Doug Barron wins Regions Tradition at Greystone for first PGA Tour Champions major

Published 11:42 pm Sunday, May 12, 2024

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

HOOVER – Doug Barron said he once nearly asked for a sponsor exemption to play in the Regions Tradition.

Now, after qualifying for and winning the Tradition, he can come back to Greystone as long as he wants to.

Barron won the 2024 Regions Tradition on Sunday, May 12 by two strokes with a tournament score of 17-under-par at the Founders’ Course at Greystone Golf and Country Club for his first PGA Tour Champions major win, fourth overall win on the tour and first since 2021.

“It means I’m going to eat really nice this week,” Barron said about the win. “I have a good life. I’ll be honest, I don’t judge myself on my golf. If I did, I’d have a nervous breakdown because my career has been like a roller coaster. I judge myself on just trying to enjoy life and this is just an honest-to-God bonus. It really is.”

Barron entered the day tied for the lead with Ernie Els after shooting a 6-under-par 66 in Saturday’s third round, the lowest third-round score by three strokes, ensuring he would play in the final group for the first time in his PGA Tour Champions career.

However, he had a pack of golfers right on his tail to start the day on Sunday.

Padraig Harrington sat a stroke back in third place to join Barron and Els’ group for Sunday. Charlie Wi and two-time defending champion Steve Stricker, who shot a 7-under 65 on Friday to lead after two rounds, were in a tie for fourth two strokes back from the lead.

Els and Stricker found themselves in trouble to start the day after Els bogeyed both the third and fourth holes and Stricker had two bogeys on the front nine to partially offset his three birdies during the same stretch.

Harrington also failed to ignite throughout the round, making par on the first 10 holes before a double bogey on 11 and bogey on 13 sunk him for good. His only birdie of the day came on 18 to card a 2-over-par 74 and take eighth place.

That opened the door for Barron to cruise to a 3-under-par 33 for the front nine and take sole possession of the lead.

While the rest of the top four struggled to keep pace, two of the top players on tour surged into striking distance.

Steven Alker, the money leader in the season-long Charles Schwab Cup, eagled the par-5 second hole to kick off a round where he made eight birdies and just one bogey to card a 9-under-par 63 and shoot up from 13th place.

Stewart Cink hit an eagle of his own on the second before going on to make four birdies and go bogey free in his 6-under-par final round of 66.

However, Alker’s bogey on the par-5 15th and Cink’s stretch of five straight pars to finish the round left the pair in second and a tie for third, respectively. Playing just a few groups behind them, Barron had some breathing room to control his own destiny.

“I really think they were finished, so that helped,” Barron said. “I knew they weren’t going to go any farther under par, so they gave me a little peace. I knew if I could just make pars, I was good.”

Barron went the entire round without hitting a bogey as his birdies on holes two, five, nine and 13 secured him a 4-under-par 68. His last bogey of the tournament came on hole two in the third round on Saturday, making it 34 straight holes of par or better to finish the Tradition.

At the end of the day, Barron was proud of the work it took him to get to Sunday and how he locked in to hold off the pack for his first major victory.

“I really felt pretty good,” Barron said. “Yesterday obviously got me up there. And then sometimes you can not always play your best on Sunday after a great round like that. And I just hung in there. I didn’t have my best today, but I really hung in and made some great pars.”

For Els, it will be another year of waiting for his first Tradition trophy. After finishing second to Stricker in 2023, he finished in a tie for third while shooting a 1-under-par 71 in the final round.

Stricker joined Els and Cink in a tie for third at 14-under-par. After starting the tournament with rounds of 67 and 65, a third-round score of 73 meant his final round of 69 was not enough to secure his third straight win at the Tradition.

One of the big stories of the weekend was Bernhard Langer as the man with the most PGA Tour Champions major wins ever made his second start and first at a major since undergoing Achilles surgery just three months ago.

Langer shot 69 on Sunday to finish in a tie for eighth with Harrington and Kenny Perry at 10-under-par.

But in the end, it was the man who once needed permission to come to Greystone who will now have a lifetime champion’s exemption into the Regions Tradition.