Spy on Golf: FedEx Cup Keeps It Short, USGA Goes Long

What’s the golf world talking about this week?

Aside from Tiger Woods, that is?

FedEx Cup logoFor starters, the PGA Tour’s oft-maligned but fairly entertaining FedEx Cup gets underway Thursday with The Barclays. No “Classic,” no “Championship,” just The Barclays. (Yeah, it takes some getting used to.)

Golf also holds its biggest non-professional event this week. The U.S. Amateur, boasting a roster of past winners like Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, will crown its 111th champion at Erin Hills Golf Course in the hinterlands of Wisconsin.

Here’s an oddity: The Barclays features a course measuring less than 7,000 yards, while the amateurs must tame a track tipping out at 7,700-plus. More on that in a moment.

As for Tiger, he spent last weekend working with the geek squad at EA Sports, preparing the 2013 version of his immensely popular video game. Too bad the game has a better Q Rating than Tiger himself. One survey reveals that 42 percent of the public view Woods unfavorably – not far behind America’s most disliked celeb, Paris Hilton (60 percent).

Maybe somebody should introduce those two…

FedEx Cup: Uphill climb for some players

Here’s how The Barclays shakes out:Plainfield Country Club

The top 125 players in the regular-season FedEx Cup standings comprise the field; the top 100 in the post-tourney standings survive to play next week at the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston.

The Tour folks guesstimate that the current top 87 are safe regardless of how they fare this week, leaving 13 spots up for grabs. That means guys like Anthony Kim (92), Graeme McDowell (93), Retief Goosen (103) and Camilo Villegas (109) need to get hot or go home.

More interesting, to us anyway, is how the pros handle Plainfield County Club, a Donald Ross-designed classic in Edison, N.J. At just 6,964 yards, it’s a pipsqueak by today’s standards. It’s also been drenched by rain in recent weeks, meaning the course could be vulnerable to a deluge of low scores.

Erin Hills continues new direction for USGA, American golf

While the pros tackle diminutive Plainfield, the amateurs face the longest course in USGA history. At its max, Erin Hills stretches to a gulp-inducing 7,760 yards, topping by 18 yards the record set in this event last year by Chambers Bay in University Place, Washington.

Both courses were built within the last five years and will host future U.S. Opens (Chambers Bay in 2015, Erin Hills in 2017). And their length comes with a couple of caveats.

For one, ace USGA setup man Mike Davis promises significant changes in day-to-day tee placements, predicting Erin Hills actually will play between 7,200 and 7,600 yards.

Second, the course is conditioned to play firm and fast, allowing drives to run out to what figure to be ridiculous distances. That’s in keeping not only with the Chambers Bay template, but the nascent move toward firmer fairways throughout American golf.

It’s a movement we’re completely on board with for a number of reasons; we’ll discuss those in a future installment.

In the meantime, enjoy this week’s action. Oh, and if you run into Tiger, tell him you know of a girl who’s just his type.


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