Sobel: Tiger Woods Headlines My Favorite Bets at The Northern Trust

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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Tiger Woods

  • Only five of the top-12 finishers from the last PGA Tour event at Ridgewood Country Club return for this week's Northern Trust.
  • Tiger Woods has the third-best odds to win (+1200), just two weeks after his second-place finish in the PGA Championship. Dustin Johnson is the clear favorite at +800.
  • Jordan Spieth, who is still looking for his first victory of the season, has the fifth-lowest odds (+1800).

Like Bellerive Country Club, which recently held the PGA Championship, Ridgewood CC is only an occasional PGA Tour stop, so you might find yourself digging through old leaderboards for some hint at those players who could contend this week.

And just like Bellerive, all of that research and any of your findings will largely be deemed immaterial once you uncover those contenders.

Not even a little something for the effort.

The last time the first event of the FedEx Cup Playoffs found its way to beautiful Paramus, N.J., Hunter Mahan was your winner.

Here’s a pro tip: Don’t take Mahan this week. If he’s anywhere near Paramus, it means his car’s navigation system must have gone haywire.

Just behind him were a trio of runners-up. Of the three, Stuart Appleby and Cameron Tringale would be similarly poor picks. Because like Mahan, they’re not in this week’s field.

The third was Jason Day, and yes, we finally have a return contestant.

Next up? Ernie Els, who didn’t crack the top 200 on the points list this season.

Then it’s Matt Kuchar and William McGirt, who are both in the field.

They were followed by Jim Furyk and Morgan Hoffmann, neither of whom made it, and Rickie Fowler, who is resting this week with an injury.

The top 10 then rounded out with Patrick Reed and Kevin Na, who are both returning.

If you’re keeping score at home, that’s only five of the first dozen players on the 2014 leaderboard who are coming back to Ridgewood, leaving us with a proposition that appears nearly as puzzling as relating the 2008 BMW Championship at Bellerive to what took place on that course at the year’s final major.

Instead, this week’s selections will be a mix of solid players, guys who need a big week and maybe even a few similar to Heath Slocum, who entered this event as No. 124 nine years ago and claimed a one-stroke victory over a quartet of studs in Tiger Woods, Els, Padraig Harrington and Steve Stricker.


Tiger Woods

Odds: +1200

I’m actually surprised that Tiger is tied for “only” the third-lowest odds this week, considering the tizzy he put the golf world into just two weeks ago.

The truth is, I like his chances better at both TPC Boston and Aronimink, two courses he really enjoys, and East Lake, where he can chase a third FedEx Cup title. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll start slowly in the playoffs.

He should be able to leave driver in the bag on a handful of holes — and you all know how that usually turns out.

Justin Rose

Odds: +1600

Let’s see … a tree-lined, ball-striker’s course? Yup, just pencil in Rose and get out of the way.

His T-19 at the PGA Championship has me thinking that his withdrawal the previous week was more of a mental health break than anything too serious physically. Assuming he’s 100%, this should be the type of course on which Rose thrives.

Jordan Spieth

Odds: +1800

I get it. This has been a less-than-stellar season for the Golden Child, and blindly showing confidence in him here looks like we’re ignoring all the warning signs. But here’s my thinking: Spieth is too talented to go the entire season without a win. He also has too much pride to pack it in now and chalk it up to an underwhelming campaign.

I think he makes a serious run at a victory. He’s also shown a propensity for playing well on Northeast tracks.

Webb Simpson

Odds: +3000

I picked him last week and he was obviously a huge disappointment, merely finishing in a share of second place behind Brandt Snedeker. Going back to the well for this one.

While he doesn’t have a child named Northern Trust — at least, I don’t think he does — Simpson has enjoyed a much better season than he gets credit for. That should continue.


Patrick Cantlay

Odds: +3500

We’ve been waiting all year for a true breakthrough performance from Cantlay, but maybe his season-long consistency is more impressive than a few big-time title contentions anyway. Or maybe that breakthrough just hasn’t happened yet.

Hideki Matsuyama is Jason Sobel’s favorite longshot entering the playoffs. Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Hideki Matsuyama

Odds: +4000

In my preview of potential FedEx Cup contenders, I listed Matsuyama as the ultimate darkhorse, less for his talents than for his starting point of 76th on the points list.

If someone is going to make a Billy Horschel-like leap up the standings over the next few weeks, I like it to be Matsuyama. He’s starting to trend in the right direction and has shown a propensity for putting together torrid streaks when he gets it all going.

Matt Kuchar

Odds: +4500

Hey, as it turns out, all of that previous research wasn’t for nothing. Four years ago, Kuchar finished T-5 at Ridgewood; four years before that, he won this tournament here. There’s obviously something about this track that suits Kuch’s eye.

As a guy who has been patiently waiting for that next title contention, this seems like a solid week for it.

Tony Finau

Odds: +5000

Another week, another Finau recommendation. A tradition unlike any other.

Look, he’s not only talented, he gets hot in a hurry and can post some big-time birdie barrages. By this point, I’m not telling you anything you don’t know already.

Much like Cantlay, who at least has a win this season (albeit nine months ago), I wouldn’t be surprised to see Finau finally play up to his potential during this playoff stretch.


Xander Schauffele

Odds: +6600

The man who won last year’s Tour Championship as a rookie still gets no respect — from handicappers or bettors. That’s fine, I like him at this comparably big number, with plenty of motivation at stake, from wanting to defend his title at East Lake to making a run at a captain’s pick on this year’s U.S. Ryder Cup team.

Kevin Streelman is an under-the-radar guy to watch. Credit: Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Streelman

Odds: +15000

Over the years, Streelman has tended to play some of his better golf during the late summer on Northeast courses.

He might not be a guy I’d bet to win this week, but a top-five wager (at +3000) could be a smart play for a player who often remains way under the radar.

Jason Kokrak

Odds: +20000

On the list of best players without a PGA Tour victory (especially those who also don’t have status on another major circuit), Kokrak would rank highly for his increased consistency.

He’s finished in the top-20 in three of his last five starts, and while his first win might have to wait until the 2018-19 calendar, at least keep him in mind on the back end of this one.

Nick Taylor

Odds: +40000

Following a T-8 finish at last week’s Wyndham Championship, Taylor has now made the cut in each of his last half-dozen starts. Again, maybe not a pick to win this week, but there’s some nice value at +1350 for a top-20 finish.

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