NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Troy Merritt briefly wondered about trying another line of work as time passed following his initial PGA Tour victory more than three years ago.
He can now look forward to two more years as a professional and participation in next month’s PGA Championship after clutch putting earned him his second trophy.
Merritt shot a 5-under 67 on Monday to win the rain-delayed Barbasol Championship by one stroke. He led or shared the lead after each round. This was his second career PGA Tour victory and came with a spot in the PGA Championship at Bellerive in St. Louis.
A pretty nice payoff for renewed dedication that helped him keep his tour card after struggling to follow up his 2015 Quicken Loans National victory.
“You always ask yourself, is this the time to move on?” said Merritt, who earned $630,000 and 300 FedEx Cup points with the victory. He also is exempt through the 2019-20 season.
“To get a win like this late in the season and move up to No. 65 on the points list and secure a job for two more years, it’s a pretty good feeling.”
The win highlights a good run for Merritt, who is 34-under par in his last seven rounds dating back to the second round of last week’s John Deere Classic. He tied for 43rd.
Merritt was one of four players tied for the lead at 18 under when the round at Barbasol began. He made five birdies, including an eagle on the par-4 eighth hole, to stay in contention.
Consecutive birdies on Nos. 14 and 15 at the Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club put him into the lead before he finished with pars for a 23-under 265.
“We knew it was going to take a lot of birdies to get the job done, but we didn’t focus on any final number,” Merritt said. “We just continued to do our best on each shot and counted them up at the end, and it was one shot in the positive for us.”
Billy Horschel (67), Richy Werenski (66) and Tom Lovelady (68) were a stroke behind. J.T. Poston was fifth at 21 under, with Brian Gay sixth at 20 under.
The Monday finish was the PGA Tour’s second this season and first since Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January on the sixth playoff hole.
The final round had a playoff feel as well, with Merritt, Robert Streb, six-time PGA Tour winner Hunter Mahan and Lovelady tied for the lead. Competition remained tight as the leaders dealt with a course left mushy by steady showers.
Merritt passed the downtime by watching the final round of the British Open and used the rest to play his way into the final major of the season.
Merritt had an opening round of 62 to tie the course record. He tried to maintain consistency in a tournament he believed would require at least 20 under to win.
In his last round, he had a lone bogey on the par-3 fifth hole and birdies on the first, sixth and eighth, highlighted by an eagle that took him to 21 under and a brief lead. Merritt’s 128-yard second shot from the fairway landed several inches beyond the pin before spinning back into the cup.
“Hit a nice little 9-iron in from about 128 into a cool little north wind with some mist and just happened to find the bottom of the hole,” he said.
Then came birdies at Nos. 14 and 15, and Merritt just missed another on No. 18 when his putt went about an inch left of the cup. Lovelady, his playing partner, just missed a potential tying birdie on the hole as well.
Lovelady had an eagle on the 14th hole, which kept him in the hunt before he settled for a career-best second on his 25th birthday.
“I played the best I could. I didn’t give up,” Lovelady said. “I just fell one shot short.”