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Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Little Fish Are Hungry

Of course, the big tournament this week is the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and I'll be devoting some posts to it over the next few days. There are so many storylines -- Tiger, Phil, Graeme, Lee, and Poults trying to make their respective Ryder Cups, for instance, or the potential battle for #1 between Adam, Henrik, and Rory. And while I'm not doing a "My 5 to Watch" post this week, I do expect Rickie Fowler to make some serious noise.

But we've also got some smaller fish to fry this week, so let's take a quick look at them.

Defending champion Gary Woodland

The newly-renamed Barracuda Championship -- I really like the new name, btw -- is better known at the former Reno-Tahoe Open, the traditional alternate-field event for the WGC-Bridgestone. And since 2012 it's used the modified Stableford scoring system formerly used at The International. You can get a full overview and history of the system at this PGATOUR.com link, but here's the basics:

You don't count strokes; you count points:
  • Double eagle (albatross): 8 points
  • Eagle: 5 points
  • Birdie: 2 points
  • Par: 0 points
  • Bogey: -1 point
  • Double or worse: -3 points
You are rewarded for taking risks and penalized for playing safe. (Shoot 18 pars and you finish with NO points; shoot 9 pars and 9 birdies, you finish with 18 points. For the same score relative to par.) Plus, if you can't make double you just pick up because you can't get worse than -3 points.

Because the Montreux Golf Course is around a mile above sea level, players can hit the ball prodigious distances. Add that to the gambling mentality and the now-appropriately named Barracuda Championship can get pretty exciting. Multiple eagles and double eagles in a round are very possible. (The International was played at Castle Rock GC, also at extreme altitude. Back in 2002, Steve Lowery shot birdie, eagle, bogey, albatross, par on the final five holes to lose by a single point to Rich Beem. Almost anything's possible with this format.)

Since this is an alternate event, the winner doesn't get a Masters invitation. However, a win is still good for OWGR points, FedEx Cup points, a two-year tour exemption, and entry into the PGA Championship next week. Not bad for players who didn't qualify to go swimming in the big pond this week!

So after you check out the sharks at the WGC-Bridgestone, you might want to check in and see what the little would-be Barracudas are doing. GC starts their coverage at 6:30pm ET today.

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