Shootout or Shoot Down?

The lede today at The Barclays in Edison, New Jersey, is not The Barclays. It’s a girl named Irene. Hurricane Irene.

In a 100-year event by some estimates, Hurricane Irene is going to bring quantum rains and massive flooding to New Jersey among many other locations. Not to mention the destructive winds.

As a consequence, on a beautiful, sunny Friday, the tournament was reduced to 54 holes because the Tour staff knew that darker days were coming. With those kinds of rains, a course already saturated by unusual rain fall rates was only going to get worse. The tournament began Thursday under “lift, clean and place,” rules because of the latest front moving through (completely unassociated with Irene) was expected to create very wet playing conditions.

With the Tour’s strong predilection for 72-hole tournaments, some were wondering why the finish wasn’t just scheduled for Tuesday since next week’s second playoff tournament in Boston won’t be starting until Friday because of its Memorial Day finish. If the storm is as wet and windy as forecast, they will have innumerable downed trees and there will be no way to get the course drained and trees cut up and carted off in time…even if that could make the course “basically” playable.

As a result of all of the previous rainfall, instead of the course playing “hard and fast” as anticipated, it was playing very slow and the greens were as soft as sponges.  And that has led to a scoring binge the likes of which nobody expected. Plainfield Country Club was designed by the renowned architect, Donald Ross, in 1916. The “hard and fast” was supposed to mitigate the course’s short 6,964 yards.

We were still treated to a number of great shots on Friday. This is the old fashioned kind of course that was fitted to the land because they didn’t have Caterpillar bulldozers back in 1916. Instead they had clever architects who could run the holes up and down hills and around stands of trees. So if you don’t hit your drive in the correct half of the fairway, you may have to work your approach shot under tree limbs too.

But because of the receptiveness of the greens, guys were hitting all kinds of creative, bending, flat shots into the greens and the shots were sticking. It was artful golf at its best.

And so the scores are really low for having only played for two days.

Matt Kuchar leads at 14-under; 8-under on Thursday and 6-under on Friday.

Dustin Johnson is one stroke back because he too shot an 8-under. His was on Friday. “Gone But Not Forgotten,” Vijay Singh has seemingly been resurrected from the backwaters of his recent playing troubles to join Johnson at T2.

Lest you think that Johnson’s 8-under was a singular piece of magic on the day, Cameron Tringale had one too. And while Johnson’s slid him neatly into position to win Saturday, Tringale’s may have saved his season. He only moved up two places in the FedExCup race to 62nd, but he would have missed the cut badly had he not done so and who knows how far he would have fallen in the standings. But because he did, he’s now inside the number (100) to not only get into Boston next week, but Chicago (70) the week after that.

William McGirt, the subject of Friday’s post, wasn’t able to match his first-round 64, but a solid 69 kept his Cinderella dream alive; he got into the playoffs on the 125 number, but now stands at 67. It’s like a cheesy movie.

Likewise, Padraig Harrington came into the playoffs at 124, but his exceptionally good play had him in 56th, T5 and just 4 shots back.

And that’s the overriding expectation for Saturday; with 3 guys already shooting 8-under on the day, anybody down to T29 could do the same thing and win if the leaders come out flat.

But the other side of the equation is that the rains are supposed to begin early afternoon and if it doesn’t get too bad and they’re able to get everyone finished, the rain is still going to make the playing conditions so unpleasant, there may not be anyone who can go really low.

So it may only be a 54-hole tournament, if that, but it’ll be quite a shootout no matter what happens. Nobody can risk not trying to go low if they do get them all in. Crowded leaderboards always seem to do that.

The hope is that it doesn’t get shot down by Irene so we’ll have the pleasure of watching it.

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