Bettencourt looking to defend at Reno-Tahoe Open

By Associated PressAugust 4, 2011, 1:26 am

RENO, Nev. – For the first time in its 13-year history, the Reno-Tahoe Open will be played this week the way Jack Nicklaus originally designed the course at Montreux Golf & Country Club and defending champ Matt Bettencourt says it should make for an exciting finish on the 616-yard, par-5 18th.

By flipping the order of play of the front and back nine, even a five-stroke lead might not be safe come Sunday as the leaders head for the final three holes of the 7,472-yard mountain course lined with towering pines on the edge of the Sierra Nevada.

“A lot more can happen on these last three finishing holes,” Bettencourt said. “I think it’s definitely going to provide a great finish on 18.”

“It’s just a great risk-reward hole,” he said. “You can see a three to five shot swing without question.”

Bettencourt had three eagles during the tourney last year enroute to becoming the seventh player on tour to claim his first victory at the course that sits at an elevation of about 5,500 feet on the side of Mount Rose about 20 miles from Lake Tahoe.

Other past Reno winners in this week’s field are Steve Flesch, Will Mackenzie, Parker McLachlin, Chris Riley, Kirk Triplett and Vaughn Taylor, who did it back-to-back in 2004-05.

The biggest names in golf are missing because they are playing this week at the World Golf Championship’s Bridgetone Invitational in Ohio.

But nine former champions of majors are among those chasing the $3 million purse in Reno – Ben Curtis, Rich Beem, David Duval, Steve Elkington, Lee Janzen, Justin Leonard, Shaun Micheel, Jose Maria Olazabal and John Daly.

Others competing include Boo Weekley, Chris DiMarco, Rocco Mediate,Tim Herron, Jason Bohn, Paul Goydos and Cameron Beckman.

“It’s the best field we’ve ever had here. There’s no question,” said Scott McCarron, who has been a member at Montreux for 10 years and is in his second year serving as the tournament’s official host. “And the golf course itself, honestly, is in the best shape I’ve ever seen it.”

Leonard, who won the British Open in 1997, is back at Reno for the first time since he tied for fifth in 2001. The last of his 12 career victories came three years ago at the Stanford St. Jude Championship.

“Such a beautiful place,” he said after playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. “Great golf course and good people out here. It’s nice to be back.”

This year for the first time, instead of closing with a pedestrian par 4 on the flattest part of the course, players will have to decide whether it’s worth the risk to try to reach the new downhill 18th in two shots.

“I think it’s cool,” said Duvall, the 2001 British Open champ whose 13 career wins are the most of anyone in the field. “It’s a nice place to finish.”

Doing so will require avoiding not only the pond in front of the green but trouble on the left side of the fairway where the Douglas firs and Jeffery pines are known for knocking drives into a sagebrush-filled waste area.

“Anything can happen,” McCarron said. “You’re going to see guys making 3s and guys making 7.”

“So you could have a guy that’s four or five back with three holes to go who can win by two. Unfortunately, you’ll probably see some train wrecks coming down there too. Hopefully I won’t be one of them. But you’ll see a lot of lead changes and the whole bit with three holes to go.”

McCarron said they’ve wanted to make the change for years to play the tournament the way Nicklaus designed and members play Montreux, with the 220-yard par-3 16th and 464-yard par-4 17th rated the two toughest holes on the course.

“For a tour player,” McCarron, the old No. 18 “is not much of a hole – driver-wedge.”

To the contrary, the 17th is Montreux’s signature hole, dropping 138 feet from an elevated tee to a well-bunkered green and a creek running through the narrow fairway.

“It’s probably one of the hardest par 4s we’ll play on tour all year,” McCarron said. “It’s one of the toughest driving holes. And then you even have a short iron there, an 8 iron to a wedge, and it’s probably one of the hardest second shots we’ll play all year. I mean, it really is.”

Bettencourt said that for him, the only tee shot on tour more “intimidating” than Montreux’s 17th is No. 18 at Quail Hollow.

“You just have to be very precise,” he said. “When Jack built the hole he basically said, if you want to have a short iron (into the green) you need to hit it further off the tee.”

“It’s just a great hole,” he said. “And 16 is a phenomenal par 3.”

Bettencourt grew up about three hours away in Modesto, Calif.

“I have a bunch of buddies that live in the area so it’s kind of like coming home,” he said. “It’s been an awesome ride. I love being the Reno-Tahoe Open champion.”

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Woods on firing shot into crowd: 'I kept moving them back'

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 3:14 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – It added up to another even-par round, but Tiger Woods had an eventful Friday at The Open.

His adventure started on the second hole, when he wiped a drive into the right rough. Standing awkwardly on the side of a mound, he prepared for a quick hook but instead fired one into the crowd that was hovering near the rope line.

