The Barclays: Day the pick of the favourites at Bethpage Black

Jason Day is very effective on Tillinghast courses
Jason Day is very effective on Tillinghast courses

The Barclays is the first leg of the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup and takes place at a classic course, the notoriously tough Bethpage Black. Steve Rawlings has taken a look at all aspects of the tournament in his essential preview...


"I can't get away from Jason Day and at anything around the 8/1 mark he's fairly priced so I've backed him."

Tournament History


Originally called the Westchester Classic and staged at Westchester Country Club, The Barclays has undergone a series of name changes and next year it'll be known as The Northern Trust.

The tournament was first staged in 1967 when Jack Nicklaus won the title for the first time and he won it again in 1972. Jack's one of four to win it twice and Vijay Singh has won the event four times. The Barclays is now a limited field event for the top 125 on the FedEx Cup standings after the last counting event (last week's Wyndham Championship) and it's kicked off the FedEx Cup playoff Series since its inception in 2007.

At the end of this event, the top 100 on the standings move on to TPC Boston for the Deutsche Bank Championship next week.

Venue


Bethpage State Park - Black Course, Farmingdale, New York.


Course Details

Par 71, 7,468 yards

Created by renowned designer A.W. Tillinghast, the Bethpage Black Course opened in 1936. In 2002 it became the first public course to host the U.S Open, when Tiger Woods, who was the only player to break par for the week, won by three over Phil Mickelson. It was again the venue in 2009 when Lucas Glover won by two strokes from Mickelson, David Duval and Ricky Barnes. On both occasions the event was played in wet conditions (particularly in 2009 when the event ran into Monday). It was last used for this event in 2012 when Nick Watney took the spoils with a 10-under-par total.

At 7,468 yards, it's an extremely long track but it does now play to a par of 71, compared to the 70 at the two US Opens, as the 7th hole is now a par five.

The weather has been stifling in the lead up to the tournament and staff have been watering the course avidly in preparation. Course superintendent, Andy Wilson, has said the greens should run at around 12 on the stimpmeter and that the rough will be around three and half inches high - shorter than it was for the 2002 US Open but longer than it was in 2009. Frustratingly, he doesn't reference the 2012 edition of this event.


Weather Forecast


TV Coverage


Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 19:00 on Thursday.

Last Five Winners

2015 - Jason Day -19
2014 - Hunter Mahan -14
2013 - Adam Scott -11
2012 - Nick Watney -10
2011 - Dustin Johnson -19 (54 holes)

What Will it Take to Win The Barclays?


Although Bethpage Black has been used for three tournaments this century, the 2012 edition of this event is probably the only form of real use to us here. Tiger was the only player to break par 14 years ago and the 2009 US Open was a weather-affected event which favoured one side of the draw greatly.

After heavy rain had softened the course, those scheduled to play in the afternoon on day one enjoyed a 3.38 strokes advantage over the first two rounds. The course played long but soft that year and to a different par so I've primarily focused on Nick Watney's win in 2012.

Big hitters, Dustin Johnson and Graham DeLaet, finished inside the top-five and accurate driver, Sergio Garcia, led after three rounds before fading in to third but length nor accuracy off the tee appeared crucial three years ago.

Brandt Snedeker finished second, ranking 33rd for Greens In Regulation, and Brian Harmon tied for fifth having ranked just 56th for GIR, but five of the first eight home ranked inside the first seven for GIR so that looks a key stat. Watney ranked second and Louis Oosthuizen, alongside Harmon in fifth, ranked number one. Nobody made more birdies than the winner and he and runner-up, Snedeker, ranked tied fifth for Par 5 Scoring.

Whether you can read too much into one edition's worth of data is highly debatable but it's possibly worth noting that Woods ranked first for GIR when he won here in 2002 and Glover ranked fourth in 2009 so if forced to pick one stat to focus on it would be that.

Is There an Angle In?


The USPGA Championship looks like a result to scrutinize. Matt Kuchar won the 2010 edition of this event having finished inside the top-10 in the year's final major in his previous start and the last three winners have all finished inside the top-seven in the USPGA Championship in their penultimate starts.

