The FedExCup Playoffs begins as it always has, with The Barclays. The 10th edition of the tournament marks the 12th and final with Barclays as title sponsor. While all good things come to an end, there isn’t a better test of golf than Bethpage State Park’s Black Course, which hosts this week’s tournament.
When Bethpage served as the site of the 2009 U.S. Open, inclement weather favored the late-early draw, so much so that it was fair to wonder how the Black Course would fare in normal conditions when it returned to the PGA TOUR as host of the 2012 Barclays. Yes, the 2002 U.S. Open was also contested here, but the game changes. No one compares the functions of your old PDA to the smartphone in your back pocket. And if you have to ask what a PDA is, then the point is made.
The Black Course gave the field everything it wanted in 2012, which is to say that it was a fair tough test. Champion Nick Watney prevailed by three strokes at just 10-under 274. He submitted a brilliant display of boring golf, ranking T15 in fairways hit, T3 in greens in regulation and third in proximity to the hole. No one converted more than his 24 par breakers (including an eagle) and he ranked 20th in strokes gained: putting.
The par 36-35=71 track can stretch 7,468 yards, same as it did in 2012. Nos. 4, 7 and 13 are the par 5s. (It played as a par 70 for the U.S. Open in 2009 when the seventh hole was whittled to a par 4.) Four years ago, the field averaged a pedestrian 287.7 yards in distance of all drives and averaged 11.30 greens in regulation per round. Poa annua greens average just 5,400 square feet and should challenge this week’s field with seasonable conditions expected. They’ll run at 12 on the Stimpmeter. Daytime temperatures will climb into the mid-80s. A relatively weak threat of storms can’t be rule out mid-tournament. Moderate breezes are forecast to shift from a prevailing southwesterly direction to an easterly angle on the weekend. So, don’t be surprised if you pick up on rhetoric about differences in club selection from similar distances post-cut. Speaking of which, as of last year, the 54-hole/MDF cut was eliminated in the Playoffs, so all who survive the 36-hole cut are guaranteed four rounds, with the blessing of Mother Nature, of course.
Four of the 125 qualifiers didn’t commit this week: Sergio Garcia (20th in FedExCup points); Danny Willett (75th); Shane Lowry (87th); Anirban Lahiri (117th). They were not replaced as there are no alternates in the Playoffs. Also, points are quadrupled. The top 100 in the FedExCup standings at the conclusion of The Barclays will advance to next week’s Deutsche Bank Championship. Of the 62 in this week’s field who competed at Bethpage in 2012, 41 made the cut. Five were among the eight who finished inside the top five.
Incidentally, while A.W. Tillinghast is largely recognized as the designer of the Black Course, he was officially only a consultant. It was Joseph H. Burbeck who was out front in building the track in Farmingdale, New York. It opened in 1936 and has been open to the public ever since. Nearby Glen Oaks Club in Old Westbury on Long Island will debut on the PGA TOUR in 2017 as the host this tournament, which will then be known as The Northern Trust.
POWER RANKINGS: THE BARCLAYS
RANK PLAYER COMMENT 1 Henrik Stenson 2 Dustin Johnson 3 Jason Day 4 Hideki Matsuyama 5 Justin Rose 6 Matt Kuchar 7 Brooks Koepka 8 Brandt Snedeker 9 Jordan Spieth 10 Rory McIlroy 11 Phil Mickelson 12 Adam Scott 13 Russell Knox 14 Branden Grace 15 Bubba Watson 16 Patrick Reed 17 Jim Furyk 18 Kevin Na 19 Luke Donald 20 Si Woo Kim
ROB BOLTON'S WRITING SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM's Fantasy Columnist Rob Bolton will be filing his usual staples leading up to this week's event. Look for the following features later this week:
TUESDAY*: Sleepers, Fantasy Insider, Comfort Zone
THURSDAY: Most-picked players
* = Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM's Expert Picks, which also publishes on Tuesdays.