The Northern Trust Primer: History, TV, Field, Odds

Justin Thomas The Northern Trust
Justin Thomas tees off at the 10th hole during the third round of The Northern Trust at Glen Oaks GC in Old Westbury, NY on Aug. 26, 2017. Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With Jim Herman winning his third career PGA Tour title at the Wyndham Championship yesterday, the PGA Tour regular season reached its conclusion. Thirty weeks, 33 tournaments, spread out over 11 months and forever known as Before COVID (BC) and After COVID (AC), now gives way to a three-week dash for the dough.

From No. 1 Justin Thomas to No. 125 Wyndham Clark, the richest postseason in professional sports begins at TPC Boston 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!).

World No. 3 Rory McIlroy is well positioned to defend his 2019 FedExCup title, but 124 golfers have other ideas, including world No. 9 Patrick Reed who will defend his 2019 Northern Trust title.

It all starts this week in Norton, Massachusetts.

The Skinny

Tournament: The Northern Trust
Dates: Aug. 20-23, 2020
Where: Norton, Mass.
Course: TPC Boston
Distance: Par 36-35-71, 7,308 yards
Architect: Palmer Course Design Co.
Format: 125 players, 72 holes, stroke-play
Purse: $9,500,000
Winning Share: $1,710,00
FedExCup Points: 1,500
Defending Champion: Patrick Reed
Other Marquee Names: Bryson DeChambeau, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele, Collin Morikawa, Jason Day, Daniel Berger, Justin Rose, Patrick Cantlay, Rickie Fowler, Tiger Woods, Tommy Fleetwood, Webb Simpson, Brooks Koepka

TV & Online Coverage

Rd 1: 03:00-7:00 PM (GOLF)
Rd 2: 03:00-7:00 PM (GOLF)
Rd 3: 01:00-3:00 PM (GOLF)
Rd 3: 03:00-6:00 PM (CBS)
Rd 4: 12:30-2:30 PM (GOLF)
Rd 4: 02:30-6:30 PM (CBS)

Online: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


The Northern Trust trophy
The Northern Trust trophy on display during the third round at Glen Oaks GC in Old Westbury, NY on Aug. 26, 2017. Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This is the fourth 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.

History: Recent Winners

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)
2 – Dustin Johnson (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

2019 PGA Tour Schedule FedExCup
FedExCup signage on No. 9 during the third round of the 2018 Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, CT. Credit: Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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 Boston, as only the top 70 will move onto Olympia Fields, Illinois for the BMW Championship, the second leg of the playoffs. Those outside the top 70 after Boston 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.

Bryson DeChambeau WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational at TPC Southwind
Bryson DeChambeau shows his phone to Joe Skovron and Tim Tucker on the first hole tee during the second round of the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational at TPC Southwind on July 31, 2020 in Memphis, TN. Photo by Keyur Khamar/PGA TOUR via Getty Images

Cup points are tripled for the first two playoff rounds, meaning the player who takes top billing in Boston will earn a cool 1,500 points. To put that in perspective, only five players (Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Webb Simpson, Bryson DeChambeau, and Sungjae Im) 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 Thomas or Wyndham Clark (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 second 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

87 Rickie Fowler
96 Brooks Koepka
99 Jordan Spieth
103 Justin Rose
104 Zach Johnson
122 Shane Lowry

Defending Champion

Patrick Reed Wins The Northern Trust
Patrick Reed lines up a putt on the 17th green during the final round of The Northern Trust at Liberty National Golf Club on Aug. 11, 2019 in Jersey City, NJ. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Patrick Reed shot a final-round 69 at Liberty National Golf Club to claim a one-stroke victory at The Northern Trust – the first leg of the 2019 FedExCup Playoffs.

Reed finished his final day in Jersey City (NJ) with five birdies against three bogeys to reach 16-under par, one clear of Abraham Ancer (69).

It was Reed’s second win at The Northern Trust (2016), and seventh title of his PGA Tour career.

