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Record L.A. Open Crowd Brings Out Best in Tewell : He Triumphs by 7 Shots at Riviera

February 24, 1986|SHAV GLICK | Times Staff Writer

Who needs big names? Who needs network television? Who needs corporate sponsorship?

The 60th Los Angeles Open, with what critics claimed was one of the weakest fields--in terms of players' reputations--in recent history, attracted a record 41,352 spectators Sunday at the Riviera Country Club to cheer little-known Doug Tewell to a one-sided victory.

Not Ben Hogan, not Sam Snead, not Jack Nicklaus nor Arnold Palmer, not even Glen Campbell put more people on the fairways of Riviera than were there Sunday under absolutely gorgeous playing, and watching, conditions.

On a day when Tewell was the winner, Clarence Rose was second, Willie Wood third and Jay Delsing and Jim Gallagher tied for fourth, the throng cheered lustily for the game's new heroes.

Of those five leaders, only Tewell, a 36-year-old former club pro from Edmund, Okla., had won a tournament before Sunday. And his two wins came five years ago.

Tewell, a 1971 graduate of Oklahoma State, destroyed proud Riviera, shooting an eight-under-par 63 to win the tournament by seven strokes over Rose. Tewell shot 69-72-66-63--270, 14 strokes under par on Riviera's 7,029-yard, par-71 course.

Rose, who missed the cut last week in Hawaii, finished with a 68--277, followed by Wood, 70--278. Delsing, the 6-foot-5 1/2 former UCLA All-American, had a 68 and Gallagher a 69 to tie at 279.

Riviera's own Barry Jaeckel, who won the club championship before becoming a professional, had a 70 to tie for sixth with Corey Pavin, Antonio Cerda and Lanny Wadkins, the defending champion.

Tewell missed the course record by one shot. Larry Mize shot a 62 in the second round last year.

The win was remarkable in that as recently as two weeks ago Tewell contemplated making golf a part-time career while he concentrated on more stable business enterprises. That, plus a herniated disc that made golfing extremely painful, came close to sending him back home to Oklahoma to stay.

"It's amazing what a 63 can do for a sore back," Tewell said with an $81,000 winner's grin. "It sure didn't hurt today."

After making six straight birdies Saturday to take a one-stroke lead going into the final day, Tewell came out Sunday determined to play aggressively, not to try and protect his tenuous lead.

"To tell the truth, I have to give Lanny Wadkins some credit for what I did today," Tewell said of his playing partner. "I ran like a scared rabbit those first few holes. I was afraid of Lanny, afraid that he'd catch me. I didn't want him to get close because I know what a great competitor he is."

Tewell needn't have worried. Wadkins, twice a winner of the L.A. Open, couldn't get out of the box. He didn't make a birdie until the 12th hole and that only brought him back to even par for the day.

Meanwhile, Tewell had birdied four holes on the front nine for a 31 and then birdied the first two holes on the back nine to move four shots ahead of Wood, his other playing partner.

"I made a point of not looking at a leader board to see how I stood," Tewell said. "But after the 12th hole my caddy whispered to me that the guy closest to me was in our group."

In addition to the $81,000, Tewell's win earned for him an invitation to the Masters, Tournament of Champions, the Bridgestone tournament in Tokyo and other invitational events.

"I feel good now about reaching the goals I set this year. I wanted to make the $200,000 mark for the year and get to $1 million in career earnings. This will get me close to both."

Tewell, in five tournaments this year, has won $93,579 and has $883,096 for 12 years on the tour.

"It wasn't until the past two weeks that I decided to play golf full-time," Tewell said. "I owe a lot to my wife because she stood behind me and gave up a lot of support. I knew she and the children would be more stable if I were working at home, but she knew what I wanted and she stuck with my decision. I guess that's why we've been together for 17 years."

Tewell said he felt his game getting solid on the final round two weeks ago in San Diego.

"I had a 69 and felt like everything was falling in place, but I hadn't committed to play in Hawaii so I flew home. There was eight inches of snow on the ground so I never touched my clubs until I put them in the car for the ride to the airport."

Tewell arrived here last Sunday and played 18 holes on Monday at Friendly Hills Country Club in Whittier.

"I won four skins and felt like I was ready for Riviera. I knew I could play this course well under pressure because I shot a 67 here in the final round of the PGA (in 1983) to finish ninth."

The nicest part about his 63 Sunday, he said, was walking up the 18th fairway with his arms in the air, knowing he had won.

The huge gallery fanned out around the 18th green amphitheater and gave him a standing ovation as he strode down the fairway after hitting a 5-iron second shot eight feet from the flag.

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