One Golfer Close to Life Changing, $2 Million Moment at Ultimate Game at Wynn Las Vegas

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Image June 8, 2007–There are several golfers–including two Las Vegas golfers–bunched at the top of the leaderboard heading into the final round of the Ultimate Game at Wynn Las Vegas. Byron Smith set the pace, shooting 31-36—67, to lead Scott Piercy and Ken Jarner by one stroke entering the final day. The Ultimate Game at Wynn Las Vegas, in which entrants put up $50,000 and compete for a winner’s share of $2 million, the largest ever offered in golf, will be telecast nationally Saturday and Sunday on Fox Sports. All of the dozen players in the final have already cashed checks for $100,000, but now are playing a high stakes, winner-take-all tournament to see who earns the $2 million. The final round is today.

“The key to something like this is to play the same golf you always play,” Smith, of Palm Desert, Calif., said regarding playing for the unprecedented winner’s purse. “You try not to change a thing.”

Las Vegas has been the home to several large golf events, including the annual PGA Tour event in Las Vegas that has been played in the city since 1983. That year, Fuzzy Zoeller won the event that was the first PGA Tour event in history to play for a total purse of more than one million dollars.

Also, last month, the inaugural World Series of Golf was played, an event that combines the skill of golf and poker. And Las Vegas is home to more than 60 amazing and world-class golf courses.

Official information on Las Vegas golf courses and Las Vegas golf packages … now.

Smith was rolling along at 4 under par until he double-bogeyed hole 14. He hit his second shot from the fairway bunker off the lip and into another fairway bunker. Up against the lip, he had to chip out of the second bunker and was hitting his fourth shot from the fairway.

“In the back of your mind you make a mistake like that and you think ‘I just made a crucial mistake,’ Smith said. “All you can do is try to recover. I wish I had that shot over on 14 because it could have been a better round than it was, but at least I came back on the next hole and made birdie. It’s always been the strength of my game to grind and come back.”

Jarner, a Las Vegas resident who frequently caddies at the Wynn Las Vegas golf course and actually held the course record of 63 until Erik Compton broke it Sunday, made a 15-foot birdie putt on the final hole to shoot a 2-under-par 68.

“I just tried to play it out there and die it down inside,” Jarner said of the downhill putt, that he said broke at least 2 feet. “It was just so I can try to get something under par, and it went in.”

Piercy, also of Las Vegas, bounced in and out of the lead all day, eventually finishing at 2-under-par 68, one shot back with Jarner.

Las Vegan Chris Berry, who was a member of the 1998 UNLV National Championship team, shot a 75 while former major league pitcher, who some thought was the favorite eentering the event, shot a 79.

Tony Finau, the 17-year-old from Salt Lake City, just missed a birdie putt on 18 to join Jarner and Piercy, finishing at 1-under-par 69. Finau began the day by hitting a 380-yard drive just short of the front of the green on the 406-yard, par-4 first hole, chipping up and making birdie.

“That’s just how I play,” Finau said on attacking many of the holes with driver. “I pull out driver and try to hit it as straight as I can. It worked today, but hopefully the putts will fall tomorrow. I had a lot of great chances. My ball striking is right where I want it. I just have to make more putts.”

Despite his jaw-dropping length, Finau also went bogey-par-par on Wynn Las Vegas’ three par 5s.

Kevin Streelman and Randy Leen both finished at even-par 70 to put five players within three shots of Smith.

First-round scores and second-round pairings:

1 p.m.
Byron Smith, Palm Desert, Calif., 31-36—67

Scott Piercy, Las Vegas, Nev., 34-34—68

Ken Jarner, Las Vegas, Nev., 33-35—68

12:50 p.m.

Tony Finau, Rose Park, Utah, 34-35—69

Kevin Streelman, Winfield, Ill., 34-36—70

Randy Leen, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., 34-36—70

12:40 p.m.

Erik Compton, Miami, Fla., 36-35—71

Ron Faria, Sag Harbor, N.Y., 31-41—72

Nate Whitson, Ventura, Calif., 35-38—73

12:30 p.m.

Travis Johnson, Long Beach, Calif., 35-39—74

Chris Berry, Las Vegas, Nev., 39-36—75

Rick Rhoden, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., 38-41—79

These 12 players will compete Friday in the final 18 holes of the 36-hole, stroke-play playoff of The Ultimate Game at Wynn Las Vegas, for the $2 million winner’s share. The telecast will air on FOX Sports Saturday and Sunday.

TV times: Saturday and Sunday, June 9-10

Saturday: 1:30-3:30 p.m. EDT, CDT

4-6 p.m. PDT, MDT

Sunday: 3-5 p.m. EDT/Noon

Story: Matt Paulson, The Ultimate Game Media, and Brian Hurlburt

Photo: visitlasvegas.com

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