shifflett (head professional). Rather than design another Met Area golf course, they took inspiration from the tradition of American mid-twentieth century parkland courses - clearly Augusta National is the prime example. They also took influence from Royal Melbourne in the way in which fairways run straight into bunkers. Weiman elaborates: "That very clean, high sand flash, the fairway edges tying right into the bunkers so there’s no rough grass interface between the sand and the fairway itself."
Another factor which I think will be important this week is the course length. A Par 70 format, 7,346 yards could prove quite stretching. Indeed on the PGA Tour this season only Firestone South at 7,400 yards and East Lake at 7,385 yards are longer tests. The course features 2 par-5s, one of which measures 625 yards and will not be reachable unless the course plays really firm. Firestone South features 6 par-4s which are over 450 yards in length and Glen Oaks is not far behind with the 1st, 4th, 5th, 7th and 18th all measuring between 465 to 505 yards in length. In-play punters should note that the back 9 will play significantly easier than the front 9, but with course superintendent Craig Currier previously overseeing nearby Bethpage Black when it hosted both the 2002 (-3) and 2009 (-4) U.S. Opens, unless the course becomes super-receptive I would be very surprised to see this becoming a resort-style birdie-fest.
Winners (The Barclays): 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
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 5 of the predictor are Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and Matt Kuchar.
Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on a 10-tournament window that stretches back to the U.S. Open and includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 main Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:
Winners & Prices (The Barclays): 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: 39/1.
Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Old Westbury, New York is here. Over 40mm of rain fell on Old Westbury on Friday, so expect lush but ever-drying ground conditions. There's no threat of rain over tournament week and only light winds. Conditions will be nigh on ideal with temperatures approaching 24/25 degrees Celsius across the tournament.
So let's take a view from players and the course designer as to how Glen Oaks will play this week and what specific skills it requires:
Scott Brown: "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, it's not crazy tight (nor is Augusta National) and it's fun to play. The greens are firm and you have a lot of options for shots around the greens."
Mark Brown - 2016 Met Open Winner: "If it does get soft I could see the guys eating it up. It's not terribly long and these guys usually figure things out quickly."
Joel Weiman - Course Re-Designer: "I think the greatest thing that we did to complement Mr. Finger's design is we created acres and acres of additional fairways. We actually introduced a lot of width to the golf course. By adding that width, we were able to introduce quite a bit of strategy, so there's a lot more options from the tee for the better players as far as risk/reward and getting better angles into the greens."
Tim Shifflett - Head Professional: "Our fairways are on the generous side as far as width, so you don't have to drive it dead straight, but the rough will be thick. Craig (Currier Course Superintendent) will make sure of that, because Craig likes to protect score, it's important to him –more important to him than me."
Some stats below from the opening round of the Playoffs over the past few years:
Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the last 7 winners:
Incoming form of winners since 2010:
First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their group and winning score since 2010.
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 President's Cup will also have an impact across both The Northern Trust and the Deutsche Bank Championship next week. Automatic qualification is available into both the International and United States teams for the Top 10 in their respective points standings. The United States team's points system is based on FedEx Cup points with the International team's based on the OWGR. This year sees automatic qualification being completed after the Deutsche Bank with Captain's Picks being announced after Boston. It's noticeable that Patrick Reed (made Ryder Cup), Hunter Mahan (made Ryder Cup), Graham Delaet (made President's Cup), Nick Watney (failed) and Brandt Snedeker (made Ryder Cup) in the past 5 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 since 2009 - when the current structure was put in place - has been won by players ranked 124th, 9th, 19th, 49th, 11th, 62nd, 2nd and 7th going into the tournament. Jason Day changed the dynamics 2 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. So in essence the tournament tends to be 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 winners in the Playoff era have been multiple PGA Tour event winners, with 6 of the past 7 renewals all being won by players who had previous up-state victories. Patrick Reed broke that trend 12 months ago, 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.
Bookmaker Offers: Latest offers and extended each-way places are detailed below.
My selections are as follows:
Jason Day fits the bill perfectly for me this week. Without a PGA Tour win since The Players Championship last season, Day is the perfect storm as he performs brilliantly up-state as well as in this event's previous guise as The Barclays, has improving recent form and at 49th in the FedEx Cup standings is an elite player who's well out of position. He needs to perform, wants to perform and admitted prior to the PGA Championship, "I'm improving each and every day now, and actually I'm hungry again and I'm looking forward to trying to beat these guys here in a bit. But I'm very motivated right now. Like I want to win again. So I'm excited about that."
27th at the Open Championship, 24th at the Bridgestone Invitational and 9th at the PGA Championship - a position which would have been closer to a tie for 5th without his ill-judged 'snowman' on the 18th on Saturday - Jason is undoubtedly warming to the cause. Day thrives in the north-east of America as 5th at Ridgewood (2010), 2nd at TPC Boston (2010), 3rd at TPC Boston (2011), 8th at Oak Hill (2013), 2nd at Ridgewood (2014), 7th at TPC Boston (2014), 1st at Plainfield (2015), 2nd at Baltusrol (2016) and 4th at Bethpage Black (2016) when defending his Barclays title 12 months ago ably highlights. But there are a couple of other reasons why I like the World Number 9 this week.
