Sobel: Buy Koepka, Cantlay, Reed in Northern Trust Matchup Bets

Sobel: Buy Koepka, Cantlay, Reed in Northern Trust Matchup Bets article feature image
Credit:

Steven Flynn, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Brooks Koepka

  • Jason Sobel analyzes his favorite matchups for the Northern Trust, which gets underway on Aug. 8 and is the start of the FedEx Cup Playoffs.
  • The three players he's buying: Brooks Koepka, Patrick Cantlay and Patrick Reed.

JERSEY CITY, N.J. — This week marks the fourth time Liberty National Golf Club will serve as a host to a PGA Tour-sanctioned event.

Two years ago, it hosted the Presidents Cup, when the Americans were so dominant over the International side that they almost didn’t have to come back for Sunday’s singles.

In the two editions before that, it hosted the first FedEx Cup Playoff event, just like this week, though even the most recent one was in 2013 — before Brooks Koepka had a PGA Tour card, before Tiger Woods had a first back surgery and before Collin Morikawa or Matthew Wolff started shaving.

So, no, there’s not much we can use from past performances to determine this week’s results.

That doesn’t mean there’s nothing, though.

What we’ve found at Liberty National in those limited situations is that it’s a second-shot golf course, where players who are skilled at hitting long- and mid-irons into the greens should own the best recipe for success.

Armed with that knowledge, let’s take a look at my three favorite matchup bets for the Northern Trust.


Patrick Reed (-130) over Shane Lowry

This line has already moved from -120, undoubtedly due to The Action Network Podcast bump, after all three of us co-hosts professed love for this matchup. Reed has been dialed in lately. He’s fresh off a Sunday 63 in Greensboro and owns seven finishes of 32nd-or-better, dating back to the U.S. Open.

More importantly, he’s motivated at a time when many aren’t. Without a win since last year’s Masters, you know Reed desperately wants to impress Presidents Cup captain Tiger Woods with a few virtuoso performances down the stretch.

Speaking of motivated, it’s tough to believe that Lowry is anything close to that right now — and deservedly so. Still riding the high from his Open Championship victory, we can assume that Lowry hasn’t exactly been grinding on the practice range after his pub crawl victory lap.

My favorite head-to-head bets are those where I want to back one player while fading the other; this one fits perfectly.

Patrick Cantlay (-150) over Tiger Woods

You know what I just wrote about backing one guy and fading the other? Ditto here. I absolutely love Cantlay this week, who’s a viable option for outright, top-five, top-10 or any other bet you like. But he’s often a smash play in matchups, for the simple fact that he never mails it in. Even when he doesn’t have his best stuff, Cantlay seems to find something on the weekend and climbs the leaderboard.

It’s difficult to see Woods grinding like that this week. I’ve been down on Tiger recently — he was my “Big Fade” in this week’s preview column — and maybe that’s a bit unfair.

Since winning the Masters, he’s missed two cuts, but also has a T-9 and a T-21 to his credit. Even so, I see him gingerly tiptoeing into this playoff run, as opposed to figuratively running full speed. And apparently I’m not alone: Like the Reed/Lowry bet, this one was -120 just a few days ago, but the money has been moving toward Cantlay ever since.

Brooks Koepka (-115) over Dustin Johnson

Riddle me this, golf fans: Koepka is an 8-1 field favorite to win this week’s tourney, with Rory McIlroy next at 11-1. And yet, in matchups against Johnson, Koepka is just -115, while McIlroy is a bigger favorite at -135. What the books are telling us is that Koepka owns the higher ceiling, but lower floor — a concept I understand, but not one with which I really agree.

Coming off a WGC victory two weeks ago, I think Brooks has the attitude right now of, “Well, there isn’t another major I need to care about for eight more months, so I might as well just win all these other ones.”

Meanwhile, DJ is searching for something he can’t find — namely, a putter. On Tuesday morning, he was seen on the Liberty National practice green trying out four of ‘em, a familiar trend lately. Johnson has lost strokes to the field on the greens in each of his last four events. Putting should be neutralized a bit on these bigger surfaces, but I still think Johnson hasn’t figured it out, while Koepka owns a much higher floor than he’s getting credit for.