Merritt restores confidence after Barbasol win
July 23, 2018
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
Troy Merritt clinches 2nd TOUR win at Barbasol
NICHOLASVILLE, Kentucky – Troy Merritt wasn’t about to give up the game or anything.
But as that win at the 2015 Quicken Loans National got farther and farther in his rear-view mirror, Merritt admits there were times his confidence wavered.
“Every now and then you think, do I have what it takes to win anymore?” Merritt said. “I've won at every level I've played at since I was eight years old. I know I can still play good golf.
“But when you don't see it for long periods of time and you're always trying to find it and the guys are getting better and better and better, doubts will kind of creep in there.”
Not anymore. Not after Merritt came up with clutch birdies at the 14th and 15th holes on Monday to earn a one-stroke victory at the Barbasol Championship.
With the victory, the 32-year-old vaulted 66 spots to No. 65 in the FedExCup and earned a two-year exemption on the PGA TOUR. The job security was huge for a man who had to go back to the Web.com Tour Finals a year ago in order to keep his card.
“For a guy that has struggled to maintain a job for each year I've been out here, with the exception the year after I won Quicken …, just knowing I can play the last few weeks of the season not stressing about am I going to have full status next year, that's key,” he said.
“Just knowing that you’ve got a job for the next two years, it’s awesome.”
The resurgent Merritt set the tone for the week with a 62 in the opening round that tied the course record. It marked the third time the man from Idaho had shot 62 on TOUR and the first since the third round of his win at the Quicken Loans National.
Merritt was particularly proud that he was able to keep the pedal down amid the distractions of a week plagued by weather delays. In fact, Merritt didn’t even get to hit a shot on Sunday as play was suspended three different times.
“Usually when you have that nice low round it's hard to keep it going,” Merritt said. “… We did a good job of keeping it one shot at a time. We knew it was going to take a lot of birdies to get the job done, but we didn't focus on any final number.
“We just tried to do our best on each shot and counted them up at the end and it was one shot in the positive for us.”
Merritt gave a lot of credit to his caddy, Wayne Birch, who he calls the “most positive person I think I have ever met,” for his good play of late. The two started working together at the Valero Texas Open earlier this year and had only missed one cut in the eight starts prior to Monday’s win.
“There are times when, if you miss a putt, you make a bad bogey, (he’s like) just, all right, forget about that one. That's over with. Let's move on to the next one,” Merritt said.
“It sounds so simple to be able to tell yourself that, but after you make a stupid mistake it's really hard to refocus right away. Wayne does a good job of making me move on to the next shot, the next hole, leaving all the bad vibes behind. That's where they are, in the past.
“When I step into shots, (it’s) best swing of the day right here. Tap it in. Go ahead and tap it in. Even if it's 50 feet with eight feet of break, Just go ahead and tap it in, Pro. …
“Wayne is a special man on the bag. Very happy to have him on the bag.”
And a win under their belts.
Billy Horschel started the final round one stroke behind the four co-leaders and quickly caught them with birdies on the first two holes. He continued to keep pace until Merritt birdied the 15th hole to move one ahead at 23 under. Horschel, playing two groups ahead, hit his second shot in the left rough and couldn’t take advantage of the par-5 17th. Then his 18-footer on the final hole stubbornly refused to fall. “I hit a good putt; it was an inside right putt,” Horschel said. “… Just wiggled a little bit left on me at the end from going in dead center. It went in left center. I still thought I made it and, yeah, it lipped out.” Still, the former FedExCup champ moves to No. 36 in the standings as he readies for the stretch run into the Playoffs. “Really solid week,” said Horschel, who teamed with Scott Piercy to win the Zurich Classic of New Orleans earlier this year. “I only made two bogeys all week, so that's a really good thing to do. Played really well all four days. Last two days actually I just couldn't get a putt to fall really. In a shootout like this you're going to have to have a little bit of luck, and I just didn't have any.”
Tom Lovelady’s tie for second is the highest finish of his PGA TOUR career and sends the birthday boy – he turned 25 on Monday – to Canada with positive vibes. He started the day tied for the lead but gave up ground with what he called a “stale” front nine. A 9-footer for eagle at the 14th hole – his second of the week -- and a two-putt birdie at No. 17 pulled Lovelady within a shot of his playing partner, Troy Merritt. But he slightly mis-hit a 9-iron at the par-3 18th and while he gave it a chance, the resulting 48-footer for the tie didn’t fall. “You know, the shot on 18 I didn't hit as close as I wanted, but the putt wasn't far from going in,” Lovelady said. “I gave it everything I had. One shot short, but got a lot of momentum moving forward.” Lovelady was extremely solid all week, ranking first in Strokes Gained: Around the Green and driving distance, as well as second in Strokes Gained: Total and Strokes Gained: Tee to Green. He was also fourth in Strokes Gained: Off the tee. “This is the best I've ever driven the ball off the tee,” Lovelady said. “I put a new shaft in play last week, and that really helped and this really helped a bunch. So my ball flight is straighter. It's actually going a little farther, I believe.”
For the record, Troy Merritt is not getting rid of that beard of his. Not even after his trophy Monday came complete with a can of the sponsor’s shaving cream. “I’ve had a full beard for the last two, three years,” Merritt said with a smile. “Kind of goes back and forth. I haven't been clean shaven in, I don't know, six, seven years."
QUOTABLEJust sometimes you need a little bit of luck, and when you have that luck you know it's your day. I just didn't have it.
Lowest Round: Ben Silverman and Brian Gay both shot 65s.
Longest Drive: Xinjun Zhang hit a drive of 341 yards on the 17th hole.
Easiest Hole: The 543-yard, par-5 14th played to a par of 4.342 with six eagles, 39 birdies, 25 pars and three bogeys.
Hardest Hole: The 461-yard, par-4 13th hole played to a par of 4.178 with nine birdies, 49 pars, 10 bogeys, three double bogeys and two “others.”
SHOT OF THE DAY
Shot of the Day
Troy Merritt's 133-yard hole out is the Shot of the Day