Throughout the 2013 season, the SB Nation golf team has batted around predictions and discussion points for golf's biggest events. With the season now coming to a close and the playoffs starting, Emily Kay and Brendan Porath offer their quick thoughts at the start of the FedExCup.
Your visceral reaction to the FedExCup? It's obviously been debated and dissected for six years now, but do you now appreciate having this at the end of the season after the majors are over? Still a contrivance that, in the end, doesn't really matter?
Emily: To quote Jim Mora, "Playoffs?! Don't talk about -- Playoffs?! You kiddin' me?! Playoffs?!"
It's a money grab (of course, what PGA Tour event isn't?) with such a ridiculously complex formula that the players don't even know how it works. With the suits in Ponte Vedra changing the jargon and logo every season (it's especially complicated now, with the verbal gymnastics over the new split season), maybe eventually they'll give in and heed Geoff Shackleford's advice to call it the "ResetCup."
Brendan: It is a contrivance, but, at this point, it's an enjoyable and accepted one, like so many other things in sports. Tim Finchem and the Tour have made some headway on pushing the importance of this season-ending stretch, and regardless of how much weight you assign the Playoffs, they at least have the best players in the world showing up to create loaded fields.
It also brings those players to four of the biggest markets in the country, sneaking in some golf in New York and Boston before football takes over. And with the majors now passed, it's at least something for golf fans, and Tiger haters or lovers, to watch and look forward to with the Masters almost eight months away. The Tour has no control over the four majors, so they obviously need to boost the appeal with that big pot of cash at the end of the playoffs. But I'm now completely fine with this format.
The Barclays returns to Liberty National this week for that venue's second PGA Tour event. The new layout on a Jersey landfill was ripped by many, including Tiger Woods, during its debut in 2009. They have redesigned it significantly, with tweaks to almost every hole. How do you think it will hold up this week? And if you had to choose, what's your top option for an NYC-area Tour stop? There are so many, and The Barclays is settling into a nice rotation here.
Emily: Paul Fireman's multi-million-dollar monument to his own wealth is built on a former garbage dump. In Jersey City. If that's not ‘nuff said, how about these anonymous comments to Golf Digest from pros who ranked Liberty National dead last among the courses they play:
"Too crammed in. Have nothing good to say about it."
"They should have left it as a dump."
"Stupid & the views are way better than the course."
"The only thing that keeps it from being a 0" is its "stunning" location.
"I can't believe we're going back there."
Brendan: Liberty National obviously takes a beating, but in this instance, I think all news is good news. I think it's fine to deviate from the traditional NYC country clubs for this landfill layout with sweeping views. The change of pace is welcome, and players bitching about it just adds more "controversy" for media to cover and intrigues fans. Ridgewood, Plainfield, and Bethpage seem to be the other three now entrenched in the rotation, but I would love to see the PGA Tour go out on Long Island and try to shoehorn their way into a stop on one of the seaside courses.
Which guy from 100 to 125 do you expect to make the biggest jump up and potentially hang around through the BMW Championship? And who do you expect to tumble -- someone inside the top 100 who will be going home early?
Brendan: Carl Pettersson is the one guy outside the top 100 with some pedigree on the PGA Tour, and he's got the ability to get hot and beat out the best in the world for a win at Liberty National. He's also the kind of streaky anchored putter who could go on a month-long binge to hang around and make noise after starting from the back of the pack. Aside from Pettersson, there's not much there in the 100 to 125 range -- maybe a newcomer like Justin Hicks, or the remade Mark Wilson?
As for the tumbler: Bo Van Pelt, who is one of my favorite players on the PGA Tour, was last seen withdrawing from the PGA Championship with a hip injury. I think BVP is one of America's best, but he could be one and done here.
Emily: Not a clue!
Who is your darkhorse pick to win this week (ideally odds 100/1 or higher)? And who do you like to take the first leg of the FedExCup?
Brendan: There's more to choose from here, and I think Harris English could make his push into the next level this month. English is currently 100/1 to win at Liberty National, but he's quietly played some of the best golf in the world since the start of June. He's also been hailed as one of the next big American golfers for a couple years now, and after the win in Memphis earlier this summer, perhaps he makes the jump this week and in the Playoffs.
And for my pick to win it outright, I'll take Webb Simpson, who has shot plenty of low numbers over the past month and is due for another win.
We last saw Tiger Woods trudging around Oak Hill with multiple areas of his game not up to standard. Does Tiger win any of the next four events? And does it matter if he does or doesn't win during the next month?
Emily: Sure, why not? Woods doesn't exactly get jazzed about the so-called playoffs but since majors season is over and everything's just a tuneup for Augusta, he has a chance to get closer to Sam Snead's career mark of 82 PGA Tour wins. Besides, even Tiger could use an extra $10 mil.
Brendan: The news of his achy back, which forced him to only chip and putt during a pro-am leading up to The Barclays, might make Tiger's final month of the season an ugly one. Woods did not look right on Sunday at Oak Hill, shaking off soreness on several occasions. But he still managed to come into the clubhouse with his best nine-hole stretch of the week. I think he locks up Player of the Year with another win in the Playoffs, and he will of course be there in the end as one of the five who control their own destiny in Atlanta at the Tour Championship.
Four tournaments from now, who's holding that weird looking FedExCup trophy?
Emily: Carl Pettersson, who'll sweep into the finals on the back of his broomstick putter (in other words, not a clue).
Brendan: Would you expect anyone other than Henrik Stenson? The other Swede is not the biggest name in the 125-man playoff field, but he's probably playing better than anyone in the world. Tiger is unpredictable from week-to-week right now, especially at venues where he's not most comfortable. Stenson, who finished as runner-up to Phil at the British Open, and runner-up to Tiger at Bridgestone, was my pick to win it on Sunday two weeks ago at the PGA. But Jason Dufner ensured Stenson never had a shot late on the back nine. But he'll put the bow on his comeback 2013 season, where he's contended at all the biggest events, by winning the $10 million FedExCup.