Henry surges to front of RTO | NevadaAppeal.com

Henry surges to front of RTO

RENO – J.J. Henry said past success is a big reason why he’s at the top of the leaderboard at the 14th annual Reno-Tahoe Open.

Henry, on the strength of five birdies and an eagle, scored 14 points Saturday and is the 54-hole leader with 36 points.

Alexandre Rocha, the 36-hole leader, added nine points and sits at 33, three points behind Henry. John Mallinger scored 12 points and sits alone in third place at 32. Andres Romero put up 10 points and is at 31. Tied for fifth are Bill Lunde, Gary Christian and John Daly, all with 28. Justin Leonard, who enjoyed an 11-point day, is eighth at 26.

It sets up an exciting finish, especially in a modified Stableford scoring system, where anybody within 10 points still is in the running. The first tee time is 8:20 a.m. today with the leaders going off at 1:40 p.m.

Henry has improved each day, scoring 10, 12 and 14 points respectively.

“Obviously, I’ve played here for many years,” Henry said. “I feel pretty familiar and confident on the golf course. You kind of pick your spots. You know what you have to do off the tees.

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“I’ve been playing steady golf. I’m not necessarily trying to overpower the golf course. I think it’s important you keep the ball in play and then kind of set yourself up for second shots. They had the tee up on 14, which was great. It was good to see the tee up there. I hit one just left and chipped it in (for eagle).”

The eagle was Henry’s third of the tournament, and when you consider he only leads Rocha by three points and Daly by eight, those three shots are huge.

“Obviously I’m very happy with the position I’m in,” Henry said. “I look forward to the challenge and kind of fun and excitement especially in this format. You really don’t know what to expect.

“If you’re playing medal play and you had a couple-shot lead, maybe you’d play differently, I don’t know. I don’t necessarily plan on changing the way I’m playing because obviously I’m doing something right the first three days. Hopefully I’ll continue to put the ball in play and make an occasional putt.”

Henry, who thought 40 would be enough to win, said that he’s shooting for another double-digit day.

“That means somebody would have to play darn good to come from behind to beat me,” Henry said. “I guess you’ll probably look at the board a little bit more normal just for the fact that if somebody makes an eagle you can pass a lot of guys.”

Rocha, who has never been higher than third after any round in his career, said the advantage belongs to Henry.

“He knows what it takes to close out a deal and obviously I don’t,” said Rocha, who recorded five birdies and a bogey. “So right off the bat it’s his advantage. I think it would be a mistake to pay attention to J.J. I think it would be a mistake to get over aggressive. I’m going to play the golf course exactly as I have.

“We can’t forget the rest of the field that’s behind us and very close. I mean because of the format you can have a guy make a couple of birdies and sneak in an eagle and suddenly there you go.”

Rocha was pleased with how he kept his emotions in check.

“I was pretty calm out there, which is encouraging for me because I’ve never really been in this position before,” the Brazilian-born Rocha said. “I was extremely happy to see that I reacted in a calm manner, and I was able to stay about my business.

“Midway through the round I started having a great time out there once the inevitable tension wore off. I didn’t take advantage of the par-5s today, I only made one birdie. I can’t complain after yesterday’s scoring bonanza (16 points).”

Rocha believes it may take 50 points to win the tournament, and he knows he’ll have to have another monster day to reach that unless Henry were to falter.

Mallinger, who recorded five birdies and no bogeys, will be looking for his first career win. He has two second-place finishes, and no doubt would like to get the monkey off his back.

Romero birdied Nos. 2, 6,12,13,14 and 18. His putts ranged from 2 feet on the par-5 2nd to 11 feet on No. 6.

Lunde tied Henry with the biggest point total of the day – 14. Christian used an eagle on the par-4 fourth to jump-start his round. He would go on to record three birdies and a bogey over his final 14 holes.

Daly, meanwhile, briefly enjoyed the lead after rolling in a 9-foot eagle putt to get to plus-29. However, he bogeyed the next three holes to go back to plus-26 before picking up two big points for his birdie on the 18th.

“I was going a little south there for a minute,” Daly said after his round. “But you know I didn’t really hit that many bad shots when I made those bogeys. I just shortsided myself.

“In this format, two of them (bogeys) could have easily been doubles (bogeys), and I actually played just trying for bogeys. The worst thing you can do is lose three points. I’m happy with those last two putts. I hit a better sand shot on No. 17 than it turned out. It just didn’t spin. Eighteen was big.”

On the par-5 18th, Daly’s second shot ended on the fringe. He chipped out to 7 feet and made the putt.

It’s been a while since Daly has been challenging for the title, but he said he didn’t feel uncomfortable.

“I was just playing,” he said. “I love this golf course. It just sets up (for me). This format sets up well for me and a guy like J.B. Holmes. When you attack pins and play aggressive, you’re going to shortside yourself which is totally understandable.

“My goal coming in was to make one eagle just to see what it feels like to get five points on one hole, and to average nine points. So far I’ve done it, nine points a day. I know there are guys better than that, but I’m accomplishing the goal I set for myself, at least for three days in a row. I’m accomplishing some short-term goals each day out there, and to me that’s good for me.”