A well manicured track with an Augusta feel is also a huge positive for the Ohio-based Australian this week. 2nd there in 2011 and 3rd in 2013, Jason has always been a huge fan of Augusta National. We also know he plays exceptionally well on Poa Annua tracks - take wins at Torrey Pines, Glen Abbey and Plainfield all in 2015 as a great example of that. It's also been mentioned that the course has a feel of Royal Melbourne about it in the way that the fairways run straight into the bunkers - Day was the individual winner there in 2013 when winning the World Cup of Golf with Adam Scott. RESULT: T6
Matt Kuchar has always loved playing in the 'Big Apple' area and I always live in hope that the World Number 13 has a win waiting just around the corner. That being said 35/1 with 6 places being paid is a big enough price for me to get involved this week with Matt who has finished 1st (2010 - Ridgewood), 2nd (2011 - Plainfield) and 5th (2014 - Ridgewood) at The Barclays in recent years. At 15th in the FedEx Cup, but more importantly 8th in the Presidents Cup qualification race, Kuchar knows that Reed, Hoffman, Harman and Dufner are all within striking distance of denying him from an automatic qualification spot. Clearly 5 into 3 spots doesn't go. I have been impressed with how the 39 year-old has continued to play well after his close Open Championship call and 32nd at Glen Abbey, 17th at Firestone and 9th at Quail Hollow is progressive, especially when Matt finished with a strong -3/68 in the final round. Quail Hollow was always going to be a little too long for Matt, but I see a firming course this week at Glen Oaks being right up his street. 11th for par-4 Scoring Average and 10th for Scoring Average are great season-long PGA Tour stats for a course which I think will put up some resistance this week, but it's Kuchar's Augusta record which wins his inclusion in this week's squad at a course which locals call the 'Augusta of the North'. 21st on debut at Augusta National going back to 2008, Matt has finished 3rd (2012), 8th (2013), 5th (2014) and 4th (2017) across 4 of his last 6 appearances. Kuchar will have gained a lot mentally for going head-to-head with Spieth at Royal Birkdale and at a tournament where the true elite often have a week off, I think Kuchar has a big chance to gain his first win since 2014. RESULT: T10
Charley Hoffman sits at 11th in the FedEx Cup standings and similar to 2016 Barclays champion Patrick Reed, who resided in the final Ryder Cup qualification spot this time last year prior to winning, he also finds himself in the last automatic qualification spot for the Presidents Cup right now. He also shares another compelling fact with Reed from last year: with 7 top-10s in 2017, Charley is the highest player in the FEC not to have won this season. If there was an award for most improved player in 2017, Hoffman would have to be the winner after being 74th in the Official World Golf Rankings in February. From there 4th at Riviera and 2nd at Bay Hill powered him onto the fringes of the Presidents Cup conversation and he then proceeded to seriously contend at Augusta National leading after 36 holes and going out on Sunday in the second last group before fading. But it's his results since moving up-state which have seriously shown how Hoffman has developed mentally this year to the stage where I think he's due another big win to back up his TPC Boston victory of 2010. 8th at the Erin Hills-hosted U.S. Open was Hoffman's second Major top 10 and was swiftly followed by 3rd at TPC River Highlands (Bent/Poa greens) and 20th at Royal Birkdale. However Hoffman's drive to achieve in 2017 has been there for all to see of late with a 2nd at Glen Abbey when we were last on board (losing in a play-off to Jhonattan Vegas) being followed by an impressive 3rd at the WGC Bridgestone (Bent/Poa greens). 10th at Plainfield (2011) and 13th at Bethpage Black last year highlight that he gets on well with New York golf as does 5th (2007) and 10th (2010) at Atunyote GC at the old Turning Stone tournament. I think he has a real chance this week to win and cement his Presidents Cup spot. RESULT: T17
Zach Johnson is another who I like this week. 42nd in the FedEx Cup standings and as lowly as 28th in the Presidents Cup standings, Johnson will want to perform at Glen Oaks this week to continue the end-of-season momentum he's generated across recent up-state appearances. 5th at TPC Deere Run and a cracking 2nd at Firestone South, with a 14th spot at Royal Birkdale sandwiched in between, highlights a player who's definitely on the rise and we can overlook 48th at Quail Hollow on a course which was playing far too long. However if Zach wants to impress Presidents Cup captain Steve Stricker then he'll need to keep his foot on the pedal this week on a Par 70 set-up which I think will suit the man from Iowa.
A winner of The Masters in 2007 and with a further top-10 there as recently as 2015, any links between Glen Oaks and Augusta National will only be a good thing for ZJ and we know from experience that he can win FedEx Cup Playoff tournaments. The winner of the BMW Championship at Conway Farms in 2013 at 40/1, that victory came after a run of form which included 2nd at Deere Run, 6th at The Open, 4th at Firestone South, 8th at the PGA Championship and 5th at the Wyndham Championship. He also squeaked into the Presidents Cup United States team with that run as the last automatic selection. Safe to say that Zach will not want to miss out this year, so a top finish at an event where he finished 4th on the Par 70 at Plainfield as recently as 2 years ago is an absolute must this week, especially as he'll struggle to finish top 10 at the bomber's paradise which is TPC Boston next week. Asked about his game after finishing 5th at the John Deere Classic, he answered, "I know my game is trending. I have been saying that for a while, but I know it's trending. It's just a matter of when, not if." RESULT: MC
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