Australian Nick O’Hern took advantage of calm morning conditions as one of the first players off the tee on Thursday to shoot a seven-under-par 65 and take a one-stroke lead over Chris Riley in the first round of the Reno-Tahoe Open.
“Can’t play much better than that,” said O’Hern, who made six of his seven birdies on putts from 10 feet or closer while posting the only bogey-free round of the day at the 7,472-yard Montreux Golf and Country Club.
“Missed a couple of putts, but every time I hit an ornery shot I got it up and down for par, so I kept the round going,” he said.
Riley, a former star from the nearby University of Nevada, Las Vegas, had one bogey in his round of six-under 66. He earned a spot on the President’s Cup team after his first tour victory at Reno in 2002, and is one of the seven past champions playing in the 13th year of the event on the mountain course designed by Jack Nicklaus.
Will MacKenzie, the 2006 champ, was another stroke back at 67 tied for third with Blake Adams and Briny Baird. Baird, who holed out from 100 yards for an eagle on the 584-yard, par-five second, was one of only two players among the top 20 on Thursday who teed off in the afternoon’s swirling winds.
“The strength of the wind wasn’t as bad as the direction of the wind,” Baird said. “It would be complete different directions from hole to hole, so that made it tough.”
Steve Flesch, who won in 2007, shot a 68 along with Shaun Micheel, Rod Pampling, Jay Williamson, Matt Jones, Ben Martin and Robert Garrigus. Garrigus also played in the afternoon.
Vaughn Taylor — the tournament’s only two-time winner in 2004 and 2005 — shot a 69. Kirk Triplett (2003) had a 70, Notah Begay III (1999) 71 and Parker McLachlin (2008) 74.
Defending champ Matt Bettencourt birdied two of his first four holes and was two-under par through six holes, before a rib injury forced him to withdraw.
Among other notable players, Justin Leonard and Scott McCarron shot 71; Rocco Mediate and Jose Maria Olazabal 72; John Daly 74 and David Duvall 78.
O’Hern, Riley and the majority of the players who fared best on Thursday were in early morning groups that had a clear advantage over those in the afternoon when scores averaged more than one-and-a-half-strokes higher.
The wind, combined with a number of elevation changes, makes it especially difficult to calculate distances where the ball travels up to 10 percent farther than at sea level at the tree-lined layout roughly 1,680m above sea level, in the shadow of 3,280m tall Mount Rose.