Scott Stallings coming in hot to Reno’s Barracuda Championships
When: Today through Sunday
Where: Montreux Golf & Country Club in Reno
TV: Golf Channel 3:30 to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Defending champion: Greg Chalmers
The month of July has been a different one for Scott Stallings.
It started with a 38th-place finish at Quicken Loans Nationals followed up by a 58th at the Greenbrier Classic. He was a collective 3-over-par in the two events.
In the past three weeks, however, Stallings has turned in some amazing golf. It started at the John Deere Classic where he tied for fifth and he followed that up with a third-place finish at Barbasol. He ended the month with a 62nd at the Canadian Open, including an unfortunate final-round 76 which cost him a boatload of money.
The two top-5s gave Stallings plenty of confidence as he headed into the 19th annual Barracuda Championships, which opened Thursday at Montreux Golf & Country Club.
“I feel great,” Stallings said via phone before arriving in Reno. “I’m putting the ball well. I went back to an old putter I used a long time ago, and it was the best thing I ever did.
“I had a couple of top-5s in a row; a couple of chances to win. I started getting the ball in the hole.”
The 32-year-old Boston native will be competing against five former champions in the field — two-time winners J.J. Henry and Vaughn Taylor, Geoff Ogilvy, defending champ Greg Chalmers and John Rollins.
Other players to watch are Smylie Kaufman, Robert Garrigus, Ben Martin, and Seung-Yul Noh. Keep an eye on Brandon Hagy, who tied for fifth at last week’s Canadian Open.
Chalmers ended a career-long drought with his first PGA Tour win last year at the Barracuda.
The Australian-born Chalmers said he’s been hitting the ball well in practice.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Chalmers said. “Obviously I’ve never defended before (on the PGA Tour). It doesn’t matter to anybody except the person defending. I’ll probably put more pressure on myself, but I’m excited about the opportunity to do that. I’d like to put up a strong defense and play well.
“I was playing OK before the tournament and then things changed. Sometimes golf is like that, and you catch fire.”
Stallings had one of the best rounds on tour this year when he carded a 60 in the third round of the Barbasol. He has shot par or better in 11 of his last 12 rounds.
“I thought I’d shot 61 (originally) when I birdied 18,” Stallings said. “The hole I bogeyed was No. 6, It was a long par-3. I had a 40-foot birdie putt and I left it six feet short. I horseshoed the 6-footer for par.”
Stallings said his game started to get better when he changed putters. He discarded a Scotty Cameron putter. He was rolling his old putter well, but just not sinking any putts.
In the last three events, Stallings is 39-under-par, and he’s made nearly $400,000 in that span.
He is averaging 67.6 on the weekend during the last three weekends with rounds of 64, 70, 60, 71, 67 and 76.
“I am definitely a lot more aggressive on the weekend,” Stallings said. “I don’t know why that is.”
The Stableford scoring system rewards aggressive play. Nine birdies and nine bogeys is better than 18 pars in this scoring format.
“You can’t be scared to be aggressive,” Stallings said. “I played OK here last year (T-41, 20 points). I have to do a better job on the par-5s. I didn’t take advantage of them with my length.
“I like this course. You can hit driver every hole, but you don’t have to. I struggled with 17 (long par-4 from an elevated tee). It’s hard to feel the wind. It’s a tough second shot. The green runs away from you a little bit.”
Garrigus tied for fifth at the Canadian Open and was 10th at Barbasol, his first back-to-back top-10s since 2012. Thirteen of his last 14 rounds have been 70 or lower. He was DQ after rounds of 67, 68 and 71, but Tour media personnel said they didn’t have a reason.
Kaufman was 27th at the Canadian Open and tied for 12th at Barbasol. Martin has two top-10s in the past month, but missed the cut at the Canadian Open. Noh tied for 18th at Barbasol and tied for 23rd at the Canadian Open.