2020 Northern Trust PGA betting preview

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The Northern Trust Open is the first leg of the PGA Tour playoffs. Once named the Barclays, this event has maintained its spot on the calendar even as the PGA cut its playoff schedule from four events to three last season. To make matters a little more confusing, the event will also be played at TPC Boston this year, a venue that hosted the second-leg of playoffs every season until 2018, at the now-defunct Dell Technologies Championship. TPC Boston is now in a rota of Eastern seaboard courses for this event, with last year’s iteration having taken place in New York at Liberty National. 

With the playoffs here, the event will now see the top-125 players in the FedEx Cup standings all taking part, with only the top-70 players in the rankings surviving into next week at the no-cut BMW Championships. From there, just the top-30 in the standings go onto the finale at East Lake.  

Wyndham Championship roundup 

The last regular season event prior to the playoffs gave us one of the biggest winners of the year from an outright perspective with Jim Herman, who was available as big as +50000, pre-event, at several books. It was his third win of his career. 

Other players who played well last week include Si Woo Kim, who held a two-shot lead going into the final round but had one bad mistake early on Sunday that cost him. Former 2014, FedEx Cup Champion Billy Horschel also played well, finishing in solo second. Doc Redman, a player I featured here last week at +8000 in the outright and each-way section, landed a top-5 finish to post some decent returns for those who invested in the top-5 or top-10 market with him. 

The Northern Trust course details

TPC Boston

  • Par: 71
  • Greens: Bentgrass
  • Design: Arnold Palmer (2002) and Gil Hanse (2007)
  • Defending Event Champion: Bryson DeChambeau (2018-Dell Technologies Championship)

This week will mark the first time TPC Boston has hosted an event on Tour since the 2018 Dell Technologies Championship. The venue played as the 37th toughest course that season, with the winner–Bryson DeChambeau–coming in at 18-under par. 

The course sets up as an American links style track that features fescue rough in places, along with generous fairways that will allow players to be aggressive off the tee. Players here in 2018 hit over 64% of the fairways, which is a couple of % over the Tour average in that regard. 

At its core, this is a very player friendly track with plenty of scoring holes. There’s two driveable Par 4’s in the first four holes and three Par 5’s, two of which will be near must-birdies for the field this week. The Bentgrass greens are some of the best the players will see all year but can play very fast. The course could also play much firmer this season than it has in past iterations considering its new mid-August date. 

As far as past winners go, this venue has seen the gamut. Straight hitters like Webb Simpson (2011) and Henirk Stenson (2013) have used superior iron and putting performances to out-pace the field here, while more recent winners have included younger, explosive players like Justin Thomas and Bryson DeChambeau. I’d caution typifying this as a “bombers” track though as putting and good around the green play have been prominent in almost all of the past winners stats. 

  • Bryson DeChambeau (2018-Dell Technologies Championship*)
  • *this was the last time a playoff event was played at TPC Boston
  • SG: OTT +3.3/SG: APP +4.1/SG: TTG +7.7/SG: ATG +0.1/SG: PUTT +4.

2020 Northern Trust betting discussion and picks

TPC Boston demands a good all-around performance and the trends for past winners of the first playoff event have favoured players with great recent form, particularly at the most recent major:

This venue and event has also put up plenty of top-level winners, with big underdogs rarely breaking through for wins in the playoffs. Rory McIlroy won at TPC Boston in 2016 as one of the betting favorites, while Justin Thomas came in here in 2017, fresh off the first major win of his career, to grab a win. Bryson DeChambeau, who hadn’t yet completed his protein-shake induced body transformation yet, won here as a skinny-lad in 2018. None were available at huge odds, with Thomas and Rory going off around the favorites. 

Likewise, the last two winners of the Northern Trust (not played at TPC Boston) were Patrick Reed and Dustin Johnson, players with good pedigree who rarely go off worse than 40-1 in most events. As such, it’s time we discuss some betting options here and we’ll start with an overview of the top players. 

Betting favorites to win the 2020 northern trust golf tournament

Bryson DeChambeau +1100

Bryson’s certainly strolling into this one with a lot of confidence. He’s coming off the best major championship finish of his career with a T4 at TPC Harding Park and now gets to play at TPC Boston, which definitely encourages aggressiveness off the tee with multiple short Par 5’s and driveable Par 4’s. DeChambeau won here in 2018 and, outside of a two event blip between his win in Detroit and the PGA, hasn’t finished outside of the top-5 in an event since February. Bryson seems determined to add some bigger hardware to his collection before 2020 is done and it would be semi-shocking if he wasn’t in contention here down the stretch. If you’re betting the favorites, Bryson is the best target for me here. 

Justin Thomas +1200

Thomas has been up and down for parts of 2020 but in his last four events he’s been at his explosive best, gaining over +6-strokes on his approaches in three of his last four starts. He won at this venue back in 2017 but it’s worth noting that Thomas gained +4.7 strokes on the greens that week. He was able to overcome some poor putting in his last win at the WGC Memphis event but will almost certainly need that club to show up here if he’s going to grab another win. He’s always in play for a W but, after a slow PGA Championship where he took another step back on the greens, it feels easier to bypass him here than Bryson at this price-range. 

