Best bets as FedEx Cup playoffs begin

reynolds
Kevin Kisner birdied the second playoff hole and emerged from a six-way playoff to win the Wyndham Championship at 55-1 for his fourth career PGA Tour victory and his first in almost two and a half years. Kevin Na, Branden Grace, Si Woo Kim, Adam Scott and Roger Sloan shared the runner-up position. Our tip Russell Henley looked like he was going to go wire to wire as he held the 18-, 36- and 54-hole leads plus had a two-stroke lead on the back nine before a missed two-foot putt on No. 11 let a host of players back into the tournament. Henley could have made it a PGA Tour-record seven-man playoff but missed a six-foot comebacker for par on No. 18 and settled for finishing tied for seventh. 
In all, three players played their way in to the Top 125 in the FedEx Cup Playoffs point standings, including Sloan (131 to 92), Scott Piercy (126 to 116) and Chesson Hadley (132-125), who shot the low Sunday round of 62, including an ace on No. 16, but still needed a three-putt from Justin Rose on the 18th to get the last spot in the Cup playoffs. Those falling out of the Top 125 and now having to play the Korn Ferry Tour Finals to keep their PGA Tour playing privileges include Ryan Armour (122 to 126), Patrick Rodgers (123 to 128) and Bo Hoag (125 to 129). 
A field of 124 players will tee it up this week in New Jersey for the Northern Trust, the first event of three in the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Louis Oosthuizen, who withdrew from the Wyndham last week citing a neck injury, is eighth in the FedEx Cup standings and is likely safe to advance to the Top 30 for the Tour Championship. He won’t play this week's event. 
 
 
World No. 1 Jon Rahm (10-1), third here in 2019, returns for the first time since the British Open after having to withdraw from the Olympics because he tested positive for COVID-19. Jordan Spieth (16-1) finished T-6 on this week's course back in 2019 and he sits No. 2 in the FedEx Cup points behind leader Collin Morikawa (18-1). Dustin Johnson (18-1) is the event’s defending champion and has won the Northern Trust three times, but never on this course. 
Xander Schauffele (20-1), despite winning Olympic gold in Tokyo, is still searching for his first PGA Tour victory in 2 1/2 years. Rory McIlroy (22-1) finished T-6 here in 2019. The Brooks Koepka (20-1) and Bryson DeChambeau (25-1) rivalry has been amplified by the media and has started to reach the galleries as DeChambeau, a winner of this event in 2018, heard from many hecklers two weeks ago in Memphis. Justin Thomas (25-1) has been out of form for the last few months, but the last time he drifted to a price this high, he won The Players Championship in March. 
Morikawa, Johnson, DeChambeau, Koepka, Thomas and Schauffele occupy the top six qualifying spots for the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Others still trying to make an impression on captain Steve Stricker include Daniel Berger (33-1), Patrick Cantlay (33-1), Scottie Scheffler (30-1), Webb Simpson (35-1), Harris English (40-1), Tony Finau (50-1) and the winner of the Northern Trust the last time it was held at Liberty National in 2019, Patrick Reed (40-1).
THE EVENT
The Northern Trust marks the first event of the FedEx Cup Playoffs. The Top 125 players on the FedEx Cup points list will play this week. Only the Top 70 in point standings move on to next week's BMW Championship. Then, the Top 30 will play in the Tour Championship to close out the playoffs. The winners of the first two FedEx Cup events receive 2,000 points instead of the normal 500 for winning a regular-season event. The top 65 players and ties will make the cut for the weekend. The Northern Trust returns this week to the New York/New Jersey area. Before Chicago-based financial services company Northern Trust took over the sponsorship in 2017, the tournament was known as the Barclays from 2005 to 2016. In fact, the event's history dates to 1967 for the Westchester Classic at Westchester Country Club on Long Island.  
THE COURSE
Liberty National Golf Club last hosted the Northern Trust in 2019 and has also served as the venue for the 2009 and 2013 tournaments, plus the 2017 Presidents Cup, in which Team USA defeated the Internationals 19-11. Liberty National is situated on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River in Jersey City. It was built on an old refuse site in what is classified Upper Bay. The club is owned by Paul Fireman, who was the chairman and CEO of Reebok International for 26 years before he sold the company to Adidas in 2005. 
