Troy Merritt is coming home — eventually.
The Spring Lake Park graduate has a few more big-name PGA Tour stops to add to his 2019 calendar before he can look ahead to playing in the inaugural 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities next July 4th weekend.
Merritt shot a 5-under 67 in the weather-delayed Barbasol Championship in Nicholasville, Ky., on Monday to win in a tournament-record 23 under par, one stroke better than Billy Horschel, Richy Werenski and Tom Lovelady.
The victory earned Merritt $630,000 and a host of bonuses. Among them, he now has a spot in the PGA Championship on Aug. 9-12 at Bellerive near St. Louis, an invitation to the Players Championship in March, and a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour.
“The first one is a dream come true,” said Merritt via phone Monday afternoon.
The 32-year-old, who played two years at Winona State, won the 2015 Quicken Loans National but had just two top 10s in 22 starts this season.
“It’s been sort of tough on the course since then and to show that my game can still get a victory out on the PGA Tour is something I wasn’t quite sure was possible,” he said. “It’s nice to know it’s still there.”
Merritt shot a course-record 10-under 62 in Round 1 and was in a four-way tie for the lead after 54 holes but never saw the course Sunday. He and the rest of the players at the top of the leaderboard waited out a handful of lightning delays as the course took on more than five inches of rain over the weekend.
When they returned before dawn Monday to complete the tournament, Merritt quickly found himself in a rut with a “bad” bogey at No. 5.
That all changed three holes later, when Marritt drew a 9-iron from 128 yards away on the par-4 eighth hole and jarred it for an eagle to get to 21 under par.
“I had 23 under in my head so I knew I had to get there fast,” Merritt said.
Conservative play on the back nine worked to his advantage. He rolled two more birdies but never had to press. Playing in the second-to-last group and up by one, Merritt heard no commotion on the par-5 17th behind him so he simply played for par on 18 and basked in the glory after his tap-in finish.
“It’s so hard to win on the PGA Tour,” he said. “It doesn’t matter that this was an opposite [to the British Open] field event. All the guys are playing to win the golf tournament. This time of year, everybody is playing with the [Fed Ex Cup] playoffs in mind. We all want it that much more.”
With just four weeks left in the PGA Tour season, the 300 FedEx Cup points Merritt picked up speak volumes. He moved up 66 spots on the season-long leaderboard, to 65th. The top 125 at the end of the season make the opening round of the playoffs.
But perhaps more importantly to Merritt, he’s assured a spot in a major for the fourth consecutive year; he’ll be part of the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Maui in January (‘‘I’ve already talked to my wife; she’s very happy”); and he’s guaranteed a high school reunion of sorts next summer.
“My long-term goals have changed now, but they’ve changed for the better,” he said. “In golf you can have a good game plan, but a lot of times you’re stuck with thinking it was only good in theory. The theory worked out well this week.”