Baddeley leads, Saunders in contention at Barracuda
August 03, 2018
By Jonathan Wall, PGATOUR.COM
Sam Saunders comments after Round 2 of Barracuda
RENO, Nev. — As a resident of Colorado for roughly six years, Sam Saunders is at home in the mountains. Maybe that’s why it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Saunders has fared well at the Barracuda Championship in recent years, logging consecutive top 10s in his last two starts at Montreux Golf & Country Club, where the course sits at 5,476 to 5,952 feet above sea level.
His run of good form in Reno continued on Friday with a 13-point output that vaulted him into a share of second place with Andrew Putnam with 23 points. A bogey on the 12th – his third hole of the day — was his lone blemish on the card as Saunders piled up seven birdies in a 12-hole stretch, starting on the 13th, to move up the leaderboard.
“It was a good solid day out there,” Saunders said. “Drove the ball really well and made a few more putts today than I did yesterday. Still left a few out there. But it’s a fun format and enjoy giving myself as many birdie chances as possible.”
Sitting at No. 124 in the FedExCup standings, it might be difficult to have fun at this point in the season, but Saunders isn’t putting additional pressure on himself this week. Instead, he’s staying focused on winning a tournament, realizing his maiden TOUR victory would alleviate any pressure at the Wyndham Championship.
“My goal is to try and win this tournament this weekend,” Saunders said. That’s kind of it. Making the playoffs will be a byproduct of that.”
Saunders has given himself chances to win this season, finishing T5 most recently at the Greenbrier Classic where he entered the final round two shots back of the lead.
As for what’s working this week at Barracuda, Saunders pointed to his time spent playing mountain golf as a reason for his success.
In the same way it takes a runner time to get acclimated to the thin mountain air, players need to get used to taking a club or two less on certain shots. There’s also the swirling winds and temperature changes that can alter club selection.
Simply put, choosing a club can be cumbersome during the tournament week.
But not for Saunders, who all but throws the calculator out the wind and places more of an emphasis on feel.
“I really enjoy thinking about the shots out here and having to feel them out,” he said. “You are just not going to get the number right. It’s not math out here. You can do a lot of math and try to have your best guess, but so much of it is feeling out the shot . So I think my experience living [in Colorado] and playing at altitude helps a lot."
Depending on how things go the next few days, his experience in the mountains could lead him to his first TOUR title.
Jonathan Kaye had only logged nine rounds on the PGA TOUR in the last eight years before this week. The two-time winner, who’s one of only four players to beat Tiger Woods at Firestone from 1999-2009, made the Barracuda Championship field as an alternate and took advantage of his first start in Reno since 2010 by making the cut with 15 points. Between 1999 and 2010, the 48-year-old was twice the runner-up at the event. “I’ve always kind of played well around this time of year. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because it’s my birthday [this week]. I know I finished second [at Barracuda] twice and at [Firestone] as well. There’s just something about it.”
Hudson Swafford has played through the pain this season. A strained Intercostal muscle, sustained at Torrey Pines, forced Swafford to take time off on multiple occasions before he officially shut things down for six weeks after the AT&T Byron Nelson. Finally pain-free, Swafford returned at the Greenbrier Classic with his sights set on the FedExCup Playoffs. Coming off a T12 at the RBC Canadian Open, Swafford opened with 22 points at the Barracuda Championship. “Just trying to pick out a few tournaments I enjoy playing and keep sharp. It’s nice to see my swing kind of come together, playing pain-free golf.”
Getting acclimated to life on the PGA TOUR can take time. For Andrew Putnam, he’s found his groove the second time around. After losing his card at the end of the 2014-15 season, Putnam made his way back via the Web.com Tour in 2017 and has found a groove this year, recording four top 10s in 23 starts, including a runner-up at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. He followed up last week’s T8 in Canada with 23 points through 36 holes at Montreux. His 8-under 64 on Friday was tied for lowest round of the week and moved him into a tie for second. “I feel like I’ve been more myself out here and I’m more comfortable with the PGA TOUR this year. So that’s helped.”
University of Nevada alum Grant Booth made the cut in his first PGA TOUR start as a professional. The Aussie tallied 7 points on Friday and capped off his round with a two-putt birdie from 67 feet, 2 inches on the par-5 18th hole. Booth sat at -7 points after eight holes on Thursday but recorded 14 points the rest of the way. “That stretch, to finish off the last couple of days, sort of proved to me that, all right, I can definitely compete out here."
I feel like this week I’m on vacation staying in Incline Village. So that’s the approach I’ve been taking. But I’ll take it a little more seriously now that I’m in contention and going to have a good chance.Obviously it’s hugely important to me. The FedExCup Playoffs, it’s what we play for out here. It’s what the PGA TOUR is all about. And I’m excited to have the opportunity.
Low round: Andrew Putnam with 17 points (8-under 64).
Longest drive: Kevin Tway with a 413-yard drive on the par-5 18th hole.
Longest putt: Steve Wheatcroft with a putt of 61 feet, 7 inches for birdie on the par-3 3rd hole.
Hardest hole: The 505-yard par-4 1st hole, which played to a stroke average of 4.336, with 10 birdies on Friday.
Easiest hole: The 496-yard par-5 13th hole, which played to a stroke average of 4.679, with 6 eagles and 49 birdies on Friday.
Greens in regulation: Nick Taylor and John Merrick hit 16 greens at Montreux Golf & Country Club.