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Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

Spieth can put the icing on the cake of glorious year

Berger may be a tasty alternative in New York

Open champion Jordan Spieth should enjoy the Glen Oaks Club
1 of 1

Tournament starts 12.20pm Thursday
Live on Sky Sports Golf from 7pm

Palmer's top tip
Jordan Spieth 12-1

Winning the Open makes you the Champion Golfer of the Year, but winning the FedEx Cup makes you the richest golfer of the year. Jordan Spieth could easily scoop both the glory and the money.

Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott, Brandt Snedeker, Scott Piercy and Dominic Bozzelli are the quintet who have qualified for the FedEx Cup playoffs but are missing the opening leg. The rest of the elite are at the Glen Oaks Club, where Birkdale hero Spieth can be expected to flourish.

Glen Oaks, staging a US Tour event for the first time, has been nicknamed the Augusta of the North, which will be music to the ears of Spieth, who adores the layout for the opening Major of each season. His Augusta form-figures of 2-1-2-11 are well worth taking into account for The Northern Trust. There are similarities between the two venues and Spieth should enjoy the set-up.

Generous fairways will allow Spieth to get away with his often errant driving and the Texan can make hay on what is a 'second-shot course'. Finding the right portion of heavily undulating greens is the key to success at Glen Oaks and there is nobody better than Spieth from 175 yards and closer. Stellar iron-play, along with his ever-efficient scrambling and putting, can deliver the fourth victory of an increasingly successful campaign.

Spieth is a proven playoffs performer who won both the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup in 2015. The feisty 24-year-old is not the sort of character to rest on his laurels and can be expected to finish the year strongly. He had a practice round at nearby Presidents Cup venue, Liberty National, on Sunday with American captain Steve Stricker, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, Gary Woodland and Charley Hoffman.

Dustin Johnson was absent from that Presidents Cup gathering and the world number one has been holidaying in the Bahamas since the USPGA. Johnson enjoys long, par-70s – his Major breakthrough came on one – and he has won three playoff events. He closed with an encouraging 67 in the USPGA and is eager to avenge his FedEx Cup near-miss of last year.

Johnson is the most attractive of the market principals other than Spieth. Conservative punters may choose to back both, but Spieth is the preferred option of the two. Rory McIlroy, disillusioned after the USPGA, makes no appeal. 

Next best
Daniel Berger 70-1

The Class of 2011 have been making merry this year, friends inspiring one another, and Daniel Berger may continue the trend in The Northern Trust. Spieth and Thomas, who left high school in 2011, have won the last two Majors. Ollie Schniederjans, another 2011 graduate, was runner-up in the Wyndham Championship on Sunday.

Berger tweeted after the USPGA that 'Justin Thomas makes me want to go hit range balls for the next five hours! #classof2011'. This small gang of US Tour stars who grew up playing against each other in the amateur ranks are feeding off their every success.

Berger retained his St Jude Classic title in June, then lost a playoff to Spieth in the Travelers Championship at the end of the month. His game is in order and he has excelled in the playoffs before, finishing second in the 2015 BMW Championship.

Berger also has decent Augusta form in the book (10-27 in two starts) and has finished in the places at the Houston Open the last two years at another layout with similarities to Glen Oaks. He lies fifth on the US Tour strokes-gained-on-approach stats, a key indicator to his Northern Trust chances.

Other selections
Kevin Chappell 70-1
Bud Cauley 150-1
Patrick Cantlay 125-1

Kevin Chappell was seventh at Augusta in April before becoming a US Tour champion at the Texas Open, and this supreme ball-striker looks set for a strong FedEx Cup campaign. He lost a playoff for the Tour Championship last year and is clearly good enough to win elite events. The Californian has been swinging beautifully in his last three tournaments.

Complete your Glen Oaks attack with two outsiders – Bud Cauley or Patrick Cantlay could cause an upset by landing a maiden US Tour title. Both are blessed with immense natural talent and would probably already be winners on the toughest circuit of them all had injuries not hindered progress. At 27 and 25 respectively, time is still on their side.

