The FedEx Cup Playoffs get underway this week, as Bethpage's famed Black Course becomes the fifth different venue to host The Barclays since 2007. The top 123 golfers in this season's standings begin a four-event gauntlet that will end in Atlanta with the winner taking home $10 million.
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Dustin Johnson heads to New York as defending champion, having won last year at Plainfield CC in an event that was shortened to 54 holes due to Hurricane Irene. Here are 10 players to watch:
1. Rory McIlroy: Two weeks ago, he lapped a world-class field en route to winning the second major of his career. Not much has changed since then.
2. Tiger Woods: The only man in the field this week who has left Bethpage with a trophy (2002 U.S. Open), Woods also finished T-6 here in the 2009 edition. Weekend woes aside, he still leads the Tour in scoring average and stands fourth in total driving.
3. Keegan Bradley: Followed up his comeback win in Akron with a T-3 finish in his defense of the Wanamaker Trophy. Ranks second on Tour in birdie average, 10th in total driving and currently leads the all-around ranking. Bradley has the distance off the tee to handle the Black Course and should be able to take advantage of birdie opportunities as they present themselves.
4. Justin Rose: Closed at Kiawah Island with a Sunday 66 to finish T-3 on the heels of a T-5 finish at Firestone the week prior. Already a winner this year at the WGC-CA Championship, Rose leads the Tour in greens in regulation percentage and stands fourth in the all-around ranking.
5. Bo Van Pelt: His campaign for a Ryder Cup captain's pick now in the eleventh hour, Van Pelt had three top-10 finishes entering the PGA, where he played in the final group on Sunday before falling back to T-18. His stat line is an impressive one: second in the all-around, fifth in total driving, ninth in ball striking and ninth in strokes gained putting. Finished T-40 here in the 2009 U.S. Open despite a third-round 82.
6. Steve Stricker: It doesn't seem to matter to Stricker where the event is held as long as it's under the banner of The Barclays. A winner of this event in 2007 at Westchester, he followed that up with a T-2 finish at Liberty National in 2009 and a T-3 the following year at Ridgewood. He also has three top-10 finishes in his last four starts this season and hasn't finished worse than T-23 since the U.S. Open.
7. Graeme McDowell: The most consistent performer across the four majors in 2012, McDowell clearly demonstrated his ability to handle difficult courses this year. Fourth in driving accuracy and seventh in par-4 performance, G-Mac also logged a T-18 finish here in the 2009 U.S. Open.
8. Sergio Garcia: Having solidified a spot on the European Ryder Cup team with his win at the Wyndham, Garcia now returns to a course where he finished fourth in the 2002 U.S. Open and T-10 seven years later. He was runner-up at this event in 2008, staged at Ridgewood CC, and will hope his hot putter makes the trip north from Greensboro. Garcia was second in the field last week in both putts per round and putts per GIR.
9. Tim Clark: The South African appears to have rebounded fully from his earlier injuries, carding a third straight top-15 finish this past week as runner-up to Garcia in Greensboro. Clark should play most of his approaches from the short grass this week; he is currently fourth on Tour in driving accuracy and was T-3 in the category during the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage.
10. Vijay Singh: Golf's version of the Energizer Bunny is still going, most recently playing his way into contention over the weekend at Kiawah two weeks ago. Singh has an affinity for this part of the country, having won three times at nearby Westchester CC and capturing The Barclays in 2008 at Ridgewood CC, another Tillinghast design.
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