Best bets for the Northern Trust

Written by on August 18, 2021

The FedEx Cup playoffs begin this week with the Northern Trust at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Which players are the favorites this time around, who offers good odds and what props are worth considering?

Sports betting deputy editor David Bearman and betting analysts Chris “The Bear” Fallica, Tyler Fulghum and Anita Marks offer their best bets.

Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill unless otherwise noted.

Bets to win

Jon Rahm (+1000) to win, Top-10 finish (-125); Double-chance with Jordan Spieth (+600)

Fallica: About as a no brainer and chalky of a pick as one could make, but it has to be done. His last three events have resulted in a win at the U.S. Open, a T-3 at The Open and what would have been a win at the Memorial, had he not tested positive for COVID-19. He’s the best player in the world right now and he has to be backed here.

Collin Morikawa (+1800) to win; Top-10 finish (+200)

Bearman: The two-time major champion and current FedExCup points leader is still not getting the respect he deserves. The 24-year old, fresh off The Open Championship win and T-4 at the Olympics, leads everyone in Shots Gained: tee-to-green and approach, is sixth in total and second in greens in regulation and fourth in scoring average. Yet, he is still fourth on most odds boards, getting an 18-1 price, behind Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson. With all due respect to those outstanding golfers, no one is playing better than Morikawa, who also finished T-4 at the U.S. Open and lost in a playoff at the Memorial prior to his Open win. Only played Liberty National once with a T-53 finish? Good point, except he had never played St. George’s (Open Championship), Concession Golf Club (WGC), Muirfield Village (Workday Open), Harding Park (PGA Championship) or Montreux Golf Club (Barracuda) prior to any of his five PGA Tour wins. Lack of course history doesn’t seem to faze this kid. In addition, Royal St. George’s is one of those courses many are comparing Liberty National to and we all saw how that ended up. If I can keep getting 18-1 prices on Morikawa to win a big event that you need good iron play on, I am going to keep firing.

Rory McIlroy (+2200) to win; Top-10 finish (+225)

Bearman: Years from now, we are going to look back at McIlroy’s 2020-21 season and still argue if it was a good or bad season. Unless he takes a hold of the narrative in these next three events and writes it for us. McIlroy started the unorthodox season with a T-8 at the U.S. Open and T-5 at the Masters, along with Top-10s at the WGC-Concession and API. Poor performances at The Players (cut), WGC-Match play (group play) and Masters (cut) and swing change rumors had you wondering when will he win again. He did that the very next week at the Wells Fargo, before poor performances at the PGA Championship and Open Championship. However, he contended at the U.S. Open (T-7), lost in a playoff for the bronze medal in Japan and finished with three consecutive 66s to climb to T-12 at the WGC-St. Jude. All in all, he has six to-10s and stands 26th in the standings, meaning he has some work to do to guarantee an eighth trip in 10 seasons to Atlanta for the Tour Championship. Good or bad season, the FedExCup playoffs is where McIlroy has shined. One of only two players to take the FEC trophy twice (Tiger Woods), Rory is the all-time money leader since the inception of the playoffs in 2007 and has the second-most wins with 5 (Dustin Johnson has 6). He’s had success here, finishing T-6th in 2019 and T-19 back in 2013. He comes in eighth in T2G and 12th in shots gained overall and has a chance to finish strong on an up and down season.

Daniel Berger (+2800) to win; Top-5 finisher (+600); Top American (+1800); First round 3-ball — Berger over Scottie Scheffler and Patrick Reed

Marks: Berger has been hot all summer. He comes into Jersey with a Top-10 finish in Memphis. His game checks all the boxes; top in DA, SGA, par 5 scoring, and putting on bentgrass. Berger needs to impress Steve Stricker for a Team Ryder Cup invite, which is even more motivation surrounding this weekend.

Paul Casey (+3500) to win; Top-10 finish (+275)

Fallica: Casey has enjoyed a great year with seven Top-10s in his 18 starts, including a Top-5 at THE PLAYERS, T-4 at the PGA, T-7 at the U.S. Open and T-5 at the WGC-St. Jude. His stats place him in elite company, as he’s 7th in SG: tee-to-green and 9th in SG: Total.

Adam Scott (+4000) to win; Top-10 finish (+350)

Bearman: Scott has had a below average season with only two Top 10s, but one of them was the runner-up finish last week in Greensboro, in which he missed a four-foot putt to win at the first playoff hole. He didn’t play a whole lot post-COVID in 2020, remaining in Australia during the pandemic, and never really got it going this year outside of the T-10 at Torrey Pines and doing well early during a Top-15 finish at the Honda. However, the last two times the PGA Tour teed it up here at Liberty National saw Scott finish fifth in 2019 and best the field for the win in 2013. Win the T-2 finish last week, he moved from 121st in the FedEx Cup rankings all the way to 82, which puts him within distance to make next week’s field of 70 with a good weekend. The metrics won’t wow you since he has had a down season, but he was third on approach, fourth T2G and fourth overall last week at Wyndham Championship and has the two great finishes here to use to his advantage. The approach at the first playoff hole followed by the missed putt to win pretty much summarizes his season in a nutshell. He will need to continue the strong iron game to make it to Maryland next week.

Matt Fitzpatrick (+5000) to win; Top-10 finish (+450)

Fallica: He’s certainly cooled off since a very good start to the year in California and Florida. But he still can contend at the highest level, as evidenced by a Top 10 at THE PLAYERS and a Top 5 at RBC Heritage. The fact he’s a little bit off the radar certainly helps his price this week.

