The WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational is the main dish this week but the Barracuda Championship is an interesting side with a unique format so read Steve's comprehensive preview here...
“Pat Perez finished only 18th in this event last year but he made giant strides over the weekend and I thought he was a fair price at 60.059/1 given his profile.”
First staged in 1999 and known as the Reno-Tahoe Open, the Barracuda Championship has always been an opposite field event. It's historically been played in the same week as the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, with the exception of 2010 when it played opposite the Open Championship, so it's now played opposite the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational, the tournament that replaced the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in 2019, which I've previewed here.
Since 2012, the tournament has used the modified Stableford scoring system, which was also used at the now defunct International in Colorado - another event played at altitude.
Points are awarded depending on a player's score on each hole thus;
Albatross: 8 points
Eagle: 5 points
Birdie: 2 points
Par: 0 points
Bogey: -1 point
Double-bogey or worse: -3 points
The player with the highest score after 72 holes will be the winner.
Old Greenwood Course, Tahoe Mountain Club, Truckee, California
Par 71 -7,390 yards
Stroke Average in 2020 - 70.68
The Barracuda Championship switched venues last year for the first time in its history, moving approximately 30 miles from the Jack Nicklaus designed Montreux Golf and Country Club to the Jack Nicklaus designed old Greenwood Course at the Tahoe Mountain Club. We return to Greenwood for a second time this time around.
Like Montreux, Greenwood is at altitude, so it doesn't play anywhere near as long as its yardage suggests but given last year's winner, Richy Werenski, is the first victor not to reach 40 points in the nine years that the Stableford format's been used, it appears a slightly tougher test than the old venue.
Old Greenwood opened in 2004 and it's largely treelined with water in play on six holes. Like the majority of Nicklaus designs, there's plenty of room off the tee and scoring should be slightly better than last year with the rough not as long. After standing at three-and-a-half inches last year, the primary rough is only two inches long this time around after a challenging winter.
The only other change to last year comes at the par four 13th where, due to an enlarged tee box, the hole now plays 35 yards longer at 522 yards.
With wind in the forecast, the greens will be set relatively slowly at 11-and-a-half on the Stimpmeter.
No coverage on Sky
Nine Tournament Winners in this Format
2020 - Richy Werenski 39 points (Old Greenwood Course)
2019 - Colin Morikawa 47 points
2018 - Andrew Putnam 47 points
2017 - Chris Stroud 44 points (playoff)
2016 - Greg Chalmers 43 points
2015 - J.J Henry 47 points (playoff)
2014 - Geoff Ogilvy 49 points
2013 - Gary Woodland 44 points
2012 - J.J Henry 43 points
What Will it Take to Win the Barracuda Championship?
Since the tournament switched to the modified Stableford scoring system, nine years ago, the usual tournament stats haven't been published but that hasn't proved to be too much of a problem as the tournament has basically been a low-scoring birdie-fest.
Werenski made only 18 birdies last year and that was a low tally for a winner. Scott Stallings in tied fifth was the only player in the top-eight to make less (16) but Werenski won courtesy of two eagles and only seven bogeys.
The 2019 winner, Collin Morikawa, failed to make an eagle all week but nobody made fewer bogeys (three) and nobody made more birdies (25), and that's basically how it panned out in 2018 too.
Nobody made any more birdies than the first and second, Andrew Putnam and Chad Campbell, who both made 24, although both also made an eagle apiece. Putnam beat Chad by four points because he only made three bogeys (fewest in the field) whereas Campbell made seven. And it was a very similar story the year before...
The 2017 winner, Chris Stroud, was aided greatly by the ten points gained thanks to two eagles but the runner-up, Greg Owen, who was beaten in a playoff, made 27 birdies during the week. That was two more than anyone else and had he managed to sneak in an eagle somewhere along the line, he'd have pipped Stroud for the title.
Steve Wheatcroft, who finished tied fifth, made more birdies than anyone else four years ago (23) but the winner, Greg Chalmers, and the third, Colt Knost, ranked tied second with 22 apiece and Gary Woodland, who finished second, fired in 21 birdies.
J.J Henry, who was winning the event for the second time in four years six years ago, ranked first for birdies made with a total of 27 and five of the first six home that year ranked inside the top-five and ties for birdies made. The exception was the beaten playoff protagonist, Kyle Reifers, who made his score courtesy of five eagles!
