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The L.A. Open : Playing the Field

February 22, 1993|MAL FLORENCE

A look at some of the top players who will be competing for the $180,000 first prize in the $1-million Nissan Los Angeles Open:

TOUR DE FORCE

Fred Couples--Has won here two of the last three years. Masters winner and PGA player of the year in 1992. Need we say more?

Tom Kite--U.S. Open champion, who is playing the best golf of his life. He was 35 under par in winning the Bob Hope tournament. In a zone now.

Davis Love III--Lost in a playoff last year to Couples. Won three tour events in 1992 and, at 28, has his best years ahead of him.

John Cook--Like Couples and Love, is emerging as a perennial standout on the tour. He was runner-up by one shot to Nick Faldo in the 1992 British Open and was a three-time winner on the tour.

Steve Elkington--The 29-year-old Australian doesn't have an apparent flaw in his game, according to his peers.

Paul Azinger--Usually contending. Has won a tournament in each of the last six years, the longest streak on the tour.

WAITING LIST

Lee Janzen--One of the game's best young players and winner of the Phoenix Open in January.

Jeff Sluman--Second in LA. Open in 1991 and second at Pebble Beach twice in 1992 (regular event and U.S. Open). Won 1988 PGA championship.

Rick Fehr--Was 29 under par at Bob Hope tournament but lost by six strokes to Kite. On the verge of winning now.

Payne Stewart--The 1991 U.S. Open champion put too much pressure on himself to win last year. He is apparently ready to win again.

RIVIERA REGULARS

Chip Beck--Had his first tour victory here in 1988 and was in contention until the final round last year.

Jay Haas--Had a 65 in the final round in 1992 and missed getting into a playoff with Couples and Love by one stroke.

Ben Crenshaw--He reveres traditional courses such as Riviera. Lost in playoff to T.C. Chen in 1987.

Rocco Mediate--Has finished in sixth place or better the last three years.

LOCAL KNOWLEDGE

Craig Stadler--The former USC standout went seven years without a victory before winning the tour championship in 1991. Won again in 1992. A veteran who is apparently back on his game.

Scott Simpson--Another former Trojan who has been a top-10 finisher the last two years.

Steve Pate--Knows the track as a former UCLA player, but fourth place is his highest finish here.

LEADER BOARD POTENTIAL

Ted Schulz--The 1991 winner, who missed the cut last year.

Mark Calcavecchia--Won here in 1989 and course suits his game.

Larry Mize--Won in Tucson last January for first victory since the 1987 Masters.

OVER 40 AND FLOURISHING

Hale Irwin--Won here in 1976 and is a three-time U.S. Open champion.

Lanny Wadkins--Won here in 1979 and 1985 and is always dangerous.

Gil Morgan--Another two-time winner, 1978, 1983, who led for three rounds of the U.S. Open last year.

CROWD PLEASERS

John Daly--Trying to put his life and game back together after undergoing an alcohol rehabilitation program. A big crowd favorite here.

Tiger Woods--Played here last year as a 16-year-old amateur and missed the cut, but played well despite the pressure of a huge gallery.

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