Daily Fantasy Golf Course Primer: THE NORTHERN TRUST
The FedEx Cup Playoffs are here! The 125 golfers with the most points accrued over the course of the season tee it up this week for the first leg, THE NORTHERN TRUST.
While purists still consider the four majors the highlights of the season, the vast majority of the golfers on the PGA Tour aren't winning one of those events, and the FedEx Cup gives some additional weight to the week-in, week-out grind of the season. Tour members undoubtedly appreciate the extra payday at the culmination of the year as well, and with the shortening of the Playoffs from four events to three, each of these August events will be crucial in determining the ultimate champion for the season.
We kick things off at Liberty National Golf Club, a 7,353-yard par 71 in Jersey City, New Jersey. For the geographically challenged, Jersey City is just on the other side of the Hudson River from downtown Manhattan and about 40 miles from the Black Course at Bethpage, the host of this year's PGA Championship.
THE NORTHERN TRUST rotates between a handful of courses in the New York metropolitan area, and Liberty National last hosted in 2013 and 2009 (back then, the event was called The Barclays). Liberty National also hosted the 2017 Presidents Cup, pitting the best American golfers against the best from the rest of the world (excluding Europe). As far as the top players in the world go, the Euros will have a slight disadvantage just by virtue of having not seen the course in quite awhile compared to many of their top competitors.
Liberty National features 90 bunkers and 10 bodies of water, and big numbers abound if you are unlucky enough to find the hazards. The 2013 event saw the field make 170 double bogeys, and 2009 was right in line with 176. Despite having smaller fields than average, the double bogey mark was the ninth-highest on Tour each year.
The Northeast in August can be a humid mess with storms popping up unpredictably at times, but temperatures look fine with peak in the mid-80s with humidity around 50% all week. It should be beautiful weather.
Let's dig into the course and see what stats we can use to build our daily fantasy lineups this week.
Course and Tournament Info
Course: Liberty National Golf Club
Distance: 7,353 yards
Tees/Fairways/Rough: Bentgrass tees and fairways, Kentucky bluegrass rough
|Season||Par||Yardage||Average||O/U Par Avg||Rank|
Those hazards mentioned above contribute greatly to one of the lowest greens in regulation (GIR) percentages on Tour in the years Liberty National was in rotation. The course had the eighth-lowest GIR% in 2013 (60%) and the second-lowest in 2009 (55.3%).
About a third of the field cracked par in 2013, though the winning score was just 11-under par. In 2009, just 27 players finished under par and the winner, Heath Slocum, took it down at just 9-under.
Many of the world's top golfers have managed their schedules to play in three tough events over the past eight weeks -- U.S. Open, the Open Championship, and the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational -- and just a few of the birdie-fest summer tournaments. Meanwhile, mid-tier pros and especially golfers on the bubble for the Playoffs have teed it up on mostly easy courses for the past few weeks. Golfers who have dominated weaker fields may pop up on stat models this week, but focusing on who does the best in strong fields at tough courses will be more important than just a few good recent finishes.
Bethpage was the host in 2016 and aligns nicely from a length and geography standpoint, but rough at Liberty National does not compare to the nasty stuff at the Black Course. Ridgewood Country Club, Glen Oaks Club, and Plainfield Country Club are the others in the rotation, and all share the long rough and poa greens seen at Bethpage.
Venturing outside the New York metropolitan area, Riviera Country Club is a nice yardage match and boasts some of the hardest-to-hit greens on Tour (fittingly enough, it was the site of the originally named Northern Trust Open before the sponsor took over this event). More poa annua for that West Coast track, though. For bentgrass comps, we find some overlap in success with Firestone South and Muirfield Village Golf Club -- both strong field events that require elite ball-striking.
These stats will be key to success in THE NORTHERN TRUST at Liberty National Golf Club.
|Key Stats for THE NORTHERN TRUST at Liberty National GC|
|Strokes Gained: Off the Tee|
|Strokes Gained: Approach|
|Birdies or Better Gained|
|Proximity Gained: 175+ yards (175-200 and 200+ ranges)|
Pretty evergreen here -- ball-striking, birdie-making, and limiting the big numbers. Easy game, right?
Small sample size alert -- Liberty National was 30th in driving distance in 2013 (291.5 yard average) but just 8th in 2009 (277.2). More consistent is accuracy off the tee, as the course leaned toward the easy side in both 2013 (9th-highest, 68.26%) and 2009 (16th-highest, 67.58%). Wayward tee shots will be penalized.
Obviously hitting it in one of the many water hazards or bunkers will take birdie almost entirely out of play, and golfers who keep it in the short grass off the tee will find themselves facing much easier approaches. Many of those approaches are coming from beyond 175 yards no matter how far you hit it, so being on the shorter end of that range can make all the difference.
Approach is a staple and even more essential on hard-to-hit greens, but rostering the best iron players and ignoring what happens when they do miss the green would be a mistake. With golfers missing the green 40-plus percent of the time, you'll need to find guys who hit greens or can get up and down when they are off.
Scrambling gained is one stat that will require further digging this week -- gaining on the field at the Open Championship is a much different feat than gaining at the Wyndham Championship or the 3M Open, so be sure to factor in the fields and courses in the samples you look at.
Course History Studs
Tiger Woods finished runner-up in both the 2009 and 2013 editions of the event, and he should be well rested after a light schedule.
Adam Scott won here in 2013 and was on the International team at the 2017 President's Cup. He is also solid in the correlated courses, with top-5s at other courses in THE NORTHERN TRUST rotation in 2018 and 2016, a T8 at Bethpage earlier this year at the PGA Championship, and stellar history at Riviera.
Nick Watney finished inside the top-10 in both 2009 and 2013.
Jim Furyk was T15 in 2009 and T6 in 2013, and while he was a much younger, higher-ranked player back then, he's just finished a terrific year of golf in his age-49 season. He missed the Playoffs each of the last two years but did well at this event the prior years, finishing T41, T11, and 8th.
Mike Rodden is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Mike Rodden also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username mike_rodden. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in his articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.