The Northern Trust preview with Skeeter McGillicuddy
The playoffs begin here after 43 events on the 2016/17 tour with the first of four events culminating in the Tour Championship at Eastlake won so memorably by Rory last year despite Ryan Moore’s heroics. The Northern Trust is a new sponsor in what was the Barlcays and is at a new venue – Glen Oaks – given that the Presidents Cup will be played at Liberty National.
We know the drill by now. Each event carries 2000 points to the winner (normal events 500); the fields are pared down till we get the final 30 who got to Eastlake for the Tour Final. There is $32m in prize-money across the four events and the $35m bonus fund.
Glen Oaks is a new course and despite what they say looks like Augusta National’s stray cousin. The policy is deliberate and taken from the superintendent Craig Currier’s time at Augusta – aesthetics. From the vibrant colours to the serious grooming, the rolling topography and the vistas, perhaps the most telling signature though is the bright white bunkers. Fine, it will look good on TV. Glen Oaks differs however in one critical respect from Augusta National and that is par and associated scoring opportunities. A long par 70, approximately 7,350, with one par five over 600 yards and lots of big par fours and only one under 400 the fact remains that whereas 4,8,13 and 15 at Augusta are scoring chances these will simply not exist at Glen Oak.
Just because it’s a new venue doesn’t mean the obvious contenders and form goes out the window. You’ll still need to drive it well and hit it close and putt.
Rory tees it up despite the suggestion from him he might miss the series due to a niggling rib injury which affects him post round. As much as playing half decent and finishing 5th? Is the money a factor for even $200m Rory? Maybe as every contract would be linked to performance but I suspect it’s more about trying to close out the season with a win and he is defending the Fed Ex cup.
Jordan, Dustbin and Hideki would appear to make up the serious top of the market contenders with Patrick hitting form as defending champ and a President Cup place beckoning. He’ll play on one leg after the Ryder Cup win over Rory – he’s their Poulter.
The consensus is that Glen Oak will offer lots of chances to use the driver given the generous fairways. Equally the fairways will run straight into bunkers without interfering rough. The combination of length, width off the tee, thus encouraging the use of driver, and deep-faced bunkers that gobble balls straying off line suggest …..Rory…all day. The supreme driver and with his ability to hit zeppelins’ with his irons the set up could play right into his hands. If not Rory then we need a player with length and currently driving hit reasonably straight. Nobody has been driving it like Stenson recently but coming off 22 under last week I’m less attracted to him by price (22/1).
Rory McIlory: 1pt win at $17.5
Tony Finau: 1pt win at $80
Rory McIlory, even a half fit Rory, just makes such a compelling case on long Par 70 courses where driving is at a premium. There is no need to extol the virtues of McIlory – what’s to say – he’s a freak and even in third gear he can contend. If he finds his wedge game here and putts half decently then it’s all over. Just as likely to miss the cut his price (18/1) is a reflection of Hideki and Jordan’s recent performances but he started at 8’s in the PGA.
1pt win at $17.5 on
Tony Finau is not in the absolute top echelon and I suspect he never will be. What he does have though is solid credentials on recent / season form – six top 10’s – that would appear to suit the venue. Long, reasonably straight, and a not too shabby short game make an attractive proposition. Seventh in strokes gained tee to green gladdens my heart. Add in 19th in birdie percentage and 12th in bogey avoidance and you begin to understand why he’s had such a good season – though not a winning one – yet.
1pt win at $80 on