Garrett Barber (Golfweek photo)
By Sean Martin
SEA ISLAND, GA (January 28, 2018) - Garrett Barber
undoubtedly spent some of five-hour drive home to Florida answering congratulatory text messages and processing the magical round that gave him victory in one of amateur golf’s toughest tests.
Barber, a high-school senior from Stuart, Florida, won the Jones Cup on Sunday with a 6-under 66 in the final round at Ocean Forest Golf Club. He sank five birdie putts of 20 feet or longer in the final round, and holed a 5-iron from 200 yards for eagle on the par-5 10th hole.
Barber took advantage of rare ideal scoring conditions to post the best round at Ocean Forest in the history of the event. The only other players ever to shoot 66 at Ocean Forest were Nicholas Thompson in 2005 and Bubba Watson in 2001.
"This is probably one of my best putting rounds," said Barber. "Usually ball striking is my strength. Today, pretty much all of them went in."
He needed every single stroke, as a two-shot swing on the final hole left him tied with Vanderbilt senior Theo Humphrey
(Greenwich, CT / Vanderbilt). Barber made an 8-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole to win the prestigious title and earn a start in the PGA TOUR’s RSM Classic at nearby Sea Island Golf Club.
Barber and Humphrey matched the the lowest 54-hole score at Ocean Forest Golf Club since it was renovated by Rees Jones in 2007. Braden Thornberry
also shot 212 in last year’s Jones Cup win, but that was enough for a five-shot victory.
Not this year, as the field encountered relatively calm conditions (by Jones Cup standards). Temperatures were in the mid-60s Sunday and there was little wind. The forecasted rain that led to lift, clean and place being instituted for the final round never came.
Barber and Humphrey played in Sunday’s third-to-last group. Barber was three shots behind 36-hole leader Jake Fendt
after shooting consecutive 73s in the first two rounds, while Humphrey opened with rounds of 77 and 68. After failing to make a birdie in the first round, Humphrey was bogey-free over the final 36 holes.
Barber and Humphrey both shot 34 on the front nine Sunday. Then Barber went 4 under on the first four holes of the back nine. He holed a 5-iron on the par-5 10th after driving into a fairway bunker, then made birdie putts of 25, 25 and 5 feet on Nos. 12-14.
“On 9, when I turned at 2 under I figured I would be in the mix,” Barber said. “To start the way I did on the back nine was insane.”
Humphrey, who made birdies on 11 and 14, was two behind Barber when they reached the 18th tee.
Barber drove into a fairway bunker, while Humphrey hit a drive more than 300 yards into the middle of the fairway on the 480-yard finishing hole. Barber’s approach shot found the greenside bunker, while Humphrey hit a 9-iron within 4 feet of the hole location, which was tucked behind the bunker where Barber’s ball lay.
Theo Humphrey had another top-3 major finish
“I knew I had to be aggressive there,” Humphrey said. “I had 168 yards, figured it was probably playing a few less than that, so I just took a few yards off a 9-iron and hit a really good shot right at it.”
Barber missed a par putt of approximately 10 feet before Humphrey rolled in his birdie putt, clenching his fist after it found the hole.
Both players found the fairway on the first hole of sudden-death, Ocean Forest’s first hole. Humphrey hit first, and was upset to pull his wedge shot about 30 feet left of the hole. Barber hit his approach to 8 feet. He drained the putt after Humphrey missed his birdie attempt.
For Humphrey, it was another close call in a big event. He was a semifinalist at the U.S. Amateur, falling one round short of invitations to the Masters and U.S. Open. Humphrey lost, 2 and 1, in the semifinals to eventual runner-up Doug Ghim. Humphrey also finished third at the NCAA Championship, runner-up at the Northeast Amateur and T3 at the Players Amateur last year.
"You’ve got to look at this as pretty much all positive," Humphrey said. "Just the really only negative is basically in the last year I’ve had a lot of second- and third-place finishes and haven’t won anything, so that’s a little frustrating in that regard."
