The 2020 PGA Tour regular season ended on a high note, with 42-year-old Jim Herman getting his third career victory. In the past few weeks, the PGA has shown what makes its tour so special. On any given week, a relative unknown can have a life-changing event, beating the best players in their craft at a four-round tournament.
Michael Thompson got his first win in 13 years a few weeks back at the 3M Open. Herman followed Thompson’s moment of glory with one of his own at this past weekend’s event after shooting an incredible 61-63 over the weekend. That performance launched Herman, who was outside the Top 125, all the way up to 54th. Golf gives us great stories each year and despite the shortened season, 2020 has been no different.
Now, we head into the first week of the playoffs where the top 125 players in the FedEx Cup Standings received entry to The Northern Trust at TPC Boston in Norton, Mass.
In years past, a long summer of PGA events would lead some to skip this event as they were in good enough standing to firmly qualify for the second playoff event. However, this year all 125 players who qualified are scheduled to play this week and can likely be linked to an already shortened season, along with the U.S. Open following the playoffs this year in September.
TPC Boston has hosted 17 PGA tournaments since it opened in 2002, with the most recent event being the 2018 Dell Technologies Championship, which was won by Bryson Dechambeau. Each of the prior five events at this course crowned a champion from 15 to 17 under par.
The original 2002 Arnold Palmer design was renovated in 2007 by Gil Hanse, with the consultation of Brad Faxon. This week will set up as a par 71 layout at approximately 7,342 yards.
The course will feature scoring opportunities on three Par 5s, which have historically played as three of the easiest holes on the course. This includes the Par 5, 18th hole, which will create ample drama come Sunday afternoon. The hole measures out at around 530 yards, meaning it will be reachable in two by pretty much everyone in the field.
It appears the tour will also set up the Par 4, fourth hole to be potentially drivable as well. The fourth hole is listed on the main scorecard at 298 yards, versus the 353-yard setup of years past. Even when it was playing at the longer length, it ranked as one of the easiest holes on the course.
The TPC Boston layout features small, bentgrass greens that average just 5,200 square feet in size. The course has 62 bunkers, with water in play on two holes.
Overall, it’s been a warm and dry summer in the area, so I anticipate the tour to set it up to be firm and fast this week. They will also grow the traditional rough up to 3.5 inches, but there is also fine fescue surrounding the rough that will come into play on more wayward shots.
This course will test every aspect of the players’ games, not particularly favoring any one style of play, which is part of the reason we see such decorated champions at tournaments hosted by TPC Boston. Let’s take a look at the field for this week’s event:
The Northern Trust Field
As mentioned, all players in the FedEx Cup Top 125 standings will participate. There will be a cut down to the Top 65 and ties after 36 holes. Next week, the Top 70 in the standings will play at the BMW Championship, so there will be plenty of talk throughout the weekend around these players jockeying for position to qualify for that event.
Players To Watch
Thomas comes in as world’s No. 2-ranked player, but currently sits No. 1 in the FedEx Cup standings. He earned himself a cool $2 million bonus for that honor as part of the Wyndham Rewards Top 10. He’s been up and down in his performances at TPC Boston, finishing outside of the Top 20 in three of the four events he’s played here, including a missed cut. However, the other finish was a victory in 2017.
The rising star will tee it up for the first time since his win at the PGA Championship. Morikawa is currently ranked second in the FedEx Cup standings as well. He has rocketed up to fifth in the Official World Golf Rankings following his win at Harding Park and has the opportunity to become No. 1 in the world, which is an incredible feat at just 23 years of age. As is expected for a player in his first full year on tour, he comes to TPC Boston for the first time as a professional.
Dechambeau heads to Massachusetts as the defending champion of sorts, at least at this course. He won the 2018 version of this event at 16 under par and, more than anyone else, enters into the tournament as a completely different type of player. The reinvented Dechambeau has moved to eighth in the OWGR and is sitting solidly in fourth in the FedEx Cup standings.
The former world No. 1 has been slow to find his top game since the break ended in mid-June. However it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he found his best stride this week at TPC Boston. McIlroy has triumphed twice at this course in eight career appearances, with two Top-12 finishes to go along with one missed cut.
Woods makes his return this week following his 37th-place finish at the PGA Championship. He does so at a course where he has had quite a bit of success in his career. In 10 appearances at TPC Boston dating back to 2003, Woods has seven Top-11 finishes or better, including a win in 2006.
The Australian standout also heads back to the Northeast this week for just his second tour event since the break. It will also mark his 14th tournament played at this course, dating back to the 2003 season. In his 13 previous appearances, Scott hs missed just one cut and has six Top-8 finishes, including a victory in 2003.