Rocha takes the lead at Reno-Tahoe Open
RENO – Alexandre Rocha used a blazing start to grab the second-round lead at the 14th annual Reno-Tahoe Open at Montreux Golf & Country Club.
Rocha, who chalked up 16 points on the day thanks to seven birdies and an eagle, has 24 points at the halfway mark, two more than John Mallinger and J.J. Henry. The first-round leader Andres Romero and Arjun Atwal are three back at 21. Former champ Matt Bettencourt is alone in sixth with 20 points.
John Daly is at 19 after a 9-point day, while J.B. Holmes, on the strength of a tournament-best 17 points Friday, is tied with Hunter Haas for eighth place at 18. John Merrick, Chris Kirk and Joe Durant are tied for 10th at 17 points.
A total of 70 players advance to today’s third round which starts at 8 a.m.
This is the best position Rocha has been in during his career. His previous best position after any round was a tie for third at the 2010 Honda Classic.
“I was fortunate today to get off to the hottest start I think I’ve ever had in my professional career,” Rocha said, referring to his three straight birdies and eagle on his first four holes. “It always helps to create momentum which is something I’ve been missing all year long. I think if you take a look at my stats it doesn’t have to be too much in depth and you realize I’ve struggled a lot this year.
“I haven’t played as bad as my stats would indicate. I’ve missed all the momentum-gathering strokes. I would miss a par-saving putt that would save a round or a birdie putt that would make me make the cut. Today it was nice to get it the other way around.”
Rocha hit 12-of-14 fairways and 14-of-18 greens, and he’s doing it with a different approach.
“It’s not so much a mental approach as it is a new way of playing golf,” Rocha said. “All my life I’ve been seeing my ball flight straight. As a kid, I used to pull my shots about 5-10 yards, but they looked straight in my eyes because I was aiming right and just didn’t know it.
“I had a consultation this week with Joseph Mayer, who they call the Maestro. He’s an unbelievably guy that deals with trackman data. From our session, I was able to learn the proper way, the most consistent and reliable way to hit curves from right to left and left to right. By creating a curve, I create a pattern of flight. I’m able to predict a landing zone and eliminate a two-way miss. I’ve been missing both right and left this year.”
Rocha, starting on No. 10, drained a 10-foot-putt on No. 10 to get to plus-10, and then drained another 10-footer for birdie on 177-yard par-3. On the par-4 12th, he hit his approach to 4 feet and made the putt. After a 300-yard drive on the par-5 13th, Rocha put his approach shot to 11 feet and made the putt to get to plus-19.
After a par at 1, Rocha knocked in a 13-footer for birdie on No. 2. After a bogey and par, he birdie the par-4 5th to get up to 22. He birdied the par-5 8th to get to 24 which was good enough for the lead.
“This is a very solid start, something that can’t be taken away from me,” Rocha said. “For some guys it’s routine. I’ve never done that before. This is one milestone I’ve achieved. So despite what happens this weekend going forward, nobody is going to take that away from me.”
Mallinger recorded six birdies and a bogey to chalk up his second consecutive 11-point day. His only bogey came on the par-4 15th which dropped him to a plus-20.
“I actually played solid the last two days,” Mallinger said. “This is a new format for me. I never played it before. I’m just trying to get used to it, getting the score out of my mind and playing golf. I think it’s actually helped me to have the scoring situation. I finally started to make some putts, which helped.”
Mallinger hit some solid approach shots to record birdies on Nos. 2, 6, 8, 12, 13 and 18. His birdie putts measured 4, 20, 5, 10 and 6-feet, respectively.
This isn’t the first time that Mallinger has challenged for the lead here.
“I was in contention I think three years ago,” Mallinger said. “I had the lead with about nine holes to go. I’m pretty comfortable up here. I’ve gotten used to the altitude and how far the ball is going.
“I’m just trying to keep the ball low and below the trees and hopefully just keep it right in front of you.”
Henry, who was unable to take advantage of a fast start on Thursday, started slow on Friday with back-to-back bogeys.
“I think I was still asleep,” Henry said. “I actually hit good drives but hit a couple of shaky approach shots that led to bogeys.
“I hit a great drive down 1 and just hit a wedge that just caught just right of the green and I didn’t get up and down. I hit a good drive on the second hole. There was a tree on the right side of the fairway. I kind of tried to hit something around the tree and it didn’t really work.”
After three straight pars, Henry birdied the par-4 6th and then holed out from the fringe on the par-5 8th for five points to get to plus-15. Henry hit a driver off the tee at 8, and then hit a 2-iron over 280 yards to the left fringe, setting up his 38-foot shot.
After a bogey on the par-4 9th that dropped him to plus-14, Henry birdie three of the next four holes to get to plus-20. After pars at Nos. 14, 15, 16 and 17, Henry drained a 12-foot birdie putt on No. 18 to get to plus-22 which was good for a share of the lead for a while.
Romero had six birdies and five bogeys en route to a 7-point day. He chalked up four points on the back nine (he started on No. 10) to get to plus-18. He holed out from a greenside bunker for birdie on No. 1 to get to plus-20, but gave back three points when he registered bogeys on Nos. 2,3 and 4. He birdied tow holes down the stretch to get into the fourth-place tie.
“I’m real happy for it,” said Romero through a translator. “I’m looking forward to the weekend.”
Atwal has had back-to-back 7-point days. Starting on the back nine, he registered four birdies and a bogey in his first nine holes. After getting to plus-18 thanks to birdies on Nos. 1 and 2, he double-bogeyed the par-3 third to fall back to plus-15. Birdies on Nos. 4 and 8 helped get him within three points of the lead.