Reno-Tahoe Open: Nick O'Hern takes lead

Steve Puterski/Lahontan Valley news

Steve Puterski/Lahontan Valley news

RENO - Nick O'Hern's performance lately has been nothing to write home about - six missed cuts and one withdrawal - in his last 10 tournaments.

The left-handed O'Hern, who has never won a PGA Tour event, fired a bogey-free 7-under-par 65 to take the first-round lead at the 13th annual Reno-Tahoe Open Thursday at Montreux Golf & Country Club.

O'Hern has a one-shot lead over former RTO champion Chris Riley, who had seven birdies and one bogey. Another shot back at 67 are Blake Adams, Briny Baird and Will MacKenzie, another defending champion.

There is a logjam at 68, including Steve Flesch, former PGA champ Shaun Micheel, Jay Williamson, Rod Pampling, Matt Jones, Robert Garrigus and Ben Martin. Five players, led by two-time RTO champion Vaughn Taylor are at 69.

In all, 46 players shot under-par rounds and 59 shot par or better.

However, there will be a new champion this year after defending champion Matt Bettencourt withdrew after eight holes because of a rib injury.

O'Hern, who missed the cut here in 2001, was in the first group of the day and took advantage of the pristine conditions.

"Yeah, first group out, so obviously I got nine very fresh greens and smooth greens which is nice," O'Hern said. "The back nine they (the greens) started to get a little bumpy. I played a beautiful front nine. I probably had 11 putts on the front side for 4-under and then snuck in a couple of birdies on 17 and 18.

"Can't play much better than that. I hit a lot of good shots. I missed a couple of putts, but every time I hit an ordinary shot I got it up and down for par, so I kept the round going."

O'Hern's approach game was superb.

On the par-5 2nd, his approach put him just under 5 feet from the pin and he drained the ensuing

putt. On Nos. 8, 9 and 17, he had birdie putts of 10 feet. He had a two-putt birdie on No. 13 and a 4-foot birdie putt on No. 18 thanks to a nice wedge approach.

"I was really just playing for par on 17, but managed to hit a good second shot," O'Hern said. "It's a tough 71st hole, that one.

"I kept the ball below the hole most of the day and gave myself a ton of birdie chances. I played well last week at Greenbrier, but had a cold putter. It was nice to get the putter warmed up."

Riley, one of eight former champs in the field, had birdie putts of 4, 13, 12, 10, 8, 12 and 20-feet, respectively. The 20-footer came on the difficult par-4 464-yard 8th.

"I love coming to Montreux," Riley said. "It's such a great place to play golf. I've had some success here, and it's always nice to come back where you've played well.

"Absolutely (an advantage to play early). There was no wind and the pace of play was unbelievable. The greens were perfect. To be one of the first groups off is definitely an advantage compared to (going off) 1:28."

Riley believes there is a shot or two difference between playing in the morning and afternoon, and the stats backed him up. Morning starters averaged 71.83, while the afternoon players averaged 73.58.

"(This) afternoon I know it's going to be a lot harder because there is going to be wind. The guy who tees off first or second (today) is going to have an advantage. I just feel like I've got one in the bank."

Adams also is seeking his first PGA win. He hit 16 of 18 greens and 13 of 14 fairways. He finished with six birdies and one bogey.

"I played solid," Adams said. "I had a nice putt on 17. That's definitely not an easy hole. I made the putts I was supposed to make. I left one there on 18, probably about a 5-footer for birdie."

Adams has been battling hip problems this season which has frustrated him. He said he feels much better this week.

"The most important thing is my body felt good," he said. "Last Monday (before Greenbrier) I actually got a shot of cortisone in my hip. My hip is a disaster. Last week I was a little bit scared on it.

"It is really frustrating for me. Like in Canada, I hit every fairway Thursday and I showed up Friday and could hardly swing it. I ended up missing the cut, and it was just the last straw."

Baird's round was especially impressive and was the lowest of the afternoon starters. He had five birdies, an eagle and two bogeys. His eagle came on the par-5 2nd where he holed a shot from 100 yards.

"I made some bombs (putts)," Baird said. "I made three putts that were probably over 25 feet. You take a couple of those away and it's a solid 1-under round.

"The strength of the wind wasn't as bad as the direction of the wind. It would be complete opposite directions from hole to hole, so that made it tough."

The projected cut is 82 players at 1-over-par, which means notables like Ben Curtis (74), Paul Goydos (74). Kevin Na (75), John Daly (74), Rich Beem (76) and Marc Leishman (76) need to shoot a red number to avoid going home.

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