RENO, Nev. (AP) — Charley Hoffman, Kevin Na, Andres Romero and Greg Chalmers are among those hoping to take advantage of the absence of Tiger Woods and the world’s top golfers by using this week’s Legends Reno-Tahoe Open to move up the PGA Tour money list and the FedEx Cup standings.
Paired opposite the World Golf Championship event at the $8.5 million Bridgestone Invitational in Ohio, the Reno tourney beginning Thursday offers only a $3 million purse but boasts one of its strongest fields in its 11 years partly because of the race for the FedEx Cup, players and tourney officials agree.
“Typically this tournament provides an opportunity for someone to either get their career back on track, or someone who has never won before or a young guy to come out and do something crazy and have their first win,” said Chalmers, an Australian who finished tied for second behind Woods at last weekend’s Buick Open outside Detroit.
Past champions Scott Verplank (2000), John Cook (2001), Kirk Triplett (2003) and Steve Flesch (2007) all had long winless streaks before their victories in Reno.
Defending champ Parker McLachlin, Notah Begay III, Chris Riley, Vaughn Taylor and Will MacKenzie all claimed their first PGA tour victories at the 7,472-yard Montreux Golf and Country Club that winds through towering pines and mountain streams on the edge of the Sierra.
Taylor, the tourney’s only two-time winner who posted his best finish of the season with a tie for eighth at the Buick last week, is back again along with Triplett, Flesch, McLachlin, Riley and MacKenzie.
Chalmers, who has four other Top 20 finishes this year, was the only one to shoot all four rounds in the 60s last week. His second-place finish vaulted him from 122nd to 77th in the FedEx Cup standings.
Only the top 125 qualify for the PGA Tour Playoffs with only next week’s PGA Championship and the Wyndham Championship remaining before they begin with The Barclays. The field then is cut to 70 and finally 30 for the season-ending Tour Players Championship.
“It’s certainly coming down to the business end of the season,” Chalmers said. “Last week has catapulted me into a spot where I have an opportunity, if I play well, to achieve a lot of things that could be really exciting.”
“Getting into that Top 70 in the FedEx Cup would be a start. That would get me into some more events. That is a big part of the reason I’m here this week … There’s an awful lot on the table to play well this week.”
McLachlin, who tied the course record last year with a second-round 62, credited his victory partly to the fact he already had secured his place on the tour for the next season.
“I came here with the sole intention of trying to get my first win. I wasn’t looking to just go out and make another cut and make another check,” he said. He thinks Na might be in a similar position this year.
“It’s kind of that Vegas mentality, Reno mentality – go for broke. Just roll the dice and push it as hard as you can until she bucks you,” McLachlin said. “I think when guys are coming here, they’ve maybe played well all year and they’re coming here thinking, ‘OK, maybe this is my golden opportunity to get that first win.”‘
Hoffman and Na both have 10 finishes in the Top 25 on tour this year. Hoffman, who tied for second at the FBR Open, is 21st in the FedEx standings and 29th on the tour money list with $1.6 million. Na, who was third at the FBR Open and tied for third at The Players Championship, is 22nd in the FedEx and 20th on the money list with just over $2 million.
John Rollins, who is 32nd on the PGA money list with $1.6 million, Nathan Green, Mark Wilson, Ben Crane, Briny Baird, John Merrick and Charlie Wi are in the Top 50 of the FedEx standings and another 32 golfers at Reno this week are in the Top 125.
Rich Barcelo, who after 10 years of playing claimed his first victory on the Nationwide Tour last month at the Cox Classic in Omaha, is a native of Reno and one of four former Nevada Wolf Pack golfers in the field along with Triplett, Wi and Michael Allen.
“I think word is getting out that this is a great tournament,” said Barcelo, who is seventh on the Nationwide Tour money list with $198,649.
Tournament director Michael Stearns said this year’s field has a combined 146 career victories on tour compared to past years when that total was around 120.
“That’s a great indication of how strong the field is,” said Stearns, who credits the pursuit of the FedEx Cup for the tourney’s increased popularity.
“It is finally doing what it was designed to do, which is make the field more competitive and make more players play more. If you are not at the WGC in Ohio, you are here.”
Crane has the highest World Golf Ranking in the field at No. 65, followed by Romero (69), Na (73) and Aaron Baddeley (75). Romero, a 28-year-old Argentinian, tied for third at the Northern Trust Open and tied for 13th at the British Open last month.
Five PGA Championship winners are in the field – Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger, Steve Elkington, Rich Beem, Mark Brooks and Shaun Micheel.