Sobel’s Northern Trust Matchup Bets: Fade Koepka in Sunday’s Final Round?
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Brooks Koepka watches his tee shot at Liberty National Golf Course.
- Patrick Reed holds a slim lead entering the final round at the Northern Trust, but there's still value outside of the top-20.
- Jason Sobel gives his favorite bets for Sunday at Liberty National.
JERSEY CITY, N.J. — They say good things come to those who wait. Maybe we can say the same thing about good ideas.
When I wrote my preview column before last week’s Wyndham Championship, I failed to mention J.T. Poston. My fault. By the time we taped our Action Network Podcast some 24 hours later, though, I was all-in on the guy who eventually won — and I said as much on the pod.
This week, I similarly omitted Patrick Reed in the Northern Trust preview, other than a tangential mention. The next day, though, I posted a notebook from Liberty National in which I wrote the following:
There’s often a player whom I either decide too late that I like or couldn’t somehow squeeze into the preview. This week, that player is Patrick Reed, fresh off a final-round 63 in Greensboro and committed to causing a little stir over the next three weeks. I stand by my picks in that column, but don’t be afraid to add Reed to your card at 45-1, too.
With Reed leading by a stroke entering the final round, I still like him.
Not going out on much of a limb here, but he’s my pick to win right now, though if you want to hedge with Abraham Ancer (much more talented than he gets credit for) it Justin Rose (who’s just sort of been loitering among the leaders), I don’t completely hate those plays.
Anyway, let’s get to my three favorite matchups for Sunday — none of which involve any players with a serious chance to win.
Hideki Matsuyama (-110) over Adam Scott
12:30 p.m. ET
So, who wants to play a game of: Which player can hit the ugliest putt?
I’m kidding, guys. (Sort of.) The truth is, both Matsuyama and Scott have putted pretty well this week.
Hideki’s iron game hasn’t been nearly as good as it usually is — he’s losing three strokes to the field on approach shots — which usually suggests a fade for the impending round.
Instead, I’m banking on the law of averages. Really, Matsuyama is too strong a ball-striker to continue lagging behind his fellow competitors in the final round.
I expect him to start hitting it better — and closer — on Sunday, while continuing to putt well. This should be a close one, but I think Hideki can win it with something in the 67-68 range.
Tony Finau (+125) over Brooks Koepka
11:10 a.m. ET
Quite simply, Sunday’s final round means nothing to Koepka. He’s in a share of 35th place and likely guaranteed to remain No. 1 in the FedEx Cup standings entering next week’s second playoff event.
For a guy who shows up 45 minutes before his tee time when he’s in the final pairing, we can only imagine the nonchalance he’ll bring to this one.
Finau, on the other hand, should see this as an opportunity — not just to move up the standings, but to test his game against the world’s best player.
Expect Finau to be much more motivated for this matchup than Koepka. At plus-money, that’s good enough for me.
Bryson DeChambeau (-170) over Corey Conners
11:30 a.m. ET
I really like Conners’ game; he’s one of the more underrated ball-strikers on the PGA Tour right now. And as I’ve written, I hope International team captain Ernie Els is giving the Canadian a long look for his Presidents Cup roster. He deserves it.
I don’t like him on Sunday, though — and it’s all about DeChambeau.
As you, uh, might have heard, Bryson’s slow play has caused a firestorm, with two painstaking videos going viral on social media.
It should come as little surprise that his sluggishness impacts his own game less than that of his playing partners.
After playing with DeChambeau for the first two rounds, Tommy Fleetwood posted his best score of the week when they finally weren’t together on Saturday. Conversely, following rounds of 69-67 to start the tourney, Dylan Frittelli played with DeChambeau in the third round and shot 75.
Other players aren’t going to blame Bryson for their poor score. That just won’t happen. But the fact of the matter is, he’s a tough guy to play with these days. We’ll see if it disrupts Conners’ rhythm on Sunday.