RENO - The World Golf Championship's loss is the Reno-Tahoe Open's gain. Padraig Harrington, who has won five PGA Tour titles and 16 international crowns, makes his RTO debut today at Montreux Golf & Country Club.
For the past several years, the Ireland-born Harrington has played in the WGC-Bridgestone event, but his ranking wasn't high enough to make the prestigious event this year.
And, it's not that Harrington is having a bad 2012 season. He has made the cut in 11 of 13 events entered and has three top-10 finishes, including a tie for eighth at the Masters and a fourth at the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club. He is 72nd in the FedEx Cup points race.
Harrington is here because he believes that playing a tournament a week before a major (the PGA is next weekend) is better than just practicing.
"If I was to practice at home, I would get all mixed up," Harrington said. "I just wouldn't be competitive for next week if I didn't play this week. I did a long week's worth of work last week, and now I'm trying to get game-ready, really.
"I want to be competitive. When you hit a lot of shots, you're breaking down some of your competitive instincts; whereas on the golf course, you've got one chance, and you've got to get your mind in the right place."
The Ocean Club course at Kiawah is closed, as officials get ready for the PGA, the final major of the season.
"Look, I would rather play a 72-hole tournament around the Ocean Club this week," Harrington said. "That's ideal, actually playing on the course. Anything else is less than ideal. Obviously, you would like to play in the same conditions, same grass, everything the same.
"All these things are tradeoffs. I still want to play a tournament. That's the top priority. The key for me is getting my head in the right place, getting my routines right, getting my processes right. The only way I can do that is with a scorecard in my hand where I care about the score."
It's probably not realistic to expect Harrington to win, especially since he doesn't know the course. However , after 36 holes at Montreux, he is impressed with the challenging layout.
"It's a beautiful golf course," Harrington said. "The greens are firming up. Obviously there is quite a bit of altitude. There is quite a significant change on the holes up and downhill, so a lot of calculations will have to be done this week and it will be difficult clubbing.
"In the afternoons, it seems to get very awkward. I played one of my rounds in the morning and no wind. Then in the afternoon (round) the wind was just whistling and changing directions. In no more than a minute you could go from playing a hole straight downwind to straight into the wind. I think the afternoons are going to be very testing here."
That's one thing the rest of the field has already experienced.
With defending champ Scott Piercy at the WGC even after last weekend's win at the Canadian Open, it's hard to pick a favorite. Piercy had a third and a win in last three tournaments so he would have been coming into the RTO with a hot hand.
Vaughn Taylor, who win the RTO in 2004 and 2005, shot a 65 on his own ball in Wednesday's pro-am event. He had seven birdies and no bogeys for what would have been a plus-14 in the modified Stableford format. Certainly he has to be considered a favorite because of his knowledge of the course.
Several other players also played well on Wednesday: John Daly (66), Josh Teater, Kevin Chappell (66), Stuart Appleby (67) and Spencer Levin (67). Daly would have had 13 points because of his four birdies and eagle on No. 18. Teater, thanks to five birdies and an eagle on the par-5 2nd, would have had 15 points. Chappell had seven birdies and a bogey en route to a 13.
Appleby, making his second appearance at Montreux, had eight birdies, a double-bogey and bogey en route to a 12-point round. Levin had five birdies and no bogeys for a 10-point day.