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 however this year in line with the schedule change it has moved a couple of weeks forward on the calendar to sit alongside the WGC-Fedex St Jude.
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;
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 seven 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.
2018 A Putnam 47pts
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 have a combination of players achieving their maiden tour wins in the form of Putnam, 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 Henry 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.
Putnam had played once and finished 65th, 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 until last year when Putnam was victorious here on the back of an eighth place at the Nicklaus designed Glen Abbey the picture wasn’t much clearer, as none of the previous six winners had even notched a top 20 in their previous two starts and Chalmers won on the back of five consecutive missed cuts!
The only link that I was able to note in my preview last year related to where the players hail from as looking at the six winners since the event took on the Stableford format up to Putnam’s win last year four of them, Henry [x2] Chalmers and Stroud either live in or come from Texas with other two Woodland and Ogilvy live in Florida & Arizona respectively.
On this basis I speculated last year that we were 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 and the fact that last years winner Putnam is also Arizona based added further credence to this theory.
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 three players in this event as follows;
MARTIN LAIRD – 18 -1 - 3pts E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED T7th
First up for me this week is a player that despite the price I can’t get away from, 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 Arizona.
Unsurprisingly therefore Martin has become comfortable in playing golf at altitude, 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 five visits to Montreux Golf & CC Martin has finished no worse than 15th with four of those five finishes being top seven. That covers three 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 five starts there and so we go on.
Basically anytime he pegs it up in the desert Martin is a threat.
Last year I sided with Laird in this event even though he was in dire form coming in noting that “ the quotes of 40-1 available reflected this as if he was in any kind half decent nick based on his track record here and general pedigree he would be favourite”.
In the end last year despite his poor form coming in Laird finished a creditable 15th.
Historically current form hasn’t meant much in relation to Martin’s results when he pegs it up in the desert as, In addition to his 15th place here last year when in poor form, in 2016 he had missed three of his previous four cuts before finishing 7th here, and in 2014 he hadn’t finished higher than 19th anywhere since Phoenix in January, before finishing 6th here.
This year however the story is very different as Martin arrives here on the back of making eight of his last nine cuts and closing with 63 last Sunday to finish 6th at the Barbasol and, while nothing is ever a certainty in golf, with the added ingredient of his solid form of late, I would to put it bluntly be astonished if the Scotsman is not in the hunt come Sunday.
JJ SPAUN – 45-1 –1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 6 - FINISHED 46th
For my next pick this week I am going to side with a player who seems to have rediscovered some of his early season mojo, JJ Spaun.
JJ made his first seven cuts of the season and this string of results included a tenth place finish at the CJ Cup at altitude and a 15th place in the desert at the Shriners, two results, which bode well for this week.
After this early season run JJ lost his way at the beginning of 2019, however since April he has returned to a model of consistency missing only one cut in nine starts.
This week after a couple of weeks off Spaun returns to a venue that he was in third place at after 54 holes before finishing 29th on his debut visit in 2017, and where he was third at last year.
The fact that the Californian has taken to Montreux G&CC should not come as too much of a surprise as in addition to his strong play in Vegas and Korea last autumn he also has a further top ten in Vegas and a fourth place finish at Phoenix to his name. Clearly then JJ is comfortable in both the desert and altitude.
Spaun has been threatening a debut PGA Tour win for a while now and based on his recent solid form and his record in the desert I am optimistic that the breakthrough could come this week.
DOMINIC BOZZELLI - 80-1 –1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 25th
For my final selection this week I am going to give another chance to a player I sided with at big odds a couple of weeks ago at the John Deere Classic, Dominic Bozzelli.
On that week in Illinois Dominic started off with a solid round of 69 and was in a strong position of -6 for the tournament as he stood on the par 5 second tee, his 11th for the day in his second round.
Unfortunately at this point Bozzelli took six on this hole and after this the wheels completely came off as he played his last eight holes in +5 to miss the cut.
You would have to imagine that a disappointing end to a round like this would have been a huge blow to Dominic as he battles to hang on to his playing privileges, however full credit must be given too him as on the back of this missed cut he bounced back to finish ninth at the Barbasol last week.
Allowing for the fact that the 28yr old has been prone to throwing in a few card wrecking holes this season what really impressed me last week was that Bozzelli only posted two bogeys across the full 72 holes.
Encouragingly as well his putter, which has been his best friend this season continued to be in good working order as he finished the week second in SGP.
It’s also worth noting that all components of his game appeared to be working well as he ranked ninth for SGT on the week.
Moving on to this week and while I can find no great form at altitude hidden in Bozzelli’s past I am struck by the fact that he has posted two top 5 finishes over the past three years at the Desert Classic, which as already noted incorporates a Nicklaus course, so that is certainly a positive for this week.
Dominic arrives in Reno ranked 139th in Fedex Cup standings so it is certainly ‘backs against the wall time’ for him in relation to keeping his status on tour, however it is worth noting that he produced strong results earlier this year to earn conditional status whilst playing his final events on a medical extension.
As we can see from this the Auburn grad is certainly no stranger to performing under pressure and on the back of his great performance last week I can see him delivering another strong result this week.