Your Northern Trust DFS Preview and Picks
Course: Ridgewood Country Club (Ridgewood, NJ)
Yardage: 7,319 – Par 71
Purse : $10 M
Field: Top 125 players in FedEx Cup points to date
*recent Northern Trust Champions
After opening the week posting the 10th sub-60 round in PGA Tour history, Brandt Snedeker cruised at the Wyndham Championship to grab his first win since 2016. Snedeker opened his tournament with a bogey, but finished the final 17 holes at 12-under par to shoot an 11-under 59. The win vaulted Snedeker from 80th to 30th, putting him in comfortable position to take make a run at the FedEx Cup championship. Snedeker took the $10 million dollar prize in 2012 by winning the Tour championship, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility for him to make another deep run in the playoffs. After a long frustrating season, Snedeker is back to playing some terrific golf much like he did in 2012.
Formerly known as the Barclays Classics, the first leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs is now the Northern Trust. Held on a rotating schedule, Ridgewood Country Club makes a return to the Tour schedule for the first time since the 2014 Barclays. Ridgewood also hosted the Barclays in 2010 and 2008, so many golfers at least played there in 2014, and a good handful have played on this course two or three times.
With the playoffs finally here, that means the fields will get smaller and stronger with each passing week. The FedEx Cup points get multiplied in these events, so anybody can get hot and go on a run all the way to the FedEx Cup title. The winner at the end of the four weeks gets to take home a hefty $10 million dollar on top of all the tournament’s prize purses. Starting this week with the Northern Trust. we’ll have a 125-man field made up of the top 125 PGA Tour players in FedEx Cup points. Next week the Dell Technologies Championship field will be trimmed to 100 players. The following week the Top 70 will be entered into the BMW Championship, then finally the last 30 standing will compete in the Tour Championship.
So with the Top 125 players in FedEx Cup points competing this week, that means pretty much all of the best players in the world will be in attendance. The only members of the Top 50 that are missing this week are Henrik Stenson, who withdrew with an elbow injury, Sergio Garcia wasn’t able to do enough in his 15 events this year, finishing just outside the cut line at 128th, and non-PGA Tour players Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Thobjorn Oleson, and Haotong Li. Everyone inside the Top 50 will be there. The current Top 10 in the FedEx Cup standings entering this week are Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Justin Rose, Bubba Watson, Jason Day, Webb Simpson, Francesco Molinari, Bryson DeChambeau, and Patrick Reed. Most of the field will be trying to dethrone those guys, while the players in the 75-125 range will just be trying to scratch their way into next week. Some notables near the cutline this week are Hideki Matsuyama (76th), Branden Grace (82nd), Tyrrell Hatton (92nd), Charl Schwartzel (96th), and Bud Cauley (122nd). One of them will make one of the best stories this week. Cauley makes his return to the links after being involved in a serious car accident in June. After the second round of the Memorial tournament Cauley was a passenger in a car that careened off the road and into a tree. He suffered broken ribs, a fractured leg, and a collapsed lung. He only recently began hitting balls again, so his odds are long, but it’ll be great to see him back on the golf course, and it would be an incredible story if he could make a deep run in the playoffs.
Alright, enough playoff stuff, let’s talk a little bit about Ridgewood Country Club. At Par 71 and 7,300+ yards, the course will play longer than the yardage suggests due to an extremely rainy July and August in the northeast. Because of that I’m going to favor the long drivers (driving distance), over the control players. The bombers will also have the advantage on the Par 5s this week. With the shortest of the three measuring over 580 yards, they pretty much have to hit it 320 to have any chance of hitting the green in two, so there will be shots available to pick up there, but only for a select few.
Many of the Par 4s will result in 150-175 yard approach shots, so I’m going to be looking for players who gain a lot of shots on strokes gained: approach, and players with great approach proximity from 150-175 yards out. When things go a little haywire off-the-tee, you’ll need good scramblers and players with a good sand game, as Ridgewood has 79 bunkers on the grounds. This is northeastern golf. When the ball goes off the fairway they’ll generally make golfer pay for it. The rough is almost always thick at these New York and New Jersey courses, and the fact that the ground has been damp for weeks pretty much guarantees that there will be some very thick, well-fed grass ready to eat balls that stray off the fairway. A good scrambling and sand game will help players save a handful of shots on the field.
