The Barracuda Championship was first staged in 1999, at which point it was an alternate-field stroke play event, played opposite the WGC-Invitational; a position it held throughout much of its history.
It switched to the unique Stableford scoring system (detailed below) for the 2012 edition and has used this format since. Whilst last year it was moved to this slot on the calendar – opposite The Open Championship – and as with last week’s Barbasol Championship, welcomes players from both the PGA and DP World Tours in a co-sanctioned event.
+8 points (Albatross)
+5 points (Eagle)
+2 points (Birdie)
0 points (Par)
-1 points (Bogey)
-3 points (Double bogey or worse)
This scoring method encourages aggressive play, with birdies+ counting for more than their negative equivalents.
Only two players have won this event twice. First of these was Vaughn Taylor, who won back-to-back in 2004/2005, however both wins came in the pre-Stableford era. J.J Henry won the first event in this format in 2012 and doubled up three years later.
Though the fields are usually relatively weak, this event does have some more familiar names on the trophy, including three majors champions. 2019 US Open champion, Gary Woodland won the event in 2013 – with his 9 point win their the most conclusive in the current format – and he was followed by 2006 US Open winner, Geoff Ogilvy in 2014. Then in 2019, this event provided a first professional victory for now two-time major winner, Collin Morikawa.
Chez Reavie won the event last year in the first renewal co-sanctioned between the two tours and returns to defend this week.
For the first twenty years, this tournament was held in Nevada, at the Jack Nicklaus designed Montreux Golf and Country Club. But it was switched here, to Tahoe Mountain Club’s Old Greenwood course in 2020 – also designed by Nicklaus – where it has remained since.
The course is a par 71, measuring a lengthy 7480 yards on paper, though will play considerably shorter due to being at altitude of just below 6000ft. The thin air causes the ball to fly around 6% further and results in this course playing closer to 7000 yards than 7500.
Old Greenwood is predominantly tree-lined and traverses through both desert and more green landscapes. It is well bunkered and has water in-play on six holes, though despite that, is pretty scoreable.
The undulating fairways are generous and while the bentgrass/poa greens are relatively small, they’re usually quite slow and receptive.
There are birdie chances at every turn, with three reachable par 5s and multiple drivable par 4s. Setting up well for the aggressive play that the format compels players to produce.
- SG: Approach
- SG: Putting (bent/poa)
- Birdie or Better %
- Eagles (per hole)
- Par 5 Scoring
As with many Jack Nicklaus designs, this course is all about the second shot. Getting the ball in-play off-the-tee should be of little difficulty for most and in trying to make the most birdie chances to start racking up the points, players are going to need to produce some quality approach play. It is also arguably the most difficult aspect of play here, as players must factor in the altitude in trying to control their distance on approaches.
Most contests where birdies are not just important but imperative, can often turn into a putting contest. Therefore those with a proven ability to putt on bent/poa mixed surfaces will make additional appeal this week.
Finally, we should look to the scoring stats for more clues. Birdie or better % is the most obvious route to go down but with the extra weight eagles carry it’s certainly worth looking out for those leading players here in that respect. Whilst anyone not picking up points on the par 5s is almost certain to get left behind.
There is no event on tour that plays to a similar format as this but we do have an important line of research here, in looking for other events also played at altitude. The Shriners Open at TPC Summerlin immediately comes to mind, with the added benefit of that being a low scoring desert course.
We also have Club de Golf Chapultepec, host of the WGC – Mexico Championship from 2017-2020 – a place where 2021 champion Erik Van Rooyen has finished 3rd – and if we step down a level to the Korn Ferry Tour, The Ascendant (also known as the Colorado Championship) is played at TPC Colorado, which is played at an altitude of around 5000ft.
As half of this field is made up of competitors from the DP World Tour, it makes sense to also consider Crans-sur-Sierre, which annually hosts the Omega European Masters and Gary Player Country Club at Sun City – host of the Nedbank Challenge amongst other events – is too worth a look.
In addition to this, I like the Fortinet Championship at Silverado Resort, another event that takes place in California with similar bent/poa mixed greens. Both last year’s winner, Chez Reavie and 2020 runner-up, Troy Merritt have recorded good finishes there.
Whilst the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands can provide further clues. It’s a short, generous driving course with risk/reward opportunities throughout and similarly small bent/poa greens. Chez Reavie has an excellent record there, including winning the event in 2019.
Temperatures will be pretty high this week, at over 30 degrees every day. There is set to be just a mild breeze throughout, though it is forecast to gust at up to 25mph at points. Which would certainly cause some problems for the field.
This week’s field is stronger than our other co-sanctioned event in the U.S last week. As the world’s #62 ranked player, Keith Mitchell is the top-ranked entry and he’s joined by a further four from inside the top 100: Justin Suh (#71), Chez Reavie (#77), J.J Spaun (#86) and Mark Hubbard (#91).
Germany’s Max Kieffer leads the DP World Tour challenge, whilst Sweden’s Sebastian Soderberg will tee it up and possesses that proven winning experience at altitude, as a past winner of the European Masters.
Last week’s Barbasol winner, Vincent Norrman is back in action and we’re also graced with the presence of the second-ranked player on the Korn Ferry Tour this year, Californian, Rico Hoey.
Stephan Jaeger heads the betting at 14/1, followed by Keith Mitchell and Taylor Pendrith at around the 20s mark in a wide open event.
