By Mike Glasscott, Rotoworld
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
Justin Rose: He was right in the thick of it at the PGA until a 77-72 weekend knocked him out of the discussion. I’m hoping he plays himself back into form as I have him penciled in for East Lake. This sounds to be a ball-strikers course and he’s still one of the best even though his recent results (MC, T17 and T33 at the PGA) are “off” by his standards.
Rory McIlroy: Here’s another player that you’re only going to find in the big-time events on this side of the pond. McIlroy has only played 13 events on TOUR this season and sitting at No. 49 on the list suggests, at this moment in time, that he’ll only play in two more after this week. Unlike some of the other premium players, McIlroy actually has work to do if he wants a sniff at the 10 million and a FedExCup championship. He’s turned the corner with his T8 at Oak Hill and, like at Oak Hill, not many guys have seen this course before and that’ll help him again this week. I have him penciled in for the BMW in round three.
Jim Furyk: Even long-time reader Paul H. would agree that Furyk has ground himself back into the conversation after his last three performances on TOUR. After back-to-back T9s in Canada and Akron, Furyk was the 54-hole leader, again, in a major. Again he fell short but he keeps finding a way to grind out results and I like a guy who is full of confidence and experience. He won’t be bothered with any quirkiness this week at Liberty National.
Hunter Mahan: He was one of many victims that fell apart on Saturday at Oak Hill and posted a number of 77 or better as he chalked up 78. I don’t think we can blame a new baby for that! His solid ball-striking and improved putting travels well and that’s what I’m looking for this week. There were too many big-time players on the leaderboard in 2009 and I would forecast the same to be true this week.
Jordan Spieth: You think I’m jumping off now?
Ian Poulter: He sits on the third bubble of No. 70 as we enter week one of the Playoffs so he’ll have two chances to improve his standing before heading to the BMW. Poulter has shown us, especially at the Ryder Cup, that once he tilts, he can be a spot of bother for the rest of the field. He’ll need a big showing to book his ticket to East Lake in one of these last three events and this week gives him a solid chance. He was T9 in 2009 and has played the “redone” version of this course in the last few weeks.
Rickie Fowler: His worst finish in his last six events dating back to the U.S. Open is T21. In a field this deep, that form has my attention and he enjoys a difficult golf course as well. He played three of four rounds at par or better his last time out at Oak Hill and makes enough putts to stay within touching distance.
Harris English: Before his T61 finish at the PGA, he rattled off T15, T15 and T14 in his three prior events. English has made 41 of 50 cuts in two years on TOUR, including 19 of 23 this season. He had a taste of the Playoffs last season and he’ll use that experience to build on his career-year. He’s long, hits plenty of greens and can really putt.
Patrick Reed: He led the field in GIR. He made every putt inside of six feet that he looked at, including one in a playoff for his first-ever victory. He’s finished T9, T7 and WIN in his last three events. I’m not jumping the big boys to get to him, yet, as he jumps into the deepest end of the pool so far in his short career. I’ll take a shot on him in later rounds.
Off The Beaten Path
Form > fame
Rory Sabbatini: In his last six events he’s racked up finishes of T9, MC, T17, T12, T7 and T8 last week. He’s one of only two players to finish in the top 10 of all four Playoff events (2007) so he’s not going to shy away from the competition. He’s the hottest player on TOUR since July 1 not named Johnson or Stenson.
Matt Jones: I slept on his last week after his T40 at the PGA and he made me pay with his third top seven in four weeks. His career-year has taken him to the cusp of making it to East Lake as he checks in at No. 37 as the Playoffs start. These fields will be quite a bit deeper than the fields at Greenbrier, JDC and the Wyndham but he can see the finish line.
Scott Piercy: After three MCs, T52 and T59, I was just as surprised as most gamers to see Piercy open with 67 and close with 65(!) at Oak Hill his last time out. I was surprised because before that event Piercy had two rounds in the 60s since JUNE. Sitting at No. 50, the usually streaky Piercy is looking to make a run these next weeks. I’ll jump on with him.
