Barnes still grinding, seeking that first winDUBLIN, Ohio -- When the group was approaching the 18th green in the Memorial Tournament Friday, the official greeter, whose task it was to identify the golfers to the assembled throng, announced -- “Ricky Barnes, winner of …” And Ricky Barnes had to be muttering to himself, “Yeah, don’t I wish.”
The greeter couldn’t complete his announcement, because there was no way he could complete it. And that was because Barnes hasn’t won. And there is some reason to believe he artfully mumbled the rest of the way, voice considerably lowered to disguise his predicament, leaving the gallery to wonder if they had heard right.
“Yeah, they said that [Thursday], too,” Barnes said, mustering up a few chuckles at himself. “They said, what event did you win? Maybe they’re foreseeing something this week, or something. I’m hoping.”
To complete the greeter’s shortened announcement, this was Ricky Barnes, winner of the 2010 CVS/Caremark Charity Classic (with J.B. Holmes). But the CVS/Caremark, for all of its good work, is a made-for-charity, made-for-public-relations two-round, Monday-Tuesday exhibition frolic, which in fact will be played again June 20-21 at Rhode Island Country Club. Barnes, meanwhile, is still grinding away, searching for his first victory on the PGA Tour. And how much does this unrewarded effort wear and tear on him?
“You know, it’s too early to tell, but I’ve put myself into good positions,” Barnes was saying Friday, after doing so again, at least for the time being. Barnes shot himself a sturdy, 2-under-par 70 for a 6-under 138 total, three off Steve Stricker’s lead.
“Yeah, I’d love to get it,” Barnes said. “I was pretty good early on in the year, keeping myself calm once I got into that position, at Honda and Hilton Head. I was making some good swings. Unlucky bounce, a few holes there.”
His second round was a series of all kinds of bounces. Take two bogeys and a birdie from No. 3, then an eagle at No. 7, a 40-foot hole-out from a greenside bunker, and a tap-in birdie at the 15th and a 6-footer at the 16th.
Barnes is a big, open-faced guy of pleasant demeanor, who played at the University of Arizona, who wears a golf cap that can be characterized as Early Storm Trooper, who even at age 30 must be considered as one of the up-and-coming youth of the PGA Tour. A number of things stamped him with that tag.
Winning the 2002 U.S. Amateur was just the start of it. He turned pro in 2003, got to the Nationwide Tour in 2004, and it was there that he had his best finish as a pro, as playoff runner-up to Cliff Kresge in the 2006 Oregon Classic. There followed a number of other significant accomplishments. In 2009, he set the record for the first two rounds of the U.S. Open, an 8-under 132, and then early in the third round, he reached double digits under par and was only the fourth player ever to do that. Youth and nerves prevailed after that, and he shot 76 in the final round, tieing for second behind Lucas Glover.
Barnes continued his impressive no-cigar play in 2010, with a tie for 10th in the Masters among his six top-10 finishes. These were more of the good positions he was speaking of. But he’s had a strange trip this season. He’s missed four cuts in 12 starts, and three of those misses were in a row – the Wells Fargo, the Players and the Crowne Plaza Invitational just a few weeks ago. Unlike many golfers, Barnes pounds away for weeks on end before taking a break. Because of the toll of the grind, it’s almost unheard of.
“It wasn’t on the Nationwide,” Barnes said. “You could go six to eight [tournaments] in a row, and feel like you could go another six or eight in a row. But out here, you know why guys play two, take two off, play three, take one off – that kind of schedule.”
It’s probably because of the amount of dough at stake. They’ve got to keep grinding on the Nationwide Tour because of the smaller purses, meaning the thinner payouts down the list. On the big tour, a guy can get to be a millionaire without anyone knowing his name.
Wherever Barnes finishes in this Memorial, he’ll be entering a 36-hole U.S. Open qualifier on Monday, the proposition sounding simple until one considers the drain of two more hard days a Muirfield Village. The question is, how does he balance the two – the effort to win here and the drive to qualify for the U.S. Open?
“The preparation for Monday won’t change anything for Saturday and Sunday,” Barnes said. “I came here to play a golf tournament. I think the way you have to go into the 36-hole qualifier is that it’s a bonus if you get through.” Meaning, there’s a lot to be said, in the first place, for managing to play all four rounds in the Memorial.
“I mean, I’m hoping to get through,” Barnes said. “I want to play in the U.S. Open. I want to do it all.”
And he wouldn’t mind winning something along the way.
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