Liberty National Golf Club
Jersey City, N.J.
Liberty National Golf Club
Yards: 7,353 as per the scorecard
Par: 71 (36-35)
Greens: Bentgrass; 6,300 square feet on average.
Rough: Kentucky bluegrass 1” to 4”
Water Hazards: 10
Course Architects: Bob Cupp and Tom Kite (2006)
Winner’s Share: $1,440,000
FexExCup Points: 2,500 to the winner
Defending Champion: Nick Watney defeated Brandt Snedeker by three shots on a different course in a different state.
Dates: August 22-25
Notes: This is the first event of four that make up the FedExCup Playoffs. The top 125 players eligible compete this week with the top 70 and ties playing the weekend.
Gamers, this is only the second edition of The Barclays at Liberty National. The first event was won by Heath Slocum in 2009. Heath Slocum did not qualify for the 2013 Playoffs. Last year’s The Barclays was contested at Bethpage Black on Long Island, N.Y.
After the inaugural event here in 2009, 15 of the 18 holes on this course have since been changed for various reasons.
There have been 36 tournaments this season. The Stars and Stripes have won 30 of them.
There have been 12, first-time winners this season and just four players with multiple victories (Woods, Mickelson, Kuchar and Snedeker).
The winners on TOUR have been Johnson, D (28), Henley (24), Gay (41), Woods FIVE times (37), Mickelson (42) TWICE, Snedeker (32) TWICE, Merrick (30) Kuchar TWICE (34),Thompson, M (27) Brown (29), Streelman (34), Points (36), Laird (30), Scott (32), G-Mac (33), Horschel (26), Ernst (22), Bae (26), Weekley (39) English (23), Rose (32), Duke (44) Haas (31), Blixt (29), Austin (49), Woodland (29), Dufner (34), Reed (23) and 19-year old Jordan Spieth. The young folks (30 and younger) now have 13 victories; the 30-somethings have racked up 17 victories, and the “old folks” (40 and up) have FIVE wins.
Since the inception of the FedExCup Playoffs, only Phil Mickelson, Hunter Mahan and Steve Stricker have reached The TOUR Championship in Atlanta in all six seasons.
In the six seasons of the Playoffs, a rookie has played in The TOUR Championship each season. There has been one each year. That’s weird. There are two rookies currently inside the top 30 currently as Russell Henley checks in at No. 24 and Jordan Spieth is No. 8. The best finish of any rookie after The TOUR Championship is No. 20.
In the six seasons of the Playoffs, only three players have finished in the top 10 of all four events in a single season:
Rory Sabbatini 2007
Padraig Harrington 2009
Dustin Johnson 2012
Rank and File
By my count, 13 players from the OWGR top 50 are not in the field this week.
Zach Johnson: Best man at his brother’s wedding. He’ll be back next week.
Steve Stricker: Tight hamstring. He’s event-to-event and currently No. 20 in the standings.
Louis Oosthuizen: Injured, but would not have qualified at No. 154.
Hideki Matsuyama: Like Jordan Spieth, he gained special temporary member status in 2013. Unlike Jordan Spieth, he didn’t win so he’s ineligible for the Playoffs.
Matteo Manassero: European Tour member only.
Peter Hanson: Mr. No. 126. He missed his chance when he MC at Wyndham last week. He keeps his card because of his final money rank, No. 121.
Nicolas Colsaerts: He began last week No. 126 and did not enter the event.
Branden Grace, Richard Sterne, Jamie Donaldson, Francesco Molinari, Thorbjorn Olesen and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano: European Tour members only.
Liberty National Golf Club opened in 2006 on a landfill across the Hudson River from Manhattan in Jersey City, New Jersey. Putting a golf course on a landfill was no easy project but designers Bob Cupp and Tom Kite were up to the challenge. In 2009 the course held its first TOUR event, The Barclays, and the rest of the world had chance to see what all the fuss was about. Aesthetically on television, the course looked to be perfect, just like the views of New York City across the Hudson River. A closer examination found that maybe the views were the best part. Anonymous players, caddies and Tiger Woods remarked that the course, especially the greens, was too tricked out for the best players in the world to do their business. . An anonymous caddy remarked that they ruined a perfectly good waste dump. Players complained that good shots rolled off the greens because of tucked pin positions. They also didn’t prefer the knee-high rough off the tight fairways. How did they get another tournament?
After the 2009 event, 12 of the 18 greens were mellowed out to add additional pin placements that made iron shots more accessible. The rough, on the advice of Phil Mickelson, was chopped down and the fairways were widened in most landing areas. On top of all that, the deep runoffs around most of the greens were raised so players misses weren’t punishes as severely as in the past. The elements of wind and weather cannot be controlled but the TOUR wanted to bring the course to a stage where the players deemed it fair and playable. These changes are exactly why I could argue course history can be thrown out the window this week. I’m not going that far as I still believe certain layouts fit certain players.
I’m looking for players who have been in form and understand the big stage. After Heath Slocum’s win here in 2009, here’s a list of the Playoff event winners:
2009: Stricker (DBC), Woods (BMW) and Mickelson (TC)
2010: Matt Kuchar (Barclays), Charley Hoffman (DBC), Dustin Johnson (BMW) and Jim Furyk (TC)
2011: Johnson (Barclays), Webb Simpson (DBC), Justin Rose (BMW) and Bill Haas (TC)
2012: Nick Watney (Barclays), Rory McIlroy (DBC, BMW) and Brandt Snedeker (TC)
Watch out as Hoffman has cut his hair entering the playoffs! Goldilocks, say it ain’t so!
