RENO - Last year's Reno-Tahoe Open almost had a fairy-tale ending.
Reno's Scott McCarron, who shot a final-round 71, found himself in a four-way sudden death playoff with Steve Allan, Hunter Mahan and Vaughn Taylor.
Nothing would have pleased the throng that lined the fairway and green on No. 18 more than to see the hometown boy win for the first time since the 2001 Bell-South Classic.
McCarron missed a 14-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole (the 18th), and then watched helplessly as Taylor rammed home an 11-footer to win his first-ever PGA Tour title and earn a two-year exemption in the process.
McCarron is hoping for a different result this year when the 7th annual Reno-Tahoe Open kicks off today at 7 a.m. at Montreux Golf & Country Club.
"It was a miracle just getting there to the playoff," McCarron said. "I was getting interviewed when Steve hit his shot into the bunker. I felt fortunate to be in. Now, I'm thinking I have a chance to win this thing."
McCarron, who considers Montreux his home course, isn't sure whether he has any sort of advantage over the rest of the 132-man field.
"I don't know that I have an advantage," McCarron said after playing nine practice holes on Tuesday. "I've been gone a lot, so I've only played it a few times. I go out and play some holes, but I don't play (a full) 18 that much.
"The biggest thing is that I get to sleep in my own bed and eat home cooking. I also get to play in front of family and friends."
And, he likes where his game is. The 5-foot-10 170-pound McCarron has won $945, 989 in 18 events this year, including a tie for sixth at the Buick Invitational, a tie for second at the FBR Open and a tie for 13th two weeks ago at The International.
"I feel confident with the success I've had over the year," McCarron said. "I like the way I'm playing; the way I'm hitting the ball."
By no means does McCarron consider himself the favorite.
"There are a lot of good players that can win this thing," McCarron said. "You've got Justin Rose, Jerry Kelly and Paul Azinger. John Cook has played here and won."
Don't forget 2004 British Open champ Todd Hamilton, Taylor, Joe Ogilvie and Jesper Parnevik to name a few.
"Anyone on today's PGA Tour who gets hot for a week can win," Parnevik said. "If you played here in the past, it probably helps reading the greens because you get some funky breaks. It looks to break one way and breaks the other. I really haven't figured out the greens yet. I guess I have four more days to do it."
"The field is reasonably strong," Azinger said. "Jerry Kelly was in the last group on Saturday (at the PGA). Patrick Sheehan has been playing great. Jeff Brehaut has been playing great. There are a ton of strong players out here. If you follow golf, everybody has heard of them. If you don't follow golf, you know Vijay and Tiger."
While the 7,472-yard layout is difficult, McCarron thinks there are certain holes that can yield birdies and even eagles, and most of those are the par-5s. Three of the four par-5s are reachable in two. Some of the biggest hitters may be able to reach the 636-yard 17th in two depending on the wind.
"The ninth hole (616-yard par-5) you can make eagle," he said. "The same on No. 4 (518-yard par-5). If you are hitting it downwind, you can make birdie or eagle."
Darrell Moody can be reached at email@example.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281