RTO lacking golf’s big guns | TahoeDailyTribune.com

RTO lacking golf’s big guns

Darrell Moody

Cathleen Allison/Tribune News Service Jose Maria Olazabal practices on the putting green at Montreux Golf and Country Club in preparation for the start of the Reno-Tahoe Open on Thursday.

RENO – One thing is certain, the sixth annual Reno-Tahoe Open will have a new champion this year.

Kirk Triplett, last year’s champion who shot a 17-under 271 at Montreux Golf & Country Club, won’t be back. Triplett, who played golf at the University of Nevada, has done well enough this year that he’ll be playing this week at the World Golf Championship-NEC Invitational in Akron, Ohio.

As always, because of where the Reno-Tahoe Open falls the PGA schedule, none of the biggest names in golf will be present.

Five players, including Tim Herron, last year’s second-place finisher decided to withdraw from the RTO. That leaves Ted Purdy, ranked 36th, as the top entrant. Briny Baird, Tom Pernice Jr., Bill Glasson and Bo Van Pelt also decided to withdraw this week from the $3 million dollar event.

“This is (still) a good field,” said Jim Kline, the tournament director. “It’s one of the better fields we’ve had. We’ve got guys coming back, or that have never been here before.”

Kline was referring to first-timers Steve Elkington, Jose Maria Olazabal and Mark Calcavecchia. John Cook, the 2001 champion, is back at the RTO.

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Elkington, who has won 10 times on the PGA Tour, won the Players Championship in 1998 by seven strokes. He’s also a two-time Mercedes champ. Calcavecchia, whose best finish this year was a ninth at the Ford Doral Open, is currently 99th on the money list. Olazabal, a two-time Masters champion, has two 12th-place finishes this year – at The International and the Buick Open.

“I played here a couple of years ago,” Elkington said before teeing off on the first hole Tuesday afternoon. “A friend of mine was doing a concert in town. I promised myself I would come back here and play.”

Elkington didn’t remember much about the course.

“I remember eight and nine being two great holes,” he said. “I’m a bit fuzzy about the back nine.

“I didn’t know they had this sort of countryside. This view is so good. I think this is an up-and-coming event. This is a lot like Castle Pines in Colorado.”

Cook, who is playing the season on a major medical exemption, has made seven cuts in 14 attempts. He is currently 171st on the money list. The 2001 RTO champ has 11 career PGA victories.

Other recognizable names are Corey Pavin, who is ranked 86th on the PGA money list, and Notah Begay III, who won the first event in 1999 is ranked 90th. Woody Austin is 91st in winnings.

“I love it (here),” Pavin said after a stint on the putting green. “The course looks good, the greens are rolling great and the fairways are wonderful. I like playing in altitude.”

Pavin, who had only two top-25 finishes last year and was 148th on the money list, has already won more than $600,000 this year. Pavin finished 65th a year ago.

“I’m playing better this year than in the past,” Pavin said. “My short game is in really good shape. I’ve been trying to work on my swing.”

Dennis Paulson (third last year), Harrison Frazar (fifth), Craig Barlow (sixth), J.P. Hayes (eighth), Kevin Sutherland (ninth) and Reno resident Scott McCarron (10th) are hoping to better their placement of a year ago.

The RTO File

When: Thursday through Sunday

Where: Montreux Golf & Country Club

Purse: $3,000,000

TV: Golf Channel 5 to 7:30 p.m. each day

Last year: Kirk Triplett shot a nine-under 63 to overtake third-round co-leaders Tim Herron and Craig Barlow for his second PGA Tour win.

Groups to watch Thursday: 7:31 a.m. (10th hole) – Peter Jacobsen, J.P. Hayes and Woody Austin. 7:31 a.m. (1st hole) – Dan Forsman, John Cook and Mark Brooks. 8:13 a.m. (1st hole) – Duffy Waldorf, David Edwards and Ted Purdy. 12:42 p.m. (10th tee) – Gene Sauers, Mark Calcavecchia and Steve Elkington.

Parking: $5. If you are coming from Carson City, turn left at Mt. Rose Highway and follow the signs.

Ticket prices: $16 Thursday and Friday, and $20 Saturday and Sunday