The PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs get under way this week with The Barclays at Liberty National GC in Jersey City, New Jersey. Nick Watney defends the title and Brandt Snedeker is defending FedEx Cup champion.

The top 125 players from the FedEx Cup standings through the regular PGA Tour season are eligible to take part in The Barclays and they’ll all be looking to make it into the top 100 in order to progress to the second playoff event next week – the Deutsche Bank Championship.

Tiger Woods currently has a clear lead in the FedEx Cup standings. He’s almost 800 points clear of Matt Kuchar in second place. Brandt Snedeker lies third with Phil Mickelson in fourth. Justin Rose is the highest ranked non-American, back in seventh place.

But anything can happen when the playoffs get underway. With five times the amount of points on offer compared to a normal PGA Tour event, even those who qualify towards the bottom of the pile have a chance to lift themselves to the peak within the space of the four playoff events.

The top 100 on the standings after The Barclays will contest the Deutsche Bank Championship, then the top 70 go through to the BMW Championship with the top 30 playing in the Tour Championship for a chance to win the FedEx Cup and the $10 million first prize.

Designed by Tom Kite and Bob Cupp, Liberty National was only opened for play in 2006. It’s constructed on former industrial land on the banks of the Hudson River. With views over to Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty it’s a striking setting for a golf tournament. The event’s proximity to New York should ensure a large and vociferous crowd arrives to watch the world’s best this week.

The course received some criticism when it hosted the event in 2009. The feeling was that the rough was too high and the greens too punishing. So Cupp and Kite have made some alterations for this season, softening some greens and widening fairways.

Wind can play a significant role at this venue, but it’s not expected to blow up too badly this week.

Venue: Liberty National GC, Jersey City, New Jersey
Date: Aug 22-25
Course stats: par 71, 7,353 yards
Purse: $8,000,000 Winner: $1,440,000
Defending Champion: Nick Watney (-10)

TV Coverage:
Thursday 22 – Sky Sports 1 from 8pm
Friday 23 – Sky Sports 3 from 8pm
Saturday 24 – Sky Sports 3 from 6pm
Sunday 25 – Sky Sports 3 from 5pm

Player Watch:
Webb Simpson – He’s had four top-10 finishes this year and eight further top-25s. He was eighth the last time this event was played at Liberty National but he held the lead at the midway point.

Bill Haas – The 2011 FedEx Cup champion has enjoyed a solid season with nine top-10 finishes. He was tied for 24th at Liberty National in 2009.

Keegan Bradley – Another player on good form who is knocking on the door of a victory. He was tied second in the Bridgestone and has made it all the way to the Tour Championship in two previous attempts.

Key hole: 16th. At 325 yards this par 4 is driveable for the longer hitters. Those who gamble and go for the green will have to avoid the water all down the right side. Players who choose to lay up will also have to hit an accurate tee shot to find the narrow fairway. It’s a clear birdie chance but expect to see some double bogeys here as well.

Skills required: Concentration. With the incredible New York skyline on the horizon, even the most focused players on the PGA Tour might find themselves distracted. The layout of the course also creates a number of optical illusions where bunkers and hazards appear closer or further away than they actually are.

Where next?
European Tour –
Johnnie Walker Championship preview