The track was designed in 2006 by Robert Cupp and Tom Kite, and it plays as a par-71 of 7,410 yards. There are 98 bunkers on the course and water is in play on 12 holes. The coastal layout is exposed to wind, so the scoring can vary depending on the conditions. The winning scores here have been 9 under, 11 under and 16 under, respectively. The course record is held by Kevin Chappell (2013) and Troy Merritt (2019), both of whom shot a -9 62. The wind is not expected not to be a factor, so we could see the lowest scores we have seen at Liberty National. 
 
The Bentgrass fairways are of average width, and the greens, also Bentgrass, are on the smaller side (4,650 square feet) and have many undulations and will run at a fast 12.5 on the stimpmeter. 
RECENT HISTORY/WINNERS
2020: Dustin Johnson (-30/254); TPC Boston; 20-1
2019: Patrick Reed (-16/268); Liberty National; 55-1
2018: Bryson DeChambeau (-18/266); Ridgewood; 100-1
2017: Dustin Johnson (-13/267); Glen Oaks; 14-1*
2016: Patrick Reed (-9/275); Bethpage Black; 50-1
2015: Jason Day (-19/261); Plainfield; 10-1
2014: Hunter Mahan (-14/270); Ridgewood; 50-1
2013: Adam Scott (-11/273); Liberty National; 16-1
2012: Nick Watney (-10/274); Bethpage Black; 70-1
2011: Dustin Johnson (-19/194); Plainfield; 35-1**
2010: Matt Kuchar (-12/272); Ridgewood; 40-1***
* playoff win over Jordan Spieth
** event shortened to 54 holes
*** playoff win over Martin Laird
Northern Trust Trends 
Since the inception of the FedEx Cup Playoffs in 2007, the opening event has been won by a player inside the top 25 of the OWGR 12 of 14 times.
Four of the past six winners of the opening playoff event had already claimed a victory in the calendar year.
Five of the past six winners entered the week ranked in the top 10 in the FedEx Cup standings.
Northern Trust Statistical Angles 
Patrick Reed and Adam Scott, the last two winners at Liberty National, ranked fourth and second in the field for SG: Tee-To-Green during their winning weeks.
SG: Tee-To-Green
1. Collin Morikawa 57
2. Keegan Bradley 43.1
3. Patrick Cantlay 41.3
4. Paul Casey 40.2
5. Tyrrell Hatton 38
6. Hideki Matsuyama 37.3
7. Jon Rahm 36.9
8. Brooks Koepka 36.7
9. Abraham Ancer 36.4
10. Rory McIlroy 35.8
11. Seamus Power 34.3
12. Harris English 33.3
Note: Last 24 rounds
Hitting Greens In Regulation is 4% tougher at Liberty National than the average PGA Tour event. The three event winners at Liberty National (Reed, Scott, Slocum) rated fifth, fourth and sixth during their respective winning weeks. 
GIR Gained
1. Patrick Cantlay 41.6
2. Collin Morikawa 41.4
3. Jon Rahm 37.5
4. Paul Casey 32.1
5. Daniel Berger 32
6. Sungjae Im 28.7
7. Sergio Garcia 28.2
8. Rory McIlroy 28.1
9. Kevin Streelman 26.6
10. Jhonattan Vegas 26.6
11. Shane Lowry 26.1
12. Kyle Stanley 25.6
Note: Last 24 rounds
In 2019 at Liberty National, one-third of the approach shots came from 200 yards or more, which is 15% higher than the average course on the PGA Tour.
Proximity Gained 200+  Yards
1. Viktor Hovland 29.1 
2. Tyrrell Hatton 28.8
3. Jason Kokrak 28.6
4. Garrick Higgo 26 (16 Rounds)
5. Marc Leishman 25.4
6. Paul Casey 25.1
7. Ryan Palmer 24.4
8. Bryson DeChambeau 23.7
9. Kyle Stanley 22.3
10. Erik van Rooyen 22.1
11. Chez Reavie 20.8
12. Matthew Wolff 20
Note: Note: Last 24 rounds; feet per shot
There are five holes at Liberty National that are par-4s with distances between 450-500 yards.
