Van Pelt making most of opportunity
Ranked 104th in the FedExCup, he fires a 65 on Thursday to take the solo lead at The Barclays
August 21, 2014
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
- Bo Van Pelt is coming off a stellar week at the Wyndham Championship where he shot all four rounds in the 60s. (Darren Carroll/Getty Images)
PARAMUS, N.J. -- The way Bo Van Pelt sees it, he really has nothing to lose this week at The Barclays.
After all, there was a time earlier this year when he was playing so poorly, Van Pelt wondered if he would even make the FedExCup Playoffs. But he did, and Van Pelt has seized the opportunity, firing a 65 at Ridgewood Country Club on Thursday that left him with sole possession of the lead.
Van Pelt, who came into The Barclays ranked 104th, is trying to join Camilo Villegas (2008 BMW Championship), Heath Slocum (2009 Barclays) and Justin Rose (2011 BMW Championship) as the only players to bust a FedExCup bubble with a victory.
"Once I knew I was getting here, that was a big relief with how poorly I started, and I was just having fun with it," said Van Pelt, who owns a one-stroke lead over eight others, including the 2010 FedExCup champion, Jim Furyk.
Van Pelt thinks he has several things working in his favor this week.
He loves A.W. Tillinghast designs like Ridgewood, which reminds him of the tree-lined layout he grew up playing in Indiana. He's also rested after a rare two-week break, and it showed last week at the Wyndham Championship when Van Pelt shot four rounds in the 60s and tied for 14th.
He also happened to play with Villegas in the final round last week in Greensboro as the Colombian fired a 63 that enabled him to break a four-year victory drought.
"I felt like I played really well on Sunday -- just didn't convert," Van Pelt said. "So things have kind of been trending I guess in a lot better direction. ... I felt fortunate to be here with the position I was in three months ago.
"So I just felt like if I kept doing what I was doing, hopefully I would at least get to next week and then kind of cross that bridge when I got there. So I was just kind of enjoying, my game felt good."
According to the pre-tournament projections, Van Pelt only needs to finish 49th or better to play his way into the top 100 that are eligible for the Deutsche Bank Championship. A top-10 finish could move him to the top-70 plateau, which could bring the BMW Championship into play, while a runner-up finish might move him into the top 30.
And a win? Well, that's the all-important top-five territory that would send him to East Lake in control of his own destiny, assured of winning the $10 million FedExCup bonus with a victory in the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola.
Van Pelt, who missed eight of his first 15 cuts, said his game began to turn around in June after he qualified for the U.S. Open. He started driving the ball better, and the ArmLock putting style he adopted in Tampa, when he ranked 148th in the FedExCup, has added consistency to his game. Iron shots that cozied up closer to the pins didn't hurt, either.
"I felt like my game wasn't that bad but my scores were pretty horrible," Van Pelt recalled. "So I just felt like, man, if I could just get a little momentum going in the right direction."
And that's exactly what has happened.
Van Pelt was so comfortable earlier this week that he spent Tuesday fishing for striper in the infamous East River "so maybe that was my good luck charm," he said with a smile. Don't worry, though -- he certainly didn't eat them and he didn't channel Seinfield's friend Kramer and swim in it, either.
Bo Van Pelt breaks through the traffic, Rory Cools Down
THE THICK STUFF: The lush rough at Ridgewood was a popular topic of conversation after the first round.
Hunter Mahan, who fired a 66 that left him one shot off the lead, said he felt the Tillinghast gem was the most demanding off the tee of any course that has hosted a PGA TOUR event this year.
"You've got to really hit it in the fairway," Mahan said. "You can't play out of the rough on this golf course. The rough is too thick and you can't attack the greens."
Bo Van Pelt, who birdied the 16th hole and eagled No. 17 to seize sole possession of the lead, agreed that finding fairways was key.
"And when you get a short iron in, take advantage," he said. "There's a couple holes if you hit driver, you know if you have wedges or sand wedges in, you have to get those because there's enough long, tough holes or holes where you might hit it in the rough that you're going to struggle to make par."
The rough drew comparisons to what the players faced at Valhalla in the season's final major. Rickie Fowler, who opened with a 68, didn't go quite that far but he did say "it's not your normal TOUR event rough.
"It really just depends week to week. Sometimes we don't have much and sometimes we do. It's got a little bit more of a major championship feel to the rough. A couple times where I was 140, 150 yards, you can't get it to the green. It's definitely penal."
