The Barclays Inside Track
Harry Emanuel with his analysis of The Barclays at Liberty National Golf Club in New Jersey.
Course: Liberty National Golf Club
Location: Jersey City, New Jersey
Cut: Low 70 plus ties after 36 holes
Tee Off: Thursday BST 12:15
The Barclays is the first event in the FedEx Cup Playoffs featuring the top 125 players from the season long FedExCup points list including eight of the top ten players in the world.
Next week the top 100 golfers will go on to the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston. The following week the top 70 players will progress to the BMW Championship in Chicago.
After a two week break the final 30 players atop the FedEx Cup points list will fight it out at the Tour Championship in Atlanta where a $10,000,000 prize fund awaits the winner. Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh won the first two FedEx Cups.
Westchester Country Club was home to the Barclays from 1967-2007. Last year the event was held at Ridgewood Country Club and this year it moves to Liberty National Golf Club in New Jersey.
Last Time Out
Vijay Singh collected a tournament record fourth career victory last year at Ridgewood Country Club with a sudden death playoff win, defeating Sergio Garcia and Kevin Sutherland.
At the first playoff hole Singh made a do or die birdie putt after Garcia sank his birdie attempt and Sutherland was eliminated. Singh two putted for birdie on the second playoff hole to capture the title.
In his three previous title defences of the Barclays Singh withdrew in 1994, finished tied for 20th in 1996 and missed the cut in 2007.
The Liberty National course was designed by 1992 U.S. Open winner Tom Kite and Bob Cupp and opened for play in 2006. Tom Kite also designed the Trump International Golf Club, home to this year’s Puerto Rico Open presented by Banco Popular.
The par 71 course can play as long as 7,419 yards. It sits alongside the Hudson River with views of Manhattan two miles away and the Statue of Liberty less than 1,000 yards from the 18th green.
Liberty National is a unique style of golf course. With over 5000 trees there are some holes which give it parkland course look but other holes which run alongside the river give it a Scottish links feel.
The course features undulating fairways well protected by bunkers, long wispy bluegrass rough in places and small greens with multiple run off areas.
The fairways are relatively tight but widen in many of the landing areas which are flanked by multiple bunkers. There are a number of doglegs will force the players to shape the ball both ways off the tee.
With soft fairways, eight holes over 474 yards, two par threes in excess of 219 yards and a drivable 324 yard par four, length off the tee will be an advantage.
The nature of the course with risk-reward par fives, the drivable 16th, a split fairway on 12 and water in play on eight holes makes Liberty National a test of strategy.
The key feature of these generally small undulating greens is they all have false fronts so players can run the ball up to the flags. They are also well protected by deep bunkers and run off areas so players will need to be inventive with their short game.
Recent rain has left the course soft and the greens are receptive. Unless the greens dry out players can be aggressive with their approach shots and attack the pins.
“We wanted to challenge the best players, and to do that, you have to have length; to do that, you have to have reasonable amount of tightness off the tee; to do that, you have to have penalties when the shots are not hit up to a high standard. We think we have done that” – Tom Kite
“The course has got its own character. It’s a very modern golf course with a very old-fashioned look to it. The greens are very difficult. There’s a lot of undulations on them. You’re going to have some interesting putts out there. You have to drive the ball on the fairway, and it’s long, and you have to drive the ball long enough and hit really good iron shots” – Vijay Singh
The three par fives and the drivable 16th are all key scoring holes with players expecting to make birdies and eagles but it may come down to how well they play the 496 yard par four 10th which normally plays a par five for the members.
It comes in the middle of a tough stretch after the tricky 474 yard par four ninth and just before the 250 yard par three 12th. Any player making it through this trio of holes in level par will certainly pick up shots on the field.
Forecast is good for Thursday and Friday with unsettled weather due over the weekend with a 40% chance of thunderstorms.
A new course for all the players and one that should test all the clubs in their bag. The players will need to shape the ball off the tee and distance will be an advantage this year as recent rain has left the course playing soft and the ball is not rolling out. Accurate iron play and a good strategy with a creative short game will be the keys to success.
Liberty National provides a good solid all round test with an emphasis on quality ball striking and short game skills.
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