Links golf fits Doug Barron to a tee
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Written by Bob McClellan @ChampionsTour
Doug Barron should be reunited soon with the clubs that helped him to his season-best finish on PGA TOUR Champions, a tie for third at The Senior Open presented by Rolex at Gleneagles in Auchterarder, Scotland.
Barron, who celebrated his 53rd birthday on Sunday, was unaware that the last place he should fly through was London’s Heathrow Airport, where a lack of staff and a surplus of flight cancellations has led to what some have called “a baggage mountain” of lost and/or undelivered travel bags.
“Had I known, I’d have flown through anywhere else,” Barron said.
But his clubs had made it to Dallas by Tuesday, so he’ll have them back by the time he needs to leave for next week’s Shaw Charity Classic in Calgary, where he will defend his 2021 title.
The Shaw is one of Barron’s two victories since he turned 50. His first came in his rookie season in 2019 at the DICK’S Sporting Goods Open. Coincidentally, the DICK’S also is one of the final nine events before the Charles Schwab Cup playoffs so if it sounds like Barron is primed for a strong stretch run, well, he thinks so too.
“I feel like I’ve played pretty well all season,” said Barron, who isn’t wrong. He has 11 top-10s in 13 events, and this was his third top-10. “The driver hadn’t been quite where I wanted it to be in recent weeks, though. I hadn’t been getting it in play enough.”
Barron said he and his coach looked at some older swings and felt like he was getting too long and loose off the tee. He didn’t like his wrist hinge, either.
“I actually wanted to emulate Steve Stricker’s backswing,” Barron said. “His swing just comes to mind with what I’m picturing in my brain.”
Barron ranks 26th in driving accuracy this season at 70.78%. Stricker hasn’t played enough events to qualify, but Barron actually leads Stricker (68.69%).
Still, it’s whatever makes a player feel comfortable. And Barron couldn’t have looked more comfortable on the weekend at Gleneagles, where he shot 67-65. No one shot lower than him over the final two rounds. His 5-under 65 during the final round tied for low round of the day; none of the other 17 Americans who made the cut broke par on Sunday.
“Wow, I didn’t know that,” Barron said. “I just enjoy playing over there. I like the firm courses. Sunday started out pretty crazy with the wind and the rain until the delay.”
Barron moved up 12 spots on the final day to claim the tie for third. He also jumped into 18th in the Schwab Cup standings.
Barron is a Johnny Come Lately to European links golf. He never played in The Open Championship when he was on the PGA TOUR. He made his PGA TOUR Champions debut at The Senior Open Championship in 2019 because it started the day after his 50th birthday. He went to Royal Lytham and Monday-qualified, then turned that into a surprising tie for fifth. His next start was the DICK’S Sporting Goods Open, and that’s where he pulled the even bigger surprise of posting his first PGA TOUR Champions victory.
There was no Senior Open in 2020 because of the global pandemic, and Barron chose not to go last year because he felt he would be better served by taking the week off.
He said he won’t do that again. With two top-five finishes in two appearances, The Senior Open Championship will be part of his schedule from now on.
“I’ll probably take my wife next year and we’re going to go over early,” Barron said. “I played a practice round with Ken Tanigawa, and he said there were some great courses in Ireland. So I’m going to play there the week before next year’s Open.”