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PGA DFS (DraftKings & FanDuel): Horse For The Course - The Northern Trust

The regular season is no more, as the Wyndham Championship served as the last true "regular" tournament of the 2018-19 PGA Tour season. We knew what to expect heading into the Wyndham at Sedgefield Country Club and a lot of things went as predicted (last week's HFTC article featured three players that finished in the top six!), but it was a rather unexpected winner in J.T. Poston.

Poston has popped a couple of times this year and headed to North Carolina in trending form, having logged strong finishes in two of his last three starts, but Poston's victory has to be considered surprising and serves as a good reminder that ALL OF THESE GUYS ARE GOOD and can win any week.

Poston was the 14th first-time winner on the PGA Tour this season and there is definitely a huge youth movement taking place on the Tour over the past couple of months. Though the youngsters have garnered most of the spotlight recently, look for golf's 'established elite' class of players to reassert themselves in the upcoming FedEx Cup Playoffs.

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The Northern Trust Overview

With the PGA Tour's new compressed schedule, it is already FedEx Cup Playoff time. The 125 qualifiers head to the New York area for the first leg of the playoffs at the Northern Trust. This event isn't new, but this week's host course, Liberty National Golf Club, will be hosting a PGA Tour event for the first time since 2013...so keep in mind when researching course history this week that the Northern hasn't been held at Liberty National since '13, when Adam Scott emerged victorious.

While making the playoffs is an accomplishment, being inside the top-125 is no guarantee that players will hang around past this week, as only the top-70 in the FedEx Cup points standings will move on to the BMW Championship next week. Of the 125 who qualified for the playoffs, 122 will be teeing it up at the Northern Trust, including Mr. Tiger Woods in his first start since the Open Championship.

I try to make HFTC more than just a regular 'picks' article (though you can certainly use it that way if you need to) and while I often use course history as a foundation, there are no 'rules' here other than to get you the best PGA DFS info possible. One quick word about this week's field...with the top-70 and ties making the cut and just 121 players starting, we'll see a larger-than-normal percentage of guys playing the weekend, so adjust your lineup building strategy accordingly.

You can also find out who the smart money is on by checking out Spencer Aguiar's PGA DFS: Vegas Report every week.

 

The Course: Liberty National Golf Club

Par 71 - 7,370 Yards, Greens: Bent

It sounds crazy, but this is the second former landfill on the PGA Tour schedule this year (Trinity Forest being the other). Despite tons of money and effort being spent on Liberty National, as well as some truly spectacular views, it is safe to say that it is not one of the players' favorite courses.

After making its PGA Tour debut back in 2009 to less-than-stellar reviews from the players (Tiger Woods famously trashed the course), LNGC underwent a pretty drastic renovation in 2010 in an effort to improve its playability. Things have been improved and both the 2013 Northern Trust and 2017 Presidents Cup went off without a hitch. While Liberty is easier now than it was originally, it's no pushover. Frequent and unpredictable winds off the New York harbor can wreak havoc on golfer's rounds. Accuracy both off the tee and on approach is required to score. I probably sound like a broken record at this point, but ball striking will once again be of the utmost importance this week and will be my main focus when identifying DFS plays.

 

The Horse

Joaquin Niemann (DK - $7,500 & FD - $9,100)

Notable Course History: None
Recent Form: T13 (Wyndham), M/C (Open Championship), T10 (John Deere Classic), T23 (3M)

Swear to God, I was sooo close to making Webb Simpson the Horse for the third-straight week, but I thought you guys might boycott the article! While I - of course - love Webb again this week, the player that immediately jumped out at me the first time I looked at the Northern Trust pricing was Joaquin Niemann.

It's easy to forget that Niemann was the 2018 version of Collin Morikawa and was the kid that everybody fell in love with last season. A lot of folks lost that lovin' feeling with the 20-year-old this year, thanks in large part to his truly horrendous putting in the early part of the season, but Niemann has recovered on the greens nicely as of late and stands 17th in this field in Strokes Gained: Putting over his last 24 rounds. His improvement with the flatstick has done wonders for his results and he's made the cut in eight of his last nine starts with two top-fives and a top-10.

Ball striking has never been an issue with Joaquin and he grades out 11th in the field in SG: Ball Striking and 10th in SG: Approach over his last six tournament rounds, while ranking 13th in Good Drives Gained and 17th in GIRs Gained.

I'm under no illusion that Niemann is the "best" player in this stacked field, but his current form, DFS price (on both DK & FD), and projected fit at Liberty National makes him almost an auto-play for me this week. He will also be motivated to perform, as he comes into the Northern Trust ranked 74th on the FedEx points list with just the top-70 moving on to the BMW Championship next week.

 

The Ponies

Justin Rose (DK - $9,600 & FD - $11,500)

Notable Course History: T2 (2013), T41 ('09)
Recent Form: 11th (WGC-FedEx), T20 (Open Championship), T3 (U.S. Open), 13th (Memorial)

I can't figure out if Justin Rose's play has been legitimately underwhelming this year or if it just feels that way because he had such an amazing 2018 season. I've been a Rose naysayer over the last couple of months and it has cost me dearly in DFS contests. The Englishman has continuously proved me wrong in recent big events, with strong showings at the U.S. Open, the Open Championship, and the WGC-FedEx. I'm gonna hope I'm not too late to the party and will attempt to jump on the bandwagon this week.