Jason Kokrak (+6600) to win; Top-20 finish (+275); FRL (+6500)

Bearman: I can readily admit I haven’t picked the right weeks with Kokrak. He’s done well on the weeks I have not picked him and let me down a few times when I hopped on him. But I do think this is a nice spot for him to grab some value. Since picking up his 2nd win of the season back in May at the Charles Schwab, Kokrak has fared no better than T-12 at the sub-par Rocket Mortgage field, with a missed cut at the U.S. Open as a popular play and a no-show last week at the Wyndham. So why would I want to pick him? The poor recent form has caused his odds to go into the 65-70 range for a golfer who has had success at Liberty National, with a T-12 in 2019 and a T-9 back in 2013. All 8 rounds played were under par and he ranked 3rd at this course in shots gained total. It should come as no surprise as Liberty National is loaded with bent grass tee-to-green and both of wins this year (CJ Cup, Charles Schwab) came on courses that also had bent grass. After years losing shots and tourneys with a poor putter, Kokrak is 6th on Tour this year in shots gained: putting and enters 25th in total shots gained. His two wins have him 12th and safe for next week’s BMW, but another solid event could get his place secure in the Top 30 and a 2nd career appearance in the seasons’ final event.


Abraham Ancer Top-20 finish (+160)

Marks: Ancer hits Lady Liberty’s course coming off a win at the FedEx. Ancer finished second here in 2019 and this track fits his game, with him being seventh in DA, and 11th in scrambling. This feels like easy money.

Collin Morikawa Top-10 finish (+180)

Fulghum; Probably the best pure ball-striker in the world right now, Morikawa has exactly the type of game that shines on a track like Liberty National (long, penal, with tiny greens) and against a world-class field. Morikawa is 1st on the Tour this season on SG: Approach, he’s second in GIR%, and no one averages more birdies per round than his 4.40.

Adam Scott Top-20 finish (+160)

Fulghum: Also a tremendous ball-striker with a classic swing, Scott is a bit more volatile than Morikawa, but he’s had a lot of success on this track. Liberty National has posted three PGA Tour events in its history and Scott finished 5th in 2019 and won the tournament in 2013. Scott has the requisite wedge game on approach to these small greens that should give him better looks at birdie relative to his peers. If he putts well — and he’s 20th on tour this season in SG: Putting — he can contend.

Jordan Spieth (+350) Top-5 finish; Top American (+1000)

Marks: Spieth should win Comeback Player Of The Year! He loves this track and plays great on links courses. If he wasn’t ranked in the 100s in Greens in Regulation, I’d pick him to win.

Adam Scott Top-10 finish (+350); Top Australian (+200); First round 3 ball – Scott over Harry Higgs and Wyndham Clark (-145)

Marks: Scott finished T-2 at the Wyndham Championships this past week, and there’s nothing like being the bridesmaid for extra motivation! He is arguably the best ball striker on Tour at the moment, and he has won here before. Scott ranks No. 82 in FedEx points, and therefore has extra motivation to perform well this weekend to be sure of an invite to Baltimore next week.

Patrick Reed Top-10 finish (+400), Top-20 finish (+180)

Bearman: Reed is the defending champ here at Liberty National, winning by one shot over Abraham Ancer when the Northern Trust was last here in 2019. He led the field in shots gained total and was third tee-to-green during that week. Captain America also went 3-1-1 on Team USA when the President’s Cup was played at Liberty National in 2017, so he has more experience than most at this course. Since 2014, Reed has eight Top-10s in FedEx Cup playoff events, advancing to the Tour Championship in each of those seven seasons. He enters this version of the playoffs 22nd on Tour, which is in good shape but far from a lock for the final 30. I expect Reed to play well again here and potentially pull off another victory. His recent play (last top-10 was a fifth at the Memorial in June) has me a little gun shy on taking him to win, but a Top-10 at +400 should be right in his wheelhouse. He’s 11th in shots gained total and has one of the top short games on Tour.

Harold Varner III Top-20 finish (+600)

Bearman: Last week, I made a few Top-10/Top-20 picks based on the narrative that one had to play well to make the Top 125. It worked for me with C.T. Pan (T-29, but won some head-to-heads) and Adam Scott (bet live) but did not work for Rickie Fowler and Brandt Snedeker, who both missed the cut. Well, we are going to try again this week with Varner as he enters No. 72 in the standings, just outside the Top-70 needed to advance to the BMW. So why HV3 of all the guys near the Top-70 line? He finished T-3 here two years ago behind Reed and Abraham Ancer. He also seems to have a weird, every other event streak going, in which he follows up a back week with a good week. He’s gone MC, T11, MC, T15, T57 the last five, so here’s hoping we get another Top-20 this week to cash at 6-1.

Sebastian Munoz Top-10 finish (+1000); First round leader (+9000)

Fallica: Munoz has rounds of 66, 67, 63, 69 and 67 in his last five first rounds. He’s also got a couple of Top 5s in that span, so he’s the perfect dart throw at a price here.


Webb Simpson (-110) over Justin Thomas

Fallica: JT hasn’t posted a Top 10 since winning the Players and has really struggled on the greens this year. Simpson has snapped out of his mini-slump the last month with Top 20s at The Open, WGC and Wyndham and is in much better form right now than JT.

Rory McIlroy (-105) over Dustin Johnson

Bearman: I wrote up why I like McIlroy above, but also want to take him in a matchup. Yes, DJ won this event last year with a ridiculous -30 score but it was TPC Boston and not Liberty National. That’s a big difference and one that will fool bettors this week. He finished T-24 here in 2019 and missed the cut in 2013. Add the fact that DJ has been good but not great and I think there is value on the underdog McIlroy here.

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