The Barracuda Championship
So on to the second PGA Tour event of this week, which is the Barracuda Championship.
The Barracuda Championship was first played in 1999 and was initially known as the Reno Tahoe Open.
Played at Montreux Golf & CC midway between Reno & Lake Tahoe the event is played ‘at altitude’ with the average elevation above sea level being 5600 ft.
Barring an occasional change the event has been played early in August as the opposite field event to the WGC Bridgestone Invitational for many years.
In the 2018/19 season the event will remain as an opposite field event running alongside the new WGC Fedex St Jude tournament.
The event will be played in the last week of July directly after the Open Championship.
Before we move on to the course detail and the history of the event we should take a look at the format as, for those of you who don’t know, the event is played under a unique modified Stableford format.
This format was introduced in 2012 and picked up on a system, which had been previously used at the old International event, which became defunct after 2006.
For those of you with longer memories the International was the tournament won by now Sky Sports presenter Rich ‘Beemer’ Beem in 2002 directly before he went on to win the PGA Championship.
Anyway, enough of Beemer and back to the format, which is as follows;
Instead of the usual scoring system we see week in week it out in this event players are awarded or deducted points as follows;
Albatross +8pts?Eagle +5pts?Birdie +2pts?Par 0pts?Bogey -1pt?D Bogey or worse -3pts
The winning player at the end of the week is then the one who has quite simply accumulated the most points.
As you can see from this the way the scoring system is set up rewards more aggressive players who might make the odd mistake but throw in plenty of birdies or even eagles.
Quite simply you would much rather make 1 eagle, 4 birdies & 6 bogeys than you would 18 pars.
Montreux Golf & CC is a par 72 measuring around 7470 yards. As mentioned earlier though it does not play to it’s full length due to the ball flying further at altitude.
The greens are a mix of Bentgrass and Poa Annua.
The course was designed by Jack Nicklaus in 1992.
Other Nicklaus designs used on tour include Muirfield Village, home of the Memorial, PGA National [Honda Classic], The Tournament Course [Careerbuilder] and Glen Abbey where we were for last weeks Canadian Open.?Other events which have been played at altitude this season on the PGA Tour are the CJ Cup and the WGC Mexico Championship. The most notable event played over the years at altitude on the European Tour is the Omega Masters played at Crans-Sur-Sierre.
In addition to looking at events played at altitude this event is basically a desert event played in Nevada and it can no doubt pay to look at players who have good form at other desert events such as the Phoenix Open, The Shriners Hospital for Children Open or the CareerBuilder Challenge.
So let’s take a look at the last six winners since the event took the modified Stableford format in 2012. I have also noted by the side of these players their winning points total.
2017 C Stroud 44pts?2016 G Chalmers 43pts?2015 JJ Henry 47pts?2014 G Ogilvy 49pts?2013 G Woodland 44pts?2012 JJ Henry 43pts
Stroud and JJ Henry on his most recent win both required a play off to win.
As we can see from this list with the exception of Woodland’s win we basically have a combination of journeymen who finally achieved their maiden tour wins in the form of Stroud and Chalmers and older experienced past winners on the comeback trail in the form of Henry and Ogilvy.
To be honest if we then look at course or recent form coming in the picture doesn’t get much clearer.
With the exception of JJ who had three top 10s on the course before even his first win [albeit in the old standard scoring method] none of the winners since the event changed to Stableford had any kind of track record at the course.
Stroud had played once and missed the cut and Woodland and Ogilvy were making their course debuts. Chalmers had at least strung a few cuts together in previous starts in the event.
As for form leading in to the event I’m afraid that doesn’t get any clearer as none of the last six winners had even notched a top 20 in their previous two starts and Chalmers won on the back of five consecutive missed cuts!?I was on the verge of giving up on finding any link between these winners however I am pleased to say I have found one connection and this comes in where the players hail from.
This is that looking at the six winners since the event took on the Stableford format four of them, Henry [x2] Chalmers and Stroud either live in or come from Texas. The other two Woodland and Ogilvy live in Florida & Arizona respectively.
Basically therefore we are looking at Southern states guys who are used to regularly being in and playing in the type of hot conditions the players will face this week. I am therefore keen to follow this thread with my selections.
So following on from the above point not unsurprisingly for Nevada in August the forecast is sun, more sun & very, very hot with mid to high 90s being the order of the day.
I have gone with four players in this event as follows;
HUDSON SWAFFORD –66-1 - 1pt e/w 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED 11th
The player who I think offers the most value based on the prices on offer is Hudson Swafford.
It’s been a really lean time for Swafford this season as the man you could at one time rely on to make cuts on a week in week out basis has since February gone off the radar missing 7 out of 13 cuts.
Prior to last week Hudson’s best finish in this 13 tournament run was 50th place in his previous start at the John Deere Classic and this event saw him close with a 66.
After a week off Hudson then followed this up with a 12th place finish in Canada last weekend.
Hudson’s long game stats have fallen away slightly from last season, however this still remains the strength of his game.
