by Garrett Johnston | @JohnstonGarrett
The Northwest trio of Andrew Putnam (Tacoma, Wash.), Joel Dahmen (Clarkston, Wash.) and Troy Merritt (Boise, Idaho) each made a spirited run last week at the PGA TOUR’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
At one point in the middle of the final round, Dahmen and Putnam were tied for the lead (along with Jordan Spieth and Patrick Cantlay), with Merritt just one shot back. Dahmen briefly held the solo lead after his sixth hole in the final round.
Each player faded on the back nine, with Merritt finishing tied for fourth, four shots back of winner Tom Hoge, and Putnam and Dahmen each finishing tied for sixth.
Putnam was the 2010 WA Golf Player of the Year, winning the 2010 Pacific Coast Amateur, held that year at Eugene (Ore.) Country Club. Dahmen won the 2007 Washington Men’s Amateur, and has won on the PGA TOUR. Merritt played golf at Boise State University, and still lives in Boise, where he headlines local fundraisers during the off-season.
Merritt birdied five of his first six holes to start the final round and race up the leaderboard. He then birdied holes nine and 10 for a total of eight birdies in 10 holes, a ridiculous push toward what would have been his third PGA TOUR title.
When he stepped on the par-3 17th tee box late Sunday afternoon, Merritt stood in solo second place at 17-under, just one shot behind Spieth.
But his tee shot went long toward Pebble’s hourglass green and in the bunker behind the pin, a tough position to say the least.
“I was taking a little off the 7-iron on 17 thinking the wind was a little more right-to-left and it just came off like a rocket and got a lot of help in the air and it flew a lot further than we were expecting, so I just got it wrong and it is what it is,” Merritt said.
Merritt then three-putted from about 15 feet, taking the air out of the momentum he’d spent the whole day to create.
A closing par on 18 and Merritt’s magical run came to an abrupt finish.
The 11-year tour veteran reflected afterward on his torrid Sunday start
“In my 11 years now on the tour, I haven’t had that real hot start on Sunday so it was nice to finally do that,” Merritt said. “If we get in that situation again – hopefully we can do it again – and then finish it off.”
“We got off to the start we wanted and just kind of misjudged the wind twice on 15 and 17 and just really didn’t do much the last four holes and it cost us,” Merritt said. “It would have been nice to throw one or two more (birdies) in, but it just didn’t work out that way.”
Even still, Merritt improved his recent record at this event to four straight top 25s after missing the cut in his first seven tries.
“Yeah, the last four years have been real nice,” Merritt said. “So just starting to get a little more comfortable out here. It has a lot to do with just focusing in on the really small targets out here, the greens aren’t very big at Pebble.”
Merritt also attributes a new mindset of being patient on Sundays at Pebble and not forcing the issue as to why he’s tasted that recent success there. It also helps when you have a caddie in Bobby Brown who helped Dustin Johnson win two times at this event in the past. Brown joined forces with Merritt last fall.
Putnam is coming off two top-27 finishes to start his 2022 season. He played in the final pairing with Beau Hossler on Sunday, shooting 1-over 73 and settling for a tie for sixth which is his best finish since a runner-up at the Barracuda Championship last year.
Dahmen played with Jordan Spieth and shot a final round even-par 72 that also left him in a tie for sixth. Dahmen held the outright lead as he stood on the iconic par 3 seventh hole, but unfortunately could not keep the momentum going to the finish. The 34-year-old’s chances of winning faded with bogeys on four of his last eleven holes.
Joel Dahmen is the only one of this trio yet to play in the Masters. The top 50 in the official world golf rankings by March 28 get in this year’s field at Augusta. Dahmen’s T6 moved him a little closer and into the top 100. He went from 106th to 96th with seven tournaments until the deadline.
Troy Merritt went from 115th to 103rd with his T4 finish. There’s some work ahead for him to qualify as well, as he seeks his second Masters start. Andrew Putnam went from 147th to 133rd last week with his T6 showing. Putnam played in his only Masters in 2020 by virtue of getting to the top 50 in the world rankings by the end of the calendar year in 2019.
Garrett Johnston has covered over 35 major championships and lives in Washington, DC. His podcast “Beyond the Clubhouse” includes top PGA TOUR players, caddies and broadcasters.