Big field, big players
Webb Simpson: His last three tournaments have seen him hang 64 at Firestone, 64 at Oak Hill and 63 last Sunday at Sedgefield. His only MC in his last 11 events was back in June at Muirfield. In 2009 he led the field in proximity to the hole even though he wasn’t in the top 20 in driving accuracy or GIR. His 12th in scoring average and is off the radar, just where he likes to be.
Henrik Stenson: He’s done everything but win in his last four starts worldwide as he’s racked up T3, second, T3 and third in events with major fields. He dissected Castle Stuart, Muirfield, Firestone South and Oak Hill so it would be silly of me to conclude this track could give him problems. As many fairways and GIR as he pegs, this was the easiest selection for me in the big list this week. He was in Sweden recharging his batteries after the PGA so I can’t see any reason for the Swedish Zach Johnson to continue his stellar play.
Adam Scott: Big-game hunter tees it up for another big game this week as the Aussie stared down two majors this summer but couldn’t add to his green jacket as he finished T3 at The Open and T5 at the PGA. He’s second on TOUR in scoring and has seen 22 consecutive weekends and I would expect him in the middle of it all come Sunday.
Bill Haas: With nine top 10 finishes this season Haas is slowly working his way into this column in the big events. His form is impossible to overlook and so are his ball-striking and putting splits. He’s 10th in GIR and 35th in strokes gained-putting and that’s led to being second in par-four performance. He’s won the whole enchilada before so he’s not going to be intimidated or bothered as the Playoffs start.
Dustin Johnson: Bling! Bling! He’s put a ring on it so that’s taken care of and as I have argued in the recent past, he seems comfortable with the direction his personal life is heading. The proof for me began with the almost-win in Canada and it was reinforced in the final two rounds of the PGA. He was nine back entering the weekend and could have mailed it in but he fired 65 on Saturday and 69 on Sunday to crack another top 10. She’s been with him the entire season and he’s No. 16 on the list. It seems to be working instead of being a distraction. He makes plenty of birdies and the length of this track won’t bother him a bit.
Jason Day: This Aussie has only made 21 consecutive cuts and it looks like the taped wrist has had zero effect on his game with his T8 at the PGA. Gamers are now hoping he’ll start paying off in these “regular” tournaments as he’s crushed any doubt his ability in the majors. If the winning score is around nine-under again and this course ends up playing tough, this should play right into his hands.
Matt Kuchar: He’s made every cut but one in non-majors since 2011. He’s fourth in scoring average and has an outstanding short game. He’s played himself into an automatic choice on this list over the last three years with wins at this event, the TPC, the Memorial and WGC- Match Play. That’s big time.
Keegan Bradley: After playing three rounds with Woods at the PGA and treading water, he bounced for 66 on Sunday to make a run into the top 20 (T19). That didn’t catch his boy Dufner but for the second week in a row he showed he’s looked like he’s close to busting loose. He’s third in the all-around ranking and has had plenty of success in August in the last two years.
Brandt Snedeker: There. He’s now put three tournaments under his belt since winning the RBC Canadian. Time to get back to normal. His T33, T66 and MC last week is his worst run of form on TOUR since…wait for it…wait for it…EXACTLY THIS TIME LAST YEAR. What happened last year when the Playoffs started? He was second at The Barclays, sixth at DBC and he won the whole shooting match at East Lake. He’s planned it this way from the beginning of this year. Say it with me, form is temporary; class is permanent. He’s my OAD this week. Time to bounce, Brandt!
Jason Dufner: The PGA champion showed in his last two events that his form in early 2013 was just that, form, not an absence of class. His dismantling of the fairways and greens at Oak Hill reminded us that he is very much alive in 2013 no matter what his “Dufferning” led us to believe. Asking him to back up a life-changing event with another marquee finish is tough but he just hits too many fairways and greens to believe he won’t contend. He said winning the PGA will change his life but it won’t change who he is. I’m buying this week! By the way, how many jackasses will be shouting Baba Booey at him and Bradley this week? Bloody hell…
Tiger Woods: Yes, I understand he was T2 here in 2009. I also understand he was less than complimentary of the course and setup. I also have seen time and time again this year that he has been dominant only on courses where he’s had multiple wins. There’s no doubt he can win any time he tees it up but we saw at Muirfield and Oak Hill, courses he’s played with limited history, that nothing is for certain like it might be at Firestone, Bay Hill or Torrey Pines. I’d hang on for East Lake when THE biggest money is up for grabs.
Phil Mickelson: He admitted after Oak Hill that he was struggling to find the swing he used to dismantle Muifield on Sunday to win the Open Championship. That’s not hugely surprising when gamers look at the usual ups and downs that come with trying to “time” Mickelson in the fantasy market. He’s an honorary member at the club and he helped to convince the owners to cut down the rough off the fairway. The way both him and Woods have been driving it lately this won’t matter much! Mickelson, like Woods, has had better successes at DBC and East Lake so I’ll let them work their games back into shape this week.