The magnificent Liberty National is the venue for the opening weekend of the FedEx Cup Playoffs on the PGA Tour. The course built on the banks of the Hudson river in New Jersey and with views of that famous New York skyline and of course the Statue of Liberty will play host to what is officially the toughest field of the year outside of the majors and Players Championship.
Golf and a view. 🗽🏙️🏌️ pic.twitter.com/bBwtww4m1O
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) August 17, 2021
Louis Oosthuizen is the lone absentee from the field, meaning we have a star-studded lineup for the Northern Trust. There are two players teeing it up that have won here in Patrick Reed (2019) and Adam Scott (2013), the latter of which is certainly interesting this week after producing his best golf in some time a week ago. He lost out in a five-man playoff, but with top-five finishes in the past two events held here, 40/1 is certainly worth a look. The price is perhaps a little short based on the rest of the season but he is a classy player that will love the occasion.
The course is likely to favour those accurate players rather than the bombers, and 2019 runner up Abraham Ancer will fancy his chances coming off the back of his first PGA Tour victory at the WGC St Jude Invitational. While he sits 162nd in driving distance, he is amongst the best in the field when it comes to fairways hit and greens in regulation, and that will be important here where missed greens can be heavily punished. We have seen it so often when a player gets that first win, another quickly follows and it would be no surprise to see the Mexican star lifting the trophy on Sunday night.
In a lineup this strong, it is always going to be hard to pick a clear favourite, but at 10/1 Jon Rahm leads the market. Jordan Spieth, who will be looking to back up a big comeback this season with a playoff win and perhaps a second FedEx Cup, is second favourite, closely followed by the usual suspects in Dustin Johnson, Collin Morikawa and Rory McIlroy. Of those favourites, Spieth and Morikawa are the standouts in terms of their suitability to the course. But Johnson will be looking to add a fourth Northern Trust to his collection, a number that would tie Vijay Singh with the most wins in the tournament’s history.
— THE NORTHERN TRUST (@TheNTGolf) August 18, 2021
This tournament has historically been won by the top players in the field with Reed and Johnson taking two apiece and Bryson DeChambeau splitting their wins over the past five seasons. With the strength of the field, we should probably be looking towards those that have performed well in majors, so Oosthuizen’s absence is disappointing. But no player performs better when it comes to these sort of fields than Brooks Koepka, and his play has not produced the wins it has perhaps deserved in 2021. He could well right that this week. The four-time major winner is top-10 in strokes gained tee-to-green, and at 15th in the FedEx Cup rankings, he is within striking distance of taking home the cup and the $15m that comes with it.
— Brooks Koepka (@BKoepka) August 17, 2021
The FedEx Cup field gets trimmed each week of the playoffs, so those on the bubble are certainly worth a look. The top 70 will make it into next week’s BMW Championship. The players just on the outside looking in right now are Bubba Watson, Harold Varner III and Seamus Power. If we are looking for a big outsider then Varner III ticks some boxes, despite his massive price of 200/1. Those on the bubble need a big week, but he also has some great course form with a third place here in 2019. He may not be the longest but he ranks second in driving efficiency and is going to be putting himself in the positions he needs to be to really attack the course.
This looks set to be one of the tournaments of the season. A great course combined with a fantastic field is a recipe for fireworks. Last year Johnson ran away with the title with an 11-shot victory at a quite ridiculous 30-under total. That was at TPC Boston and Liberty National is unlikely to produce a score anything like that. The winner is likely to be somewhere in the 10-under to 14-under range, and while it might not be the grind of a major like the Open Championship or US Open, we are likely to see those top players really separate themselves from the field. Sunday could see a very memorable finish.