Las Vegas, Nevada (Original: January 15, 2011 UPDATED 1/17)–For those that know the personality of Las Vegas PGA Tour star Chris Riley, happy and carefree to the nth degree, it might be surprising to learn that butterflies in the stomach can impact him on the golf course. But such was the case for this pro golfer with strong ties to Las Vegas golf courses during the first full-field event of the 2011 PGA Tour season. He did overcome them enough to scrape together a very solid round of 66 at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Riley followed up his first round with a 69 in round two. Then went 66-69 on the weekend for a T9 finish. LIVE SCORING. —By Brian Hurlburt.
"I played good," Riley told the media following the round. "I was nervous coming out early, and then I kind of just settled in. First tournament, first round, so I was very happy with 66. There's nothing like playing in a tournament, so as much as I practiced at home over the winter, there's nothing like being in a tournament." Home for Riley is his native San Diego, but his ties to Las Vegas golf courses run deep. He was a four-time All-American at UNLV, and also lived in the Las Vegas Golf Region for several years following his UNLV career before moving back to California with his wife, Michele, and their two children.
The Las Vegas Golf Region is the home to more than 30 pros with strong ties to the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Champions Tour, and Nationwide Tour, and several others are in the Hawaii field. Also, the Las Vegas Golf Region is the home to more than 50 Las Vegas golf courses including Bear's Best Las Vegas, a course that features 18 Jack Nicklaus-designed holes, replicated from some of his more notable golf courses around the globe including Castle Pines, Cabo Del Sol, and PGA West. Click now to view the official website for Bear's Best Las Vegas golf course for official tee times in Las Vegas. Among the other pros with strong ties to Las Vegas golf courses who are playing in Hawaii are Alex Cejka, Chad Campbell, Kevin Na, Dean Wilson, and Alex Prugh. Campbell was the next highest finisher with Vegas ties, ending in a tie for 13th.
Heavy rains hit Hawaii, forcing the first round to be postponed until Friday, and with the wet conditions, some speculated low scores could dominate the early rounds. But Stuart Appleby's first-round 64 was good enough to have him in the lead by one over Justin Rose and others. Asked about why the scores weren't lower in the first round, Riley could only answer for himself, and, again, mentioned his mindset for the first round of the year. "I can't speak for everybody else, but for me it's kind of putting," said Riley, who many believe is one of the best putters on the PGA Tour. "I'm kind of tentative today, and I usually like to be aggressive. First tournament of the year, this is a difficult golf course for guys. I can see how guys start at the Bob Hope where it's kind of just slap it around, wedge it on and it's a birdie putt, where here, par-70, it's a tough golf course. It's tough to start the year here." The Bob Hope is the tournament that follows the Sony Open and is played in the Palm Springs area. Riley's former teammate, Charley Hoffman and Chad Campbell, two former Riley teammates at UNLV, each have won the Bob Hope tournament.