The Northern Trust 2021 DFS picks: Rory McIlroy and the playoffs are back
The Northern Trust marks the first leg of the PGA Tour playoffs and the stars have shown up! Louis Oosthuizen is the only qualified golfer not playing this week, meaning we have 124 of the best players in the world converging on Liberty National.
This field is historically good, earning the best “Strength of Field” rating ever for a non-Major or non-Players Championship event. With that said, you’re going to need to find golfers who are in full control of their game. This is no longer a marathon season, but a sprint to the finish line.
Price range: $9,000 and above
High Upside: Bryson DeChambeau ($9,600 DraftKings | $11,200 FanDuel)
DeChambeau is one of the more volatile options in this range, but the upside remains enticing. As you can imagine, he’s gained strokes off the tee in 13 consecutive measured events while starting to figure out his approaches. He’s now gained on approach in five of his last six while gaining with his putter in four of five. Everything is coming together and a win feels imminent.
Safest Option: Jon Rahm ($11,500 DraftKings | $12,000 FanDuel)
What more is there to say about Rahm? Over his last four starts, he’s been beaten by a combined nine golfers and three of those events were majors. His advanced metrics are lightyears ahead of basically everyone on tour and he has three top-6 finishes in the last four years at this event, including a third-place finish at Liberty National.
Most Likely To Disappoint: Xander Schauffele ($10,600 DraftKings | $11,600 FanDuel)
I’m a big fan of Schauffele and love that he won the gold medal but that win has certainly been overrated for our purposes here. The Official World Golf Rankings assign a “Strength of Field” to nearly every event across the globe. His victory at the Olympics was in a 319 SOF, which ranks it below the Sony Open (341). Would we spend the next four years talking about Schauffele’s win if it was the Sony Open and not the Olympics?
Pick To Win: Rory McIlroy ($10,000 DraftKings | $11,400 FanDuel)
Rory is back! He gained 6.45 strokes on approach in Memphis, the most he’s gained in any single event since the 2019 Wells Fargo Championship -- per the RickRunGood.com golf database. That’s not an outlier as McIlroy has gained a total of 27.29 strokes on approach over his last six measured events. His current stat profile mimics his game from early 2020, when he was in contention literally every single week.
$8,000 to $9,000
High Upside: Paul Casey ($8,700 DraftKings | $10,200 FanDuel)
Casey’s recent results have been flying under the radar. He has five top-15 finishes in his last six starts, which includes three majors, one WGC event, and the Olympics. He’s one of the best ball-strikers on the planet and he’s gained strokes putting in two straight events. If he can continue to marry those two facets of his game, he will be dangerous.
Safest Option: Harris English ($8,800 DraftKings | $9,800 FanDuel)
English coughed it up on Sunday in Memphis but with two wins already this year, that seems more like an outlier. He continues to lay a foundation of success on a weekly basis. He has gained strokes in all four SG categories in each of the last four measured events. He’s one of the few golfers on tour who is able to pull this off consistently and it keeps his floor high.
Most Likely To Disappoint: Patrick Reed ($8,600 DraftKings |$9,900 FanDuel)
The 2019 winner here will certainly get a big boost from that but I’m not seeing much reason for optimism. He’s struggled both off the tee and on approach in the last few weeks, so acutely that his putter couldn’t save him. With that profile, he narrows his path to success and would have to rely on a very special short game week to contend.
Pick To Win: Hideki Matsuyama ($9,000 DraftKings | $10,100 FanDuel)
The box score says “missed cut” for Matsuyama last week but he missed the weekend by one stroke and still gained 3.6 strokes on approach in just two rounds. Now he gets bentgrass greens at Liberty National, his best putting surface, per the RickRunGood.com golf database. Combine that with close calls in Memphis and Tokyo and that seems like a recipe for success.
$7,000 to $8,000
High Upside: Tyrrell Hatton ($7,800 DraftKings |$9,500 FanDuel)
After missed cuts at the Open and U.S. Open, Hatton rebounded with a T-17 in Memphis a couple weeks ago. He gained strokes on approach there, something he’s done five of his last six measured events (per the RickRunGood.com golf database). Those are encouraging signs for Hatton who is sub-$8,000 for only the second time in the last 18 months.
Safest Option: Cameron Tringale ($7,300 DraftKings | $8,700 FanDuel)
We haven’t seen Tringale since the 3M Open, where he finished T-16. That marked his fifth top-35 finish in his last six starts and he is starting to show encouraging signs with his driver again. Now well-rested and normally one of the more well-rounded players on tour, I expect Tringale to be on the first few pages of the leaderboard.
Most Likely To Disappoint: Bubba Watson ($7,400 DraftKings | $8,800 FanDuel)
I’ve been impressed with Watson’s mini-resurgence recently but he’s starting to tail off a bit with a T-46 at the Wyndham and T-51 at the 3M Open in his last two starts. Unfortunately, bentgrass is, by far, his worst putting surface and he missed the cut at Liberty National in 2019.
Pick To Win: Ian Poulter ($7,700 DraftKings | $8,800 FanDuel)
It wouldn’t be a Ryder Cup year without Poulter getting hot in the months leading up to the team match play event. He’s made the cut in seven straight events, with a T-3 at the Charles Schwab Challenge and a T-10 at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational. The last time this event was played at Liberty National in 2019, Poulter finished 10th.
$6,900 and below
High Upside: Roger Sloan ($6,800 DraftKings | $7,800 FanDuel)
We need to continue to take Sloan seriously after he earned a T-2 last week and competed in the six-man playoff. That was his sixth consecutive cut made and his third consecutive top-16 finish. He’s been electric with his long clubs and has rolled in enough putts to find success.
Safest Option: Maverick McNealy ($6,900 DraftKings | $8,100 FanDuel)
McNealy is on a roll, making the cut in six straight starts with all of those finishes coming inside the top 30. Now he gets to play on bentgrass greens, which is likely his favorite. Per the RickRunGood.com golf database, McNealy averages 0.51 strokes gained putting on bentgrass, his best surface.
Most Likely To Disappoint: Kyle Stanley ($6,400 DraftKings |$7,300 FanDuel)
Stanley has failed to make the cut in three straight starts and often struggles to “out-hit” his putter. Even the weeks where he putts “well” haven’t been turning into good results. Between that and his history at Liberty National, there’s not much reason for optimism.
Pick To Win: Sepp Straka ($6,400 DraftKings | $7,100 FanDuel)
Straka is the premier “boom or bust” golfer in most weeks and that is certainly the case here. His last six starts have included three missed cuts and three top-15 finishes. His advanced metrics in the last two weeks show a golfer who can really strike it but needs to tighten up his short game to find significant success.
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Rick Gehman, founder of RickRunGood.com and the RickRunGood YouTube Channel, is one of the industry’s leading experts on golf DFS and gambling. Gehman is co-host of the First Cut Podcast and appears regularly on the Pat Mayo Experience golf podcasts. Follow him on Twitter: @RickRunGood.