The 2021 PGA season is nearing an end with the road to the Tour Championship starting this week with the first leg of the FedExCup Playoffs. The Northern Trust will see 125 players compete to finish in the top 70 and qualify for the BMW Championship next week.
U.S. Open champ Jon Rahm enters as the +950 favorite. The 2020 Northern Trust winner, Dustin Johnson, has his odds priced at +1800 along with Olympic gold medal winner Xander Schauffele at +2000.
The course is Liberty National Golf Club, a par-71, roughly 7,400-yard course in Jersey City, New Jersey. Complete with both bentgrass fairways and greens, the players I'm looking to contend perform well on this surface while also coming into this tournament with good form. Water and hazards do come into play, making accuracy off the tee and stellar iron shot play my go-to metrics.
Calling an outright winner in a golf tournament is one of the toughest things to do in sports betting. Instead, I look to top 20s and full-tournament head-to-head matchups. These are the three matchups to target for this week.
Harris English -135 vs. Adam Scott
Two weeks ago, English took fourth place in the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, while Scott is coming off a runner-up in the Wyndham Championship just last week. With both coming into this with good form, I'm looking to English to be the more consistent, more experienced player on bentgrass. In his last 40 rounds played on bentgrass, English has gained 1.42 strokes total, while Scott has only gained 0.14 in his last 20 rounds.
After a turbulent few months earlier this year, English has been on an upward trajectory having five top-20 finishes in his last seven events played since May, three of which within the top five. English has gained strokes in every category in four of his last five events (no data for The Open Championship) including a win in the Travelers Championship.
Scott's second-place finish last week is a good jolt but it was the first event he's played in which he's gained strokes in every category since his win in the Genesis Invitational last February.
Joaquin Niemann -115 vs. Matthew Fitzpatrick
Fitzpatrick has taken a nosedive. After five straight top-20 finishes in February and March, Fitzpatrick has had two missed cuts and just one top-20 finish in his last seven events, losing strokes on his iron shots and short game. Niemann on the other-hand has been rather consistent. In his last 11 events, Niemann has five top 20s, three top 10s, including a runner-up in the Rocket Mortgage Classic, and just one missed cut since September 2020.
Fitzpatrick is better off the tee but on a course where you can leave the driver in the bag, I'm placing a premium on the better iron player. Niemann is ranked top 50 in Strokes Gained Approach, while Fitzpatrick doesn't crack the top 100.
Ian Poulter +1.5 strokes (-135) (+110 ML) vs Sergio Garcia
There are some players I like for top 20s and such, and then there are players I like for a head-to-head. Poulter is one of those players. He won't get any recognition for his ball striking but Poulter is a really great putter, ranked fourth in Strokes Gained Putting, who also happens to excel on bentgrass greens. He's gained at least four strokes with the flat stick in his last six events on bentgrass, helping him to six top-30 finishes in his last seven events including third at the Charles Schwab Challenge in May. Garcia is quite the opposite. He can strike the ball well but can't putt worth a dime. It's two extremes with Garcia on these types of greens. He's finished either in the top 25 or missed the cut four times. Poulter is the less volatile player, and though he may not get the distance, he's more accurate off the tee, which helps put him in a great position to get the ball close for putting opportunities.
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