5 Players To Watch At The Barclays As FedEx Cup Playoffs Begin

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Five Favorites For The 2013 Barclays

Fowler NYC
Debby Wong - USA TODAY Sports

The long road to the FedEx Cup playoffs has come to an end, and the second season begins Thursday at The Barclays. For all the work that players have put in to reach this point, the pressure will be at an all-time high for the next four weeks with the $10 million prize on the line.

This week, Liberty National is the host venue of the Barclays, which returns to New Jersey for the first time since 2009. One of the most exclusive private clubs on the planet, the $250 million establishment features its own yacht service with easy transportation to nearby Manhattan, a heliport for those more aerially inclined, and world-class dining and spa amenities. This type of luxury has drawn the elite from all walks of life, including politicians like former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, and of course top golfers like Phil Mickelson.

Situated across the bay from New York City with a stellar view to Manhattan’s skyline and the Statue Of Liberty, Liberty National has undergone major changes since the last time the tournament was here. In 2009, the course was criticized for its punishing rough and steep, difficult greens. Tiger Woods even famously joked that course designer Tom Kite must have set it up before his laser eye surgery. In the years since, the course has been shortened by about 60 yards, and the fairways widened, meaning some of the longer hitters will have more leeway to the sides before reaching the worst of the trouble.

The biggest thing to look out for this week as it relates to the playoff picture, is that the winner’s share is now 2,500 points, five times as much as a regular-season victory. That means that even Richard H. Lee, currently 84th and 2,494 points back, could possibly overtake Woods. In 2009, Heath Slocum’s victory over Woods brought him from 124th in the standings all the way to third. No matter who wins the Barclays, this is the tournament that sets the tone for the entire playoff run.

With no further ado, here are five of my favorites for the week.

Brandon Raper is a golf writer for RantSports.com. “Like” him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter @Brandon__Raper, and add him to your Google+ network.

2 of 6

5. Rickie Fowler

Fowler
Winslow Townson - USA TODAY Sports

Rickie Fowler is my dark horse for the week. Fowler has five straight top-25s with the exception of his missed cut at the Open Championship, and this course seems to shape up to fit Fowler's game. For 2013, Fowler has been a well above-average putter, ranking 17th in strokes gained putting and 11th in total putting. One of the most popular players on the Tour, Fowler ranks 42nd in the points race coming into the week and could make a big move with a high finish.

3 of 6

4. Jordan Spieth

Spieth
Joshua S. Kelly - USA TODAY Sports

Feel free to climb on, there's still a little space here on the Jordan Spieth bandwagon. The 20-year-old Tour rookie has played like a vet with years of experience. He’s a one-time winner in 2013 when he could easily have won three tournaments. Spieth is 20th in driving accuracy and second in the all-around, and the only thing that's held him back at all this year has been his putting. If he gets the flat stick hot, then this may just be the start of a historic playoff run for Spieth.

4 of 6

3. Jason Day

Day
Mark Konezny - USA TODAY Sports

In 2013, Jason Day was on the watch list at seemingly every major. Even though he’s winless this year, he’s rested coming off a tie for eighth at the PGA Championship and sits 14th in the points race. One of Day's biggest strengths is his ability to recover from trouble, as he ranks 25th in GIR percentage from anywhere besides the fairway. The Aussie isn't going to go much longer without a victory, and this might be the week he gets off that path.

5 of 6

2. Tiger Woods

Woods
The Star-Ledger - USA TODAY Sports

It feels a little odd for me to have Tiger Woods ranked second on this (or any) list, but that nicely matches his finish at this course in 2009. That was when he didn’t like the setup, too. Wider fairways this time will give him a little more leeway off the tee. Much was made of the fact that Tiger spent another year without major championship no. 15, but this week marks the beginning of his march to a third FedEx Cup championship. He doesn't need a win, but he still wants to step on the competition's throat, and this would be the perfect way to do it.

6 of 6

1. Webb Simpson

Simpson
Winslow Townson - USA TODAY Sports

Webb Simpson comes to Liberty National fresh off a Sunday 63 at the Wyndham Championship, which earned him a share of 11th place. It was his best finish since June's Travelers Championship, and no doubt he'll be bringing that confidence to the opening of the playoffs. Simpson finished eighth at this course in 2009 and in 17th place in the points. He could be set up to finish the job he started in 2011, when he narrowly lost the FedEx Cup to Bill Haas.

