The Punter

Barracuda Championship: Lindheim fancied to go back-to-back

Golfer Nicholas Lindheim
Nicholas Lindheim in action in Colorado last week

The 151st Open Championship takes centre stage this week, but the Barracuda Championship is an interesting event with a unique format so read our man's comprehensive preview here...


Tournament History

First staged in 1999 and known as the Reno-Tahoe Open, the Barracuda Championship has always been an opposite field event.

It used to be played in the same week as one of the now defunct World Golf Championships but as was the case 12 months ago, as well as 13 years ago when Louis Oosthuizen won the Open at St Andrews, it's being played opposite the Open Championship, 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.

Like last week's Barbasol Championship, the Barracuda Championship is now co-sanctioned with the DP World Tour and there are 50 spots available for those that ordinarily ply their trade in Europe.

This is the 25th edition of the Barracuda Championship.

Format

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.

Venue

Old Greenwood Course, Tahoe Mountain Club, Truckee, California.

Course Details

Par 71 -7,480 yards

Stroke Average in 2022 - 71.12

The Barracuda Championship switched venues in 2020 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 fourth time in-a-row this time around.

TAHOE MOUNTAIN CLUB 2023 2.jpgLike Montreux, Greenwood is at altitude, so it doesn't play anywhere near as long as its yardage suggests but it's a tough place to assess.

Richy Werenski was the first victor not to reach 40 points in the nine years that the Stableford format had been used when the course debuted in 2020 but with the rough an inch and half shorter than it had been in 2020 (3 ½ - 2), the 2021 winner, Erik Van Rooyen, who won by five points, now holds the record for the highest winning score with 50 points.

Last year's winner, Chez Reavie, scored 43 points to beat Alex Noren by one.

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.


Weather


TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 22:30 (UK time) on Thursday.

Previous Tournament Winners in this Format

  • 2022 - Chez Reavie 43 points (Old Greenwood Course)
  • 2021 - Erik Van Rooyen 50 points (Old Greenwood Course)
  • 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?

There have been no Strokes Gained stats produced for this event but looking at the traditional stats, hitting greens has been the key.

Last year's winner, Chez Reavie, ranked first for Driving Accuracy and Scrambling but the other two course winners have only ranked 23rd and 32nd for DA and 28th and 39th for Scrambling.

Chez Reavie.jpg

All three course winners have putted nicely though- ranking between second and 17th for Putting Average - and all three have ranked seventh or better for Greens In Regulation. And that very much looks like the best stat to consider...

As many as nine players inside the top-16 in 2020 ranked inside the top-10 for GIR, the first five home in 2021 ranked tied-third, first, second, seventh and tied-third and the top-four 12 months ago ranked seventh, second, 11th and fourth.

Is There an Identikit Winner?

The Barracuda field is made up of a smattering of low-ranking Europeans hoping to make the gigantic leap to the PGA Tour and lots 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 the 2020 winner, Richy Werenski and the 2019 winning favourite, Colin Morikawa), some are players that have lost their form quite badly recently 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'd prospered again until the veteran, Chez Reavie, took the title 12 months ago.

The six winners before Reavie were all PGA Tour maidens and three of the four winners before Chez were in their 20s (Van Rooyen was 31 in 2021) but experience often counts for plenty.

Werenski was 28 in 2020, Morikawa was only 22 when he lifted the trophy four years ago, and Andrew Putnam was 29 when he won in 2018 but at 35 (Stroud) and 42 (Chalmers) the 2017 and 2016 winners were certainly no spring chickens and Chad Campbell, the 2018 runner-up, was 44. Reavie was 40.

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 nine 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, six of the last seven were winning on the PGA Tour for the first time and, under this format, the five that had tasted success previously, certainly weren't in-form recent winners.

When he won the first of his two titles, in 2012, JJ 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 Greg 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 Chris Stroud's playoff defeat at the Travelers Championship and his victory here.

Reavie was winning for the first time in three years and he had form figures reading MC-27-8-MC. The eighth-place finish was at the Travelers Championship, but he loves TPC River Highlands. He won there in 2019 and he was fourth there this year.

Under this new format, players can put all their woes to one side and just go for it and see what happens and outsiders tend to do well. Morikawa was a well-supported 12/1 favourite in 2019 but he's the only very well-fancied winner since the format changed.

It's been a while since we saw a huge outsider win though. Reavie was 70.069/1 chance before the off, Van Rooyen was trading at around 60.059/1, having missed six of his previous eight cuts, Werenski was a 40.039/1 chance three years ago, Putnam was a well-backed 34.033/1 shot and Stroud was an 80.079/1 chance seven years ago.

In-Play Tactics

Reavie trailed the first-round leader, Mark Hubbard, by four points after the opening round but he soon went clear when he racked up 19 points on Friday - leading after rounds two and three - and the other two course winners started slowly so a mediocre first round can be overcome.

Werenski sat tied for 38th and eight points off the lead and Van Rooyen sat tied 14th and nine points back.

From a trading perspective, liquidity won't be great given the tournament is up against the Open Championship but we witnessed plenty of drama in 2020 with the winner eagling the par four 16th and birdying the last to snatch victory at the death and Van Rooyen caught an amazing break two years ago when his tee-ball on the 72nd hole hit a tree and found the fairway instead of going out of bounds.

Market Leaders

In what is a very open market, Stephan Jaeger is the only man trading at less than 20.019/1.

Having finished ninth at the Rocket Mortgage Classic and 13th at the John Deere Classic last time out, the 34-year-old German arrives in form.

stephan Jaeger.jpg

Although he's yet to win on the PGA Tour, Jaeger has been very prolific on the Korn Ferry Tour - winning six times in five years- and he's just the sort of player to take this title given he can get hot and stay hot.

When he claimed the first of his six wins, at the Ellie Mae Classic in 2016, Jaeger famously shot a 12-under-par 58 in the first round.

Last week's favourite, Taylor Pendrith, is next up and he has to be respected greatly given he arrives on the back of a 14th place finish at the Rocket Mortgage and a sixth last week at the Barbasol and that in two visits here he's finished 13th and 11th.

Selection

Jaeger and Pendrith are in form but the hottest player in the field is Nicholas Lindheim who won his third Korn Ferry Tour title as recently as Sunday in Colorado.

Lindheim now has current form figures reading 8-8-27-3-1 and his GIR and putting stats are superb.

He's playing here for the first time but if his victory last week is anything to go by, a low-scoring birdie-fest at altitude is ideal.

Back Nicholas Lindheim @ 44.043/1

Bet now


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