The FedEx Cup playoffs get underway on Thursday morning with 125 of the worlds best golfers teeing it up at The Barclays in Paramus, New Jersey. The 100 year-old Ridgewood Country Club will host the first of four playoff events that will crown a champion at the Tour Championship next month.
Although Henrik Stenson won two of the four playoff tournaments in 2013, and the FedEx Cup, it was Adam Scott who won the Barclays at Liberty National. The 2013 Masters Champ backed into the victory when Tiger Woods, Justin Rose, and Gary Woodland all limped down the stretch on Sunday.
Scott started his day six strokes back, and after teeing off 90 minutes ahead of the leaders, was packed and ready to leave the premises before officials alerted him that he was the leader, and there was the possibility for a playoff.
None of the chasers were able to convert a birdie putt, and Scott won his first tournament since donning the Green Jacket at Augusta earlier in the season.
One would think that the 25 year-old Northern Irishman would be worn out after winning the last three tournaments he played in, but he continues to say the right things concerning his state of mind. He says he is dedicated to his golf game, and is looking forward to the FedEx Cup playoff run. If he thinks he can win, he has me convinced after his victory at Valhalla two weeks ago. McIlroy looked tired on Saturday and Sunday during the PGA Championship, but seemed to find a spark after the phenomenal eagle at the 10th hole on Sunday. It re-energized him, and I think, carried him to the finish line. As long as his monster drives keep finding the fairway, and he continues to putt well, I don’t see anyone beating him this week. Rory McIlroy has unfinished business with the FedEx Cup after he lost out to Brandt Snedeker at the Tour Championship in 2012, and went on to win the Race To Dubai.
I had felt all season that it was Henrik Stenson’s year to win a major, but the 38 year-old Swede has seemed to be stuck in second gear all season. He indicated that winning the FedEx Cup, and Race to Dubai titles in 2013 wore him out, and he had no down-time before the 2014 season started. He has played well at times, but when he gets on a leaderboard, a couple of double bogeys seem to find him to quell his effort. Stenson came close at Valhalla, but just couldn’t overcome the power of McIlroy. I feel confident that Stenson will win one of these playoff events, and it could very well be this week at The Barclays.
Rickie Fowler is on the verge of being the star American golf fans have been looking for. His popularity has never been in question, just his game. After working with Butch Harmon, his game looks really good and the proof lies in the finishes he had during the 2014 majors season. With only one win on his PGA resume however, a win down the stretch during the FedEx Cup playoffs would go a long way in cementing his new status on the tour. I’m not sure he can beat Rory McIlroy right now, but if Rory stumbles, Rickie has the game to win here at Ridgewood Country Club.
With three runner-up finishes in his last five starts, the only hotter player on the European Tour right now is Rory. The 34 year-old Spaniard is currently seventh in FedEx Cup points, and second, only behind Rory McIlroy in Race To Dubai standings. Garcia’s putter continues to run hot, and cold like we saw at Firestone a few weeks back, and if he can keep it working for 72 holes, he could be tough during the playoffs. Garcia also has that one or two disaster holes during a tournament that are leaderboard killers. If he can avoid the occasional snap-hook, and keep his putter hot, he can win on any venue.
I felt compelled to include Phil in these picks. He showed me something at Valhalla when the chips were down, and he needed to play himself onto the Ryder Cup. He continues to say he found something at the PGA, and had he chipped in at 18 as the darkness took over in Louisville, we may well be talking about Phil Mickelson instead of Rory McIlroy right now. Phil has the game to compete in the playoffs, and may well have waited until this time of the year to turn on the afterburners. Mickelson has never won a FedEx Cup championship, and I am sure he would love to add one to his resume in 2014.
Three top players not in the field this week are Dustin Johnson, Jason Dufner and Steve Stricker.