Pro Golf Weekly

The Northern Trust Primer

With Brandt Snedeker winning in Greensboro at the Wyndham Championship, the PGA Tour regular season reached its conclusion. Forty-one arduous weeks of the battle royale known as the FedExCup race have now come to this: a four-week frenzy, starting with the 125 golfers who compiled the most points.

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

From No. 1 Dustin Johnson to No. 125 Seamus Power, the most gripping postseason in professional sports begins at The Ridgewood Country Club this week with The Northern Trust, the first leg of the four-event playoffs.

Over these four weeks, the 125 will be whittled down to one: a FedExCup Champion, who will be awarded professional golf immorality (not really)… and $10 million dollars (really!).

World No. 3 Justin Thomas is will positioned to defend his FedExCup title, but 124 golfers have other ideas.

It all starts this week in New Jersey.


THE SKINNY

Tournament: The Northern Trust
Dates: Aug. 23-26, 2018
Where: Paramus, New Jersey
Course: The Ridgewood CC
Distance: Par 35-36-71, 7,385 yards
Architect: A.W. Tillinghast (1929)
Format: 125 players, 72 holes, stroke play
Purse: $9,000,000
Winning Share: $1,620,00
FedExCup Points: 2,000
Defending Champion: Dustin Johnson
Marquee Players: Johnson, Justin Thomas, Tiger Woods, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Francesco Molinari, Justin Rose, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Webb Simpson, Phil Mickelson


HISTORY

This is the second year this tournament is going by the name “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 known as “The Westchester,” with the first 40 editions contested at Westchester Country Club in Harrison, New York.

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

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 holds the tournament record for victories with four, most recently taking the 2008 title in a playoff over Sergio Garcia and Kevin Sutherland. Nicklaus, Ballesteros, Els, and Garcia are the other multiple winners with two wins apiece.

Since 2007, The Northern Trust has been the opening event of the FedExCup playoffs, and for the fourth time, the tournament will be held at The Ridgewood CC in Paramus, New Jersey.

RECENT WINNERS

2017: Dustin Johnson
2016: Patrick Reed
2015: Jason Day
2014: Hunter Mahan
2013: Adam Scott
2012: Nick Watney
2011: Dustin Johnson


TV & ONLINE COVERAGE

Round 1: 2-6:00 PM (GOLF)
Round 2: 2-6:00 PM (GOLF)
Round 3: 1-2:30 PM (GOLF); 3-6:00 PM (CBS)
Round 4: 12-1:30 PM (GOLF); 2-6:00PM (CBS)
Online: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


STORYLINE: STAVING OFF ELIMINATION

Players have been accumulating FedExCup points since the Safeway Open last October, and the 125 who did that best are facing off this week at The Northern Trust, the first event of the FedExCup playoffs.

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

As the first of four playoff tournaments, players begin this event with the points they earned over the past ten months, but for 25 in the field, the ride will end in New Jersey, as only the top 100 will move onto Boston for the Dell Technologies Championship, the second leg of 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 quadrupled for the first three playoff rounds, meaning the player who takes top billing in New York will earn a cool 2,000 points. To put that into perspective, only three players (Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, and Brooks Koepka) tallied more than 2,000 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, regardless of whether that winner is No. 1 Johnson or Seamus Power (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-five spots are especially important because it allows those players to control their own destiny for the final tournament, as the points are re-set going into the Tour Championship in a way that an East Lake win from anyone in the top 5 automatically clinches the FedExCup Championship, and its prodigious $10 million prize.

Anyone below the top five going into the final would need a great showing plus help.

While many in the field can get away with a poor showing in The Northern Trust, those outside the top 100 after the first leg will be eliminated from the playoffs.

Players on the bubble entering the week:

100 Ryan Palmer
101 Richy Werenski
102 Nick Watney
103 Danny Lee
104 Sung Kang
105 John Huh
106 Harold Varner III
107 Scott Stallings
108 Tyler Duncan
109 William McGirt
110 J.T. Poston
111 Bronson Burgoon
112 Vaughn Taylor
113 Martin Laird
114 Sam Ryder
115 Grayson Murray
116 Ryan Blaum
117 Scott Brown
118 Brian Stuard
119 Nick Taylor
120 Sam Saunders
121 Sean O’Hair
122 Bud Cauley (WD)
123 Jhonattan Vegas
124 Harris English
125 Seamus Power


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 2107 title, and seeking his fourth win of the season, and 20th of his career.

Dustin Johnson
Dustin Johnson tees off on the ninth hole during the final round of THE NORTHERN TRUST at Glen Oaks GC in Old Westbury, NY on Aug. 27, 2017. Photo by Keyur Khamar/PGA TOUR via Getty Images

In addition to world No. 1 Johnson, the field in Paramus, New Jersey will feature all the big names including Tiger Woods, 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 rankings will be in the field.

  • Dustin Johnson (1)
  • Justin Thomas (2)
  • Brooks Koepka (3)
  • Justin Rose (4)
  • Bubba Watson (5)
  • Jason Day (6)
  • Webb Simpson (7)
  • Francesco Molinari (8)
  • Bryson DeChambeau (9)
  • Patrick Reed (10)

World Top 10

Eight of the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking will be in the field. Rory McIlroy (7) and Rickie Fowler (9) will not play.

  • Dustin Johnson (1)
  • Brooks Koepka (2)
  • Justin Thomas (3)
  • Justin Rose (4)
  • Jon Rahm (5)
  • Francesco Molinari (6)
  • Jordan Spieth (8)
  • Jason Day (10)

Former FedExCup Champions

There are six (6) former FedExCup champions in the field this week.

  • Justin Thomas (2017)
  • Jordan Spieth (2015)
  • Billy Horschel (2014)
  • Henrik Stenson (2013)
  • Brandt Snedeker (2012)
  • Tiger Woods (2007, 2009)

PGA Tour Rookies

Eight (8) rookies qualified for the playoffs this year.

  • Aaron Wise (27)
  • Austin Cook (31)
  • Keith Mitchell (68)
  • Satoshi Kodaira (77)
  • Peter Uihlein (81)
  • Brandon Harkins (94)
  • Tyler Duncan (108)
  • Sam Ryder (114)

FULL FIELD & ODDS

The Northern Tust | The Ridgewood CC | Paramus, NJ | Aug. 23-26, 2018

Joel Cook

Joel Cook is Pro Golf Weekly's Lead Writer. He is a member of the Golf Writer's Association of America.

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