The Northern Trust betting preview and tips from golf expert Ben Coley

Get our selections for The Northern Trust below
Get our selections for The Northern Trust below

Golf expert Ben Coley is keeping the faith with some recent selections, including Justin Thomas, as he searches for value in The Northern Trust.

Recommended bets

2.5pts e.w. Justin Thomas at 20/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

1pt e.w. Patrick Reed at 50/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

1pt e.w. Billy Horschel at 60/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)

1pt e.w. Si Woo Kim at 125/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

1pt e.w. Emiliano Grillo at 175/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

0.5pt e.w. Cameron Tringale at 250/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

In this season of change, we have one more hurdle to clear: the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Revamped once to avoid processional golf by someone deserving of a winner's procession, the end-of-season fruit machine now lands on three events rather than four, beginning with The Northern Trust. We'll save the TOUR Championship's absurdness for another day.

Reducing the Playoffs by one has a clear and immediate impact. Most will know by now that only the top 125 in FedEx Cup points have been invited, of which three have politely declined, but where 100 would have progressed last year, now only 70 can. By Sunday night, the PGA Tour will have slashed the number of potential Playoff winners almost in two.

For the man in 125th, Pat Perez, that means something like a top-10 finish at Liberty National is likely to be required if he wants to continue (which, as it's Perez, isn't a given), with all those in-between him and number 70, Matthew Wolff, facing their own unique calculations.

Of course, all this won't have much of an effect on the denouement at East Lake. It's rare for a player to progress from outside the top 100 to inside the top 30, and unprecedented for anyone to go all the way from saving their card to landing a $10m jackpot. But in the here and now it's what makes this tournament unique, and it may even impact the way those down at the bottom of the rankings attack this golf course.

Remember, those like Perez, Kelly Kraft, Sebastian Munoz and Jonas Blixt have just kept their cards for next season in sneaking through to The Northern Trust. That means for the first time this year, they are not playing for their status next year, and combined with the mountain they now must climb, I wonder whether there will be some who benefit from playing with the handbrake off.

Not that such a policy has necessarily worked at Liberty National. Situated south of Jersey City and with stunning views across to Manhattan, this golf course has produced winning scores of nine- and 11-under in two previews renewals of what was The Barclays. First, Heath Slocum produced a major upset, before Adam Scott won a thrilling Sunday battle; both times, Tiger Woods settled for second.

Two renewals, the most recent some six years ago, don't tell us much in terms of the specifics of the person, but they might tell us all we need to know about the specifics of the player. That's because in 2013, when Scott beat Woods, Graham DeLaet, Justin Rose and Gary Woodland, three of those five players ranked in the top five for the year when it comes to strokes-gained tee-to-green.

There isn't a golf course on earth where good ball-striking isn't an excellent starting point, but with DeLaet (14th of 198) and Woodland (56th) also making their money with their long-games, and the 2009 edition producing a very similar template, this one seems to especially favour those who can cope with a series of mid-iron approaches to greens which are heavily undulating.

That leads me back to a collection of recent selections, with Justin Thomas and Billy Horschel making the staking plan and Rory McIlroy this time left out.

McIlroy's approach play was so poor at Southwind that it's remarkable he was the man to beat heading into Sunday, and if that was a blip he's the man to beat. What happened in the WGC-St Jude strengthened the narrative that Brooks Koepka is a winner and McIlroy somehow is not, but I see far more nuance to it and it's still Rory who has played consistently the best golf in 2019.

That's not to undermine Koepka - I've probably done enough of that for a lifetime given the scale of his achievements - but I would still make McIlroy favourite here and it's only that slight concern over his irons, and the fact that I wouldn't call this course perfect for him, which turns me away.

Instead, Thomas goes in as the headline bet as he continues to pepper the pin with his approaches, ranking fifth at Southwind on what was his first look at the course.

At second in strokes-gained tee-to-green for the season, Thomas is a good putting week away from ending a winless run which stretches back to this time last year and while he'd rather that were not the case, from my perspective it serves as a little added motivation.

Thomas has won at least once every season from 2015/16 onward and will be desperate to extend that sequence over the closing three events, each of which presents an excellent opportunity to do so.

Liberty National might be new to him in terms of this event, but Thomas played well in the Presidents Cup here two years ago and his iron play is up there with the very best in the business, particularly from outside of wedge range, which looks to me to be the best starting point.

He boasts an excellent record in New York and New Jersey, highlighted by finishes of 16-10-6-8 in this event, and I'll be disappointed if he isn't at least hitting the frame here as his game reaches its peak.

It's a little late for the events he covets most, of course, but FedEx Cup-shaped compensation could await one of the most dangerous players on the planet.

Justin Thomas - leads by one
Justin Thomas is expected to go very close

Horschel meanwhile continues to reward faith in a manner of speaking, bagging back-to-back top-10 finishes having been selected on these pages at odds of 70/1 and 30/1 over the last fortnight.

Regrettably, he's been just short of securing profit on both occasions, but the bigger picture is positive and he'll be keen to capitalise on a strong run of form, which has been the case for all of his wins bar the Byron Nelson.

Horschel has previous in the FedEx Cup having won two of the four Playoff events in 2014, enough to land the bonus prize, and in this event he's been second and third - the latter coming 12 months ago.

The likely tougher scoring conditions of Liberty National ought to suit him well, and if he continues to hole putts then Horschel has every chance to win and secure a late invitation to join the US Presidents Cup team in Australia.

