Troy Merritt wasn’t able to match Rickie Fowler’s birdie on the par-4 17th Friday, making just a par. That means there’s a three-way tie for the lead heading to the weekend. It also means that if Merritt, who at one point was in danger of missing the cut here, birdies the Kodak Challenge hole one of the next two days he’ll win the $1 million prize. If he doesn’t, there will be a three-way playoff between Merritt, Fowler and Aaron Baddeley -- unless someone eagles the hole.
While Merritt didn’t birdie No. 17, he did birdie the final hole. That’s important for a couple of reasons. First, Merritt is 121st on the money list and could ill afford to miss the cut, which he was in danger of doing until two birdies over his last four holes. And by making the cut, he stayed in the race for the Kodak Challenge.
As for Fowler, his own late-day birdie run moved him back into contention at 7 under.
“I played well for 27 holes; the front nine was a little rough,” said Fowler, who made the turn in 2 over. “My caddie came up to me and said, ‘You have 10 good holes in you?’ Now I’m focusing on trying to go win a golf tournament.” -- Brian Wacker
Click here for the complete Kodak Challenge standings
The cut line currently stands at 3 under. That’s not good news for Todd Hamilton, who is one off that mark after a second straight 71. Hamilton, 210th on the money list, needed to win to secure a card for next season and avoid q-school.
James Driscoll and Troy Merritt, among others, are also in precarious positions on the wrong side of the cut. Driscoll came into the week 154th in money, while Merritt is 121st and both would likely drop into unenviable positions by missing the cut.
Merritt also has a lot at stake in the Kodak Challenge. He’s currently tied for the lead and should he miss the cut today (and not birdie the par-4 17th) would almost certainly be in a playoff for the $1 million prize, unless Rickie Fowler or Aaron Baddeley were to eagle the hole. -- Brian Wacker
There’s now a tie atop the Kodak Challenge leaderboard thanks to Aaron Baddeley’s birdie on the par-4 17th hole on the Magnolia Course. The Aussie hit his approach shot from 136 yards to just nine inches to set up the tap-in, which moves him into a share of the lead with Troy Merritt at 17 under. Merritt played the Palm Course on Thursday as did Rickie Fowler, who is one stroke back. Tim Petrovic and Lee Janzen, who also birdied No. 17 on Thursday, are two shots back.
This is the final week for the Kodak Challenge with $1 million going to the winner. Should there be a tie after the final round, there will be a playoff on No. 17 until a winner is determined.
Of the three main contenders for the Kodak Challenge title, only Aaron Baddeley will play the par-4 17th hole at the Magnolia Course today. When he does reach the 430-yard hole, he won’t find it easy. So far, there have only been four birdies made on No. 17 and the scoring average is currently 4.042. That ranks it as the 10th most-difficult hole on the course, but the fact there have been only four birdies there doesn’t bode well for Baddeley or Fowler, both of whom trail Kodak leader Troy Merritt.
How did Troy Merritt prepare for today’s opening round? By practicing his putting last night at min-golf site Fantasia Golf.
“I wanted to see what all the hype was about over there,” Merritt said. “They say it's the world's hardest mini golf course, and it's definitely the toughest one I've ever played.”
Apparently it worked, sort of. Merritt took 29 putts Thursday on his way to an opening-round 69 on the Palm Course. That leaves him three shots off the lead of Rickie Fowler.
“I think I made all the putts today just because the greens are so much easier here,” said Merritt, who is 121st on the money list. “You weren't playing 20 feet of break and aiming backwards and whatnot, but I had a lot of fun last night.”
That fun might continue Thursday night, by the way. Merritt and Fowler, both whom are also vying for the Kodak Challenge title, plan to play against one another at Fantasia one night this week.
No matter what, rookie Troy Merritt will go into the season finale with at least a share of the lead in the $1 million winner-take-all Kodak Challenge.
The rookie eagled the par-5 16th after sticking his approach shot to just 16 feet on the 560-yard par-5. Merritt had nothing to lose; he was already 1 over on the day and sliding down the leaderboard on a tough final round at TPC Summerlin.
Rickie Fowler, who has led the Kodak Challenge standings for most of the year, will play the hole later today and can tie Merritt with an eagle of his own. Fowler nearly eagled the hole in the first round, but his birdie putt just slipped out of the cup.
"We definitely know it's the Kodak hole, trying to play it the
best we can," Fowler said earlier this week.
Troy Merritt is just 1 under through his first 11 holes today, but with CordeValle playing nearly as difficult as it did in the first round, when the scoring average was nearly 71 1/2, he’s managed to climb four spots on the leaderboard. More importantly, Merritt has gone from 126th to 116th on the projected money list .
Merritt, who is tied for 15th at the moment, has just one top-10 this season (at New Orleans) but this is the kind of movement that will matter over the next few weeks.
Rickie Fowler and Troy Merritt are staging a rookie-centered battle for the winner-take-all Kodak Challenge -- and both just birdied the par-4 17th hole to get to 15 under in the year-long competition.
The pair now have a two-shot lead over six players at 13 under.
The birdie was huge for Merritt in more ways than one. The birdie put Merritt well above the cut line, all but assuring he will play on the weekend as he tries to retain his card for 2011.
For complete coverage of the Kodak Challenge, click here.
At 123rd on the money list entering the week, a good finish this week would lock up Troy Merritt’s PGA TOUR card for next season, and he’s now one round away from that after a 64 Friday moved him into contention.
Merritt, by the way, played collegiately at Boise State, so he’s more familiar with the school’s blue turf than he is Bermudagrass -- “First time I saw it was three or four years ago,” Merritt said.
Since then, though, Merritt, who was bogey-free Saturday, has adjusted quite well, winning on Bermudagrass what he estimates to be a half-dozen times. And now he has a chance to again, which would more than take care of his position on the money list, too.