THE FIRST LOOK
The First Look: Barbasol Championship
July 14, 2017
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM
Aaron Baddeley's walk-off win in playoff at Barbasol
• COURSE: RTJ Golf Trail/Grand National (Lake), 7,302 yards, par 71. Lauded by designer Robert Trent Jones Sr. as the greatest site for a golf complex he’s ever seen, Grand National’s Lake course might be his favorite among the 11 courses on the namesake trail. Twelve holes run along the shore of 600-acre Lake Saugahatchee, and the Lake’s collection of par-3s can stand up to most any in the nation. The par-3 sixth hole plays up to 230 yards over water to a small finger of land jutting out into the lake. Christened in 1992, Grand National played host five years later to what’s now the Web.com Tour’s season finale, where Steve Flesch emerged as the winner. The Barbasol Championship arrived two years ago.
• FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 300 points.
• CHARITY: The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail Foundation is the tournament’s charitable arm, with proceeds divided to benefit the RTJ Golf Trail’s local communities and select charities that impact Alabama as a whole.
• FIELD WATCH: Jim Furyk, ineligible for a major for the first time in 22 years, tops the marquee as “Mr. 58” joins fellow former major champions Angel Cabrera and Retief Goosen. … Aaron Baddeley will not defend his title, having secured a berth in the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. … Davis Love III and son Dru tee it up in the same event for the second time in three weeks, coming after both played the Greenbrier Classic. It will be the younger Love’s fourth professional start; 677 fewer than his dad. … Charlie Wi, who stepped back last winter to focus on his teaching academy, makes just his fourth start of 2017.
• 72-HOLE RECORD: 265, Scott Piercy (2015).
• 18-HOLE RECORD: 60, Jhonattan Vegas (2nd round, 2016).
• LAST YEAR: Aaron Baddeley ended a 5 1/2-year dry spell in dramatic fashion, winning a playoff over Si Woo Kim with a 24-foot birdie on the fourth extra hole. Baddeley, 35, whose last taste of victory came at Riviera in 2011, fired a 5-under-par 66 on the final day to pull even with Kim at 18-under 266. After matching pars through the first three playoff holes, Kim missed the green with his approach on their fourth pass at No.18. The young Korean appeared in position to save par after chipping to 5 feet, but Baddeley ended it with a curling right-to-left putt that sent him into a sprint even before the ball dropped. It was a sweet reward for the Aussie, who began 2016 at No. 417 in the world rankings but had put up four top-10s before breaking through.
• STORYLINES: Though a field light on the game’s top names might be ripe for a new addition to the PGA TOUR’s list of first-time winners, the event’s first two champions have been revival stories. Before Baddeley’s heroics, Scott Piercy won the inaugural edition to end a three-year victory drought. … Boo Weekley, whose home in the Florida Panhandle lies just miles from the Alabama state line, joins Baddeley as the only men with top-15 finishes in each of the first two editions. Weekley tied for sixth in 2015 and shared 11th last year. … With five weeks left in the regular season, time is drawing short for pros to pick up crucial FedExCup points. More than half the field – including Furyk, Goosen, Love III and Weekley – currently sits below 125th on the points list.
• SHORT CHIPS: Robby Shelton, who tied for third two years ago as an amateur, and Dru Love head a collection of six University of Alabama alumni playing in Auburn territory. Blayne Barber, Dominic Bozzelli, Matt Gilchrest and Patton Kizzire fly the Auburn flag. … The Tigers are well-represented in the pro-am, with football boss Gus Malzahn and basketball coach Bruce Pearl both in the field. So is Al Del Greco, a former Auburn kicker known in his day as one of the NFL’s top golfers.
• TELEVISION: Thursday-Friday, 5-8 p.m. (Golf Channel). Saturday-Sunday, 4-7 p.m. (GC).
• PGA TOUR LIVE: None.
• RADIO: None.