Robert Garrigus: He’s shown signs of life the last two weeks after being in hibernation for most of the summer with finishes of T25 at the PGA and four rounds in the 60s last week to finish T11 at Wyndham. Heck, Garrigus was five-under to begin Saturday morning at Oak Hill so he’s been close. He’s No. 73 on the list so he’ll need a performance or two if he would like to chase his $10 million dream. His form suggests he’s on that path.
Brendan Steele: He showed that his 65 in the opening round at the RBC Canadian was the start of something brewing by finishing fourth the following week at Reno-Tahoe. He backed up that top five with T11 at Wyndham last weekend even after he was four-over through his first 12 holes. His double bogey on hole No. 72 was the only reason he didn’t hit the top 10 again. He’s safe at No. 81 but another top 10 finish will see him book his trip to Chicago and the BMW.
Brian Harman: He did the “reverse” Steele as he banged T11 at Reno-Tahoe and was T3 at Wyndham after closing with bogey-free 66. He’s No. 80 currently. I should have just combined him with Steele!
The Man with His Own Section
Martin Kaymer: I’ve been closely following him for the last few weeks and I can’t figure out where he goes. He’s a major champion. He’s been up. He’s been down. He’s been up and mostly up and that’s why he’s received his own space this week. Let’s take a look at his last three events.
WGC-BI: After makings birds on two of the first three holes, Kaymer played his final 15 holes six-over in round one. He backed that up with a bogey-free 67 on Friday. Follow me so far? Good, me neither! After going out Saturday in two-over 37, he came home in bogey-free 32. Sunday, he racked up five birdies to one bogey to finish with 66 and T9.
PGA: After making birds on two of the first three holes, Kaymer played his next eight holes two over on Thursday. After birdie-eagle-birdie to get to four-under, he bogeyed Nos. 17 and 18 to close. Friday, he went out and fired two-under 68 with no bogeys. THIS IS GROUNDHOG DAY PEOPLE. Except that Saturday he didn’t bounce and carded 78 with a triple. He birdied three of his first four holes on Sunday before going triple, bogey, double to turn in 40. GAAAAAAAAAAAH. Now get this, on the back nine, for the second time this week, he goes birdie-eagle-birdie on the same three holes and comes home in bogey-free 31 to finish T33. He made two triples a double and NINE bogeys on the WEEKEND and finished T33. He played three of four rounds in the 60s!
Wyndham: Thursday he opened with one bogey and one birdie for even par 70, including 10 pars on the trot going in. Friday, he went out in one-over 36 but rallied for a bogey-free 32 on the back (three birdies). The last six nines he’s played on Fridays he’s played five of them BOGEY FREE on two Donald Ross courses and Firestone South. On Saturday he opened with nine more pars before his weekly hiccup happened as he went home in 38 with four bogeys and one birdie. How did he finish last week? Quite simply with eight birdies, including five of his last six holes, against one birdie to post 63 and T20. He has one bad nine per week. One.
WHERE WOULD YOU PUT HIM THIS WEEK?
That’s right. You too would give him his own part of the column!
Just because they have well-recognized names doesn’t always mean you have to panic to fill your roster out with them…Also, it seems at least one of these guys will hit the top 10 EVERY week. I’m not scared.
Remember, only the top 100 advance to next week’s Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston.
Billy Horschel: In six starts after his T4 at the U.S. Open, Horschel has MC twice and has finishes of T30, T44, T61 and T68. With a field this deep, I’ll let my competition take a chance on him breaking out.
Jimmy Walker: After his T2 at the Greenbrier he’s backed that up with three MCs (two were majors). This is another big field. I wouldn’t suggest drafting or filling up lineups based on FedExCup Points.
Angel Cabrera: He’s coming off a wrist injury at the PGA. Buyer beware.
Bubba Watson: He has three top 10s in 18 events this season. Now is not the time to HOPE he starts firing.
Scott Stallings: His T55 at the PGA was his best finish in his last four starts. The other three were MC. He WD before his tee time last week in Greensboro with a “tweaked back” so that does nothing to push me in his direction this week.
