Josh Teater happy for local support at Barbasol Championship
The timing felt almost supernatural.
Less than a minute after local favorite Josh Teater tapped in a one-foot par putt on hole No. 18 to finish off a blistering second round in the PGA Tour’s Barbasol Championship on Friday, the air horn sounded to signal a severe weather delay at the Champions Course at Keene Trace Golf Club. Teater’s playing partner Richy Werenski was lining up a par putt of his own when the horn went off, sending golfers, fans and officials alike scampering for shelter.
Three hours later, officials announced there would be no more golf on Friday. Play was suspended until 7:30 a.m. Saturday with only 41 of 132 players having completed their second round.
Teater was the last golfer to finish before storms moved into the area and triggered the suspension — and what a round it was for the Lexington native. Teater made the most of the sponsor exemption that allowed him to compete in his first PGA Tour event of 2018, firing a 6-under 66 to move 23 spots up the leaderboard and into a fifth-place tie at 10-under for the tournament. He was five shots behind Troy Merritt, who held the outright lead when play was halted.
“It was huge,” Teater said when asked how important it was that he got to finish before the delay. “I didn’t even really think about it when I had that one-footer to tap in. Sometimes you’ll mark them, sometimes you won’t but I’m glad I tapped it in. I can rest the rest of the day.”
As Teater’s group came down the stretch on the back nine, the biggest crowd of the afternoon began gathering around the par-3, No. 18 hole in anticipation of his final shots of the round. After carding his fourth birdie of the day on the par-4, No. 17 hole, Teater treated the throng of fans to a beautiful tee shot, attacking the flag despite a tough pin placement that left little room between the cup and the bottom fringe of the green. His shot carried the huge pond between the tee box and the green and stuck about 15 feet to the right of the hole.
Teater came up just short on his birdie shot and tapped in, triggering a loud ovation from the partisan crowd.
“Just to be here and kind of get momentum from all of them, I kind of feed off it,” Teater said of the fan support.
“To be home, and everybody pushing me on ... this is kind of my major. Has been since they announced it,” he said in his post-round interview with PGA.com.
Though Teater finished strong on the back nine, it was the blistering pace he set on the front that allowed him to move up the leaderboard on Friday. He got started with back-to-back birdies on the first two holes, then made another big move a few holes later.
Teater birdied the par-3, No. 5, setting him up for his best hole of the day. On the par-5, No. 6 he blasted a long drive straight down the fairway then used a 4-hybrid to get within 15 feet of the cup.
“It was a pretty simple putt,” Teater said. “I kind of really didn’t even see it not going in.”
His visualization, or lack thereof, was spot-on. Teater sank it for an eagle to move to 9-under.
“I was pretty juiced (after the putt),” he said.
Teater’s round was likely centimeters away from being even more dominant. He had two long putts, one for eagle and one for birdie, circle the cup and lip out. But the Henry Clay and Morehead State graduate didn’t beat himself up over the near misses.
“You can’t be disappointed when you barely miss putts like that,” Teater said. “Now, if its a three-footer and you miss it, then you’re probably going to be a little upset. But if you’re putting from 20 feet and you just skirt the edge you move right on with your day. You know that if you hit enough that well that they’re going to start going in.”
Teater now has nine birdies and an eagle with just one bogey through two rounds.
“All in all, (it was) a good day. Low stress,” Teater said. “When you’re hitting greens and rolling it up there to tap-ins, that’s the easiest way to play this game.”
Teater will need to do more of the same over the course of the weekend if he hopes to complete the hometown hero narrative and earn the two-year PGA Tour exemption and 300 FedExCup points that come with a win in the Barbasol Championship.
Troy Merritt was the tournament’s wire-to-wire leader on Friday. He tied the Champions course record with a 10-under 62 on Thursday and followed that up with a 5-under 67 in the second round. He led second-place Billy Horschel by two strokes when play was suspended. Merritt had seven birdies and two bogeys on Friday.
“I got off to a great start,” Merritt said “My driver got just a little bit sideways toward the middle of the round. I hit a couple less fairways but I hit a lot of greens again ... a pretty good day of golf.”