Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Nick Watney busted out laughing multiple times while playing his round at TPC Summerlin on Wednesday afternoon.
That’s a side effect of teeing off alongside George Lopez, the popular comedian who was one of Watney’s partners in the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open Pro-Am. One of the other members of their team was Timberlake, who has played with Watney three times at this event.
“The crowd was definitely going out there for those guys,” Watney said. “They are superstars. It was fun to be in that atmosphere.”
Watney will need to get used to drawing the largest crowd of Las Vegas’ annual PGA tournament this week. He’s part of the featured group Thursday and Friday, the first two rounds of the tournament, along with Ryan Moore and Charley Hoffman.
The three begin their tournament on the 10th tee at 7:28 a.m. Thursday and come back at 12:03 p.m. Friday for their second round.
Hoffman and Moore golfed at UNLV. Watney and Hoffman live in Las Vegas.
“All of us from Las Vegas know each other well,” Hoffman said. “I play with Nick a lot during the offseason, and I really like Ryan, another UNLV grad, too.”
Although Hoffman considers TPC Las Vegas his home course, he and Watney make their way to TPC Summerlin for rounds routinely. Watney said the familiarity with the course helped with his success in last year’s tournament, when he finished second and two strokes behind Kevin Na.
Despite the numerous PGA Tour pros who play at TPC Summerlin regularly and call Las Vegas home, Na was the first local in 28 years to win the tournament.
“It just speaks to the level of competition on the PGA Tour,” Hoffman said. “The guys playing are special, and any slight advantage only goes so far.”
According to the odds, a local has a good chance to make it two in a row after the prolonged drought. The LVH Superbook lists Moore as the favorite at 12-to-1 with Watney right behind at 15-to-1.
Robert Garrigus, whose team won the Pro-Am, is also at 15-to-1. Hoffman, 60-to-1, is the only long shot in his group.
“We kind of know how far the ball is going,” Watney said of pros who frequent TPC Summerlin. “We’re at a little bit of an elevation and it’s pretty warm this week. The ball can travel pretty good.”
“I’ve got a good feel for the course. It should be a good week.”
Hoffman will make no such prediction for himself. Although the Class of 2000 UNLV graduate has three top-10 finishes and $1.2 million in earnings this season, he said it has been a disappointing year.
Hoffman hasn’t found time to ensure a strong finish at the Timberlake Shriners Open, what with all the distractions that come with a tournament at home. He enjoyed his induction into the Las Vegas Golf Hall of Fame on Saturday and his charity foundation’s clinic event Monday, but those outings left little time for preparation.
“It’s tough to get everything together,” Hoffman said. “I really don’t have much expectations for this week. I want to play good, but if I don’t, I don’t. It’s a weird week. Usually, I’d say it’s a lot more intense.”
Regardless of how he performs, Hoffman knows he’ll attract plenty of attention — all just because he’s golfing with a couple buddies.
“It’s always nice to have a gallery,” Hoffman said. “You enjoy having more people following you, more people cheering for you. I’m just going to try to play good for the community.”