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L.A. OPEN : Perry Alone, Not Lonely, at the Top : Golf: His lead at Riviera is one shot, but 12 players are within six shots going into the final round.

February 26, 1995|THOMAS BONK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It's just another day, another golf tournament, another lead for calm Kenny Perry as he lugs that disjointed backswing into another last round.

This time it's the Nissan L.A. Open, which Perry just happens to be leading with only 18 holes left for today at Riviera, where for the last week Hogan's Alley has played more like Perry's Place.

Perry, whose backswing looks like a card table falling apart, has a one-shot lead over Corey Pavin.

That margin came very late, at the par-four 18th. Perry left his seven-iron shot 40 feet short of the hole and was so absolutely flustered that he merely rolled it in for a birdie.

"That was a dream putt," Perry said after completing his round of three-under-par 68. "I guess that's the way my week has been going."

Actually, that's the way it has been going for just about the last month. He had a three-shot lead going into the last day at Pebble Beach. He had a two-shot lead going into the last day of the Bob Hope.

Now he's got a one-shot lead for the last day here. He said he isn't nervous.

"Been there," Perry said.

And done that.

Anyway, the Kentucky native has a lot of company. At 13-under-par 200, his lead is about as safe as a mint julep at a Kentucky Derby party.

Pavin also shot a 68 to keep himself in position to repeat as champion, something no one has done on the tour since Nick Price won the Western Open in 1993 and 1994.

Pavin fell out of a share of the lead when he bogeyed the par-three 16th, when he missed a six-foot putt after coming out of a bunker.

"I'm not real worried about the way I'm playing," Pavin said. "I have no qualms."

Craig Stadler also had no qualms, but he did have a hole in one, his first in tournament play in 20 years on the PGA Tour.

Stadler aced the 178-yard No. 6 with a five-iron on his way to a 67 and a share of third place at 202 with Jay Don Blake, who came up with a 66 that featured an eagle on the par-four 10th hole.

Stadler needed only a few words to describe his hole in one: "It took one bounce and disappeared. That's all I know."

That's enough. Meanwhile, Blake holed out from 95 yards with a sand wedge and that sort of changed everything.

"I was kind of moping along until then," he said.

Loping along, Scott Simpson and Bob Estes are only four shots behind Perry at 204, and Ryder Cup captain Lanny Wadkins and one-handed putter Mike Hulbert are next at 205.

Fred Couples heads a group of five at 206, which means that 12 golfers are within six shots of Perry as the last round begins.

Perry doesn't seem too ruffled. But with so many chasing him, he might need to bring along somebody with a calculator to stand next to his caddie.

"Hopefully, they won't catch me," he said. "The leader board is jammed. There are a lot of guys."

And if the closest guy is Pavin, a guy from Oxnard who went to school at UCLA, well, Perry said he's accustomed to that too.

"It seems like every week I'm playing the local favorite," Perry said. "Corey here, Peter Jacobsen at Pebble Beach. And all I had was Curtis Strange at the Hope.

"I'm always the underdog. I'm trying to get a little notoriety in there. Hopefully I can pull out one more."

Pavin was relieved to par the 18th with a five-foot putt because it meant he would play in the last group with Perry and Stadler.

The better to keep an eye on them, Pavin said.

"That way I know what I have to do," he said.

Perry already knows.

"I'm going to try to make as many birdies as I can," he said.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

L.A. OPEN

LEADERS

Kenny Perry: 70-62-68--200

Corey Pavin: 67-66-68--201

Jay Don Blake: 69-67-66--202

Craig Stadler: 67-68-67--202

Scott Simpson: 70-66-68--204

Bob Estes: 68-66-70--204

Lanny Wadkins: 67-72-66--205

Mike Hulbert: 71-66-68--205

Five tied at 206

*

OTHERS

Fred Couples: 69-69-68--206

John Daly: 67-69-71--207

Peter Jacobsen: 69-71-69--209

Lee Janzen: 77-66-67--210

Tom Kite: 71-67-74--212

Ben Crenshaw: 71-71-71--213

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