January 31, 2009–Don't look now, but the PGA Tour is being overtaken by players who live or have lived in Las Vegas. The leaderboard following the second round of the FBR Open being played in Phoenix is crawling with Las Vegas pros, including residents Nick Watney, who fired a 63 and is the leader, and Charley Hoffman, who stands in second place. Watney said after the round that the 63 matched his best round ever, anywhere, and credited his fine play to working with Las Vegas' Butch Harmon at Las Vegas golf course Rio Secco Golf Club. Click now for LIVE SCORING?RESULTS.
"I've been working with Butch a lot, and then I kind of really tried to make things much more simple and pick a target and hit it there and kind of forget about all the other things and kind of try to putt like you did when you were a kid, like 13 or whatever," Watney said following the round. "You tell a kid to hit it at the spike mark and he'll do it, so that's what I've been trying to do." Watney moved to Henderson, a suburb of Las Vegas, a couple years ago to be closer to Harmon, who has been operating the Butch Harmon School of Golf at Rio Secco for more than a decade. Watney attended Fresno State and was recently picked by Golfweek Magazine as the 23rd best college golfer ever. Watney was at 9-under par after two rounds.
Hoffman, who was an All-American at UNLV, still lives in Las Vegas, and was the champion of the 2007 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, but has gone winless since. He recently got married, and opened up with rounds of 66-68 to stand at 8-under par and one shot back of Watney. Hoffman grew up playing junior golf with Pat Perez, who won last week's event, the Bob Hope Classic, and he listened intently to Perez' post-round comments when he said that anyone who gets married or has a kid will win a tournament very soon after the big event. "I listened to his interview last week and I guess you have to have a kid or get married to win out here, so I have one of those criteria, so hopefully I play good on the weekend and we have back-to-back wins," said Hoffman.
Other Las Vegas golfers challenging for the lead include former Rebel All-American Ryan Moore and Las Vegas resident Scott Piercy, who both are at 6-under par and in a tie for 8th entering the final two rounds. Moore recently moved back to Washington state while Piercy grew up in Las Vegas and still lives in the city. Moore was happy with his situtation heading into the final two days. "I like where I'm at," said Moore, the 2004 NCAA champ. "It was just two solid rounds of golf. I kind of got it going. I think I birdied about four out of five there in a nine-hole stretch my first time on the back side, and kept a little momentum to the front. It was just one of those days where it was nothing too flashy, just kind of got it in the hole."
Other Las Vegas golfers to make the cut to the weekend include another former UNLV All-American, Chad Campbell (t37), and resident Dean Wilson (t56). Las Vegas golfers who missed the cut were resident Alex Cejka and Las Vegas Golf Hall of Fame member Tommy Armour III, who grew up in Las Vegas but now lives in Texas. Former Rebels Bill Lunde and James Oh were alternates and didn't make it into the event. Defending Las Vegas PGA Tour event champ, Marc Turnesa, also missed the cut. He won the 2008 Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open played at TPC Summerlin.
The Butch Harmon School of Golf is located on the backend of the driving range of Rio Secco Golf Club, a Rees Jones-designed Las Vegas golf course that hosted the 2008 Wendy's 3-Tour Challenge. Other PGA Tour pros that work with Harmon include Las Vegas golfer Natalie Gulbis, Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott, Ernie Els and many others. The sister courses to Rio Secco are Cascata, another Rees Jones gem, and Las Vegas National Golf Club, one of the most conveniently located Las Vegas golf courses and past host to events on the PGA Tour and LPGA Tour. For complete Las Vegas golf tee times or Las Vegas golf packages you can click to HarrahsGolfPackages.com or call directly at 866-941-7703.