In the Flesch: RTO leader one up at 63 | NevadaAppeal.com
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In the Flesch: RTO leader one up at 63

In the Flesch: Leader one up at 63

BY DARRELL MOODY

Appeal Sports Writer

RENO – Steve Flesch said it was the best round of golf he’s played in five years.

“If there was ever a day I could shoot 59, it would have been today,” said Flesch after his 9-under-par 63 vaulted him into the first-round lead at the 9th annual Reno-Tahoe Open Thursday at Montreux Golf & Country Club.

“I’m certainly not complaining,” added the left-handed Flesch. “That’s the best I’ve hit it in five years. Every hole I had a chance for a birdie. I missed two putts of under 5 feet for birdie.”

Flesch, who had five birdies and two eagles, has a one-shot lead over Jose Coceros, whose first-round 64 was highlighted by a hole-in-one on the 220-yard par-3 7th. Steve Allan, who lost in a four-way playoff in 2004, is tied for third with John Merrick at 7-under-par 65.

Defending champion Will MacKenzie, Jason Gore and Charlie Wi are a stroke back at 66, and Paul Gow, Corey Pavin, Lucas Glover, Kent Jones, Mathias Gronberg, Brendon de Jonge, Jarrod Lyle and Jason Dufner are another stroke back at 67. Eleven other golfers were at 4-under 68. All told, 77 players shot 71 or better.

Flesch hit 13 of 14 fairways and 17 of 18 greens in regulation. He needed 28 putts, an average of 1.55 per hole.

After parring the first hole, Flesch, who was one stroke shy of the course record, drained birdie putts of 5 and 7 feet, respectively, on the next two holes. On the par-5 518-yard fourth hole, Flesch flushed a 304-yard drive down the left side of the fairway and then launched a 4-iron to within 18 feet and drained the putt to quickly go 4-under par.

He banged in a 9-footer at No. 6 and an 8-footer at No. 8 to finish the front side at 6-under-par 30. He improved to 8-under with an eagle at the par-5 584-yard 11th. Flesch drove it 303 yards off the tee and then hit a 3-wood 285 yards to within 10 feet and dropped in the putt. He parred the next six holes before making birdie on the 616-yard par-5 9th. Flesch is the 21st player in PGA history to record two eagles in the same round.

“I’ve played well lately,” Flesch said. “I made a few equipment changes that paid off and now I’m just kind of getting comfortable with it all. Different ball, different shoes, different irons, different iron shafts and different rescue club. Other than that no changes.

“Cleveland came out with their model red CG irons, and man, they feel good. Ever since I put them in three weeks ago, I feel great. I’m just getting comfortable with them week in and week out. I tried a lot of balls and found one that suits me.”

Flesch’s success isn’t surprising. He has three top-10 finishes here, the last coming in 2002 when he tied for sixth. He was asked what he liked about Montreux.

“Everything,” Flesch said. “I still get confused on the greens with the break coming off the mountain. That got me a couple of times today, what I saw and what actually happened.

“I’m comfortable here. I’ve kind of always played Nicklaus courses well. My favorite Nicklaus course is probably English Turn at New Orleans where I had my first win. That’s a toned down Nicklaus course and this is a toned down Nicklaus course.

“There are not super-huge undulations in the greens. The bunkers are deep, but they’re not ridiculous. There is plenty of driving area out there. There is more room than it looks out there. There are two or three drives that I’m not comfortable with, but I hit them well today.”

The ace by Coceres was the eighth in tournament history, and the second at the difficult 220-yard 7th. Coceres played is final nine holes (the front side for him) in 6-under par.

“I’m very happy for today, for my score,” Coceres said. “I’m very happy for the hole-in-one. I hit a 6-iron straight at the hole, and I was very lucky that it wound up in the hole.

“I was relaxed while preparing this week (in Argentina). I would like to play good here and prepare for next week, and maybe move up in the world rankings. I’m very happy for my golf today.”

Allan registered eight birdies and just one bogey. He needed 25 putts, an average of 1.38 per hole.

“I hit the ball good on the back,” said Allan. “It (the course) is a little soft. The greens aren’t as firm or fast. A couple of holes are a little longer. That can change as the week goes on.”

Allan had birdies Nos. 3, 4 and 9 en route to a 33 on the front side. He dropped a stroke with a bogey on No. 10, but drained a 3-foot birdie putt at the 355-yard 13th and a 9-footer at No. 15 to get to 5-under-par. He finished the round with a 12-footer at the 186-yard par-3 16th and a 5-footer at the 429-yard par-4.

Merrick played the back nine in 4-under 32, and had it not been for two short missed putts would have shot a 64 or 63.

“I can’t complain,” Merrick said. “I holed a couple of chips today and made some other putts. I hit it good the last couple of months. I just didn’t make any putts, and today some finally went in. I missed a couple, but I made my fair share.”

MacKenzie got off to a quick start with three straight birdies, sinking putts of 15, 18 and 16 feet, respectively.

“That was a good start,” MacKenzie said. “My short game bailed me out at times (on 12 and 14).”

After two pars, he dropped back to 2-under when he three-putted No. 6. After two pars, he finished off by two-putting for birdie from 58 feet on the par-5 9th.

MacKenzie birdied the par-5 11th thanks to a chip that landed 2 feet from the pin. The defending champ strung together three straight pars before making a 4-foot birdie putt on the par-4 15th.

MacKenzie said he’s still bothered by neck pain, and was hoping to have it worked on by a massage therapist.

“It’s about 30 percent,” MacKenzie said. “I’ve had a knot there for a long time. Every now and then it shoots into my neck.”

Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281.