With Kevin Kisner winning his fourth career title at the Wyndham Championship yesterday, the PGA Tour’s “super season” has reached its conclusion. Forty-four weeks, 47 tournaments, spread out over 11 months now gives way to a three-week dash for the dough.
From No. 1 Collin Morikawa to No. 125 Chesson Hadley, the richest postseason in professional sports begins at Liberty National Golf Club this week with The Northern Trust, the first leg of the three-event FedExCup Playoffs.
Over these three weeks, the 125 will be whittled down to one: a FedExCup Champion, who will be awarded professional golf immortality (not really)… and $15 million dollars (really!).
It all starts this week in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Tournament: The Northern Trust
Dates: Aug. 19-22, 2021
Where: Jersey City, NJ
Course: Liberty National
Distance: 7,370 yards
Architect: Tom Kite, Bob Cupp (2006)
Format: 125 players, 72 holes, stroke-play
Winning Share: $1,710,00
FedExCup Points: 1,500
Defending Champion: Dustin Johnson
How to Follow The Northern Trust
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Northern Trust History
This is the fifth and final year the tournament will be titled “The Northern Trust,” but the event itself has been an annual stop on the PGA Tour since 1967. For a long time the tournament was simply titled “The Westchester Classic,” and conversationally referred to as “The Westchester” by players on tour, with the first 41 editions contested at famed Westchester Country Club in Rye, New York.
Jack Nicklaus won the inaugural tournament in 1967, and over the years, notable winners have included Julius Boros, Arnold Palmer, Johnny Miller, Raymond Floyd, Seve Ballesteros, Hale Irwin, Ernie Els, and Vijay Singh.
Singh, who won three of his titles at Westchester Country Club, claimed his fourth and final trophy at Ridgewood Country Club in 2008 – the first edition not contested at the tournament’s iconic birthplace. The Fijian edged Kevin Sutherland and two-time winner Sergio Garcia, who was looking to tie Singh with three career titles.
Nicklaus, Ballesteros, and Els are the other multiple winners with two victories apiece.
Since 2007, The Northern Trust (formerly The Barclays) has been the opening leg of the FedExCup playoffs. Notable champions in the playoff era have included two-time winners Dustin Johnson (2017, 2011) and Patrick Reed (2019, 2016), alongside Adam Scott (2013), Jason Day (2015), and Bryson DeChambeau (2018).
In 2018, PGA Tour reduced the playoffs to three events, and canceled the longtime second-round stop in Boston (Top 100). To keep a foothold in the Boston market, the Tour announced that The Northern Trust – starting in 2019, would begin rotating between the New York/New Jersey and Boston metro areas – with Liberty National (2019) and TPC Boston (2020) acting as the inaugural rota venues.
In 2021, the Tour revamped its playoff schedule once again, announcing the cancellation of The Northern Trust with the FedEx St. Jude Championship (Memphis) becoming the playoff’s first leg, starting in 2022.
History: Recent Winners
2020: Dustin Johnson (-30)
2019: Patrick Reed (-16)
2018: Bryson DeChambeau (-18)
2017: Dustin Johnson (-13)
2016: Patrick Reed (-9)
2015: Jason Day (-19)
2014: Hunter Mahan (-14)
2013: Adam Scott (-11)
2012: Nick Watney (-10)
2011: Dustin Johnson (-19)
History: Most Wins
4 – Vijay Singh (2008, 2006, 1995, 1993)
2 – Patrick Reed (2019, 2016)
3 – Dustin Johnson (2020, 2017, 2011)
2 – Sergio Garcia (2004, 2001)
2 – Ernie Els (1996-97)
2 – Seve Ballesteros (1983, 1988)
2 – Jack Nicklaus (1967, 1972)
Playoff Format Primer
Players have been accumulating FedExCup points since the wraparound season last fall, and the 125 who racked up the most will face off this week at The Northern Trust, the first event of the FedExCup playoffs.
As the first of now three playoff tournaments, players begin this event with the points they earned over the past 11 months, but for 55 in the field, the ride will end in New Jersey, as only the top 70 will move onto Baltimore, Maryland for the BMW Championship, the second leg of the playoffs. Those outside the top 70 after New Jersey will be eliminated from the playoffs.
A large portion of the field will have enough FedExCup points to move onto round two, regardless of what happens at The Northern Trust, but even those who have locked up later round berths will not be short on motivation.
Cup points are tripled for the first two playoff rounds, meaning the player who takes top billing in New Jersey will earn a cool 1,500 points. To put that in perspective, only 17 have tallied more than 1,500 points during the entire season, so there is a great deal of potential for playoff movement.