Jun 13, 2020; Fort Worth, Texas, USA; Rory McIlroy plays his shot from the 14th tee during the third round of the Charles Schwab Challenge golf tournament at Colonial Country Club. Mandatory Credit: Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

Rory McIlroy +1400

Rory certainly could turn things around here. He’s dominated TPC Boston at times, picking up wins here in 2012 and 2016. It is worth noting that on both occasions he chased down fragile Sunday leaders though, so if you’re interested in him he might actually be a better in-play target. He comes in having finished outside of the top-30 in three straight starts now and hasn’t landed a top-10 since before the hiatus. You rarely want to speak poorly about a player who has as much talent about Rory but, for now, these kinds of prices make him a hard pass for pre-event outright betting.

Jon Rahm +1400 

It’s been three weeks since Rahm popped off at the Memorial and grabbed the number one player in the world title. He was never really in contention at the PGA Championship but the fight he showed there to finish T13 makes him a more interesting target here among the top group than others. Rahm’s long game was solid at the PGA and he gained strokes everywhere but on the greens. If he’d popped off with the putter in any kind of fashion he likely contends. This seems like a pretty fair price although if you’re choosing between him and Bryson he’d be hard to pick over DeChambeau considering the latter’s consistency of late. 

Tiger Woods +4000

Tiger’s teeing it up here for the first time since 2018, when he landed a T24 finish on his way to closing out the Tour Championship a couple weeks later. The argument for Tiger really starts and ends with the number we’re getting. Even when he was coming into the Memorial with no competitive practice, he was still smaller than this in the odds. His approach game has been fine over his last two starts, gaining +2.6 strokes on approaches at the PGA, and the warmer weather should be a boon to his back issues. He likely makes for a better top-20 bet, where he’s going off around +225, but this is as good an outright price as you’ll ever see on a healthy GOAT, so taking advantage also seems completely fine. 

Favorite bets (each-ways and outrights)

For more info on types of golf bets available each week, be sure to check out more info here. Each way bets refer to bets that include a bet to win and a bet to place (usually to at least top-5 but sometimes are available up to top-8 or more). 

Jason Day +2500 or better (each-way)

Day comes into TPC Boston bubbling with form and confidence. The Aussie has gained strokes throughout the bag now in four straight starts, showing the same kind of consistency that allowed him to reach the number one player in the world status back in 2016. He’s now improved his Strokes Gained Approach stats in four straight starts as well, ranking 1st in that stat at the PGA Championship two weeks ago.

This is such a far cry from the player who was losing strokes every event with his irons the last couple years that it’s possible he’s still being undervalued. At +2500, he’s still ranked well below players he bested at the year’s first major–like Xander Schauffele and Jon Rahm–in the outright betting market. Day’s also played TPC Boston a bunch over his career and posted top-5 finishes in both 2010 and 2011. He’s been locked in of late, Tee to Green-wise, and if his putter had cooperated down the stretch at the PGA we could easily be talking about a player who had just claimed his second major championship. Luckily for us though, Day’s price is still very bettable and if his putter fires up to full capacity here he’ll have another great shot at grabbing a win. 

Tony Finau +3300 or better (each-way)

Finau fell short of the win at the last major but his play of late has showcased some of the best golf of his career. He’s recorded three top-10’s now in his last four starts, and was an unlucky pin-bounce away from pulling a similar feat to Collin Morikawa at the PGA but, once again, didn’t get the proper bounces when it mattered. Finau has continually put himself in a position to get those good bounces of late though, and will likely have some extra motivation from tweets like this, that referenced his lacking win total compared to last week’s winner.

The 2016 Puerto Rico Open champion has gained over +7 strokes on his approaches in two of his last three starts and has clearly benefited from a coaching/caddie change that has seen his swing coach Boyd Summerhays take control of his bag duties. He’s outplayed several players below him in odds here over the last two events and looks like a good mid-tier value for outrights cards once again. A win for him is certainly coming soon and you get the feeling it won’t be happening at anything less than a top tier event like the one we’re getting here. 

Paul Casey +5000 (each-way)

Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t leave out Casey of the betting plan. Casey’s leadup to this event looks striking similar to last year’s NTO winner, Patrick Reed, who also recorded a top-10 in a major championship right before winning this event last season. In it till the bitter end at the PGA Championship, where he finished T2, the Englishman has been a solid playoff performer over his career, landing seven top-5 finishes in his last 15 playoff starts. TPC Boston has also been one of his best tracks and he held a big Sunday lead here in 2016 before getting chased down by Rory McIlroy. 

