2020 Northern Trust Betting Preview, Odds and Picks: Jason Day Is Ready to Win Again
Harry How, Getty Images. Pictured: Jason Day
- Jason Sobel previews the first event of the 2020 FedExCup playoffs: The Northern Trust at TPC Boston.
- Check out his favorite outright bets, sleeper picks, player props, and DFS plays ahead of Thursday's first round.
Jim Herman is the reason why betting on golf is so damned frustrating.
Yeah, yeah. I know. I’m writing this column and you’re reading it, so obviously neither of us are going to heed this warning, but if we needed yet another excuse for just how ridiculously unpredictable professional golf can be, Herman gave it to us this weekend. For a third time. Somehow.
It defies any real logic, but the man who was ranked 318th in the world and 192nd on the FedEx Cup points list entering the Wyndham Championship now has as many PGA TOUR victories as Patrick Cantlay, Tony Finau and Tommy Fleetwood put together.
This fact alone should either scare us out of playing outrights or entice us to play every 600-1 guy on the board. Don’t tell me, guys: I have a feeling I know which one you’d pick.
It’s hard to think we’ll have a big-time ‘dog follow suit this week, just based on the numbers game, with only 125 players advancing to the first playoff tournament.
The opener of this three-event series is The Northern Trust, being played at a new site in TPC Boston, which of course is an old site, as it formerly held the Dell Technologies Championship, which was previously the Deutsche Bank Championship. Got it?
Really, what that all means is that tourney history is fairly worthless, but course history is both available and relevant, as the most recent event here was played just two years ago.
Let’s get right to the picks, where you might not find another Herman, but there are some decent values on the board.
One player to win the tournament.
Jason Day (+2600)
It wasn’t so long ago that we were right to wonder whether Day would ever return to the world-class status for which he’d established himself years ago. From last year’s Masters to this year’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, he didn’t post a single top-five, a span of 14 starts.
In his past four, though, he’s finished 4th-6th-4th-7th, suggesting his first victory in nearly two-and-a-half years could be right around the corner.
While he’s never won at TPC Boston, he does own a second, a third and a total of eight top-25s in 11 starts. Just a few months ago, it would’ve been a surprise to see the former world No. 1 in contention.
This week, it’ll be a surprise if he isn’t.
Potential selections for one-and-done options.
Si Woo Kim (+10000) and Billy Horschel (+5500)
We’ve seen players get uncommonly hot during these late-summer events in the past, from Day to Bryson DeChambeau to even Horschel himself.
There’s certainly something to the idea of peaking at this time of year and even though each of these guys will likely arrive at TPC Boston still kicking themselves over missed opportunities on Sunday, they’re both obviously striking the ball really well and are noted momentum players, so expect them to keep hitting it well this week.
Cameron Champ (+10000)
Plenty can be said about a young player experiencing the heat of contention at a big tournament, as Champ did at the PGA Championship, playing in the penultimate pairing of the final round.
But let’s also not understate the potential importance of playing alongside the eventual champion, especially when that champion is a fellow young player who’s enjoyed a similar career trajectory as a pro. Champ doesn’t lack confidence, but he might’ve gained even more of it two Sundays ago.
He tends to be a feast-or-famine type of player, so he’s not the safest play for those trying to protect OAD leads, but if you’re trying to make a comeback, he should offer a high ceiling for upside.
Shane Lowry (+10000)
He wasn’t quite the proverbial bubble boy, but Lowry snuck into the first playoff event, thanks to a solid finish in Greensboro. Now that he’s in, there’s no reason he can’t contend.
Already a major and WGC winner, he could become the 13th player to also add a playoff victory to his resume. (Fun bit of trivia with the dirty dozen who already have: Tiger Woods, Keegan Bradley, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Patrick Reed, Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh.)
Lowry is already trending in the right direction and playing with the proverbial house money could be a huge advantage this week.
One player to finish top-five.
Xander Schauffele (+450)
This might seem like a strange prop for a guy who’s finished top-20 in each of his last five starts, but not been top-five in any of ‘em, however it’s undeniable that Schauffele is trending in the right direction and should be due for a serious title contention on a course which rewards consistent ball-striking.
There aren’t many players competing at such a consistently high level as Xander right now.
One player to finish top-10.
Tony Finau (+335)
For anyone who’s repeatedly bet outright wagers on Finau over the past few years, only to repeatedly be disappointed (guilty as charged over here), all I can say is to be cautious if you start jumping ship now.
That said, as we’ve also all learned by now, you’ll want to chase those risky outrights on Finau with a top-10 play, which has been a sweet spot for him – especially recently, with top-10s in three of his last four starts.
One player to finish top-20.
Sungjae Im (+275)
Well, so much for that Sungjae “slump” – and yes, those are some very tongue-in-cheek quotes right there.
