The Barclays gets the race for the four-tournie FedExCup off and running on Thursday as it returns to Bethpage State Park (Black) for the first time since 2012.
Nick Watney was the winner then but his time at the top faded quicker than Johnny Depp’s pulling power at the box-office so it’s time for someone else to step up.
The $10m bonus bounty to whoever hits the line in front comes mid-September means all the big guns return after some out-of-season hibernation these past few weeks.
With FedExCup, Ryder Cup and a whole lot of dollars up for grabs here are the 7 players you’re backing with Paddy as of noon on Wednesday.
1. Justin Rose
While most of his peers were busy making more lame excuses than Brendan Rogers at a post-match press conference, Rose’s enthusiasm for the Olympics was rewarded with the gold medal in Rio after a shoot-out with Henrik Stenson down the stretch.
Rose is already in Darren Clarke’s European side at Hazeltine next month, so unlike fellow Olympians Bubba Watson & Patrick Reed, doesn’t have to worry about automatic qualification for the Ryder Cup.
With a back injury hopefully behind him, the World No. 9 is free to concentrate on picking up some nice pay-cheques along the way and has had time to get over his Rio exertions. Needs to overcome a 46th place finish at this track in 2012 as apart of a 6-46-2-30-16 finish in his last five Barclays’ visits.
2. Brandt Snedeker
It was hard not to be impressed by his T3 at Wyndham last weekend, shooting four rounds in the 60’s after three weeks gardening leave. Snedeker hit green-after-green and sank some neat putts to prove there was no rustiness in his game as he chased down yet another maiden winner Si Woo Kim.
The Californian’s second to Nick Watney in 2012 over course and distance gives him a nice advantage over a lot of the field this week, even if the returning in-form Dustin Johnson was just behind him in third-place back then when defending his Barclays title.
But the only thing that stays consistent about Snedeker is his inconsistency. He rocks into Bethpage State Park with three MC’s to his name after that 2012 high-point and tees it up with reigning FedExCup champ Jordan Spieth and European Ryder Cup wannabe Russel Knox.
3. Bubba Watson
His Ryder Cup ranking rather than the fans, photographers and whatever else gets in his brain space that should occupy Bubba’s thoughts this weekend.
If he is to have any chance of leap-frogging the likes of JB Holmes, Patrick Reed & Zach Johnson for an automatic spot at Hazeltine next month, he badly needs a Top 10 finish at the least. Luckily for him he got one the last time he played this track.
A three-time Ryder Cup veteran (although yet to appear on the winning side), the dual Masters champ is the kind of player Darren Clarke would love to be able to call on as a wildcard pick, IF he was from the other side of the pond.
But there’s no guarantee that Davis Love III will do the same after the weekend, so Bubba needs to get the finger out and not leave his place on the US Ryder Cup team to chance.
4. Jason Day
Now in the 26th week of being World No 1, the reigning Barclays champion has no Ryder Cup distractions to bother him and will be keen to go one better in the four-tournie bounty after finishing runner-up to Jordan Spieth last season.
Although last year’s win came at Plainfield, Day did get his eye in when 24th in 2012 when he was only a chap.
Simply one of the most consistent performers for the past two seasons and tees it up on Thursday in a box-office threesome of Dustin Johnson and Adam Scott as the big dogs get back to business.
5. Hideki Matsuyama
The tee-to-green machine has started to show signs of life again after falling away mid-season more tamely than an Alan Pardew-managed side.
Two Top 5’s at the USPGA Championship and last weekend’s Wyndham Championship points to the Japanese slugger arriving with his ‘A’ game and his ability to relentlessly get it on the dance floor should be a major asset on his course debut.
Needs to make it count by getting hotter with the flat-stick on the tricky greens.
6. Henrik Stenson
Had to settle for a silver medal in Rio but being the reigning Open Champion probably made that pill a bit easier to swallow for the ultra-consistent Swede.
A winner of the BMW International Open before that in Germany, Stenson has gradually tuned up the dial in this tournament since a debut 54th place finish at this course with a 43-38-2 finishes.
Became the first European to win the FedExCup in 2013 (the two wins in the series being his last Stateside) and then won the Race to Dubai the same season to become one of the most desirable private banking customers in the world.
Arrives here with momentum and can enjoy these last few tournaments playing for himself before he, Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose will be expected to perform miracles in Europe’s Rookie Ryder Cup side.
7. Luke Donald
A one-time Ryder Cup regular but ‘the Donald’ has fallen a long way since those heady days. A former World No. 1 in 2011 – granted for less than the average Premier League manager lasts – last weekend’s runner-up spot in North Carolina spot bumped him back to up to 64th from a lowly 90th in the world rankings.
Has at least started to pay the mortgage again this season after last weekend’s T2 at Wyndham matched his T2 at the RBC Heritage in April, but missed the cut four times in the eight Stateside tournaments in between and only troubled the Top 20 once in the other four.
A 10th place finish here in 2012 gives Donald backers some cause for optimism but will need to make his accurate approach shots and putting count as his lack of length off the tee could see him playing catching up with the boomers.