The 2014 Barracuda Championship is an oft-overlooked event, playing out on the same weekend as the star-studded WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Like any professional golf event, it does have its merit, although in ways many casual golf fans might not expect.
The high-risk, high-reward nature of the Montreux Golf and Country Club in Reno, Nevada lends itself to one of the great experiments on the PGA Tour.
The Barracuda Championship is the only Tour event to use the Modified Stableford scoring system, which awards points based on the player's number of strokes at each hole. Miscues are penalized, while an eagle can boost a score in a hurry. Here is a quick look at the scoring system.
Modified Stableford Scoring System
And just because this group of golfers missed out on the exclusive Bridgestone Invitational doesn't mean there is any real dearth of talent out on the links. In fact, some of these names could become major players on the tour in due time. Here is the daily leaderboard for the Barracuda Championship.
Day 4 Recap
Geoff Ogilvy was in top form all weekend, to say the least. He stormed to the lead Saturday before seizing his first PGA Tour title since 2010 Sunday thanks to a 14-point performance.
There, he shot three birdies on the front nine and two more on the back end to go with an eagle on No. 13. He tallied just one bogey on the day. The tournament's Twitter account captured the moment:
Thanks, Geoff Ogilvy! You are going to make a great Champion! pic.twitter.com/ubpDxogb47— Barracuda Golf (@Reno_Tahoe_Open) August 3, 2014
For Ogilvy, it is a bit of oh-so-sweet redemption after he did not qualify for the World Golf Championship-Bridgestone Invitational and had just two top-25 finishes on the year. As a result of his triumph, he will qualify for the PGA Championship in the coming week, as noted by Doug Ferguson of The Associated Press:
Over in Reno, big win for Geoff Ogilvy. Gets him into the PGA and Kapalua. Not sure what will excite him more.— Doug Ferguson (@dougferguson405) August 3, 2014
Five shots off the lead and alone in second place was American Justin Hicks, who shot a personal tournament-best and Sunday-best 18 points. He started with five birdies on the front nine and followed it up with five more to go with two bogeys. Hicks finished the day with an average of 1.228 strokes gained putting.
Tied in third place with 37 points apiece were Hicks' countrymen John Huh and Jonathan Byrd. The duo both shot 11 points on the day.
For Nick Watney, Sunday was an excruciating end to a downward spiral that began early Saturday. He shot a horrific two points thanks to four bogeys and wound up tied for eighth.
Those who qualify and finished in a strong manner bring a strong sense of momentum to the PGA championship Thursday, even if this weekend's event was played with a unique scoring system.
Day 3 Recap
Geoff Ogilvy jumped into the outright lead at the Bridgestone Invitational after adding 12 points on Saturday. He sits three points ahead of Jason Allred and Nick Watney heading into the final round on Sunday.
The 37-year-old was consistently strong throughout Day 3. According to PGATour.com, he had a 78.57 percent driving accuracy and made 72.22 percent of the greens in regulation. Ogilvy was particularly effective on the green, gaining almost a full stroke (.918) with his putting.
He spoke about his round after hitting the clubhouse, per The Associated Press, via PGATour.com:
I played quite well. Birdied the par 5s I needed to birdie, which is ante in this format, because birdies are so much better than bogeys are bad. So it's definitely a format that rewards the guy that makes a lot of birdies. ... So I put some points on the board, which you have to, because there were some low ones this morning, it looked like, or some high ones, however you want to put it.
Ogilvy is 18 holes away from earning his first PGA Tour win a little over four years.
Nick Watney had the lead after 36 holes but struggled mightily on Saturday. His performance has steady dropped over each of the three rounds since he posted a blinding 18 in the first round. Watney capped off Round 3 with a lackluster six, which puts him three points back of Ogilvy.
"A little bit disappointed, to be honest," he said about his round, via the AP. "Missed my share of putts. But I've got a chance tomorrow. So I would have taken that at the beginning of the week."
The biggest mover on the day was John Mallinger. With a robust 19-point performance, he jumped 55 spots to get into a tie for fifth. His third round was 10 points better than his combined contribution from Days 1 and 2. The 34-year-old went from afterthought to genuine threat. He's now only seven points behind Ogilvy.
