And just like that the playoffs are here. The four majors have come and gone, Stenson took the Wyndham Championship as most expected he would, and Hideki Matsuyama sits atop the FedEx Cup standings. 2017’s major championship winners include Sergio Garcia (The Masters), Brooks Koepka (US Open), Jordan Spieth (The Open Championship), and Justin Thomas (PGA Championship). For those new to PGA and/or the FedEx Cup Playoffs, the next four weeks will determine a season-long champion of the PGA Tour. This year a total of $67 million is on the line, so we can expect to see participants grinding it out every step of the way. Here’s a nice rundown of how the next four weeks will work, compliments of PGATour.com:
“The Playoffs feature a progressive cut, beginning with THE NORTHERN TRUST in the New York area (125 players), continuing with the Dell Technologies Championship in Boston (100 players) and the BMW Championship outside of Chicago (70 players). A reseed takes place, seeding the top-30 players for the culminating TOUR Championship in Atlanta, where the FedExCup Champion is crowned.”
With all that said, let’s jump into this week’s Northern Trust.
Taking place at Glen Oaks Club in Old Westbury, NY for the first time. If you have read about this years tournament or Glen Oaks at all, you have probably heard that it has been compared Augusta National (known for being the standard for a well-kept, pristine golf course). It’s not overly short or overly long and if I had one guess as to what will set players apart this week, is being able to gain strokes via approach and putting. The greens are tough, and pins will be placed in high risk high reward sections of the greens that will benefit the guys with the upmost accuracy. As I always mention, birdies win tournaments and putts need to be made to make birdies. Aside from the greens, other difficulties posed by Glen Oaks include sweeping fairway and green-side bunkers, and a good amount of water. Here’s this week’s scorecard:
The course has four par 3’s averaging 209 yards, twelve par 4’s averaging 446 yards, and only two par 5’s – 625 and 540 yards. Par 4’s are obviously big. With that in mind, here are the stats I dove into this week: strokes gained tee-to-green (as always…), good drives gained, strokes gained putting, strokes gained par 4, par 4’s 400-450, green in regulations gained, strokes gained approach, and birdies gained (over a 24-round span this time around). Additionally, due to the field and maybe taking the Augusta comparison a bit too literally (and the fact we have no course history), I looked into results from this year’s four majors and the current FedExCup standings. As always, I will highlight a few studs, midrange options, and value options.
Studs: Top Dollar Options
Hideki Matsuyama: He is on fire and has been for quite some time. Coming off his WGC Bridgestone victory, he went +1 in the final round of the PGA Championship (his last start), to finish in 5th. The back nine on that Sunday was some of the most inconsistent golf Hideki has played in a while, but it’s hard to take that too seriously when looking at his performance over his past five starts (2nd, 14th, 14th, 1st, 5th). For this week’s stats, Matsuyama sits in 4th for strokes gained tee-to-green, 14th in good drives gained, 8th in stokes gained par 4, 6th in GIR gained, 13th in strokes gained approach, and 1st in birdies gained. His major performance this year includes 11th at the Masters, 2nd at the US Open, 14th in the British Open, and 5th in the PGA Championship. He has 6 top-10s, 3 wins, and has made 15 cuts in 16 starts. Can he stay hot and can he make the putter do what it needs to do? We’ll see.
Jordan Spieth: Another guy with top notch season-long stats including 15 cuts made in 18 starts, 3 wins, and 8 top-10s. He sits in 3rd in the FedExCup standings, won the British Open, finished 11th at the Masters, 35th at the US Open, and 28th at the PGA Championship. His PGA Champ performance set him back in some of the stat lines, despite the fact he leads the PGA Tour in strokes gained approach for the season. For 24-round stats, Spieth comes in at 6th strokes gained tee-to-green, 15th in good drives gained, 1st in strokes gained par 4, 16th in GIR gained, 15th in strokes gained approach, and 6th in birdies gained. Spieth is known for his putting which seemed to disappear in the PGA Championship. If he can find his stroke, he is a serious threat.
Paul Casey: There are quite a few guys in this field that one would expect to be in this section of “studs” that I write about, but I felt the need to throw Casey in here despite his price and despite the fact it means I’m leaving a few other guys out. Casey is a guy I have written about before and is strangely consistent week after week. He has made 15 cuts in 16 starts, has 4 top-10’s this season, came in 6th in the Masters, 26th in the US Open, 11th in the British Open, 13th in the PGA Championship, sits in 18th in the FedExCup standings, and has ZERO wins this season. Is he incapable of winning or is he just due to win? Here are some 24-round stats to help you form your own opinion: 3rd in strokes gained tee-to-green, 2nd in good drives gained, 3rd in strokes gained par 4, 2nd in GIR gained, 1st in strokes gained approach, and 30th in birdies gained. He hasn’t finished worse than 26th place since March. If he makes some putts (similarly to the previous two guys), he will surely be the guy you are watching this Sunday.
Other studs to keep an eye on: The Rickie Fowler/Justin Thomas duo (Rickie is #1 in SG Putting in his past 24 rounds), Henrik Stenson, Brooks Koepka
Studs I will likely fade: Rory McIlroy
Too close to call: Dustin Johnson, Jason Day – both could go either way in my opinion, especially Day (take one hole away and likely would have one the PGA Championship…)
Midrange Options: Going out on a limb here as there are quite a few guys from $7500 – $8900 (DK salary) that can definitely compete this week.
