October 20, 2008–It was clear that eventual champion Marc Turnesa was playing it safe on the 18th hole of Las Vegas' PGA Tour event, the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. He stepped to the tee with a 2-shot lead and then played his tee and approach shots way right, and well away from the desert and water that guard the left of the hole. What wasn't clear was that Turnesa could've have used some oxygen at any point during the hole. "I was just trying to breathe, really," said Turnesa after receiving the trophy from Timberlake. Read on for notes from the week, including how Las Vegas golf pro Butch Harmon had a hand in the victory.
… Turnesa, who comes from a family of golf pros, made a birdie at the tough par 3, 17th hole, and then survived the 18th hole with a bogey to nail down a one-shot victory and claim his first PGA Tour championship. And all of this after coming very close to quitting the game in 2005. "You know, I was … I wasn't out of control nervous, but I was feeling it," Turnesa said. "I was just happy to get it done."
… Turnesa was among the leaders all week, and fired a final-round 68 to finish at 25-under par for the tournament. Turnesa bested Matt Kuchar by a single shot and helped dash the hopes of UNLV golf fans who were urging on both Chad Campbell, a member of the 2008 US Ryder Cup team, and Ryan Moore, the 2004 US Amateur champ. Both former Rebels were near the lead but faded at the end, especially Moore who made a 9 on the 18th hole. He dropped into a tie for 24th. Campbell finished in a tie for 3rd with Michael Allen and John Mallinger, but couldn't make birdies on 13, 15 or 16, three of the easier holes down the stretch. "I am happy with the week, (but I) wish I had played those three holes in the middle of the back nine a little better," said Campbell. "I played them well all week, struggled through them today, but I am happy with (the finish). 22-under par is not too bad."
… One of the first people to greet Turnesa following the round was Butch Harmon, who operates the Butch Harmon School of Golf at Las Vegas golf course Rio Secco Golf Club. Harmon goes way back with Turnesa's Dad, Mike, who is a golf pro as are several of Turnesa's other family members. Following the round Turnesa also acknowedged that Harmon had helped him with his swing a bit in the past. "Yeah, he knows my family very well," said Turnesa. "Butch and my dad grew up together. The Harmons, they're New York boys as well, so my dad's had a relationship with him forever. I've gotten to know Butch over the past five years or so. He's actually helped me out a little bit. I've been to see him a couple times. He's so far away. I'm down in South Florida and he's up here, so it's tough to see him. But, yeah, I know Butch, and he's just a great guy and it was nice to see him."
… Superstar Justin Timberlake was the star of the week, and came across as a very genuine guy who is in it for the long term. This was the first of a five-year commitment from Timberlake, and he played in the pro-am events, put on a concert for the ages, and also participated in a junior golf clinic with Harmon on Saturday. Timberlake did a perfect Happy Gilmore imitation during the clinic, drawing cheers from the hundreds of kids who were there, many from The First Tee of Southern Nevada. Also making an appearance at the clinic were Greg Maddux and Fred Couples. Timberlake was also on hand for the 18th green victory celebration on Sunday and went out of his way to thank the fans and volunteers for coming out, and made sure to mention that he considered himself a volunteer. Upon entering the fans' view, he immediately acknowledged those sticking around for the ceremony by clapping for them. He should be thanked for coming to Las Vegas and working hard to make the event a success.
… Four of the five former UNLV Rebels who started the week made the cut. The only Rebel who missed was Chris Riley, but Riley and his wife Michelle have been very good to the tournament and have worked behind the scenes to help make it a success. The Rileys are now splitting time between the San Diego and Las Vegas area, but still spend a lot of time in the Las Vegas area. The four Rebels making the cut were Moore, Campbell, Charley Hoffman (T15), and Mike Ruiz (64th), who recently won the Tour Championship on Las Vegas Butch Harmon Vegas Tour.
… Low scoring was all over the place in Las Vegas this week, including a dazzling 62 on Sunday by Tim Herron that rocketed him up the leaderboard from a tie for 47th starting the day to ending in a tie for 6th. Heading into the week, the PGA TOUR had seen players post two eagles in a round 27 times. This week alone, the feat was performed 10 times. The list includes: Round 1 — Chad Campbell, Bill Haas, Will MacKenzie, Pat Perez; Round 2 — Daniel Chopra, Jason Day; Round 3 — Chad Campbell, Chris DiMarco and Davis Love III; Round 4 — Mathew Goggin.
… Several other golfers with ties to Las Vegas golf courses competed this week. New resident and Harmon student Nick Watney finished in 36th, but was among the leaders for the first two rounds. A 73 on Saturday killed his chances. Summerlin resident Dean Wilson finished in 47th. Resident John Riegger posted a 75 on Sunday and ended up in 72nd. And former resident Tommy Armour III withdrew after posting a 71 in the first round. The official story was that he was suffering from sinus issues. PHOTO: PGATOUR.com