Andrew Putnam treated the week as a vacation, staying in Incline Village on the shores of Lake Tahoe and playing golf in Reno. But it is Nevada and there are jackpots and he cashed in a big one on Sunday.
Putnam, 29, won the Barracuda Championship at Montreux Golf and Country Club in Reno, his first PGA Tour victory and worth $612,000 and a two-year exemption.
“I don’t know if you ever expect a win coming off a season on the Web.com Tour,” he said. “You’re just trying to keep your card. But I’ve been playing really good the last couple months, and I felt I was one of the favorites coming into this tournament. I felt like if I played my game I had a chance.”
It came in his 49th career start in only his second full season on the PGA Tour. His first year on tour, in 2015, was unproductive, sending him back to the Web.com Tour.
They say about professional golf that if you’re not getting better you’re getting worse. Putnam, a Tacoma, Wash., native and Pepperdine graduate, has steadily been getting better, affirmed this year with a second at the FedEx St. Jude Classic, a tie for eighth in the RBC Canadian Open last week, and now a victory.
Putnam began the final round with a three-point lead over Sam Saunders in the Modified Stableford scoring format, which awards five points for an eagle, two for a birdie, none for a par, minus-one for a bogey and minus-three for a double-bogey or worse.
Saunders faltered and finished tied for seventh, while Putnam's nine points, including his holing a 23-foot putt from off the green at the 18th hole to beat Chad Campbell by four points.
Putnam's tournament began slowly, with a six-point first round, but followed with the day’s best round on Friday, 17 points, that had him dial down the vacation mode a tad.
“I feel like this week I'm on vacation staying in Incline Village,” he said, his digs a 25-minute drive over Mount Rose to the golf course. “So it's as good as it gets looking at the lake. I'm kind of taking the relaxed attitude of just enjoying everything that Reno has.
“So that’s the approach I’ve been taking. But I’ll take it a little more seriously. I’m in contention and going to have a good chance.”
Good was upgraded to great when he scored 15 points on Saturday to secure the lead. In the final round, he steadily protected his lead with four birdies and only a single bogey, and arrived at the 18th green needing on a bogey or better to win. Instead, he won it in style.