Barracuda Notebook: Plenty of players on PGA bubble
RENO — For a handful of golfers in the field at the 19th annual Barracuda Championships, it’s a chance to get back in contention to keep their playing privileges or face the prospect of going back to the dreaded Q-School next year.
The top 125 finishers are fully exempt next year, and J.T. Poston (125), Seamus Power (126), rookie Trey Mullinax (127), Daniel Summerhays (128) and two-time Barracuda champion J.J. Henry (130) are on the proverbial bubble entering today’s first round.
And, you can throw in Elk Grove’s Spencer Levin, who has made the playoffs five of the last seven seasons, and is still looking for his first PGA victory. He is currently at 158, and needs to post big finishes here and at the Wyndham (in two weeks) to secure full-exempt status for the 2017-18 season.
Henry has played on tour since 2001, and since that time, he has been outside the top 125 just once (2014). At the worst, Henry might end up between 126 and 150 that would give him conditional status for next year.
The veteran may have more confidence than other guys on the bubble given his past success, including wins in 2012 and 2015. He tied for fourth in 2005, tied for ninth in 2009 and tied for 16th in 2003.
And, he has made four of the last five cuts, including a 10th at John Deere back in mid-July. The $145,000 he won was his biggest check of the season.
“I’ve been out here (on tour) for 17 years,” Henry said. “It is what it is. I’ve had a lot of success here other than the two wins. You always are going to feel better and more confident when you come to a place where you’ve had success.
“I’m driving it pretty well. I just have to make some putts.”
Mullinax has had a solid rookie season, and after a tough April and May, he has made six cuts in his last eight tournaments, including a ninth-place tie at the U.S. Open, an 18th at the St. Jude Classic and a 19th at the John Deere Classic.
“You know where you’re at,” Mullinax said. “You try not to pay too much attention to it. If you pay too much attention, you aren’t going to play your best golf. I’ve just got to go out and try my best and see how things shake out. I had a rough couple of months, but my game is good enough to win.
“This is a great golf course. There are birdie opportunities here if you hit it straight off the tee. And, my putting is getting better.”
Levin placed fifth at Quicken Loans and 26th at Barbasol, but other than that it’s been a rough season.
“I had a couple tournaments where I played well,” he said Tuesday on the driving range. “I played all right in Canada (3-under-par) but not quite good enough to make the cut. I’m probably going to have to get a couple of top-10s or even top-5s (to make the playoffs).
“I switched equipment, and I played a week and a half with the new clubs before I played in a tournament. It probably wasn’t the best thing to do. I actually went back to my old driver and started playing better. It’s been a crummy year, but I don’t have anything I really need to fix. It’s not like I’m not hitting it straight.”
DID YOU KNOW?
The Barracuda has drawn some pretty impressive names in its 19-year history: Steve Stricker, Sergio Garcia, Matt Kuchar, Corey Pavin, Bubba Watson, Justin Leonard, Fred Couples, Craig Stadler, Luke Donald, Fuzzy Zoeller, Charl Schwartzel, Paul Azinger and Adam Scott to name a few.
Garcia played in 2000 and tied for 17th in his only Reno appearance. Watson also has made just one appearance, missing the cut in 2005. Couples played in the 2001 and failed to make the weekend. Schwartzel played in 2009 and finished 34th. Scott missed the cut in his only Reno outing. Stricker also missed the cut in his two appearances here. Azinger also missed the cut in his only appearance back in 2001.
Kuchar played here just twice, tying for 36th in 2005 and missing the cut in 2003. Pavin had two top-25 finishes her, and Stadler tied for 36th in 2001 and tied for 12th in 2002.
IT’S A LOVE AFFAIR
Davis Love III and his son, Dru, are both in this week’s event.
The elder Love has been here twice before, tying for 32nd one time and missing the cut the other time. The younger Love is on a sponsor’s exemption.
The 53-year-old Love III said he doesn’t know what the future holds in terms of where he’ll play in 2017-18. He played in one Champions Tour event this year, recording a top-10 finish. A broken collarbone has limited him to 11 events.
“I really don’t know,” he said. “It depends how I finish this year off. I know I’m going to play Pebble Beach, the First Tee Champions Tournament, and then after that, after the Presidents Cup, I’m really not sure what I’m going to do. I would like to start right back again at Safeway (PGA opening event).
“This year I was hoping to try to make the 125 again and keep my exemption going from winning at Wyndham, but I was out for three or four months at the beginning with a broken collarbone, so I kind of got myself behind the eight ball. But it just depends how I play the rest of this year.’’