"But I mean, I lost to guy who shot 6 under out here and birdied the first playoff hole, so I kind of did what I needed to do for the most part and just got beat."
Four players finished under par this year, with Kennesaw State’s Fendt and Mississippi signee Jackson Suber
tying for third place at 3-under 213. In nine previous Jones Cups since Ocean Forest’s renovation, only five players had finished under par for 54 holes.
Fendt, who shot 70-73 in the first two rounds, birdied Sunday’s first two holes but followed with back-to-back bogeys. He reached 4 under for the tournament after holing out for eagle on the 415-yard, par-4 eighth hole. He three-putted for bogey at the ninth hole, and made one birdie and one bogey on the back nine.
Suber, who shot a final-round 68, made the most of his opportunity after getting in the tournament as an alternate. He was runner-up at the Jones Cup Junior (the winner earns a spot in the Jones Cup) in December and lost a playoff in one of the tournament’s qualifiers earlier this month.
Barber joins a prestigious list of Jones Cup champions that includes reigning FedExCup champion Justin Thomas and five-time PGA TOUR winner Patrick Reed, as well as John Peterson, Beau Hossler, Corey Conners, Austin Connelly and Thornberry. Eight of the past 10 winners of the Jones Cup are competing on the PGA TOUR or European Tour. That figure doesn’t include three-time major winner Jordan Spieth, who lost a playoff to Peterson in 2011.
Barber also won the 2016 Jones Cup Junior
(Jones Cup photo)
Barber is the first player to win both the Jones Cup Junior and the Jones Cup.
“That was pretty much my first big win, which got my confidence up for this past year and this week,” said Barber, who won the Jones Cup Junior
in December 2016.
This victory came on the heels of an impressive 2017 for Barber. He was a first-team AJGA All-American and advanced to the second round of match play at the U.S. Amateur at Riviera. He went 3-0-0 for the victorious U.S. team
at last year’s inaugural Junior Presidents Cup, clinching the winning point with his 4-and-3 victory over Australia’s Fred Lee.
Those impressive accomplishments preceded a fruitful November.
In that month, Barber shot a final-round 65 to win the Class 1A Florida State High School Championship, then signed his National Letter of Intent with LSU the next day. He finished off the month by winning the prestigious AJGA Rolex Tournament of Champions, clinching the title
with a 5-foot putt on the final hole at PGA National’s Champion Course. That’s the same layout that hosts The Honda Classic and annually ranks among the hardest courses on the PGA TOUR.
Barber proved again Sunday that he is up for the test on the toughest tracks, though.
Tournament Notes: Ocean Forest Loses its Teeth
Coming into the week, the Jones Cup had earned the reputation as one of the most difficult tests in amateur golf, with only 8 players having broken par in 12 playings at Ocean Forest Golf Club.
Related: Jones Cup Preview: Harsh Conditions, Worthy Champions
In a cool and windy round one, the tournament lived up to its reputation and more, with Jake Fendt
(Suwanee, GA / Kennesaw State) the only player to break par as the field averaged over 78 shots.
But as conditions eased on the weekend, the scores came down. After 36 holes Fendt was still the only player under par, but with 16 players shooting under-par rounds, they were stacked up behind him with players within 3 shots of his lead.
Related: Jones Cup: Fendt Still Leads as Leaderboard Tightens
In any other year, taking a lead into the final round, making birdies on the first two holes, holing out for an eagle on the par-four 8th hole, and shooting 70 would result in an easy win. But not this year.
This Jones Cup Sunday was probably the easiest single day for scoring in the history of the tournament. With storms forecast in the afternoon, tournament organizers moved up the tee times, and the combination of warmer temperatures, light winds, moist air, and kept the course soft and allowed players to go low.
In all, 19 players broke par on Sunday, with 7 rounds in the 60s. The field average was 74 shots, compared to 75 the previous day and 78 in round one.
The defending champion Braden Thornberry
, who came in as the #1 player in the Golfweek/AmateurGolf.com World Ranking
, had a top-10 finish but was never really a factor, finishing at 3-over 219, tied for eighth place.