Inside the Ropes
The Barclays FedExCup Playoffs Event No. 1
The Black Course at Bethpage State Park, Farmingdale, N.Y.
The Black Course
Yards: 7,468 as per the scorecard
Par: 71 (36-35)
Greens: Bentgrass; Perennial ryegrass
Rough: Perennial ryegrass at 3-3.5” inches
Water Hazards: One
Course Architect: A.W. Tillinghast (1936); Redesign: Rees Jones (1997)
Winner’s Share: $1,440,000 and 2500 FedExCup points. Yes, that’s not a mis-print
Defending Champion: The defending champion in this event is Dustin Johnson but he won at Plainfield Country Club in Plainfield, N.J. The Black Course has hosted two U.S. Opens in the last decade that were won by Tiger Woods (2002) and Lucas Glover, who’s not eligible for the Playoffs, in 2009
Date: August 21-26
Field: 125 players in 72-hole stroke play. The top 70 and ties will make the cut.
Notes: There will be no alternates in the field in any playoff events. The top 100 players in the FedExCup points standing at the conclusion of play will advance to the Deutsche Bank Championship next week in Boston for FedExCup Playoff Event No. 2.
History for this event is out the window as this tournament has rotated courses since 2008.
I’ll be looking at results from the two U.S. Opens that have been played at The Black Course.
“Young” Guns versus “Middle” Guns versus “Old” Guns
In 37 events on TOUR in 2012 the “Young” guns seized the season series thanks to victories in the final weeks by Rory McIlroy and now Sergio Garcia (32). Garcia just made the “Young” guns at 32 years and seven months. Plus, I don’t want to feel old yet so I kept him in the youth group until next season. The season series finished at 18-16-3.
For the “Young”, age during their victory in ( ), Johnson Wagner (31), Brandt Snedeker (31), Kyle Stanley (24), Bill Haas (29), John Huh (21), Hunter Mahan TWICE (29) Rory McIlroy TWICE (22), Justin Rose (31), Rickie Fowler (23), Dustin Johnson (27), Webb Simpson (26), Marc Leishman (29), Ted Potter, Jr. (28), Scott Stallings (27), Keegan Bradley (26) and now Sergio Garcia (32) are your winners.
The “Middle” guys are Mark Wilson (37), George McNeill (36), Luke Donald (34), Tiger Woods THRICE (36), Bubba Watson (33), Carl Pettersson (34), Ben Curtis (34), Matt Kuchar (33), Jason Dufner TWICE (35), Zach Johnson TWICE (36), Scott Piercy (33) and J.J. Henry (37) have been victorious.
Steve Stricker (44), Phil Mickelson (41) and Ernie Els (42) are the only “Old” guys to hit the board in 2012. At least 33% of their wins are majors! “Old” guy and Ryder Cup Captain DL III was the old folks best shot last week as he finished T10.
So What? So Let’s Dance!
The Black Course at Bethpage State Park has been the host of two previous U.S. Opens as I told you above you should have a good idea of what to expect from this monster. Golf fans will know that there is a sign in front of The Black Course which reads as follows:
The Black Course is an extremely difficult course which we recommend only for highly-skilled golfers.
Well, there you have it. The PGA TOUR Playoffs will bring just that to The Black Course starting Thursday morning and the players will have one heck of a test on their hands. I guess the good news for all involved is that the USGA is NOT setting up the course this week. In 2002, the cut was 150, 10-over-par on the par 70 layout. In 2009, it was four-over-par so there’s no doubt this will be an excellent challenge to kick off the 2012 edition of the FedExCup Playoffs.
The 2002 edition saw Tiger Woods in his prime doing work as he ran out and hid from the field as he opened with 67-68. His weekend consisted of playing solid, steady golf and not making any huge mistakes to let anyone else get close. He’s a pretty good front runner, right? Phil Mickelson tried to put pressure on Woods on Sunday but Woods held on for a three-shot victory and was the only player in the field under par at 277 on the par 70 course. Mickelson finished even par. During this U.S. Open Nick Faldo fired the low round of the tournament, 66, on Saturday.
