Power Rankings: The Barclays

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August 20, 2012
Rob Bolton, Fantasy Columnist

The last time the best golfers in the world were seen navigating the Black Course at Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, N.Y., they were wearing rain gear, umbrellas were at a premium all over Long Island and the U.S. Open was finishing on a Monday without a playoff. That was in 2009. In fact, so prevalent was the weather that week that it begs for an immediate peek at this week's forecast, just to establish a baseline for expectations.

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Primarily sunny skies are expected throughout. Increasing but slight chance for rain by Sunday, and by no means would it qualify as a gully washer. Winds will freshen gradually with the threat of precipitation. Temperatures should eclipse 80 degrees.

Therefore, whew! Tournament organizers want to show off the track hidden by torrential downpours three years ago. For the most part, the wish figures to come true this week as little in the way of setup has changed since the USGA was in town.

Fairway widths and contouring remains the same. Greens averaging just 5,500 square feet will run at 12 on the Stimpmeter, which is slower than traditional U.S. Open speed, but arguably slicker than the experience in 2009 given the conditions. The rough is scheduled to stand three and a half inches. The only water hazard on the course fronts the green at the par-3 eighth hole.

Bethpage also hosted the 2002 U.S. Open, but this is its first go as the table setter for the FedExCup Playoffs. (It will return for the 2016 edition of The Barclays.) Designed by A.W. Tillinghast -- also architect of Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J., host of the The Barclays in 2008 and 2010 -- Bethpage will play to a par of 71, which is the originally intended aggregate. The seventh hole, which played as a long par 4 for both U.S. Opens, is now a par 5 measuring 553 yards. That's a bump of 28 yards from 2009 and consists of the majority of the overall increase of 42 yards. From the tips, Bethpage could measure 7,468 yards.

As you'd expect, golfers familiar with the routing should enjoy an advantage. Still, the course will require a consistent blend of control throughout the bag. Total driving is critical given the overall length. Look for plenty of drivers off the tee, too, as in addition to the trio of par 5s, five of the par 4s can extend in excess of 475 yards. Finding the short grass is equally as important since the small putting surfaces are more likely to reject approaches from lies off the fairway.

While Bethpage remained largely untouched over the last three years, a decision was made for the par-3 17th hole to mimic the par-3 16th at TPC Scottsdale for the Waste Management Phoenix Open. What's been dubbed as "The Black Hole" is a treacherous, uphill one-shotter that will funnel into corporate grandstands and additional bleacher seating for an aggregate 4,000 spectators.

On Wednesday, Aug. 22, please look for my Power Rankings for the FedExCup Playoffs. It will include 30 golfers and take into account all four tournaments in the postseason.

Power Rankings: The Barclays
Rank Player   Comment
Rory
MCILROY
Back atop the Official World Golf Ranking following his eight-stroke win at the PGA Championship, there is no concern for a letdown or regression. While he's 73rd in greens hit on the PGA TOUR, he ranks second in adjusted scoring.
Bubba
WATSON
Recorded a thoroughly successful season with 12 top-20s, including a win at the Masters, a pair of runner-up finishes and two more top fives, proving he can contend anywhere. Sits second in greens hit and ninth in adjusted scoring.
Keegan
BRADLEY
Awesome fit for Bethpage. After leading the all-around ranking for nearly three consecutive months, he fulfilled its position with a victory at Firestone, and then backed it up with a T3 in his title defense at the PGA Championship.
Tiger
WOODS
Winner of the "wrong" side of the draw at the 2009 U.S. Open, settling for a share of sixth place from the early-late half. Only three-time winner on TOUR this year. Six top 10s. Fourth in total driving; 25th in GIR; first in adjusted scoring.
Justin
ROSE
Rolls into town with top fives at the Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship. Seven top 10s on the PGA TOUR this year, including the win at the Cadillac Championship. Leads the PGA TOUR in greens in regulation; sixth in adjusted scoring.
Graeme
MCDOWELL
His worst finish in a major this year was a T12 at the Masters. Coming off a share of 11th place at the PGA Championship, his sixth straight top 25 worldwide. Currently 49th on the PGA TOUR in greens hit; 14th in adjusted scoring.
Dustin
JOHNSON
The defending champion of the 54-hole edition at Plainfield Country Club due to Hurricane Irene has a win and four more top 10s in 15 starts this year. Proven success on tracks with small greens. Sits 18th in adjusted scoring.
Steve
STRICKER
Employed the less-is-more approach to his season, and he executed. Seven top 10s in 15 starts, including a T2 (Bridgestone) and T7 (PGA Championship) in his last two. Ranks 22nd in greens hit and 10th in adjusted scoring.
Matt
KUCHAR
Missed his first cut of the year at the PGA Championship, but he co-leads the PGA TOUR with eight top 10s. Currently 35th in greens hit, 42nd in Strokes Gained-Putting, third in adjusted scoring and ninth in the all-around.
Sergio
GARCIA
Fresh off his first victory on the PGA TOUR in over four years, and converted with a Ryder Cup berth on the line. Missed 20 GIR at Sedgefield but carded just four bogeys all week. Tied for 10th at the 2009 U.S. Open. Ranks 21st in adjusted scoring.

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In 2012, our expert will be publishing his list of players who didn't quite make the top 10 for that particular week. Here are five other players Rob Bolton likes at Bethpage Black:

11. Luke Donald ... Salvaged a T32 at the PGA Championship with a closing 66, but was still bumped from the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking. Six top 10s in 13 starts on the PGA TOUR this year. Ranks 12th in adjusted scoring.

12. Adam Scott ... Top 15s in four of his last five starts, including a T11 at the PGA Championship in his most recent. Ranks 63rd on the PGA TOUR in greens hit and seventh in adjusted scoring, but sits outside top 110 in fairways hit, Strokes Gained-Putting and scrambling.

13. Bo Van Pelt ... Co-leads the PGA TOUR with eight top-10s, and has logged another five top 25s in 20 starts overall. Ranks fifth in total driving, 24th in greens in regulation, ninth in Strokes Gained-Putting and second in the all-around.

14. Tim Clark ... Posted a solo second at the Wyndham Championship, his third straight top 15. Ranked T6 in greens hit at Sedgefield and suffered only four bogeys all week. Ranks fourth in fairways hit, 90th in GIR and 47th in adjusted scoring.

15. Hunter Mahan ... Crawls into the Playoffs with no top 45s in his last three starts. However, the two-time winner this season arrives with additional motivation to secure a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup. Shared sixth place at Bethpage in 2009.

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