Oh Really - Its Riley


Chris Riley turned out to be the lucky one in Nevada this week as he came from behind to force a playoff, and then won it on the first extra hole against a disappointed Jonathan Kaye.
In the biggest little city in America, Reno, Riley's victory earned him a cool $540,000 in the biggest little event on the PGA Tour this week, the Reno-Tahoe Open.
While the big guns were playing in the WGC-NEC, Riley's victory should come as no suprise. He came into the week as the top-ranked player in the field (54th) and he was also the highest on the money list (29th).
Pulling away from the rest of the field early, Kaye and Riley, playing together in the final group, battled down the stretch, each looking to grab their first-ever PGA Tour victory.
Kaye was up two strokes after the 14th, but a birdie by Riley, his sixth on the day, cut the lead to just one.
After both made pars on the par-3 16th, Kaye bogeyed the par-5 17th as Riley made par, and the match was all square heading to 18. A couple of pars on the 18th then sent the match to a sudden-death playoff.
Having had his worst day of the tournament in finding the fairway, coupled with giving away the lead on 17, Kaye proceded to drive into the rough, as Riley was safely on the short grass with his tee shot.
Hitting his second shot into the greenside bunker, Kaye then blasted out to six feet. Riley's second found the green, and from 14 feet lagged to within six inches for a tap-in par, setting up a must make for Kaye.
In what must have added insult to injury, Kaye's putt started to disappear only to have momentum - which ironically he had lost - bring it back out of the hole for a lipout bogey and a heart-breaking loss.
'It was in the heart of the cup with three inches to go,' said Kaye, 32. 'I hit a good putt but it just wasn't meant to be. The golf gods weren't with me today.'
For Riley, it was the perfect ending to a summer that saw him come alive on the PGA Tour. Having posted two top-5 finishes in July, a respectable tie for 14th at the International, Riley seemed to find his game peaking at just the right time.
He quietly - if that's possible - came in third at last week's PGA Championship, and came to Reno with a lot of newfound confidence. That, and the fact that on paper he was the top player in the field, made his victory seem not quite so lucky after all.

'This is something you dream about,' said Riley, a Las Vegas resident who was a four-time All-American at UNLV. 'The state of Nevada, I felt them pulling for me all week. It was a great match today. We were back and forth. I really never had the lead until the end.'
Finishing in a tie for third was first-round leader Charles Howell III. Following a pair of 1-over-par 73s in Rounds 2 and 3, Howell fired a tournament low 64 on Sunday to share the honors with J.J. Henry, who shot a closing 68 to come in at 13-under for the week.
Brian Gay finished fifth at 12-under, followed by a group of four golfers, including third round co-leader Steve Flesch, a stroke back at 11-under.

Full-field scores from Reno-Tahoe Open