BY DARRELL MOODY
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO " Parker McLachlin said he made a last-minute decision to come to the 10th annual Legends Reno-Tahoe Open.
It's one he obviously will never regret.
McLachlin shot a final-round 2-over-par 74 Sunday at Montreux Golf & Country Club en route to his first PGA Tour win and a spot in next week's PGA Championship, the last major of the 2008 season.
"It feels incredible," McLachlin said. "It was a hard-fought day. I was fortunate to have that big cushion because I needed it. God, it feels great to have accomplished this. It means the world to me."
McLachlin finished with a 72-hole total of 270, seven shots ahead of Brian Davis (whose final-round 75 put him at 277) and John Rollins (71-277), both of whom finished 11-under-par. There was a four-way tie for fourth at 10-under-par 278 with Eric Axley, Harrison Frazar, Ryan Palmer and Martin Laird.
McLachlin, who won $540,000, becomes the fifth player to win his first PGA Tour event at the Legends Reno-Tahoe Open, joining Notah Begay III (1999), Chris Riley (2002), Vaughn Taylor (2004) and Will MacKenzie (2006). He moved up to 53rd on the money list.
"This was my sixth week in a row and I usually don't like to go much more than three," said McLachlin, who decided to play only last Monday. "Like I said in Canada on Saturday and Sunday, I was just having so much fun playing the game. Golf beats you down so much that, if you are having fun, you've got to keep going because there are a lot of times where you are having to grind it out. Especially on the Tour, you've got to grind it out on weeks that you aren't playing well.
"It was funny, I made the same decision last year to play that Nationwide event. I felt like my game was coming around in Greensboro, and I missed the cut, and right on Friday I knew I wasn't going to be playing for a month because of the FedEx Cup. I was having so much fun playing, even though I missed the cut, I just felt good. I said, 'Where is the Nationwide Tour?"
Fatigue may have caught up with McLachlin, as he dropped a bombshell toward the end of his post-tournament press conference.
"I don't know if I'll play next week," he said. "As great as it is to be in the PGA Championship, I left it all on the course today. So we'll see. That golf course at Oakland Hills, I played there and it is an absolute beast. I don't know if I want to go back there and get beaten up. I would like to really enjoy this moment."
McLachlin said fatigue and nerves played a role in his round, which saw him hit only 5 of 18 greens in regulation and 10 of 14 fairways.
"I was swinging it so well the first three days," McLachlin said. "I didn't sleep great last night. I just woke up. It just felt a little weird. I don't know how many greens I hit, maybe four or five. But it was not a good ball-striking day. It really brought out my short game and heart. I just had to gut it out. I wedged it pretty good and made putts. You know, that's how I've gutted it out through my professional career.
"This is a new thing for me being in the lead on Friday, Saturday and Sunday in a Tour event. I wasn't very sharp today. After yesterday, I was really nervous the first three holes and really settled down and found a nice groove. I thought today was going to be the same. I never felt comfortable for one second."
McLachlin carded nine straight pars to open his round, making several tough par-saving putts from 6, 12 , 9 and 5 feet respectively.
As poorly as McLachlin played, nobody could gain really significant ground on the front side. Davis also played the front side in even par and Rollins shot 33 on the front to shave three strokes off the lead.
A bogey by McLachlin at the par-4 10th and a birdie by Davis at the par-5 11th shaved McLachlin's lead to four shots with eight holes to play.
The 491-yard par-4 14th proved to be Davis' downfall. Davis drove the ball down the right side and hit his second shot into the bunker. It took him two shots to get out, and he ended up with a double-bogey. He lost another shot on the next hole to drop seven behind.
"I'm hugely disappointed," Davis said. "I got off to a fast start which I needed to do, and it (the course) was playing much harder today. The pin positions were just brutal. The greens were like concrete and that made it really tough. I hit a lot of good shots and it really didn't pay off again. I won't say I'm disappointed because I still finished second, because I didn't play that bad.
"I always knew coming back on the back nine was going to be tough. I've been there before. Once I got a couple on him, I got unlucky. I made a double on 14, and that was it then."
All told, Davis lost four shots to par over the last six holes.
That took a lot of pressure off McLachlin, who actually bogeyed Nos. 16 and 17 before finishing with an impressive birdie on the 72nd hole following a poor tee shot.
On No. 17, McLachlin hit his tee shot into the water. He took a drop/penalty stroke, put his next shot into the fairway and then drilled a 7-iron onto the green. He two-putted for a six, which moved the lead down to five shots.
"It (the drive) was actually the most solid drive I hit all day," McLachlin said. "I just started it a little left and it didn't have enough carry to get over the trees. It was just one of those things where it kind of happened, so I went with it, took my drop.
"I wasn't panicking or anything. I knew I was still OK. The 7-iron was probably the best shot I hit all day. I think it landed four inches from the cup and went to the back edge. If I missed that shot, if it comes up short of the bunker, I'm looking making double-bogey. With Brian right there in front of the green, that could have been a three-shot swing real quick. I was fortunate to come out with only a one-shot swing."
- Contact Darrell Moody at firstname.lastname@example.org or (775) 881-1281