Despite coming so close so many times in August and September, Casey looks primed to make another run at grabbing a playoff title in 2020 and has displayed an almost maddenly consistent long game this year, having gained strokes on approach and off the tee in seven of his last eight starts. With his short game and putter showing much more promise of late, +5000 feels like a fair price on someone who feels overdue for a big win. 

Si Woo Kim +8000 or better (each-way)

Kim’s outright betting number feels a touch disrespectful this week and it’s definitely something I’m interested in taking advantage of. The South Korean was generally going off at +3500 or worse before tee off last week and he did everything but win at the Wyndham, eventually landing himself a T3 finish. Despite the solid effort and a Tee to Green game which presents with beautifully trending stats, he’s now going off at nearly triple his price from last week at many sportsbooks, which begs the question, Why?

The 2017 winner of the Players Championship certainly isn’t afraid of tough fields and, as mentioned previously, he’s now gained over +8.7 strokes Tee to Green in each of his last two starts. That’s the kind of all-around effort needed for success at TPC Boston, a place he finished T15 at in 2016 on debut. 

While his mental mishaps from last week’s final round could be used as an argument for avoiding him, the price here is simply too big for a player whose talent level and recent form could easily have him priced a couple tiers lower. At these prices, you’ll live with the overly aggressive mindset and hope it pays off this time, as it has already for him in two previous wins.  

Sincerely, Ben

Longshots

Byeong Hun An +12500 or better (each-way)

Benny An’s performances over his last couple of starts have almost gone overlooked among all of the major championship and playoff hype. The South Korean played himself into a final group at a WGC three weeks ago and also posted a solid T22 finish at the PGA Championship. Both performances were marked by solid all-around play, with An posting +3.6 strokes on his approaches and +4-strokes with his putter at TPC Harding Park. 

An carries an elite short game–17th in SG:Around the Green stats–that should play very well around the numerous scoring holes at TPC Boston. He’s also another player who has already proven himself against an elite field, taking down the BMW PGA Championship–the European Tour’s flagship event–in record setting fashion back in 2015. He’s trending well in all the right statistical categories at the moment so chancing that a big breakthrough comes here makes quite a bit of sense at such a big number this week.

Top-20 market

Louis Oosthuizen +350 or better

Oosthy played very well at the PGA Championship, gaining +7.5 strokes Tee to Green. His only issue was on the greens where he lost -3.4 strokes putting, which led him to an average T33 finish. While I understand avoiding him in the outright market for the fact he rarely seems to get in the mix late, his number here in the top-20 market seems very worth taking advantage of. He’s now gained +5 strokes or more Tee to Green in his last two starts and was T6 against an elite field just two starts ago in Memphis. He’s also great at hanging inside the top-20/10 when he’s playing well, which he clearly is right now, having landed seven top-20 finishes in 10 of his last Major Championships/WGC events/Playoff starts. 

Jun 16, 2016; Oakmont, PA, USA; Jon Rahm hits his tee shot on the 4th hole during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Oakmont Country Club. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Matchups (72-holes)

Jon Rahm -110 over Rory McIlroy

Rahm’s outplayed McIlroy over the last month or so and I like him to do so again this week. On top of winning in semi-blowout fashion at the Memorial a month ago, Rahm also handily finished in front of Rory at the year’s first major championship, when he posted T13 to Rory’s T33. The match-up here though goes beyond just recent finishing positions as Rahm gained strokes throughout the bag at the PGA Championship and has been the sharper player as a whole around and on the greens of late. Rahm feels like the player who is closer to challenging right now making him a target for me in this match-up of golf’s elites. 

Tony Finau -110 over Patrick Reed 

Reed’s getting some love this week as the American is known for closing out events and has already recorded three finishes inside the top-6 at TPC Boston. Finau’s been the higher end player of late though, gaining over +9 strokes Tee to Green in two of his last three starts. Reed beat up on a weaker field last week at the Wyndham to grab a T9 there but he’s been bested by Finau in two of the last three events, including at the year’s first major. If Finau shows up with his A-game again it feels like Reed may have to have a career week with his putter to beat him and he’s been inconsistent enough with that club of late for me to take the Finau side confidently here. 

First Round Bets

Harris English +6600 or better (each-way)

  • Ranks second in first round scoring on the season and 10th in SG:PUTT on Bentgrass over the last 50-rounds
  • Coming off another solid week where he opened with a 64, but faded late. Given that this has been his style of late it seems better to target him in the FRL market right now
  • Early Tee time on Thursday and should be more focused for this event as he ranks 27th in the FedEx Cup standings and a solid finish here would almost guarantee his ticket to East Lake

Alex Noren +10000 or better (each-way)

  • Ranks 14th on Tour in first round scoring, Swede is coming off his best US-based major championship finish of his career
  • Coming into the playoffs with lower world ranking than normal, so a trip to East Lake would guarantee major championship starts next year. He should be focused on a fast start here
  • Another terrific Bentgrass putter who has been great around and on the greens of late and could easily catch fire in this department for a big round to begin the event
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