Northern Trust 2021 picks: 'I just made the biggest golf bet of my life'
Historically speaking, the big boys usually get it done in the FedEx Cup Playoff events. This has been especially true at The Northern Trust, specifically at Liberty National. The three winners at the Jersey City venue, which will host for a fourth time this week, are Patrick Reed (2019), Adam Scott (2013) and … Heath Slocum?
OK, so Slocum’s win in 2009 might not fall under the “only the big boys win FedEx Cup events” umbrella, but it was also a bit of an outlier. Our experts are ignoring that Slocum victory from over a decade ago this week and sticking with the thoroughbreds at the top of the odds board—Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele are among our outright selections.
So too, is Jordan Spieth, who ranks second in the FedEx Cup standings entering the week. Two of our experts are on him—and one of our guys has made a rather sizable wager on Jordy to get it done. The sweat will be very, very real for this particular handicapper. Read on to find out more.
Our entire betting panel comprises an anonymous caddie; Pat Mayo of Mayo Media Network/DraftKings; Brandon Gdula of numberFire/FanDuel; Rick Gehman of RickRunGood.com; and Alldrick of FanShare Sports. Read on to see who we like this week at the Olympics.
Read on to see who we like this week at The Northern Trust.
Northern Trust 2021 picks: Our Experts’ Outright Predictions
Anonymous Caddie Picker of the week: Viktor Hovland (35-1, Bet365) — Collin Morikawa has stolen the show out of the young guns over the past couple of months. But the other youngins will make noise in the FedEx Cup. Hovland’s been one of the best ball-strikers in the world over the past year, which will give him plenty of opportunities at Liberty National.
Pat Mayo, DraftKings/Fantasy National, Mayo Media Network analyst: Rory McIlroy (22-1, DraftKings) — It was VERY encouraging to see Rory’s elite ball-striking return in Memphis. It was so good he lapped the field in driving and irons. Problem was, he couldn’t chip or putt. Rory’s putter goes hot and cold, that’s expected, but the short game should return to its regular form. If it does, you’re getting a potential Rory runaway at a discount price.
Brandon Gdula, FanDuel/numberFire managing editor: Jordan Spieth (18-1, FanDuel) — Spieth’s rediscovered form doesn’t quite make him a value in my win simulation model, but I’m going to override them this week because I like what I see. Spieth has two top-20 finishes at Liberty National, a course that doesn’t absolutely demand distance off the tee, and he’s one of the best in the world right now excluding driver play.
Rick Gehman, data scientist and RickRunGood.com founder: Rory McIlroy (22-1, DraftKings) — McIlroy is building the foundation for success again, which mostly comes down to his approach play. After a year of pedestrian golf, by his own standards, McIlroy has gained at least 2.5 strokes on approach in six consecutive events. We haven’t seen a stretch of golf like this from him since the end of 2019 into early 2020 where he piled up top-five finishes every week.
Stephen Hennessey, Golf Digest dep. managing editor: Jordan Spieth (18-1, FanDuel) — I have made my biggest golf outright bet on Jordan Spieth. To be clear, please bet responsibly. This is the best field in the history of the world rankings, sans majors or Players, according to world-rankings guru Nosferatu (@VC606) on Twitter … so it will be incredibly tough for Jordy to get it done. But he’s been the best player in the world, strokes-gained per round, in 2021. He was a couple mental mistakes away from winning The Open … and he finished sixth here in 2019 when his game was in rough shape. I need to cash a big ticket after my Russell Henley disappointment, and I will chase with Jordy.
Christopher Powers, Golf Digest assistant editor: Justin Thomas (28-1, PointsBet) — Simply put, this is a bet-the-elite-player-at-a-favorable-number wager. Those work out more often than not, and I feel great about this one, especially with JT coming off a vintage tee-to-green and approach performance in Memphis. Of course, he didn’t get much out of it with a T-26 finish, but that was because of the pesky putter, which has been bad all year. But as long as he doesn’t lose five-plus strokes on the greens again (I’ll take +0.1), I love him to contend.
Lee Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Xander Schauffele (22-1, FanDuel) — Schauffele will be absolutely brimming with confidence since his gold medal at the Olympics. He comes into this event ranked in the top 26 of each stat I’m looking at this week and has recorded four top-10 finishes in his past nine events.
