Shotgun Start: Previewing The Barclays at Bethpage Black

Jonathan Wall

It's tournament time! The top 125 players in the FedExCup standings head to the Black Course at Bethpage State Park, located in Farmingdale, N.Y., for the first phase of the PGA Tour playoffs. Here's a tournament primer to get you prepared for the week.

The course: Just three years removed from hosting the 2009 U.S. Open, the Black Course gets another shot to take on the best the PGA Tour has to offer. Only this time around when players show up to tackle the A.W. Tillinghast design, opened in 1936, they won't have to bring a canoe.

The Black Course has been dying for a do-over, after torrential downpours turned one of golf's toughest tests into a week-long slog through the muck. With clear skies and perfect golf weather expected for The Barclays, Bethpage's gem will take center stage for the first phase of the FedExCup.

Golf fans expecting to see a birdie bonanza this week should temper their expectations before the first round. At 7,468 yards, the Black Course will offer one of the sternest tests of the PGA Tour season, thanks to relatively narrow fairways and small greens (they average about 5,500 square feet) that should be running about 12 on the Stimpmeter.

[FedExCupdate: Who's in, who's out of The Barclays?]

Given the course's length, finding the fairway will be imperative this week for scoring. Players won't find nearly as tough a test as the U.S. Open, but to think the PGA Tour is going to turn the Black into a toothless beast would be foolish. The players in this week's field will get all they can handle, and then some from the course that has this sign attached to the railing next to the first tee.

Like the PGA Championship, length could play a huge factor this week. The par 71 layout has five par 4s that play over 475 yards, including the 10th and 12th that are 500-plus. Not only that, the par-5 13th is expected to play 608 yards this week. If there's a stretch on the course where your driver needs to be absolutely perfect, it's this one.

While the course hasn't changed much over the years, players will notice an additon to the uphill, par-3 17th. If hitting a tee shot to a mostly blind putting surface, surrounded by deep bunkers, wasn't tough enough, tournament officials decided to add a little intrigue this year by adding corporate bleachers on either side of the hole and additional seating behind the green to give it a "stadium-like feel." Considering how boisterous New York golf fans tend to be, this will likely be the loudest, and rowdiest, hole on the course.

The schedule: The tournament runs Thursday-Sunday. It'll be broadcast on the Golf Channel from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET on Thursday and Friday, 1 to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, and 12 to 1:30 p.m. Sunday; and on CBS from 3 to 6 p.m. ET on Saturday and 2 to 6:00 p.m. Sunday.

[Showdown at The Barclays: Rory McIlroy vs. Keegan Bradley]

The field: The field consists of the top 125 golfers on the season-long FedExCup points list; only the top 100 will advance to next week's Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston. Rory McIlroy, who regained the No. 1 ranking with his win at the PGA Championship, will be paired with Tiger Woods for the first two days -- they tee off at 8:16 a.m. ET on Thursday -- of the event. Jason Dufner, currently second in the FedExCup standings, is the only marquee name skipping The Barclays. But given the fact he was No. 2 coming into the first event, he'll still advance to the second phase of the playoffs. Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Hunter Mahan, Keegan Bradley, Steve Stricker and Webb Simpson are just a few of the notables in the field.

The video: Check out some of the memorable moments from The Barclays' history.

Your turn. Who are your picks for this week? Swing away!

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