Mallinger was also one of two golfers to hit an ace in the third round, which meant Quicken Loans gave one homeowner free mortgage payments for a year:
Both John Mallinger and Ben Curtis hit @PGATOUR aces today, bringing a year of free mortgage payments to Jim Robinson and Jose Valencia!— Quicken Loans (@QuickenLoans) August 2, 2014
You can see his ace on PGATour.com.
Even if Mallinger bombs on Sunday, at least he made one fan's year.
Day 2 Recap
Watney stayed the course Friday as expected in what is his first appearance at the event since 2008 after failing to qualify for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
The Fresno State product poured in eight more points on the day thanks to three birdies on the front nine and a pair of birdies and bogeys on the back half. With a drive distance of 318 yards and hitting 80.56 percent of greens in regulation, it appears the field has little chance to catch Watney at the dawn of the weekend.
Ogilvy sits just three points off the lead and had the highlight of the day with an eagle on No. 13, although a pair of birdies and bogeys put a slight damper on things. For a man who sits in 151st in the FedEx Cup standings and has two top-25 triumphs this season, perhaps his best shot at a victory comes this weekend.
Wes Roach sits alone in third after adding 10 points to his 12 from Thursday. He also managed an eagle on No. 13, but like the erratic Ogilvy, he also shot three bogeys to four birdies and only had a 55.56 percent green in regulations tally.
Perhaps the most notable name to watch as the weekend progresses is Tommy Gainey, who climbed six spots on the leaderboard thanks to another double-digit point output to land tied for fourth place just five points out of first place.
Gainey followed up his bogey-free first round with six more birdies and a lone bogey to hint that he is the most consistent player in the proceedings.
Watch out for Jeff Overton, though. After a humble seven points Thursday, he exploded 39 spots up the leaderboard and tied for a round-high 13 points. Three birdies on the front nine parlayed into two more on the back end to go with a pair of bogeys and an eagle to finish his day on No. 18, as he let fans know after the fact:
If that is how Overton is going to play the rest of the way, the entire field may want to exercise caution.
But like many of the top PGA events this year, the first two rounds have no provided fans with a surefire victor. Instead, a jumbled leaderboard—paired with an intriguing scoring system—means the tournament has must-see action the rest of the way.
Day 1 Recap
Nick Watney was Mr. Consistency on Day 1, coming up with nine birdies and not a single hole over par to finish Thursday atop the leaderboard with 18 points.
Geoff Ogilvy took to the scoring system well, notching four birdies on both the front and back nines in his first day to come away tied for second with 16 points.
The Modified Stableford was definitely a boon to Tim Wilkinson, who played aggressively throughout the day. He bogeyed twice but hit an astonishing nine birdies—including five in a row at one point—to match Ogilvy's solid performance.
Wilkinson averaged 2.84 strokes gained from putting on Day 1, which is a remarkable figure and the key to his early success.
One would think a renegade scoring system like this might irk some pros, especially ones who would have greater advantages on a regular course. However, golfers like Brendan Steele praised the system before the tournament for changing up the monotony of the Tour.
"I love it. Anything that's different is fun to me. It gets kind of monotonous playing the same thing over and over again. So it's pretty fun to do something different," he said, via PGATour.com.
The scoring system didn't do him any favors on Thursday, as he finished in 29th place with just nine points.
Padraig Harrington—a three-time major winner—was looking to be aggressive. It appears his strategy didn't work out quite as well as he hoped on Day 1, as he finished tied for 21st with 10 points.
He averaged 315 yards on his driving distance but notched a 71.43 driving-accuracy percentage and tallied just five birdies against two bogeys.
The 42-year-old Irishman's career has been in a steady downward spiral since the beginning of this decade. 2014 has been especially unkind, as Harrington has just a lone top-25 finish and missed the cut seven times so far.
Skip Kendall started off the day very well, as noted by the PGA Tour:
However, he had a disastrous finish and slipped all the way to a tie for 44th after hitting three bogeys on the back nine.
The Modified Stableford incentives can drastically alter the way players normally approach the greens and hit balls off the tee. This should make for an intriguing tournament to follow over the course of the weekend.
All stats courtesy of PGATour.com unless otherwise noted.