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Floyd Stays With What Works

Golf: He takes two-stroke lead with second strong finish for another 70; Irwin rebounds from opening 77 with a 68.

July 25, 1998|THOMAS BONK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

What is the best way to attack the wily kikuyu?

Actually, most methods come straight from the textbook. For instance, you can be gentle and try to coax the golf ball out of the kikuyu rough with kind words and half-hearted swings.

Or you can follow the Raymond Floyd approach, which as far as kikuyu is concerned clearly borders on herbicide.

Now, Floyd is such a subtle guy, his other car is probably a skip-loader, so you need to take this into consideration.

Here's what you do: "You hack at it," he said. "You are just whacking and hoping."

And so it was on a whack and a prayer that Floyd maintained his lead in the U.S. Senior Open at Riviera Country Club, where he spent his Friday shooting a one-under 70 that was worth a two-shot lead after 36 holes.

Once again, Floyd finished fast, with birdies on two of the last four holes. Once again, he was the only player in the field of 155 who finished 36 holes with a score under par.

And once again, Floyd gave credit for his success to his thinking man's philosophy of golf.

"Right now, mentally, I am very sound," he said. "I am having good patience. I would hope I can continue to do that."

The way things are going at Riviera, Floyd's tactics have proved to be sound business practices. Only three others broke par Friday, including Hale Irwin, who bounced back from his opening 77 with a 68 and pulled himself back into the race.

When he spoke with reporters afterward, something he didn't do after his 77, Irwin sounded sort of grateful to be only five shots behind.

"I'm going to be doing cartwheels once I leave here," he said.

Roy Vucinich, the club pro and pride of Sewickley, Pa., is two shots behind Floyd after his 71 and he's tied with Bruce Summerhays at even-par 142.

Dave Stockton, who shot a one-under 70, is next at 143 along with Isao Aoki. Vicente Fernandez, Hugh Baiocchi, Brian Barnes and Gibby Gilbert trail Floyd by four shots heading into the weekend.

Irwin, Gil Morgan, Bob Murphy and Jose Maria Canizares find themselves within kikuyu-hacking distance at 145. Then there is Jack Nicklaus, who bogeyed the 18th when he missed the green to conclude his round of 72, but didn't feel all that terrible considering he hasn't played all that great and he's still only six shots from the lead.

As for Floyd, he already has made a little piece of personal history. It's the first time he has led a tournament in two years. It has been kind of a long road back for Floyd, who says he is healthy again after being bothered by a sore hip last year that caused him to change his swing when he didn't want to.

Floyd said what caused his sore hip is no mystery.

"All it is, is age," Floyd said.

Fortunately, the golf ball doesn't care how old the person is who hits it. Floyd made his move at No. 15, where he knocked a six-iron to 20 feet and then made the putt for a birdie. At the par-three 16th, Floyd stopped the ball eight feet from the hole with a seven-iron and rolled in the putt for another birdie.

Riviera wasn't in a particularly friendly mood again, of course. Floyd found that out at the 17th when he played his six-foot birdie putt to break about the width of the cup and it broke twice that and the ball stayed out of the hole.

The average score was 78.57. There were exactly 60 scores of at least 80, the same number as in the first round, but the cut was at 12-over 154--the second highest in U.S. Senior Open history.

Among the casualties was defending champion Graham Marsh who missed the cut by one shot after a double bogey six at the 18th that included a whiff on a shot in the rough.

But Arnold Palmer made the cut for the seventh consecutive year despite his own double bogey at the 18th when his tee shot hit a tree, he punched out, laid up and three-putted from 20 feet for a six.

"Very simple," Palmer said.

John Mahaffey's senior tour career began only two months ago, but his 70 meant he joined Floyd, Irwin and Stockton as the only players to break par Friday. Mahaffey is four over through 36 holes.

"I honestly feel I'm back in the hunt," Mahaffey said.

That's just the way Irwin feels, which isn't a sensation he expected to experience after his disastrous opening round. He called his 77 "reverse momentum," which is probably as good a way to describe a bad round as any.

Irwin, who said he's feeling a little run down after playing four consecutive tournaments, has managed four birdies in two days. This isn't exactly headline material for Irwin, he acknowledged.

"It's not like I'm really knocking the flag down," he said. "I'm not on fire. But I'm there. I've got a chance."

Like everybody else still standing for the weekend at Riviera, he has to hope to stay out of the kikuyu grass . . . and pray there's no more reverse momentum.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

LEADERS

Player: Friday--Total

Ray Floyd: 70--140 -2

Bruce Summerhays: 71--142 E

Roy Vucinich: 71--142 E

Isao Aoki: 71--143 +1

Dave Stockton: 70--143 +1

OTHERS

Player: Friday--Total

Hale Irwin: 68--145 +3

Gil Morgan: 72--145 +3

Jack Nicklaus: 72--146 +4

Gary McCord: 74--148 +6

Arnold Palmer: 76--154 +12

*

NICKLAUS

He refuses to use ailing hip as an excuse. C8

SCORES: C8

LEADERS' SCORECARDS: C8

NOTES: C9

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