PGA Tour playoffs get start at The Barclays

Associated Press

August 25, 2016

         

In this July 29, 2016, file photo, Jordan Spieth watches his approach shot on the fifth hole during the second round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J. Spieth missed being part of the Olympics even before the golf began. Rory McIlroy thought it was a big hit and was thankful to be wrong. They were among the top four who chose not to go.

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. The top five players on the PGA Tour this season should be plenty rested going into the FedEx Cup playoffs.

Most of them haven't played since the PGA Championship three weeks ago.

That's because most of them didn't go to the Olympics.

Jason Day is the No. 1 player in the world and No. 1 in the FedEx Cup, narrowly moving past U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson on the strength of his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship. They are followed by Adam Scott, Russell Knox and Jordan Spieth.

Knox won the Travelers Championship a week after the PGA Championship, but with a chance to earn Ryder Cup points last week, the Scot decided he needed a rest.

The playoffs begin Thursday at The Barclays, which returns to Bethpage Black.

At the end of this five-week bonanza is a $10 million bonus to the winner. That's still a long way off. For now, there is plenty to keep their attention.

RYDER CUP QUALIFYING: The Barclays is the final week for American players to earn points one point for every $1,000 in PGA Tour earnings toward getting one of the eight automatic spots on the Ryder Cup team.

         

In this Aug. 23, 2013, file photo, Rickie Fowler hits a tee shot on the 17th hole during the third round of The Barclays golf tournament in Jersey City, N.J. So much more is at stake than $69 million in prize and bonus money during the FedEx Cup. The Barclays is the first postseason event, the start of deciding Ryder Cup teams and who gets voted player of the year.

Five already have been decided Johnson, Spieth, Phil Mickelson, PGA champion Jimmy Walker and Brooks Koepka. Brandt Snedeker tied for third last week to move up to No. 6 and would appear to be safe. He is ahead of Zach Johnson and Patrick Reed, the lone Olympian from that group.

The purse at The Barclays is $8.5 million, so nothing is set except for who's not going to make it. Charley Hoffman at No. 22 is the last player who has a mathematical shot, and it's a long shot at that.

As for Rickie Fowler? He would have to finish no worse than a two-way tie for fourth.

THE POINTS: The PGA Tour made a slight tweak to the points system for the FedEx Cup playoffs. Points are quadrupled for the next three weeks, instead of being five times their normal value in previous years.

The hope is that it allows for volatility in these big events, without someone far down in the pack having one good week and being locked in for the Tour Championship.

The top 125 qualify for the playoffs, and then it's a matter of attrition.

The top 100 in the FedEx Cup standings advance to the second playoff event next week at the Deutsche Bank Championship; the top 70 advance to the BMW Championship the following week at Crooked Stick outside Indianapolis. The top 30 move on to the Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta.

THE COURSE: Bethpage Black rose to prominence when the public golf course hosted the U.S. Open in 2002, and Tiger Woods held off Sergio Garcia and Mickelson to win his second U.S. Open. It hosted another U.S. Open in 2009, when Lucas Glover won in a rain-delayed finish.

Now it's on the rotation for the FedEx Cup playoffs, with Nick Watney winning The Barclays in 2012.

The course is famous for its warning sign on the first tee: "The Black Course is an extremely difficult course which we recommend only for highly skilled golfers."

"It should say it's a risk even for really good players," Spieth said. "The course I've played the last two days is up there with the hardest, probably top-five courses I've ever played in my life. And it's Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, and it's soft."

THE BUBBLE: Jim Furyk (No. 94) and Steve Stricker (No. 98) did well to make it to the playoffs because of their limited schedules Stricker only plays a dozen times a year, and Furyk started late because of wrist surgery.

All it takes is one good week to keep advancing. If they miss the cut, odds are they won't stay in the top 100.

Among those outside the top 100 are Keegan Bradley at No. 106. Happy to be here is Shawn Stefani, who tied for 14th last week to move into the top 125 (at No. 123) and even have a chance.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: The FedEx Cup figures to sort out who will be the front-runner for PGA Tour player of the year.

Major champions typically get the vote from the players, but there are four of them this year Danny Willett, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson and Jimmy Walker. Jason Day won The Players Championship and leads the tour with three victories, so he can't be ruled out.

Day believes he only has to win two events to be voted player of the year.