Recent results: Golf Digest's betting panel has been red-hot the past two seasons—and we’re finishing this season on a strong run, too. Our experts have now predicted 12 of the past 26 winners—an insane clip in predicting golf events (after going up 225.30 units last season!). Christopher Powers has predicted Kevin Kisner’s win at the Wyndham (55-1) and Cameron Champ’s victory at the 3M Open (at 150-1) in the last four weeks alone, giving him four wins in 2021 (Justin Thomas at 18-1 at the Players; Brooks Koepka at 50-1 at the WMPO). Lee Alldrick of FanShare Sports picked up his second win of the year by predicting Collin Morikawa’s victory at The Open (at 40-1, after hitting Garrick Higgo at the Palmetto, also at 40-1). Brandon Gdula of numberFire/FanDuel predicted Cam Davis’ win in this column at the Rocket Mortgage (at 100-1) for his third win of 2021, and Stephen Hennessey predicted Jason Kokrak’s victory at the Charles Schwab Challenge a few weeks ago (at 45-1), giving him two wins on the year (Jordan Spieth at 11-1 at the Valero). Rick Gehman also has two wins this year (Thomas at the Players; Daniel Berger at 14-1 at Pebble Beach), as does Pat Mayo, who predicted Koepka’s WMPO win as well as Collin Morikawa’s WGC-Workday win at 33-1. We’ll stop there! Be sure to check this column every week for picks from the hottest betting panel in golf!
Listen to Golf Digest's weekly betting podcast, "Be Right," (above) where we interview the industry's leading experts (and sometimes tour pros) to help you make your bets and pick your fantasy lineups. And be sure to subscribe to "Be Right" wherever you get your podcasts!
Northern Trust 2021 picks: Sleepers/Dark Horses Who Could Win
Caddie: Matthew Wolff (180-1, FanDuel) — This number just seems insane for the potential pay day. If his driving is on, he can compete with the best in the world. And there have been moments where it’s clicked over the past couple of months. Bet on the upside.
Mayo: Aaron Wise (200-1, DraftKings) — Wise switched to a long putter after losing a combined 10.5 strokes putting in his previous two starts, and then gained on the greens at Wyndham. Will it last? Probably not, but if he’s not a disaster on the putting surface, the rest of his game has been good enough to compete. He does his best work on coastal courses and in strong fields, and this is both!
Gdula: Joaquin Niemann (65-1, FanDuel) — We’re getting great numbers on quality golfers due to the strength of the field this week, and winners in the FedEx Cup playoffs are generally studs. Digging too deep doesn’t interest me this week. Niemann gets a boost on bentgrass greens and is a top-tier ball-striker over the past year.
Gehman: Ian Poulter (90-1, PointsBet) — As Poulter gets into his Ryder Cup form for this fall, he’s been playing really well on the PGA Tour. He’s made seven consecutive cuts, with three of those being top-25 finishes. His most recent finish was a T-10 at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, which matches his result from this event in 2019, when it was last held at Liberty National. Combine that with the fact that he gains 0.39 strokes putting on bentgrass, which is his best putting surface, he becomes an appealing option this week.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Harris English (41-1, FanDuel) — The former Georgia Bulldog isn’t getting the respect he deserves from oddsmakers. If he closes the deal in Memphis, he’d be the only player in this field with two wins in the past two months. I’m still buying into this top-10 player in the world and his recent form—the hot irons and the hot putter at this inflated price.
Powers, Golf Digest: Jason Day (120-1, FanDuel) — Using my same logic from my JT bet, this is another absurd number for an elite player in Jason Day. OK, he’s not quite his super-elite former self, but he was rounding into form before The Open with consecutive top-15s at the Travelers and Rocket Mortgage. In those two starts, he did look like his old self, displaying the all-around talent that saw him win 10 times between 2015 and 2018. Let’s pray the back holds up and the putter stays hot.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Patrick Reed (45-1, Bet365) — Reed comes into this event ranked second in the field for SG/putting on bentgrass greens and first for SG/total at Liberty National. Reed took down this event when it was last played in New Jersey, so we can expect him to be there or thereabouts again this year.
Northern Trust 2021 picks: Players to Fade This Week (who will disappoint)
Caddie: Brooks Koepka (21-1, FanDuel) — He finished a distant T-54 in Memphis—at a course where he had success previously. To me, that’s a sign his game isn’t where it needs to be to actually contend this week.
Mayo: Jon Rahm (8-1, DraftKings) — He has the best win probability in the field, but the odds are just too short when the field is this strong. It’s a big ask at that price considering you can get Rory, Berger and Thomas outright tickets for less than the price of a Rahm ticket.
Gdula: Rory McIlroy (20-1, FanDuel) — Rory is flushing the irons again, so this is scary, but so is fading any of the top-end golfers in a loaded field. McIlroy is just a baseline putter on bentgrass, though, and the short game has really failed him lately.
