This article is part of our FanDuel PGA series.
The Northern Trust
Liberty National Golf Club (7,370 yards, par-71)
Winner: 2000 FedExCup points
The top 125 players in the FedExCup standings will open up the first leg of the playoffs at Liberty National, the host of the 2017 Presidents Cup, and host of The Northern Trust for the first time since 2013. Tiger Woods will be back in the field this week as he makes just his second start in a non-major since the Masters. The 81-time PGA Tour winner notched a runner-up finish in each of his last two showings at Liberty National (2009, 2013). The number one seed in the playoffs, Brooks Koepka, will look to make it two victories in a row after his third win of the season in Memphis. With only the top 70 players making it to next week's BMW Championship, those on the bubble will be looking to take advantage as FedExCup points quadruple in New Jersey.
2018 – Bryson DeChambeau (Ridgewood)
2017 – Dustin Johnson (Glen Oaks)
2016 – Patrick Reed (Bethpage Black)
2015 – Jason Day (Plainfield)
2014 – Hunter Mahan (Ridgewood)
2013 – Adam Scott (Liberty National)
2012 – Nick Watney (Bethpage Black)
2011 – Dustin Johnson (Plainfield)
2010 – Matt Kuchar (Ridgewood)
2009 – Heath Slocum (Liberty National)
Key Stats to Victory
Strokes Gained: Approach
Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee
Greens In Regulation percentage
The landing areas at Liberty National are fairly forgiving. Rough should not be an issue, but water does come into play on a few tee shots. Iron play, like most venues, is where the separation will take place this week. Along with just hitting it on the surface, finding the correct tiers will be crucial to hitting makeable birdie putts. With almost every green perched up, there will be plenty of runoff areas to allow players to get creative with their short games. Golfers will need to convert their chances when they have the opportunity, as many hole locations will be very challenging. Weather shouldn't be a huge factor with temps in the mid-80's and moderate winds, but gusts are not out of the question with the course located so close to water.
FanDuel Value Picks
Brooks Koepka, $12,200 – The top seed in the postseason is coming off a statement victory in his last start at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational. He ranks 20th in SG: Off-The-Tee and 10th in SG: Approach this season. Koepka also led the field in SG: Putting in Memphis. Liberty National is a great fit for his combination of distance and precision iron play.
Rory McIlroy, $12,000 – The Northern Irishman is having statistically the best season of his career, and is gaining nearly 2.7 shots on the field per round. For comparison, Patrick Cantlay is second on Tour, at just over 2.0. The only hole you could poke in McIlroy's game is spotty wedge play, but the field should see many more mid-iron's into these tricky greens. McIlroy is top-4 on Tour in both approaches from 150-175 yards and 175-200 yards. The demanding tee shots will not intimidate the Tour leader in SG: Off-The-Tee.
Patrick Cantlay, $11,300 – His consistency through the bag this season has been remarkable. Cantlay ranks 27th-or-better in every strokes gained category. He's played a light schedule since his win at the Memorial in early June, but has still notched top-25's in three of those four starts. Cantlay is sneaky long and possesses an extremely underrated short game that will help keep bogeys off his card at Liberty National. The UCLA standout leads the Tour in bogey avoidance.
Webb Simpson, $11,200 – He's coming off back-to-back runner-up finishes, over which he has gained 13.1 strokes from tee-to-green and 11.5 with the putter. Simpson hasn't finished outside the top 30 in any event since March. He ranks top-20 on Tour in SG: Approach, SG: Around, SG: Putting, SG: Tee-To-Green this season. Simpson doesn't have the ideal length, but he is deadly accurate off the tee, and his recent form is too good to pass up. Oh, and he finished inside the top 15 in both 2009 and 2013 at Liberty National.
Longer Shots Worth a Risk
Gary Woodland, $9,700 – Since winning the U.S. Open, Woodland hasn't finished better than T55 in any of his next three starts. Do not let the recent results scare you away. Liberty National is tailor-made for the former Kansas Jayhawk. Woodland ranks 12th on Tour in SG: Tee-To-Green and is second in both birdie average and total driving. His length will give him the ability to attack pins on these greens that many in the field will struggle to find. Last time this event was held at this course, Woodland finished T2 after holding a share of the 54-hole lead.
Rory Sabbatini, $9,500 – Other than in 2007, when he notched 10 top-10's and finished fifth in the FedExCup standings, the 43-year-old is in the midst of the best season of his career. It did not begin smoothly, though. Through his first 13 starts he scored just two top-25's. Over last 11, however, he notched eight top-20s and six top-10s. Sabbatini has showed no weaknesses through the bag this summer. He was 11th in SG: six top-10's and and T4 in GIR last week in Greensboro. Sabbatini was T13 back in 2013 at Liberty National.
Lucas Glover, $8,700 – The 2009 U.S. Open Champion is having a resurgent season, chalking up a whopping 15 top-20 finishes in 23 starts. After a three-start lull in June, Glover went T7-T10-T20 before missing the secondary cut last week in Greensboro. He is one of just a number of players to rank inside the top-60 in all five strokes gained categories. It puts him 16th in SG: Total on Tour. Glover is also sixth in bogey avoidance and 20th in SG: Tee-To-Green.
Scott Piercy, $8,700 – The 40-year-old is one of the most consistent ball strikers on Tour year in and year out. That is no different in 2019, as Piercy is 11th in the ball-striking stat and 10th in GIR percentage. His short game this season has been much improved, as he ranks 18th in scrambling and ninth in bogey avoidance. Piercy should be fresh, having played just twice since mid-June. He is an excellent fit for Liberty National.
Strategy Tips for this week (based on a 60k standard salary cap)
With 121 of the top 125 in the FedExCup standings at Liberty National, there is great value in the mid-tier level. It's hard to go wrong with any of those players above the $11,500 threshold, but a very deep lineup could be made by loading up on players in the $9,000-10,500 range. Lean toward players that are great ball strikers versus those who are reliant on short game and putting. I'm also looking at the bombers this week having a big advantage, Not just because of the more generous fairways, but shorter clubs coming in will allow them to attack more of the small targets on the greens. If Tiger Woods was healthy and playing well, he'd be an easy pick this week. At a $10,900 salary, however, that's too high for me, considering his health concerns and rust. I'm also avoiding the likes of Bryson DeChambeau, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, and Brandt Snedeker this week, as all rank very low in GIR percentage this season.