The PGA Tour can feel like a bit of a grind at times for both players and fans. While each tournament has something unique about it, the vast majority of events are four rounds of stroke play with a high class field of golfers in attendance. The Barracuda Championship, therefore, is a welcome change. In 2012, the tournament changed scoring system, introducing a modified Stableford system, making it a real anomaly in professional men’s golf.
The version of the Stableford system used here, which awards eight points for an albatross, five for an eagle, two for a birdie, zero for a par, minus one for a bogey and minus three for anything worse than bogey helps to encourage aggressive golf and often produces a thrilling conclusion. Whilst an albatross is a rare golfing feat, in 2016 Rhein Gibson ended with a two on the par five 18th to land eight points, plus a tidy $100,000 bonus which he donated to charity. Who will be the next golfer to join Gibson in the albatross club at the Barracuda?
2021: Erik van Rooyen
Alternate events are always a great chance for players to break their duck on the PGA Tour. Erik van Rooyen was one of many players who turned up to the Barracuda Championship looking to take advantage of this opportunity. The South African knew that he would need to play some aggressive golf given the modified Stableford scoring system employed for the tournament and he did just that to claim a life changing PGA Tour win.
This is the latest of many opportunities that van Rooyen has taken. He has professional wins on the Sunshine Tour, Challenge Tour, European Tour and now the PGA Tour and is not planning on stopping now. “Obviously, this was, in my mind, kind of the next step for what I wanted to achieve,” van Rooyen said after lifting the trophy. “I’ve got big dreams and aspirations and winning on the PGA Tour was certainly part of that.”
As well as proving that van Rooyen has the ability to hunt birdies when required, this win also showed that he can cope with pressure admirably. The chasing pack included experienced PGA Tour pros Andrew Putnam, Scott Piercy and U.S. Open winner Gary Woodland. Holding them at bay was further proof that van Rooyen belongs at this level and that he can set about working on taking another step in an already impressive career.
2020: Richy Werenski
Another year, another first time PGA Tour winner at the Barracuda Championship. Richy Werenski missed out by the narrowest of margins three years earlier when he was edged out in a playoff by Chris Stroud. Winning this tournament after that near miss made it all the more special, even though the 2020 Barracuda Championship was held at a new venue, Tahoe Mountain Club.
This time around the fine margins went Werenski’s way. Among a series of good moments, the most notable were the flop shot that went in from the fairway and the birdie putt that dropped in on the last to earn him a one-point win over Troy Merritt, who was forced to settle for runner up for the second Barracuda Championship in a row.
Werenski said that he was feeling confident about his game when he arrived at Tahoe Mountain Club. That confidence in the work he had been doing ultimately made all the difference. He admitted that he was trying to press the issue too much in the early stages of his round and it was only when he forced himself to trust the process that things really started to go his way.
2019: Collin Morikawa
They say that things come in threes and for the third year in a row the winner of the Barracuda Championship was a player who had never won before on the PGA Tour. Victory for Collin Morikawa came considerably quicker than it did for either Andrew Putnam or Chris Stroud but it was certainly coming. Since turning pro, Morikawa had made every cut on the PGA Tour and came into the Barracuda Championship on the back of a fourth place finish at the John Deere Classic and a runner up berth in the 3M Open, where he was narrowly edged out by fellow rookie Matthew Wolff.
Morikawa showed a great combination of high class technique and mental strength to win, making a conscious effort to play with more aggression after a disappointing par on the par five 13th hole. The 22-year-old understood that birdies were vital given the Stableford scoring system and had the wherewithal to take chances and go all out for the win.
Unlike many of the impressive younger players working their way up the ranks, it is not Morikawa’s power that catches the eye. He is no slouch off the tee but it’s his ball striking that stands out and it was his play from tee to green, particularly his irons, that allowed him to win the Barracuda Championship. Just over a year after this win he would go on to land the 2020 PGA Championship, so whilst this is alternate event, it can still offer a great chance to see the stars of tomorrow.
2018: Andrew Putnam
One year after Chris Stroud broke his duck on the PGA Tour, the Barracuda Championship was making another golfer’s dream come true. Andrew Putnam’s win didn’t have quite the same level of drama as Stroud’s but it was no less welcome.
Putnam stood on the final tee knowing that a bogey would be enough to secure the win. He ended up finishing with some fireworks, holing a putt from off the edge of the green to secure a birdie which took his points tally in the modified Stableford format to 47, four points better than runner up Chad Campbell.
This was the 49th PGA Tour start of Putnam’s career and victory secured all sorts of benefits. The 29-year-old said that the best of those for him was a spot in the Tournament of Champions as he holidays in Maui with his family. Long term though it is, surely the two year exemption matters most as it gives Putnam job security and a bit of breathing room as he targets yet more PGA Tour wins.
2017: Chris Stroud
Chris Stroud savoured the announcement of his win at the 2017 Barracuda Championship. He said “11 years I’ve waited for that,” after hearing the confirmation that he was finally a PGA Tour winner. The win meant a two year exemption on the PGA Tour, a place at the upcoming PGA Championship and a handsome winner’s cheque but for Stroud it was more than that. It was proof that all his hard work and the will to go through all of the difficult times was worth it.
If Stroud hasn’t often looked like a potential PGA Tour winner in the 11 years prior, he didn’t look like the winner of the Barracuda Championship for much of Sunday. It was only a run of three birdies and an eagle in his final six holes that got him to the top of the leaderboard. A phenomenal five wood on the final hole set up the chance that he needed to claw himself into a three-man playoff with Greg Owen and Richy Werenski. Then his win was confirmed thanks to a solid putt after an equally phenomenal five iron in the playoff, which finally saw his dream of winning on the PGA Tour come true.