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Perry Position Is Precarious : Golf: He leads the Hope by two shots, but that might not be enough to hold off pursuing foursome.

February 19, 1995|THOMAS BONK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PALM DESERT — The final round of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic is today, and you know what that means.

"It'll be a track meet," Kenny Perry said.

And?

"It'll be a putting contest," David Duval said.

And?

"It'll be interesting," Curtis Strange said.

One thing's for sure, it'll be over this afternoon out here in the desert at Bermuda Dunes, with its slick greens faster than a condo salesman. In fact, maybe the best way to get ready for these greens is rolling balls in the bathtub.

On Saturday, Perry shot a five-under par 67 at La Quinta, which means he is toting a two-shot lead at 265, 23-under par, into today's final round.

"I can't complain," said Perry, who birdied the first three holes. "I thought I was going to run away and hide."

He didn't, mainly because Strange wouldn't let him. Strange scorched Bermuda Dunes with a nine-under par 63, birdied seven of the last eight holes and shot 29 on the back.

In golf, it's sort of a zone offense.

"I knew every time I stood over a putt it was going to be close to the hole," he said.

But Strange is not alone in second place. Duval, Harry Taylor, and Tommy Tolles are right there with him at 267, 21 under par.

Duval shot 67 at Bermuda Dunes, once again wearing the same dark blue cap he's had on since the first round. Think he's going to change?

"I'm not superstitious," he said. "But why tempt it?"

Why, indeed?

Taylor shot a less-than-thrilling 71 at Indian Wells, the desert's answer to miniature golf, but the 14-time veteran of the tour qualifying school somehow still is in a position to win.

Just don't ask him the last time he won a tournament.

"I don't know," Taylor said. "I don't win golf tournaments, I just play in a lot of them."

Duval was so tired that he thought about withdrawing before the tournament started, but the way things are going maybe he should sleep standing up on the driving range.

"I'm really glad I stayed," he said.

Strange has a chance to correct a surprising professional quirk. He hasn't won a tournament since the U.S. Open in 1989, when he became the first to win back-to-back U.S. Open titles since Ben Hogan in 1950-51.

Strange, also had won the U.S. Open in 1988, when he led the money list for the third time.

Now, Strange has another chance to win his 18th tournament, a number he has been stuck on for nearly six years.

Even though it has been a long, dry spell for Strange, he doesn't mind being reminded about it.

"What's the phrase?" Strange said. "Cautiously optimistic? Nobody knows better than me my past record for the last four-five-six years.

"It hasn't been too sporting. I'll tell you this. Nobody will play harder than me. I want to win. I don't think I want to play well and finish second. At this stage of the game, I think I'm beyond that."

Because he played Indian Wells, the most generous of the Hope courses, Taylor missed his chance to build a lead as high as a sand dune.

At least he knew why.

"There's no doubt I was a little uncomfortable," Taylor said.

That's what happens when you're leading a tournament you're not supposed to and you're a Harry playing like Vardon, not Taylor.

"It's a difficult position for me," Taylor said. "Anytime you're outside your element, you feel uncomfortable. I was trying not to think about it."

Taylor couldn't help thinking about what he did on the 16th. He hit his pitching wedge too hard, sailed the ball over the green and wound up with a bogey.

"You could bite your lip off," Taylor said. "Just the worst."

Perry is due to expect something better than that.

Two weeks ago, he had a three-shot lead going into the last round at Pebble Beach, but wound up third behind Peter Jacobsen and Duval when he finished with a round of 72 that included 16 pars.

"They ran over the top of me there," he said.

Perry knows there's only one way to prevent it from happening again.

"It looks like I've got to come out and shoot a low round," he said. "I'm going to need a lot of birdies. But so is everybody else."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

BOB HOPE GOLF

LEADERS

Player: Score

Kenny Perry: 63-71-64-67--265

Tommy Tolles: 66-69-68-64--267

David Duval: 67-68-65-67--267

Harry Taylor: 66-64-66-71--267

Curtis Strange: 64-73-67-63--267

Mark O'Meara: 69-68-65-67--269

Mark Brooks: 67-68-69-65--269

*

OTHERS

Fuzzy Zoeller: 68-68-66-70--272

Tom Kite: 71-71-64-70--276

Corey Pavin: 69-70-72-68--279

Lanny Wadkins: 69-74-68-68--279

Scott Hoch: 70-69-68-72--279

*

MISSED THE CUT

Hal Sutton: 69-70-69-72--280

Jeff Sluman: 71-70-72-71--284

John Cook: 69-74-74-71--288

Arnold Palmer: 76-72-75-74--297

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