England's Tommy Fleetwood tees off the 9th tee hole in heavy rain during the final round of the British Open Golf Championships at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, Sunday, July 21, 2019.
England's Tommy Fleetwood tees off the 9th tee hole in heavy rain during the final round of the British Open Golf Championships at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, Sunday, July 21, 2019.|Peter Morrison | Associated Press

Golf: Kern picks The Northern Trust – the first round of the FedEx Cup playoffs – and likes Simpson and Fleetwood, but not Koepka and Woods

Mike Kern

Mike Kern

Last week at the Wyndham Championship we took, among others, Paul Casey, who was 18-1. And he was very much in contention going into the final round. Unfortunately he didn’t do nearly enough on Sunday. So we move on.

The Northern Trust, which is being played at Liberty National in New Jersey just across the water from Manhattan, is the first tournament of the FedEx Cup playoffs, which has downsized from four events to three this year. And, as always, we will try to do better.

This course, which was built on the site of a former landfill, hosted the 2017 President’s Cup. The last time it hosted a PGA Tour tourney was 2013, when Adam Scott won. Of course that was also the year he won the British Open.

The favorite, at 8-1, is none other than Brooks Koepka. What, you were expecting maybe Zach Johnson? Rory McIlroy, who got dusted by BK in the final round two weeks ago playing together in the last group, is 11-1. Maybe this week he will talk to the media again. I know he was frustrated, but it’s still a bad look. Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm are 14-1. DJ won this event two years ago, when it was held at nearby Ridgewood Country Club.

Justin Rose is 20-1, Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas 22-1. Patrick Cantlay is 25-1. Tiger Woods checks in at 27-1, along with Webb Simpson and Tommy Fleetwood. Tiger was runner-up the only two times he’s played at Liberty National. Of course neither of those were recent. Simpson has three seconds in his last five starts, including the last two. And Fleetwood finished second at last month’s British Open.

Xander Schauffele is 33-1. Francesco Molinari is 40-1. Jason Day and Hideki Matsuyama are 45-1. Matt Kuchar is 50-1. Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed are 55-1. Billy Horschel, who’s finished sixth and ninth the last two starts, is 60-1. Byeong Hun An, who nearly won his last time out, is 65-1. Gary Woodland, who won the U.S. Open two months back, is 70-1. Marc Leischman is 90-1, which seems a bit too much. But what do I know?

I could go a lot of different ways here. So maybe the best way to proceed is to spread my money around and hope that I hit on a longer shot. As always I will mention that I have Justin Thomas in my yearlong pool that I have to pick back in December, where I can only use a golfer once. Lately I haven’t been doing very well in this endeavor, so don’t say you weren’t warned. But I actually think he might have a shot. Famous last sentiments.

That being said, I’m going to go first with Webb Simpson, at 27-1. I’m not the biggest fan, but he’s been playing really well. Let’s hope it continues. You might want to hedge by also putting something on him to just finish in the top 5 or so. I’ll also take Tommy Fleetwood, also at 27-1. I had him at the British when he came in second to longshot Shane Lowery, so maybe he owes me. Other than that I’m going to hand out a few longshots, where you might not need to invest much to get a decent payout. So I’ll take Marc Leischman at 90-1, Gary Woodland at 70-1 and Billy Horschel at 60-1. Let’s hope the faves all do their part. For those last three guys I would definitely put something small down on them to finish in like the top 10. Because one or two of them might, without winning, but that would still get you something fairly decent to fall back on. Try to have some fun with it. And maybe even cash something, which always makes for a nice end to any weekend.

Kerns picks: Webb Simpson (27-1), Tommy Fleetwood (27-1), Marc Leischman (90-1), Gary Woodland (70-1), and Billy Horschel (60-1)


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