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Field Has Pooley as Its Target : His 132 Leads by 1, but Many Are Close in Torrey Pines Chase

February 20, 1988|CURT HOLBREICH | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — How appropriate that this week's PGA Tour event is sponsored by a brokerage firm.

Watching the impressive numbers on the scoreboard after the first two rounds of the Shearson Lehman Hutton Andy Williams Open leaves golfers with a feeling not unlike those common during the runaway bull market.

The giddiness that brings a smile to almost every face on Wall Street is the same kind that is running strong this weekend at Torrey Pines Golf Course.

The scores are low, optimism is high, and competition is as close as it can get.

Don Pooley heads the field after 36 holes with a 12-under-par 132. Pooley shot a 7-under 65 on the North Course Friday after starting four shots behind Fred Couples, the first-day leader.

This is a tournament in which no lead is secure.

Twelve players are within two shots of Pooley. Twelve more are within four shots, including Gil Morgan, who is at 136 after shooting a 62 to tie the tournament record on the North Course set by Andy Bean and Craig Stadler last year. His 29 for the front nine broke a record held by five others, most recently Bean and Lennie Clements last year.

The abundance of low scores and the good condition of the course has the leaders running scared.

"I know if I don't keep making a lot of birdies, people are going to catch me," Pooley said.

Closest in pursuit are Tom Kite and Bob Tway at 11-under 133. Kite shot a 65 on the North Course. Tway, the 1986 tournament champion, shot a 65 to match Tom Watson for the lowest round on the South Course after two days.

Watson, a two-time winner of the event, shot a 69 on the North Course Friday and is among 10 players tied at 10-under 134. He started on the back nine, and, as on Thursday, he did some early scrambling.

Watson saved par after missing the 11th green, chipped in from 20 feet for birdie at the 12th and again saved par after missing the 13th green to the right. He birdied 16 and 18, lost those strokes with bogeys at 6 and 7 and gained them back with an eagle 3 at the 9th with an 30-foot putt from the fringe.

Among those tied with Watson are Couples, who shot a 71 on the South Course; 1984 champion Gary Koch, who shot a 68 on the South Course, and 1983 PGA champion Hal Sutton, who had a 68 on the North Course.

Sutton, who has missed the cut in two of his three previous tournaments, had a simple strategy for playing the final two rounds.

"I'm just going to try and birdie as many as I have so far," he said.

Which, of course, is the object of the game. But this week, there is special urgency. It took a three-under 141 just to make the cut.

"When the tournament gets backed up like this, you have to play a little more aggressive," Couples said. "A 71 doesn't do you a lot of good."

The low scores could start to moderate over the weekend when the final two rounds will be played exclusively on the South Course. In the first two days, the players alternated rounds between the South and the shorter and easier North Course.

"The South Course is two or three shots harder than the North," Pooley said. "But the South Course is playing very fast. It's not playing as difficult as in the past. You're getting a lot of roll off the tee. I really enjoy that, because I can run the ball out with those big hitters."

Torrey Pines traditionally has been good to Pooley. Although he finished in a tie for 23rd here last year, he placed no lower than a tie for 10th in the previous four. His best finish was in 1984, when he missed by one shot making the playoff that was won by Koch.

Pooley, 36, is coming off his best season in 12 years on the PGA Tour. He finished 18th on the money list with $450,005 and won his second career tournament at the Memorial. But he has struggled in the early going in 1988.

He has missed the cut twice, and his best finish was a tie for 19th in the MONY Tournament of Champions at La Costa Country Club to open the season.

"It has been my all-around game, not any one thing that I'm not happy with," Pooley said. "Off the tee, I've been hitting it short and not very solid. The irons weren't consistent, and my putting was very inconsistent. And that adds up to not-very-good scores."

His difficulties led Pooley to try what he normally does when his game has fallen off--take a break.

After he missed the cut at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am two weeks ago, he returned home to Tucson, Ariz. Except for a brief clinc, he did not pick up a club until Monday.

"I'm very much against playing until I don't have it anymore because then it takes a month to get it back," Pooley said. "I take one week off. I haven't lost a thing, and I'm mentally fresh. That's better than playing until I'm burned out.

"I needed a break mentally more than physically--to clear all that garbage that you worked into your swing and into your head. It's not unusual for me. I don't touch a club, start back at zero and work my way back into it. That's pretty much the way I've done it last seven or eight years, and it has worked pretty well."

After two rounds, the results could not be much better. But no one in the field can be fooled into thinking that two strong rounds are enough at Torrey Pines.

"It's a matter of can you shoot four good ones in a row," said Phil Blackmar, who is two shots back at 134 after a 70 on the South Course, "because if you shoot even par one day, you're going to get run over."

Tournament Notes

Three players, including defending champion George Burns, ran afoul of a seldom-violated rule against hitting a ball other than your own. The penalty cost Burns, Mac O'Grady and Peter Jacobsen each two strokes. Burns and O'Grady mistakenly hit each other's ball on the fourth hole of the South Course. Burns took a double-bogey 6 on the hole and O'Grady made 7. Burns finished with a 69 that left him with a two-round total of 137, five shots off the lead.

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