That will very much be at the forefront of his mind and while a staying-on sixth last week was frustrating, it was also a performance packed with promise after he'd three-putted from three feet to fall to two-over through the first four holes of the event.

From that point forward, Horschel played golf almost the equal of winner J.T. Poston and all despite struggling with small, back-to-front greens around which his chipping was thoroughly disappointing.

Surgical analysis of what went wrong aside, most things are going right for Horschel at present and this outstanding tee-to-green operator can again bag a big cheque at his time of year.

There's a risk I'll test the patience of regular readers here, but I can't leave Patrick Reed out for all the same reasons he joined Horschel in last week's staking plan.

Reed has been staging a mini-revival this summer, having been without a victory since last year's Masters, and I'm not surprised at all by the timing with his Presidents Cup prospects very much in the balance.

To an extent, the revival continued with another good performance at the Wyndham, where he finished off with a seven-under 63 on Sunday, although had his iron play remained strong he'd have been right there with the leaders.

Patrick Reed opened with a bogey-free 64
Patrick Reed will be desperate to earn a Presidents Cup place

Instead, the cornerstone of his improved form let him down only for the putter to pick up the slack, and it's really just a case of the pieces of the jigsaw falling into place for a player who won this event at Bethpage in 2016.

Form from Bethpage might correlate quite nicely, given that DeLaet, Woods and Scott have all gone well there, and that it is a tough, exposed test over in the adjacent state.

Whether that's the case or not, I remain of the view that Reed's upturn can carry him very close to victory over the coming weeks as he, like Thomas, looks to end a frustrating year on a high.

And when it comes to that bit about making the Presidents Cup side and ending a drought, note that when he won this event three years ago, it did two things: earned a Ryder Cup spot, and ended a drought which was even longer than this one.

In part, Horschel and Reed get another run-out because I just don't like the look of many of those who enter this event having been absent from the Wyndham last week, yet we're of course getting bigger prices.

As such I'm keen to roll the dice further down the market with Si Woo Kim next on the list.

The logic for this one is very simple: Kim struck form to finish fifth last week and when he finds something, he tends to run with it - often with explosive results.

Earlier this year, Kim snapped a modest run of form to finish fourth at Pebble Beach, and the next week fired four similar rounds to go one place better and grab third at Riviera.

Three quiet performances followed, and then Kim burst into life again for a top-five in Texas. This time, he followed it with a slightly less eye-catching performance, but given that it was The Masters his share of 21st marks it down as another excellent fortnight.

When second in The Heritage in 2018, Kim had struck form in the Match Play and played well at Augusta, while his shock PLAYERS success came after he'd emerged from a serious slump to finish on the fringes of the contenders in the Texas Open.

And finally, victory in the Wyndham came after a field-leading tee-to-green display at the Travelers and just a month after he'd been runner-up at the Barbasol, again after the sort of lengthy barren spell he's produced throughout his young career.

In other words, if you miss out on Kim hitting the frame at a big price, as he did on Sunday, do not despair: there's every chance he'll do so again in the coming weeks, and from 45th in the FedEx Cup standings it might be worth backing him in both guaranteed starts.

Here at Liberty National, he can certainly be a contender if producing the sort of tee-to-green quality we saw at Sedgefield, where only Poston made fewer mistakes, and there's obviously no doubt Kim has what it takes to beat the sport's best as he's done it before.

Throw in some Presidents Cup motivation - he's currently 15th and needing to turn Ernie Els' head - and the fact he played better than his points return at this very course in the 2017 edition, and Kim is a fascinating outsider.

Next to a frustrating type but one capable of popping up any time in Emiliano Grillo.

This fiery youngster is another of those on the outside looking in when it comes to the Presidents Cup, and he'll have to perform much better than he did here two years ago if he's to feature.

However, the quality of his approach play at the Barracuda last time was enough to turn even the most stubborn of heads and if he can somehow get close to that again, a more demanding long-game test like this comes at an ideal time.

Emiliano Grillo in action
Emiliano Grillo in action

Grillo was second to Reed at Bethpage in 2016 and 23rd there in the US PGA earlier this season, with 13th at Baltusrol and 29th at Glen Oaks adding to a rock-solid record in this corner of the United States.

At 17th in strokes-gained tee-to-green for the year, he brings to this a profile similar to that of DeLaet in 2013, and is good enough to at least bag a place if improving just a little with the putter.

Finally, having gone over every player from 100 to 125 in search of one with the potential to scrape into the BMW Championship, I can't help but keep coming back to Cameron Tringale.

As with Horschel, I've put up Tringale with what spread-betting punters would term success over the last few months, but ultimately he's been a shot or two shy of the numbers required to land a big each-way payout.

At 101st in the FedEx Cup standings, this might be the final chance of the season to get with a player who has been producing borderline world-class approach play over the last five or six months, to the extent that he now sits 30th in the season-long standings.

Tringale will need to keep it in the fairway here to allow his red-hot irons to do their thing, and if that is the case he's capable of shaking up the big names in the same tournament in which he produced a career-best tie for second five years ago.

Ten years on from turning professional, Tringale is still searching for his PGA Tour breakthrough and rates an unlikely winner. Yet if there is to be an upset to rival that of Slocum, winner of this the same year, then he's towards the top of the list.

Posted at 1955 BST on 05/08/19.

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