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SPORTS WEEKEND | GOLF ROUNDUP

Stankowski Leads, Palmer Plays in His Tournament

March 21, 1997|From Associated Press

Paul Stankowski shot a five-under-par 67 and Tiger Woods had a 68, but they were overshadowed by a round of 81 turned in Thursday in the first round of the Bay Hill Invitational in Orlando, Fla.

Arnold Palmer was back, hosting the tournament and playing in it.

Palmer's first round since his Jan. 15 surgery for prostate cancer opened with six pars before his game fell apart. He was greeted by cheers at every green, topped by a standing ovation on No. 18.

A siren wailed in the distance as he emerged from the scoring tent.

"I'm glad I'm not in that ambulance," Palmer cracked.

Then he paused.

"It's great to be out here," he said softly. "I felt wonderful out there. I feel very lucky to be out there playing."

Stankowski opened with a 67 and the lead for the second week in a row. He led the first two rounds of the Honda Classic last week before faltering in the final 36 holes.

Joining Woods at 68 were Steve Jones, Fred Funk and Billy Andrade.

Payne Stewart, still needing a win to get into the Masters, was among those at 69.

"This is one of the best ball-striking rounds I've had," Stankowski said.

A little luck didn't hurt. Three under through 15 holes, his two-iron approach on the par-five 16th hole landed between rocks and sand on a piece of turf no larger than the width of his stance.

He chipped to within three feet for birdie, then got to five under with an eight-iron to six feet on the 18th hole.

*

Barb Mucha, playing her first tournament since mid-January, tied the course record with an eight-under 65 to take a one-shot lead over Dawn Coe-Jones in the LPGA Standard Register Ping in Phoenix.

Mucha's bogey-free round matched the Moon Valley Country Club mark set by Amy Alcott in 1988 and equaled twice since.

Kelly Robbins was alone at 67 after five birdies on the back nine.

Laura Davies, trying to become the first player in LPGA history to win the same tournament four years in a row, needed five birdies in an eight-hole span to finish with a 70.

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