The Barclays this weekend offered sights and experiences beyond compare.

By Bryan Pol

An odd thing happened the moment Tiger Woods lost his mojo.

The PGA Tour’s field expanded to feature youth and tense competition, lead by the overall brilliance of Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, whose majors run in 2015–wins at the Masters and U.S. Open, a second place finish at the PGA Championship, and a fourth place tie at the British Open–was unprecedented. Spieth, lest we forget, is all of 21 years of age.

Even with Spieth missing the cut at The Barclays this weekend, a Fed Ex Cup playoff event held at the Plainfield Country Club in Edison, NJ, the tournament boasted phenomenal play from Aussie Jason Day, who finished first at 19-under, going head-to-head with his pairing mate on Saturday, Korean Sang Moon-Bae (9-under), who will be forced to relinquish his PGA Tour card at year’s end for mandatory military service for his country.   Also finishing well were two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson (11-under), 2015 British Open victor Zach Johnson (10-under), Henrik Stenson (13-under), who bested overall his pairing mate from Saturday (Watson), 2015 U.S. Open runner up Dustin Johnson (9-under), and PGA Tour newcomers in Tony Finau (a rookie on the tour in 2014, finishing at 5-under) and 2015 rookie Carlos Ortiz (3-under), who shot a 62 on Saturday, and Justin Rose (5-under), who nearly equaled Ortiz’s feat with a 63 of his own on the tournament’s third day.

Even the cut list featured star power, from Adam Scott (the 2013 Masters champion) to Rickie Fowler, who finished in the top-5 in every major in 2014, not to mention Rory McIlroy, who did not feature in the tournament with an injury, and a revamped Tiger Woods, who needed a victory at last week’s Wyndham Championship (he finished four strokes short of winner Davis Love III) in order to play at The Barclays. 

The Barclays was the first of a four-tournament Fed Ex Cup playoff, awarded for the first time in 2007.  The playoff includes the Deutchse Bank Championship, which will winnow the initial top 125 point leaders on the tour (the field at The Barclays) to a top 100, the BMW Championship, which will feature the top 70 in points, and the Tour Championship, which will have a finalized field of the PGA’s top 30 points leaders.  

The next leg will be held at the TPC Boston in Norton, MS, on Labor Day weekend, while the BMW Championship will play out at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest, IL, and the Tour Championship will be held at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, GA. Last year’s Fed Ex Cup winner, Billy Horschel, who finished in the top 30 of every major in 2015, was quite low on The Barclays’s cut list, which effectively ends his 2015 campaign.  

All told, attending a live PGA Tour event is a thrilling and underrated experience, offering intimacy beyond compare.  For the price of $85 a day, the going rate for grounds tickets at The Barclays, fans can walk all 18 holes from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM, taking in as many as three pairings (scoping out 72 holes in total), with various overlapping pairs in between.   For instance, near the Plainfield Country Club’s clubhouse, fans can sit and watch four successive holes, 1, 9, 10, and 18, from some stupendous views captured at various grandstands.  

Near the club’s dead-end spectator’s zone, between holes 13 to 16 at the PCC, fans can take in glorious competition beheld by tens of thousands who congregate near the Grey Goose Club, as they did when Bae and Day went toe-to-toe on the 15th hole on Saturday, or stay back a bit further on 11, where fans took in two of the tournament’s best shots on Saturday, Tony Finau’s tee shot that landed within inches of the pin or Zach Johnson’s 20 foot birdie putt to keep pace with tournament leaders Day and Watson.

Additionally, live professional golf demonstrates humility and grace from competitors like Phil Mickelson, who, despite seeing his tee shot on 1 land near the fairway on 9, was gracious enough to greet fans and kindly ask those congregating around his wayward shot to make way for his recovery try, a beautiful shot that allowed Lefty, who finished the event at 1-over, to save par on the hole during Saturday’s action.  Attending fans catch glimpses of player strategy from hole-to-hole, as well as banter between caddy and golfer.  Players, responding to raucous fans cheering them on, are ever grateful to acknowledge nearly each and every member of the gallery on their approach to those awaiting them on the green.

Save for those fortunate to afford a courtside ticket or a seat behind home plate, a meandering golf fan at a PGA Tour event can pace the course and stand at arm’s length between him and the world’s best, who have clearly benefitted from the sport’s spike in popularity during Tiger’s pursuit of Jack Nicklaus and his all-time mark of 18 majors titles. Those in attendance are also unique, in the sense that a large number of them regularly play the sport, even on the grounds in which they spectate (albeit, not at the pros’ level). Fans offer playful banter, quick wit, and knowledge amongst one another that can refine even the most casual fan’s dearth of wisdom in the department.

Despite not being a major, The Barclays, played under the purview of some gorgeous weather this weekend, offered breathtaking opposition that, as those in attendance can attest to, cannot be captured on a high-definition television set, as fans at home simply cannot fathom the contour of the course, the volume of cheers inspired by the Day/Bae pairing on Saturday, and the sheer length at which these players can drive, compete, and flourish.

In short, capturing a live PGA Tour event is a must-attend experience for any sports fanatic, this first-time attendee included.

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I am an English teacher, music and film aficionado, husband, father of two delightful boys, writer, sports fanatic, former Long Islander, and follower of Christ. Based on my Long Island upbringing, I was groomed as a Yankees, Giants, Rangers, and Knicks fan, and picked up Duke basketball, Notre Dame football, and Tottenham Hotspur football fandom along the way.