By Dan Hinxman
Courtesy of RGJ.com
One of the most impressive fields the Reno-Tahoe Open has ever assembled is ready to attack Montreux Golf and Country Club today, and the new-look course is set up for low scores before the weekend is through.
That is if the Washoe zephyrs don’t wreak a little havoc.
Most of the PGA Tour golfers have said this week that Montreux is in as good of shape as it has been in its 13 years of hosting the $3 million tournament. An especially wet winter and a recent couple of thunderstorms have combined to make the course softer than usual, but winds that could gust as high as 25 to 30 mph today and Friday might neutralize any advantage the players would have to fire at pins.
"The golf course is in great shape," former Wolf Pack golfer Rich Barcelo said. "It’s softer than I’ve seen it in past years. It’s really soft. It should dry out come Friday or Saturday."
Bill Lunde called the fairways "phenomenal" and said they’re the best players see on tour.
Tournament host Scott McCarron, who finished tied for second in a playoff here in 2004, said the tournament has pulled off a golfing exacta: The field — which includes major winners John Daly, Lee Janzen, David Duval, Jose Maria Olazabal and six other major winners — is the best in tournament history and the course is in the best shape in tournament history.
"It’s just amazing," he said. "It just seems like this golf tournament has so much more energy now, and it’s just been gaining and gaining."
Players will go off both the first and 10th tees beginning at 7 a.m. The winner of the 72-hole tournament on Sunday will receive $540,000 and a two-year exemption on tour.
Players won’t notice the biggest change at Montreux this year until the weekend, when the tournament cuts to the top 70 players and ties, and every player begins his round from the No. 1 tee.
The RTO switched the nines this year, aligning the tournament with how course architect Jack Nicklaus intended it and how the members play it. It will now finish on the 616-yard, par-5 whose green is guarded by a lake to the right. Players called it a great risk-reward hole that can yield anything from an eagle to a double-bogey.
And before that, they must navigate the 464-yard, par-4 17th and the 220-yard par-3 16th, which respectively have played as the toughest and second toughest holes in RTO history.
"(No. 17) is probably one of the most intimidating tee shots we play all year on tour," said Matt Bettencourt, a Modesto, Calif., native who got his first PGA Tour win at the RTO last year. " … A lot more can happen on these last three finishing holes. You can see a 3- to 5-shot swing without question."