Riley Wants to Change Perception

RSS

Michelin Championship at Las VegasLAS VEGAS -- Chris Riley doesn't want to be known as the guy who was too tired to play.
 
Begging off an afternoon match in the Ryder Cup might have given Riley a label he'll have trouble shaking, though. He's already finding that out.
 
'I've got guys ribbing me in the locker room now,' Riley said, 'asking if I need to take a nap.'
 
Actually, Riley probably could use one. His infant daughter is just a month old, the Ryder Cup experience drained him, and he just returned to his adopted hometown from the American Express Championship in Ireland.
 
But Riley wasn't about to miss the Michelin Championship at Las Vegas, which begins Thursday on three local courses he knows very well.
 
'This is considered my hometown tournament,' Riley said. 'I know the courses and I'm excited. Plus my brother gets to work the bag.'
 
Riley, without a doubt the most excitable member of the U.S. Ryder Cup team that got pasted last month by Europe, should be patting himself on the back for a job well done at Oakland Hills. A rookie, he won 1 1/2 points in three matches.
 
But it was his reluctance to go out again with Tiger Woods in Saturday's foursomes when the Americans were staging a minor rally that drew captain Hal Sutton's ire and made Riley a focal point of the American defeat.
 
At least that's what Riley has been told. The affable 30-year-old, whose demeanor sometimes borders on goofy, has had a hard time realizing what a fuss he created.

'The president of the PGA called me a couple of times saying they were backing me 100 percent,' Riley said. 'I didn't even know what was going on.'
 
Riley was paired with Woods in the morning fourball and had just stiffed a shot on the 13th hole when Sutton came up and told him he'd better be prepared to team with Woods again in the afternoon matches.
 
Riley told Sutton he was wiped out from the combination of being a new father and being in his first Ryder Cup -- and maybe someone fresher could play.
 
'That's when he came up with his line that a 46-year-old fat man went five straight matches in 1999 so a 30-year-old flat-belly should be able to go four,' Riley said.
 
Riley's careful not to blame Sutton for the comment he later repeated to the media, or his decision to pair Woods with Davis Love III in a losing afternoon match. But Riley said he wasn't trying to get out of playing in the afternoon, just letting Sutton know he was tired.
 
'Looking back at it, I wish he had played Tiger and I in the alternate shot because it would have been a lot of fun,' Riley said. 'But being Ryder Cup captain is a thankless job.'

Winning the $4 million Vegas tournament would salvage a season that has been somewhat disappointing for Riley.
 
The tournament has a new sponsor, a new four-day format and a new course (Bear's Best) in the rotation. But Riley is hoping for one thing it rarely gets -- some wind -- to even things up with the big hitters who take advantage of easy desert conditions each year to post some of the lowest scores on tour.
 
Riley, who is 50th on the money list with about $1.2 million, is also looking for something new in himself -- a more competitive edge -- to help take his game to another level.

'It's not my personality to be one of those gung-ho competitors,' he said. 'But I'm trying to find that little extra to get me over the top.'
 
Riley was still suffering some effects of jet lag from his trip to Ireland on Tuesday when he helped host a junior clinic at the TPC Summerlin layout that is the main course for the tournament.
 
'If I had to tee it up tomorrow, I'd probably get tired,' he said with a laugh.
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - Michelin Championship at Las Vegas
  • Full Coverage - Michelin Championship at Las Vegas
     
    Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.