The 2009 championship saw journeyman Lucas Glover, who’s not eligible for the Playoffs in 2012, hang on for dear life on Sunday as 54-hole leader Ricky Barnes (76) melted away in the Monday finish. Glover fired 73 (three-over) to post a two-shot victory over Barnes, David Duval and, again, Mickelson, for his first-career major championship. The Black Course was soggy and wet as rains affected the draw and the players on proper side of it took advantage. Mike Weir (Thursday) and Lucas Glover (Friday) each shot 64 to share the tournament-low score. Tiger Woods remarked in his press conference that he was disappointed that both of the U.S. Opens played here were not played under firm and fast conditions. Even Woods can’t influence Mother Nature.
This year, the course has seen rain leading up to play this weekend but the forecast is for clear and excellent weather with temperatures in the high 70’s and low 80’s. Please remember this is a forecast, not a definitive so keep up on the weather as the first tee times approach. The last few weeks, according to media reports, have seen the course take on plenty of rain and it is playing soft. For now. If the sun dries everything out maybe Tiger Woods will get his wish of firm and fast. I bet the shorter hitters are wishing for the same thing.
Premium courses usually make for premium winners, Lucas Glover withstanding, and I am taking that philosophy again this week. The Black Course plays long and strong with difficult, dog-leg driving holes and mandatory GIR second shots unless you would like to try out the lush ryegrass rough. There are greens that slope front-to-back and back-to-front. There are greens that run diagonally across the landscape. This is an excellent, but fair, test of golf that, similar to a U.S. Open will test the players body, game and mind. If you’ve played well in U.S. Opens here, you’re on my radar. If you are a grinder and tough ball-striker you’ll move up the list. If you’re all the above plus you can handle the length and your current form is on, you’ll be leading the charge. Let’s see who makes the grade this week.
The top 16 minus one
Tiger Woods: He won here in 2002 and was T6 in 2009. After watching Rory McIlroy destroy the field at the Ocean Course, Woods will be plenty motivated to get back into the winner’s circle. The course obviously fits his eye and his ball-striking this season should be an advantage. Sure, it’s not a major, but these are the only tournaments left in 2012 season that Woods is playing and I bet he’s not just teeing it up for fun. Woods will have to win the FedExCup Playoffs if he has any ideas of pipping McIlroy for 2012 Player of the Year. Woods has struggled with his wedge game and his driver but he’s been hitting too many greens to dismiss on a course where par should be a very good score. Recently, he’s been playing He can’t win a major but he could win the FedExCup. His journey to that title starts with a win this week at The Black Course.
Rory McIlroy: After THAT performance at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course at the PGA Championship you’re probably wondering why I haven’t selected McIlroy as this week’s winner. Well, it’s quite simple. Nobody does THAT and then tees it up and does it again unless the last name is Woods. Until I see it, I will continue to believe that. McIlroy is awesome, no argument. He’s won a major for the second year in a row and played brilliantly last time out. If he repeats that performance, again, which I doubt, he’s unbeatable. I’m very interested to see him and Woods paired up on day one but it would be more interesting to see them paired up, last, on day four. I’ll pass the torch when the torch is passed, don’t worry. Where McIlroy occasionally struggles is with the flat stick. He’s been working hard on his putting with Dave Stockton and it all fell into place last time out at the PGA Championship. I’m not sure that it will carry over to this week but again, I’ve picked him second this week, hardly a snub. McIlroy was T10 in the 2009 U.S. Open here.
Sergio Garcia: “Hit the ball already, Sergio” is the famous cry from the New York faithful of U.S. Opens past but the present day Sergio Garcia has no problem pulling the trigger. Coming off his first win last week at WC, Garcia’s solid driving and premium iron play should make him a contender this week. Garcia has feasted on The Black Course in his two appearances, finishing T4 in 2002 and T10 in 2009. His putting looks great when he hits irons to 3 feet and his short game can help bail him out as well.
