The money grab begins at Barclays
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2011 Barclays Classic | Preview | 23 Aug 2011
They have been hyped all year by those with strong ties to the PGA Tour and now they have arrived.
The Playoffs for the FedEx Cup get underway this Thursday with the leading 124 from the FedEx Cup points list facing off in the first of four events to not only decide the winner of the US$10 million on offer for the winner of the overall series but the significant other bonus monies up for grabs over the next month.
It should of course have been the leading 125 but with the news of illness and surgery of J.B. Holmes, the field is one short of the maximum.
This week’s event will be followed by the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston where the field size is reduced to 100. There will then be a week’s break before the BMW Championship at Cog Hill in Chicago where a field of 70 will face the starter.
That then leads us to the Tour Championship where the leading 30 players will tee it up at the East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.
Those not making the top 100 in FedEx Cup points at the end of this week’s event, and therefore earning a start at next week’s Deutsche Bank Championship, will still earn bonuses in addition to any tournament prize-money they earn this week.
The tweaking of distribution of points two years ago has now made the FedEx Cup a much more evenly contested and anticipated event than was the case in the earlier stagings of the Playoffs.
The farcical situation which prevailed in 2008 where the FedEx Cup champion was decided even before the Tour Championship was played has been negated to a large extent by a points system now designed to keep the outcome in suspense until the latest possible moment.
Anyone just making the field for this week’s event still has the opportunity to become the FedEx Cup Champion and that is the way it should be. Any player making it through to the Tour Championship is guaranteed a bonus of US$175,000 in addition to the opportunity of playing for an US$8 million purse for each event. Other bonuses are available as players drop out of the Series.
The Barclays Championship is being contested at a new venue this year the Donald Ross designed Plainfield Country Club in Edison in New Jersey playing host to its first PGA Tour event although it has staged events such as the US Amateur and the US Women’s Open in previous years.
With no prior form on the golf course to rely on, the search for a potential winner comes down to those players in form or playing their way into form as the pointy end of the season approaches.
The defending champion in the event is Matt Kuchar who although not at the peak that he was two months ago is still likely to be a factor. Kuchar has finished 19th in each of his last two starts at the WGC Bridgestone and PGA Championships and apart from a brief hiccup around the time of the Open Championship has developed into one of the game’s most consistent players in the past eighteen months.
Like Kuchar, Luke Donald missed the cut at the Open Championship but that aside he has been superb in 2011 leading to his standing as the leading player in the game. His runner-up finish at the Bridgestone and an 8th place finish at the PGA at his last start have him a great shape to extend his lead at the top of the game.
It has been more than two years since Steve Stricker missed a cut and in that time he has won five events. He has finished inside the top 20 in each of his last eleven starts and it would be a surprise if he was not somewhere near the leaders on Sunday.
Nick Watney heads the FedEx Cup points table and although he has played sparingly in the last two months he has done well enough to continue his great season. His most recent victory was at the AT&T National event at Aronomink where he defeated a good field over a quality layout.
Adam Scott is a new look player in recent months thanks to a long putter, two very good finishes in major championships and the boost Steve Williams has given him. A win at the Bridgestone and a solid week at the PGA Championship have his confidence level at the highest it has been perhaps in his career and there is no reason why he can’t add another great week here.
Jason Day will be keen to make amends for a missed cut at the PGA Championship after what had been a tremendous stretch of events prior.
Keegan Bradley has had a week to come down to earth after his PGA Championship victory and although it might still be a bit much to back up after such a career changing week he could add a third PGA Tour title this week.
The Australian contingent is headed by Scott and Day but ten others have earned their right to play at least the first of the Playoffs and the chance to secure some of the huge bonus money on offer.
Aaron Baddeley, John Senden, Robert Allenby, Geoff Ogilvy, Marc Leishman, Nick O’Hern, Greg Chalmers, Stuart Appleby, Rod Pampling and Steve Bowditch are all in the field which is an achievement in itself.
For Baddeley, Allenby and Ogilvy there is the added incentive of a good run through the series leading to selection in the International Presidents Cup side. The three Australians are, in all likelihood, chasing the two Captain’s picks so while there is a lot of money at stake over the next month so too is the added incentive of a place on the team for Royal Melbourne.
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