Rose isn't very good at winning major championships, but he is perhaps the king of "events that seem really important, but aren't majors". He's the "anti-Koepka" if you will, with Exhibit A being his FedEx Cup win last season. Maybe I'm wandering down narrative street a bit here, but winning back-to-back FedEx Cups would be such an on-brand Justin Rose accomplishment!

My pro-Rose outlook this week isn't entirely narrative based, as he is one of the few players in the field with some course history, having logged a runner-up finish at Liberty National back in 2013. He's also been making EVERY putt he looks at recently, to the tune of fifth in this field in SG: Putting over his last 24 rounds. Putting isn't something I normally chase, but his ball striking has been good enough to justify rostering him here (21st SG: Ball Striking & 16th SG: Approach), especially when we take into account his sliver of course history and track record of playing well on tough tracks.

The players above Rose on the salary scale are great players, but do come with some question marks, whereas I have no doubt that Rose will show up focused and ready to play. His $9.6k price tag isn't a bad place to start your roster builds this week.

 

Billy Horschel (DK - $8,000 & FD - $9,800)

Notable Course History: M/C ('13)
Recent Form:T6 (Wyndham), T9 (WGC-FedEx), M/C (Open Championship), T17 (Rocket Mortgage)

I'm sparing you my Collin Morikawa speech this week, but I am going to touch on another player that I've relied on heavily over the past couple of months. I wouldn't call Billy Horschel consistent, but when he's hot...he's really hot, and he's been on an absolute heater as of late.

Horschel heads to Liberty National fresh off a T6 at the Wyndham, his fourth top-10 finish of the season. He ranks eighth in the field in SG: Ball Striking over his last 24 rounds and if we throw out the Open Championship, Horschel has gained strokes T2G in every start since the Masters! He's not long off the tee, but stands 10th in the field in SG: OTT due to his accuracy. His iron play has been solid, as he's gained strokes on approach in eight of his last nine starts.

It's extremely debatable what type of importance being on the President's Cup team carries with these guys, but Horschel is in a position to play his way on to the squad over the next three weeks. If he doesn't care about that, I'm sure that $15 million is of interest to him. Hey, it might sound crazy, but we saw him get hot and win the FedEx Cup in 2014. Love his price and will be pairing him with Niemann and our next Pony a lot this week.

 

Rory Sabbatini (DK - $7,700 & FD - $9,500)

Notable Course History: T13 ('13)
Recent Form: T6 (Wyndham) T16 (Open), M/C (3M Open), T3 (Rocket Mortgage)

You know when you're playing pickup basketball and you get stuck with a random dude on your team? You know the guy I'm talking about...he's dorky and takes everything way too seriously while being dressed in clothing that is nowhere near age appropriate or remotely in style. You roll your eyes when you get this guy on your team, but then during the course of the game he slowly, but surely, wins you over with his solid play and hustle. Sure, he's a dork, but now he's your dork. That's pretty much the DFS relationship I have with Rory Sabbatini this season...yeah he's a dork, but he's my dork.

I know this field is stacked, but $7.7k feels like a bargain for what Sabbatini has been consistently bringing to the table. When I say "consistently", I really mean CONSISTENTLY, as the Slovakian by way of South Africa has recorded six top-10s in his last 11 starts, including a T6 in last week's Wyndham Championship where he gained over four strokes on approach. Sabs has a little history at Liberty National as well, he logged a T13 in the last PGA Tour event held on the NY-area track in 2013.

I know that it's kinda tough to pull the trigger on this Rory in what's a stacked field, but I'm willing to take the awkward guy at the YMCA on my team if it means staying on the court. DraftKings doesn't give out style points, but they do give out money...that's what I'm after this week.

 

Jason Kokrak (DK - $7,400 & FD - $9,200)

Notable Course History: T9 ('13)
Recent Form: T6 (Wyndham), T32 (Open Championship), T29 (Rocket Mortgage), M/C (Travelers)

Remember Jason Kokrak? He was perhaps the most "consistently-good-non-elite" player on the PGA Tour from January until around May. I'm pretty sure that if I looked back at my DFS history for the entire year that Kokrak would be one of my most-rostered players this season. But, as all good things must, his run basically came to an end in the heart of summer when Kokrak started playing less and not as well.

He's picked things back up recently, with solid outings at the Open and the Rocket Mortgage, and he heads to the Northern Trust on the heels of a T6 at Sedgefield last week. He's had some bouts of horrific putting, but the ball striking has been very steady over the last month with gains of 6.1, 1.5, & 2 on approach in his last three starts. If we zero in on those last three starts, he grades out seventh in the field in SG: Ball Striking and fourth in SG: OTT. If you're looking for "ball-striking bastards" this week (shoutout Bagels), you might have your guy right here at just $7.4k.

The price is NICE and Kokrak is another player in this mid-$7k range that I really love in this spot. You can mix and match these guys (Kokrak, Sabbatini, Niemann) as your fifth and sixth players on your rosters or just play them all and load up with a couple of studs up top.

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