Former Boise State golfer and current Meridian resident Troy Merritt will play in the BMW Championship beginning Thursday in Lake Forest, Ill. It’s the third of four FedExCup Playoff events.
Merritt is 47th in FedExCup points. He needs to jump into the top 30 to qualify for the Tour Championship, which is next week in Atlanta.
Regardless, it’s been a breakthrough year for Merritt. He won the Quicken Loans National on Aug. 2 — his first PGA Tour victory — to secure his tour privileges through the 2016-17 season. His world ranking has improved from No. 286 in late January to No. 89 now.
He spoke to the Idaho Statesman by phone Tuesday from Illinois. Here’s the bulk of that interview:
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Question: What do you think you need to do to make the Tour Championship?
Answer: I think I need to finish somewhere in the top four or five to get to Atlanta next week (PGATour.com estimates top four). It’s obviously going to take a very solid effort to accomplish that with the field we have. But the game feels good. I’ve kind of rehabbed my right wrist. I jammed it about a month ago at the PGA (Championship) and it’s been a little bothersome ever since. I think I got it taken care of.
Q: These playoff events create a game within the game. Is that strange to track?
A: It actually reminds me a lot of the Web.com playoffs. On the board, it tells you with this putt, it will move him up to 43rd and if he misses he’ll be down to 49th. You know exactly where you stand if you’re paying attention. I think it’s kind of cool — I really enjoy it. Hopefully we can make a bunch of birdies and have that opportunity on that board where it says with this birdie putt he’ll be into the Tour Championship. That would be fun to see.
Q: Are you a scoreboard watcher?
A: Absolutely. I grew up playing basketball, baseball and football. You always knew where you stood. Golf isn’t any different. I don’t like it when guys say they aren’t scoreboard watchers. To me, not knowing where you are is not really putting your full attention into what you’re doing.
Q: How is your game going into this week?
A: I only played one time last week, on Friday, which is pretty standard for me when I’m home. ... Hopefully I can play without (my wrist) taped. I did play with it taped on Friday and shot 8-under at Plantation.
Q: You told me in January that your son Scout (4) was disappointed you didn’t bring home a trophy when you were in contention in Hawaii. What does he think of the one you got at Quicken Loans?
A: He really enjoys having that trophy in the living room right now. He gets pretty upset every time I leave to go on a golf trip. He was pretty upset (Monday) when I had to leave. I told him right now I’ll be gone six days but if I happen to win another trophy I have to be gone for one more week. I said, ‘Would you like me to try to win the trophy?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ I’ve got his permission to try to win and be gone another week.
Q: How did winning a PGA Tour event change things for you?
A: This week is really important because I want to get to Atlanta. I want to get to that top 30 because that gets you into every major and every (World Golf Championship) next year. That would be huge to set the schedule around the big events and be home an extra month and a half. I don’t have to play 29 events. This is my 29th. If I get the extra week, that will be my 30th. That’s a lot of golf. Next year, if I can get into the WGCs and majors, I can play 22, 23, 24 times. My goal this week is to get to Atlanta so I can be home with my family more next year.
Q: When you won, what was the first thought that entered your mind?
A: That I have a job for two more years.
Q: That pressure never goes away, does it?
Q: What was it like to see everything come together for you?
A: After that putt dropped on 18 on Sunday, it was just more a feeling of relief, just kind of glad it was all over. The monkey was off the back. Obviously I haven’t been in that position very much, but I got it done.
Q: You see some guys shaking or getting emotional over a putt to win. How were you feeling (he shot 67 to win by three)?
A: I’ll take you back to the tee shot on 18. We were waiting for Rickie Fowler and Jason Bohn to hit their shots in. It’s a dogleg left and there’s no room left. Standing there on the tee box with my caddie, I pointed to my caddie and said, ‘You like a little fade off the left trees?’ He said, ‘Are you kidding?’ I was still my usual kind of sarcastic, joking self. I hit it down the right side into the first cut and hit it on the green. I just felt at peace. I wasn’t nervous. I just wanted to put good swings on it. Obviously I didn’t want to make it too interesting, even though a couple guys told me to hit it in the water so we could make it interesting. ... I wasn’t shaky. I wasn’t nervous. I wanted to get it done and start celebrating.
Q: How did the experience compare to your dream of winning?
A: It was a little bit different. I thought that I would be more nervous and would have to do something special on the last hole to get it done — maybe make a par save or something like that. I was just so in control of everything on the back nine that it just felt like normal golf.
Q: A win comes with a tee time at Augusta in April. How does it feel to know you’re playing the 2016 Masters?
A: The thing I’m most looking forward to about that week is having my boys (Scout and Dodge, who is almost 2) out in jumpsuits Wednesday during the par-3 contest.
Q: Now that you’ve won, what’s the next step?
A: I would like to still be more consistent. I’ve made 15 out of 28 cuts, which is over 50 percent, but I need to be closer to 100 percent. I don’t want to be fighting to make cuts. Even though I don’t have to worry about my job, I want to be more consistent. I want to be closer to the top of the leaderboard on more Sundays. The goal in the back of my head is the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine (in Minnesota in 2016). I went to high school in Minneapolis. It would be nice to make a push and give that a shot next fall.