Graeme McDowell: In his last four events on this side of the pond, the 2010 U.S. Open champ has finished T2, T5, T24 and T11. In 2009 he was T18 at The Black Course. G-Mac has racked up top 12 or better in all four majors this year and is a premium grinder. You name the conditions, he’s down for playing in them and the results show above. His strength this week will be his accurate tee ball and his acceptance that this course is difficult. Guys who accept that and relish it will be hard to beat. He thrives on tough courses.
Justin Rose: In his last round on TOUR he fired 66 at the Ocean Course to finish T3 at the PGA Championship. That round tied McIlroy for the low round of the day and featured what Rose does best, striking the golf ball. He’s hit the top 10 in seven of 14 made cuts this season and continues to play well. If you think he “fluked” it on Sunday at the PGA, remember he was T5 the week before at WGC-BI. He has had playoff success before as he won last year at the BMW in Chicago.
Bubba Watson: He’s really grown up this year and its evidence by his finishes in 2012. His worst finish, when making the cut that is, is T23. In 13 cuts made, out of 15 events, that’s pretty solid. His life has settled down and his golf game has thrived. He had a 70-68 finish at the PGA to finish T11 so you know his game is in a good spot right now. He kills fairways and greens and has been making just enough putts to be there on Sundays. After he won the Masters I have gotten the feeling like he’s playing with the house’s money and is pressure-free. That’s a nice mental picture to have if that’s what he’s using. He finished T18 at the U.S. Open here in 2009.
Adam Scott: Scott has had a wonderful season, on paper, at the majors so playing difficult golf courses obviously does not bother the Aussie. His finishes in the majors this year are T8, T15, second and T11 at the PGA. He’s won the Deutsche Bank. He’s won THE TOUR Championship. He’s won THE PLAYERS. He’s won a WGC-BI. With that resume, that recent form and his ball-striking, he’s on the radar this week. He was T36 in 2009 at The Black Course.
Keegan Bradley: He recently tweeted that he’s never seen the parking lot at The Black Course because him and his buddies would always park in the maintenance lot and sneak on to hole No. 3 and start playing. The former St. John’s player will have plenty of support this week and plenty of course knowledge even though it’s his “first” time in competition at this level. After winning the WGC-BI and finishing third at the PGA Championship, this “home” game should see Bradley continue his excellent late-season form.
Carl Pettersson: All right big boy, I’m hoping on! After hearing his interview after the round today, I like where Pettersson is right now. He’s not looking ahead or behind but just to this week and he likes where is game is currently at. Can’t really blame him after T3 and T4 in the last two weeks! Sometimes form is the best player and right now he’s in excellent form. He’s driving the ball superbly and his iron play is crisp. In 2009 he finished T36 and had a round of 68 so he’s shown he can get it around The Black Course. Form, form, form!
Steve Stricker: “Mr. September” as he is known during this time of year is looking to add to his FedExCup Playoffs successes. He’s won this event and the Deutsche Bank before so he’s no stranger to the pressures that go with this time of year. In his last two events, the WGC-BI and PGA Championship, he’s posted T2 and T7 finishes so he should be ready to pounce this week on a course where he’s had success. He finished T16 in 2002 and T23 in 2009 at the U.S. Open here.
Webb Simpson: After knocking his rust off at the PGA, where he missed the cut for the second season in a row, Simpson returned to defend his title at WC last week. He got off on the right foot, opening with 66-63 but, as can be the case with Simpson, his putter went cold on the weekend as he closed with 71-71. I like Simpson because he is a GIR machine and can make birdies anywhere. I also like Simpson because he’s got his priorities in place and he’s not concerned about what’s going on around him. He got hot this time last year (well, he was hot ALL of last year…) as the playoffs were beginning so I’m not afraid to back him.
Ian Poulter: With his T3 at the PGA Championship, Poulter cemented his place in the Euros side for this year’s Ryder Cup. Poulter plays well on courses where par is premium so he should match up quite well this week. He spend last week, via his Twitter account, preparing for this week (and enjoying his new Ferrari) by playing Cypress Point on the Monterrey Peninsula. That’s no easy track, that. He loves to grind and he needs a couple of big finishes in the coming weeks to make it to THE TOUR Championship in Atlanta to wrap up the Playoffs. He’s currently 55th.