Rookie of the Week Last Week
I keep an eye on the young’uns each week to see who is making the most noise.
Sony: Russell Henley WIN
Humana: David Lingmerth P2
Farmers: Brad Fritsch T9
WMPO: James Hahn T16
AT&T: James Hahn T3
NTO: Luke Guthrie T21
WGC-Match Play: Russell Henley 2nd round
Honda: Luke Guthrie 3rd
WGC-Cadillac: Russell Henley T28
Puerto Rico: Jordan Spieth 2nd
Tampa Bay: Jordan Spieth T7; Shawn Stefani T7; Ben Kohles T7
Arnold Palmer: Ben Kohles T14
Shell Houston Open: Robert Streb T22
Valero Texas Open: Ben Kohles T37
Masters: Russell Henley MC
RBC Heritage: Russell Henley T6
Zurich Classic: D. H. Lee T8
Wells Fargo Championship: Derek Ernst WIN
THE PLAYERS: David Lingmerth T2. Great back-to-back weeks for the rookies on TOUR!
HPBNC: Morgan Hoffmann T5
Colonial: Jordan Spieth, yep, him again, T7
Memorial: Russell Henley T6
FESJC: Patrick Reed Fifth
U.S. Open: David Lingmerth T17; special mentions for Hideki Matsuyama T10 and Michael Kim T17.
Travelers: Morgan Hoffmann T9
AT&T National: D.H. Lee T3; Jordan Spieth 6th; Morgan Hoffmann T8
Greenbrier: David Lingmerth and D.H. Lee both T9
John Deere: Jordan Spieth WIN
The Open Championship: Jordan Spieth T44
Sanderson Farms: Steve LeBrun T26
RBC Canadian: Patrick Reed T9
WGC-BI: Russell Henley T27
Reno-Tahoe: Scott Langley T21
PGA Championship: Hideki Matsuyama T19. #forreal
Wyndham: Jordan Spieth P2. #forrealreal
SEASON TOTAL: $6,548,565
HTOC: Steve Stricker (2nd; $665,000)
Sony: Charles Howell III (T3; $324,800)
Humana: Tim Clark (MC)
Farmers: Rickie Fowler (T6; $204,350)
WMPO: Jason Dufner (MC)
AT&T Pebble: Hunter Mahan (T16; $94,250)
Northern Trust: Bill Haas (T3; $343,200)
WGC-Match Play: Charl Schwartzel (T33; $46,000)
Honda: Lee Westwood (T9; $156,000)
WGC-Cadillac Championship: Matt Kuchar (T35; $68,500)
Tampa Bay: Jim Furyk (T7; $148,892)
Bay Hill: Sergio Garcia (WD after three rounds)
Shell Houston: Jimmy Walker (T50; $14,838)
Valero: Cameron Tringale (MC)
Masters: Phil Mickelson (T54; $18,320)
RBC Heritage: Luke Donald (T3; $336,400)
Zurich Classic: Bubba Watson (T15; $102,500)
Wells Fargo: Webb Simpson (T32; $37,073)
THE PLAYERS: Nick Watney (MC)
HPBNC: Jason Day (T27; $46,565)
Colonial: Kevin Streelman (MC)
Memorial: K.J. Choi (T21; $58,202)
FESJC: Ryan Palmer (4th; $273,600)
US Open: Graeme McDowell (MC)
Travelers: John Rollins (MDF; $11,041)
AT&T National: Billy Horschel (T61; $14,040)
The Greenbrier Classic: Graham DeLaet (T30; $36,618)
John Deere Classic: Jordan Spieth (WIN; $828,000)
The Open Championship: Adam Scott (T3; $428,776)
RBC Canadian: Chris Kirk (T21; $54,160)
WGC-BI: Tiger Woods (WIN; $1,500,000)
PGA Championship: Henrik Stenson (3rd; $545,000)
Wyndham Championship: Zach Johnson (T5; $193,450)
The Barclays: Brandt Snedeker
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