Interestingly, though, Fowler said, the more you miss a fairway by the better.
"I was a foot off the first cut in the first fairway and just in the deep stuff and it was the worst lie I had all day versus some of the ones I might have missed 15 yards left of the fairway and I was all right," he said. "So I guess if you're going to miss, miss by a lot or hit the fairway."
Ben Martin’s successful birdie putt from 16 feet at Barclays
REST PAYS OFF: Ben Martin's round of 66 was a confidence builder for the 26-year-old as he made his FedExCup debut.
After all, he'd only played one tournament in the last month by design -- and he missed the cut that week at the PGA. So while he was rested and ready to play in what he hoped would be a four-week run, Martin wasn't quite sure what to expect.
"I have been playing well at home but it's a little different when you tee it up inside the ropes," Martin said. "It's nice to feel rested and it's nice to post a good score to start the Playoffs."
The Clemson grad, who entered the Playoffs ranked 58th, got off to a stellar start, making four birdies on the back nine, his first of the day. He bogeyed No. 2 but answered with two more birdies to pull into a tie for second at 5 under.
"The last two tournaments I've played have been majors," Martin said. "I try to treat those as another tournament and I try to treat these as another tournament, as well.
"But I mean, this course I think is a major setup with the rough and just the quality of the course. I enjoy this kind of old school architecture and seem to play well on these courses."
BEST SOCIAL MEDIA OF THE DAY
Let the Playoffs begin!!— Troy Merritt (@TROYMERRITT_PGA) August 21, 2014
A huge thank you to everybody for the birthday wishes today. Celebrated with 75 hits!! Need to shoot my age tomorrow!!— Jarrod Lyle (@jarrodlylepga) August 22, 2014
Definitely not my best today. Had a productive practice session this afternoon. Hopefully a low round tomorrow can get me back in the hunt!— Rory Mcilroy (@McIlroyRory) August 21, 2014
To every golfer. When in doubt whether or not u have violated a rules infraction always lean more on the side of honesty. #golfinggodsknow— sv (@thescottvail) August 21, 2014
THEY SAID IT
"Golf's funny, right. The demons are up there. Just have to keep them quiet." - Charles Howell III, who opened with a 66 after missing the cut in his last two starts.
"You've got to pace yourself a little bit because I mean, I'm in a good position to play decent and I'll be at East Lake. Obviously that's where you want to end up to have a chance to win the FedExCup. But at the same time, the better you can play through the first three, the better position you do put yourself in. It's a little bit of a balancing act. You don't want to come out too hot early but a win at one of the first three could do a lot of good." - Rickie Fowler, who shot 68, on his approach to the Playoffs.
"Hopefully you can carry on with the momentum. I've heard the weather might be a little bit iffy tomorrow morning, so we'll see, we'll deal with that." - Brendon de Jonge on the outlook for the second round after shooting a 66 on Thursday afternoon.
Click on the image below to see the best images from the first round of The Barclays at Ridgewood Country Club.
BY THE NUMBERS
Category Leader(s) Statistic Driving distance David Howell 308 yards Driving accuracy Justin Hicks 13 of 14 (92.86 percent) Longest drive Ryan Palmer 344 yards Greens in Regulation Keegan Bradley, Justin Hicks 100 percent Strokes gained-putting Rickie Fowler 4.432 Longest putt Will MacKenzie 60 feet, 7 inches Total birdies Charles Howell III, Seung-Yul Nog, Brendon Todd 7 Bogey-free rounds Keegan Bradley, Paul Casey, Erik Compton, David Hearn, Jason Kokrak, David Toms, Bo Van Pelt
Hardest hole Par-4 No. 12 4.336 strokes Easiest hole Par-5 No. 17 4.689 strokes
ODDS & ENDS
Bo Van Pelt has made it through each of the first two events in the FedExCup Playoffs every year but enters The Barclays on the outside looking in at No. 104. He has to cross the 100-man barrier in order to make the field for next week's Deutsche Bank Championship. ...
The only player to have never missed a start in the FedExCup Playoffs (29 overall), Hunter Mahan birdied four of his last six holes to post his lowest score in the event since an opening-round, 9-under 62 at The Ridgewood Country Club in 2008. ...
Through 13 events on the PGA TOUR this season, McIlroy’s first-round scoring average is 67.75, his best round by two strokes. He ended up shooting a 74 on Thursday at Ridgewood, though, making three bogeys, one double bogey and just two birdies.
Bo Van Pelt’s bogey-free round leads at The Barclays