The Barracuda Championship on Sunday came down to a single putt, make or miss, win or lose, a scenario that set it apart from the monotony of typical PGA Tour events and allowing it—for one year, at least—to quell criticism of its modified Stableford scoring system.
The winner was Richy Werenski, who scored seven points on his final three holes on the Old Greenwood Course at Tahoe Mountain Club in Truckee, Calif., to defeat 54-hole leader Troy Merritt by a single point.
In a modified Stableford, five points are awarded an eagle, two a birdie, none a par and minus-one for a bogey, often creating confusion for those peripherally following the tournament. Yet how it unfolded late on Sunday afternoon in this ski area north of Lake Tahoe sealed its approval as a one-off PGA Tour format.
Merritt, the 54-hole leader at the Barracuda in 2019 as well, only to lose to Collin Morikawa, was in a position to cruise to the finish line ahead of the field. Merritt seemed to need only pars on the closing holes to post a one-point victory over Matthias Schwab and Fabian Gomez.
Then Werenski, a 28-year-old Georgia Tech graduate trailing by six points, holed his second shot for eagle at the par-4 16th, a five-pointer that left him a single point in arrears of Merritt. And on the par-4 18th, Werenski holed a 15-foot birdie putt worth two points to take a one-point lead.
Playing behind Werenski, Merritt arrived at the 18th green and faced a do-or-die 18-foot birdie putt. Make it and win or miss it and finish second. He left it inches short.
Werenski, who a week earlier finished tied for third in the 3M Open, finished with 13 points on the round and 39 points for the tournament. Eleven of those 13 points came on the last seven holes of his round.
“It all added up real quick,” he said. “Standing on 12, a par 5, I knew I could get five points with an eagle and just barely missed.”
He made a birdie there and another at 14. At the 395-yard, downhill par-4 16th, Werenski hit a perfect drive that rolled down in front of the green. He hit a perfect pitch over a bunker, his ball running out the final 15 feet or so, left to right, and into the hole.
Two holes later, he hit a pitching wedge second shot above the hole, setting up another birdie. “There was a lot going on and I was just trying to stay in my pre-shot routine as much as I could and falling in love with the speed of that putt.
“It’s huge,” he said of the victory, his first on the PGA Tour and a win that earned him a two-year exemption on tour, as well as a start in the PGA Championship this week in San Francisco. “I’ve been playing well for the last couple of months. It helps my confidence a lot. I know I’m good enough.”