Luke Donald: The former-world No. 1 has an interesting season while staying on top of the rankings. He’s won and hit the top 10 six times in 12 events so that’s the good news. His play in the majors though has been uneven as he finished T32 at Augusta, MC at Olympic Club, back-doored a T5 at The Open Championship with a Sunday 69 and salvaged a T32 with a 66 on Sunday at the PGA so his results have been interesting. The driver will be his biggest challenge on this monster this week but his superb short game can bail him out. Donald has had mixed results here as he finished T18 in 2002 and MC in 2009.
Matt Kuchar: Kuchar is an excellent ball-striker, scrambler and putter but every week I include him in my list, he tends to finish around outside of the top 10. His streak of 20-something made cuts ended his last time out at the PGA Championship as he posted 72-82 but he should hop right back on the made-cut train. Always surprised he hasn’t won more with all of that talent. There’s no doubt the game is there.
Dustin Johnson/Louis Oosthuizen: I went back-and-forth with DJ and Louis Oosthuizen and decided to go with both. Johnson has played here before and finished T40 in 2009. This is Oosthuizen’s first competitive round at The Black Course. Both can smash it and are very solid iron players. Johnson is in the top 30, No. 26, and Oosthuizen is just on the outside, No. 34, looking in to Atlanta. Johnson has finished T19 WGC-BI and T48 at the PGA Championship in his last two outings. Oosthuizen was fourth and T21, respectively.
Jason Dufner: Dufner would be in the top 15 but he has chosen to skip this week’s event to freshen up for the run-in and Ryder Cup. He’s currently second on the points list so he’ll be just fine!
Five Who Just Missed Out:
Tim Clark: New found life after his T2 last week vaulted him up to 54th in the standings. He posted T15 (RBC Canadian), T11 (PGA) and solo second last week in his last three results. He’s on fire (minus a win) and if he stays hot can find a way into the top 30. Not bad for a guy who didn’t hit the top 10 until the end of June.
Bo Van Pelt: He faded in the final group at the PGA but played well enough to be one of the last three out on Sunday. He has length, accuracy and a solid putting stroke. According to @PGATOUR on Twitter, Van Pelt has the most top 10’s on TOUR since 2010, including eight (of 16 cuts made) this year.
Bill Haas: I like how his game has started to come back around as he looks to defend his 2011 FedExCup championship. He only made five bogeys last week and ground out 51 pars (T6 for the week) in his T7 finish. He’s steady and accurate and is capable of rolling in a few putts. Oh, and I don’t think any kind of pressure will bother him too much after last year and defeating Bradley and Phil Mickelson in a playoff earlier this year at Riviera.
Robert Garrigus: He’s finished T4 (AT&T), T25 (John Deere), T2 (RBC Canadian) and figured it all out on Sunday (67) to finish T21 at the PGA Championship. He’s been bombing it and hitting tons of GIR and that’s an excellent recipe around The Black Course. His putter sometimes holds him back but this could be a nice value pick this week based on his recent form.
Padraig Harrington: His worst finish is his last seven starts is when this guy projected him to win The Open Championship. I had the wrong 40-something, multiple major winner as he finished T39. His other six finishes are T19 or better with a T4 at the U.S. Open. He was a T18 last time out at the PGA Championship. He finished T8 in 2002 and MC in 2009 so he’s been around this block before. He also has plenty to play for as he sits 62nd in the standings heading into this week.
Five That Could Surprise:
You want long shots? You got ‘em!
Trevor Immelman: The 2008 Masters champion made $100k in his last three events to make the final field at No. 114. He’ll need to cash for the fourth-consecutive week if he wants to remain in the hunt. The good news is that he did qualify by playing himself in and each week his numbers got better. He was T61 (RBC Canadian), followed that up with T27 at the PGA and last week shot four rounds in the 60’s to post T22. He’s trending in the right direction.
Billy Mayfair: He was T5 in 2002 and T40 in 2009. He’ll need a nice pay day if he hopes to advance as he current sits 119th. He has two top 25’s in 13 made cuts in 2012 so don’t write him down ink pen but the grizzled veteran has surprised before. Raise your hand if you had him to be the medalist at Q-School in 2010. Horse for the course.
