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Wednesday, 23 January, 2019

Former world number one looks to be growing in confidence

Sensational Rahm can lead home the European charge

Jason Day was in positive mood after the USPGA Championship
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Tournament starts 12.20pm Thursday
Live on Sky Sports Golf from 7pm

The FedEx Cup playoffs always provide a mouthwatering set of elite events and two threeballs stand out for the first round of The Northern Trust at the Glen Oaks Club, Long Island.

Open champion Jordan Spieth will be joined by USPGA Championship victor Justin Thomas and world number two Hideki Matsuyama in a formidable morning group (1.26pm UK and Ireland time), then centre of attention in the afternoon will be world number one Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Jon Rahm (6.06pm).

Spieth and Johnson would be the token selections for those competitive affairs, but a more attractive threeball option is Jason Day to beat Ian Poulter and Jamie Lovemark in the 12.53pm contest.

Day was full of optimism after the USPGA, explaining that his game is coming together and that scoring problems have been down to mental errors rather than technical issues, and the Australian expects to be a serious factor in the playoffs.

Glen Oaks, with room off the tee and the challenge increasing closer to the hole, looks like a perfect track for Day to start some sort of resurgence. The man who started this year as world number one has a strong record in this tournament, which used to be called The Barclays, and he was champion in 2015. In nine starts, he has never finished worse than 31st place, sharing second spot in 2014.

Poulter has re-established himself in the top 100 of the world rankings with improved form over the last three months, but Day should outgun the powder-puff Englishman on this layout. Lovemark has never bettered 22nd place in a playoffs event.

Threeball punters looking for bigger prices should consider Brandon Hagy, who is one of the longest drivers on the circuit. Hagy, who finished fifth in the Canadian Open a month ago, appears to have settled on the US Tour and can outscore Luke Donald and Richy Werenski at 6.28pm.

Glen Oaks could prove a slog for Donald, who has slipped back outside the top 100 of the world rankings after missing his last seven US Tour cuts. In-form Werenski seems more of a threat, but Hagy looks the better player.

Rory McIlroy has admitted that niggling injury problems mean he is still unable to practice as normal, and finishing 22nd in the USPGA at his beloved Quail Hollow was demoralising for the Northern Irishman.

Dustin Johnson is much happier with the way his game is progressing and can be fancied to see off McIlroy in a 72-hole match.

McIlroy can also be opposed as favourite in the top European market. Henrik Stenson won the Wyndham Championship last week without carrying a driver in his bag. Glen Oaks is a layout where driver is the stock choice on all the par-fours and fives, so Stenson will probably be less comfortable. Jon Rahm, confident with his Big Dog and putter, can lead the European bid.

J Day to win threeball
3pts 6-5 Betfred
B Hagy to win threeball
2pts 7-4 bet365
D Johnson to beat R McIlroy
2pts 9-10 Betfair
J Rahm top European
1pt 6-1 Betfair, BoyleSports, Power

In nine starts, he has never finished worse than 31st place
E.W. Terms
Sky bet