A late eagle and a closing birdie fueled a stirring comeback for Richy Werenski at the Barracuda Championship, where he closed out his first career PGA Tour victory.
Werenski started the final round 7 points behind leader Troy Merritt in the only Tour event that utilizes modified Stableford scoring. He was still well off the pace with just three holes to go but surged into contention with a 5-point eagle on No. 16, holing a pitch shot from just short of the green to get within a point of Merritt.
After hitting his drive on No. 18 into the trees, Werenski hit a wedge to 15 feet and calmly rolled in the birdie putt to reach 39 points, with 13 accrued during his final round. When Merritt left his birdie putt on No. 18 just short, Werenski had a one-point win and his first Tour title in his 100th career start.
"I wasn't really expecting to make an eagle on No. 16," Werenski said. "After we just barely missed our eagle on No. 12, I was like, 'Well, at least we've got some birdie opportunities and we'll kind of just do what we can.' It just all happened really quick."
Werenski becomes the 12th player in tournament history to make the Barracuda his maiden Tour triumph, and the fifth straight winner to do so. He played well at this event three years ago when it was held at Montreux, losing in a playoff to Chris Stroud. This time he finished one spot better, a result that came after Werenski finished T-3 at the 3M Open last week while playing in the final pairing.
Werenski won Golf Channel's "Big Break" reality series in 2015, and he finished No. 126 in FedExCup points last season before regaining his card at Korn Ferry Tour Finals. But with the win he is now fully exempt through the 2022 season and has clinched spots in the U.S. Open, Players and Sentry Tournament of Champions.
With the win he also grabbed the final spot in next week's PGA Championship, where he'll make his second career appearance.
"I feel like I've been playing well for the last couple months. But to get a win, that's huge," Werenski said. "I've got a couple seconds and everything, so this just helps my confidence a lot. Now I know I'm good enough."
Merritt was seeking his third Tour victory, but instead will have to settle for a runner-up finish and a U.S. Open invite, with the top two finishers not otherwise exempt earning spots at Winged Foot. In a format that offers added upside for low numbers, his steady play down the stretch wasn't enough. Merritt accrued just 5 points in his final round, closing with 10 straight pars when a single 2-point birdie might have made the difference.
"I knew we needed one or two coming in to get to 40, 42 (points)," Merritt said. "We knew what we had to do. Hit a lot of quality shots today, hit a lot of greens. Just couldn't find that one birdie on the back side."
Fabian Gomez and Matthias Schwab shared third place with 37 points, two behind Werenski, while Aaron Wise posted the day's low round with a 10-birdie, 19-point performance that moved him into eighth place.