Francesco Molinari: Coming off of a big T2 at the PGA Championship, Molinari seems like he can compete this week. He is currently in 31st in the FedExCup standings and has recorded 4 top-10s this season. He’s trending in the right direction finishing in 24th in the WGC Bridgestone the week before his impressive PGA Champ performance. Two other impressive finishes this year include 2nd at the BMW Championship and 6th in the Players Championship, both in May. He’s made 14 cuts in 17 starts, but missed the cut in both the US Open and the British Open. Fortunately, those two tournaments aren’t all that comparable to this week (especially the British Open), and he seems to be a guy that gets hot and cold. Some 24-round stats that show he may be on the hot side: 2nd in strokes gained tee-to-green, 2nd in strokes gained par 4, 8th in par 4s 400-450 yards, 8th in GIR gained, and 5th in strokes gained approach.
Kevin Chappell: Heading into the playoffs, Chappell sits in 30th in the FedExCup standings. He finished 33rd in the PGA Championship, 7th in the Masters, and 23rd in the US Open. He has 4 top-10s this year and has made 14 cuts in 18 starts. His two starts previous to the PGA Champ were the RBC Canadian Open and the WGC Bridgestone where he finished 8th and 13th respectively. His one victory of the season was at the Valero Texas Open in April. He’s another guy that is on and off, hot and cold. 24-round stats include 10th in strokes gained tee-to-green, 25th in strokes gained par 4, 10th in par 4’s 400-450 yards, 21st in GIR gained, 20th in strokes gained approach, and 17th in birdies gained. I am willing to consider him a safe play to make the cut, with a good amount of upside heading into this week.
Charley Hoffman: Currently 11th in the FedExCup standings, he is priced well this week likely due to a so-so performance at the PGA Championship. Previous to his 48th place major performance, Hoffman had 4 top-10 outings in 6 starts (3 of the 4 being top-5). Fort this year’s other majors, he has finished 22nd in the Masters, 8th in the US Open, and 20th in the British Open. 24-round stats include 20th in strokes gained tee-to-green, 6th in strokes gained putting, 5th in strokes gained par 4, 34th in GIR gained, and 2nd in birdies gained. Keep in mind these stats could be dragged down a bit from the PGA Championship, and may have appeared that much better leaving his +5 first round out of the picture.
Matt Kuchar: I may be back on the Kuchar train again this week. Kuch is currently in 15th in the FedExCup rankings, and has been playing great golf, though his coverage has slowed down since the British Open. His major performance this year includes 4th at the Masters, 16th at the US Open, 2nd at the British Open, and 9th in the PGA Championship. He has made 18 cuts in 20 starts, has EIGHT TOP-10s, and took last week off. Notable 24-round stats include 8th in strokes gained tee-to-green, 31st in strokes gained putting, 6th in strokes gained par 4, 12th in par 4’s 400-450 yards, 24th in strokes gained approach, and 10th in birdies gained. This could be his week to grab his first win of the season after multiple narrowly missed opportunities.
Other midrange options to keep an eye on: Patrick Reed, Marc Leishman, Bill Haas, Zach Johnson, Keegan Bradley, Justin Rose, Jason Dufner, James Hahn, Louis Oosthuizen, Daniel Berger, Kevin Kisner, Tony Finau, Kevin Streelman
Ian Poulter: You have to love his price this week. Ever since re-securing his tour card, he has become a new man. He is just barely sneaking into the top-50 for FedExCup standings, but has some impressive finishes in the season and has made 18 cuts in 20 starts with 3 top-10s. He finished 3rd in the RBC Canadian Open at the end of July, 14th at the British Open, 2nd in the Players Championship, and 22nd last week at the PGA Championship. For 24-round stats, Poulter sits in 7th strokes gained tee-to-green, 3rd in good drives gained, 4th in strokes gained par 4, 2nd in par 4’s 400-450 yards, 19th in GIR gained, and 3rd in strokes gained approach. Another guy that seems to only be missing one thing: putting. At this price, he’s hard to ignore.
Steve Stricker: Stricker has been very selective with his events, as expected. He has made 10 cuts in 11 starts and has 2 top-10’s. He is great at staying in the mix and knows how to perform to show up near the top at the end of the weekend. This course should play good to his game, evidence being the following 24-round stats: 5th in good drives gained, 19th in strokes gained putting, 22nd in strokes gained par 4, 28th in par 4’s 400-450 yards, and 20th in GIR gained. He can perform in important tournaments and finished 16th in this years Masters and US Open.
Chez Reavie: Reavie has 2 top-10 finishes on the season, but has now made 8 cuts straight. In these last 8 starts, he has finished at worst 43rd. He finished 22nd in the PGA Championship, 16th in the US Open, and had his best finish of the season finishing 4th at the FedEx St. Jude Classic in June. He is very very cheap and rostering his could make clear some considerable space in your line to make extra room up top. Here is what sold me: Notable 24-round stats include 15th in strokes gained tee-to-green, 1st in good drives gained, 28th in strokes gained par 4, 1st in GIR gained, 8th in strokes gained approach, and 23rd in birdies gained. Don’t count him out.
Other value to keep an eye on: Xander Schauffele, Chad Campbell, Bryson DeChambeau, , Brendan Steele, Gary Woodland, Pat Perez, Bud Cauley, Danny Lee, Charl Schwartzel, Graham DeLaet, Hudson Swafford, Brian Harman, Russell Henley, Brendan Grace
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