The first leg of the FedExCup Playoffs is here and don’t be alarmed by the name, we are not headed back to California to take on Riviera Country Club. Nothern Trust has moved their sponsorship to what used to be called The Barclays.
The event uses a course rota in the New York/New Jersey area, with this year’s edition heading to Glen Oaks Club. The course is hosting its first PGA TOUR event so we don’t have a full database to look at past scoring conditions. That means we have a fun week ahead of tipsters and touts trying to put the pieces together. Here is my breakdown of the course:
First, what are the things we know for sure about this course? It’s par 70 that uses holes from two different courses on the property. It streches out to 7,350 yards, which is definitely on the longer side for a par 70. There is water on at least four holes, there are plenty of bunkers littered across the course, and the greens are
Next, what are pieces of information that are floating out there that may or may not be relevant. First, this course has been called August of the North, the superintendent was hired over from Bethpage Black and he spent his early years at Augusta National. There will likely be breadcrumbs carried over from both courses as it was recently given a makoever to make it TOUR ready.
Why is it called Augusta North?, Scott Brown wasn’t the first to call it that, but he had this to say about it after giving it a test run last year, “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.”
If golf courses are like people, then Glen Oaks appears to be that OCD friend of yours who showers three times a day, changes out his sneakers whenever they get their first skidmark, and can’t leave the house unless he’s dressed to the nines. I guess I don’t really have a friend like that, but some of you might. It’s not a club I’d like to attend personally, as I’d be worried about getting mud on the fairway and getting kicked off the course. It’s extremely well-manicured with bunkers that should pop on the broadcast. Looking at aerial shots, it actually looks very similar to Eagle Point Golf Club which we saw host the Wells Fargo Championship earlier this year.
From a setup standpoint, there are five par 4s over 470 yards (long) while there are just two par 4s under 400 yards (short). As the for the par 5s, we have one that looks reachable to all (539-yards) and one that is a beast (625-yards). I will wait to see what golfers are saying early in the week, but it sounds like a course where you need to hit your driver early and often.
For correlated courses, I looked at location, length, forgiveness off the tee, and grass types. The five courses that stood out were: Augusta National, Muirfield Village, TPC Boston, The Old White TPC, and Firestone CC.
They don’t check every box individually, but overall should provide a good mix. Some other courses that were in the mix include Eagle Point GC, Bethpage Black, Doral, and Bay Hill.
The course may get some light storms before the event, but the forecast for the actual tournament looks golden right now.
For additional course and tournament info in addition to golfer quotes, check out the Fantasy Golfanac.
Players to Watch
Rickie Fowler… Jordan Spieth should recieve a lot of love this week due to the August North narrative, but the length of Glen Oaks lends me to look past Spieth for my man to beat. Instead, I want someone that devours courses that demand you to hit driver. Rory would be an obvious pick there but unlike McRib, Fowler is actually playing great golf this season. With six top 10s over his last eight starts, I want to keep the gravy train rolling, right into the winner’s circle.
Rory McIlroy… Went from OUT FOR THE SEASON to now defending his FedExCup title. Was this decision motivated by the sponsorship deals (hitting balls at Yankee stadium this week, Walk With Rory promo at the BMW, etc.) or does he want to end the season on a high, after struggling all year with injuries? After the PGA Championship he said this, “when I come off the course, I feel my left rhomboid going into spasm. (The) inside of my left arm goes numb.” I don’t want a small-percentage narrative to spiral out of control like Stenson’s WD risk last week, but there are definitely concerns to be had about Rory this week. A 100% healthy Rory would be the favorite this week.
Dustin Johnson… Has been spending time in The Bahamas since the PGA Championship. Will that time off be good for DJ and give him a much-needed recharge of the batteries? Or will he be rusty and take a few rounds/events to get back into the groove? I will lean toward the former and say the little vacay will be good for his game.
Jason Day… The Aussie loves summer golf, so it’s no surprise to see his game rounding back into form and also see his track record at this event (six top 15s in nine tries, including a 2015 WIN). If the course is truly forgiving off the tee like Scott Brown suggested, that bodes very well for Day’s chances this week.
Justin Rose … Another top name with a form concern. According to a lot of the Euro tipsters, Rose has been working on a swing change that alleviates pressure from his bad back. Something to steer clear of? Or something he should have figured out by now just in time for a run in the Playoffs? These are the tough questions.
Xander Schauffele… His run of good form snapped at the PGA Championship, which happened to be his first event on bermuda in a while. Coincidence? Potentially not. Early stats suggests that X could be a bentgrass specialist, which makes him somewhat appealing this week as the greens are a bentgrass. He’s had no troubles battling with the big guns (T5 US Open, T20 Open, T13 WGC-BI) so this field shouldn’t intimidate him. UPDATE: With news that the greens are predominantly poa, that brings a bit of question mark here. X should prefer poa over bermuda but his small sample on poa greens is not promising. A slight bump down for me.
Charley Hoffman… Has a win at nearby TPC Boston. Finished solo third at Firestone CC recently, another tree-lined course where you hafta hit driver. I don’t like that there are only two par 5s for him to feast on but he should be able to take advantage of his confident driving skills on the long par 4s.
Paul Casey… On a crazy good run of form, hasn’t finished outside the top 30 since March. Das Nice!
Kevin Chappell… Has gained 7 or more strokes tee-to-green in each of his last three starts. I already said I like Jason Day this week, and we know Chappell likes to perform well when Day does.
David Lingmerth… Glen Oaks is a hefty course in the Northeast with bentgrass/poa greens. Lingmerth has won at Muirfield Village, has a pair of top 10s at the Greenbrier, and a pair of top 10s at Firestone. For someone with only 12 top 10s to his name, it’s a good sign that FIVE of those top 10s have come on correlated courses (or least tracks I’ve handpicked as potentially correlated).
Kyle Stanley… Hit a roadbump since the big win but still driving it well. Has been a DFS darling all year but may be losing that status due to recent form. A nice candidate to bounce back this week.
My Top 25 for the NORTHERN TRUST
1. Rickie Fowler
2. Jordan Spieth
3. Paul Casey
4. Jason Day
5. Dustin Johnson
6. Rory Mcilroy
7. Matt Kuchar
8. Hideki Matsuyama
9. Brooks Koepka
10. Henrik Stenson
11. Jon Rahm
12. Francesco Molinari
13. Patrick Reed
14. Justin Rose
15. Charl Schwartzel
16. Tony Finau
17. Charley Hoffman
18. Justin Thomas
19. Louis Oosthuizen
20. Zach Johnson
21. Daniel Berger
22. Marc Leishman
23. Kevin Chappell
24. Xander Schauffele
25. David Lingmerth