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MacKenzie set to defend RTO championship

MacKenzie set to defend RTO title

BY DARRELL MOODY

Appeal Sports Writer

RENO – For just the second time in Reno-Tahoe Open history, the defending champion is back to defend his title.

Will MacKenzie, the one-time hammock salesman, cook, security guard, dishwasher and general all-around laid-back dude, is back at the scene of his first PGA Tour win.

“I do love it here,” MacKenzie said on the eve of the 9th annual RTO at Montreux Golf & Country Club. “This place is unbelievable. It’s nice to get out west. I’d heard they had huge fires out here. Fortunately Montreux was spared. It definitely has good vibes for me.

“There will definitely be some goosebumps. I’d like to play well. Being the defending champion, that comes with something. It would sure be nice to play well.”

If he doesn’t there are certainly a handful of players out there to keep him from defending his title, including Brian Gay, J.P. Hayes, Lucas Glover, Kevin Sutherland, Anthony Kim, Steve Marino, Chris Riley, former British Open champ Todd Hamilton and veteran Jeff Maggert, whose team shot 61 in the pro-am on Wednesday.

Riley has had two top-25 finishes in his last three starts. Hayes has an under-par average at Montreux and Sutherland had a top-10 finish at Milwaukee. The 22-year-old Kim is 36th in the FedExCup points chase.

MacKenzie is currently 77th in FedExCup points and 81st on the official money list. He’s made 14 of 22 cuts, including a fourth-place finish at the Mercedes Benz in January and an eighth-place finish at the St. Jude event. He also was 11th at The Memorial.

Other than that, MacKenzie has suffered through some spells of inconsistency during the season.

“I still go through my normal struggles, unfortunately, but I think that’s just sort of how my game is,” MacKenzie said. “I have no idea (where my game is). I took the week before Milwaukee off, then went to Milwaukee and started 70-64 before chopping it up on the weekend. I took Canada off, and now I’m just gearing up for a lot of golf.

“I can’t turn my neck to the left very well. I’ve got a major tweak in my neck that has been on and off. Hopefully I can get that worked on.”

Part of MacKenzie’s struggles could stem from his constant tinkering with his swing.

“I’m a fondler with my game,” MacKenzie said. “It seems like I play with Kenny Perry a lot and I wind up trying to swing like Kenny Perry, but it doesn’t work. I played well at Memorial and Memphis, and those weeks I was thinking about Stuart Appleby’s swing.

“I’m sure a lot of guys do that. I mean, shoot, why do guys buy Tiger (Woods’) book? To try to swing like Tiger. Same with Ben Hogan and his book. We look at them and see what they have is working. What they do well is better than what I do well. I constantly, sort of, look for stuff. It’s not always to my benefit. A lot of times you have to take a couple of steps back before you can take a couple forward.”

MacKenzie, who became a media darling last year, said that his life has changed a bit since his RTO victory.

“Well, I got into some better tournaments, got into some invitationals,” MacKenzie said. “It’s definitely not a chore (newfound fame). I want to be known out here, whether I have 10 fans or 1,000 fans. I love to see kids come up and say, ‘Willie Mac, what’s up bud? Good playing.’ Or, ‘You wanna go surfing?’

“Any of that stuff is really good to me, so I love it. Imagine trying to be one of the big boys. Tiger can’t go anywhere without talking to you guys (the media) 24/7. So I at least have a bit of anonymity.”

He bought a condo with his earnings and a little Audi sportscar. He said he’s looking for a supercharger to make it “an animal.” That’s MacKenzie. If it involves speed and adventure, chances are that he’s done it or will attempt it.

While MacKenzie isn’t quite sure where his golf game is, Glover’s is right where he wants it to be despite the fact that he doesn’t have a win to his credit this season.

Yet Glover is 10th in the President Cup standings, and he admitted that is uppermost in his mind.

“Absolutely,” he said. “Every year, starting out, that’s a goal of mine. We have the President’s Cup or the Ryder Cup every year, and my goal is to make those teams. I’m going to play as much as I can, and that’s why I played so much leading up to it.

“I took last week off. I was going to play in Canada if I didn’t get in the British, but I ended up getting in. That was my fourth in a row, so I sat out last week. I’m going to keep on playing until they tell me I can’t on the FedExCup from here on out.”

Glover has made the cut 15 of 20 times this season, and he finished 10th at the Buick Open, tied for 12th at the AT&T National and tied for 11th at the John Deere. He had a top-25 finish at the recently concluded British Open.

“I had four good weeks other than a bad Sunday at the British,” Glover said. “I played real well over there. The three weeks prior I was 10th, 11th, and 12th in some order. I had a good week of practice at home, so my game is shaping up.”

In his only other RTO experience, Glover finished in a tie for 40th at the 2004 event. He’s played two practice rounds this week.

“I think I made the cut,” Glover said. “After that, I don’t think it was so hot. I played yesterday (Tuesday) and just finished my pro-am today. The course is in great shape, but it’s not as windy as I remember it a few years back. It blew pretty hard then. There are some rough areas, but not anywhere your ball will go because of the heat and the softer conditions. “

Glover is a guy that likes to play a lot of golf, though he doesn’t play straight through the schedule like he used to do.

“Yeah, I play a lot,” Glover said. “I’ve averaged 31 events the past four years and I’ll probably play that many this year. My rookie year I played seven in a row. Now I play three or four in a row.

“Sometimes you’ve just got to take one off that you like, from a rest standpoint. We play a lot of good courses, some great ones, but eventually you have to take some time off so that you can rest.”