The Wyndham Championship is over and congratulations are in order for Patrick Reed who won in a playoff against Jordan Spieth. With the Wyndham locked, up the field for the 2013 edition of the FedExCup Playoffs is set.
The top-125 in the FedExCup points rankings are eligible for this season’s playoffs which start this week in Jersey City, New Jersey at The Barclays. 123 of the top-125 will be in this week’s field for with the exception of Steve Stricker who is playing a limited schedule and Zach Johnson who is attending his brother’s wedding.
The Barclays is the opening act of the four part play known as the FedExCup Playoffs including the Deutsche Bank Championship, the BMW Championship, and the Tour Championship. The Barclays calls Liberty National Golf Course and its Par-71 7,400 course its home. It is the only tour stop where players can look from the western shore of New York Bay to see Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. While the views are breathtaking the players will be focusing on playing quality golf on a challenging course. What areas of Liberty National should players focus on just a little bit more than others? There are a few and they begin at the opening hole.
The Par-4 398 yard opening hole might seem like a mundane starting hole but there is danger for the players. The tee shot demands a left-to-right shape paying close attention to avoid the creek running down the right side of the landing area. The ideal layup area is 240 yards off the tee which is protected by a bunker on the left side and a massive tree on the right. Mid to short iron approaches into a large flat green will reward players that hit a quality tee shot. Players must focus on their first swings to eliminate double-bogey on the first hole.
The Par-4 427 yard fifth hole brings with it the most demanding tee shot on the course. The players have the appearance of a narrow tee shot creating a visually intimidating look angle in a pressure situation. The players will hit anything from driver to long iron from the tee at the fifth to all but ensure that the water on the left and the trees on the right stay out of play. The approach here is no breather as well with a deep bunker to the right and water to the left making a solid mid iron a must.
After a reachable Par-5 sixth the players find themselves staring at the Par-4 467 yard seventh hole. On the seventh hole there is no shortage of bunkering. Two bunkers down the left side and three bunkers down the right side frame the landing area and will come into play this week. The approach shot here will play into a banana shaped green with a grassy hollow to the rear and a bunker down the entire right side of the green. The players better focus because if they blink they can lose a couple of shots to the field.
The Par-3 11th hole is the longest Par-3 at Liberty National with a scorecard length of 250 yards. The hole is slightly downhill so the yardage is a little less but it long Par-3 regardless. A lake protects this green in conjunction with a wrap-around bunker making the left side a trouble location. The right side is not a bale out location by any means. Tightly mowed collection areas on that side with a green that funnels balls in that direction ensure a challenge will await the players. To say three is a good score here this week is an understatement.
The Par-4 490 yard 18th hole plays toward the New York City skyline and that alone makes for a signature finishing hole. The hole will play 30 feet higher from tee to green making the 490 yards just a little bit longer. Downwind is the norm on the 18th but there are moments when the wind here will make a 180 degree turn and that will create a mammoth finisher. The water and bunkering down the left side should never come into play but a bad enough swing under pressure could change that. A long approach will challenge a green surrounded by bunkers and hollows keeping pucker factor at a premium for players with the iciest water running through their veins. The 18th will see anything from birdie to triple bogey this week ensuring no lead is safe until the final putt is holed.
Now that a few problem holes have been defined who has the best chance to tame Liberty National this week? Which players will make the top-100 in points and move on in the FedExCup Playoffs? Predictions and contenders will fly across the wire leading up to tee shots on Thursday morning. Will a young player break through? Will a previous champion once again take the title? Let’s take a look at who I believe will ultimately be victorious at the 2013 Barclays along with four logical contenders for the crown.
Up Next: The Contenders and The Pick