Gehman: Xander Schauffele (22-1, FanDuel) — Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of Schauffele and think he can contend on a weekly basis. I also believe that his victory at the Olympics is already being overblown by fans, analysts and bookmakers. Per the Official World Golf Rankings, his win in Tokyo was scored a 319 in terms of Field Strength. That means it was a weaker field than the 2021 Sony Open (341), won by Kevin Na. It was impressive but not life-altering and certainly not worth where he will be priced in the short term.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Justin Thomas (25-1, DraftKings) — You can make a case for any of the favorites—they’re all playing pretty well. Except Justin Thomas. He doesn’t have a top-10 in North America since his win at the Players, and his putter continues to be catastrophically bad on a semi-regular basis. I don’t think Liberty National’s undulating greens are the place to recapture his putting stroke.
Powers, Golf Digest: Xander Schauffele (22-1, FanDuel) — I loathe this section of the column because we have to make a case against a great player. Xander is exactly that, but I’ll go with the gold medal hangover angle for one more week here.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Bryson DeChambeau (29-1, FanDuel) — DeChambeau comes into this event ranked 94th in the field for SG/total at similar courses and just 50th for SG/tee-to-green over the last two months. Not the stats you want to see for a 29-1 shot.
Northern Trust 2021 picks: Matchups
Caddie: Bryson DeChambeau (-125) over Brooks Koepka (Caesar’s Sportsbook) — The Brooksy matchup! We have also cashed this (in the opposite direction) a few times this year. Bryson has been playing better golf—he just has struggled on the back nine on Sundays. I’ll take my chances he figures that out.
Mayo: Daniel Berger (+120) over Dustin Johnson (DraftKings) — I like Berger to challenge, and it’s always scary going against DJ, but his game just isn’t there at the moment. Maybe that flips this week, he IS Dustin Johnson, but I’ll take the overall consistency of Berger at the moment at plus money.
Gdula: Collin Morikawa (-112) over Dustin Johnson (FanDuel) — The greens at Liberty National are some of the smallest on the PGA Tour, and that should help favor the elite iron play of Collin Morikawa, who has better form over the past six months.
Gehman: Daniel Berger (-105) over Patrick Cantlay (Caesar’s Sportsbook) — Berger’s consistency is very attractive in a matchup, where he only has to beat one other golfer. Per the RickRunGood.com golf database, Berger has gained strokes to the field in five consecutive events and in 29 of his last 34 starts. It’s one of the highest rates on tour during that stretch.
Hennessey: Paul Casey (-121) over Tony Finau (PointsBet) — I’ll save my full Paul Casey take for my top-10 bet (below). He has a significant edge per my Fantasy National custom model over Tony Finau over a longer and shorter sample size. And Casey has really consistent results of late, compared to Finau, who doesn’t have a top 10 in the past three months.
Powers: Maverick McNealy (+105) over Kevin Kisner (DraftKings) — I’ve seen “small greens” and “driving doesn’t matter” at Liberty National takes from a few of our experts here, which made my brain immediately jump to McNealy. That’s a great recipe for him to play well, historically, and as much as I love Kiz after last week, this feels like a good spot to fade him coming off the victory high.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Xander Schauffele (+100) over Collin Morikawa (DraftKings) — As you can see above, I love Schauffele this week. Morikawa on the other hand ranks just 85th for SG/total on similar courses, one of the biggest factors being the fact that he loses strokes to the field when putting on bentgrass greens.
Matchup results from the Wyndham Championship: Alldrick: 1 for 1 (Russell Henley (-105) over Will Zalatoris); Caddie: 1 for 1 (Kevin Kisner (-130) over Lanto Griffin); Mayo: 0 for 1 (Henley over Na … brutal loss!); Gdula, Gehman, Hennessey, Powers: 0 for 1.
Matchup Results this season (Wins-Losses-Pushes): Hennessey: 24-15-3 (up 7.22 units); Alldrick: 25-15-1 (up 4.73 units); Powers: 22-18-4 (up 1.88 units); Gdula: 22-20-2 (up 0.88 units); Gehman: 20-22-2 (down 2.61 units); Caddie: 16-24-4 (down 6.79 units); Mayo: 16-24-3 (down 9.08 units)
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Northern Trust 2021 picks: Top 10
Caddie: Xander Schauffele (+225, Caesar’s Sportsbook) — I wrote up the top-10 bet at the Olympics and it cashed, so I’m going back to the well. The tee-to-green game is elite, and he’s had a few weeks now to calm down after the Olympics victory and ready himself for a FedEx Cup run.
