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The Barclays Preview: Furyk Eyes the FedEx Cup

Greg Vara

Vara is the lead golf writer at RotoWire. He was named the 2013 FSWA Golf Writer of the Year. In addition to producing the weekly preview and the bulk of the draft kit content, Vara participates in Yahoo!'s "Experts Picks" where he routinely dominates. He also picks college football games against the spread in his "College Capper" article.

Although he failed to pick up his second victory last week at the Wyndham Championship, Jordan Spieth is starting to resemble "that" guy. You know, the highly touted prospect who actually pans out. The guy we want to root for because true greatness is so elusive. The golfer we can trust to come through, even when it seems the pressure is too much. That guy. Each year a handful of guys catch the attention of the viewing public and, unfortunately, fail to live up to expectations. Heading into this season it was Casey Wittenberg, a few years earlier it was Jamie Lovemark, even Hunter Mahan has fallen victim to expectatios; sure he's one of the best 20-25 players in the world now, but he struggled for a few years before figuring it out. Mahan is proof that it's too early to give up on young guys like Wittenberg and Lovemark, but he's also a case study on just how hard it is to live up to high expectations on the PGA Tour - at least right away. Spieth, however, seems immune to the attention. It's really quite incredible for such a young player to have this much success so early in his career. Let's not forget, he's just 20 years-old, and he's lived his entire professional career in the spotlight. It takes someone special to play at such a high level when everyone watching is expecting greatness. His play to this point doesn't guarantee he'll avoid every bump in the road, though, (see Bud Cauley) but if what we've witnessed the last few months is any indication of what's to come, then we've found "that" guy.

This week:
The Barclays

Last Year:
Nick Watney shot a final-round 69 on his way to a three-stroke victory over Brandt Snedeker.

Players to Consider:

1. Tiger Woods

The stars are aligned for Woods this week, shocking right? He's dominated the non-major schedule this season and has played well on this course. He finished runner-up here in 2009. It will be interesting to see how he responds, though, with the knowledge that there are no majors left to look forward to this year.

2. Henrik Stenson

He's playing so well that he has to win a PGA Tour event at some point, right? Well, he's running out of time, but with potentially four chances left, there's a decent chance he picks up a win during this final stretch.

3. Jim Furyk

His issues with closing aside, Furyk is on a roll. He's played at a high level the last month, and there's no reason to think that will change this week. Furyk also played well here in 2009 with a T15.

4. Bill Haas

Just like at majors, certain players get up for the FedEx events and Haas being a former champion is certainly one. It's also a good sign that he happens to be playing well heading into the playoffs. Look for Haas to make a run at another FedEx title.

5. Matt Jones

With all the top players in the world in the field this week, it would be easy to stack the top-5 with big names. But don't forget that there are 125 golfers in the field, and there's bound to be a couple lower-ranked golfers who make a run. Jones comes in playing very well and could be one of those guys.

Players to Avoid:

1. Nick Watney

Watney is the defending champion at this event and played well here in 2009, but he in no way resembles that player now. Watney has missed three of his last four cuts and has only one top-25 since mid-May.

2. Phil Mickelson

It's been a great year for Mickelson, but something tells me he's ready for it to be over. Much like Tiger, Phil puts most of his effort into the majors, and, quite simply, the FedEx Cup doesn't compare. He'll show up and play his game, but don't expect his heart will be in it.

3. Lee Westwood

Again, like Mickelson, I can't imagine Westwood getting too jacked up for the FedEx Cup after the major season that he had. He certainly has the game to make a run this fall, but Westwood is probably ready to move on to next season as well.

4. Jason Dufner

When we last saw Dufner he was the best player on the planet, but that was two weeks ago and a lot has changed since. I would expect Dufner to have a bit of a major hangover this week, but if he can get through this one in decent shape, he might be someone to look at next week.

5. Freddie Jacobson

Jacobson started the season on fire, but if he doesn't get something done soon, his season will be over, at least his FedEx Cup season will be over. Jacobson has fallen to 66th in the rankings and has been heading the wrong way for quite a while now.


Group A

1. Tiger Woods
2. Bill Haas

This is the time of year when strategy really starts to come into play. Woods will play all four FedEx events, so if you have less than four starts, you have to pick your spots. I have two starts left, but I have a plan. More on that later.

Group B

1. Webb Simpson
2. Jim Furyk
3. Dustin Johnson
4. Matt Kuchar

Here's where major strategic decisions came into play. I have three players with only two starts left, Bradley, Kuchar and Rose. It probably wouldn't be wise to use any more than one of those golfers this week, so I chose Kuchar from that group. Furyk was an easy pick as he's on fire and starts aren't a concern. Same with Simpson. He's playing well and starts are no concern. The final pick was D.J., and while it might be a tad risky with the news of the week, I think he'll play well and starts aren't a concern there either.

Group C

1. Henrik Stenson
2. Matt Jones

I handcuffed myself a bit by putting Jones in my top-5, which means if at all possible, I have to put him on my roster, but considering I've got Stenson in this group, I'm not too worried about taking a chance on sleeper this week. Adam Scott looks like a good pick as well, but again, I'm down to two starts left with him, so I'll wait another week or two to use him.

Starters Round One

1. Bill Haas
2. Webb Simpson
3. Jim Furyk
4. Henrik Stenson

I like Woods this week, but it's not one of those events where you have to start him out of the blocks. That said, Haas will start round one this week. There's also another reason for that, which I'll get to in a bit. Furyk seems like an easy pick to start in Group B. He's on a roll and has been known to play well this time of year. The other pick wasn't as easy and to be honest, I'm still not sure I made the right pick as I write this, but Simpson has played well lately and starting him will give me a chance to save a start from Kuchar if needed. Group C is an easy choice. Stenson has done just about everything possible the last two months except win, which he could easily do this week.

Round Two and Going Forward:

OK, now for my strategy in Group A this week. Unlike earlier in the year or even the last few seasons, when Tiger has started well this season, he usually ends up winning or at least in the hunt. With that knowledge, I'll wait just one round to make the call on Tiger. If he starts well, then he's in the lineup Friday. If not, then he probably rides pine the entire week. Furyk has a strong hold on one of the starting spots in Group B this week, but the other one is up for grabs Friday. Like Tiger, I'll have to make a similar call on Kuchar after round one. I don't want to waste a start, but then again, I don't want to miss out on a solid week. Group C is Stenson's, unless he somehow forgets how to play. I like Jones this week, but he'll have to be in a really good position heading into Saturday to crack the lineup.