At one time 10 points behind the leader during the final round, Erik van Rooyen took advantage of a four-hole stretch that included two birdies and an eagle to vault himself into contention – and eventually the winner’s circle – at the Barracuda Championship.

The mid-round burst was good for nine points under the modified Stableford scoring system used in this unique PGA Tour event. After finishing the front nine in the equivalent of four-under 32, van Rooyen played the back nine bogey-free, earning six points for his three birdies to claim his first career PGA Tour win, defeating 2018 champion Andrew Putnam by five points.

Van Rooyen’s clean card did not come, though, without a bit of drama. Holding a three-point lead on the 72nd tee, the 31-year-old from South Africa needed only a bogey to clinch his win. Not one to shy away from playing aggressive golf, van Rooyen took out his driver only to hit what he’d later describe as “probably the worst shot I hit all week”. The pull hook went into the trees left of the 18th fairway, but a fortuitous bounce sent his ball tumbling back into the fairway. From there, he hit a 7-iron approach shot to close range and converted a closing birdie to set a tournament record with 50 points.

“Yeah, massive break, especially on 18. But when it’s your day it’s your day,” van Rooyen said. “I got a really great bounce and sometimes you need a little bit of luck when you’re trying to win the tournament and today was my day.”

Van Rooyen’s win continues a six-year trend of the Barracuda Championship producing first-time PGA Tour winners. Going back to 2016, Greg Chalmers, Chris Stroud, Putnam, Collin Morikawa, Richy Werenski and now van Rooyen have all earned their first career PGA Tour wins at the tournament held opposite the WGC–FedEx St Jude Invitational.

Van Rooyen’s win moves him up in the FedEx Cup standings from 139th to 78th, safely inside the cut for the 125-man field for the Northern Trust at Liberty National two weeks from now. He’ll have a bit of work to do there to get inside of the 70-man field for the BMW Championship the next week.

But for van Rooyen, above all that, this win is a dream come true.

“I mean, it’s everybody’s dream to play here. And if you look at my career… started out in South Africa, won there. Won on Challenge Tour Europe. And now here. I’m over the moon.”

PHOTO: Alex Goodlett