By Ben Larsen
Dust off your rally caps.
Exchange those razors for good-luck beards.
Playoff time is here.
The 2016 FedExCup playoffs tee off today and with them come the flurry of questions surrounding the validity of the PGA Tour's "postseason."
Now in its 10th year, the structure still faces critics. Sure, there is still a bit more excitement surrounding the four majors each year compared to the buzz surrounding the season-ending string of tournaments that make up the FedExCup playoffs, but that shouldn't take anything away from golf's postseason.
While other sports' postseasons are filled to the brim with team vs. team drama, golf fans can get excited about a double feature -- players not only battle the field, but the course, too.
With that in mind, we dove deep into our treasure chest of data to explore just how the courses are likely to respond over of the next five weeks.
Let's examine the four courses that make up the FedExCup playoffs in 2016.
As a refresher, here's a rundown of the tournaments and venues included:
|Aug. 25-28||The Barclays||Bethpage Black|
|Sept. 2-5||Deutsche Bank||TPC Boston|
|Sept. 8-11||BMW Championship||Crooked Stick|
|Sept. 22-25||Tour Championship||East Lake|
When key events are played on the PGA Tour, we often like to dream how "the rest of us" would play on the iconic tracks. Thanks to the massive amount of rounds played by Arccos users -- and, of course, captured by Arccos -- we have literal proof just how tough the courses on tour play for us mere mortals.
Interestingly enough, the hardest 2016 FedExCup venue course, as played by the Arccos community was not the notorious Black Course at Bethpage State Park. TPC Boston, the site of the Deutsche Bank Championship proved to be the most difficult to play for Arccos golfers.
Below is the respective ranking, and course difficulty of each of the four courses:
|Difficulty||Course||Avg. Score||Above Par|
For anyone who's played the Black Course, this is probably a shock, but TPC Boston has proved more challenging for Arccos users than the two-time U.S. Open host course. To boot, TPC Boston has hosted 62 percent more rounds by Arccos golfers than Bethpage Black, proving it's no fluke.
So, what makes TPC Boston so tough?
For starters, there's no "easy nine." With the three other courses examined, there was a clear side that proved tougher and one that allowed golfers to perhaps get comfortable and play their best. At TPC Boston, however, the front and back nines proved nearly equally difficult, forcing golfers to average 9.76 and 9.81 shots above par, respectively.
TPC Boston also had 10 holes that saw Arccos golfers average more than a bogey.
Conversely, Crooked Stick had five of the easiest holes of all 72 examined.
|5 Hardest||Above Par||5 Easiest||Above Par|
|TPC Boston No. 14||1.59||Crooked Stick No. 15||-0.01|
|TPC Boston No. 6||1.45||Crooked Stick No. 9||0.15|
|Bethpage No. 16||1.3||Crooked Stick No. 5||0.23|
|TPC Boston No. 5||1.29||Crooked Stick No. 1||0.28|
|East Lake No. 12||1.29||Crooked Stick No. 7||0.36|
What I found most interesting about the study goes back to my opening point about the general "discussion" among golf fans as to whether or not the FedExCup is exciting, important and worth all the effort the PGA Tour puts into it.
It's common perception that the four majors draw the most interest because of the drama surrounding them. It's true -- there is so much on the line and only the best players make up the field. Those two attributes, though, can surely be used to describe the PGA Tour's postseason.
What struck me about the similarities boils down to the saying we repeat each and every spring during The Masters telecast: "The Masters doesn't start until the back nine on Sunday."
Examining the way the FedExCup courses are designed and, of course, how Arccos users have played on them, the same can be said about three out of the four FedExCup tournaments and host venues.
Bethpage Black, TPC Boston and East Lake all prove have tougher inward nines than outward. Below is a breakdown of front and back-nine play for each of the four courses in this year's FedExCup.
|Course||Front 9 Avg.||Above Par||Back 9 Avg.||Above Par|
The success Arccos golfers have had at Crooked Stick is staggering when compared against other studies we've done. It is far and away the "easiest" course examined, including Doral, TPC Sawgrass, Pebble Beach and the many major championship venues we've looked at.
While it remains to be seen just how tough Crooked Stick will prove for the game's best players, it's quite clear that drama will ensue throughout the entire run of the 2016 FedExCup thanks to relative difficulty on the back nines of the three remaining courses.
You know what they say: "The FedExCup doesn't start until the back nine on Sunday."
Now, it's your turn. Have you played at any of the courses examined? We'd love to hear your personal thoughts on how they've played and what we may expect throughout the playoffs. Leave your thoughts in the comments below.