Las Vegas, Nevada (July 1, 2010)–For Las Vegas golfer Chris Riley, it was all about the numbers over the last few weeks on the PGA Tour. As in five- under par in a four hole stretch during the final round of last week’s Traveler’s Championship. As in a closing round 65 (including a 30 in the back nine) that was good enough for a solo 4th place finish. And finally, and most importantly, a check for $288,000 for the week.–By Bill Bowman
With the finish, Riley picked up almost 50 spots on the PGA Tour’s money list and is now solidly in the top 125 in 74th place with almost $700,000. The former UNLV golfer was grinding away and looking at a top-15 finish until his mid-round spurt that saw him go birdie-eagle (with a chip-in)-birdie-birdie to vault up the leaderboard. He just missed another birdie on the par-4 17th when his 15-footer stopped one-roll short of going in. He didn’t know it at the time, but that would have gotten him into the three-player playoff which Bubba Watson eventually won on the second extra hole. Also in the playoff were Scott Verplank and Corey Pavin. And Riley did all of this, amazingly enough, after starting the final round bogey-bogey.
“I was just cruising along,” Riley told the media following the round. “I bogeyed my first two, and then I was just trying to get back to even on the day, and I did that on the front. And then the Back 9 I was hoping to just go as low as we can, and I shot one in from the fairway, and I made some birdies. And you know, it's not playing that easy out there. I laid up on 13 when I had the green light to go for it, but I just didn't feel comfortable, and I made birdie there, and that kind of kept me going.” Riley’s best previous finish this season was a T7 in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans where he pocketed $199,466. Those are his only two top 10s, but his confidence is coming back in a hurry as three weeks later he tied for 16th at the Byron Nelson, earning $94,250. He’s now made cuts in seven of his last 10 tournaments.
Riley–along with many other Vegas golf professionals and former Rebels, including Bill Lunde and Charley Hoffman–has spent many a day honing his skills on the practice range and the fairways of TPC Las Vegas. The par-71 layout, designed by PGA Tour Design Services with Bobby Weed leading the project and Raymond Floyd consulting, has always been a favorite of pros, locals and visitors. It’s a former stop when the PGA Tour visits Las Vegas. TPC Las Vegas is one of more than 50 Las Vegas golf courses.
Riley is now hoping to continue his latest run at success as he tees it up this week at the AT&T National at Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square, Pa. Riley missed the cut at last year’s event, firing rounds of 72-79—151 and winding up at +11. But with his success in the early going in 2010 and with Riley being one of the best putters anywhere, there’s a good chance he’ll be playing on the weekend.