Ricky Barnes: He was the 54-hole leader in 2009 after doing nothing absolutely nothing leading up to the U.S. Open. He finished T2. Can lightning strike twice? Well, Barnes has played better in 2012 than in 2009 but not by much as over half of his earnings came from a solo-third place finish in February at Pebble Beach. He’s had two top 25’s since then. As of right now, he’s in next week (No. 98) but he could use a good weekend to vault him into a more comfortable position. Again, a stretch, I know…
Vijay Singh: He’s been all around this world and has won the FedExCup Playoffs. He’s also played The Black Course in 2002 and 2009 finishing T30 and T27. He’s finished T9 (The Open Championship), T7 (RBC Canadian) and T36 after a disappointing 74-77 weekend at the PGA. The greens won’t be U.S. Open fast so that will help the man with 3,294,239,394 putters.
Harris English: His first top 10, last week at the Wyndham Championship, since late May could spring him to bigger and better things. He’s currently 87th but he definitely found something in his game last week at Sedgefield that should find him confident on “big boy” course this week. He’s like a “mini” Kuchar because he hits tons of GIR and is in the top 40 in putting. I like the fact that he also kills it off the tee. I’ll take a shot with the youth of America this week.
Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge: The Barclays (Glass Picks)
Group 1: Tiger Woods
Group 2: Louis Oosthuizen
Group 3: Padraig Harrington
Group 4: Trevor Immelman
Ned said, “…
Ned Brown is a long-time contributor for Rotoworld Golf. He’s had documented success in Yahoo!’s game for years. Even if you’re confident in your selections for that game, give his insight a read. Now, Ned also provides us with his Golf Channel fantasy game selections as well!
Full Disclosure: I am NOT Ned! He’s smarter and better looking!
Steve Stricker-- Stricker plays some of his best golf in the FedExCup Playoffs and this year he is coming into the Playoffs playing very well with three top 7s in his last four starts.
Keegan Bradley-- After a safe pick like Stricker, I feel I can roll the dice a little bit. Bradley comes into this week after a victory over the world's best players at the WGC-Bridgestone and a T3 finish at the PGA Championship.
Luke Donald, Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia
Rory McIlroy-- I have only one start left on McIlroy, but he is next to impossible to fade after his historic eight-stroke victory at the PGA Championship.
Bubba Watson-- Watson this season has finished in the top 25 in all 13 of his made cuts. His history at The Barclays isn't that great, but you can ignore that this week.
Justin Rose-- Despite a missed cut at the British Open, Rose is one of the hottest golfers on either side of the Atlantic with top 10s in six of his last eight worldwide events.
Ian Poulter-- Normally, I would use this spot for Tiger Woods, but I used up my last start of Tiger a couple of weeks ago at the PGA Championship. There is a bit of irony to use Poulter in his spot, but he has been playing some great golf recently with three top 10s in his last four starts, including a T3 at the PGA Championship.
Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson, Tim Clark, Bo Van Pelt, Geoff Oglivy
Graeme McDowell-- He is on a roll right now of six consecutive top 25 finishes including a T2 at the U.S. Open and a T5 at the British Open. An added plus is that he finished T18 at Bethpage in '09 when the U.S. Open was held there.
Padraig Harrington-- It's a tough call between Harrington and Louis Oosthuizen, but I'm giving the nod to Harrington based on his recent record of eight top 20 finishes in his last ten worldwide starts. Those that don't mind a little risk might want to go with Bud Cauley, who has three top 4 finishes in his last four starts on the TOUR.
Louis Oostheizen, Bud Cauley, Carl Pettersson, Charl Schwartzel
Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge: The Barclays (Ned’s Picks)
Group 1: Rory McIlroy
Group 2: Dustin Johnson
Group 3: Padraig Harrington
Group 4: Chad Campbell
“And another thing…”
The analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat with TheGolfNewsNet.com's Ryan Ballengee on Wednesday at NOON ET. They will be breaking down the field at The Barclays and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.