If I said the name Troy Merritt, I suspect it would draw blank expressions on the faces of many Golf Monthly readers. Until recently I only vaguely knew that Troy was a professional golfer. I seem to recall his name being mentioned one Sunday evening as I nodded off on the sofa in front of a PGA Tour event on TV.
However, with one shot, my knowledge of Troy is now relatively encyclopaedic. It transpires that going into the last event of the season – the snappily titled Children’s Miracle Network Classic – Merritt sat four places inside the 125th position that guarantees full playing rights for the following year. It was quite possible that Troy’s first season on the full Tour might have ended with him having to go back to Q School. In the end, he finished the tournament in 30th place to come in right on the magic number of 125.
Merritt’s winnings from the season totalled $786,977, but that figure rather paled into insignificance next to the $1million he then found himself playing for a few hours later in the Kodak Challenge. The Kodak Challenge – which, unless you’re very into your PGA Tour golf you will have had to do what I did and look it up on the internet – takes a player’s best cumulative score on 18 of 30 different holes at PGA Tour stops that have been specially selected for their photogenic qualities. Got that?
At the start of the final week, Merritt led by one stroke from Rickie Fowler and Aaron Baddeley. The cash was obviously the draw, with Fowler deciding to play in the tournament despite playing the previous two weeks in Malaysia and China, while Baddeley opted to miss his native Australian Masters to be in with a chance. The pair both birdied the designated 17th hole during the tournament to force a play-off.
It needed one hole to decide the winner. Merritt crunched an enormous drive down the 485-yard par 4, leaving himself a mere 133 yards to the flag. Wedge in hand, he struck his approach shot to 15 inches for a tap-in birdie that the others couldn’t match. With that he doubled (and then some) his official earnings for the year.
I don’t know about you, but to me winning that sort of money with one shot seems completely absurd. The massive prize funds on offer every week on both the European Tour and particularly the PGA Tour seem hard to justify, especially in these current economic times. But that’s the way it’s always been. Footballers are regularly criticised for the amount of money they take home each week, and while golfers’ earnings seem more palatable given they are wholly based on their performance – whereas footballers pick up the money whether they’re banging in a hat-trick, playing poorly, on the treatment table or suspended – I feel a contrived competition like the Kodak Challenge goes against one of the game’s core values (rewarding consistency). Quite simply, it doesn’t do the image of professional golf any favours.
I’d be interested to hear what Golf Monthly readers think.