January 6, 2008 (UPDATED JAN 7)–Nick Watney is one of the most recent–if not most recent–professional golfers to move into Las Vegas golfdom (but with the way so many are flooding to live here it is hard to keep up). And Watney, who works with Butch Harmon at the Harmon School of Golf at Las Vegas golf course Rio Secco Golf Club, was the first-round leader of the Mercedes Benz Championship, stood in fourth following the second round, and was in second place beginning the final round. Watney is one of about 25 professionals at the highest levels of golf who make their homes here in Las Vegas. Watney ended up finishing in a tie for fifth after firing a final-round 71.
Having so many professionals living in Las Vegas is just more proof of the quality of Las Vegas golf courses, and how this area is viewed as a true golf destination. There are about 50 Las Vegas golf courses, and many have been designed by the best in the world including Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Pete Dye and many more.
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Entering the final round, Watney trailed Mike Weir by a single shot, and was scheduled to be in the final pairing for Sunday's round. Fellow Las Vegas golfer and former UNLV Rebel Chad Campbell was in a tie for 10th while Charley Hoffman, a Las Vegas resident and former UNLV Rebel golfer, was in a tie for 23rd. Adam Scott, another former Rebel, qualified for the season-opening tournament for champions only, but elected to skip the event ala Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, citing a tough international schedule early this season. Scott is scheduled to make his PGA Tour debut in February in Los Angeles.
Campbell finished in a tie for 12th while Hoffman finished in a tie for 20th. Three-time Las Vegas PGA Tour event champion Jim Furyk finished tied with Watney. Furyk is also the career money leader for the Las Vegas PGA Tour event, this year called the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals For Children Open.
Through three rounds, Watney led the field in hitting greens in regulation (92.6%) and driving accuracy (86.7% of fairways hit). Watney also led the field in driving distance at 267.5 yards.
The history of this season-opening PGA Tour event, formerly the Tournament of Champions, dates back to 1953 when the first tournament was played in Las Vegas at the Desert Inn Golf Club. Rio Secco Golf Club is a Rees Jones golf course.