Troy Merritt is a PGA Tour champion again.
The Meridian resident and former Boise State star capped an outstanding week at the Barbasol Championship in Kentucky on Monday with a 5-under-par 67 to pull away from a crowded leaderboard and win. Merritt opened the event with a course-record-tying 62 in the first round and was tied for the lead entering the final round.
He finished 23-under, one shot ahead of three players. He tapped in for par on No. 18 after narrowly missing a birdie putt.
The victory was Merritt’s second on the PGA Tour. He also won the 2015 Quicken Loans National.
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He said he never wavered in his belief that he belonged on the PGA Tour but he could sense some outside speculation that maybe his career was winding down as he struggled to keep his playing privileges for the second straight year.
“I’ve never wanted to believe that,” Merritt, 32, said in a phone interview. “It’s been a great year consistency wise. To put this win in there just lets me know I still belong out here and can compete.”
Merritt entered the tournament ranked 131st on the FedExCup points list and in danger of returning to the Web.com Tour Finals, where he was able to clinch his 2017-18 spot on the PGA Tour after his exemption for winning in 2015 expired. This win gives him a spot on the PGA Tour through the 2019-20 season and a spot in the PGA Championship next month.
Merritt jumped to 65th on the FedExCup points list. He earned $630,000.
Merritt had made 15 of 22 cuts this season but had been unable to capitalize on the weekends. He had two top-10 finishes and two others in the top 25, with the highlight a tie for eighth at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February. He now has finished in the top 20 in three of his past five starts on tour and shot in the 60s in 10 of his past 12 rounds. He returned to an old putter for the past two events.
“We’re gonna celebrate this one for a while and enjoy the fact we’ve got two more years out here,” Merritt told Golf Channel immediately after the win. “... It’s been a few years. I’m sure I’ll have some emotions here the next 10 minutes. It’s been a struggle, not just for myself but for my family, always cheering me on.”
The Barbasol finish was delayed because of storms. Merritt didn’t tee off in the final round until Monday morning. His most important shot might have been an eagle hole-out from 128 yards on No. 8. He hit a 9-iron.
“I was just trying to get it in there close ... and it happened to disappear,” he said.
He was rock solid after that, posting birdies on Nos. 14 and 15 to take command and adding routine pars on the final three holes to seal the victory. He watched the leaderboard enough to know he could play conservatively on the closing stretch. His pursuers included former FedExCup champion Billy Horschel, who tied for second, and six-time PGA Tour winner Hunter Mahan, who stumbled late.
Barbasol is considered an “opposite-field event” because the top players were at the Open Championship in Scotland.
“It’s even tougher to win these opposite-field events because we all have our backs against the wall,” Merritt said. “We’re all trying to play for our family and our livelihood and job security. Guys play even better in these events, so that’s pretty cool.”