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Dublin: 10°C Wednesday 12 May 2021
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In the swing: Hurricane-hit Barclays throws up some good storylines

Neil Cullen casts his eye over the opening weekend of the FedEx Cup playoffs.

Dustin Johnson emerges back onto the 18th green after signing his score card on Sunday.
Dustin Johnson emerges back onto the 18th green after signing his score card on Sunday.
Image: Rich Schultz/AP/Press Association Images

DUSTIN JOHNSON WON The Barclays Championship over the weekend.

The event, of course, had to be shortened to 54 holes given the impending arrival of Hurricane Irene.

As fun as it would be to watch guys play golf in a hurricane, common sense prevailed, the safety of the players and spectators was prioritised, and those of us hoping that we might see a bit of havoc caused by high-winds during the final round had to make do with a birdie-fest on Saturday instead.

Never fear, though. Dustin Johnson is a winner that gives us plenty of talking points.

Did you know, for example, that Dustin Johnson has the most victories — five — of any player on Tour in his 20s? Or that he’s the first player since Tiger Woods to go directly from college and win in each of his first four years on tour? (Thank you, Brian Wacker of PGAtour.com for that)

That’s pretty impressive, in fairness. Also bear in mind that if it wasn’t for a controversial grounding of his club in a bunker on the 72nd hole of the 2010 USPGA Championship, he’d also be a Major Champion.

A lot of his success can be attributed to the fact that he hits the ball so far from the tee. He may not be the most accurate driver (57.06%), but because of his length he still manages to hit a lot of greens (68.83%) and converts those chances into birdies (4.34 per round).  It’s a simple enough game when you put it that way, but it shows Johnson is able to execute.

He now sits in first place in the FedEx Cup standings and could well be this year’s winner.

Stopping the rot

A man who hasn’t had such a great season but who managed to progress to next week is our very own Padraig Harrington.

Padraig only just made it into the top 125, the cut for The Barclays, but his 13th place finish was enough to see him move up to 80th and get into the Deutsche Bank Championship which starts later in the week. Only 100 will compete this week as the field is gradually whittled down over the course of playoffs and Harrington will be delighted to progress and show some form given the season he has had.

It may well be no coincidence that he is beginning to play good golf again just as he starts to work with coach Pete Cowen. Aside from the standard of his golf being an obvious worry, the fact that he has tumbled down the world rankings to outside the top 70 is also of grave concern. A good few weeks for him would go a long way to stopping the rot and turning around his fortunes.

Good signal

The FedEx Cup, as much being about the guys challenging for the title, always provides some interesting sub-plots. Harrington’s fortunes are interesting for us Irish to follow, but even the guys in last place can provide us with some entertainment.

William McGirt made it into the playoffs as number 125 of 125 players. You’d think anything after that was a bonus, but McGirt is enthusiastic. “Heck yeah, man, it’s the Playoffs. There’s still a chance,” were his words when asked about his progression into the next round.

Last weekend, because of the weather conditions, all of the scoreboards on the course had been taken down, so the players didn’t know where they lay on the leaderboard. McGirt knew he needed to finish roughly in the top 35 to make it into the top 100 and get into the Deutsche Bank Championship.

As he tackled the back nine of the final round, his wife, who was following outside the ropes as a spectator, gave him a hand signal saying 101 i.e. you’re in 101st position. McGirt went on to birdie 17 and made it in as number 96.

As fun as it would have been to see the pros tackle the wind on Sunday, there were probably enough entertaining storylines going on elsewhere, such is the nature of these playoffs.

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