Mayo: Daniel Berger (+275, DraftKings) — Three of his past four starts have been majors and a WGC. He came top 10 in all three of them. I actually like him to contend for a victory if the putter gets hot, but Berger’s balanced attack is the perfect skill set to lurk on Sunday leader boards inside the top 10.
Gdula: Webb Simpson (+410, FanDuel) — Simpson is coming off of three straight top-20 finishes, and Liberty National doesn’t necessitate distance. That’s benefited him, as he has three top-20 finishes in three tries at the course dating back to 2009.
Gehman: Webb Simpson (+410, FanDuel) — Simpson’s T-7 last week at Wyndham will actually look much worse than it was, considering he missed the playoff by just one stroke. There were encouraging signs everywhere for Simpson, who led the field in SG/approach and in SG/ball-striking. The latter is not an official PGA Tour stat, but simply combines SG/approach and SG/off-the-tee. This will be his third consecutive week of playing, which is normally the sweet-spot for golfers.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Paul Casey (+360, FanDuel) — Only two players can boast four top-10 finishes in their past six starts: Collin Morikawa and Casey. The Englishman has been on a heater lately, and he should continue that at Liberty National with his tee-to-green prowess.
Powers, Golf Digest: Ian Poulter (+850, FanDuel) — Definitely getting suckered into the Ryder Cup angle here, but, also, Poults has great history at Liberty National, with a pair of top 10s in three appearances.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Luke List (+1500, FanDuel) — This is too big a price for someone that comes into this event ranked third for SG/tee-to-green over the past two months and first for Opportunities Gained. List has two top-10 finishes in his last four events and is a good price to complete the hat trick.
Top-10 results from the Wyndham Championship: Gdula: 1 for 1 (Brendon Todd, +850); Mayo, Gehman and Alldrick: 1 for 1 (Russell Henley, +350); Everybody else: 0 for 1.
Top-10 results from this season: Gehman: 10 for 41 (up 14.85 units); Hennessey: 7 for 39 (up 0.13 units); Powers: 8 for 41 (down 2.37 units); Gdula: 4 for 40 (down 12 units); Tour caddie: 7 for 40 (down 15.98 units); Mayo: 3 for 40 (down 20.5 units); Alldrick: 3 for 39 (down 24.5 units).
Northern Trust 2021 picks: One and Done
Gehman: Bryson DeChambeau — At this point in the season, you should probably have all your picks mapped out the rest of the way. Bryson DeChambeau might be the biggest question mark that you still have available. Most users didn’t feel comfortable using him during his summer struggles and wonder about where to plug him back in. Now that he’s improved on approach and putting in recent weeks, this feels like the spot to unleash him.
Previous weeks: Safeway Open: Joel Dahmen; U.S. Open: Jon Rahm; Corales: Denny McCarthy. Sanderson: Sebastian Munoz. Shriners: Matthew Wolff. CJ Cup: Xander Schauffele. Zozo: Bubba Watson. Bermuda: Rasmus Hojgaard. Houston: Lanto Griffin. Masters: Rory McIlroy. RSM: Webb Simpson. Sentry TOC: Patrick Reed. Sony: Abraham Ancer. AMEX: Patrick Cantlay. Torrey: Jon Rahm. Waste Management: Webb Simpson. AT&T Pebble Beach: Jason Day. Genesis Invitational: Rory McIlroy. WGC-Workday: Tyrrell Hatton. The Players: Bryson DeChambeau; Honda Classic: Sungjae Im. WGC-Match Play: Patrick Reed. Valero Texas Open: Jordan Spieth. The Masters: Dustin Johnson. RBC Heritage: Daniel Berger. Valspar: Paul Casey. Wells Fargo: Viktor Hovland. AT&T Byron Nelson: Sam Burns. PGA Championship: Collin Morikawa. Charles Schwab Challenge: Charley Hoffman. Memorial Tournament: Billy Horschel. Palmetto Championship: Lucas Glover. U.S. Open: Brooks Koepka. Travelers Championship: Keegan Bradley. Rocket Mortgage Classic: Jason Kokrak. John Deere Classic: Kevin Streelman. 3M Open: Maverick McNealy. Wyndham Championship: Webb Simpson
Hennessey: Rory McIlroy — The ball-striking numbers on the weekend in Memphis were fantastic. Rory really might be back. I would’ve pulled the trigger on a bet (and still might), but his putting stroke scares me on these wild greens.
