It was very fitting to see a season dubbed the “Super Season” end with a super playoff of six players in the final event. Kevin Kisner would come out on top after two playoff holes and an ugly short miss from Adam Scott to capture his first victory of the season.
The TOUR now heads to the Northeast to begin the playoffs as the 124 best players in the FedEx Cup standings get set to tee off at Liberty National for the Northern Trust.
Louis Oosthuizen is the sole player ranked within the top 125 who has passed on this event, as he presumably is still nursing a neck injury that caused him to withdraw from last week’s Wyndham Championship.
This will be the fourth time Liberty National has held a stroke play event for the TOUR, all coming in this spot for the first round of the playoffs, but two of those were prior to the strokes gained era.
Only Patrick Reed’s win in 2019 gives us the statistics we are now familiar with looking into, which makes this a unique week to figure out in DFS. Let’s get right into the course as we have a lot to cover, especially without the typical course horses to lean back on this week.
Liberty National Golf Club — Jersey City, New Jersey
7,410-yard Par 71
- Three par 5s (538/611/580)
- Four par 3s (219/205/230/150)
- Eleven par 4s (398/395/427/515/474/496/431/481/325/445/490)
- Bentgrass tees, fairways, and greens with two cuts of bluegrass rough, 1.25″ primary, 3″ secondary
- Small green surfaces, averaging 4,653 sq ft
- Some changes have been made since the 2019 event, most of which involves adding back tees to several holes as well as some bunkering changes on holes 2, 9, and 15
Liberty National Golf Club is a coastal type of course, exposed to winds and rain that can become a factor throughout the tournament and will be something for us to keep an eye on as the week progresses. It’s located just on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River and has hosted this exact event three times before.
It also served as the location of the 2017 President’s Cup, though it’s difficult to glean much from that team event.
In looking back through the data and understanding the course further, it’s a prototypical second-shot golf course. The putting surfaces are small and difficult to hit.
This will also bring around-the-green game into play, and everything we see really points to needing some well-rounded players at this event, which makes it easier when nearly all of the best players in the world are set to tee it up.
As is often the case, we can expect our players to need to score well on the par 5s. They have played as three of the four easiest holes on the course in the limited history of this event and are all birdie opportunities. Even as the eighth has been stretched out beyond 600 yards, it should still be an opportunity for players to score.
The best of that bunch, though, undoubtedly comes at the sixth, where birdie is nearly expected and eagle is certainly in play.
The 538-yard hole is certainly one with plenty of risk-reward as water starts down the right side of the fairway and travels up to the green at about 300 yards from the tee box. Players will still have plenty of room to find the short grass before any trouble comes into play, and a solid drive will give a solid look at the green for a scoring opportunity.
One thing that jumps out almost immediately about the breakdown of this course is that three of the four par 3s are over 200 yards. This has become more common on TOUR, but it is significant added length for these holes at Liberty National.
The 230-yard 11th has historically been one of the two toughest holes on the course, as the downhill tee shot goes into a green surrounded on three sides by water. The combination of length, exposure to wind, and water has led to a bogey or worse rate approaching 25% in the past, as the hole plays nearly a quarter stroke over par.
The par-3 15th is the shortest hole on the course, but it has arguably the best view.
Playing only 150 yards on the scorecard, it will be a gap wedge for most of these TOUR pros and could be a spot to see some great shots throughout the week. The view is of downtown New York City will be what gets all of the publicity.
While the par 5s are the scoring opportunities and the par 3s provide a test to hang on for par, it’s the play on the par 4s that may decide the week. There are just two short par 4s under 400 yards in length and only one over 500 yards. Only three of the others are greater than 450 yards, leaving a spread of five between 400 and 450 yards.
The difference we will see in many of these holes is how the layout of the course requires placement off the tee, as shown by the par-4 12th with its split fairway.
Historically, the 15th has been the toughest of the bunch. It will play around 481 yards this week, depending on the daily tee boxes, with deep bunkering protecting off the fairway and a two-tiered green surrounded by more bunkers at the hole. Bogey or worse has been in play nearly 29% of the time on this hole, and it will be a tough test as the players start their closing stretch on Sunday.
Speaking of Sunday, the 18th could provide some great drama. The hole is surrounded by the bay with a view of the Statue of Liberty, but it demands the full attention of the golfer, especially as the wind picks up in the afternoon.
The tee shot will come into a narrow fairway surrounded by deep bunkers, with an approach into a small sloping green. The three bunkers that surround and protect the putting surface make this approach one that is very difficult with little room to miss.
Normally, I would close this article with Course Horses, but there is too little data to work from. Only some of the elder statesmen have played all three prior versions of this event at Liberty National.
Webb Simpson may be the most consistent and notable of the bunch, as he finished T-18 in 2019, T-15 in 2012, and eighth in 2009.
Patrick Reed won this event in 2019 by one shot over recent WGC winner Abraham Ancer. Reed also teed it up in 2013 but missed the cut.
A couple of other stars in Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy have identical results from the last two trips to this course. They both finished in a tie for sixth in 2019 and T-19 in 2013.
Again, I wouldn’t take too much from the limited prior results, but for me, it helped to see the well-rounded playing style necessary for this track.
Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images.
Pictured: Webb Simpson.