However, down at 35/1, last year’s winner Chez Reavie looks the clear value at the top of the market for me and showing some good form over recent weeks, I’m taking him to go back-to-back here in Truckee, California.
Reavie has been playing some good golf since the beginning of April, when he finished 6th in the Texas Open and has missed just one cut in his last eleven starts.
His best effort of the year so far came three starts ago in the Travelers Championship, when finishing 4th and he entered the final round with every chance from one back of Keegan Bradley. Though he disappointed in said final round, he’s looked solid since, with a 29th in the Rocket Mortgage Classic and 35th-place finish in the John Deere on his latest start.
He’s been the second-best approach player in this field over the last three months, complimenting it with a ranking of 7th over the same period of time on the greens. A deadly combination in an event where a glut of birdies is a necessity.
Reavie showed his suitability for the test of this format last year by claiming his third win on the PGA Tour and with many in this field lacking this level of winning experience, I like his chances of defending that title this week.
Justin Lower is the 11th-best putter on the PGA Tour this season and with some strong iron play on show over recent months, he can back up his encouraging 16th on debut here last year by going even better this time around.
Lower started this season in fine fashion in the wraparound season at the end of last year, recording finishes of 4th in the Fortinet Championship and 8th in Bermuda. He struggled for form thereafter, which carried over into the new year but has looked much better over his last handful of starts.
He recorded his first top 25 of 2023 when 25th in the Canadian Open four starts ago, where he ranked 2nd on the greens. He followed with a missed cut in the Travelers Championship but bounced back to record his first top 10 of the year next time out in the Rocket Mortgage Classic, finishing 8th; again looking strong on the greens, ranking 3rd.
As mentioned, the putter is the key but he’s also looked good in approach over the last three months, ranking 11th in this field and looked very good in this area at the Travelers, despite missing the cut.
Lower finished 16th here on debut last year and with that 4th in the Fortinet at the end of last year looking like a good pointer, he has the game to improve on that finish this week and claim a first PGA Tour win.
Harry Higgs’ putting ability goes a long way to helping him be amongst the top 50 scorers on the PGA Tour and with some unassuming improvements on offer in approach over recent weeks, I feel he looks a good price to progress on a fine debut effort of 11th here last year.
Higgs’ year has been largely uninspiring, with just three top 20s to his name but he did record a top 10 when 7th in Puerto Rico. However, he’s looked solid over recent weeks, with his 12th in the Canadian Open four starts ago his second-best finish of the year.
The putter engineers his best work, as he ranks 31st on tour this season. This enables him to rank top 50 in both birdie or better % and par 5 scoring.
The irons have been a problem for much of the year, though despite not gaining many strokes over the last four starts he’s certainly arrested the amount he was losing in approach and can use that as a platform to improve further this week.
His debut effort last year at altitude shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, as in 2019 he finished 3rd in Colorado, whilst his strongest performance on the PGA Tour came when 2nd in the Fortinet Championship in 2020.
Higgs has yet to win on the PGA Tour but he has shown winning ability at each lower level he’s played so far and an event this like week – where his strong birdie-making ability can come to the fore – looks like the ideal chance for him to make that top-tour breakthrough.
Kevin Tway has been one of the most prolific eagle makers on the PGA Tour this season and can continue his attractively trending form in this event this week.
Back in the AT&T Byron Nelson in May, Tway arrested a run of five missed cuts with a finish of 11th. That was his best finish of the year so far and he’s been much more consistent since, over which time he’s looked solid with the putter and driver.
However it’s his eagle-making ability that appeals most in relation to this test. He ranks 6th on the PGA Tour there this year, which aids in him being a solid par 5 scorer.
This scoring quality has enabled Tway to perform well here in the past, recording consecutive finishes of 35th, 30th and 22nd in the last three years. Whilst his correlating form adds further positives, as a past champion of the Fortinet Championship and possessing finishes of 5th and 6th at the Travelers.
Tway has the power to reach all of these par 5s and some of the drivable par 4s. If he gets the putter firing this week, there’s nobody in this field more likely to collect a couple of 5-pointers than him, which will go a long way to helping him contend for a second PGA Tour win.
The theme of these co-sanctioned leaderboards being very PGA Tour heavy continued last week. However, with his proven winning ability at altitude, I felt Sweden’s Sebastian Soderberg looked one of the more likely DPWT players to break through this week and is well worth chancing at a big price.
Soderberg started the year with a 2nd-place finish in Abu Dhabi and though missing his four cuts following that, his form has been much more solid since.
He’s recorded two further top 10s – in Italy and South Africa – and missed just three cuts in his last ten starts; entering this week off the back of a respectable 42nd in Scotland last week.
Soderberg’s tee-to-green game has been strong, ranking 32nd, whilst he also ranks top 30 for greens hit on the DPWT. Though it’s his scoring stats that catch the eye most this week, where he ranks 5th in eagles made and 14th in par 5 scoring.
He actually played here last year and missed the cut but his record at altitude is impressive. He won the 2019 Omega European Masters – a place at which he’s made every cut and was 14th last year – beating Rory McIlroy and others in a playoff. Whilst he’s also finished 5th at the Nedbank.
Soderberg can occasionally be a little inconsistent but he continues to contend year on year on the DP World Tour. I’m expecting him to put that excellent form at altitude to use this week and produce a strong performance in California.