Previous weeks: Safeway Open: Phil Mickelson; U.S. Open: Hideki Matsuyama; Corales: Adam Long. Sanderson: Sam Burns. Shriners: Harris English. CJ Cup: Kevin Na. Zozo: Joaquin Niemann. Bermuda: Doc Redman. Houston: Russell Henley. Masters: Tyrrell Hatton. RSM: Brian Harman. Sentry TOC: Justin Thomas. Sony: Ryan Palmer. AMEX: Scottie Scheffler. Torrey: Sungjae Im. Waste Management: Daniel Berger. AT&T Pebble Beach: Francesco Molinari. Genesis Invitational: Tony Finau. WGC-Workday: Xander Schauffele. The Players: Jordan Spieth. Honda Classic: Adam Scott. WGC-Match Play: Patrick Reed. Valero Texas Open: Chris Kirk. The Masters: Dustin Johnson. RBC Heritage: Webb Simpson. Valspar: Charley Hoffman. Wells Fargo: Max Homa. AT&T Byron Nelson: Will Zalatoris. PGA Championship: Xander Schauffele. Charles Schwab Challenge: Abraham Ancer. Memorial Tournament: Collin Morikawa. Palmetto Championship: Matt Fitzpatrick. U.S. Open: Jon Rahm. Travelers Championship: Paul Casey. Rocket Mortgage Classic: Bryson DeChambeau. John Deere Classic: Alex Noren. 3M Open: Bubba Watson..Wyndham Championship: Hank Lebioda.
Powers: Justin Thomas — Love him this week and still got him to use here. That putter is going to get hot, I just know it.
Previous weeks: Safeway Open: Brendan Steele; U.S. Open: Louis Oosthuizen; Corales: Adam Long. Sanderson: Sam Burns. Shriners: Jason Kokrak. CJ Cup: Daniel Berger. Zozo: Joaquin Niemann. Bermuda: Denny McCarthy. Houston: Russell Henley. Masters: Bubba Watson. RSM: Brian Harman. Mayakoba: Corey Conners. Sentry TOC: Harris English. Sony: Zach Johnson. AMEX: Matthew Wolff. Torrey: Tony Finau. Waste Management: Sungjae Im. AT&T Pebble Beach: Jason Day. Genesis: Hideki Matsuyama. WGC-Workday: Tyrrell Hatton. The Players: Tommy Fleetwood. Honda Classic: Adam Scott. WGC-Match Play: Matt Fitzpatrick. Valero Texas Open: Chris Kirk. The Masters: Jordan Spieth. RBC Heritage: Kevin Kisner. Valspar: Patrick Reed. Wells Fargo: Patrick Cantlay. AT&T Byron Nelson: Will Zalatoris. PGA Championship: Rory McIlroy. Charles Schwab Challenge: Joaquin Niemann. Memorial Tournament: Jon Rahm. Palmetto Championship: Harold Varner III. U.S. Open: Bryson DeChambeau. Travelers Championship: Scottie Scheffler. Rocket Mortgage Classic: Doc Redman. John Deere Classic: Brian Harman. 3M Open: Dustin Johnson. Wyndham Championship: Webb Simpson.
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By The Numbers
0.70 - The number of strokes gained putting, per round, by Harris English on Bentgrass greens since the start of 2015. That’s the second best mark in this field, behind only Denny McCarthy.
1.70 - The number of strokes gained, per round, by Scottie Scheffler in the FedEx Cup playoffs. That’s the most of any golfer in this field since 2015, but should be noted that it’s only 12 rounds.
11 - The number of individual golfers that have beaten Jon Rahm over his last four events. Three of those were Major Championships.
11 - The winning margin for Dustin Johnson at this event last year, shattering the record for this tournament.
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About our experts
Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, owner of the Mayo Media Network and host of The Pat Mayo Experience. (Subscribe for video or audio. Mayo (@ThePME) won the 2020 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Golf Writer of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Sports Betting Analyst award, and was finalist for four FSWA Awards in 2020 (Best Podcast, Best Video, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 21 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are third-most all-time. Mayo is on the board of governors at www.fantasynational.com.
Brandon Gdula, managing editor and analyst for NumberFire, a FanDuel daily-fantasy analysis company, recently won the 2018 fantasy sports-writers association Golf Writer of the Year *(congrats, Brandon!)*. Gdula also co-hosts the DFS Heat Check podcast.
Rick Gehman is the 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.
Lee Alldrick of FanShare Sports started out writing an article highlighting the best bargain plays for fantasy golf under his twitter handle @DKGolfBargains. His success at this prompted FanShare Sports to enlist him as a guest writer, which evolved into him writing the weekly Under The Radar article. As a U.K.-based expert, Alldrick’s insight into European Tour regulars and low priced, low owned plays has provided an invaluable edge for readers when it comes to DFS GPPs.