By SCOTT SONNER
Associated Press Writer
RENO, Nev. (AP) - Steve Flesch wasn't the only one who knew he
hadn't been playing up to par lately. His 8-year-old son Griffin
brought it up about three weeks ago.
"He looked at my score and I missed the cut and he said, 'Dad,
you're really not playing very well are you?"' Flesch said.
That all changed Sunday when the 40-year-old left-hander shot an
even-par 72 in blustery conditions to hang on for a five-stroke
victory at the Reno-Tahoe Open, his third career win on the PGA
Tour and first in more than two years.
"It was a tough two years but I'm glad to be back in the
winner's circle," said Flesch, who became the first on tour this
year to lead wire to wire.
"I made a few mistakes out there today but it was a tough,
windy day. I just hit it so well I couldn't help but to probably
win to be honest with you."
Flesch, who began the day with the same lead after rounds of
63-69-69, had three birdies and three bogeys to finish at 15-under
par 273 as winds gusted up to 30 mph at the 7,472-yard Montreux
Golf & Country Club on the edge of the Sierra Nevada.
"The putter felt like a rattlesnake out there today," Flesch
said. "But I got the job done... I did most of my great work on
Thursday, Friday and Saturday and today just hung in there."
Kevin Stadler shot a 70 and Charles Warren a 71 to tie for
second at 10-under 278. The 74.25 scoring average Sunday was the
sixth-highest final-round average on tour this year.
"With the wind blowing today, any score under par is really
good," Warren said. "I had three three-putts and that really was
sort of the difference in having a chance."
Stadler said he didn't hit the ball very well but still finished
without a bogey.
"There wasn't much good or bad out there really. It was just
sort of an average day and to get out of it a couple under par, I'm
pretty happy," he said.
Rich Barcello, who lives in Reno and played golf at the
University of Nevada, had a 68 for the best round of the day and a
tie for fourth with PGA rookie John Merrick (74) at 8-under 280.
Steve Elkington bogeyed the last hole for a 73 to finish another
stroke back at 7-under 281 in a tie with Shaun Micheel (68) and
Brendon de Jonge (72).
The $540,000 winner's check gives Flesch $946,586 for the year
and pushed his 10-year career earnings past the $14-million mark.
It's only the second time this year he's finished in the top 10,
tying for fifth last month at the U.S. Bank Championship in
Flesch said he's been struggling to make cuts most of the year.
"Every Friday afternoon, that back nine I'm either on the cut
number or a shot out of it. That isn't the game I'm accustomed to
playing my first nine years out here," he said.
The mountain winds swirling through towering pines kept the
challengers from taking advantage of Flesch's slow start, which
included two bogeys in a 37 on the front nine.
Flesch also bogeyed the par-4 10th when his approach came up
short in a bunker. But on the 584-yard 11th, his third shot from 95
yards out nearly bounced in the cup and he tapped in for birdie.
He parred the next six holes, getting up and down from the rough
behind the green on the 491-yard, par-4 14th and barely missing a
14-foot birdie attempt on the 477-yard 15th. He drove the ball 364
yards in the middle of the fairway on the 636-yard 17th, but hit
his approach in a deep trap in front of the green before hitting
out to 28 feet and rolling in the birdie putt, then two-putted from
13 feet on the 18th for par.
In addition to leading from start to finish, Flesch's
five-stroke lead heading into Sunday's final round was the biggest
on tour this year, eclipsing the four-stroke lead Tiger Woods had
after 54 holes at the World Golf Championships-CA Championship.
The victory ensures Flesch a spot in next week's PGA
Championship for the 10th year in a row. He's made the cut there
seven of the past nine times, his best finish a tie for 10th in
He said he's especially excited about the fact the victory gets
him an exemption to remain on tour another two years as well as a
trip to the winners-only Mercedes Championship at Maui.
"I want to go back to Hawaii. I get to enjoy all the things a
winner gets to enjoy," Flesch said.
And he's not the only one.
"Griffin, my 8-year-old, that's all he keeps saying, 'Dad when
are we going to go back to Hawaii?' It's not like I'm not trying,
boy. ... This will be a fun telephone call to make in just a