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GOLF SAN DIEGO OPEN : Return to Square One Pays Off

February 17, 1990|CURT HOLBREICH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN DIEGO — Twenty years after he broke into professional golf as a qualifying school medalist, Bob Eastwood was back where he started.

The second time around was not as exciting.

His days as a kid fresh out of college looking for his first crack at the pro tour were long past. He was 43 and trying to shoot his way past players young enough to be his sons and preserve his exempt status on the tour.

Economic need had replaced youthful exuberance.

"My ego got shot down a little bit," Eastwood said.

But Eastwood was brave enough to put necessity ahead of pride and this week his strength is being rewarded.

Eastwood shot a seven-under-par 65 on the South Course Friday for a record 36-hole score of 14-under-par 130 and a one-shot lead after the second-round of the Shearson Lehman Hutton Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course.

Eastwood broke the Torrey Pines' record of 131 set by Gary Hallberg and Peter Oosterhuis in 1985 and equaled by champion George Burns and Craig Stadler two years later.

Eastwood's two-round total was half of a record-setting day as Mark Brooks shot an 11-under 61 to break the North course and tournament marks.

Brooks scored nine birdies and an eagle on his round after having nearly shot himself out of the tournament with a 75 in his South Course first-round.

The 61 broke the record shared by Andy Bean (1987), Stadler (1987) and Gil Morgan (1988). And it had Brooks thinking about challenging the tour record of 59 set by Al Geiberger in 1977, especially when he was nine-under with four holes to play.

"I wasn't too far away," he said. "I didn't need someone to walk up and say, 'You birdie the last four you have a 59.' I know that. I can count. No one needed to remind me how many under I was. I knew."

Not everyone found the scoring easy. Defending champion Greg Twiggs shot a 77 on the South Course for a two-day, six-over 150 and missed the cut by eight strokes.

Twiggs, a former San Diego State player whose title last year is his only victory in six years on the tour, left the course hastily after his round with little comment. It was the fifth consecutive tournament in which he missed the cut. "I don't feel anything," he said as he ducked into a waiting car. "I don't want to say anything anyway."

While Twiggs failed in his bid to repeat, 87 others remain alive, having made the cut of two-under 142. They will play the final two rounds today and Sunday on the South Course. The field was the largest to make a cut this year.

And on a course as easy for the pros as Torrey Pines, Eastwood's two-round record 130 was worth only a one-stroke lead over Dan Forsman, who shot a 63 on the North Course for a 131.

The next four finishers followed in a line led by Tommy Armour III, who shot a 66 on the South for a two-round 132. Tom Sieckmann was another stroke back at 133 after a South Course-low round of 64, 1981 champion Bruce Lietzke at 134 with a 66 on the South and Jim Booros at 135 after a 68 on the North.

Rick Fehr, who shared the first-round lead with Eastwood after a 65 Thursday, shot a 71 on the South and was in a five-way tie for seventh with Brooks at 136.

It was the rules of the tour that sent Eastwood back to the qualifying school. Tournament fields are set in a priority order, with early preference going to players who finish among the top 125 money winners.

Because Eastwood finished 139th on the 1989 list with $84,088, he lost that exemption for the first time. That left him two choices for this year's tour. He could attend the qualifying school, which would be used to assign priority to tournament openings to those outside the top 125, or he could gamble on receiving enough of the eight sponsor exemptions granted each tournament to admit players of its choosing.

Most older players would rather rely on exemptions to get them through the next tour. But Eastwood, who turned 44 Feb. 9, put aside his ego for a week and pushed his way through the six rounds at The Woodlands in November and December. He finished fifth, saving his exemption and his pride.

Eastwood said that since the tour resumed in January, he has been playing his best golf in years. He has made five of six cuts--after missing 18 of 30 last year--and is 35th on the money list at $43,136.

"A friend of mine said, 'The only reason you're playing so well is you're embarrassed you had to go back to the tour school. You shouldn't have been there in the first place. You're too good a player to be there,"' Eastwood said. "But I did what I had to do."

And the results are showing.

Tournament Notes

The 36-hole 130 by Bob Eastwood also equaled the San Diego tournament record set by Gary Player in 1963 when the PGA event was played at the Stardust Country Club. . . . Robert Gamez, the rookie from Arizona who won in his tour debut five weeks ago at Tucson, shot a 71 on the North Course for a two-day 144 and missed the cut for the first time in his five tournaments. . . . Brad Faxon, who tied for second last year, shot a 76 on the South and missed the cut by one at 143.

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