No one has benefitted more from the creation of the FedEx Cup Playoffs than Steve Stricker.
Welcome to another edition of Fantasy Fix, where long putters are starting to pop into our dreams at night. If equipment companies were smart, they'd start making late-night infomercials to take the place of all those "Girls Gone Wild" spots. Being able to putt like Keegan Bradley is what the guys I talk to are fantasizing about these days. Then again, I do work at Golf Digest... Anyway, onto the next event, or events, since the FedEx Cup Playoffs are finally upon us. Here are some thoughts on how things will shake out.
The PGA Tour heads to Plainfield Country Club for the Barclays, the first leg of the four-event postseason. Since none of the players have ever played the classic Donald Ross design in competition, handicapping the field could be a bit tricky.
Random tournament fact: Jack Nicklaus won the inaugural event at Westchester Country Club, where the tournament was played for the first 41 years. The Golden Bear would wind up with 73 PGA Tour wins and 18 majors, but the absence of a FedEx Cup title leaves a glaring hole in his resume...
Matt Kuchar. In an odd twist, Kuch won his third career event here last year and for the third time he won't have the opportunity to defend his title on the same course. Nevertheless, he seemed to like the layout when he took a quick tour of it on media day last month. He also got a lesson in how to play the finishing hole from yours truly. Unfortunately, it won't play like it did that day having been turned into a driveable par 4 for the tournament. Well, driveable for the guys with names on their bags.
THE RETURN OF MR. SEPTEMBER
Steve Stricker. The Strick Show has earned this nickname for his play in the playoffs during its first four years of existence. While technically this tournament will end before the calendar turns to the next month, we still like his chances to win here, take home the shiny FedEx Cup Trophy and earn PGA Tour Player of the Year. And all while using a conventional putter. Imagine that!
OTHER STUDS OF THE WEEK
Jason Day. How has this guy not won this year? Other than Kuchar, he is the highest-ranked player on the FedEx Cup points list without a victory. It wouldn't be surprise if he changed that in the next month, especially considering how well he played in these four playoff events last year, when he followed up a T-5 at the Barclays with a T-2 at the Deutsche Bank Championship.
Adam Scott. We'll keep the Aussie theme going with yet another guy who appears to have been saved by the long putter. Scott followed up his, yes his win at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational with a solo seventh at the PGA Championship. The way he's hitting the ball from tee to green, Scott could probably get around the unfamiliar Plainfield CC layout blindfolded.
JUST BECAUSE PICK
Luke Donald. In case you haven't heard, the Englishman is pretty good. The top-ranked player in the world continued his fantastic campaign with a runner-up at Firestone and a T-8 at the PGA despite the fact that he lost a couple sleeves of balls on Atlanta AC's closing stretch.
FAN MAIL BREAK
"Hey, Alex. Love the column even though I have no clue what fantasy golf is. Anyway, I just wanted to hear your thoughts on the long putter. Personally, I don't think it's fair. If I had used one I might have been able to make a run at Jack's 18 majors. I also would have won by five shots at Turnberry two years ago. Talk to you later, Tom Watson."
Thanks for the note, Tom. I'm glad you wrote since I think you are partly to blame for golf's latest equipment craze. It was actually your badly-missed par attempt for the win two years back that caused a lot of people to switch to the long putter. OK, so maybe that's not where experts trace this trend back to and no, Watson didn't write, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't. Please feel free to email me
with comments, questions or just to make fun of my picks. And of course, you can follow me on Twitter
FREE FANTASY FOOTBALL ADVICE
As crazy as professional golf has been to predict this year, the upcoming football season could be even more of a crapshoot, especially with the wrench the lockout threw to all 32 NFL teams. One expert's "must pick" guy is another's "don't touch" bust. So on the eve of my own fantasy draft, I'm as clueless as Dustin Johnson on the 18th hole of Whistling Straits. So as my time on the clock nears, I'm open to suggestions.
UNDER-THE-RADAR MAJOR CHAMP TO KEEP AN EYE ON
Y.E. Yang. Rumor has it that Yang had seven birdies and an eagle in a 15-hole span when he played at Plainfield for a corporate outing earlier this summer. A few more rounds on a track where his accurate hybrids will be a valuable weapon should have him ready to go come Thursday.
DUDS OF THE WEEK
Keegan Bradley. Before you yell at me for not supporting the freshest star in the game, let me say I'm a big fan of Bradley's game. Just not this week. People far and wide are going to hastily plug the St. John's product into their lineups for his first event since a stunning win at the PGA Championship and I don't think it's a prudent play. Sure, he's got plenty of confidence, but backing up such a big win is tough. Also, keep in mind he has just four top 10s (though he turned two into wins) in 24 starts this season.
Phil Mickelson. We've been down on Lefty a lot lately and it's paid off. And on an old-style course where placement off the tee is crucial and that he has little-to-no local knowledge of, this doesn't seem like the spot to change things up. Mickelson does have fond memories from right down the road at Baltusrol, but that was when his game, especially his putting, was at a much higher level.
THIS YEAR'S HEATH SLOCUM CANDIDATE
Heath Slocum. If you're looking for a FedEx Cup darkhorse, why not look to the most famous darkhorse in the playoffs' four-year history? Two years ago, Slocum (ranked 124 out of 125) edged Tiger Woods, Steve Stricker, Ernie Els and Padraig Harrington (when beating all those guys still meant something) by a shot at this event when he drained a 20-foot par putt on the 18th hole at Liberty National, which was also hosting its first PGA Tour event that week. Slocum's strength is keeping it in play, so if he's hitting it as straight as usual, he should adapt to Plainfield just fine.
IT'S JUST A MATTER OF TIME
Charles Howell III. Like Webb Simpson last week (good call by me by the way), CH3 has been getting closer to picking up a win. His T-4 in Greesnboro was his fourth top five of the summer, all of which have come after making a switch to a certain piece of equipment. What is it? I'll give you a hint: It rhymes with "wrong gutter"...
*-- Alex Myers is a contributing editor for GolfDigest.com. Feel free to e-mail him
and please follow him on Twitter (@AlexMyers3
) since he has self-esteem issues.*