Players returning to the Reno-Tahoe Open found a little bit of a twist with the switched nines at Montreux Golf and Country Club. Of course, it doesn’t take long for PGA TOUR pros to adjust and start firing at the flags.
Early in Round 1, Nick O’Hern took the lead with a 4 under trip through his first nine holes. The Australian is still searching for his first TOUR win, and just as importantly this week is looking to improve on his 103rd place in the FedExCup standings.
Also at 4 under through seven holes is Shaun Micheel, the 2003 PGA Champion. He doesn’t have a top-20 finish this season and is 178th in the FedExCup race.
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM Site Producer
Sounds like the most incongruous of golf pairings, but it wasn’t far from coming to fruition Sunday at Augusta – the Green Jacket and the long putter.
Adam Scott fell a little short of capturing his first major at Augusta National, but if he had it would have also
Tim Clark used one to win THE PLAYERS Championship last year and finished second with one in the 2006 Masters. Nick O’Hern and Scott McCarron also use long putters. Belly putters are even more prevalent, as we saw last month with Martin Laird and Spencer Levin using them while battling for the Arnold Palmer Invitational title.
When Jack Nicklaus won his signature sixth Green Jacket with an oversized-head Response ZT putter, the public bought thousands in the days afterward. Might the same thing have happened if Scott had won with his 49-inch Scotty Cameron Studio Select Kombi? Who knows.
But don’t expect to see Scott with anything else anytime soon. He put one in the bag earlier this year at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship and it has more than earned its place.
“After I saw some putts going in, it wasn't really hard to change,” Scott said. “The rhythm with the long putter is very nice, and that's something I was fighting in my putting with the short putter. So I started practicing with it, and the more I practiced with it, the better it felt and the more putts I made and eventually it was a pretty easy decision that I should give it a run.”
Scott tied for third at the Masters and had 111 putts over four days, which tied him for third in the field behind Luke Donald and the winner, Charl Schwartzel.
MORE BELLY TALK: World No. 2 Lee Westwood couldn’t hide his disgust with his work on the greens at Augusta and went to a belly putter for the final round. The 2010 runner-up finished tied for 11th, shooting 74-70 for the weekend after a Friday 67 moved him into contention.
“To come so close last year and get myself in good shape this year and then, on the greens, it just makes me feel like pulling my hair out,” Westwood said. “I felt a little more comfortable (Sunday) with the belly putter. At least I made one 15-footer.”
Westwood added that he “didn’t see any future in the short (putter) for a while.”
ANOTHER TIGER PUTTER?: OK, maybe not yet. But this photo from his trip to China this week is amusing. Look closely and you’ll see Woods practicing a long-putter stroke with a standard-length putter.
In the opening round from Redstone Golf Club, Jimmy Walker ties the course record of 63 and has a two shot lead at 9-under par.
Every golfer in the world has been there, and it happened to Nick O'Hern last week. In Round 1 of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, he hit the ball great -- but took 34 putts. He briefly considered filing for divorce from his trademark long putter, whom he'd been married to for 16 years.
O'Hern needed only 25 putts on Thursday. His 65 is likely to remain the lead against the afternoon groups currently out in force at Redstone.
"After last week on the greens, I thought maybe give the short putter a go. But I'm glad I didn't," O'Hern said. "It's natural for anyone to start tinkering if things aren't going according to plan. I didn't think I was putting badly, but nothing was going in, so that's when you probably think maybe a change is on the cards. But as I say, it's worked out pretty well."
O'Hern is trying to earn enough money to shake his Medical Extension status on TOUR, which he was forced to take after undergoing two knee surgeries after the 2010 PLAYERS.
"I had an ACL reconstruction on my right knee last year. I snapped it about 20 years ago," O'Hern said. "Just wear and tear it was time to get it fixed. I actually had my left knee done at the same time. So I have both knees operated on, went for the package deal and had them both done."
A healthy O'Hern is back to hitting fairways, which he knows he must do to compete on TOUR. He missed only two of them on Thursday.
"The big thing for me on this TOUR is driving the ball. I'm one of the shortest hitters, but I'm usually one of the most accurate," O'Hern said. "I haven't been accurate at all of late. My game revolves round hitting fairways and therefore I can hit greens and hopefully make putts."
You haven't heard a lot about Nick O'Hern in the last year or so. The man perhaps best known for beating Tiger Woods in the 2007 World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship has been battling knee issues for years, and it finally came to a head last summer.
O'Hern played in the 2010 THE PLAYERS Championship and was done for the year after injuring his knee during the event.
The Aussie, a left-hander who has used a long putter for years, is 6 under after 15 holes on Thursday at Redstone. He has the lead outright; Steve Stricker briefly reached 6 under before a bogey on the 16th.
O'Hern needs a big week. He has to earn $312,690 to retain full status on TOUR after being forced to take a medical extension.
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Thursday, it was Alex Cejka’s albatross. Creating the excitement in the second round was Nick O’Hern’s hole-in-one.
The Aussie made the ace at the 12th hole at Pebble Beach. He used a 6-iron on the 202-yard hole, which was his third of the day.
O’Hern needs to build on that momentum, though. He shot 74 in the first round and is currently tied for 81st. But there’s time -- the cut comes after the third round when everyone has played all three course. – Helen Ross