His T-9 at the Wyndham (with closing rounds of 64-66-65) was his first top-30 result since the initial return event three months ago and while I wouldn’t quite go all-in on Im just yet, he offered enough reason for optimism that we can somewhat safely play him for a top-20 this week at a depressed number from what he would’ve been earlier in the year.
One player to finish top-30.
Russell Henley (+188)
Over his past handful of events, Henley’s ball-striking has been tremendous, but it’s been the putter which has let him down.
Well, it looked like he finally figured something out on the weekend in Greensboro. After a strokes gained putting number of -1.64 in R1, he was +0.52 in R2, +2.70 in R3 and +1.99 in R4.
His record at TPC Boston isn’t anything special, though his lone finish better than T-40 was a runner-up back in 2014, so at least there is some positive history.
One player to finish top-40.
Mark Hubbard (+188)
Though he gave a few back on the back-nine to finish T-15 this past Sunday, Hubbard clinched a fourth top-40 finish in his last six starts (not including a WD).
Even though he’s been around for a while, it feels like he’s becoming a more confident, consistent player right before our eyes over the past few months.
With only 125 players in the field, a top-40 means beating just 68 percent of the field, which in turn means this number should be a good one for Hubbard this week.
DFS Free Bingo Square
A safe plug-and-play option for DFS.
There are probably some young players who, if they won a major, would mail it in for the rest of the year and spend their free time celebrating instead of practicing.
In case you haven’t learned enough about Morikawa yet, that ain’t him. In fact, we should expect the world’s fifth-ranked player to only be more emboldened after his PGA Championship title.
Not so sure we should expect him to go back-to-back, but for a guy whose ratio of wins to missed cuts is 3-to-1, he’s the epitome of a safe plug-and-play option.
A lower-priced option for DFS.
Since the restart, Steele has posted three finishes of 22nd-or-better in a half-dozen starts, but it might be his ball-striking skills that separate him from the lower-priced pack at this event.
One of the better drivers of the golf ball, he ranks 22nd this season in strokes gained on approach shots, which fits the combo we’re looking for this week.
Throw in the fact that at 43rd on the points list, he owns a little extra motivation to move into the top-30 and qualify for the Tour Championship for the first time in his career and he should be a nice lower-cost lineup play.
One player to post the low score Thursday.
Phil Mickelson (+9000)
Whether it’s developing his Coffee for Wellness line or his aviator shades or absolutely owning Nick Faldo in the CBS booth, Mickelson has kept his name in the news throughout this year.
There’s no way to stay more relevant, though, than firing some low numbers – and he’s done that, too. The 50-year-old is just three weeks removed from a four-way tie for second place at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational and while we might be correct in presuming that he might not have enough gas in the tank to keep it going for four rounds on a weekly basis anymore, it’s impossible to argue that he can’t shoot a seriously good score on any given day.
I’ll bank on that day being Thursday this week. Since the PGA TOUR restart, he’s posted rounds of 64, 67 and 69 in opening rounds.
At TPC Boston, he owns a career first-round scoring average of exactly 70.00, but that does include a 63 in 2013, when he claimed a two-way share of the overnight lead.
One player who should beat comparable players.
According to Data Golf (which does a terrific job breaking down probabilities and correlations), the two attributes most necessary for success at TPC Boston are driving distance and iron play. Somewhat surprisingly, only two names show up in the top-25 for both distance off the tee and strokes gained on approach shots this season.
One is Finau, whom I’ve already highlighted here. The other is McIlroy – another slight surprise considering his play has been so average lately. Without a top-10 since the restart, he was fine two weeks ago at the PGA Championship, but hardly impressive, finishing in a share of 33rd place.
So, why should we be on him this week? Well, first there’s that stat combo, which seems too good to ignore. Secondly, he won on this course in 2012 and ’16 – or as some might like to put it this week, he wins here every four years. Thirdly, I’ve always believed that for whatever reason, the playoffs might mean a bit more to Rory than his elite-level peers.
And lastly, I think you should be able to find him at a discounted price against the likes of Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm in matchups.
The Big Fade
One top player to avoid at this tournament.
Louis Oosthuizen (+11000)
In lieu of simply listing Brooks Koepka or Jordan Spieth or Justin Rose here again – and don’t get me wrong, they’re all worthy candidates – I dug around for another big-name player who might otherwise be on some radars this week.
Oosthuizen owns a decent record at TPC Boston, so it’s within reason that people would look at his runner-up in 2012 and five total results of 31st-or-better and think he’s a decent play.
The truth is, though, he ranks 149th on the PGA TOUR in strokes gained on approach shots and in his last 10 worldwide starts, a T-6 at the WGC-FedEx was his lone top-20. Louis is a guy who some people will blindly bet for props or matchups or play in DFS, but I’m fading him until he gives us reason to stop.