The problem this season as it was last year for Hudson has been with the putter, however whereas last season he ranked 103rd in SGP this year he currently ranks 178th.
The hugely encouraging sign therefore for Hudson and his supporters is that he ranked 7th for SGP in Canada on the week.
Based on his win at the CareerBuilder last year Swafford does not have to be concerned about his card however he does currently sit 157th in the Fedex Cup standings so unless he produces a couple of big weeks imminently his season will soon be over.
Talking of Hudson’s win at the CareerBuilder I mentioned earlier that this was an event worth looking at when considering options for this week as it is also played in the desert so this also gives us encouragement.
Swafford has made two starts in this event previously and he notched a 12th place finish at his first visit in 2014 so we know he can handle the format.
Finally I also mentioned earlier that due to the scoring system in play eagles are extremely valuable this week and it is therefore pleasing to see that despite his poor play this year Swafford sits high in the ‘eagles made on par 5’ stats on the season.
We have seen over the years here with JJ Henry that the steady ball striker can get the job done if they have a good week with the flat stick and if he Hudson can keep up last weeks significant improvement in that department I can see him going really close.
MARTIN LAIRD – 40 -1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED 15th
Next up for us is Barracuda and indeed desert specialist as a whole Martin Laird.
Initially hailing from Scotland Laird relocated to the States to attend College in Colarado and now makes his home in the golfing mecca of Scottsdale in Phoenix.
Unsurprisingly therefore Martin has become comfortable in playing golf in hot temperatures and the desert climate.?To back this up we only need to look at his record in desert events.
Firstly in the Barracuda in four visits to Montreux Golf & CC Martin has finished no worse than 7th. That covers two events in the modified Stableford scoring and two events in the old standard scoring format.
Now if we look at the Waste Management Phoenix Open we’ll see Martin has three top tens in his last four starts there and so we go on.
Basically anytime he pegs it up in the desert Martin is a threat.
In relation to his current form there is no doubt that Laird has been struggling of late however that is reflected in the quotes of 40-1 available, after all if he was in any kind half decent nick based on his track record here and general pedigree he would be favourite.
The thing to note here though is that historically current form hasn’t meant much in relation to Martin’s results when he pegs it up in the desert.
In 2016 he had missed three of his previous four cuts before finishing 7th in this event and in 2014 he hadn’t finished higher than 19th anywhere since Phoenix in January before finishing 6th here.
Due to Martin’s struggles this year he finds himself close to the precipice at 118th in the Fedex Cup standings and he will know that he needs one more good week to take care of business.
Based on his record in this event I am confident he can have that week here.
HUNTER MAHAN – 80-1 –1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED 21st
For my next pick this week I am going to take a chance with Texan Hunter Mahan.
As we all know it has been a very tough time for Hunter of late both on and of the golf course, however there have been some definite signs of late that things are gradually starting to turn the corner for him on the course.
The most obvious of these could be seen in his 7th place finish at the Barbasol a couple of starts ago.
Hunter was actually in with a great shout to win this event going in to the final round however he understandably stalled slightly with a closing 71.
Despite this I am sure Hunter will have taken the positives from the week as the finish resulted in his first top 10 in nearly three years.
Prior to his good showing at the Barbasol Hunter had posted under par rounds in 7 of his previous 8 on tour at the John Deere and the Travelers.
Last week he opened with a 68 in Canada before a disappointing 73 saw him miss the cut.
Hunter’s stats this year are actually reasonably solid from tee to green and he currently sits 48th in DA and 46th in GIR. His putting has also been reasonably sound as he sits 27th in SGP.
As a former champion in Phoenix we know Hunter can play desert golf, in addition whilst he has done nothing noteworthy here recently he did finish 2nd here way back in 2004 under the old stroke play format so we know he can handle thou course.
Finally hailing from Texas he ticks that previous winner connection and will certainly be able to handle the heat.?In an event that has seen some players discover past glories over the years, most noticeably Geoff Ogilvy, I am happy to take a chance that Hunter can be the man to do that this week.
BEN CRANE 125-1 –1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED MC
For my final selection this week I am going to take a chance with another veteran who is searching for a return to past glories in the form of Ben Crane.
2018 has been a year which has shown signs of promise for Ben however every time he has looked like getting in to a groove he has stalled.
Back in May he produced his best week of the season to finish 8th at the Fort Worth Invitational and he then backed this up with 13th place at the Quicken Loans National a couple of weeks later.
Since then Ben has cooled down again. He did open up with a 66 in Canada last week but then followed it up with a 76 to miss the cut!
This has been symptomatic of Ben’s year, basically one step forward and one back again.
Ben has played the Barracuda for the last three years and has improved his showing on each occasion culminating in 11th place last year. He is clearly therefore getting more comfortable with the track and the format on each visit.
Whilst Ben’s long game has been a struggle this year he continues to putt well and this is obviously important in an event where birdies are the key ingredient.
As a five time tour winner Ben certainly knows how to get the job done and in a week where there are question marks about the bulk of the field I am willing to take a chance at the prices on offer that this could be the week everything clicks back in to place for him.