PGA DFS Primer: The Northern Trust (2021)
Playoffs have been the dominant story of the 2020-21 PGA Tour season, as they continued at the Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield this past weekend. Kevin Kisner, one of my favorite players entering the tournament, was the last man standing after a two-hole playoff resulted in him sinking a birdie to defeat Kevin Na and Branden Grace. Kisner provided tremendous production in lineups, as he was drastically undervalued and opened and closed with impressive rounds to earn his fourth top-ten finish.
Although I’m pleased that Kisner won at the Wyndham Championship, most of my other recommendations failed to make the cut, excluding Will Zalatoris, who finished T29 (-10) after an impressive -5-under-par during the second round of the tournament. Louis Oosthuizen ended up withdrawing due to a sore neck, which he continues to rehab. Oosthuizen has enough FedExCup points to rank T6 in the standings, affording the South African an opportunity to sit out this weekend to prepare for the second playoff event next weekend at the BMW Championship.
The first of three official FedExCup Playoff events will be held at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, New Jersey beginning Thursday. Known officially as The Northern Trust, its backdrop will feature the New York City skyline and the Hudson River, creating a breath-taking view while the world’s best golfers compete for a chance to advance. This is the only playoff event with a cut, as 125 golfers will decrease to 70 by the end of Friday, where these 70 will then earn a bid to the second playoff event at the BMW Championship. Ultimately, every player’s focus is on the Tour Championship, which will be held in Atlanta, Georgia during Labor Day weekend. For now, let’s look at The Northern Trust field of 125 to see which golfers will produce the best value in your DFS lineups.
- 2020: Dustin Johnson (-30)
- 2019: Patrick Reed (-16)
- 2018: Bryson DeChambeau (-18)
- 2017: Dustin Johnson (-13)
- 2016: Patrick Reed (-9)
The Northern Trust playoff event rotates annually, meaning last year’s incredible -30-under-par score for Dustin Johnson should not be expected again in 2021, primarily because it is being held at a different course than TPC Boston. Liberty National Golf Club last hosted this event in 2019, where Patrick Reed finished -16-under-par to hold off Abraham Ancer and Jon Rahm. Other notable performances at The Northern Trust in 2019 included Adam Scott (5th/-13), Rory McIlroy (T6/-12), and Ian Poulter (T10/-11) just to name a few.
Liberty National Golf Club runs about 7,410 yards and is a par-71, featuring numerous water hazards and sand bunkers that will challenge approach shots and tee shots alike, making it imperative to be precise. Hole 4 thru Hole 11 throw constant water hazards into the mix, while most of the par 4 holes challenge with lengthy fairways and bunkers flanked by numerous sand bunkers. Being able to scramble and recover from a poor shot into a bunker or the rough is critical to success at Liberty National. Bentgrass greens run a bit longer than usual at 13 feet but their small size and the additional hazards surrounding them are the biggest obstacles to overcome for players who want to advance for a chance to win a significant multi-million dollar payout at the Tour Championship.
Relevant Betting Stats
- Greens in Regulation (GIR) percentage
- Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee
- Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green
- Driving accuracy percentage
- Birdie Average
- Sand save percentage
Recommended Plays: DraftKings
Patrick Reed ($8,600)
I like rostering Patrick Reed quite a bit at his price point, particularly because of his former success at Liberty National two years ago, where the 31-year old went -16-under-par to win the event outright. It’s been a mixed bag for Reed this season, as he’s collected six top-ten wins, resulting in a 22nd rank in the FedExCup standings. The red flag comes with Reed’s GIR percentage, which ranks 183rd at 62.54 percent. Fortunately, his driver is much more accurate, while he ranks 25th in birdie average (4.07) and boasts a 13th ranked sand save percentage. Reed is a great value play that allows you to save your salary while tapping into a potentially massive ceiling based on his past success at the 2019 Northern Trust event.
