2002: PGA Tour - Riley hurdles victory hump in Reno playoff
Tiger Woods knew Chris Riley could win on the PGA Tour. Riley just had to prove it to himself.
Riley defeated Jonathan Kaye on the first playoff hole to capture the Reno-Tahoe Open Aug. 25 for his first Tour victory.
Riley was paired with Woods last week in the third round of the PGA Championship, and matched the star with a 72. Riley finished third at Hazeltine to earn a spot at the Masters, then played well all week at Montreaux Golf & Country Club. Woods is an old friend, as the two competed against each other as juniors in San Diego.
“It was incredible last Saturday playing with Tiger Woods. He told me, ‘Chris, you are going to win.’ That’s how smart that guy is,” said Riley, whose previous best finish in four years on Tour was a second at The International in 2001.
“This has been hard work over my whole career. I’ve never really won anything, but I’ve always competed hard and I finally kicked the door down.”
In the playoff, Riley two-putted from 8 feet on the par-4 18th hole to defeat Kaye, who lipped out a 6-footer for par after hitting his approach in the front right bunker.
Tied for the lead with Steve Flesch at 12 under par after three rounds, Riley and Kaye shot matching 5-under 67s to tie the tournament record of 17-under 271 set last year by John Cook.
Charles Howell III, who held the first-round lead after a 65 but followed with a pair of 73s, shot a Sunday-best 64 to tie for third with J.J. Henry (68) at 13-under 275.
Riley’s victory made him the 12th first-time champion on Tour this year after Craig Parry also earned his first Tour victory earlier Sunday at the WGC-NEC Invitational. Last year, there were a total of 10 first-time winners on Tour.
“This is something you dream about,” said Riley, a former standout at Nevada-Las Vegas. “The state of Nevada, I felt them pulling for me all week.”
Kaye, who bogeyed the 636-yard, par-5 17th to allow Riley back into a tie for the lead, had a chance to win in regulation, but barely missed his 8-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole.
“It was in the heart of the cup with 3 inches to go,” Kaye said. “I hit a good putt . . . but it just wasn’t meant to be. The golf gods weren’t with me today.”
Riley drove left into the deep rough on that hole, but managed to save par. He hit a 155-yard shot to the front fringe, and his 75-foot chip grazed the hole.
Kaye went birdie-birdie-eagle on Nos. 2-4, and opened a two-stroke lead with a two-putt birdie from 30 feet on the 584-yard, par-5 11th. But Riley made a 20-foot birdie putt on the 15th and moved back into a tie when Kaye ran into trouble on the 17th.
“It was a great match today,” Riley said. “We were back and forth. I really never had the lead until the end.”