Four past champs in RTO field
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – Four defending champions, the highest amount ever, are in the 132-man field for the 8th annual Reno Tahoe Open which gets under way today at Montreux Golf & Country Club.
Tee times begin at 7 a.m. for the morning group and noon for the afternoon groups.
Notah Begay III (1999), John Cook (2001), Chris Riley (2002) and former Nevada star Kirk Triplett (2003) are past champions. Vaughn Taylor, the defending two-time RTO champion, qualified for this year’s Ryder Cup and will be playing at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational this week.
Riley is back for the first time since winning the 2002 event. He hasn’t finished in the top-10 since he tied for fourth at the 2004 PGA Championship, and that’s because he and his wife, Michelle, are the parents of two small children, and he’s playing less tournaments.
Riley is the fourth-leading money winner in tournament history with $600,420. This is a course he likes and plays well on.
“I always enjoy coming here,” Riley said. “It’s close to home (Riley went to UNLV). They set it up very fair, and hopefully I can make a lot of birdies.”
Jonathan Kaye is the second-leading money winner in RTO history thanks to runner-up finishes in 2002 (to Riley) and last year (Vaughn Taylor).
Triplett is currently 87th on the money list with $760,201, most of that coming when he fired a final-round 63 to win the Chrysler Classic. His final-round 63 equaled what he did in 2003 here at Montreux.
Cook is currently 115th on the money list at $539,130 in 16 events. He tied for third at the FedEx St. Jude Classic, which earned him $301,000. He has two top-25 finishes – the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and the Chrysler Classic in Tucson.
Begay, who is playing on a past-champion exemption, has made just two cuts in eight events. He finished ninth at the Buick Open, earning $101,000. He is currently 205th on the money list.
Two guys to keep an eye on are Woody Austin and Shaun Micheel. They are the leading money winners in this year’s field.
Micheel, who finished second at last week’s PGA Championship, is 47th with $1,298,439. Austin has finished tied for sixth (U.S. Bank), tied for seventh (Buick Open) and tied for 16th (PGA) in the last three weeks, catapulting him up to 57th on the money list
Micheel, who won the 2003 PGA Championship for his first tour title, withdrew from the pro-am on Wednesday. A tour official said “Micheel felt sluggish.”
David Duval, whose best finish this year was a tie for 16th at the U.S. Open, withdrew from the RTO early Wednesday morning.
Tournament officials said they were given no reason for Duval’s withdrawal.
Steve Pate took Duval’s place in the tournament.
Six alternates have gotten into the tournament – Guy Boros, Spike McRoy, Jim Carter, Mike Springer, Robin Freeman and Pate.
STATS & FACTS
The toughest fairways to hit at Montreux Golf & Country Club are the par-4 464-yard 8th hole where only 71 percent of the golfers hit the fairway. The second-toughest is the 439-yard par-4 6th which is hit 74 percent of the time. The 367-yard par-4 5th is hit 74 percent of the time.
The toughest green to hit is the 220-yard par-3 7th where only 42 percent of drives land on the putting surface. The second-toughest is the 186-yard par-3 12th where only 44 percent of drives settle on the green. The green at the 491-yard par-4 14th is reached 47 percent of the time.
It’s been tough to get close to the pin on the par-3s at Montreux.
On the 186-yard 7th, the average distance is 37-feet 3-inches from the cup and there were 42 birdies last year. On the 183-yard 16th, the average distance is 32-9 and there were 48 birdies made. On No. 12, the average distance is 29-9 away and there were 67 birdies. On No. 2, a 171-yard par-3, the average distance is 24-9 and there were 63 birdies.
The 616-yard par-5 9th played at a 5.45 average, tying for second-toughest on tour with the par-5 523-yard 13th at TPC-River Highlands.
Not surprisingly, 46.1 percent of the drives at Montreux in 2005 went more than 300 yards, tops on the tour. Players hit the fairways 78.8 percent of the time last year, second-best among the tour stops.
John Engler Jr. and B.J. Staten, both left-handers, are in the field. A story in Wednesday’s Appeal said there were only three left-handers. There are five in the tournament.
•Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal..com or 881-1281