Jason Day was winning his third tournament in four starts when he won this event 12 months ago, just a fortnight after he'd won the USPGA Championship at Whistling Straits. The 2014 winner, Hunter Mahan, had finished seventh in the USPGA in his previous start and Adam Scott won this tournament two weeks after he'd finished fifth in the year's final major. Given those stats and the fact that this year's championship was played at Baltusrol - which is another A.W. Tillinghast designed course - the result from last month's USPGA Championship looks well worth analysing.

In addition to Baltusrol and this track, A.W. Tillinghast was also responsible for Ridgewood, which hosted this tournament in 2008, 2010 and 2014, and for Winged Foot, which last hosted the US Open 10 years ago, so form of those events is worth looking at too.

Is There an Identikit Winner?


I used to think backing players that had just got into the tournament courtesy of a high finish at the Wyndham to sneak into the top-125 might be worth chancing. In theory they are running free with nothing to lose but outsiders don't have a great record of late.

Steve Stricker was winning for the first time in six years when he won this event in 2008 and I don't think anyone could have picked out the 2009 winner, Heath Slocum, but since then every winner has been straight out of the top drawer.

In-Play Tactics


Bethpage Black looks like a tough place to make up ground. Tiger Woods won the 2002 US Open here wire-to wire and the last two course winners sat first or second at halfway. Watney was never outside the front two and Glover sat second after rounds two and three, having sat in a tie for seventh after the opening round in the 2009 US Open.

Market Leaders


World number one and defending champion, Jason Day, has outstanding claims this week and he's definitely the man to beat. I dismissed him a bit too readily last time out in the USPGA Championship on account of his disappointing record of defending titles but his second there at Baltusrol put paid to that arguably flimsy theory.

In addition to that effort, he's also finished fifth and second at Tillinghast's Ridgewood in 2010 and 2014 so he has plenty of Tillinghast track form. He finished only 24th here in 2012 but that was still one of his best efforts that season and when he bookended rounds of 68 and 66 at Ridgewood in 2008 with a pair of 74s to finish 31st, he was also in ice-cold form. When he's played the designer's courses in any sort of form he's finished placed.

US Open champ, Dustin Johnson, finished third here in 2012 and he was ninth at Ridgewood in 2010 so there's no reason to think he won't enjoy the venue but I'm more than happy to swerve him after his missed cut at Baltusrol last time out. Day looks a much better proposition at only fractionally shorter.

Rory McIlroy has had a bit of a miserable year so far. He's missed cuts at two majors (the US Open and the USPGA last time out), he gave up a golden chance to win at Trump Doral in March and his win at the Irish Open back in May is still his sole success of 2016. He didn't do himself any favours by dismissing the Olympics so crudely and now that Nike have decided to pull out of golf manufacturing he has to find a new set of clubs and ball to play with. He'd dearly love to end the season in style but on all known evidence, he's one to swerve at the prices on offer.

Henrik Stenson is much harder to dismiss after his sparkling run of form. He hasn't got oodles of Tillinghast form but his top-ten here in the 2009 US Open from the wrong side of the draw is eye-catching and his Greens In Regulation figures are spectacular. I suspect he views his silver medal at the Olympics in a favourable light and I don't suspect he dwelt long on the disappointment of losing out late on to Justin Rose but I just have reservations about how much is left in the tank. I like his chances but again, he doesn't look a great price in relation to Day.

Jordan Spieth hasn't played to his stunning best for much of 2016 and his GIR stats have been poor most weeks. He arrives here on the back of a 13th place finish at the USPGA Championship and the only additional Tillinghast form on offer is his tied 22nd in this event at Ridgewood two years ago. It's a long time since we saw him trading at getting on for 20/1 before the off but I'm still not tempted.


Selections

I can't get away from Jason Day and at anything around the 8/1 mark he's fairly priced so I've backed him and I've also had a tiny bet on Johnson Wagner. The 36-year-old Texan has finished inside the top-five in each of his last two starts and he won the 2001 Met Open at Bethpage Black as an amateur.


Selections
Jason Day @ 9.28/1
Johnson Wagner @ 400.0399/1

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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