Akshay Bhatia birdied the closing hole in regulation and then took advantage of sudden death when Patrick Rodgers found a hole 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 FedEx Cup playoff berth. He had been playing as a special temporary member since his runner-up finish at the Puerto Rico Open in March.
«Obviously it’s been a really difficult road. I’ve had a lot of good, a lot of bad,» Bhatia said. «But I knew I was going to get here. It was just a matter of time. For it to happen this year with a special temporary membership and now being able to play all these events and do it today was, I can’t even describe it.»
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Bhatia birdied from about 15 feet on the par-4 18th hole at Tahoe Mountain Club to finish with 40 points under the modified Stableford scoring system that awards five points for eagle and two for birdie while deducting one point for bogey and three for double bogey. The lean lefty scored nine points on Sunday. He double bogeyed the par-4 fifth hole, then made six bogeyless birdies from there.
That was good enough to even Rodgers, who missed a birdie attempt from about the same distance on the 18th. Rodgers scored six points in the final round, with one birdie and two bogeys in the back nine for zero points.
In the tiebreaker, Rodgers’ tee shot on the 18th settled into a hole and blocked his approach. His pitch was short and he two-putted for bogey. Bhatia left her short birdie putt and took the opportunity to take the victory.
«I knew if I found myself in a position like this, I could do it. I’ve done it on every level. Man, that felt awkward,» Bhatia said. «That putt at 18 in regulation was just, man, it’s a crazy feeling. I said to my caddy, like, your brain and everything, you can feel all this adrenaline, all these tremors. It’s pretty crazy.»
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Rodgers remains winless in 246 starts on the PGA Tour. The 31-year-old former Stanford star failed to convert a 54-hole lead for the fifth time.
«I felt like I was in control of the tournament. I had a putt to win, which was good. So, bad result,» Rodgers said. «Kind of a seedy break there in the tiebreaker. In the middle of the fairway to push him into a hole. But that’s the way it is. I’ll come back stronger.»
Two players from the European tour tied for third place in the co-sanctioned event. Julien Guerrier made 10 birdies on Sunday to score 20 points and finish with 37 alongside Jens Dantorp, who scored 15 points in the final round.
Ryan Gerard, also a special temporary member, was fifth with 36 points. He has only six points in the last two rounds.
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Bhatia struggled heavily for his first three years after bypassing college to turn professional. He won in the Bahamas on the Korn Ferry Tour in early 2022, but has yet to earn a PGA Tour card.
Now he’s eligible for some of golf’s biggest events, including the PGA Championship.
«For it all to come to fruition, playing with some of the best players in the world, taking part in some of the best events in the world and winning on the PGA Tour…it’s a great feeling,» Bhatia said. «Because of (from) job security now I can, not freewheel, but I know how to win. I know I can do it against some of the best players in the world.»