As the final Major of the season is taking place in The Open at Royal Liverpool, the unsung players of both the PGA TOUR and DP World Tour will have their chance to shine state-side.
Like last week’s Scottish Open and Barbasol Championship, this week’s Barracuda Championship is co-sanctioned between the PGA TOUR and DP World Tour.
Again, like last week’s fixtures, this week offers another test, opposite of The Open, for golfers to secure valuable FedEx Cup points and in some instances, secure a PGA TOUR card.
There are just three weeks remaining before the FedEx Cup Playoffs and the time is now for bubble players to put together good results to improve their season-long standing positions.
This week’s venue will be the Old Greenwood Course at Tahoe Mountain Club in the Reno-Tahoe region of California.
The Barracuda Championship was first held in 1999 as the Reno-Tahoe Open and has always served as an opposite field event.
What is unique about this week’s event is the scoring style, which will play as a Modified Stableford scoring format with points awarded to scoring relative to par per hole. Golfers are looking for the highest score this week, opposed to the traditional lowest score winning.
As previously mentioned, this week offers a change-of-pace to what we typically see on both the PGA TOUR and DP World Tour.
Rather than counting the total number of strokes taken in typical stroke play, this week’s Modified Stableford format is based on a points system relative to the number of strokes taken at each hole.
Good play results in added points as bad play results in negative points compared to the number of strokes to par on each hole.
Additionally, a golfer cannot record worse than a double-bogey on any given hole. If a golfer gets to double bogey, they can pick up their ball and move to the next hole.
In the end, the golfer with the highest number of points across all four days will claim victory.
Here is a breakdown of the points per play per hole:
Albatross - 8 Points
Eagle - 5 Points
Birdie - 2 Points
Par - 0 Points
Bogey - -1 Point
Double Bogey - -3 Points
This scoring format can create some very fun golf as the strategy can be summed up by the phrase, go for it. It’s a very risk-reward favored format as the worst possible outcome is a double-bogey.
In other words, golfers will oftentimes choose to risk it on shots they typically would not in standard stroke play.
Playing opposite The Open, the field is just what you would expect to see this week out of an alternate event. It consists of PGA TOUR players who oftentimes don’t get a start in some of the stronger fields and low-ranking Europeans.
A win this week would secure a PGA TOUR for any European based golfer. Others are looking to bolster their FedEx Cup point totals to sneak into the top 70 to secure a card for next season along with playing at the year-end FedEx Cup Playoffs.
Keith Mitchell headlines the field as the highest ranked golfer of the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) at 62.
He is joined by four others within the top 100 of the OWGR in Justin Suh (71,) Chez Reavie (77,) J.J. Spaun (86) and Mark Hubbard (91.)
Reavie comes in as the defending champion of this event and looks to become a back-to-back Barracuda Championship Champion. Reavie recently placed T4th at the Travelers Championship.
Other former winners of this event at the Old Greenwood Course playing this week include Erik van Rooyen (2021) and Richy Werensk (2020.)
Troy Merrit is another interesting name teeing it up this week. He missed 14 consecutive cuts on the calendar year between The American Express and Travelers Championship but then went on to place T17th at both the Rocket Mortgage Classic and John Deere Classic. He was the runner-up here in back-to-back years in 2019 and 2020.
Edoardo Molinari is arguably the most notable of the DP World Tour golfers playing this week. Molinari will be a captain’s assistant at this fall’s Ryder Cup in Italy.
The Barracuda Championship switched venues in 2020. It was first played between 1999 and 2019 at the Jack Nicklaus designed Montreux Golf and Country Club just 30 miles away from the current venue, Old Greenwood Course at the Tahoe Mountain Club. The Old Greenwood Course was also designed by Jack Nicklaus
This will be the fourth consecutive year that the event is played at the Old Greenwood Course.
This week’s track plays as a par 71 at 7,480 yards but sits 6,000 feet above sea level. Therefore, it does not play as long as the scorecard suggests.
The elevation allows for the long-hitters off the tee to go even further. Although that may suggest that long-bombers off the tee may see an advantage, history has shown that finding the fairway and in turn, setting up a quality second shot has been key to victory here.
Old Greenwood is largely tree lined with water in play on six holes, adding to the importance of accuracy off the tee opposed to distance.
In all, there hasn’t been stat-tracking at this event and course so historical data is hard to find but we can access what to expect by the naked eye and other Jack Nicklaus designs.
