The PGA Tour moves into its most pivotal and lucrative stage of the season this week, with the FedEx Cup playoffs. As usual, the prizes are of mindboggling proportions, with $10 million (out of a $35m bonus fund), going to the winner; and this is on top of the vast prize money for each of the four championship events over the next five weeks. A total of 125 players are qualified for the Barclays Classic, with cuts made after each play-off event eventually whittling the field down to 30, who go through to the decisive Tour Championship at East Lake.
For this third renewal of the FedEx Cup, the organisers have again tweaked the scoring system to try and create an exciting finish. So far the concept has proved a damp squib, with Tiger Woods winning easily in 2007 and Vijay Singh only needing to turn up at the Tour Championship to ensure victory last year. This time, by delaying the resetting of the season points totals until before that final event, everyone who qualifies for the Tour Championship will be guaranteed a mathematical chance of success, and the top five on the list will know a win at East Lake would land the FedEx Cup and that $10m bonus.
A more immediate alteration is a brand new venue for the Barclays Classic. As is to be expected for the most expensive golf course ever created, Liberty National GC looks an outstanding layout, with stunning views of the Manhatten skyline and Statue of Liberty across the Hudson River. Eventually, it is expected to host a Major, and it certainly appears to have all the right credentials for a US Open or USPGA.
Evaluating the nature of a course with no previous tournament history is always a challenge, but we can at least be sure that Liberty will provide the sternest test of all disciplines of the game, with similarities to several other championship courses. Some of the types of deep rough and exposure to the wind suggest a links-style test, albeit without the pot bunkers. Besides the Open, previous form at other ‘US links’ venues such as Pebble Beach, Harbour Town or even 2004 PGA venue Whistling Straits could be worth recalling.