It's tough to compete with 150 years of history, but the Reno-Tahoe Open will give it a whirl this week. The tournament is being contested for the 12th time and is butting heads with the British Open. Not just the British Open, but the British Open at St. Andrews. It's sort of like playing one-on-one with Michael Jordan at the Dean Dome.
The Reno-Tahoe people are used to this. It's their first year in a new slot, which they inherited when the Greater Milwaukee Open lost its title sponsor and dropped off the schedule. So the Reno-Tahoe was moved up three weeks, where it had been the alternate event for the World Golf Championships- Bridgestone Invitational. That spot was the week prior to the PGA Championship.
It begs the question: Is it better to have a tournament the week before a major championship or the week of a major championship? Not that it matters. The Reno-Tahoe Open has assembled the best field possible and shouldn't have trouble producing another quality tournament.
"The WGC has a lot more players than it takes from the PGA TOUR because of the criteria," Scott McCarron told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "I think we'll have quite a few more players who would play in the WGC but won't get into the British."
McCarron lives in Reno and is the official host for the event at the Montreux Golf and Country Club; they'll even celebrate his 45th birthday on Saturday. His involvement has helped stir up local interest and the tournament has done interesting things to attract attention, such as give an exemption to Daniel Miernicki, a rising junior at the University of Oregon who earned an exemption by winning the U.S. Intercollegiate at Stanford in April. Miernicki most recently helped the U.S. win the Palmer Cup in Northern Ireland.
The tournament has made the inspired decision to honor the military and court women visitors at this year's event.
Organizers have chosen the Nevada Military Support Alliance as its philanthropic platform this year and have a full diet of military-inspired activities planned. They've scheduled a flyover (not while McCarron is putting, though) and given spots in the Monday pro-am to a foursome of soldiers. Kids even get a chance to be a Soldier for the Day and take home goodies from each branch of the service.
They've opted to use Saturday as Women's Day and will bring in Annika Sorenstam and Patty Sheehan to given a clinic and speak to a luncheon. Who wouldn't want a chance to hear what those Hall of Famers have to say?
The goal for the tournament organizers is to try to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. There's no way they were ever going to get Tiger or Phil and nearly everyone who qualifies is going to jet off to St. Andrews without a second thought. But the field has 23 players ranked in the top 100 in the FedExCup points, including Vaughn Taylor (No. 37). Two major champions are entered, too: Mark Brooks and Steve Elkington, both winners of the PGA Championship. A pair of 2010 winners (Ryan Palmer and Cameron Beckman) are also competing.
That leaves the tournament with a legitimate field and the Reno-Tahoe Open has a history of producing fine champions. Starting with Notah Begay in 1999 and running through John Rollins in 2010, there's not an illegitimate winner on the list. Scott Verplank, John Cook, Chris Riley and Taylor (who has won it twice) have all been Ryder Cup players and winners of the event. The event usually has some excitement attached, too. Three times the outcome has been determined by a playoff. McCarron had a chance to win in 2004, but lost to Taylor in sudden death.
So while the Reno-Tahoe Open can't match the British Open in terms of history and depth of field, it can and will produce an interesting event that's highly competitive. It will produce an enjoyable experience for the people in the area and will bring in thousands of dollars for charity. It's a win-win proposition.