GAINESVILLE, Va. – For the better part of a year, PGA Tour member Troy Merritt had a bit of a problem. For reasons he didn't fully understand, his shots kept slicing.
The Burley-raised Boise State alumni got to the Quicken Loans National last Tuesday and tried something new in his practice rounds: he moved his hands around and adjusted their position. This gave him more room at the height of his swing to straighten out his shot. And when it came time for the actual tournament, Merritt wound up being right on the mark.
Merritt finished 18-under-par for the week en route to his first PGA Tour victory. He finished three-strokes ahead of second-place finisher Rickie Fowler and a full 10 shots ahead of the legendary Tiger Woods. Despite the commotion, Merritt said he feels exactly the same nearly a full day after the dust settled at the Robert Trent Jones Club.
"I don't feel any different than any other a day. I played a round of golf," an exhausted Merritt said. "I'm the same person."
Same person or not, Merritt looks a lot different in the golf world. The 29-year-old moved up to No. 38 in the FedExCup standings with the win and took home a $1,206,000 purse. For the year he has earned $1,958,848, including three top-10 finishes. He's ranked ahead of Phil Mickelson, Padraig Harrington and Vijay Singh. It's all a bit surreal for Merritt, considering that when his coach at Boise State Kevin Burton told him he had what it took to make it big, he didn't believe it.
"(Burton) always said I had the game to win on the PGA Tour," Merritt said. "I didn't take it seriously."
Merritt shot an incredible 61 on Saturday, good for the best mark in the history of the tournament. In addition to changing his hand position on his swing, Merritt also made some adjustments to his putting game. The positive results were obvious: half of his 22 birdies during the course of the four-day tournament came on Saturday.
"Eleven birdies on that golf course in one round is pretty special," said Merritt.
The last few hours have admittedly been a whirlwind for Merritt, who just landed in Akron, Ohio on Monday to participate in this week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. He had planned to get a nice night of sleep Sunday night in his hotel room. Instead, he watched his final round on the Golf Channel and took three hours to answer 500 messages from friends and family.
More important than the notoriety and money for Merritt is the fact that he secured himself a tour spot without having to worry about qualifiers. In addition to being able to play in the Masters and PGA Championships, Merritt's win gave him a two-year exemption into PGA Tour events. Though he wants to do as well as he can from here on out, Merritt doesn't have to fret quite as much about point totals for a couple years. It's quite the relief.
"I've got two years to not stress about whether I have a job or not," Merritt said with a laugh.
This article was written by Michael Katz from The Times-News, Twin Falls, Idaho and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.