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Everyone's Putting a Dent in Rancho : Golf: Eichelberger ties course record with a 62, one better than Dent, who leads by one.

October 23, 1994|THOMAS BONK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Poor old Rancho Park. Look what happened to the place Saturday when a bunch of guys started beating it to death with clubs--golf clubs.

Rancho Park might as well have been Yellowstone Park the way everybody was camping out on the greens and making putts that looked about as easy as rolling a marble into a manhole.

No one had a better day at the Ralphs Senior Classic than Dave Eichelberger, who tied the course record with a nine-under-par 62 and offered a simple explanation afterward.

"I just played real good," Eichelberger said.

Meanwhile, Jim Dent followed his first-round 68 with a 63 that included two eagles.

Dent's lead at 11-under 131 is one shot over Eichelberger, three over Bob Dickson and Jack Kiefer, and four over J.C. Snead, Jimmy Powell, Jim Colbert and George Shortridge.

Dent bagged eagles on the 500-yard eighth hole, when he knocked a three-iron to 15 feet, and on the 475-yard 11th, where he chipped in from 40 feet.

Eagles are where you find them, Dent said.

"You got to catch 'em when they come and shoot 'em down," he said.

In that case, it has been a shooting gallery at Rancho Park. Through two rounds, there have been 70 rounds in the 60s, 41 of them Saturday.

But Dent said it is still too early to say bad things about the course.

"Oh, no, Rancho Park is going to catch up," he said. "If the weather changes, if there is wind, watch out. You'd better get it when you can."

Everybody was getting it Saturday, no one better than Eichelberger.

His 62 tied the course record set by Raymond Floyd in 1992. It was also Eichelberger's lowest round since he shot a 62 in Atlanta 16 years ago.

"It's been a while," Eichelberger said.

He earned it. From No. 6 through No. 14, a stretch of nine holes, Eichelberger made eight birdies. He birdied the back-to-back par fives, No. 8 and No. 9, even though he was in greenside bunkers on both holes.

He needed only 21 putts. After a bogey on the first hole, Eichelberger played the last 17 holes in 10 under par.

The result of all this scoring has made one thing perfectly clear to Eichelberger.

"I've got a feeling I'd better shoot 64 or 65 (today)," he said.

The reason is the Dent Factor.

"He's probably the man to beat, the way he hits it," Eichelberger said. "These par fives are just long fours to him.'

There's nothing like a par five to make a big hitter happy, and Dent has been the biggest hitter on the Senior PGA Tour since he joined it in 1989. This year, Dent is leading the tour in driving distance a sixth consecutive time.

Dent said there are three reasons why he hits drives as long as he ever has.

"Metal woods, graphite and good golf balls," said Dent, who admitted he has a certain affinity for par fives.

"I like par fives when I can reach them," he said.

Dickson, who shot a 64, doesn't hit the ball long, but he knows how to putt. He had birdies on Nos. 15-16-17 with birdie putts from six feet to 12 feet.

He also pitched in from 40 feet for a birdie on No. 2, but said there's one facet of his game that needs some work.

"I've got to figure out how to drive it longer," he said. "It's always an advantage to be two-putting for a birdie.

"Big hitters have an advantage every week. Give me a guy who has a 30-foot putt for an eagle versus a guy with a 50-foot chip shot for an eagle every time."

Dent said hitting it long is fine, all right, but with a provision.

"Length is good on any course if you can hit it straight," he said. "Straight is the important part."

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