The final regular-season PGA Tour event did not disappoint last weekend, with Kevin Kisner prevailing in a thrilling six-man playoff over Adam Scott, Branden Grace, Roger Sloan, Si Woo Kim and Kevin Na. Russell Henley three-putted the 18th green to miss the playoff and Adam Scott missed a four-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole that would have won him the 2021 Wyndham Championship. Instead, it went to Kisner after he hit his own four-foot birdie attempt on the second playoff hole.
Now we turn our attention to the first event of the 2021 FedEx Cup playoffs as 125 golfers have their sights set on the largest cash prize in the sport. Only 124 golfers will be suiting up this week with Louis Oosthuizen electing to skip the first event of the playoffs. The field will be cut down to 75 golfers for the next round, and only 25 compete in the finale for the grand prize at the Tour Championship at East Lake. Liberty National Golf Club will be hosting this week’s event, as they did in 2009, 2013, and 2019.
Course Breakdown and Weather
Liberty National Golf Club in New Jersey is hosting this event for the fourth time. It also was the host site for the 2017 Presidents Cup, which was won by the United States. Patrick Reed won here in 2019 and Adam Scott won the 2013 event.
All eyes on Liberty National 🗽
— THE NORTHERN TRUST (@TheNTGolf) August 16, 2021
The course measures out to roughly 7,400 yards as a par-71. It is known for its small bent-grass greens that place a premium on approach shots with irons to go along with the ability to scramble well throughout the week. Weather should play a factor throughout the week with rain expected Tuesday-Thursday, as well as patchy rain clouds coming into play on Saturday and Sunday. Thursday will likely be played under the generous lift, clean, and place rules, which tend to contribute mightily to lower scores. Wind will play a minor factor, but it is not expected to exceed 13-15 mph at any point throughout the week.
The favorite this week is Jon Rahm (+1000), and rightfully so as the U.S. Open Champion has been rolling this season outside of a pair of positive COVID-19 tests. Rahm finished third here in 2019, two shots back of winner Patrick Reed.
Next on the odds board is Jordan Speith (+1600), who finished sixth back in 2019 and has a top-20 finish back in 2013 to go along with it. Dustin Johnson (+1800) has won the Northern Trust three times, but none of them took place at Liberty National, where he has finished outside of the top 20 in two tries here.
Favorites to win @TheNTGolf:@JonRahmPGA +900@JordanSpieth +1600@Collin_Morikawa +1800@DJohnsonPGA +1800@McIlroyRory +1800@XSchauffele +2000@BKoepka +2200@B_DeChambeau +2200@JustinThomas34 +2500@DanielBerger59 +2800@Patrick_Cantlay +2800
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) August 18, 2021
Collin Morikawa (+2000), Rory Mcllroy (+2000), Xander Schauffele (+2200), Justin Thomas (+2500), Brooks Koepka (+2500) and Bryson DeChambeau (+2800) all sit at odds you do not frequently find them at which makes them enticing. However, the first golfer worth a bet is Daniel Berger (+2800). Berger ranks sixth on the PGA Tour this season in strokes gained on approach and 30th in strokes gained putting. He has shown solid recent form with an eighth-place finish at The Open Championship and a tie for fifth at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational in his last start. Berger has had success on this golf course in the past, going 2-1-0 in his three matches back at the 2017 Presidents Cup. He can lock up his Ryder Cup spot with a strong showing this week, which gives him even more motivation to do well. His combination of recent success, experience on this course, and fit here at Liberty National make him worth a bet.
Which leads into the next golfer worth a bet in Patrick Cantlay (+3300). Cantlay has two wins this season and sits in third place in the FedEx Cup standings, meaning that he would jump into first with a win. He ranks third in strokes gained tee-to-green this season, as well as eighth in strokes gained via approach. His golf game fits the course and he has a 12th-place finish in 2019 as proof of that. He has finished below 23rd in just one of his last six events, which was a missed cut at The Open Championship. He has been consistent with his ball striking all season, with the big question mark being his short game. At 33-1, Cantlay is worth a bet to find rhythm with his short game this week and win his third Tour event of 2021.
Best Value Plays
There are plenty of intriguing options in the middle tier including Abraham Ancer (+4000), Hideki Matsuyama (+4000) and Paul Casey (+4000). The first golfer in this range worth a bet is Viktor Hovland (+4000). Hovland enters the playoffs in 11th place in the FedEx Cup standings and has been playing great golf over the past two months, excluding a withdrawal from the U.S. Open following an eye injury. He ranks sixth in strokes gained off the tee and 12th in strokes gained tee-to-green. The course suits his game nicely. He just needs to get hot with his putter to go low here. Hovland has been knocking at the door of his first big time PGA Tour victory and he is set up nicely to win the opening competition of the playoffs at 40-1.
Anyone else ready to get this party started? 😉
— THE NORTHERN TRUST (@TheNTGolf) August 18, 2021
The next golfer worth a bet is Tyrell Hatton at +6600. Hatton has not putted well throughout the summer, but his ball striking is returning to elite form. He ranks 11th in strokes gained on approach, which is the most important stat to look at for this golf course. He has two runner-up finishes this season after finally breaking through and winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational last season for his first PGA Tour win. He was right there at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational before a final-round 73 dropped him back into 17th place, but it was a step in the right direction after back-to-back missed cuts. He is far too talented of a golfer to be at 66-1, and for that reason alone he is worth a bet.
Do not fall in love with too many longshots this week as history suggests that one of the big boys will win when it comes playoff time. However, there is one golfer that sticks out as having too much value to pass up this week. That is 2014 FedEx Cup champion Billy Horschel (+10000), who is offering plenty of betting value as a past winner.
Horschel won the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play earlier this year, but has just one top-20 finish in his nine starts since. He has the tendency to get hot for weeks at a time and if he can catch fire down the stretch, he has the potential to qualify for the United States Ryder Cup team.
His recent form may be concerning, but he has been known to flip the switch in no time at all throughout his career and there is no time like the present for him to get it done. He ranks 27th in strokes gained off the tee this season and 49th in strokes gained putting. He has struggled over the past year around the green, but a great week could lead him to his second victory of the season.
Top-10 Play of the Week
Harold Varner III is the best top-10 bet of the week. Varner shot back-to-back 71s over the weekend at the Wyndham Championship which dropped him down to 57th, but there is no reason to look into that as it is his home event and he faces extra pressure to perform well there every season.
He was a runner-up at the RBC Heritage this season, which has a similar course with small greens that benefit below-average putters. He finished tied for third back in 2019 at the Northern Trust.
He has the ball-striking ability to score well here, but has struggled with the putter in the past. He sits at 72nd in the FedEx Cup standings, so a positive finish here could set him up nicely to head to East Lake and the Tour Championship for the first time in his career.
Matchup Play of the Week
The matchup play of the week is Speith (-105) to finish ahead of Morikawa. Speith is having his best season in over half a decade and it feels like he is not done making noise for the season.
He has finished inside the top five in five of his last dozen starts and that sets him up nicely to finish well this week. Morikawa has a great iron game, but since winning The Open, he has not put it all together near the greens. Spieth will use his experience here to outlast Morikawa by week’s end.