The Northern Trust kicks off the FedExCup Play-Offs this week as we head towards the conclusion of another season on the PGA Tour; but not before we get through some of the most exciting golf yet.
The top four FedExCup leaders are separated by a whisker leaving all possibilities open going into the four Play-Off events.
You may be unfamiliar with The Northern Trust as an event, and that’s because the tournament has undertaken a new branding for the first time this year. Renowned as The Barclays, the tournament’s naming rights have been taken by financial firm Northern Trust to end a run with Barclays dating back to 2005.
One thing that’s not changed, though, is the strength of field this event attracts. The four closely packed FedExCup leaders all enter with the top three separated by only 198 points. Hideki Matsuyama (2869pts), Justin Thomas (2689pts) and Jordan Spieth (2671pts) are all neck-and-neck with fourth place Dustin Johnson (2466pts) only another 205 points back.Embed from Getty Images
Thomas is making his first appearance since becoming a major champion at the PGA Championship two weeks ago whilst Matsuyama will be hoping to build on his win and tied fifth finish from his last two starts.
Rickie Fowler would be grateful for a triumphant climax to a solid season; the 28-year-old is fifth in the FedExCup rankings sitting roughly 1000 points off the lead. However, with the winner of this event alone receiving 2000 ponts, there’s still so much to play for. Defending FedExCup champion Rory McIlroy is still in the entry list, despite dropping hints his season might already be over, but whether he makes it to the first tee or not is yet to be seen.
The aforementioned are part of a field consisting of 24 of the world’s top 30 with only two of the missing six sitting out voluntarily; Sergio Garcia and Adam Scott both reject the first Play-Off event whilst Alex Noren, Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton and Thomas Pieters did not play enough PGA Tour events to earn a FedExCup ranking.
Patrick Reed is the man defending his title this year. The American was able to bogey the 72nd hole at Bethpage State Park and still walk away with a one-shot victory last year to end a drought of over a year.
Other returning past winners include Jason Day (2015) – who equalled the aggregate and to-par records with his win, Nick Watney (2012), Dustin Johnson (2011), Matt Kuchar (2010) and Steve Stricker (2007).
The top 125 in the FedExCup standings qualified for this event – meaning there’s no place for four-time winner Vijay Singh who sits 178th. But after this week only the top 100 will qualify for the Dell Technologies Championship adding pressure to those who only scraped in this week.
The tournament heads to Glen Oaks Club for the first time since its inception. The Northern Trust has been played as the FedExCup Play-Off opener since 2007. Until then – and including its first year as a Play-Off event – it was held indefinitely at Westchester Country Club. Since then it has moved around through four different courses every year. It had not come to Glen Oaks Club until now though.
With the club only actually boasting three nine hole courses, the PGA Tour has done all it can to make this event as challenging as possible. Players will start through holes one to three on the white course, move to the red course for four and five and then back to the white course for six through nine before finishing on the full nine of the blue course. Long-hitters may notice a sizeable advantage taking on this monstrous makeshift 7350 yard par 70.
With it all so tight at the top, and 2000 points on offer to the winner, nothing will be decided this week. But The Northern Trust offers a great opportunity to set the tone for the remainder of the Play-Offs.