2014 The Barclays | Five players to watch

Rory McIlroy
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Rory McIlroy is looking to make it four wins in as many starts this week at The Barclays.
By T.J. Auclair, Senior Interactive Producer
PGA.com
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Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Wednesday, August 20, 2014 | 9:08 a.m.

Playoffs? Did you say "playoffs?"

Yes. Yes, we did. The PGA Tour Playoffs for the FedExCup begin this week with the Barclays at Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J.

Adam Scott returns to the tournament as the defending champion, but the venue is different. Scott's victory a year ago came at Liberty National.

The Barclays field consist of the top 125 players in the season-long FedExCup points race. At the conclusion of the Barclays, only the top 100 will advance to next week's Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston.

RELATED: Barclays tee times | Photos | McIlroy, Woods complete Ice Bucket Challenge

Along with trying to advance to play another week, many U.S. players will be doing everything they can with only two weeks left to impress U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Tom Watson and be considered as a Captain's Pick.

Here are five players you'll want to keep an eye on this week.

5. Matt Kuchar
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
Won the RBC Heritage
Reason to watch: One of the best and most consistent players on Tour for the last several years, it's strange to label Kuchar a "bold pick" this week, but in a sense that's what he is. This is Kuchar's first start since withdrawing from the PGA Championship due to a back injury. He claims the back is 100 percent and the ailment was the result of looking everywhere for a slip and slide for his children and sitting in traffic for over an hour. Anyway, the reason for the consideration is this: Kuchar won the Barclays in 2010, the last tie it was contested at Ridgewood. On top of that, he's had top-10 finishes in half of his 20 starts this season, including the win at the RBC Heritage and a playoff loss at the Shell Houston Open. Kuchar is as steady as they come.

4. Ryan Moore
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
Won the CIMB Classic
Reason to watch: It's down to the nitty gritty for Moore, who finished No. 11 in the U.S. Ryder Cup points standings. Heck, you may even want to pencil that in as No. 10, seeing as the man who was ahead of him -- Jason Dufner -- seemed skeptical about a return to golf anytime soon as he deals with bulging discs in his neck. Moore has turned it on of late with four top-12 finishes in his last five starts. He's going to need one really nice start in these last two events before Watson makes his picks to be seriously considered. He missed the cut at Ridgewood in 2010, but did record a T10 at the Deutsche Bank Championship in 2011 and 2012. So, perhaps picking Moore next week would be the wiser decision, but I think he'll shine this week. The former U.S. Amateur champ and two-time U.S. Publinks champ wants to be on this Ryder Cup team.

3. Adam Scott
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
Won the Crowne Plaza Invitational
Reason to watch: OK, so Scott's season isn't going to blow anyone away given the one win, but trust me -- he's had a super 2014 campaign with eight top-10 finishes in just 13 starts. He also finished in the top 15 at each of the four majors. Sure, a player like Scott expects to win more often than he has this season, but you can say he hasn't put himself in position plenty of times. Scott won the Barclays last year at Liberty National and finished T9 when the tournament was held at Ridgewood in 2010. He's playing for a win.

2. Rickie Fowler
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
T2 at the U.S. Open and Open Championship
Reason to watch: You know that old saying, "If you put yourself in a position to win enough times, eventually it's going to happen"? Well, don't tell Fowler that because he's probably sick of hearing it. Fowler is the only player in the world to finish inside the top 5 at each of the four majors this season. He's the only player in history to accomplish that feat and not to have won at least one of those four. He's playing tremendous golf right now and something's got to give. Maybe it's this week. The only problem? This next guy is teeing it up too...

1. Rory McIlroy
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
Won the Open Championship, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship
Reason to watch: Do you really need me to list reasons to watch McIlroy at this point? The man is on fire. A victory this week would make it four wins in four starts for McIlroy. That's amazing (but still a long way from the record 11-straight Byron Nelson won in 1945). The four-time major champion has said that he's never been as confident in his game as he is now. That's scary for the rest of the competition. Rory isn't quite blowing the doors off the competition like Tiger Woods did during that magical stretch from 1999-2000, but he's definitely getting the job done. McIlroy has earned the right to be considered the favorite whenever and wherever he tees it up now. 

T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.