RENO – Ricky Barnes spent the better part of 90 minutes working on his chipping Tuesday afternoon at Montreux Golf & Country Club.
He sent ball after ball toward the flag. At the end of each shot, one could see a slight smile or grimace depending on how good or bad the shot was. It’s the one area of Barnes’ game that is not up to par as he gets ready for play in the 15th annual Reno-Tahoe Open.
“When you are playing well, your short game is pretty good, and your putting is even better,” Barnes said Tuesday afternoon before heading off to the driving range. “Overall my game is pretty good, but my short game is not so good. My ball striking is in the top 10 and has been all year. I have to start playing well the next few weeks to keep my card.”
Barnes sits at 132 on the money list at $489,982, so he must climb up seven spots before the season ends to retain his card for the 2014 season and make the FedEx Cup playoffs. He sits at 139 in the FedEx Cup points chase, and he’s 145th in scoring average at 71.5.
A 1-under-par average is nice, but in the big picture it won’t cash you a lot of big checks. Barnes has made the cut just eight times this season in 23 starts. His best finish this season was a 12th-place tie at the Byron Nelson Championship, and he’s had two 13th-place finishes at the Sony Open in Hawaii and the Travelers Championship.
Barnes is married to former University of Nevada volleyball star Suzanne Stonebarger, who was inducted into the UNR Hall of Fame a couple of years ago. The couple, who have one son (Brady), are expected to move into their new house on the Martis Camp Club course in Truckee in early August. Barnes said he and his family would live in Truckee between mid-August and mid-October every year.
McCarron getting getter
Scott McCarron, the RTO tournament host, says he’s about as pain-free as one can expect at 48 years old.
McCarron had surgery on his left thumb Oct. 18 and is on a non-exempt major medical exemption. He has 18 tournaments to earn approximately $647,000. He won’t reach the 18 tournaments this year, and PGA officials said he can ask for an extension that would take him into the 2014 season, which he would have a certain number of tournaments on the major medical exempt status to reach that goal.
“I’m not in a good category (126-150 this year),” McCarron said. “Normally you play in 12 to 15 tournaments and this year I’ve played in six. I have two sponsor exemptions.
“It’s tough to get on a roll when you’re playing once a month. This is two weeks in a row for me. I barely missed the cut up in Canada. I’m off the next week and then I play at the Wyndham. It’s a matter of getting out on the course and playing in competition. The more competitive golf you get to play, the better it is. I can go out and practice, but it’s not the same.”
The biggest thing for McCarron as he enters the RTO is that he’s finally playing with little pain.
“The left thumb is an integral part of the golf swing,” McCarron said. “There is still some residual pain. It’s the anticipation of pain. It’s been hurting for so long, you say to yourself, ‘This is going to hurt’.
McCarron said the pain is worse on woods and long irons.
“The longer the club the harder it is,” McCarron said. “The harder you swing the more stress it put on the thumb.”
McCarron is always a sentimental favorite because he lived part time in the area for many years. In 2004, he was involved in a four-way playoff at the RTO with eventual winner Vaughn Taylor, Steve Allan and Hunter Mahan.
The best pairing today is the 12:44 grouping off No. 1 with defending champion J.J. Henry, Stuart Appleby and Padraig Harrington, who made his first appearance at the RTO last year. Harrington has won three majors, including back-to-back British Open events.
Another group to watch is the 12:33 grouping off No. 1 that includes Mark Wilson, Aaron Baddeley and former champ John Rollins.
RTO alum loses in playoff
Spencer Levin, who has played three times in the RTO, is on the comeback trail.
Levin, who tore ligaments in his left thumb in October, has played the last two Web.com events. He lost in a one-hole playoff to Kevin Tway on Sunday. Levin shot a final-round 63 to force the playoff.
Levin will be on a medical exemption when the season gets under way.
News & notes
Shawn Stefani has withdrawn from the tournament and will be replaced by Jason Gore … The weather forecast for today’s opening round is a high of 80 degrees with winds at 5-10 mph in the morning and 15-25 mph after 2 p.m. … Canadian Mike Weir’s group was a runaway winner in the pro-am. The group carded a 23-under 49. Bryce Molder’s group was second at 57, while Trevor Immelman’s group was third at 58 and Tim Petrovic’s group was fourth at 59.