2021 The Northern Trust Final Round Buys & Fades: Jon Rahm Should Hold On For Delayed Win
Stacy Revere/Getty Images. Pictured: Jon Rahm.
We’ve had an extra day to digest everything we saw on Saturday at the Northern Trust as Hurricane Henri came through the Jersey City area and dumped more than six-and-a-half inches of rain on Liberty National. The tournament planned for this issue and postponed Sunday’s final round ahead of time, with hopes to play it in full on Monday.
Right now, players are scheduled to play in threesomes off both tees starting around 7:30 a.m. ET. I question that start time a bit with the amount of rain the course received and is still scheduled to get, but I do expect they will finish out the first playoff event of the season at some point.
Cameron Smith made the most noise on Saturday, posting an incredible and nearly flawless 11-under 60 to jump into the final group. He went bogey free and just never slowed down after five birdies in his first six holes, closing with four more in his final six.
He finished his round nearly as Jon Rahm teed off, causing Rahm to have to match him on moving day, and he would do just that with a 4-under 67 to tie the Australian at 16-under on the week. They will be joined in the final group by Erik Van Rooyen who got his first TOUR win a few weeks back at the Barracuda Championship. He has continued to play well since then and put together a 9-under 62 to put himself in position going into the final round.
There are several names to watch out for further down on the leaderboard as Justin Thomas and Tony Finau lurk just two shots back. Three others including Shane Lowry and Viktor Hovland are another shot behind them, creating an interesting scenario on what we know will be a soft and scoreable course on Monday.
Let’s look through the strokes gained data through three rounds at Liberty National to pick our winner.
Strokes Gained Explanation
Strokes Gained can give golf bettors, DFS players and fans way more detail on how a golfer is truly played by measuring each shot in relation to the rest of the field.
Using the millions of data points it collects, the TOUR calculates how many shots on average it takes a player to get the ball in the hole from every distance and situation. If a player beats those averages, he’s gaining strokes on the field.
Every situation in golf is different — Strokes Gained measures how players perform relative to the situation.
In this piece, we’ll touch on a variety of Strokes Gained metrics:
- Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee
- Strokes Gained: Approach
- Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green
- Strokes Gained: Putting
- Strokes Gained: Ball-Striking (which is Off-the-Tee + Approach)
- Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green (which is Ball-Striking + Around-the-Green)
In general, ball-striking and tee-to-green are the most stable long term, while putting is more prone to volatility.
You can often find live-betting advantages by identifying golfers who are hitting the ball well, but just not getting putts to drop. Likewise, players with high SG: Putting numbers may regress moving forward.
3 Golfers to Buy in Round 4
Simply put, Jon Rahm is a closer. He’s the best player in the world right now by ranking and eye test, and I can’t find any reason he doesn’t finish off a win at the Northern Trust on Monday (or Tuesday). He also ranks fifth on TOUR in final-round scoring average, and with him, I don’t have to look to see how many of those came while in contention because the sample size is plentiful. Rahm is my unexciting pick to win the first playoff event, but you could do worse than cashing a +140 ticket to start your week.
Through three rounds, Rahm ranks second in strokes gained tee to green, fifth off the tee, and fifth on approach. The only category he is losing strokes is around the green, which isn’t too much of an issue as he’s ranked T4 in Greens in Regulation. The Spaniard is also gaining more than a stroke per round on the greens, showing he simply has his game dialed in and ready to go for the finish, whenever that may happen.
This weather just seems to suit Shane Lowry. He is one I know won’t be rattled by the rain and wet conditions, and it helps that he has really shown some strong form this week at Liberty National.
He matched EVR with a 9-under 62 of his own on Saturday, to climb into the penultimate threesome with Thomas and Finau. Lowry will start the final round just three shots back of the lead and in the mix for the win with another strong round on Monday.
The 2019 Champion Golfer of the Year was the best player in the field on approach on Saturday, gaining 4.89 shots. It was undoubtedly his best iron play of the week, but he has gained strokes in that category in each of his first three rounds and has been really solid throughout his bag all week. I expect we see him come out with an attacking mentality for the final round and give himself some chances to pressure the leaders.
He is an easy pick and steal in final round DFS at just $7,300, and I even like him in matchups, especially with a guy like Finau. Lowry looks like a really solid top-5 pick at +180 on BetMGM, but he also has value at +3100 to pull off the win on FanDuel.
One of the most consistent and impressive players across this season has been Sam Burns. He has put his name in the mix over and over again dating back to the Genesis Invitational at Riviera. Burns finally broke through for his first win at the Valspar and was a part of the playoff two weeks ago at WGC St. Jude.
Burns has once again put his name in the conversation as he shot a 7-under 64 on Saturday and moved to T11 going into the final round. He is in position to post another top finish, and the way he turned his irons around in the third round would lead me to believe he will only climb further.
The former LSU Tiger lost strokes on approach in each of his first two rounds, but he found something on Saturday to gain 3.18 in that category. I really like Burns as an outsider to take a shot at a top-5 type of finish and certainly to be a strong play in DFS and matchups for the final round.
3 Golfers to Fade in Round 4
Cameron Smith has been one of my favorite plays dating back to the Olympics. He has been playing some really great golf, usually in one category or another, but he certainly put it all together on Saturday. His 11-under 62 was extremely impressive, and it’s really not like it came out of nowhere for the Australian.
My concern for Smith in the final round is more about his recent final-round performances than it is anything leading up to that spot. Over his last three measured events, Smith has lost more than a full stroke to the field in strokes gained total. In two of those three he lost more than four shots, which is an absolute killer to his chances when in contention. Now he has to do it while staring down Jon Rahm, and for that reason it seems like a fairly easy fade when you see them at opposite ends of the spectrum with their final-round performances.
I’m taking a bit of the easy way out with this next fade, but the reality is that it’s hard to trust Tom Hoge in the final round with the names around him. He hasn’t been in this position much and certainly not with so many of the top players in the world circling his spot on the leaderboard.
Hoge has also done it despite not having his usual sharp iron game. He lost 1.59 shots to the field on approach on Saturday but has made up for it with a ridiculous putter the last two rounds. He has gained more than seven shots on the field on the putting greens through the last 36 holes, and that’s for a player that ranks 152nd in strokes gained putting on the season.
It could be that Hoge just sees these greens really well, but I’ll fade his ability to keep that going in the final round. We know the speed of the greens are set to change with all of this rain, and with a lack of ball-striking plus some added pressure near the top of the leaderboard, he’s an easy fade.
Another player that could be popular on Monday, especially in DFS is Keegan Bradley. He comes into the final round inside of the top 20 but has really struggled to close out tournaments.
Bradley had a strong 4-under round on Saturday, but his ball-striking was starting to fade. It was the first round of the week where he lost strokes to the field off the tee, and he gained just .81 shots on approach. His putter picked him up to still climb up the leaderboard. If there is one thing we know about Keegan after all these years, it’s that we can never trust his putter, and with the ball-striking seeming to struggle a bit, I am out on him finishing in the top 20 this week.