Montreux’s difficult No. 8 awaits another invasion of PGA players
The annual PGA invasion of Reno is under way, as practice rounds for the 12th annual Reno-Tahoe Open at Montreux Country Club are already taking place.
When competition starts Thursday morning, the tournament field takes on the undaunting task of mastering the 464-yard par-4 8th hole, which seven times of the past 11 tournaments, has been the toughest hole on the course – 2001 (4.265), 2002 (4.288), 2003 (4.225), 2004 (4.332), 2006 (4.186), 2008 (4.297) and 2009 (4.219).
Protected by the Galena Creek on the left and towering pines on the right, the hole is truly pleasing on the eye. If you’re a golfer, you probably get a headache. In four rounds in 2009, there were only 53 birdies. There were 92 bogeys and 22 double-bogeys.
The eighth tee is 138 feet above the fairway. It might be the only hole on the PGA Tour where you could cross the fairway and the golfers can’t see you.
The strategy is to be as long as possible off the tee so you can hit a shorter shot (wedge or 9-iron) into a green protected by two deep bunkers on the left. It’s one of the narrowest greens on the course.
In 2004 when No. 8 played to a 4.332, it was ranked the 22nd toughest hole on the PGA Tour that year. It’s the only time a hole at Montreux has been ranked in the PGA’s top-25 list, In 2000, when the hole played to a 4.330, it was ranked 31st.
For the first time in tournament history, the RTO coincides with the British Open.
That doesn’t hurt the RTO as much as you would think. In years past, the top players would have been at the World Golf Championship where the top players had to attend based on their ranking.
The top-ranked players still are going to play in the bigger tournament, especially if it’s a major.
One of the new faces in the field is Stuart Appleby, who was in a four-way playoff for the 2002 British Open crown.
There are seven past champions in the field this week – John Rollins (2009), Notah Begay III (1999), Steve Flesch (2007), Parker McLachlin (2008), Vaughn Taylor (2004-2005), Chris Riley (2002) and Kirk Triplett, former University of Nevada star (2003).
Taylor is the only two-time winner in the field. He’s played in the tournament three times and won $1,110,850. He is currently ranked 37th in the FedEx Cup standings.
Two former PGA champions are in the field – Mark Brooks (1996 at Valhalla GC) and Shaun Micheel (2003, Oak Hill CC).
Another top player in the field is London-born Brian Davis, who is 33 in the FedEx standings. Davis has two top 10s in three RTO appearances. He received a lot of media attention this year when he called a penalty stroke on himself at the Verizon Heritage, which cause him to forfeit the hole during a playoff with Jim Furyk.