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1997 NISSAN OPEN / RIVIERA COUNTRY CLUB

Everybody into the Pooley

Golf: Non-exempt player soars through the wind for one-shot lead at halfway point.

March 01, 1997|THOMAS BONK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

They weren't merely playing golf Friday at Riviera Country Club, they were shooting the breeze. By late in the afternoon, the front doorbell at the clubhouse was replaced by a set of wind chimes.

In the second round of the Nissan Open, you not only needed to know the way to the next tee, you had to know which the way the wind was blowing.

It wasn't blowing that hard, it simply couldn't make up its mind which direction it liked best.

Obviously, figuring it out wasn't that easy. Don Pooley, who lives in Tucson and knows about such things as cactus, sand and especially wind, blew into the lead with a three-under-par 68, which was good enough for a one-shot advantage.

At the midway point of the $1.4-million tournament, Pooley's seven-under total of 135 is one shot better than the scores of Nick Faldo, Mark O'Meara, Scott Hoch and Ted Tryba.

Next are Craig Stadler and Payne Stewart, two shots off the lead at 137.

Fred Couples and Tom Watson lead a group of seven at 138 that also includes Brad Faxon, Tom Purtzer, Fred Funk, Bob Estes and Frank Lickliter.

His second consecutive round of 70 put Tiger Woods five shots behind at 140. He had three birdies and two bogeys, and one of them was a real adventure.

On the par-three No. 4, Woods overshot the green, chipped back over the green, chipped back over the green again, then chipped in for bogey.

Until they replace the flagsticks with wind socks, Riviera may yet prove to be a place as hard as one of those eucalyptus trees.

As best the participants could figure it, the wind was either (a) tricky, (b) swirling, (c) switching or (d) *$#&%%$#(*!"

Pooley has had the best luck so far, which is a nice change of pace for him, since at 45 he no longer has an exemption to play.

Instead, Pooley lives off sponsors' exemptions and top-10 finishes that get him into the next week's tournament. But so far this year, Pooley has finished fifth at the Bob Hope and at Tucson and has won $134,126.

That's more than he made last year, when he finished No. 169 on the money list and lost his exemption.

"I have felt no added pressure at all," Pooley said. "I've been out here 22 years, after all."

Pooley said he managed to turn himself around with a single lesson from Jim Flick in Scottsdale. It was Pooley's first lesson in 10 years. Maybe he should schedule them a little more frequently.

"I didn't have high expectations that he could do anything wonderful," Pooley said, "but it's been wonderful."

O'Meara, who has won his last two tournaments, had a 69 as he embarks on a five-week tournament grind. He eagled No. 1 when he holed a bunker shot that the wind couldn't touch.

"It was kind of swirling and switched back and forth," O'Meara said. "When the wind blows here, Riviera is that much more challenging. And today was one of those days."

Tryba decided to send his swing into the shop for a complete overhaul at the end of last year, his fifth on the tour. He played 36 tournaments but missed 20 cuts and won only $162,944.

There is only one way to describe a year like that, Tryba said after his second-round 66.

"Terrible," he said. "But I still made a pretty good stash of earnings."

In 1995, he made much more when he finished with $451,983 and won the Anheuser-Busch Classic. But after that, he sort of went flat.

"It kept getting worse and worse," said the 30-year-old from Orlando, Fla., who has missed four cuts in six tournaments, including his last three.

Stadler also shot 66, which isn't that unusual. But he almost sounded pleased about it, which is.

For instance, since he is the defending champion, Stadler was asked about Riviera as a good place to play.

"It's OK, no complaints," Stadler said.

Actually, it's nice to know that golf isn't interfering with Stadler's hockey schedule. Stadler went to King games Tuesday night and Thursday night at the Forum.

He had four birdies in seven holes, from the eighth through the 14th, and put himself in contention with his round of five under par that included a 40-foot birdie putt on No. 11 and a 20-footer on No. 14.

Afterward, Stadler was tossed a softball question about the West Coast tour, and that turned out to be another subject that hacks him off.

"You might hear guys complaining about the Hope or something with all the amateurs in it," Stadler said. "Well, don't play if it bothers you. It's fine with me. They can all stay home."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

SCORES

Don Pooley: 67-68--135

Nick Faldo: 66-70--136

Ted Tryba: 70-66--136

Scott Hoch: 65-71--136

Mark O'Meara: 67-69--136

Craig Stadler: 71-66--137

Payne Stewart: 65-72--137

Tom Purtzer: 67-71--138

Brad Faxon: 73-65--138

Fred Couples: 68-70--138

Bob Estes: 68-70--138

Fred Funk: 67-71--138

Tom Watson: 67-71--138

Frank Lickliter: 67-71--138

Willie Wood: 71-68--139

Rafael Alarcon: 70-69--139

Lennie Clements: 71-68--139

David Ogrin: 68-71--139

Kenny Perry: 72-67--139

Jim Carter: 72-68--140

Paul Goydos: 66-74--140

Jeff Maggert: 69-71--140

Robin Freeman: 69-71--140

Kirk Triplett: 69-71--140

Tim Simpson: 71-69--140

Tiger Woods: 70-70--140

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