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.
This year we have a change of venue with the tournament moving from Montreux Golf & CC midway between Reno & Lake Tahoe to the Old Greenwood , which is situated some 30 miles West of Reno in Truckee just across the border from Nevada in to California.
Barring an occasional change the event has been played early August/late July as the opposite field event to the WGC Bridgestone Invitational/Fedex St Jude for many years and this year despite the revamped schedule this remains the case.
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.
Old Greenwood while playing as a par 72 to members will play as a par 71 this week measuring to 7390 yards.
The greens are a mix of bentgrass and poa annua.
The most important thing to note though is the course is situated in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and therefore is ‘at altitude’, on average 6000ft above sea level to be precise. This means the ball will fly considerably further and the course will not play to its full length.
This was also the case with the previous host course Montreux G&CC where the average elevation above sea level was 5600 ft.
The course was designed by Jack Nicklaus in 2004 [Previous host course Montreux was also a Nicklaus design]
Other Nicklaus designs used on tour are Muirfield Village, [where we were for two weeks recently for The Memorial & Workday], 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.
While of course any new track is a leap in to the unknown having read some reviews it would appear that Old Greenwood is a fairly typical Nicklaus design, which gives you some room off the tee even when the course runs through the forest, but tests you more the closer you get to the hole with the greens being the biggest challenge. Also in fairly typical Nicklaus fashion the bunkers by all accounts are deeper/more penal than you find week in week out on the tour.
Water is also in play on six holes most dramatically on the par 5 sixth, which runs around a lake.
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.
2019 C Morikawa 47pts
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
As we can see from this list with the exception of Woodland’s win we historically had 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. Last year though this all changed as young superstar Collin Morikawa made his class tell to bag his maiden tour title.
To be honest if we then look at recent form coming in the picture doesn’t get much clearer.
As for form leading in to the event it used to be case of the winners didn’t have any as none six winners through to 2017 had even notched a top 20 in their previous two starts and Chalmers won on the back of five consecutive missed cuts!
The last couple of years this has changed somewhat though as Putnam finished eighth prior to winning this and of course Morikawa had two top fives in his previous two starts.
So following on from the above point not unsurprisingly for this part of California 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;
BRENDAN STEELE –25-1 - 2pts e/w 1/5 odds 1st 6 - FINISHED 53rd
Has been threatening a win this season and has excellent history in this event.
Thirteenth last time out at the Nicklaus designed Muirfield Village & 6th at Jack’s PGA National for the Honda he should be relishing another trip round a Nicklaus layout. Can’t get away from him even at the short odds.
WYNDHAM CLARK – 55 -1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 - FINISHED 35th
Had to include him one last time otherwise Ben Coley would think I’ve been hacked. [Please see last Monday’s tweet’s!!]
The reason for going over a cliff with him is the combination of form at Jack’s PGA National, and the fact that he really should be right at home playing at altitude as he is brought up in Colorado and lives in Las Vegas. This is also backed up by his good performance in the CJ Cup at altitude last year.
An aggressive player who can make birdies in bunches so should be suited by the format.
DOUG GHIM – 100-1 –1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 7 - FINISHED 48th
Whilst not in necessarily in last years winner Morikawa’s league Ghim was a highly regarded amateur who is expected to go on to big things on the PGA Tour.
His debut season on tour has been a struggle but he played really nicely last week at the 3M Open to finish 18th making only two bogeys over the final three days.
Twenty Third in this event two years ago shows signs that the format suits and as another Las Vegas resident should be comfortable at altitude. He also finished 19th at altitude at TPC Colorado on the Korn Ferry Tour last year.
MICHAEL GIGLIC 200-1 –1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 7 - FINISHED 25th
The final role of the dice in this event goes on Michael Giglic.
Giglic who is in his debut season on the PGA Tour has had a pretty horrid time of it in all honesty however like Ghim he caught the eye at the weekend in the 3M Open finishing 26th.
A winner early last season on the Korn Ferry Tour in Panama his best finish for the rest of the year was at altitude at TPC Colorado where he finished 10th and this really caught the eye.
All of his stats have been poor this season however his strength on the Korn Ferry tour was his iron play ranking 12th for GIR last year. Eighteenth last week in approach play in Minnesota is hopefully something he can build on and if so he should give himself plenty of birdie looks this week.