Chris Stroud rallies to playoff triumph at Barracuda
RENO — The Barracuda Championship has proven to be a great place for golfers to grab their first-ever PGA Tour win.
That was the case Sunday afternoon when Chris Stroud birdied the second playoff hole to beat Richy Werenski, and become the ninth player to notch his first career win at Montreux Golf & Country Club.
Stroud, Werenski, and Greg Owen, all of whom were looking for their first wins, were tied with 44 points at the end of regulation play. The final round was delayed twice because of weather.
The last playoff involving more than two players was back in 2004 when Vaughn Taylor beat Scott McCarron, Steve Allan and Hunter Mahan for his first career win.
Tom Hoge and Stuart Appleby tied for fourth with 41 points. Derek Fathauer and Robert Garrigus tied for sixth with 40 points. Sam Saunders was solo eighth with 39 points, and Ryan Palmer and Patton Kizzire tied for ninth with 38 points. Palmer had the second-lowest round of the day with 17 points.
Stroud entered the day with 24 points, 13 behind Owen. His 20-point day enabled him to force the playoff.
“It’s been a long time,” said Stroud. “I think it’s 279 events (actually 290). Eleven years I’ve waited for this, so it’s definitely a dream come true for me. Since I was nine years old I knew I wanted to be on the PGA Tour. Now I get to go to the PGA Championship, one our majors; one of our greatest tournaments.
“I knew at the beginning of the day I was thinking 17 points or higher. It was the highest anybody I think made all week. And, coming down the stretch, 17, I hit a beautiful shot on 17 to like 4 or 5 feet. I’m putting it for birdie, I’m actually going to go grab it out of the hole and it lipped out on me. I get on 18, I knew I had to make eagle to have a chance, and I hit two beautiful shots in there made a beautiful putt and here I sit.”
Stroud earned $540,000 and the all-important two-year exemption. It was well deserved, as he was clutch when he needed to be.
The eagle on the final hole of regulation was huge, and may have been the best shot of his career. He hit driver off the tee, blistered a 5-wood to 6 feet and then drained the ensuing putt to get to 44.
“You know, I really wasn’t hitting the ball off the tee very great today,” Stroud said. “I hit it great all week, but on 18, you know, you need to turn over a driver there. I needed to hit a driver, but if you leak it to the right you can get into those trees.
“Tried to hit a draw; kind of fanned it out to the right. I didn’t hit a great drive, but I’m still in the fairway. It’s a perfect 5-wood coming in.”
Stroud said he hadn’t been hitting the 5-wood very well in practice, but he also knew he could run it up on the green.
“I’m just going to put this thing back in my stance a little bit because I gotta chase it anyway, and I hit the best 5-wood I could possibly hit,” he said. “We thought I made it. When I hit it, as soon as it the bounced and started coming down, I thought it was going in the hole. I am very thankful to have that opportunity and to make a great putt at the end.”
Werenski, the second-round leader, scored 14 points on the final day. He had three double-figure rounds. His eagle at 15 keyed his rise to the top of the leaderboard. Owen, who started the day at 37, never really got untracked and scored just seven points.
Stroud had a two-putt birdie from 24 feet on the first playoff hole, and Werenski drained a 10-footer for birdie. Owen’s second shot landed in the greenside bunker, and he hit an awful shot out of the trap, and was unable to get up and down.
“Disappointed,” Owen said after the first playoff hole. “This time of my career you don’t get many more chances, so I’m disappointed. But I’ve got vacation with the kids next week. I did my best. I can hold my head up but still disappointing.”
On the second playoff hole, Stroud blistered a 5-iron to 14 feet and two-putted for the win. Werenski’s second shot to the green landed in the rough, and his chip left him 15 feet short. He missed the ensuing putt.
“I thought I hit a pretty good second shot in here,” Werenski said. “I had a little adrenalin going; hit it a little further (than I thought). It took a bad kick; couldn’t really tell where it landed. I didn’t think it was going over the green, and then I hit a bad chip on top of it. I’m pretty I’m bummed. Not a good feeling. I could have locked up my card. Probably now I’ve got to do some more work, but whatever. I’m not worried.
“I made a good putt on the first hole to keep it going, so I was happy about that. Didn’t really feel like I hit a bad shot until the chip on the second playoff hole. You know it happens. I’ll learn from this experience and take it to the next time I’m here. The week was really good, solid. I felt like I really could have played a lot better. I know I definitely don’t have my best stuff, but my game is trending in the right direction. I’ve got one more tournament, Wyndham, and hopefully I play good there, and lock up the card.”
That is something Stroud doesn’t have to worry about for a couple of years. Getting that first win was huge.
He won $594,000 and a 2-year exemption.
“To get the monkey off the back (was big),” Stroud said. “Sergio (Garcia) said something pretty awesome to me. I don’t think he even realized it a while back. Right after he won the Masters, I saw him at the Byron Nelson. I gave him a hug and said congratulations.
“He said take it easy, it will come to you. I don’t think he even realized how important that was for me. And so I didn’t push so much to try to win a golf tournament. I just did the best I could to prepare and to show up every week ready to play, and it just came to me.”