Barclays Golf Tournament Preview and Picks to Win
Dates: August 25-28, 2016
Course: Bethpage State Park (Black) – Farmingdale, NY
Television: The Golf Channel/CBS
by Evergreen, PGA Golf Handicapper, Predictem.com
There is no longer season in all of televised sports. The PGA Tour season started in October of last year with the Frys.com and will conclude in a month with the Tour Championship. Throw in the Ryder Cup and you have what amounts to only three weeks a year where competitive golf isn't being played, and I'm not counting events in Asia or places like Dubai. Golf is omnipresent but there are key points each season and we are at one of those key weeks as we start the FedExCup Playoffs at The Barclays. A full slate of events since last fall has produced the top-125 point earners and they will battle it out over the last four events in order to name a playoff winner. Each tournament takes progressively fewer players so getting in this Barclays field guarantees you just one week in the playoff draw. Folks like Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and most of the rest of your favorites are likely locks to make it to the Tour Championship but positioning for that final event is up for grabs as each week passes. A points reset comes immediately before East Lake and winning one of the next three events is the best way to have an easy path to the overall playoff win. Just three exempt players - Sergio Garcia, Danny Willett and Shane Lowry – are not making the start at the famously difficult Bethpage Black so there will be plenty of big names on display this week.
The Black course at Bethpage State Park is one of the most difficult ever put together. The course gained notoriety after hosting the 2002 US Open with Bethpage also hosting in 2009. For the Opens, the course played at par-70 but The Barclays will be a par-71 with one par-4 lengthened back out to a par-5. The layout will measure a stout 7,468 yards this week. This will be the second time the first playoff has made the stop here with Nick Watney winning the 2012 Barclays at ten under-par. The difficulty at Bethpage is muted from the severe levels seen with the Open setups but hitting the fairways is still important and everything here is designed to add difficulty. The tee-to-green puzzle requires length and accuracy to solve and the green complexes will present tough up-and-down chances for missed approaches. The Black might not be at its peak when it comes to overall challenge but this is a course designed to single out the best players. Each week, we take a look at the online betting sites and highlight the best bets. We make some picks to win and breakdown a couple of high-profile head-to-head matches. Here are our picks to win the 2016 Barclays.
Brooks Koepka (28 to 1)
The budding star has had a fantastic campaign to get to 19th in the FedEx ranks. He hasn't won but has two runner-up finishes and a third with has last five starts producing nothing worse than a T13. He is 15th in driving distance and that will come in handy to shrink Bethpage. He is top-50 in greens hit, a good sand player and enters the week 21st in putts per green in regulation. That's some good stuff overall but what is better is his 8th best birdie conversion percentage. That isn't an often quoted stat when predicting ability to win but Koepka cashes in birdies better than only seven other players, making him a real threat to win when he is hitting greens. He can be mistake prone off the tee but without the Open-style rough, Bethpage can be played from outside the fairways a bit more.
Matt Kuchar (33 to 1)
If you watched Kuchar coming down the stretch at the Olympics, you saw just how gritty and talented this guy is. He is often forgotten when making lists of best players on Tour but you can't argue with stats like nine top-10 finishes with three 3rds in just twenty make cuts. Matt is going to navigate Bethpage from the short stuff as his top-40 fairways hit percentage would suggest and he adds the 31st ranked putting average per GIR to net top-15 birdie and scoring averages. He is a top-notch scrambler and also one of the best lag putters on Tour so there are very few wasted strokes each round. If the winning score is right around 10-under again, I expect Kuchar to be within a shot or two come Sunday.
Jim Furyk (40 to 1)
Over the last two weeks, Furyk has put together T5 and T10 finishes with an aggregate 24-under total, thanks in part to his PGA record round of 58 two weeks ago. He is well past any lingering issues with the surgically repaired wrist and enters the playoffs in 94th so he will be among the group motivated to play well and improve that points position. 20th in fairways and 47th in greens hit suggests that he will get his chances to score and don't let a low birdie conversion rate scare you. Furyk spins a top-16 scoring average from just the 169th most birdies per round so there are essentially zero wasted swings each round. Efficiency is a big factor at tough courses because you wind up with more bogey chances than birdie looks so Furyk should gain strokes on the field even if he gets on extended par runs.
Picks to win based on projected score for entire event. Check with your favorite book for single round matches and prop bets.
Jordan Spieth v. Justin Rose (our pick to win: Rose)
First off, please note that a big part of picking Rose is due to his even money status in this head-to-head with Spieth most commonly -120 or more. That is a lot of value baked right into Rose before the first shot is even hit. That isn't all that makes Rose a good pick however and it starts with Spieth's rather pedestrian tee-to-green stats. Spieth is 18th in tee-to-green performance overall so he's not bad but he is outside the top-125 in both fairways and greens and that doesn't make me love him at a course like Bethpage. Jordan makes up for that with the Tour's best statistical putter but I like Rose and his significantly better GIR% to push this match in his favor. Rose is riding high after a gold-medal performance in Rio and some of the shine has come off Spieth since Augusta. Golfers go through mini-slumps all the time and you need to be ready to bet against Spieth when he is iffy, especially if he is a big favorite and you can get even money with his opponent.
Dustin Johnson v. Jason Day (our pick to win: Johnson)
Much of the same in this match as the one above. DJ is the underdog but these players are #1 and #2 in the points race and most of Day's best work came early in the season. Neither player is super-accurate off the tee but DJ is a bit straighter and you get the longest driver on Tour on top of that. A slight advantage to Johnson in the greens hit category as well and this is starting to look like a bad line set by the books. Day is a tough egg to crack as he gains more strokes on the field with the putter than anyone else but Johnson still gets a few more birdies per round so you like your chances even if Day is putting well. I think DJ is going to be discounted by a lot of bettors as he isn't the prototypical player that sees success at Bethpage but Day really isn't either and he feels a bit further off his A-game, similar to Spieth at this point.
Odds to Win the Tournament
|Si Woo Kim||65/1|
|Charles Howell III||240/1|
|Tyrone Van Aswegen||350/1|
|Billy Hurley III||400/1|
|Harold Varner III||400/1|
Good luck and good golf!
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