The FedEx Cup play-offs begin this week at the Northern Trust Open, where Justin Thomas will be looking to extend his lead in the standings at TPC Boston.
Following a week off at the Wyndham championship, where I came ever so close to tipping a winner as both Kevin Kisner at 33/1 and Si Woo Kim at 35/1 both finished 3rd, the world’s best return for this week at the Northern Trust.
One of those players returning this week, Dustin Johnson (20/1) is my first choice for the week.
With the 54-hole lead at the PGA Championship, Johnson looked to be the overwhelming favourite to clinch his second major championship, especially with how he had played on Friday and Saturday that week. But after a magical performance from Collin Morikawa, he ended up with a second consecutive runner-up finish at the PGA, in addition to some criticism from golf fans about how he handled the lead.
He will have been devastated at coming up short, but not necessarily hugely disappointed with the way that he played on the final day at Harding Park. It wasn’t a dreadful performance or a meltdown in any shape or form, but he will be slightly aggrieved he wasn’t more aggressive early in the round.
He’s obviously very laid back, arguably the most relaxed on tour, but I believe he’ll want to quickly put that PGA Championship in the past and avenge that defeat to Morikawa.
Anyhow, It’s not like he has any issues closing tournaments, as his win at the Travelers Championship six weeks ago showed us. If he is to leading at the 54-hole stage again this week, I don’t believe he would have any trouble sealing the deal.
His form has been a little streaky since the return, but with a win, a runner-up at a major and a 12th at a WGC, his game is clearly in tip top condition.
DJ is a two-time winner at the Northern Trust (previously named The Barclays), but on different golf courses, at Glen Oaks and Plainfield. However, he does have a solid record at TPC Boston, going 7-18-8 in his last three visits.
Feeding mostly off that, I feel this year he could better them results and secure another win for the season at the start of the FedEx Cup play-offs, with that near miss at Harding Park also still giving him motivation in the back of his mind.
Bearing in mind that he hasn’t finished outside the top 25 in his last four starts at TPC Boston, including a 4th last time out, Hideki Matsuyama (45/1) is my next selection for the Northern Trust.
Back in March I tipped Matsuyama, who was just coming into form, to win the Players Championship at Sawgrass. Leading at -9 on day one it was an almost perfect first 18 holes, only for other things to get in the way and the tournament to end up being cancelled.
Five months on and I can’t help but feel a little sorry for him, with his momentum undoubtedly being stalled due to the PGA Tour’s hiatus.
Still though, four top 25s in his last five starts is certainly not a bad return, and he could have been a little better if not for a slow start in Memphis and some sloppy mistakes on the final day at the PGA.
Ranked 2nd in SG: Tee-To-Green and 5th in approach, his long game has been impeccable, even when incorporating a new swing change at the start of the season which meant removing the pause at the top of his backswing.
It seems somewhat mind-boggling he has been unable to break the top 10 since the return when finding that out.
The reason for it? A stone cold putter. 197th in putting, a truly woeful stat for a player of his quality, is what has let him down enormously.
With the sort of long game the 28-year-old has though, he is always going to give himself opportunities, which I believe is of more importance than being a good putter.
I sense a hot streak with the flat stick is just around the corner, hopefully it begins this week at TPC Boston.
My third pick for the first event of the play-offs is Englishman Justin Rose (66/1).
It was a toss-up between either him or fellow compatriot Paul Casey who I also tipped last week, but due to me believing in Rose’s sheer ability to win, I’m opting to go with the former FedEx Cup champion.
Two top 10s, a top 20 and four missed cuts, it’s fair to say Rose has had a slightly unusual return to golf.
His performances have improved emphatically on what they were before the hiatus, but they have still yet to return to the consistency that has always been a mainstay in his game.
What’s most crucial though, is that there have been strong indications a return to his best is close. And with this being a venue he was 2nd at in his last visit in 2018, as well as 10th in 2017, Rose obviously feels comfortable at this golf course.
Taking into account some of the names who have won at TPC Boston in Patrick Reed, Rickie Fowler, Webb Simpson, Charley Hoffman and Bryson Dechambeau (in 2018), this is not notoriously a bomber’s paradise.
That quite obviously plays into the Englishman’s hands, who has always been renowned for his ball striking and accuracy rather than length, so it is no surprise he has managed to play well here before.
He may have missed the cut last week, but I won’t read too much into that given how up and down his form has been and the fact that he still grinded his way to a top 10 at the PGA two weeks ago.
And finally, even more of an incentive for Rose is his place in the FedEx Cup standings. At 109 he just about made his way into this week, and will need a solid performance to make it into the top 70 for the BMW Championship.
My fourth and final selection for this week will not be an outright pick, but on Alex Noren (14/1) for a top 10 finish instead.
With some excellent golf played recently, it’s hard to ignore 14/1 on the Swede to grab another top 10 finish, something he’s been able to achieve in two of his last three events.
If not for a lip-out for eagle and a closing par on a gettable par 5, Noren could have easily found himself in a play-off with Michael Thompson a month ago.
But he didn’t let that close call get him down, continuing that form with a 9th at the Barracuda and a 22nd at the PGA when only gaining entry pretty late.
With only a 43rd to feed off, there’s little course form to rely on, but with me mentioning how this is not particularly a bombers course and there being more of an emphasis on ball striking, I have faith in his chances here.
It will not be his first visit too, which makes things a little easier, and I feel he is entering this event with his game in a much better state than it was in 2018 when he had just missed two consecutive cuts.
Noren has had his struggles over the past year or so, but will be pleased that he is finally seeing some rewards over on the PGA Tour.
Another top 10 this week will only enhance those positive feelings, while helping him gain access into the BMW Championship.
Dustin Johnson (20/1) – 2.5 pts e.w.
Hideki Matsuyama (45/1) – 1.5 pts e.w.
Justin Rose (66/1) – 1 pt e.w.
Alex Noren top 10 (14/1) – 2 pts