PJ BLOGGER

Barclays Classic coming to Garden State

In Uncategorized on August 14, 2008 at 11:05 am

By STEPHEN EDELSON
STAFF WRITER

It’s not often that the spotlight of the golfing universe focuses on New Jersey.

It used to happen every 13 years when the U.S. Open made its traditional stop at Baltusrol, which hosted the PGA Championship three years ago.

But with the arrival of the Barclays Classic at Ridgewood Country Club next week, the PGA Tour will kick off its four-event FedEx Cup playoff format in the Garden State. The Barclays, which had been at Westchester Country Club in Rye, N.Y. since 1967, will be held at Liberty National in Jersey City next year, and will likely be played in New Jersey regularly in the coming years.

And while Tiger Woods won’t be in the field, the Barclays affords area fans with a unique opportunity to see the finest players in the world compete in a lucrative, prestigious tournament on a classic A.W. Tillinghast design.

It should make for an incredible week.

The course will be played over a composite of the 27 holes at Ridgewood, seeking to provide the toughest challenge for the players and the best possible experience for the fans.

Defending champion Steve Stricker is probably the best story in the field. With his emotional victory at Westchester, he ended a six-year winless drought on the PGA Tour. Stricker has been the Comeback Player of the Year in each of the last two seasons, and is now looking for a strong finish to complete his rebirth by earning a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup squad.

“It’ll be a little different coming to a place I’ve never seen before, a course where I didn’t win last year,” he said last week.

“From what I’ve understood from talking to people who live out there and have played Ridgewood, we’re going to a great facility, an old-time, classic course, with some tradition, too. (But) it’ll be kind of weird that it’s not the course (where) I won.”

No one turns up his game in the New York metropolitan area more than Phil Mickelson. His 72nd-hole meltdown at Winged Foot in the U.S. Open two years ago aside, Mickelson plays very well in the region and is embraced by the crowds. He won the PGA at Baltusrol, and was second behind Tiger Woods at the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black.

Mickelson got a look at Ridgewood last month when he played in a sponsors event at the club.

The hope is that the venue switch will help energize the tournament, which suffered from lackluster attendance and television ratings last year.

For fans heading up to Ridgewood, there are several spots on the course that will make for incredible viewing.

The 15th hole, a 155-yard, par-3, will be transformed into a “stadium hole,” much like the 16th hole at the TPC-Scottsdale, where fans spend much of the day cheering and booing shots. It could also end up being one of the decisive holes on Sunday.

Another is the fifth hole, a 291-yard, par-4 known as “five-and-dime,” which dates back to the days when players would hit a 5-iron off the tee and a 10-iron up the hill to the green. But players next week will be tempted to drive the ball onto the tiny putting surface, while seating will enable fans to watch the entire drama unfold.

On Tuesday at 1 p.m., PGA Tour player Jim McGovern from Oradell will join Nets guard Devin Harris to co-host a clinic for local youth.

Tickets for the Barclays will be available at the gate. General admission on Tuesday and Wednesday is $35 in advance and $45 at the gate. On the tournament dates, Thursday through Sunday, admission is $45 in advance and $55 at the gate. A weekly general advance ticket, good for the entire week and available in advance only, is $100.

For ticket information, call (800) 765-4742 or visit http://www.thebarclaysgolf.com.

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