Reno-Tahoe Open: John Merrick feeling right at home

RENO - John Merrick has been a model of consistency at the Reno-Tahoe Open.

In three previous starts, Merrick has never finished outside the top-10. He tied for third in 2010, tied for fifth in 2008 and tied for fourth in 2007.

Merrick is well on his way to a fourth straight top-10 after shooting a 6-under-par 66 en route to a 54-hole total of 206. He's in a big group tied for third, three shots behind leader Scott Piercy.

Merrick started with three straight birdies en route to a 32 on the front nine. He managed two birdies on the back nine.

"For some reason I'm comfortable on this course," Merrick said. "I don't know why. I wish every course was like this. I can just see the shots out here. I've been fortunate to have some decent finishes."

Merrick expects the course to play tough in the final round.

"You can tell which pin placements they haven't used," Merrick said. "There are going to be some tough ones.

"You're going to have to make birdies. He (Piercy) is at 13-under, so if he shoots something in the 60s, we're going to have to go pretty low. You know, it should play pretty tough (today)."

EASIER COURSE?

Tournament officials moved up 16 of the 18 tees for Saturday's round. It gives new meaning to the PGA's term "moving day"

The par-4 14th went from 367 to 303 and the par-4 12th went from 429 to 402. On the front, the 491-yard par-4 5th was moved up to 467, while the 186-yard par-3 3rd was moved to 161 yards.

Media officials said tees are routinely moved around during the course of a tournament.

TOUGHEST, EASIEST

The 206-yard par-3 16th played the toughest on Saturday with an average of 3.307, yielding just three birdies. The easiest hole was the 18th which played to a 4.493, yielding 36 birdies and four eagles.

RTO FAST FACTS

Play starts today at 7:45 a.m. and the final group starts at 1:40 p.m. ... There have been 10 bogey-free rounds through the first three days of the tourney. Joe Maria Olazabal (68) and Stephen Ames (69) were bogey-free on Saturday ... The winner of the RTO gets to play in the PGA next weekend in Atlanta. The only players in the top 10 are 54 holes who have already qualified are Brian Davis and Steve Elkington ... The Golf Channel broadcast starts at 4 p.m. today ... On Saturday, there were 27 rounds below 70, 47 below par and 58 at par or better. There were 11 even-par rounds ... Robert Garrigus had the longest drive of the day, a 383-yard blast on No. 18 ... Steve Flesch sank the longest putt of the day, a 62-footer at No. 6.

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