Bubba Watson goes into the Barclays Tournament in Farmingdale, New York today with every reason to believe he can pick up his first win in the FedExCup play-offs.
The Masters winner has played the Bethpage State Park well earlier in his career, but returns for the first time since the 2009 US Open a more confident player with four PGA Tour wins under his belt.
He has made the cut in 13 of 15 events he has played this year, with five top-five finishes, but is still pushing for more.
“My expectations are always high,” Watson said. “I’ve been playing pretty solid all year with a lot of top 25s but not a lot of top 10s, not as many as I want.
“These play-offs are the most important thing right now and this course sets up pretty good for me, with it being a little bit longer.”
Watson will be one of 125 players chasing glory – and prize money – in the first of the lucrative play-off tournaments.
Defending champion Dustin Johnson has a habit of coming good at this time of year, and he is the only man in the field who has won play-off events in each of the past two years, having claimed the BMW Championship two years ago.
“I play well at this time of the year usually, so I enjoy the FedExCup,” Johnson said.
“I like the play-offs. This is time where you really need to play well. I’ve had a lot of success the last few years in the play-offs, and hopefully I can continue that this year.”
However, Johnson is expecting a vastly different experience in Farmingdale this year compared to 12 months ago, when he won by two shots in a tournament shortened to 54 holes by Hurricane Irene.
“It’s at a totally different golf course than it was last year,” he said.
“It’s going to play tough. The rough is pretty thick, and the fairways are pretty narrow, just like they were in the US Open. It’s going to be a good test of golf.”
One hundred players will advance from this week’s field to play the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston, and 70 from there will go forward to the BMW Championship.
The top 30 from the Crooked Stick Golf Club in Indiana then move forward to Atlanta for the Tour Championship finale and a shot at the $10 million prize.
That will not be the only thing on players’ minds here, though.
Neither Ian Poulter nor Pádraig Harrington are able to qualify for the European Ryder Cup team directly, so have skipped the Johnnie Walker Championship in Gleneagles to play here, hoping their performances will see them impress Jose Maria Olazabal and snare a wild-card pick.
Poulter already seems assured of his, having tied for third at the PGA Championship and temporarily moved into the top 10.
Harrington, however, has more work to do with Nicolas Colsaerts the favourite to get the nod from Olazabal.
Events at Gleneagles may change things, however, and Harrington’s hopes are not yet over.
Tiger Woods has a headstart in the play-off standings as he goes to the opening tee as the overall points leader on the PGA Tour so far this year.He will pair off with the third-placed Rory McIlroy and fourth-placed Zach Johnson, with Jason Dufner, second, not playing this week.
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