8 Burning Questions Ahead of the 2014 FedEx Cup

Mike DudurichContributor IAugust 18, 2014

8 Burning Questions Ahead of the 2014 FedEx Cup

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    With or without his red shoes, Keegan Bradley needs a couple of big weeks.
    With or without his red shoes, Keegan Bradley needs a couple of big weeks.Associated Press

    The season-long FedEx Cup chase is over. The order of finish has been established, and now it's time for the first of four playoff events, the Barclays.

    The playoffs normally start with the top 125 finishers in the points race, but this year it will be 122. Dustin Johnson, Jason Dufner and Steve Stricker are not participating this week.

    Other than that, it will be the playoffs as usual, as the 122 will battle this week to finish in the top 100 to advance to the second event, the Deutsche Bank Championship.

    As always, there are burning questions leading up to big events like this one. 

    Can Rory McIlroy continue to roar? Can Jim Furyk be a real factor? Will Ryder Cup hopefuls crank up their games over the next two weeks?

    Check out the following list of eight burning questions.

How Will Ridgewood Country Club Hold Up to the Game's Best?

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    Big crowds have been a part of the Barclays at Ridgewood.
    Big crowds have been a part of the Barclays at Ridgewood.Hunter Martin/Getty Images

    The PGA Tour doesn't play many golf courses with the kind of history that Ridgewood Country Club has. Its roots go back to 1890, as noted by the club's website.

    There are three nines at Ridgewood, and a composite course from those nines will be used for the Barclays this week.

    The Barclays has been held at Ridgewood twice, and history says we should expect a close tournament. In 2008, Vijay Singh won in a two-hole playoff over Sergio Garcia and Kevin Sutherland. In 2010, Matt Kuchar won a one-hole playoff over Martin Laird.

    Kuchar finished 12 under in 72 holes, while Singh finished eight under.

    Don't be surprised if the numbers look similar at the end of this week.

Can Rory McIlroy Roar On?

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    Rory McIlroy shows off the Claret Jug at a recent soccer game.
    Rory McIlroy shows off the Claret Jug at a recent soccer game.Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    As the undisputed leader of the golf world, Rory McIlroy will have plenty of attention on him when he tees it up Thursday in the first round of the FedEx Cup playoffs.

    But that won't be anything new for him. His hat trick of wins (British Open, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship) has made him the game's most dominant player.

    Can he keep up this hot streak? The last player to win four straight starts on the PGA Tour was Tiger Woods, who did it in 2007-08. 

    Can McIlroy go against history, which says it's difficult for the regular-season points leader to keep the top spot through the playoffs? It has happened just twice in the last five years.

    Bombing the ball long and straight off the tee has been the winning formula for McIlroy. If he continues playing that way, it could be all Rory, all the time.

Will Rickie Fowler Continue to Nip at Rory McIlroy's Heels?

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    Rickie Fowler has been right there with Rory McIlroy this year.
    Rickie Fowler has been right there with Rory McIlroy this year.USA TODAY Sports

    Rickie Fowler has been so good this year in the majors—putting up top-five finishes in all fourthat it's easy to forget that it's been more than two years since his only victory on the PGA Tour. That took place at the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship.

    This guy is far too talented to have won just once.

    Can he rack up win No. 2 this week at the Barclays? Absolutely, he can. He proved he can play in the biggest heat of the year but now needs to channel that into a big regular-season victory.

    He admitted that losing the PGA Championship after leading by three shots early on the back nine Sunday stung, and this would be a great way to soothe that sting. A win in the first FedEx playoff event could be a springboard to a big last six weeks of the season.

Will Ryder Cup Hopefuls Start to Impress?

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    After a somewhat down year, Brandt Snedeker is showing signs of life.
    After a somewhat down year, Brandt Snedeker is showing signs of life.USA TODAY Sports

    In just over two weeks, Tom Watson will make his three captain's choices to round out the United States Ryder Cup team's roster.

    The next three on the Ryder Cup points list are Jason Dufner, Ryan Moore and Brendon Todd. Dufner is battling bulging disc issues and is doubtful to be ready to play. 

    Moore and Dufner have had nice seasons, but neither jumps off the page as must-haves on the team. In addition, Keegan Bradley and Brandt Snedeker are viable candidates.

    Can a couple of these guys get hot this week and next and separate themselves as the top choices?

    Watson will certainly be rooting for that.

Can Adam Scott Catch Fire and Make a Playoff Run?

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    Adam Scott is capable of much more than he's shown in 2014.
    Adam Scott is capable of much more than he's shown in 2014.USA TODAY Sports

    Adam Scott has had a nice year thus far, winning once, finishing third once, registering eight top 10s and earning over $3.3 million.

    But for the man who won the 2013 Masters and, earlier this year, ascended to the top of the Official World Golf Rankings, there seems to be a sense of underachievement—despite posting top-20 finishes in all four majors.

    Scott's immense talent put the tag of high expectations on him, and given his last six starts have produced top-15 results, he's definitely playing well.

    He fired a final-round 66 in last year's Barclays to come back for a win in the first event of the playoffs.

Is Phil MIckelson Capable of Being a FedEx Cup Crowd-Pleaser?

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    Phil Mickelson put a spark in the PGA Championship.
    Phil Mickelson put a spark in the PGA Championship.USA TODAY Sports

    He probably didn't know it at the time, but Phil Mickelson's 62 in the final round of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational turned out to be impetus for an outstanding performance at the PGA Championship.

    He played well and finished second to Rory McIlroy—the first time this season he's posted a top-10 result.

    Mickelson has shown flashes of brilliance throughout his disappointing season but hasn't been able to sustain it for long.

    He's now in a position to give the playoffs another storyline in addition to Rory McIlroy's dominating aura. If he does play well, he'll become a very popular figure as the playoffs unfold.

    The question is: Can he continue to play well?

Can Jordan Spieth Return to 2013 Form?

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    Jordan Spieth hasn't been as sharp in 2014.
    Jordan Spieth hasn't been as sharp in 2014.USA TODAY Sports

    Jordan Spieth went from golf's golden boy in 2013 to a talented young star who may have hit the wall in 2014.

    Can he rediscover the magic he had a year ago, when he went from a no-status 20-year-old to a guy with a PGA Tour victory, a spot in the FedEx Cup playoffs and a member of the United States Presidents Cup team?

    This year seemed like a continuation of 2013 when he contended in the Masters until bogeys on the eighth and ninth holes dashed his hopes for a first major title.

    He finished T2 at Augusta National and T4 in the Players Championship, but the rest of his year has been predominantly mediocre.

    Spieth is coming off a missed cut at the PGA Championship and could certainly use a good finish to his season.

    It remains whether or not that good finish is in Spieth's game right now.

Is Jim Furyk a Real Factor?

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    Jim Furyk has been in contention a lot this year.
    Jim Furyk has been in contention a lot this year.Phil Long/Associated Press

    Jim Furyk is a name to be reckoned with again in golf.

    He had a miserable 2012, blowing the U.S. Open late in the final round and squandering a lead on the 72nd hole of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational. He was also highly ineffective in the Ryder Cup.

    But give the man credit—he rebounded with a good season in 2013 and has been even better this year. 

    Furyk has posted three runner-up finishes among his eight top 10s. He was fourth at the British Open, T5 at the PGA Championship and runner-up in the RBC Canadian Open.

    That's pretty darn good for a 44-year-old who won a U.S. Open back in 2003 at Olympia Fields.

    There's no doubt he could be in force starting this week in the Barclays.