The Northern Trust ⏤ Picks & Analysis

Fantasy Golf


The Fedex Cup playoffs begin this week with The Northern Trust at TPC Boston in Norton, MA. All the stars are out for this event as the players vie for the $15 million payday that awaits the winner of the three-week race to win the Fedex Cup title. Past winners of the Fedex Cup crown in the field this week include the defending Fedex Cup champion Rory McIlroy (his second Cup) and the only other two-time champion Tiger Woods. In all, the bonus money handed out (beyond the individual tournament prize pools) will total over $60 million. Justin Thomas enters the playoffs in the top spot on the points list with a 556 point lead over newly-minted PGA Champion Collin Morikawa.

TPC Boston was originally designed by Arnold Palmer, but most of the course as it appears today is the handiwork of a renovation done by Gil Hanse and Brad Faxon back in 2007. It was formally the host of the Dell Technologies Championship (previously called the Deutsche Bank Championship) and has been a part of the PGA TOUR schedule for the better part of the last two decades. The course has an interesting mix of brutishly long par-fours and score-able holes like the drivable fourth and the reachable par-fives at the second and eighteenth holes. Water hazards as well as unplayable marsh areas are found on a number of the holes and players who spray the ball may find themselves running up big numbers if they aren't careful.

Patrick Reed will be defending his Northern Trust title from last year--a title won a few hours south of TPC Boston at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, NJ. He enters the week sixth in the Fedex Cup standings and should be considered among the upper-tier of contenders for the Fedex Cup title. The current odds-on favorite to win this week is Bryson Dechambeau at +1200 with Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy all stacked behind him at +1400.

Group A

The heavy hitters are back in the lineup in Group A this week as the field is as strong as any throughout the year. Most of the players in this group make a fairly strong case for selection save for maybe Rory McIlroy. For some reason, Rory has struggled post-COVID to find the form he had going into the pause. It hasn't been a total disaster as he is still yet to miss a cut, but he hasn't managed a top-ten finish since the reboot after a string of six top-fives in a row going into the pause.

Dechambeau has been a force since the pause and he looked back in form at the PGA Championship after a couple of tough weeks at the Memorial and the Fedex St. Jude Invitational. Dustin Johnson looked good for most of the week at Harding Park, but had a lackluster Sunday that left him a couple of strokes behind Collin Morikawa. DJ has seemingly been a feast or famine player since the COVID reboot and that uncertainty makes him tough to roster this week. Jon Rahm has been steady with some upside including a win since the COVID reboot, but since he ascended to the number one spot in the OWGR he hasn't looked quite as sharp as he did prior to climbing that mountain.

We're going to go with Justin Thomas in the wake of his win two starts ago at the Fedex St. Jude Invitational. He's finished in the top-ten four times since the COVID pause including that win and a runner-up finish at the Workday Charity Open. He has been a past winner of the Fedex Cup and we expect him to show up hungry to bag a second crown and join Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy as the only two-time winners of the title.

Group B

While this might be the "next tier" of players after Group A, I'm not so sure that the collective total of Group B won't beat the collective total of Group A. There are so many strong players in this group that it's difficult to select one, but we're going to ride the hot hand and put Collin Morikawa in our lineup. He's gained a reputation as one of the best iron players in the game and he has to be riding a wave of confidence after a beyond clutch performance to win the PGA Championship. He's already bagged two post-COVID wins (including that major championship) and until he hits a rough patch it doesn't seem like a bad idea to take him every week.

Tiger Woods has had success at TPC Boston and always deserves a look, but he's only played two competitive PGA TOUR events in the last six months and his putter looked awfully inconsistent at the PGA Championship. He had a great putting day to open the event on Thursday, but it seemed that he used up all of the magic in that one day and struggled to find the form on the greens the rest of the week. His iron play as always looked awfully good, but he struggled to find the fairways two of the four days and without quality driving he'll face an uphill battle at TPC Boston. We'd wait to take Tiger until later in the playoffs (maybe East Lake) when he's had the chance to play himself into shape.

Group C

There is a lot of rust on a number of the players in this group, so our selection is going to be a form choice of Kevin Kisner. His last three events have been awfully solid--with a 25th place finish at the Fedex St. Jude Invitational, a 19th place finish at the PGA Championship and then a 3rd place performance last week at the Wyndham Championship. He's always been a great putter but when his ball striking comes around he can be a real threat.

The rest of the group leaves a lot of be desired. Phil Mickelson has been all over the map and seemingly cannot put four rounds together these days. Bubba Watson has just a single top-ten since January and Matt Kuchar has just one all year. Jordan Spieth has shown some signs of life with isolated quality rounds but there are few tournaments he plays that aren't marred by at least one (often two) really poor rounds. Lucas Glover had been playing some steady golf post-COVID, but he's now missed three cuts in a row and it looks like the form he was showing just a month or so ago has escaped him.

Group D

There are a number of quality players in Group D, but easily the hottest player among them is Jason Day. He looked completely lost in the woods earlier this season after heading into the Workday Charity Open having missed five of his previous six cuts. His back has been a definite issue, but it is starting to look like he's getting healthy again and his last four weeks have quietly been beyond impressive. He hasn't won in that time, but he's finished between 4th and 7th place in all four of those events. While the rest of Group D is rock solid and you could do well to select any one of them on any given week, we think the heater that Day seems to be on right now makes him an obvious selection.

Group E

To our mind, the selection in this group comes down to a battle between Tony Finau and our choice of Daniel Berger. Granted, Finau definitely seems to be knocking on the door and he's coming into this event having shown some form of late. He posted an eighth-place finish at the Memorial and then backed that up with a third-place performance at the 3M Open and a fourth-place finish at the PGA Championship. In the middle, he finished nearly dead last at the Fedex St. Jude Invitational but we can chalk that up to a let down after spending most of the week in contention at the 3M Open.

That having been said, there maybe has been no hotter player on the planet than Daniel Berger since the post-COVID reboot. He came out of the blocks with a win at the Charles Schwab Challenge and (with the exception of a missed cut at the difficult Memorial Tournament) has banked a top-15 finish or better every single week. In fact, his 13th place finish at the PGA Championship was his second-worst week since the reboot with every single other performance finding the top ten. He isn't a flashy player by any means, but it's impossible to ignore this kind of form and we expect him to continue his run this week at TPC Boston.

Group F

This is a group of vexing international players that have seemingly wide ranges in performance from week to week. Tyrrell Hatton was on a real heater both going into and coming out of the COVID pause, but his game has seemingly cooled off in his last two starts. He enters the playoffs on the heels of a missed cut at the PGA Championship and we wonder if the last two weeks aren't the beginning of a regression to the mean with Hatton. Tommy Fleetwood might be the most accomplished player in the group, but he's been sluggish since he came over the pond late in the wake of the COVID reboot. Matt Fitzpatrick was trending in the right direction with top-ten finishes at the Memorial Tournament and the Fedex St. Jude Invitational, but he too missed the cut at the PGA Championship. Our selection of Paul Casey had a great week at the PGA Championship and his steady game gives him a pretty high floor that should make him a safe choice among a very volatile group.