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Dustin is the Northern Trust favorite


It's not for nothing that Dustin Johnson has been installed as the bookies favorite to win this week's Northern Trust, the first of the four FedEx Cup Playoffs.

The tall, big-hitting 34-year-old is, after all, the defending champion, the World No 1 and the top seed. And more important, perhaps, is the fact that he has been playing a brand of golf this year that has brought him three victories and a string of strong finishers. It has not been too often when he hasn't contended.

At 9/1 he tops a list that has World No 2 Brooks Koepke and World No 3 and reigning FedEx Cup champion Justin Thomas at 12/1, Jason Day at 14/1, Tiger Woods at 16/1 and Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth and Justin Rose all at 18/1.

Johnson won't have the advantage of playing again at the Glen Oaks Club where he won last year.

It has made way this year for the Ridgeway Country Club in Paramus, New Jersey, which, with the expected seasonal dry conditions and light breezes, should help make it an excellent battlefield for the 125 qualifiers who, if not up front jousting to win, will be fighting for their lives lower down to make sure they are up amongst the top 100 who, after the standings have been updated, go through to next weeks' Dell Technologies Championship, the second of the four Playoffs.

Ridgewood sets the kind of test that rewards experienced men who know when to be aggressive as Johnson can certainly be and when to be patient as he is learning to be.

It stretches to 7,385 yards at its longest, features three testing par 5s and, more often than not, has been conquered by the best ball-strikers and shot-shapers who at the time, also happened to have the putting skills to turn opportunities into birdies more often than most.

If he brings his A game to Ridgewood, Johnson will have all these qualities and more, but then so too could at least a dozen others in this World-class field that includes all the current elite of the game save Rory McIlroy, who has opted to take a break, Rickie Fowler, who is still recovering from a 'partial tear in his right oblique', and Henrik Stenson who has a painful left elbow.

Two-time FedEx Cup winner Tiger Woods, if he can carry his excellent momentum at the PGA Championship through to Ridgeway, could well be one of that dozen.

Brooks Koepke, who won two of this year's four majors including the PGA Championship a couple of weeks back and who saves his best for the biggest occasions, could be another - if he deems this a big enough occasion.

Young guns like Thomas, Spieth and Day, already all winners of majors in their early 20s, are others quite capable of winning on their day as are Rahm, Rose, and this season's biggest World Rankings climber Francesco Molinari.

In his last eight starts the quiet Italian has won three times, one of those times at Carnoustie in the Open Championships, finished second twice and most recently tied for 6th at the final major of the year, the PGA. The man has been a solid and impassive machine all year, very seldom out of sight of the lead and in fact, I would have ranked him above at least Spieth, Rahm and Rose who have had far more wobbles.

In truth, though, in a field as strong as this one and at a time of the year when injury and exhaustion can take their toll, you can never be sure of anything.

Yes, most of the FedEx Cup and Playoff winners have been elite golfers who have won majors, but not all - as you will see if you look below at the list of all the FedEx Cup Champions to date.

Bill Haas (2011), Brandt Snedeker (2012) and Billy Horschel (2014) are all quality golfers, to be sure, but none has won a major or made it into the World's Top 5 so don't be too surprised if an under-rated outsider like Brandon Grace at 80/1, Kyle Stanley at 90/1 even Ryan Moore at 100/1 puts up his hand this week and grabs the Northern Trust title.

FEDEX CUP Champions
(See under headings: Year, Player, Country, Points)

2017 Justin Thomas (USA) 3,000
2016 Rory McIlroy (NIR) 3,120
2015 Jordan Spieth (USA) 3,800
2014 Billy Horschel (USA) 4,750
2013 Henrik Stenson (SWE) 4,750
2012 Brandt Snedeker (USA) 4,100
2011 Bill Haas (USA) 2,760
2010 Jim Furyk (USA) 2,980
2009 Tiger Woods (USA) 4,000
2008 Vijay Singh (FIJ) 125,101
2007 Tiger Woods (USA) 123,033.

(Tuesday a.m. Aug 21, 2018)

Dustin Johnson 9/1
Justin Thomas 12/1
Brooks Koepka 12/1
Jason Day 14/1
Tiger Woods 16/1
Jon Rahm 18/1.

To place a wager on the tournament visit, BetWay

Neville Leck

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