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Tuesday, 15 January, 2019

Trust Jason Day to start his dollar quest in formidable fashion

Aussie can cut Ridgewood down to size

Jason Day has got his swing in excellent condition
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The first event of the FedEx Cup playoffs sees the three Major champions of the year – Patrick Reed, Brooks Koepka and Francesco Molinari – do battle with world number one Dustin Johnson and defending FedEx champion Justin Thomas. And yet Tiger Woods will be the centre of attention.


Woods dazzled his army of fans with final-round fireworks in the US PGA Championship last time out, finishing runner-up to Koepka, and only four names are ahead of the 14-times Major champ in the betting for The Northern Trust.

A field of 120 tees off at Ridgewood Country Club, with 100 progressing to the Dell Technologies Championship next week, then 70 to the BMW Championship and 30 for the Tour Championship finale at East Lake in a month.

Palmer's top tip
Jason Day 14-1
There is a hunger about Jason Day heading into the playoffs this season – no Australian has won the FedEx Cup and the 30-year-old has given himself a solid platform this time with victories at Torrey Pines and Quail Hollow already under his belt – and he should make an explosive start.

Day lies sixth in the FedEx standings, in great shape to move into the all-important top five before the Tour Championship, and he can set his ever-expanding young family up for life by banking the $10m cheque which goes to the winner.

Day has finished in the top 20 in his last four tournaments, including two Majors and a WGC, and he suffered from the worst side of the draw in the Open. He contended in the US PGA last time out, before a flat back-nine, and poor putting was the main issue for him at Bellerive. Given how magnificently he usually putts, it is reasonable to expect normal service to be resumed at Ridgewood Country Club this week on greens he has previously conquered.

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Many in the Northern Trust field are seeing Ridgewood for the first time, but Day has competed in all three previous editions of this tournament at the venue, so has an experience advantage. As a rookie maiden in 2008 he was a respectable 31st, then in 2010, still ranked outside the world's top 50 and carrying plenty of nerves, he led at the halfway stage before finishing fifth. Four years later he recovered from an opening 72 to finish second.

Day, awesome with the two-iron he can employ to great effect on tight tee-shots, has shown he can handle Ridgewood and he has arrived this time with his swing in top order. This event is always played in New York or New Jersey and Day boasts form figures of 2-1-4-6 from the last four editions. He won by six shots at Plainfield, New Jersey, in 2015.

Next best
Xander Schauffele 70-1
A Ryder Cup wildcard pick is probably available to Xander Schauffele if he performs well in the first three events of the playoffs and the greens-in-regulation machine can start the process strongly by contending at Ridgewood.

Schauffele, sixth in the US Open in New York in June, then second in the Open at Carnoustie, produced results of 17-53-20-1 in his first attempt at the FedEx playoffs last year, winning the Tour Championship in courageous fashion, and he is even better equipped to bank top dollar 12 months later.

Other selections
Nick Taylor 400-1
Aaron Wise 150-1
Under intense pressure on Sunday, Nick Taylor produced a final-round 63 in the Wyndham Championship, hauling himself up to eighth place and retaining his playing rights for next season. The Canadian left-hander moved from 129th on the FedEx standings to 119th, retaining gainful employment by the skin of his teeth.

The miraculous Sunday effort – an eagle, five birdies and 11 pars to save his card – must make Taylor think that anything is possible and he can approach the playoffs knowing everything is a bonus from here.

Taylor is no mug – he was world-number-one amateur in 2009 and won his maiden US Tour title in the 2014 Sanderson Farms Championship – and the 30-year-old could be about to emerge from the slump he has suffered since. Putting has been the main problem, but he needed his flat stick only 29 times on Sunday, has made six cuts in a row, and could be a dangerous outsider as he freewheels from the Wyndham.

Another big-price runner worth considering is Aaron Wise, who won his maiden US Tour title in emphatic fashion three months ago, then finished sixth at Firestone. The 22-year-old struggles for consistency, but his A-game is a match for anyone.

Others to note
Jon Rahm
The fiery Spaniard was third on his debut in this event last year and relishes the raucous atmosphere created by the New Yorkers. He tied fourth in the US PGA and must be respected.

Billy Horschel
The 2014 FedEx Cup champion was finding fairways and greens for fun in the Wyndham last week and could become a factor in the playoffs with some putting improvement.

Keegan Bradley
The 2011 US PGA champion went to college in New York City and loves the vibe at this tournament. Some encouraging recent form gives him a squeak.

Webb Simpson
The Sawgrass champion peppered pins throughout the final round of the Wyndham, carding a 62 to finish runner-up, and the form horse is entitled to respect anywhere at the moment.

Justin Rose
The Englishman suffered back spasms before the US PGA, but 19th spot was a decent effort, and Ridgewood is the sort of course he could enjoy in full health.

Tommy Fleetwood
The Southport lad will need to get some new clubs soon – his old Nike tools are wearing out – but more birdies can be expected through the playoffs and Ryder Cup.

Staking plan
J Day
4pts each-way 14-1 Sky Bet
X Schauffele
1pt each-way 70-1 Coral
N Taylor
0.5pt each-way 400-1 Sky Bet
A Wise
0.5pt each-way 150-1 Paddy Power, Sky Bet

The lowdown

Course Ridgewood Country Club, Paramus, New Jersey

Prize money $9m ($1.575m to the winner)

Length 7,385 yards Par 71

Field 120 (five qualifiers – Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Patrick Rodgers, Bud Cauley – have not entered)

Course records – 72 holes 270 Hunter Mahan (2014) 18 holes 62 Hunter Mahan (2008)

Course winner taking part Matt Kuchar

When to bet By 12.20pm Thursday

Where to watch Live on Sky Sports Golf from 12.30pm Thursday

Time difference New Jersey is five hours behind the UK and Ireland

Last week – Wyndham Championship 1 B Snedeker (25-1), T2 W Simpson (12-1), C.T. Pan (80-1), T4 J Furyk (125-1), DA Points (500-1), T6 R Moore (40-1), B Gay (90-1)

Course overview The Northern Trust, which was formerly The Barclays, will be played at the Composite Course at Ridgewood Country Club.

It was designed by A.W. Tillinghast, revised by Gil Hanse and has hosted this tournament, which is rotated around the New York metropolitan area, in 2008, 2010 and 2014.

The winning score has lowered each time, from eight under (Vijay Singh), 12 under (Matt Kuchar) and 14 under (Hunter Mahan). The majority of drives at Ridgewood favour a right-to-left draw off the tee, while wild driving will be severely punished along tight, tree-lined fairways.

Finding the small, fast, undulating greens when approaching from the rough is difficult. There are three par-fives and numerous doglegs but the signature hole is the 291-yard driveable par-four 12th.

Story of last year Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth had an epic duel at the Glen Oaks Club, with Johnson holing an 18-foot par putt to force extra holes, before a booming drive set up a birdie to immediately win the playoff.

Weather forecast Sunny and calm throughout

Type of player suited to challenge Strong ball-strikers, preferably those who like to hit a draw, should succeed on a long course which demands accuracy and shot-shaping. Smart scrambling is also required around small greens.

Key attribute Accuracy

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Day has competed in all three previous editions of this tournament at the venue, so has an experience advantage
E.W. Terms
Sky bet