“I kept moving them back,” he said. “I moved them back about 40 yards. I was trying to play for the grass to wrap the shaft around there and hit it left, and I was just trying to hold the face open as much as I possibly could. It grabbed the shaft and smothered it.

“I was very, very fortunate that I got far enough down there where I had a full wedge into the green.”

Woods bogeyed the hole, one of four on the day, and carded four birdies in his round of 71 at Carnoustie. When he walked off the course, he was in a tie for 30th, six shots off the clubhouse lead.

It’s the first time in five years – since the 2013 Open – that Woods has opened a major with consecutive rounds of par or better. He went on to tie for sixth that year at Muirfield.

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 2:30 pm

Tiger Woods shot his second consecutive 70 on Friday at Carnoustie and enters weekend play at even par for the championship, still in contention for major No. 15.

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Scott and Sunesson a one-week partnership

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 2:13 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Adam Scott has been in between caddies for the last month and went with a bold stand-in for this week’s Open Championship, coaxing veteran looper Fanny Sunesson out of retirement to work for him at Carnoustie.

Sunesson caddied for Nick Faldo in his prime, as the duo won four major titles together. She also worked for Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia before a back injury forced her to retire.

But for this week’s championship, Scott convinced the Swede to return to the caddie corps. The results have been impressive, with the Australian following an opening 71 with a second-round 70 for a tie for 16th place.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“It's been going great. Fanny is, obviously, a fantastic caddie, and to be able to have that experience out there with me is certainly comforting,” Scott said. “We've gotten along really well. She's picked up on my game quickly, and I think we think about things in a very similar way.”

Scott was also asked about a potential long-term partnership between the duo, but he didn’t sound hopeful.

“It's just for this week,” he said. “It would be up to her, but I don't think she's making plans of a comeback. I was being a bit opportunistic in contacting her and coaxing her out of retirement, I guess. But I think she's having a good week. We'll just take it one week at the moment.”

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After tense Augusta Sunday, Rory ready to be aggressive

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 1:51 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy temporarily lost his superpowers during the Masters.  

In one of the most surprising rounds of the year, he played tentatively and carefully during the final day. Squaring off against the major-less Patrick Reed, on the brink of history, with the backing of nearly the entire crowd, it was McIlroy who shrank in the moment, who looked like the one searching for validation. He shot a joyless 74 and wound up six shots behind Reed.

No, the final round was nowhere near as dispiriting as the finale in 2011, but McIlroy still sulked the following week. He binge-watched TV shows. Devoured a few books. Guzzled a couple of bottles of wine. His pity party lasted a few days, until his wife, Erica, finally dragged him out of the house for a walk.

Some deeper introspection was required, and McIlroy revealed a healthier self-analysis Friday at Carnoustie. He diagnosed what went wrong at Augusta, and then again two months later at the U.S. Open, where he blew himself out of the tournament with an opening 80.

“I was worrying too much about the result, not focusing on the process,” he said. “Sunday at Augusta was a big learning curve for me because, even if I hadn’t won that tournament, but I went down swinging and aggressive and committing to every shot, I would have walked away a lot happier.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

And so McIlroy has a new mantra this week at The Open.

Let it go.

Don’t hold back. Don’t worry about the repercussions. Don’t play scared.

“I’m committed to making sure, even if I don’t play my best golf and don’t shoot the scores I want, I’m going to go down swinging, and I’m going to go down giving my best,” he said. “The result is the byproduct of all the little things you do to lead up to that. Sometimes I’ve forgotten that, and I just need to get back in that mindset.”

It’s worked through two rounds, even after the cool, damp conditions led McIlroy to abandon his ultra-aggressive strategy. He offset a few mistakes with four birdies, shooting a second consecutive 69 to sit just a couple of shots off the lead.

During a sun-splashed first round, McIlroy gleefully banged driver on almost every hole, flying or skirting the bunkers that dot these baked-out, undulating fairways. He wasn’t particularly accurate, but he also didn’t need to be, as the thin, wispy rough enabled every player to at least advance their approach shots near the green.

Friday’s weather presented a different challenge. A steady morning rain took some of the fire out of parched fairways, but the cooler temperatures also reduced much of the bombers’ hang time. Suddenly, all of the bunkers were in play, and McIlroy needed to adjust his driver-heavy approach (he hit only six) on the fly.

“It just wasn’t worth it,” he said.

McIlroy hit a few “skanky” shots, in his words, but even his bigger misses – on the sixth and 17th holes – were on the proper side, allowing him to scramble for par and keep the round going.

It’s the fifth time in his career that he’s opened a major with back-to-back rounds in the 60s. He’s gone on to win three of the previous four – the lone exception that disastrous final round (80) at Augusta in 2011.

“I don’t want to say easy,” he said, “but it’s felt comfortable.”

The weekend gets uncomfortable for everyone, apparently even four-time major winners who, when in form, ooze confidence and swagger.

Once again McIlroy has that look at a major.

The only thing left to do?

Let it go.