A win here makes a player a lock to reach the Tour Championship at East Lake, regardless of whether that winner is No. 1 Collin Morikawa or Chesson Hadley (No. 125).
Perhaps the best example is Heath Slocum, who entered the 2009 playoffs at No. 124, but after a first-round victory, moved up to third-place.
Those top spots are important, especially now as the Tour Championship features a handicap-based system (officially called FedEx Cup Starting Strokes) for the third time.
The FedEx Cup points leader after the first two legs begins the Tour Championship at 10-under par. The No. 2 player will start at 8 under. The No. 3 player starts at 7 under; the No. 4 player starts at 6 under; the No. 5 player starts at 5 under. Players 6-10 start at 4 under; players 11-15 start at 3 under; players 16-20 start at 2 under; players 21-25 start at 1 under; and players 26-30 start at even par.
In the finale at East Lake, the player with the lowest aggregate score over 72 holes when added to his handicap strokes wins the Tour Championship and is also crowned FedExCup champion.
The Tour Championship win is considered an official PGA Tour victory, but the money and points earned is not part of the historical record of a player’s statistics. The FedExCup champion’s $15 million prize money is considered a “bonus.” Further, the Official World Golf Ranking awards ranking points based on the gross-score finishes.
Some marquee players who will need a good showing this week to move on include:
Big Names on the Bubble
58 Phil Mickelson
63 Tyrrell Hatton
66 Shane Lowry
71 Bubba Watson
79 Ian Poulter
110 Jason Day
114 Gary Woodland
Some of the intriguing storylines this week at Liberty National include the following:
1. FedExCup Playoffs Snapshot
2. Dustin Johnson Defends
3. Abe Ancer is a Winnner
4. Kevin Kisner Intrigues
5. Jon Rahm’s Return
6. Ryder Cup Implications
Read the Six Storylines here.
The Field: By the Numbers
The first leg of the playoffs will feature the top-125 players in the final FedExCup standings, with Dustin Johnson defending his 2020 title.
In addition to the world No. 2, the field at Liberty National will feature all the marquee names, including Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka and Xander Schauffele, among others.
As we do each week, let’s take a look at the field… by the numbers.
FedEx Top 10
Nine of the top 10 players in the current FedExCup standings will be in the field this week. *Louis Oosthuizen withdrew.
- Collin Morikawa (2,171)
- Jordan Spieth (2,139)
- Patrick Cantlay (2,056)
- Harris English (2,039)
- Jon Rahm (2,003)
- Abraham Ancer (1,926)
- Bryson DeChambeau (1,910)
- *Louis Oosthuizen (1,877)
- Justin Thomas (1,758)
- Sam Burns (1,721)
World Top 10
Nine of the top-10 ranked players in the Official World Golf Rankings will be teeing it up. *Louis Oosthuizen withdrew.
- Jon Rahm
- Dustin Johnson
- Collin Morikawa
- Xander Schauffele
- Justin Thomas
- Bryson DeChambeau
- *Louis Oosthuizen
- Brooks Koepka
- Patrick Cantlay
- Harris English
There will be six (6) former FedExCup champions in the field this week, including two-time winner in Rory McIlroy.
- Dustin Johnson (2020)
- Rory McIlroy (2019, 2016)
- Justin Thomas (2017)
- Jordan Spieth (2015)
- Billy Horschel (2014)
- Brandt Snedeker (2012)
The Northern Trust Winners
There will be six (6) former winners of the Northern Trust in the field this week, including three-time winner Dustin Johnson and two-time winners Patrick Reed and Sergio Garcia.
- Dustin Johnson (2020, 2017, 2011)
- Patrick Reed (2019, 2016)
- Bryson DeChambeau (2018)
- Jason Day (2015)
- Adam Scott (2013)
- Matt Kuchar (2010)
- Sergio Garcia (2004, 2001)
Players Who’ve Never Missed
Six (6) players have qualified for the FedExCup Playoffs in each season since its inception in 2007.
- Charley Hoffman
- Matt Kuchar
- Phil Mickelson
- Adam Scott
- Brandt Snedeker
- Bubba Watson
The victor this week takes an enormous step forward to capture the $15 million FedExCup prize.
Who do we like best to make that move? We start with a past FedExCup champ:
15. Justin Thomas
14. Patrick Reed
13. Kevin Kisner
12. Paul Casey
11. Daniel Berger
10. Scottie Scheffler
Read The Northern Trust Power Rankings here.
Full Field & Odds
The Northern Trust | Liberty National | Jersey City, NJ | Aug. 19-22, 2021