SNOQUALMIE — John Riegger’s walk Tuesday from his parking spot to the clubhouse was about 15 yards.
That’s just one of the perks of being the defending champion at the Boeing Classic, getting the closest parking space.
But for Riegger, 51, his victory last year at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge meant so much more. It was his first victory on either the PGA or Champions Tour and it made him exempt for this season, something that was not a given when he came to the Boeing Classic last season and was known only by the most avid of golf fans.
“It definitely made my life easier, knowing I could play every week this year,” Riegger said. “It’s nice to come back to a place where you’ve had success before.”
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Riegger took a three-shot lead entering the final round last year, then staved off challenges from Seattle native Fred Couples, John Cook, Bernhard Langer and Tom Lehman, among others, in the final round to win by two shots. Riegger said he had not given last year’s win much thought until last Sunday, when he was lining up a birdie putt on his final hole at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open in Endicott, N.Y.
“I actually thought about the (20-foot) putt I made on the 18th here last year, before I putted,” Riegger said.
Riegger thought he made Sunday’s putt when he struck it, but it just missed. Still, he finished in a tie for seventh, just his second top 10 of the season. He is 48th on the points list, and needs a good finish to get into the top 30 and secure full-time playing privileges next year.
“Early in the year, every time I would start playing well, there would be a two- or three-week break,” he said. “This is the first time that we’re playing the next week after I’m starting to play well, and ironically it’s at the place where I won.”
Riegger likes his chances this week.
“Like I said, the course suits my game, but it also suits Fred Couples and I don’t think there is a course on the planet that doesn’t suit Bernhard Langer,” Riegger said. “I think there are about a half-dozen players that this course is really suited for.”
• Five players earned spots into the tournament field in an 18-hole qualifier in Covington, including former U.S. Open winner Steve Jones, who tied Jeff Brehaut with the best score at even-par 72. Also earning spots were Stephen Mondshine, Robin Freeman and Blaine McCallister, a teammate of Couples at the University of Houston.
• Chip Beck gave the annual youth clinic, and one of his best lines to about 100 kids was this: “There is no perfect shot in golf, unless it goes in the hole, and then it’s called a lucky shot.”