Cauley is a housemate of Thomas, so has been getting up close and personal with the Wanamaker Trophy, and they were partners in the Zurich Classic in April. The USPGA triumph of his best mate seems likely to act as a spur. Cauley, 13th on Tour for SGOA, finished tenth in his only previous start in this event (2012) and has shown enough form in the last four months to suggest he can get in the mix again.

Cantlay has made a fantastic return to the US Tour, with a runner-up spot in the Valspar Championship and third place in the Heritage, and he has finished no worse than 48th in any of his eight events. This confident putter is bristling with potential.

Others to note
Rickie Fowler
The Major maiden has seen two of his best friends, Spieth and Thomas, win the last two. Fifth place at Quail Hollow was another near-miss for Fowler. He looks an obvious Northern Trust threat.

Brooks Koepka
The US Open champion has done little wrong since joining the Major league and is another potential contender in a wide-open heat.

Marc Leishman
The two-time US Tour winner, who was fourth in the 2013 Masters, has been in tidy form all season and is a tempting 50-1 chance.

Louis Oosthuizen
The South African ace completed a 'grand slam' of Major runner-up finishes by chasing home Thomas in the USPGA. An overdue Stateside breakthrough is possible on Sunday.

Hideki Matsuyama
The Northern Trust favourite needs to quickly get over the disappointment of his USPGA weekend flop. Looked the likely champion at the halfway stage, before wobbling under pressure.

Jon Rahm
The Spanish youngster has gone slightly off the boil of late, but could take a shine to Glen Oaks and go close to a second US Tour title.

Staking plan
J Spieth
4pts 12-1 general
D Berger
1pt each-way 70-1 Betfred
K Chappell
1pt each-way 70-1 Betfred
B Cauley
0.5pt each-way 150-1 Betfair, Power
P Cantlay
0.5pt each-way 125-1 Power

The Northern Trust lowdown

Course Glen Oaks Club, Old Westbury, Long Island, New York
Prize money $8.75m ($1.53m to the winner)
Length 7,350 yards
Par 70
Field 120 (five qualifiers withdrew)
When to bet By 12.20pm Thursday
Where to watch Live on Sky Sports from 7pm Thursday
Time difference Long Island is five hours behind the UK and Ireland
Last week – Wyndham Championship 1 H Stenson (14-1), 2 O Schniederjans (80-1), 3 W Simpson (25-1), T4 R Armour (400-1), R Sabbatini (110-1), K Na (80-1)

Course overview Craig Currier, a superintendent hired from Bethpage State Park, oversaw a major renovation of Glen Oaks in 2011.The redesign features generous, impeccably manicured fairways, with bright green grass throughout, mulch around the trees, and deep, white, flash-faced bunkers. It has been nicknamed the Augusta of the North because of its pristine condition. As with Augusta, getting your approach shot in the right section of the firm, fast greens is the key to success. There are three nine-hole courses at the complex – White, Red and Blue. Numbers one to three and six to nine of the White will be used, along with numbers four and five of the red, and the entire Blue. The layout is based on a series of long par-fours. The third (625 yards) and the 13th (540 yards) are the only par-fives. The 230-yard par-three second and the 235-yard par-three 17th are seriously tough. The 11th is a 315-yard, risk-reward, driveable par-four, with water guarding the green

Story of last year Patrick Reed secured a Ryder Cup place with a one-shot success at Bethpage Black, edging Sean O'Hair and Emiliano Grillo

Weather forecast Set fair, with sunshine throughout and hardly any breeze

Type of player suited to challenge This is a long par-70, playing firm and fast, making its US Tour bow. There is breathing space off the tee, but accurate approaches are essential, with run-off areas surrounding heavily undulating greens. It has been likened to Augusta, so form at the venue for the April Major could be useful

Key attribute Accuracy

There is nobody better than Spieth from 175 yards and closer
E.W. Terms
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