US Open Pace Set For Las Vegas Golfers by Craig Barlow In Early Going

Craig Barlow was holding strong at US Open Pebble Beach, California (June 17, 2010, 12:45 PST UPDATED 730)–The Pebble Beach golf course is the early leader as the first wave of golfers in the 2010 US Open Champiosnhip are more than halfway though the first round. Only six players are under par–at this writing Mike Weir is at -2 through 15–while some big names are several over par. But one Las Vegas golfer, Craig Barlow, was holding strong at 1-under par through his first 12 holes. There are five other golfers with strong ties to Las Vegas golf courses playing this week, but three of those five were a combined 16-over par in the early going. Read on for more notes from Pebble. Las Vegas' Alex Cejka is in second at 1-under par. Barlow finished +2 and is T31. – By Brian Hurlburt.

Barlow is one of 10 Nationwide Tour players who qualified for the 2010 event. Barlow, who grew up in Henderson, a suburb of Las Vegas, is fully exempt on the Nationwide Tour, but has also played four PGA Tour events in 2010, making the cut in each. Injuries have proved challenging over the years for Barlow, but he managed to attain a huge milestone in 2009 when he made his 150th cut on the PGA Tour. Achieving that number earned Barlow lifetime status which includes better access into PGA Tour events should he not be exempt, plus he is vested in the PGA Tour retirement plan. There are also other perks that come along with that status. Barlow survived a double bogey on the 10th hole–his first hole–in round one, cleaning that up with back-to-back birdies on 15 and 16, and adding another on his 10th hole, the par 4, 1st on the scorecard. An always interesting note with Barlow is that he is the cousin of the lead singer of The Killers, Brandon Flowers, who is also a golfer who grew up in the Las Vegas area.

"It is huge in the sense that it gives me security and is a nice reward to a lot of hard work and dedication," said Barlow last year about achieving the 150-cut mark. "Now for the rest of my life I have some status on the PGA Tour, so basically my consistent play over the years has secured my future. I am in a much, much better position now than I was." Barlow is a former Southern Nevada Golf Association Player of the Year, who also for a time worked for Las Vegas' PGA Tour event, the Las Vegas Invitational. Barlow first qualified for the US Open in 1994 as an amateur. Qualifying into the Open back then gave Barlow a huge feeling of confidence, and proved to be a major driving force while he worked towards the PGA Tour. Barlow has also credited his wife, Leann, for standing behind him and urging him to pursue his dream of playing professional golf. Barlow missed the cut in 1994, but then made the cut in 2005 and 2006 (finished 26th). He also missed the cut in 2008 at Torrey Pines.

Nick Watney, another Henderson resident, was also off early on Thursday. Watney, who has struggled with his putting in 2010, finished 5-over par. Prior to the tournament, he realized that he was ready to make an impact in a major tournament. "Now it's time to get after it and make some noise," Watney, who works with Las Vegas' Butch Harmon, told the TheReporter.com on the driving range earlier in the week. "I've been out here long enough. It's time to start doing some stuff. I hope this is going to be a big week." Watney has won two times on the PGA Tour, most recently at the 2009 Buick Invitational. He finished 12th in the FedEx Cup standings in 2009.

Watney is currently ranked 140th in putting, but has made a move to start working with Dave Stockton, who also works with fellow Harmon pro Phil Mickelson. But besides putting, Watney is ranked highly in several statistical categories. Entering the US Open he led the PGA Tour in the greens-in-regulation category (71.18%), and was second in total birdie average (4.23 oper 18 holes). He ranked 12th in overall driving, but was averaging 29.44 putts per 18 holes, leaving him 140th on the PGA Tour. He had earned more than $1.2 million in 14 tournaments and was ranked 30th in the FedEx Cup points.

Elsewhere at the Open, Las Vegas resident Kevin Na finished 9-over par, while former UNLV golfer Adam Scott finished 6-over par. UNLV golfer Ryan Moore was to play in the afternoon as Las Vegas resident Alex Cejka (he shot 70). Moore fired a 75. In the early going, 15 of the 18 holes were playing to an over-par average. The toughest hole on the course was the 502-yar, par 4, second hole which was playing to a 4.7 average of all scores thus far.

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