BY DARRELL MOODY
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO " Scott McCarron estimates he's played Montreux Golf & Country Club "300 times more than anybody else."
McCarron, who still owns a house in southwest Reno and is a member at Montreux, agrees that his knowledge of the course gives him an advantage entering today's 10th annual Legends Reno-Tahoe Open.
The 132-person field includes defending champions Chris Riley Notah Begay and Kirk Triplett. Michelle Wie, the talented 18-year-old from Hawaii, also is in the field on a sponsor's exemption.
After shooting a 66 in his pro-am round on Wednesday, McCarron was complimentary in talking about his home course and some of the changes it has undergone.
"The course is in the best shape that I've ever seen it," McCarron said. "The greens are great, and they are starting to get firm. They had root rot in the greens and the staff had a tough time getting rid of it. You have snow sitting on the ground five months out of the year. You never know what you're going to have. They've cut the rough down a little. They have flyer rough instead of chip-out rough. That should make it interesting.
"Any time you play a course more than somebody else you have an advantage. The more you play a course, the more you learn. I know a lot of these greens pretty well."
Also, McCarron is coming off a fifth-place tie at the Canadian Open. It was his best finish since a tie for second at the 2005 FBR Open. He admitted there is pressure playing at home.
"I had a great week," McCarron said. "I started off well with a 66 the first day. It was a tough week. It rained 10 inches in seven days, but we were able to get it in. I had 11 birdies one day and shot 8-under-par. I had a chance to win with nine holes left. Unfortunately I made a couple of bogeys. That's all you can ask for.
"Pressure is stuff you put on yourself. My goal tomorrow is on the 10th tee to hit the fairway. That's the only thing I'm thinking about now. Then after I do that, what do I have to do? I have to hit the green. So you really try to break it down " we say this all the time " one shot at a time. That's my whole goal and my focus is, how am I going to hit the fairway on the 10th tee? If you start thinking about winning you get ahead of yourself.. I get a birdie (on the first hole) and I'm already writing my victory speech. I have to work hard to stay in the moment."
McCarron is just happy to be playing golf again. He hurt his elbow in January, 2006 and played hurt for the next seven months. He underwent elbow surgery after suffering a torn extensor carpiradials brevis. In layman's terms, it's the muscle that goes from the wrist to the elbow.
"On January 4, I woke up and banged my elbow on the wall like you hit your funny bone," McCarron said. "It was just hurting at that point. I thought I had tennis elbow. I got a cortisone shot to take the pain away. I played the Hope and it was still hurting a lot. We just kept thinking it was tennis elbow and treated it as such. I tried acupuncture. I played for about seven months that way.
"I don't know if it was torn from the start or I tore it over the next seven months with me trying to play with one arm basically. I had the MRI done, and it (the muscle) was completely torn off the bone. They had to go in and re-attach it with a bone anchor."
McCarron said the re-hab was extensive. He spent the first month with his arm in a sling. He would squeeze anything he could get his hand on " putty or a tennis ball.
"It wasn't difficult at first," he said. "I couldn't swing a golf club or do anything. I really got away from golf. I didn't watch golf much. I didn't practice my putting. I didn't practice my chipping. So I kind of delved into the kids' school and helped with their soccer teams and I would go on field trips, all of the things I hadn't been able to do over the years because I had been traveling so much. Being at home and making breakfast every morning for the kids, I really got into that routine. It was a lot of fun.
"As soon as I started getting back and swinging and playing again, it became more difficult for me because I wanted to get out there and play, and I couldn't yet. Even though I started playing in January this year, I wasn't ready. The elbow was still bothering me. I had to test it out. It's taken me three or four months to get back into playing more."
There were times that McCarron admitted that his career might be over.
"I had no idea what kind of pain I was going to come back to," McCarron said. "I thought if I came back and I still had a lot of pain, I would probably hang it up. So even through those three or four months when I was trying to come back, there were a lot of doubts that I was not going to be able to do this. I've always been very determined in everything I do. I kept fighting through it; kept working the elbow. It was almost a year and a half until I could swing without pain."
He feels fine now, and would love nothing more than to win in his hometown.
LEGENDS RENO-TAHOE OPEN
When: Today through Sunday
Where: Montreux Golf & Country Club, par-72 (7,472 yards
TV: Golf Channel. 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. today and Friday, 3:30 to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday
Purse: $3 million, $540,000 to the winner
Tickets: $15 online and $20 at the game. Visit legendsrenotahoeopen.com
Parking: General parking is south of the Mt. Rose Highway/Wedge Parkway. The cost is $5 . A shuttle service is provided as part of the charge