This week the FedEx Cup playoffs begin with The Barclays, staged this year in New York at Bethpage State Park's Black Course, site of the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens. Dustin Johnson defends the title he won in a rain-shortened event last year at Plainfield CC. Each week, a panel of experts will offer up their picks from four groups of players based on Golf Channel's new fantasy game, Fantasy Challenge. We will also keep track of their scores and standings. The panel consists of: senior writers Rex Hoggard, Randall Mell and Jason Sobel; contributors John Hawkins and Win McMurry; editorial director Jay Coffin; RotoWorld.com's Rob Bolton; "Morning Drive" host Gary Williams and staff writer Ryan Lavner.
Group 1: Tiger Woods: Although he's never won the event - either as The Barclays or as a pre-playoff stop - his record at Bethpage is beyond reproach. He won the 2002 U.S. Open on the Black Course and finished tied for sixth at the 2009 championship.
Group 2: Sergio Garcia: Big win for El Nino last week at the Wyndham Championship and, like Woods, he has a bit of history at the famous New York "muni." The Spaniard tied for 10th in 2009 and finished fourth here in 2002.
Group 3: Brendon de Jonge: The Zimbabwean is having his most consistent year on Tour. He hasn't missed a cut since March, and at 41st on the FedEx Cup points list he's poised to play his way into his first Tour Championship.
Group 4: Heath Slocum: The last man into this year's playoffs, he jumped from 126th to 124th on the points list with his T-31 finish at the Wyndham. He made a similar jump in 2009 when he was 124th entering The Barclays, won the post-season opener and played his way to East Lake.
Group 1: Tiger Woods: His track record at Bethpage Black is too much to ignore: a win there in the 2002 U.S. Open, a T-6 in '09. Sure, it's been a lost season in the majors for Tiger, but Player of the Year is still up for grabs.
Group 2: Dustin Johnson: The "defending champion" at The Barclays, though his defense comes on a wildly different venue. DJ has two top 20s in his past three starts on Tour, and he's motivated to play well and impress U.S. Ryder Cup skipper Davis Love III.
Group 3: Padraig Harrington: Merely looking for consistency in this group, and Paddy hasn't missed a cut on Tour since May. The Irishman missed the cut at the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage, but was T-8 in '02. Hey, if he channels those vibes, it's a good week.
Group 4: Davis Love III: Shot all four rounds in the 60s at the Wyndham en route to a T-10 finish. If he's not distracted, the Ryder Cup captain could keep it going at Bethpage, too.
Group 1: Justin Rose: Tends to heat up during playoff time, as evidenced by last year's BMW victory.
Group 2: Dustin Johnson: With a potential Ryder Cup berth on the line, the defending champ could use a big week.
Group 3: Bud Cauley: Strike while the irons are hot, as the rookie is fresh off a strong performance in Greensboro.
Group 4: Ricky Barnes: Enjoyed a memorable week at Bethpage when the U.S. Open was held here three years ago.
Group 1: Keegan Bradley: He's finished first and T-3 in his last two starts. I bank on him staying hot through the playoffs, starting at Bethpage.
Group 2: Bo Van Pelt: What a season BVP has had! He's done everything but win in a year where he's had eight top-10 finishes and 13 top 25s. He missed the cut here in the 2009 U.S. Open but can deliver in the playoffs. Last year he had three top-25 finishes in the four postseason events, two of which were top 10s.
Group 3: Robert Garrigus: I like the hot hands this week, which includes Garrigus who has finished in the top 25 in each of his last four starts - two of which were, in fact, top fives.
Group 4: Chris Kirk: Comes into this week with great form for a Group 4 pick with five consecutive top-30 finishes, including two top 10s.
Group 1: Rory McIlroy: Confidence and momentum mean so much in this game, and McIlroy has them both this week.
Group 2: Zach Johnson: Tough-as-nails competitor who could steal the show playing with Tiger and Rory in rounds one and two.
Group 3: Scott Piercy: Just needs to catch his breath again after a big July.
Group 4: Ricky Barnes: Will hope to repeat the great run that he made at the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black.
Group 1: Rory McIlroy: Not enough space on the Internet to express how deserved he is of this roster spot. Effortless eight-shot romp at Kiawah Island is already legendary. What, too much hyperbole?
Group 2: Dustin Johnson: Defending champ, but at a different venue that is arguably better-suited for his bomb-and-gouge attack. He's putting better than ever, but small greens help hide whatever weakness remains.
Group 3: Robert Garrigus: Tee-to-green strength is too impressive to pass up at Bethpage. Arrives with four straight top-25s in tow and an unending wick on his swagger.
Group 4: Chris Kirk: Active streak of 12 consecutive rounds in the 60s in stroke-play events. Could have made a compelling case for fellow first-time father, Matt Every, here as well.
Contributions from writers and editors on the Golf Channel Digital team.
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