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Big Shots Outshot in Shootout : Golf: Like chemistry class, some experiments blow up as Wadkins and Magee take lead.

November 19, 1994|STEVE ELLING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

THOUSAND OAKS — Tear up the periodic table of the elements.

Players in the Shark Shootout often talk about the importance of chemistry and symbiosis in team golf events.

Sure thing, guys.

Familiarity, commonality and friendship had precious little to do with anything in Friday's opening round.

In a sport where players compete as solo acts all year, the team concept can make grown men cringe. Players who have known each other for years struggled mightily. Guys thrown together in the 11th hour played well.

Some twosomes set Sherwood Country Club course records for most high-fives exchanged in an 18-hole round, while others half expected their teammates to seek immediate annulment.

Chemistry? As long as teams keep the ball out of the water, a dog and cat could win these crazy dog-and-pony shows. Putting players together often makes guys think, not to mention perform, in strange ways.

"You want to do so well for your partner," Ben Crenshaw said. "Boy, I'm about as embarrassed as I can be for the way I played."

Under the first-round format, players each hit from the tee, then selected the best of the two shots and alternated thereafter. Finding a rhythm is difficult. Finding the rhyme or reason for why the format works, or fails to, is even harder.

Crenshaw and partner Mark Calcavecchia seemed the perfect blend of power and finesse. Calcavecchia hits it into the stratosphere and Crenshaw is one the sport's legendary putters.

The duo combined for a solid three-under 69, good for fourth place in the 10-team field, yet Crenshaw was hanging his head.

"You can actually find yourself trying too hard," Crenshaw said. "It's a very elusive thing. We never found that niche."

Familiarity doesn't mean much. For the past two years, best pals Greg Norman and Nick Price have won a vault of cash, yet when the Shootout begins, the greatest players on the planet can't seem to find a fairway.

Before they birdied the final two holes to finish with a 72, Norman and Price were in last place. Send either of them out alone and they'd shoot 65.

Norman, sponsor of the event, has never won his own tournament, which is carrying the gracious host treatment a little too far.

Sometimes, a small spark can ignite a moribund team. Chip Beck and Jeff Maggert were two-over after the front nine, but Maggert knocked a wedge within a couple of feet of the pin on No. 10, Beck converted the birdie putt and the feeding frenzy was on.

The pair birdied seven of the first eight holes on the back nine to temporarily take the lead.

Of course, sometimes players can out-think themselves. Golf is not meant to be played by committee.

On No. 18, Maggert/Beck elected to use Beck's drive since Maggert had been knocking down flagsticks with his irons all day.

They were all set for a glorious landing . . . that turned into a splashdown.

Maggert promptly dunked a nine-iron into a greenside lake. The pair finished with a double bogey and a share of second place at 68.

Chemistry? Uh-huh. Maggert was the last player added to the 20-man field. He replaced Tom Lehman, who backed out because of another commitment.

"We were a good team," Beck said. "We brother-in-lawed it really well."

Lanny Wadkins and Andrew Magee birdied four of the last five holes to finish at 66, good for the first-round lead. Neither played in last year's Shootout.

Ray Floyd and Steve Elkington, the 1993 champions, are tied for last at 73.

"Maybe it's because you're trying for someone else," Crenshaw said. "You don't allow yourself to be yourself."

No kidding. Calcavecchia hit a majestic three-iron shot from 240 yards on the par-5 16th that came to rest three feet from the hole.

Crenshaw, as close to a lead-pipe cinch as there is on the greens, missed the putt for eagle.

"For whatever reason, we didn't jibe," Crenshaw said. "We weren't the only ones."

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