By Sam McPherson
Every PGA Tour playoff tournament has lots of jockeying for position, and The Northern Trust, which opened the FedExCup Playoffs, was no exception. Bryson DeChambeau emerged from a crowded leaderboard to seize the lead and eventually the victory, after shooting 63 in Saturday’s third round and holding on with a solid 69 on Sunday to win by four strokes over Tony Finau. Tied for third were Billy Horschel and Cameron Smith, one shot behind Finau.
DeChambeau’s win, his second this season after winning The Memorial in May, vaulted him to the top of the points leaderboard. After shooting 68 on Thursday in the first round, DeChambeau put together rounds of 66 on Friday and the aforementioned 63 on Saturday to take control of the event. His overall score of 18-under par put him well ahead of Finau, who finished at 14-under after posting 69-67-66-68 himself. Only the top 30 make it to the championship event in September, and Finau now sits in fourth place.
Horschel moved up 27 spots in the rankings, and Smith did even better, leaping 37 golfers with his third-place finish. Each playoff tournament only grows more intense from here on out, as players also can drop pretty quickly. A handful of players missed the cut at The Northern Trust, dropped out of the top 100, and will not advance, including 2011 Masters champ Charl Schwartzel. Fan favorite Jason Dufner missed the cut, but he remains 100th on the points list and will advance to next week’s Dell Technologies Championship.
Overall, winning this event gives DeChambeau a 648-point lead over Dustin Johnson in the FedExCup standings. Justin Thomas is in third place, just 15 points behind Johnson, and Finau is 245 points behind Thomas. Despite finishing eighth at The Northern Trust, Brooks Koepka dropped from third to fifth in the standings, showing just how cutthroat the playoff can get. Koepka is 377 points behind Finau as the Tour moves on to the next playoff event.
Thursday’s first round demonstrated that intensity of the FedExCup Playoffs atmosphere, as there was a four-way tie for the lead after the first 18 holes of the tournament. Jamie Lovemark, Sean O’Hair, Vaughn Taylor, and Kevin Tway all posted 5-under rounds of 66 to earn a one-shot edge over 13 other golfers who posted 67 on Thursday. That fifth-place group included three-time major winner Koepka and current world No. 1 Johnson, two of the pre-event favorites.
Koepka and Lovemark finished Friday’s second round tied for the lead at 10-under, and Adam Scott was alone in second place, one shot back, after shooting the low round of the day (64). Johnson was tied for fourth with DeChambeau at 8-under par. One shot back of that duo, five players sat at 7-under, including O’Hair, Tway, and Tommy Fleetwood. Last year’s FedExCup champion, Thomas, lurked at 6-under, along with five-time major winner and fan favorite Phil Mickelson.
The third round saw a lot of change at the top of the leaderboard, as both Koepka and Lovemark shot over par to drop. In their stead, DeChambeau shot 63 to reach 16-under and carve himself a sweet four-shot lead over 2011 PGA Championship winner, Keegan Bradley, who jumped up 31 spots by shooting an incredible 62. The other notable low round of the day came from Jordan Spieth, who moved into a tie for seventh at 9-under par with a round of 64.
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Next On The Tee: Dell Technologies Championship
With a field of 100 at the TPC Boston in Norton, Massachusetts, the action is only going to get more intense and exciting. Thomas won this event last year on his way to winning the Playoffs, and only the top 70 after the Dell will advance to the BMW Championship the following week. That puts a lot of pressure on golfers in the lower range of the standings, such as Matt Kuchar (currently No. 74). It also means those on the cusp have to stay on top of their games as well. Household names like Henrik Stenson (55th), Hideki Matsuyama (58th), and Stewart Cink (65th) need to play well in order to keep their seasons alive.
Only two players have won this event (formerly known as the Deutsche Bank Championship) twice since its 2003 inception: Vijay Singh (2004, 2008) and Rory McIlroy (2012, 2016). Two years ago, McIlroy used his victory in the event as a springboard to the overall FedExCup championship. He did not play last week in The Northern Trust, dropping to 28th in the points standings, but McIlroy will be playing this weekend as he tries to secure his spot in the final championship event.
TPC Boston was designed by Arnold Palmer, and it was later re-designed by eight-time Tour winner Brad Faxon. The course record is 61, shared by three-time major winner Singh (2006) and 2003 Masters champion, Mike Weir (2008). Singh also shares the tournament records for overall score (262) and score relative to par (22-under) with Stenson and Charley Hoffman. Needless to say, if the weather cooperates, we could be looking at some very low scores this weekend in Norton.
The TPC Boston course plays 7,216 yards long and is a par 71.
Favorites: Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas
Players to Watch: Tony Finau, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf and fantasy sports for CBS Local. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach. Follow him on Twitter @sxmcp, because he’s quite prolific despite also being a college English professor and a certified copy editor.