With the victory, the then 29-year old Texas native moved up 48 spots, from No. 50 to 2nd-place in the FedExCup standings.

Final Top 5

Pos-Player-To Par (Final Rd)
1. Patrick Reed -16 (-2)
2. Abraham Ancer -15 (-2)
3. Harold Varner III -14 (-3)
3. Jon Rahm -14 (-2)
5. Adam Scott -13 (-6)

The Field: By the Numbers

Brooks Koepka
Brooks Koepka tees off on No. 13 during day one of The Northern Trust at Glen Oaks GC in Westbury, NY on Aug. 24, 2017. Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images

The first leg of the playoffs will feature the top-125 players in the final FedExCup standings, with Patrick Reed defending his 2019 title.

In addition to 15-time major winner Tiger Woods, the field at TPC Boston will feature all the marquee names, including Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, and Justin Rose.

As we do each week, let’s take a look at the field… by the numbers.

FedEx Top 10

All of the top-10 players in the current FedExCup standings will be in the field this week.

  1. Justin Thomas (2,458)
  2. Collin Morikawa (1,902)
  3. Webb Simpson (1,878)
  4. Bryson DeChambeau (1,657)
  5. Sungjae Im (1,633)
  6. Patrick Reed (1,426)
  7. Daniel Berger (1,347)
  8. Rory McIlroy (1,327)
  9. Brendon Todd (1,316)
  10. Jon Rahm (1,295)
World Top 10

All of the top-10 ranked players in the Official World Golf Rankings will be teeing it up.

  1. Jon Rahm
  2. Justin Thomas
  3. Rory McIlroy
  4. Dustin Johnson
  5. Collin Morikawa
  6. Webb Simpson
  7. Brooks Koepka
  8. Bryson DeChambeau
  9. Patrick Reed
  10. Xander Schauffele
FedExCup Champions

There will be seven (7) former FedExCup champions in the field this week, including a pair of two-time winners in Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods.

  • Rory McIlroy (2019, 2016)
  • Justin Rose (2018)
  • Justin Thomas (2017)
  • Jordan Spieth (2015)
  • Billy Horschel (2014)
  • Brandt Snedeker (2012)
  • Tiger Woods (2007, 2009)
The Northern Trust Winners

There will be six (6) former winners of the Northern Trust in the field this week, including Patrick Reed and Dustin Johnson, both two-time winners.

  • Patrick Reed (2019, 2016)
  • Bryson DeChambeau (2018)
  • Dustin Johnson (2017, 2011)
  • Jason Day (2015)
  • Adam Scott (2013)
  • Matt Kuchar (2010)
TPC Boston Winners

There will be nine (9) former winners of the Dell Technologies Championship in the field this week, including two-time winner Rory McIlroy.

  • Bryson DeChambeau (2018)
  • Justin Thomas (2017)
  • Rory McIlroy (2016, 2012)
  • Rickie Fowler (2015)
  • Webb Simpson (2011)
  • Charley Hoffman (2010)
  • Phil Mickelson (2007)
  • Tiger Woods (2006)
  • Adam Scott (2003)
Players Who’ve Never Missed

Nine (9) players have qualified for the FedExCup Playoffs in each season since its inception in 2007.

  • Charley Hoffman
  • Charles Howell III
  • Matt Kuchar
  • Phil Mickelson
  • Ryan Moore
  • Justin Rose
  • Adam Scott
  • Brandt Snedeker
  • Bubba Watson
Rookie Debuts

Eight (8) rookies qualified for this year’s FedExCup Playoffs, matching the same number that qualified in 2019. The record was 12 in 2017.

  • Scottie Scheffler (24)
  • Victor Hovland (28)
  • Maverick McNealy (58)
  • Harry Higgs (72)
  • Matthew NeSmith (93)
  • Scott Harrington (94)
  • Tom Lewis (123)
  • Bo Hoag (124)

Full Field & Odds

The Northern Trust | TPC Boston | Norton, Mass. | Aug. 20-23, 2020

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