The Barclays Betting Preview

Tiger Woods (Courtesy: myophoto)

Tiger Woods (Courtesy: myophoto)

The 2013 FedEx Cup Playoffs are set to begin this week, as the PGA Tour heads back to Liberty National Golf Club in New Jersey for the Barclays.
2013 The Barclays Fact Sheet

  • Course: Liberty National Golf Club
  • Location: Jersey City, New Jersey
  • Yardage: 7,353 yards, par 71
  • Defending Champion: Nick Watney
  • Five Consensus Favourites: Tiger Woods, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson

TV Schedule:

  • Thursday – 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
  • Friday – 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
  • Saturday – 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM ET (Golf Channel) & 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM ET (CBS)
  • Sunday – 12:00 PM to 1:30 PM ET (Golf Channel) & 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM ET (CBS)

Key Storyline This Week
As mentioned above, this week is the start of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, with the top-125 point getters from the season playing this week in New Jersey. It’s a progressive point system, with the top-100 advancing to next week, followed by the top-70 and finally the top-30 going to the Tour Championship in a month’s time. Most of the top players are here this week, trying to play and move up the ladder with the hopes of claiming the $10 million first place prize at the end of the line. Others like Zach Johnson and Steve Stricker, who have both played more than usual in recent weeks, are opting to sit this week out, knowing that they are pretty much assured of a spot going into the BMW Championship in a few weeks.
With his five wins and two other top-10 finishes, Tiger Woods has built up a pretty substantial lead in the FedEx Cup, and even if he misses the cut here this week, he won’t fall lower than fourth in the overall standings. When the PGA Tour introduced the FedEx Cup a few years ago, it hoped to bring more interest to the events later in the season, and while it hasn’t taken off the way they had hoped, it has added a little more intrigue to a time in the calendar when the big name players used to stay on the sidelines. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s much better than it used to be.
Liberty National Golf Club
Liberty National is one of the few newer courses on the PGA Tour schedule, having only been built by Robert Cupp and Tom Kite in 2006. It’s the first time that the tour has been back here since 2009 when Heath Slocum came away victorious, and the course will play differently than it did four years ago. Back then, the course was criticized for being overly difficult and not too appealing, with Tiger using the word “interesting” to describe the way it played. Being built on a landfill, the jokes also flew about this being what you get when you build on this kind of property.
To their credit, Liberty National took the criticisms and set out on improving the course. 14 of the 18 holes have seen changes in the last few years, with most of the tweaks coming on the greens. Five of the greens were completely rebuilt, and an additional six were reconstructed. Fairways have also been widened and tee boxes altered, so the course might be a little different than the players remember when they tee it up on Thursday morning. The course also likes to boast that 15 of the 18 holes have completely unobstructed views of Lady Liberty, so if that’s your kinda thing, you’ll see plenty of that on the broadcasts this week. You can check out the story of the course in the embedded video below.

Thoughts On The Favourites

  • Tiger Woods: Another week with Tiger as the favourite, and even though he wasn’t thrilled with the course setup back in 2009, he still finished as the joint runner-up to Slocum, one shot behind at 8-under par. He’s coming off of an underwhelming performance at the PGA Championship, but he’s still the best player in the field and the roughly 6-1 price on him right now reflects that.
  • Adam Scott: The Masters champ has been on a good run recently, finishing inside the top-15 in his last three starts, including a T-5 at the PGA. He didn’t fare too well here in 2009, making the cut but struggling to finish tied for 58th, breaking par in just one of his four rounds.
  • Henrik Stenson: He’s the hottest player in the world right now, with two runner-ups and two third place finishes in his last four starts. His last win came in Europe back in November, but he’s still seeking his first PGA Tour win since that breakout performance at the 2009 PLAYERS. Great ball striker, but didn’t play here back in 2009, so that’s always a factor when trying to predict a winner.
  • Rory McIlroy: It’s amazing what one tournament can do for you. After a good run at the PGA, most of the golf world is of the opinion that he is ready to turn his “poor” season around. Also didn’t play here back in 2009, and is going into the tournament ranked 49th in the FedEx Cup. He’s going to need some good finishes if he wants to make it all the way to the Tour Championship.
  • Phil Mickelson: Mickelson is actually a member at Liberty National, but that didn’t help him back in 2009, as he ended up tied for 52nd after rounds of 75 and 74 on Friday and Saturday sunk his chances. Had a dreadful week at the PGA, highlighted by a third round 78 where he looked completely out of sync. Still though, he’s had a great year and he knows the course better than anyone in the field, so he has to be considered a threat.

Suggested Plays
Matt Kuchar (Best Odds 33-1 at Ladbrokes)
Kuchar seems to be flying under the radar a little bit here, which is pretty much par for the course when it comes to him. He holds the current record for consecutive cuts made on the PGA Tour with 23, and probably has the quietest two win season in recent memory. Tied for 28th here back in 2009.
Keegan Bradley (Best Odds 40-1 at Sky Bet)
Finished as the runner-up to Tiger at the Bridgestone and followed that up with a good performance at the PGA, including a really nice Sunday 66. He’s made it to the Tour Championship in both of his tries, but will need some good performances to get there this year. It’s his first appearance at Liberty National.
Ian Poulter (Best Odds 70-1 at Unibet)
Poulter has had a tough season, especially after the run he had at the Ryder Cup. It was a performance that many saw as his breakthrough event, but it hasn’t translated to the regular stroke play tournaments. He was under par in three of his four rounds here back in 2009, finishing tied for 9th, so there should be some comfort at the course.
Rickie Fowler (Best Odds 85-1 at BETDAQ)
Fowler enters the week 42nd in the FedEx Cup despite not having the kind of year that he would have liked, but he’s on a run of good form. He’s quietly put together top-25 finishes in six of his last seven starts, and has really been striking the ball well. The putter, which has historically been a weak point, has actually been very solid for much of the year. Much like Bradley, he’s making his debut appearance at Liberty National.
Graham DeLaet (Best Odds 168-1 at BETDAQ)
A few weeks ago, you couldn’t get DeLaet for anything better than 30-1, but four rough weeks in a row and two missed cuts later, and DeLaet is back on the other side of the fence. He’s been one of the best ball strikers on the tour this season, and the number here is simply too high to pass up.
Charles Howell III (Best Odds 218-1 at Betfair)
Much like DeLaet, this is a look at someone who shouldn’t be available at this price. He was looking good last week at the Wyndham until he was disqualified for using a non-conforming driver, as a little dial fell out of the bottom of the club. Finished tied for 70th here back in 2009, but has had a good season, currently ranking in at number 27 in the FedEx Cup.

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