The Barclays: A preview and best bets for the opening FedEx Cup play-off event
By Dave Tindall
Last Updated: 20/08/14 5:02pm
The FedEx Cup play-offs are now an established part of the golfing calender and, after several tweaks to the scoring, viewers are now more receptive to the swings of fortune which can happen over the four events.
You probably know the score by now but, as a reminder, for this week's opener - The Barclays at at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey - the leading 125 players in the FedEx Cup standings following Sunday's Wyndham Championship are qualified to tee-up.
From herein, the size of the fields will be reduced in successive weeks from 100 to 70 and finally to 30 for the series-ending Tour Championship in Atlanta.
Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus is being used for a third time, having also staged the series-opening Barclays-sponsored event in 2008 and 2010.
Both those events went to play-offs, Matt Kuchar prevailing against Martin Laird in 2010 and Vijay Singh ousting Sergio Garcia and Kevin Sutherland in 2008.
Sky Sports will have live coverage of all 16 rounds of the play-offs.
On the red button, PGA Tour Match Centre on iPad and on the Sky Sports website, you can watch continuous coverage of a featured group on all four days. On Thursday it's Ogilvy, Els, Blixt at 6.17pm.
This A.W. Tillinghast design is actually a composite of the East, Center and West Courses at Ridgewood. It all adds up to a par 71 which meaures in at 7,319 yards. The fairways are framed by mighty oak trees while there are plenty of bunkers surrounding greens with plenty of subtle breaks. The New York City skyline is often visible from the long par four 12th.
It's a tough track so scoring can be high here, with -8 the play-off number in 2008. It was -12 in 2010.
Top course performers
A number of players in the field this week managed a top 25 in both previous Barclays (2008 and 2010):
Kevin Streelman (4th, 3rd)
Paul Casey (7th, 12th)
Rory Sabbatini (24th, 5th)
Angel Cabrera (19th, 15th)
Others who have recorded a top 10 on this course are: Sergio Garcia (2nd, 2008), Matt Kuchar (1st, 2010), Jason Day (5th 2010), Ryan Palmer (5th, 2010), Justin Leonard (8th, 2010), Vijay Singh (1st, 2008), Adam Scott (9th, 2010).
Key tee-times (UK)
From 1st tee
1253 Phil Mickelson, Justin Hicks, Will MacKenzie
1304 Gary Woodland, Charles Howell III, Jason Day
1711 Henrik Stenson, Billy Horschel, Brendon de Jonge
1744 Justin Rose (Eng), Harris English, Ryan Moore
1806 Jim Furyk, Matt Kuchar, Sergio Garcia
From 10th tee
1304 Adam Scott, Martin Kaymer, Rickie Fowler
1327 Rory McIlroy (Nirl), Jimmy Walker, Bubba Watson
Any suggestion that the top players use this first event to get their eye in or pace themselves for the four big play-off events can pretty much be discounted when looking at the list of Barclays winners since it became the tournament that kicked off the FedEx Cup final series in 2007.
The winners are Steve Stricker, Vijay Singh, Heath Slocum, Matt Kuchar, Dustin Johnson, Nick Watney and Adam Scott (2013). Six of that seven have played in either a Ryder Cup or a Presidents Cup.
Therefore, one very appropriate winner would be five-time major champ Phil Mickelson.
After a season of disappointment the left-hander came to life in the recent US PGA Championship and had a great run at the title before being pipped by Rory McIlroy.
In Wednesday's press conference, Mickelson revealed: "The PGA was a big week for me because it was the first time this year my game was back. It gave me an excitement and energy heading into the FedEx Cup and Barclays here that my game is back and I'm ready to compete and get back into contention.
"It was so fun being up there again, and the nerves and the excitement of it all, it got me excited."
One 'X' factor is his wonderful rapport with the crowds in this area.
Back in 2008 he was asked about his great relationship with the fans in the New Jersey/New York area and said: "It's flattering. It's cool. I've always loved playing here, and since 2002 at Bethpage (he was second and even had a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday" sang to him), I had one of the most amazing experiences there, and winning the 2005 PGA at Baltusrol was an incredible experience.
"I love playing golf here, and the people here have just been incredibly supportive and warm towards me and my family, and we love it here."
Mickelson was 19th at this venue in 2008 so hasn't quite clicked yet but his putting stroke has returned (he was 3rd in Putting Average at Valhalla and 6th at the Bridgestone) so he could be ready to grab his first win of the season.
Rory is 4/1 to continue his incredible hot-streak and it may prove easy money if he maintains the form of the last month.
But preference is for Sergio Garcia given that he's five times the price and already has proven course form (McIlroy was only 56th in 2010).
The Spaniard loves these classic layouts and was a two-time winner of this event when it was known as the Buick Classic at Westchester.
There are plenty of similarities between the two courses and Sergio has already shown his liking for Ridgewood when making the play-off here in 2008.
He said then: "It's a wonderful golf course. You've got to drive the ball well and shape it both ways."
There may be a feeling that he's a little flat now after losing out to Rory at Firestone and Hoylake but the bottom line is that Sergio is playing some great golf and has another chance to show it on a course that's right up his street.
Vijay Singh won at both Westchester and Ridgewood and Garcia can do the same.
Hunter Mahan once shot a 62 at Ridgewood - the opening round in 2008. A year earlier he'd also fired a 62 at Westchester so he has some great history in this event. Appropriately he's ranked 62 going into the play-offs so if you like omens....
More recently he shot 65-67 on the weekend in the PGA Championship to finish seventh so he's really coming into form after a 15th at Firestone prior to that.
Mahan has been striping the ball in practice and has huge incentive this week as he's trying to catch the eye of Tom Watson.
He only finished 25th in the final Ryder Cup standings so needs a wildcard pick from his captain. A big showing here would put him right in the mix so take the American each-way at 45/1.
2pts e.w. Phil Mickelson at 22/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
2pts e.w. Sergio Garcia at 20/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1pt e.w. Hunter Mahan at 45/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)