1 of 6

Five Favorites For The 2013 Barclays

Fowler NYC
Debby Wong - USA TODAY Sports

The long road to the FedEx Cup playoffs has come to an end, and the second season begins Thursday at The Barclays. For all the work that players have put in to reach this point, the pressure will be at an all-time high for the next four weeks with the $10 million prize on the line.

This week, Liberty National is the host venue of the Barclays, which returns to New Jersey for the first time since 2009. One of the most exclusive private clubs on the planet, the $250 million establishment features its own yacht service with easy transportation to nearby Manhattan, a heliport for those more aerially inclined, and world-class dining and spa amenities. This type of luxury has drawn the elite from all walks of life, including politicians like former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, and of course top golfers like Phil Mickelson.

Situated across the bay from New York City with a stellar view to Manhattan’s skyline and the Statue Of Liberty, Liberty National has undergone major changes since the last time the tournament was here. In 2009, the course was criticized for its punishing rough and steep, difficult greens. Tiger Woods even famously joked that course designer Tom Kite must have set it up before his laser eye surgery. In the years since, the course has been shortened by about 60 yards, and the fairways widened, meaning some of the longer hitters will have more leeway to the sides before reaching the worst of the trouble.

The biggest thing to look out for this week as it relates to the playoff picture, is that the winner’s share is now 2,500 points, five times as much as a regular-season victory. That means that even Richard H. Lee, currently 84th and 2,494 points back, could possibly overtake Woods. In 2009, Heath Slocum’s victory over Woods brought him from 124th in the standings all the way to third. No matter who wins the Barclays, this is the tournament that sets the tone for the entire playoff run.

With no further ado, here are five of my favorites for the week.

Brandon Raper is a golf writer for RantSports.com. “Like” him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter @Brandon__Raper, and add him to your Google+ network.

2 of 6

5. Rickie Fowler

Fowler
Winslow Townson - USA TODAY Sports

Rickie Fowler is my dark horse for the week. Fowler has five straight top-25s with the exception of his missed cut at the Open Championship, and this course seems to shape up to fit Fowler's game. For 2013, Fowler has been a well above-average putter, ranking 17th in strokes gained putting and 11th in total putting. One of the most popular players on the Tour, Fowler ranks 42nd in the points race coming into the week and could make a big move with a high finish.

3 of 6

4. Jordan Spieth

Spieth
Joshua S. Kelly - USA TODAY Sports

Feel free to climb on, there's still a little space here on the Jordan Spieth bandwagon. The 20-year-old Tour rookie has played like a vet with years of experience. He’s a one-time winner in 2013 when he could easily have won three tournaments. Spieth is 20th in driving accuracy and second in the all-around, and the only thing that's held him back at all this year has been his putting. If he gets the flat stick hot, then this may just be the start of a historic playoff run for Spieth.

4 of 6

3. Jason Day

Day
Mark Konezny - USA TODAY Sports

In 2013, Jason Day was on the watch list at seemingly every major. Even though he’s winless this year, he’s rested coming off a tie for eighth at the PGA Championship and sits 14th in the points race. One of Day's biggest strengths is his ability to recover from trouble, as he ranks 25th in GIR percentage from anywhere besides the fairway. The Aussie isn't going to go much longer without a victory, and this might be the week he gets off that path.

5 of 6

2. Tiger Woods

Woods
The Star-Ledger - USA TODAY Sports

It feels a little odd for me to have Tiger Woods ranked second on this (or any) list, but that nicely matches his finish at this course in 2009. That was when he didn’t like the setup, too. Wider fairways this time will give him a little more leeway off the tee. Much was made of the fact that Tiger spent another year without major championship no. 15, but this week marks the beginning of his march to a third FedEx Cup championship. He doesn't need a win, but he still wants to step on the competition's throat, and this would be the perfect way to do it.

6 of 6

1. Webb Simpson

Simpson
Winslow Townson - USA TODAY Sports

Webb Simpson comes to Liberty National fresh off a Sunday 63 at the Wyndham Championship, which earned him a share of 11th place. It was his best finish since June's Travelers Championship, and no doubt he'll be bringing that confidence to the opening of the playoffs. Simpson finished eighth at this course in 2009 and in 17th place in the points. He could be set up to finish the job he started in 2011, when he narrowly lost the FedEx Cup to Bill Haas.


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