It's hard to gauge which stats are best to ponder but the PGA Tour's Birdie Average figures (here) is probably as good a place to start as any.
Is There an Identikit Winner?
The Barracuda field is made up of players that don't usually get a start in some of the stronger PGA Tour events. That classic blend of youth and experience, with a few players whose form has dropped off a cliff. Some of them are new to the PGA Tour and only just finding their feet (like last year's winner, Richy Werenski and the 2019 winning favourite - Colin Morikawa), some are players that have lost their form quite badly recently (Matt Kuchar for example this year) and the rest are veterans that have trickled slowly down the rankings.
PGA Tour maidens used to have a strong record in the tournament before the format change and they're prospering again of late. The last five winners have all been PGA Tour maidens and the last three winners have been in their 20s but experience often counts for plenty.
Werenski was 28 last year, Morikawa was only 22 when he lifted the trophy two years ago, and Putnam was only 29 when he won in 2018 but at 35 (Stroud) and 42 (Chalmers) the 2017 and 2016 winners were certainly no spring chickens and since the format changed, the veterans have prospered. Chad Campbell, the 2018 runner-up, was 44.
Morikawa is clearly a high class performer who's since won two majors and a WGC event and he telegraphed his victory with a playoff defeat at the 3M Open and a fourth place finish at the John Deere Classic but the other seven men to win the event (JJ Henry has won it twice) since the format changed from stroke play to Stableford have remarkably similar profiles. As already mentioned, the last five were winning on the PGA Tour for the first time but the first four winners under this format certainly weren't in-form recent winners.
When he won the first of his two titles, in 2012, Henry had been without a win in six years and he did next to nothing for three years before going in again in 2015. The 2014 champ, Geoff Ogilvy, hadn't won anywhere for four years and the 2013 winner, Gary Woodland, had been under something of a cloud and hadn't won anywhere in two and half years.
Although Chalmers was a first time PGA Tour winner in 2016, he'd won multiple times in his native Australia but he'd won just once (in 2014) in the five years preceding his success here and it had been four years in-between Stroud's playoff defeat at the Travelers Championship and his victory here.
Under this new format, players can put all their woes to one side and where they can just go for it and see what happens and outsiders tend do well. Morikawa was a well-supported 12/1 favourite in 2019 but he was the first well-fancied winner since the format changed.
It's been a while since we saw a huge outsider win though. Werenski was a 40.039/1 chance before the off, Putnam was a well-backed 34.033/1 shot and Stroud was an 80.079/1 chance four years ago.
Morikawa was never outside the front two places and frontrunners had a great record at Montreux, although the two winners before Morikawa went against the grain somewhat...
Putnam sat tied for 30th after only scoring six points on Thursday and he trailed Ollie Schniederjans by 11 points but he was up to third after round two after scoring 17 himself on Friday.
We've only got one renewal to look at here at Greenwood so for what it's worth, Werenski sat tied for 38th and eight points off the lead so a slow start can be overcome here.
From a trading perspective, liquidity won't be great given the tournament is up against the WGC FedEx St Jude invitational but we witnessed plenty of drama last year with the winner eagling the par four 16th and birdying the last to snatch victory at the death.
Californian-bord 25-year-old, Maverick McNealy, heads the market at 20.019/1, highlighting what an open event this is. He finished seventh on debut last year and with current form figures reading 20-30-21-18-16, he's in fine and consistent form but he's short enough for someone seeking their first win.
The 2013 winner, Gary Woodland, is the current second favourite after his eye-catching 11th place in the 3M Open last time out but he's playing the course for a first time and his overall form of late has been disappointing.
Mito Pereira is arguably the most in-form player in the field but he has the handicap of returning from Japan to overcome, where he just missed out on a bronze medal.
I'll have one more at least in the Find Me a 100 Winner column later today but for now I'm playing only one - Pat Perez.
The 45-year-old three-time PGA Tour winner has been in fair form of late, although it's been a case of one good week, one bad. His 10th at the Palmetto Championship at the start of June was followed by a missed cut before he finished 14th at the Rocket Mortgage Classic and he failed to make the weekend the following week at the John Deere Classic before finishing 11th in the 3M Open two weeks ago.
Perez finished only 18th in this event last year but he made giant strides over the weekend and I thought he was a fair price at 60.059/1 given his profile.
Pat Perez @ 60.059/1
I'll be back later with the Find Me a 100 Winner column.
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