The Barclays tournament serves as the launching point for the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup playoffs, the first of four events in the chase for that $10 million bonus that goes to the ultimate winner.
While playing the opening tournament of pro golf's thrilling postseason isn't a must for many of the game's top players, there is incentive to compete given the purse size, stakes and caliber of competition.
Nick Watney won The Barclays last year in an impressive display of ball-striking and mettle, vaulting from 49th to first place in the standings with the victory:
But the 2013 Barclays venue is Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City rather than Bethpage State Park's Black Course.
Only 25 of the 125 players in this week's field won't make it into the subsequent Deutsche Bank Championship, yet it still creates intrigue, the need to play well and the promise of making a huge leap in the standings.
The only notable world-class golfers in this select ensemble of stars not competing at The Barclays are Steve Stricker—who's played a limited schedule this season—and Zach Johnson, one of the game's hottest players, who will be attending his brother's wedding:
Pairings are decided by the FedEx Cup point standings, and the headlining trio in descending order is world No. 1 Tiger Woods, Matt Kuchar and defending FedEx Cup champion Brandt Snedeker.
There are plenty of riveting storylines as the playoffs get underway, so let's take a look at when everything kicks off on Thursday, along with analysis on the top groups to monitor during the first two rounds.
Note: Statistics, video and information, unless otherwise indicated, are courtesy of PGATour.com.
When: Thursday, August 22, to Sunday, August 25
Where: Liberty National Golf Club, Jersey City, N.J.
Tee Times: First group is off at 7:10 a.m. ET. For a complete list of tee times for the first two rounds, visit PGATour.com.
Purse: $8 million
FedEx Cup Points: 2,500
TV Schedule (h/t PGA.com)
Thursday: Golf Channel 3-6 p.m. ET
Friday: Golf Channel 3-6 p.m. ET
Saturday: Golf Channel 1-2:30 p.m. ET, CBS 3-6 p.m. ET
Sunday: Golf Channel 12-1:30 p.m. ET, CBS 2-6 p.m. ET
*For a more specific overview of how the FedEx Cup playoffs work, click here.
Groups to Watch
No. 16: Justin Rose, Jordan Spieth and Henrik Stenson
Last week was a bit of a heartbreaker for the 20-year-old Spieth, who capped off his first PGA Tour victory with a win at the John Deere Classic in a playoff but came out on the wrong end of extra holes at the Wyndham Championship.
Nevertheless, it took a great approach by Patrick Reed to clinch his first tour win, while Spieth racked up even more FedEx Cup points en route to his second runner-up finish of his maiden pro campaign.
Entering this week, Spieth is in eighth place in the standings, which affords him this type of elite company. Kelly Tilghman of Golf Channel highlights Spieth's meteoric 2013 rise:
Rose is the reigning U.S. Open champion and has struggled somewhat since hoisting his first piece of major hardware. However, with the playoffs getting underway, the Englishman should have a renewed focus.
With the exception of a third-round 77 at the PGA Championship, Rose has played relatively well in his past two outings.
Then there's Stenson, who has been denied of wins lately but has two runner-up finishes and two third-place efforts in his past four starts—all at high-profile events.
Perhaps capturing The Barclays—or the FedEx Cup in general—would be a fitting redemption story.
No. 17: Tiger Woods, Matt Kuchar and Brandt Snedeker
Questions will be abound for Woods after his winless streak at the majors was extended at the PGA, where he finished tied for 43rd.
These FedEx Cup events may have incredible amounts of cash on the line, but they aren't majors. That should bode well for Woods, who is the only multiple champion since the FedEx Cup was introduced in 2007.
Standing in his way, though, will be two direct competitors at the outset who are as consistent as they come. Kuchar has made his past 23 cuts—the longest-running streak on tour—and has racked up two wins and seven top-10s this year.
Thanks to a white-hot putter and improved ball-striking, Snedeker has emerged as one of the game's elite. Even a rib injury couldn't stymie the momentum he generated with 2012's FedEx Cup triumph, and the fact that he's third in the standings is a testament to that.
Woods fell apart at The Barclays on the weekend last year, but the only other time Liberty National hosted the event he came in a tie for second.
Thus, Snedeker's runner-up effort at Bethpage Black isn't as relevant to his chances. No one in this trio should miss the weekend cut.
No. 26: Keegan Bradley, Adam Scott and Boo Weekley
Good luck finding a more entertaining grouping than this one.
Between Bradley's fierce intensity and quirky mannerisms, Scott's breathtaking swing but obnoxious broomstick putter and Weekley simply being himself, a highly entertaining two days of golf are in store for the Jersey City galleries.
After valiantly guarding his title with a T-2 effort at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Bradley came in a tie for 18th at the PGA, which included a final-round 66 to end on a wonderful note.
Any lack of success Scott had earlier in his career at the majors was made up for in a big way with his breakthrough at The Masters, a tie for third at the Open Championship and a joint-fifth finish at Oak Hill.
Four of Weekley's past five rounds have been in the 60s, and it's actually quite remarkable that he's 12th in the overall standings entering The Barclays since he ranks 186th on tour in total putting. Whenever that putter gets going, Weekley has all the makings of truly taking his game to another level.
These three sport some of the best all-around long games in the world and should fare well on a track that puts a premium on fairways and greens.
Liberty National yielded a winning score of minus-nine to Heath Slocum in 2009, so alleviating the stress of scrambling with a sweet swing and sound course management is a great way to navigate this challenging course.
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