Taylor will return to defend RTO title

RENO - For the first time in the history of the Reno-Tahoe Open, the defending champion will be back to defend his title.

Vaughn Taylor, who won a four-way playoff last year, has committed to play in this year's event at Montreaux Golf & Country Club on Aug. 15-21.

Taylor's play has been up and down this year.

"I struggled a little after the RTO, but then got back on track at the end of the year," Taylor said in a recent interview on the RTO website. "I feel I got off to a good start in 2005 at the Mercedes Championship (8th, $165,000).

"It (winning the RTO) changed everything around. It has given me a job for two years and a lot of confidence. And above all, a chance to live out a dream."

Taylor's goal this year was to win at least once so he could qualify for this year's Tour Championship in Atlanta (Oct. 31-Nov. 6). He is currently 83rd on the money list.

There is one other RTO winner in this year's field. John Cook, who won the tournament in 2001, has committed. Cook has earned a career money exemption.

The field for this year's event will be 132, including two sponsor exemptions, one of which went to Spencer Levin of Elk Grove, Calif., who was the low amateur at the U.S. Open two years ago. Levin, who played at UCLA and New Mexico, turned pro at this year's U.S. Open.

Probably the most well-known name presently in the field is Reno resident Scott McCarron, who is 64th on the money list. He was one of the three players who lost to Taylor in the playoff last year. No doubt, he would love to win in front of the hometown folks. McCarron last won at the 2001 BellSouth Classic.

Another big name currently in the field is Jose Maria Olazabal. However, he is currently ranked 44th in the world, and if he stays within the top 50 prior to the RTO, he will qualify for the World Golf Champinships-NEC Invitational which is held at the same time as the RTO. OIazabal is currently 23rd on the money list at $1,563,556.

There are three former PGA or U.S. Open winners in the field - Rich Beem, Mark Brooks and Steve Jones. Ben Curtis, whose game has gone up and down since winning the British Open a couple of years ago, also will be here.

Tommy Armour III, Jason Bohn, Jonathan Byrd, Mark Hensby, Zach Johnson, Jerry Kelly, J.L. Lewis, Frank Lickliter II, Len Mattiace, Sean O'Hair, Geoff Ogilvy, Heath Slocum and Taylor all have won a tournament title over the last two years.

Former champion Kirk Triplett withdrew recently from the tournament. The former University of Nevada star is expected to have elbow surgery in the near future.

n Darrell Moody can be reached at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281


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