Damien Kayat previews the Barracuda Championship.
With the tour’s leading players contending in the WGC event at TPC Southwind this week, this alternate event presents the opportunity for a dramatic late-season FedEx Cup Playoffs push. This week’s Barracuda Championship will take place at the Old Greenwood at Tahoe Mountain Club. This will be the 2nd consecutive edition held at Old Greenwood (this event was previously a fixture at Montreux Golf and Country Club). It’s also that time of the year when golfing scribes the world over reacquaint themselves with the Stableford scoring system (myself included). The modified Stableford scoring system utilized this week is really quite simple. Players will be awarded points per hole as follows: Albatross- 8 points; eagle- 5 points; birdie- 2 points; par- 0 points; bogey- minus 1 point; double-bogey or worse – minus three points. This is one of the few occasions where players will want to finish with a higher total.
This Jack Nicklaus design may seem fairly prodigious at 7,425 yards. But this gorgeous parkland venue (silhouetted by the High Sierra mountains) is situated nearly 6,000 yards above sea level: the ball will fly for miles at this altitude. Large greens and rolling hills make for a fairly gettable challenge. Perhaps the most difficult aspect of this course are the undulating greens. Players will need to be accurate with their approach play to be situated on the right levels of these greens (there are some lightening putts out there). There are also three drivable par 4’s which should necessitate some exciting risk-reward golf. The Stableford system also encourages erring on the side of risk, with more points awarded for a birdie than deducted for a bogey.
None of the world’s top 60 golfers will be in attendance this week. However, the likes of Gary Woodland and Matt Kuchar still exude the necessary gravitas to make this more of a spectacle. South African Branden Grace has been improving of late while Emiliano Grillo produced an amazing display at the Open to finish in a tie for 12th. The likes of Doc Redman and Joel Dahmen often provide value in these lesser alternate events. Defending champion Richy Werenski will look for some motivation this week after a disappointing campaign. Still, 50/1 isn’t too shabby for a defending champion in such a decimated field.
2020: Richy Werenski (39 points)
2019: Collin Morikawa (47 points)
2018: Andrew Putnam (47 points)
2017: Chris Stroud (44 points) *playoff
2016: Greg Chalmers (43 points)
Betting Favourites (To Win): Emiliano Grillo (18/1), Mito Pereira (18/1), Maverick McNealy (18/1), Branden Grace (20/1), Gary Woodland (22/1)
Aaron Wise- To Win (33/1), To Place (7/1)
Aaron Wise is exactly the sort of player who could thrive in this event. Yes, he hasn’t won in three years since his lone title at the AT&T Byron Nelson. But he’s just the type of player who has flirted with the top of leader-boards enough to contend this week (especially with the absence of the bigger names). What makes him more attractive is his performance here last year. He managed to finish 8th after scoring a massive 19 points in the final round.
Scott Stallings- To Win (50/1), To Place (11/1)
Scott Stalling is a three-time winner on the tour. Unfortunately, his last victory came at the 2014 Farmers Insurance Open (in a far stronger field than this mind you). Stallings is one of the guys who prefigured Bryson DeChambeau, buffing up and becoming a real fitness freak over the past three years. This has resulted in some positive results: he finished 5th here last season and 3rd at this May’s Byron Nelson. He represents great value at 50/1.
The Man to Beat- Troy Merritt- To Win (25/1), To Place (11/2)
I’m opting for someone who has proven to be a bit of a maestro in this format: Troy Merritt. He’s a player that tends to struggle for consistency. It would seem that this format favours his aggressive style of play. He has finished runner-up at this event in each of the last two seasons (even though it was played on different courses). Though his last three outings have been pedestrian, he did lose in a playoff at the Rocket Mortgage Classic just four starts ago. In eight of his last ten tournaments he has gained strokes on his competitors on the greens. That should bode well for Merritt this week.