As for the scoring, the three winners here at Old Greenwood have gone 39 points (Richy Werenski in 2020,) 50 points (Erik Van Rooyen in 2021) and 43 points (Chez Reavie in 2022.)
Golfers will be forced to ‘go-for-the-green’ as one may say in this risk-reward scoring format.
A strong all-around game, favoring tee-to-green and greens in regulation percentage statistics, seem to be the key to success here. Any hopeful winner too will have to get it done on the greens as a bad week with the flat stick will leave points on the table.
As the rest of the world will battle the elements over in England this week, the weather seems favorable for those playing in the Barracuda Championship. Highs will range from the high 80’s to low 90’s across all four days. At the time of writing this, there is little-to-no-chance of precipitation in the forecast as well. Winds could be a factor, set to range from 11 mph to 13 mph across the four days as well. In all, it’ll be a clear four days for golf in the Reno-Tahoe region.
Strokes Gained: Tee to Green (SG: TTG)
Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: APP)
Greens in Regulation Percentage (GIR%)
Strokes Gained: Off the Tee (SG: OTT) / Driving Accuracy
Sand Saves Percentage
Birdie or Better Percentage
Strokes Gained: Putting (SG: PUTT)
Stephan Jaeger (+1600)
Jaeger is my favorite this week per my model. He comes into this week in great form, placing T9th at the Rocket Mortgage Classic and T13th at the John Deere Classic in his last two outings. He also has made nine consecutive cuts heading into this week and has made the cut in 16-of-18 events on the calendar year. He is currently 15th on TOUR in GIR%, 23rd in bogey avoidance, 31st in SG: TTG, 50th in birdie or better percentage, 55th in scrambling, 56th in SG: OTT, 59th in sand saves percentage, 63rd in SG: APP and 116th in SG: PUTT. He can get a bit wild off the tee as he ranks 133rd in driving accuracy but he does rank 56th in SG: OTT so I’m not all that concerned with that. In a field of this quality, those stats listed previously line up just well for a victory this week.
J.J. Spaun (+2800)
Spaun is a former winner on TOUR, winning the Valero Texas Open in 2022. He comes into this week fresh off a T33rd in his last outing at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. Although he missed the cut at the Travelers Championship recently, he did place T30th at The Memorial. He also placed T27th at the Wells Fargo Championship and T33rd at the Genesis Invitational, both elevated events. Spaun is currently sixth on TOUR in scrambling, eighth in bogey avoidance, 16th in sand saves percentage, 39th in SG: TTG, 48th in GIR%, 51st in SG: OTT, 54th in driving accuracy, 78th in SG: APP and 125th in birdie or better percentage. He does rank 139th in SG: PUTT which will require him to catch a flat hot stick this week if he hopes to contend.
Akshay Bhatia (+3500)
In this risk-reward format, I have to go with Bhatia. He is currently 22nd on TOUR in birdie or better percentage, 23rd in GIR%, 24th in SG: APP, 39th in SG: OTT, 40th in SG: TTG, 53rd in driving accuracy, 64th in sand saves percentage and 89th in bogey avoidance. His downfalls come with a 151st placement in scrambling but with elite birdie or better percentage and GIR% numbers, I’m banking on his finding the greens regularly without the need to scramble. He is also 180th in SG: PUTT so finding a hot flat stick is a must for Bhatia if he hopes to contend on Sunday. Bhatia was darn near even on the greens a week ago at the Barbasol Championship in terms of SG: PUTT. If he can repeat that this week, I have faith he’ll be there come Sunday. He is also fresh off a T9th at the Barbasol Championship last week and placed T35th at the John Deere Classic a week prior.
Satoshi Kodaira (+22000)
I played Kodaira last week with high expectations and he went and missed the cut at the Barbasol Championship. He did make four consecutive cuts heading into last week however so the form is there. He is also a former winner on TOUR, winning the RBC Heritage back in 2018. Kodaira is currently second on the entire PGA TOUR in driving accuracy. He is also 24th in scrambling, 34th in SG: APP, 36th in birdie or better percentage, 41st in GIR%, 46th in sand saves percentage, 65th in SG: TTG, 79th in bogey avoidance and 126th in SG: OTT. His downfalls come on the greens, much like everyone we’re talked about in this article. He is currently 140th in SG: PUTT.