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Murphy, Snead, Graham Share Senior Lead

Golf: Crampton's late run, with birdies on three of the last five holes, puts him a shot back.

March 15, 1997|MARTIN BECK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEWPORT BEACH — Bob Murphy says he doesn't feel comfortable with his golf game, and that's usually not a good thing on the Senior PGA Tour. But in the first round of the Toshiba Senior Classic Friday at Newport Beach Country Club, Murphy compensated well, shooting six-under-par 65 to share the lead with David Graham and J.C. Snead.

Murphy won at least two events in each of his first four years on the senior tour, but the first two months of 1997 have been a struggle. Although he did manage to finish second last month at the LG Championship in Naples, Fla., he couldn't break into the top 20 in four other events.

The trouble started, Murphy said, in December when he had surgery to remove skin cancer on his right index finger. "I came out of there with a divot in my hand," Murphy said. "It was marked Ground Under Repair for five weeks."

When he started to practice again, the bandage bothered him and soon his swing was out of kilter. "I know what I do when I play well," Murphy said. "Right now I'm just not duplicating [the swing] enough times. I find myself standing behind the ball thinking about my swing too much, but it's mandatory because I'm not settling in as comfortably as I should."

But Friday he settled into the lead just fine. Telling himself to swing as easily as possible, Murphy didn't make many mistakes over the 6,598-yard course.

He birdied the second, third and fourth holes and had three more in the last four holes of his bogey-free round. "I made par on my bad play," Murphy said, "and took advantage of my good play with birdies.

"On No. 9 I hit the palm tree off the tee and hit another tree with my second shot. Then I hit a nine-iron to three or four feet and got a par.

"That was one you won't see in the morning papers."

Wanna bet?

Snead and Graham also were able to string together enough good shots to lead 25 players who broke par on a hot, breezy day. The leaders don't have much breathing room. Bruce Crampton made a late run, with birdies on three of the last five holes and is one shot back. Bob Eastwood shot 67 and Isao Aoki, Lee Trevino, Bob Charles and Leonard Thompson each shot 68.

Nine players, including Gil Morgan and Gary Player, shot 69. Ray Carrasco, a teaching pro at Laguna Hills Golf Range playing in his first senior tour event, was among seven who shot 70. Carrasco, the low qualifier Monday, had birdies on three of the first four holes.

It was another tough day for putting, something the players have grown accustomed to in the two years this tournament has been played at Newport Beach.

But Graham had the perfect solution on the par-four second: he holed a wedge from 108 yards for an eagle. It took him three putts to finish from 30 feet on the fourth green, but recovered quickly on the fifth, a 455-yard par four. Three players birdied the hole Friday; Graham's came on a 20-footer. Then he made a 10-footer on six and a 20-footer on eight to go four under.

"I'm sure you've heard it's hard to make long putts on these greens," Graham said. "So I felt like my quota of long putts was absorbed in the first nine holes."

Snead got into contention with birdies on Nos. 8, 9, 10 and 11--making putts of 25, nine, 15 and one foot. He had two more birdies and didn't have a bogey. It was seven-shot improvement over his best round here last year, when he finished four over in a tie for 50th.

"I think I only made one birdie for the tournament last year," Snead said. "If you're not putting well, the ball bounces all over the place. You get afraid of the putts and then you can't make anything. Last year I couldn't make one from a foot.

"Here we are and the greens are almost like they were last year and the ball goes in the hole. A lot has to do with attitude."

Murphy also had a share of the first-round lead last season before fading to a tie for 29th. But about 40 minutes before he teed off in the second round Saturday, he learned that his daughter, Kimberly, had given birth to his first grandchild. "My thoughts rushed away from here and straight home," Murphy said.

"Coincidentally, would you believe, I was leading the 1969 L.A. Open on Saturday on the regular tour when my wife called PGA Tour officials. They came out when I was on the 14th hole and told me Gail was going to have a baby.

"I walked off and tried to get back to Florida and I never got out of the Los Angeles airport."

"My girls have got bad timing."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Senior Scoreboard

FIRST-ROUND SCORES

Friday's first-round scores on the 6,598-yard, par-71 (35-36) Newport Beach Country Club course:

Bob Murphy: 32-33--65

J.C. Snead: 32-33--65

David Graham: 31-34--65

Bruce Crampton: 33-33--66

Bob Eastwood: 33-34--67

Isao Aoki: 34-34--68

Lee Trevino: 32-36--68

Bob Charles: 36-32--68

Leonard Thompson: 34-34--68

Bud Allin: 35-34--69

Gil Morgan: 34-35--69

Tom Shaw: 34-35--69

Rocky Thompson: 33-36--69

Jay Sigel: 36-33--69

Simon Hobday: 31-38--69

Gary Player: 35-34--69

David Oakley: 36-33--69

Dave Ojala: 36-33--69

Dale Douglass: 34-36--70

Jim Dent: 36-34--70

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