Strokes Gained: Approach
Approach Proximity 150-175
Northern Trust DFS Picks
Tiger Woods ($10,100): It may just be the Tiger Woods fever talking but hear me out. Although, this isn’t a major, I get the feeling that Tiger is trying to prove something every week. He desperately wants the taste of victory before the season ends and is going to will his way into contention nearly every week. Beyond that, I think this is a course that sets up very well for him. He may not be hitting his driver straight, but I don’t think it really matters. He’s bombing his drives, currently ranking 33rd in distance, and that’s considering 75% of those drives are landing in the rough, so they’re not getting the proper roll out. He’s absolutely scorching his irons, as he currently ranks fourth on Tour in strokes gained: approach, and he’s scrambling like a magician, as he’s seemingly able to make par from nearly anywhere. We haven’t seen Tiger putt like he did at Bellerive in quite some time. It’s only a matter of time until el Tigre hoists his 80th PGA Tour trophy.
Jon Rahm ($9,700): Rahm is steal at $9,700 when you consider that he’s basically a 50/50 bet to finish inside the Top 5 this year. Rahm was absolutely blistering his irons most of the week at the PGA Championship, including a stretch where three holes in a row his ball mark was within 18 inches of the hole. Plain and simple the guy has no weaknesses to his golf game. He’s ranked as the sixth-best value this week according to DailyRoto’s value optimization tool, one spot ahead of Tiger Woods. Rahm, like Tiger is desperate to win before the season is over. Although he has a win on the Euro Tour this season, he hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since the CareerBuilder in January in an extremely soft field. For a player of his caliber, he’ll be gunning for a signature win and the FedEx Cup playoffs will give him that chance.
Matt Kuchar ($8,200): Kuchar is the course horse this week. Yes it’s been four years since they’ve played at this site, but Kuch comes in with a pretty stellar record at this course. He won the Barclays (former name) in 2014 and finished T5 in 2010. “Kuch” doesn’t fit my bomber profile, but he’s always been a guy who can work around his lack of distance. Kuchar ranks 29th in approach proximity between 150-175 yards, a distance I project most of his shots coming in from this week, and is 12th on Tour in both scrambling and sand saves. Kuchar already hits a lot of fairways, and on top of that he’s one of the best in the game at finding a way to save par when he misses.
Marc Leishman ($7,800): Leishman is a jack of all-trades and has a knack for playing well in strong fields. He ranks in the top half of all of my key stats this week, including ranking third in approach proximity from 150-175 yards. Leishman had a great FedEx cup run last year, winning the BMW Championship and made it into the Tour Championship field of 30. He’s somewhat of an unsexy sleeper pick. With players like Bubba Watson, Alex Noren, Matt Kuchar, Patrick Reed, and Paul Casey priced slightly above him, Leishman could get lost in the mix as most DFS players flock to the bigger names.
Keegan Bradley ($7,000): Keegan Bradley has done one thing consistently all year long: Hit incredible approach shots. Bradley ranks third on Tour in strokes gained: approach only behind Henrik Stenson and Justin Thomas. If he can hover in the middle in driving and putting, Bradley can certainly hang in this field. At just $7,000 he’s a pretty safe pick to make the cut (18/21 this season), and has a decent ceiling. He’s finished inside the Top 10 four times this season, including a seventh place finish in a similar-strength field at the PLAYERS.
Charley Hoffman ($6,800) Charley Hoffman comes in as the best value for sub-$7,000 players this week, and is the 16th best value overall. Hoffman, like Leishman tends to up his games in stronger fields. Before a poor showing at the PGA Championship and a T53 at the Bridgestone Invitational, Hoffman had a run of five straight Top 30 finishes with four of those being Top 20 showings. Hoffman also has a decent track record at Ridgewood: A T30 in 2014, and a T27. That is nothing to gloat about, but respectable nonetheless. Hoffman should provide plenty of value for his price tag and always has the ability to sneak inside the Top 10.