Par-4s Gained 450-500 Yards
1. Rory McIlroy 26.9
2. Collin Morikawa 22.4
3. Chris Kirk 15.6
4. Branden Grace 15.3
5. Brendon Todd 13.9
6. Jon Rahm 13.8
7. Abraham Ancer 13.6
8. Jordan Spieth 12.4
9. Patrick Cantlay 11.9
10. Hideki Matsuyama 11.8
11. Bubba Watson 11.5
12. Keith Mitchell 10.9
Note: Last 24 rounds
At an average of 4,650 square feet, the greens at Liberty National are on the smaller side compared with the average course on the PGA Tour, so players will have bunker shots plus shots out of the fescue areas.
SG: Around The Green
1. Kevin Na 17.9
2. Si Woo Kim 17.2
3. Branden Grace 14.2
4. Tyrrell Hatton 12.8
5. Ian Poulter 12.8
6. Brian Harman 12.7
7. Jason Day 12.6
8. Harris English 12
9. Talor Gooch 11.7
10. Tony Finau 11.7
11. Jordan Spieth 11.5
12. Kevin Streelman 11.2
Note: Last 24 rounds
SELECTIONS
Rory McIlroy 22-1
Despite a win earlier this season in the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow, this has clearly been a down year for McIlroy as he continues to work on swing changes with Pete Cowen. However, he seemed to show the most progress in his last start at the WGC: FedEx St. Jude Invitational, where he opened with a 2-over round of 72 before closing out the week with three straight 66s to post a 12th-place finish. He also led the field in Memphis for SG: Off-The-Tee, was second in Driving Accuracy for the week, second for SG: Tee-To-Green and third for SG: Approach. He was also first in both Total Driving and Ball Striking at the Memphis event.
McIlroy finished T-6 at Liberty National in 2019. He is gunning for his 20th career PGA Tour victory, which will give him a lifetime exemption on the PGA Tour when he turns 35. 
Justin Thomas 28-1
The last time Thomas drifted this high, we were aboard for his victory at The Players Championship.
Unlike many of the other top-end players, he does not have much recent form in terms of stats, but he was fourth for SG: Approach (always his bread and butter) in his last start at Memphis, which was his best performance since early May. 
Patrick Cantlay 33-1
Cantlay has slipped a bit from his season peak when he won the Memorial Tournament in a playoff over Morikawa, but this looks like a spot to get back to his winning ways. He rates fourth on tour in SG: Total and third for SG: Tee-To-Green.
He is also first on the PGA Tour for Scrambling and fourth in Bogey Avoidance. Furthermore, all four of his PGA Tour wins have come on greens featuring Bentgrass, with three coming on pure Bentgrass putting surfaces. Cantlay's short game has been a bit out of sorts lately, but he did gain + 4.5 strokes on the greens his last time at Liberty National in 2019.
Daniel Berger 33-1
Berger has three top-10 finishes in his last four starts, including a T-5 two weeks ago in Memphis, where he ranked first for SG: Approach and third for SG: Tee To Green.
While this is Berger's first appearance at Liberty National in a stroke-play event, he was part of the Presidents Cup team in 2017 here and made the clinching putt for Team USA on Sunday.
Paul Casey 40-1
Casey has two top-5s in his last two starts with a T-5 in Memphis preceded by a T-4 at the Olympics, where he was part of that massive playoff for the bronze medal.
He rates fourth in this week's field both for SG: Tee-To-Green and GIR Gained over the last 24 rounds and sixth for proximity on approach shots of 200+  yards.
 
Czech Masters
Calum Hill held the 54-hole lead two weeks ago and could not convert it into a victory at the Hero Open and had to settle for a T-4 finish. Typically, that is a difficult circumstance to rebound from in the following week, but Hill did just that by earning his maiden European Tour victory at the Cazoo Classic at a price of 28-1. Hill also became the fifth first-time winner in as many weeks on the European Tour.
Hill will not be participating this week at the D+ D Real Czech Masters. Better fields are expected over the next several weeks on the European Tour for the European Masters, Italian Open and BMW PGA Championship since some players will be eliminated from the FedEx Cup Playoffs stateside and will want to make one last impression on European Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington. 
