Posted July 24, 2023 in "Watts" In The Bag by Tom Brassell
By The Associated Press
TRUCKEE, Calif. — Akshay Bhatia birdied the closing hole in regulation, then capitalized in sudden death when Patrick Rodgers found a divot in the fairway to win his first PGA TOUR title at the Barracuda Championship on Sunday.
The 21-year-old Bhatia, who turned pro at 17, earned full status on TOUR and a spot in the FedExCup Playoffs. He had been playing under Special Temporary Membership since his runner-up finish at the Puerto Rico Open in March.
“It’s obviously been a really tough road. I’ve had a lot of up, a lot of down. A lot of good, a lot of bad,” Bhatia said. “But I knew I was going to get here. It was just matter of time. For it to happen this year with Special Temporary Membership and now to get to play all these events and to get it done today was, I can’t even describe it.”
Bhatia converted a birdie from about 15 feet on the par-4 18th hole at Tahoe Mountain Club (Old Greenwood) to finish with 40 points under the modified Stableford scoring system that awards five points for eagle and two for birdie while deducting a point for bogey and three for double bogey. The slender left-hander had nine points on Sunday.
That was good enough to match Rodgers, who missed a birdie attempt from roughly the same distance on the 18th and scored six points in the final round.
In the playoff, Rodgers’ tee shot on the 18th settled in a divot and he chunked his approach. His pitch was well short and he two-putted for bogey. Bhatia left his birdie putt just short and tapped in for the victory.
“I knew that if I got into a position like this, I could do it. I’ve done it at every level. Man, that felt uncomfortable out there,” Bhatia said. “That putt on 18 in regulation was just, man, it’s a crazy feeling. I was telling my caddie, like, your brain and everything, you can feel all this adrenaline, all this shakiness. It’s pretty crazy.”
Rodgers remains winless in 246 PGA TOUR starts. The 31-year-old former Stanford star failed to convert a 54-hole lead for the fifth time.
The tournament was co-sanctioned by the DP World Tour, and two players from that circuit tied for third. Julien Guerrier scored 20 points on Sunday to finish with 37 alongside Jens Dantorp, who had 15 points in the final round.
Ryan Gerard, also a Special Temporary Member, was fifth with 36 points. He totaled just six points over the final two rounds.
Bhatia largely struggled his first three years after bypassing college to turn pro. He won The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay on the Korn Ferry Tour to begin 2022 but still fell short of earning a PGA TOUR card.
Now he’s eligible for some of the richest events in golf, including THE PLAYERS Championship and PGA Championship.
“I’m in the Playoffs now, which was a huge goal for me,” he said. “I mean, I’m just excited. I love playing golf, I love playing on the PGA TOUR and it’s just a dream come true to have it.”
Check out “Watts” in Akshay Bhatia’s bag below.
DRIVER: Callaway Rogue ST MAX (9 degrees), with Fujikura Ventus Black 7X shaft
FAIRWAY WOOD: Callaway Paradym (15 degrees, with Fujikura Ventus Black 8TX shaft
HYBRID: Callaway Apex UW (19 degrees), with Fujikura Ventus Black 10X shaft
IRONS: Callaway X Forged UT (22 degrees), with KBS S-Taper 125 S+ shaft, Apex TCB (5-PW), with KBS S-Taper 125 S+ shafts
WEDGES: Callaway JAWS Raw (50, 54, 60 degrees), with KBS S-Taper 125 S+ shafts
PUTTER: Odyssey Tri-Hot 5K #7 Double Wide
BALL: Chrome Soft X LS