Rory McIlroy ($10,000)
The 32-year old Irishman managed a T6 (-12) finish at the 2019 Northern Trust, starting off with an impressive -6-under-par before producing more pedestrian numbers across his next three rounds. McIlroy is a phenom in several strokes gained categories, ranking within the top ten in both off-the-tee and tee-to-green. This is a skill set that translates well at Liberty National, including a fifth-ranked birdie average (4.35) that will help flood lineups with points in pivotal spots throughout the weekend. A powerful driver that averaged 319 yards on Tour this season will keep McIlroy within striking distance of the heavily guarded greens. He’s finished within the top ten in three of his last seven events and seems to always produce in big moments. The playoffs will likely see the best version of McIlroy emerge, justifying his top-seven salary on DraftKings.
Jon Rahm ($11,500)
It’s been the season of Jon Rahm, as the 26-year old Spaniard has racked up 12 top ten finishes to rank fifth entering the first of three FedExCup Playoffs events this weekend. He is worth every penny in DFS, mainly because he doesn’t have a notably weak area in his game. Rahm ranks third in both GIR percentage (71.62%) and birdie average (4.38), recently finishing T3 (-11) at The Open Championship after an awful first round. He’s resilient and hungry to win the FedExCup Tour Championship, which makes rostering Rahm a no-brainer in DFS lineups at The 2021 Northern Trust.
Recommended Plays: FanDuel
Abraham Ancer ($10,600)
One of the hottest players entering the first playoff event of the 2020-21 PGA Tour season is 30-year old Mexican golfer, Abraham Ancer. He won outright in his last event at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational at TPC Southwind a couple of weeks ago, thanks to an incredible score of 62 in his second round that propelled him to the top of the leaderboard. An incredibly accurate driver (70.67%) and a great GIR percentage (69.16%) are just two metrics that make me like Ancer’s outlook at The Northern Trust this weekend. Looking back at 2019, Ancer finished second overall with a -15-under-par, right behind Patrick Reed and ahead of Jon Rahm. I think he will transfer the momentum from his win at TPC Southwind and produce a top ten finish at Liberty National, particularly due to a combination of his confidence and comfort at the course.
Jordan Spieth ($11,900)
The second-ranked player within the FedExCup standings is none other than 28-year old Texas native, Jordan Spieth. Three top-two finishes, including a win at the Valero Texas Open, highlight his 2020-21 PGA Tour resumè. He’s incredibly talented in all strokes gained categories except for off-the-tee, which is also reflected in his poor driving accuracy percentage (54.73%) and GIR percentage (65.42%). Don’t let these stats dissuade you from rostering Spieth, as he is a birdie machine (7th/4.34) and great with his sand save percentage (24th/57.89%) to successfully scramble and climb out of bad tee shots. If you need any additional persuasion for rostering the second-ranked golfer within the FedExCup standings, consider his T6 (-12) finish at Liberty National back in 2019. Spieth is a beast and should be prioritized alongside Jon Rahm as top blue-chip prospects to insert into DFS lineups this weekend.
Ian Poulter ($8,800)
The 45-year old Englishman has a unique skill set compared to most of the other players I prefer in lineups at The Northern Trust this weekend. He’s totaled three top-ten finishes this season, missing only four cuts in 20 events and recently finishing T10 (-11) at TPC Southwind a couple of weeks ago. The difference is his skill set, where he ranks fourth in strokes gained putting (.750) and 12th in strokes gained around the green (.365), while also boasting 12th-ranked sand save percentage (59.66%). Poulter is a great salary-saving option, providing a huge floor but the likelihood of a top-ten finish isn’t nearly as likely as most of the other prospects recommended at Liberty National course this weekend. However, Poulter did finish T10 (-11) in 2019, which included a terrible third round where he finished even, preventing what could have been a top-three finish. He gets a shot at redemption and I think he will raise some eyebrows with impressive putting and precision around the green.
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