The Barclays: The Playoffs Begin!

Thursday is the first day of the playoff run to the FedExCup and the Tour Championship. Here’s the schedule:

Aug 22 – Aug 25: The Barclays, Liberty National Golf Club, Jersey City, NJ

Aug 30 – Sep 2: The Deutsche Bank Championship, TPC Boston, Norton, MA

Sep 5 – Sep 8: Open Date

Sep 12 – Sep 15: BMW Championship, Conway Farms GC, Lake Forest, IL

Sep 19 – Sep 22: The Tour Championship, East Lake GC, Atlanta, GA 

And then, in the interest of completeness, the Presidents Cup begins Oct 3rd, at Muirfield Village, in Dublin, OH, where Jack Nicklaus hosts his Memorial tournament each year.

The Barclays hosts the Top 125 players in the FedExCup standings and their focus is playing well enough in this tournament to get into the Top 100 for the Deutsche Bank. There are two players who have chosen not to play this week: No. 18, Zach Johnson; and No.20, Steve Stricker. Both of them have chosen to forgo any possible FedExCup points in return for a week of rest and a run through to the Tour Championship.

And in Stricker’s case, he is in as state of playing a limited schedule. It’s almost akin to semi-retirement; he’s only played 10 official events, but he’s earned $2.5 million. Pretty amazing stuff. He’s had 2 second place finishes, 3 other top 10 finishes and 3 more top 25s. It must be the rejuvenating Wisconsin air.

The Barclays rotates among four different courses in the Greater New York City area (Liberty National GC is right on New York Harbor). The last time it was at Liberty National in 2009, the course drew criticism from the players for it’s tightness and tricked up greens. So architects Bob Cupp and Tom Kite made changes to many of the holes to make them more playable.

The primary changes were to soften the green complexes and widen fairways. The players seem to be much more amenable to the course now, However, some said that they didn’t think it was that bad the first time around and didn’t notice the changes that much.

Another nice thing about the playoffs from a spectating point of view is that the players are paired by their FedExCup points rankings. That puts all the top players clustered together in threesomes and then distributed through the tee sheet. Here are the top pairings:

Tiger Woods (1), Matt Kuchar (2), Brandt Snedeker (3)

Phil Mickelson (4), Bill Haas (5), Billy Horschel (6)

Justin Rose (7), Jordan Spieth (8), Henrik Stenson (9)

Keegan Bradley (10), Adam Scott (11), Boo Weekley (12)

Kevin Streelman (13), Jason Day (14), Jason Dufner (15)

Dustin Johnson (16), Webb Simpson (17), Harris English (19)

Hunter Mahan (21), Patrick Reed (22), Jim Furyk (23)

Russell Henley (24), D.A. Points (25), Jimmy Walker (26)

Additionally, Charles Howell III, Graeme McDowell, Jonas Blixt and John Merrick round out the Top 30, the guys who would get into the Tour Championship if it was held today.

Looking at this list, we all know who the stars are, but what’s really interesting is what a good year the young players have had. Led by Billy Horschel (6), you have Jordan Spieth (8), Harris English (19), Patrick Reed (22) and Russell Henley (24) who all broke through for their first wins, but also had good enough finishes in the rest of the tournaments that they ended up in the Top 25. Who says dreams don’t come true?

The broadcast is on The Golf Channel at 3pm (ET). Tiger will be in the morning wave and Phil will be in the afternoon broadcast along with Ian Poulter, Luke Donald, Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley, Adam Scott and Bill Haas.

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