Akshay Bhatia Wins His First PGA Tour Title At The Barracuda Championship

TRUCKEE, Calif. (AP) — 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 FedEx Cup 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 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. He made double bogey on the par-4 fifth hole, then made six birdies without a bogey from there.

That was good enough to match Rodgers, who missed a birdie attempt from roughly the same distance on the 18th. Rodgers scored six points in the final round, with one birdie and two bogeys on the back nine for zero points.

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 as 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.

“I felt like I had control of the tournament. I had a putt to win, which was nice. So, bummer result,” Rodgers said. “Kind of a crummy break there in the playoff. In the middle of the fairway to drive it in a divot. But that’s just the way it goes. I’ll come back stronger.”

Two European tour players tied for third in the co-sanctioned event. Julien Guerrier made 10 birdies on Sunday to score 20 points and 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 in the Bahamas on the Korn Ferry Tour at the beginning of 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 PGA Championship.

“For it to all come to fruition, play with some of the best players in the world, play some of the greatest events in the world, and to win on the PGA Tour … it’s a great feeling,” Bhatia said. “Because (of) job security now I can kind of, not free wheel, but I know how to win. I know I can do it against some of the best players in the world.”