The 2011 FedEx Cup playoffs get underway this week with The Barclays at Plainfield Country Club in New Jersey. Matt Kuchar defends the title while Jim Furyk defends the FedEx Cup itself.

The top 125 players from the FedEx Cup standings through the regular PGA Tour season are eligible to take part in The Barclays and they’ll all be looking to make it into the top 100 in order to progress to the second playoff event next week – the Deutsche Bank Championship.

Nick Watney leads the FedEx Cup going into this week but, theoretically, anybody in the field at Plainfield has a chance to take the FedEx Cup – 2,500 points will be on offer to the winner of The Barclays as opposed to just 500 in regular PGA Tour events.

In recent years there have been some huge jumps up the standings through the four playoff events. As an example, last season Martin Laird came into the playoffs ranked 95th but a second place finish in the Barclays and solid performances to make it all the way to the Tour Championship saw the Scot finish 11th on the standings.

The course at Plainfield Country Club is a new venue for this tournament. Originally designed by Donald Ross and dating from 1916 the layout was revamped in 1999 to bring it into line with the modern game.

It may measure less than 7,000 yards but this is a track that demands precise and accurate play. There’s been quite a bit of rain in the area recently so the rough could be punishing. The course has drained well though and the greens and fairways should be firm this week.

Venue: The Barclays, Plainfield Country Club, New Jersey
Date: Aug 25-28
Course stats: par 71, 6,964 yards
Purse: $8,000,000 Winner: $1,350,000
Defending Champion: Matt Kuchar (-12)

TV Coverage:
Thursday 25 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 8pm
Friday 26 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 8pm
Saturday 27 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 6pm
Sunday 28 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 5pm

Player Watch:
Steve Stricker – A playoff specialist, Stricker won this tournament in 2007 and finished runner-up in 2009. He’s one of the most consistent players in the world and he has 10 top 10 finishes in the 16 FedEx Cup playoff events that have been played to date.

Matt Kuchar – Another stunningly consistent player and the defending champion, Kuchar has eight top-10 finishes in 2011. Although he won last year on a different course, this layout should also suit him.

Luke Donald – The World Number 1 has enjoyed an amazing season and he’ll be looking to cap it with FedEx Cup victory. He has a good record in the playoffs and currently leads the PGA Tour in adjusted scoring.

Key hole:
18th. The green may be elevated but at 285 yards, this hole will be driveable for most of the field all four days. It’s an unusual finishing hole and it could witness some dramatic swings right at the death. Perhaps an eagle two to win the tournament?

Where next?
European Tour:
Johnnie Walker Championship preview