The field does get some new names participating this week, but European Tour regular Sam Horsfield (11-1), third here in 2019, is the headliner on the odds board. Horsfield has five top-10s in 2021 and was in the process of earning two European Tour victories in three weeks around this time last year. Olympic silver medalist Rory Sabbatini (14-1) just missed out on the FedEx Cup Playoffs last week in Greensboro and comes in on his best form in a while but is a short price considering he has not won in a little over a decade. Danny Willett (14-1) returns after over a month off since the British Open. Dean Burmester (20-1) got back in the winner's circle for the first time in four years with a victory earlier this May in the Canary Islands. Ryan Fox (20-1) is playing his seventh week out of eight weeks here in Prague. 
Callum Shinkwin (22-1) finished T-3 last weekend and has another fourth within the last four-week span. George Coetzee (25-1) won two weeks ago on the Sunshine Tour in his native South Africa. The last time (Sept. 4, 2020) he won on the Sunshine Tour, Coetzee won his next start on the European Tour at the Portugal Masters last September. Johannes Veerman and Adri Arnaus, runner-up here in 2019, also share a 25-1 tag.
THE EVENT
The D+ D Real Czech Masters began on the European Tour in 2014. Petr Dědek, the president of real estate investment company D+ D Real, brought this event to the Czech Republic and it has remained on the European Tour schedule since, except for its cancellation last year due to COVID-19. 
THE COURSE
The Albatross Golf Resort in Vysoký Újezd, Czech Republic, was designed by Keith Preston in 2010 and has been the host for the Czech Masters since its inception in 2014. The course, which is located on the southwestern outskirts of Prague at slight altitude, is a 7,467-yard par-72 with exposed fairways and large Bentgrass greens that will roll at around 12 feet on the stimpmeter. Fairways are generous, and the bombers can flourish here, but shorter hitters have also been victorious on this track. 
Water is in play on seven holes, including at both closing holes on the front and back nines. There are four par-5s on this track, and three of those four are on holes 9-12. 
RECENT HISTORY/WINNERS
2019: Thomas Pieters (-19/269); 20-1
2018: Andrea Pavan (-22/266); 50-1
2017: Haydn Porteous (-13/275); 60-1
2016: Paul Peterson (-15/273); 250-1
2015: Thomas Pieters (-20/268); 80-1
2014: Jamie Donaldson (-14/274); 12-1
SELECTIONS
Jacques Kruyswijk 28-1
Kruyswijk has four top-10s on the European Tour this season. 
He is 23rd for Driving Distance (307.8 yards), 11th for SG: Tee-To-Green (+ 1.38) and 26th for SG: Approach (+ 0.56), plus he has a similar profile to Calum Hill as he has been knocking on the door several times for his first victory. 
Garrick Porteous 55-1
Porteous, no relation to 2017 event winner Haydn, ranks 19th on the European Tour for SG: Off-The-Tee (+ 0.57) and seventh for Greens In Regulation (71.72%). 
He has had two of his best finishes in 2021 over the last three weeks. 
Nicolai Højgaard 60-1
The "other Højgaard" ranks sixth on the European Tour for Driving Distance (313.5 yards) and right near the top 20 on tour for both SG: Approach (+ 0.63) and Greens In Regulation (70.12%). 
The Dane's best performance in 2021 was in the Canary Islands, where he finished T-4. Like that event in the Canaries, this course in the Czech Republic allows you to grip it and rip it off the tee and attack the flags, which he has done well all season. 
J.C. Ritchie 65-1
Ritchie is 19th on the Challenge Tour, and the top 20 on that tour earn European Tour cards for 2022. 
In his limited action on the European Tour, Ritchie ranks near the top 20 in both Driving Distance and Greens In Regulation. 
Richard Mansell 66-1
Mansell is another big hitter off the tee (fifth in Driving Distance - 314.7 yards; eighth in SG: Off-The Tee - + 0.75). Plus, he ranks 19th for Greens In Regulation (70.42%).
The Englishman was tied for second after 54 holes in the Canary Islands but never got going on Sunday and finished T-12. 
Louis De Jager 80-1
De Jager was forced to withdraw from the British Open, which would have been his major championship debut, last month after testing positive for COVID-19. Last week, he made his return to play after being out of action for seven weeks but missed the cut at the Cazoo Classic.
The South African finished top 12 in both events in the Canary Islands and his Driving Distance (9th - 312.5 yards), SG: Off-The-Tee (20th - + 0.55) and Greens In Regulation (26th - 69.76%) marks should set him up well on this track.
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