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VALLEY/VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Scores Drop as Winds Disappear

Golf: Players take advantage of conditions at Valencia. Kendall shoots course-record 64.

March 01, 1998|PETER YOON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

VALENCIA — As soon as the wind died, the golfers came to life.

Those who made the cut in the Nissan Open at Valencia Country Club will be rewarded today with a paycheck.

Saturday, they were rewarded with pristine, spring-like conditions in the Santa Clarita Valley: sunny skies, temperatures in the 70s and, most importantly after two days of gusts up to 40 mph, no wind.

They took advantage.

Skip Kendall broke the course record with a seven-under-par 64. The record was 67 before the PGA Tour came to town.

Tiger Woods shot 65--eight strokes better than his 73 on Friday. Guy Hill improved from 74 on Friday to 67 Saturday. Tom Kite improved six shots between rounds and John Daly improved five.

There were 22 players who posted scores lower than 70. In the first two rounds combined, there were 33. There were 35 rounds under par on Saturday, 53 in the first two rounds.

The scoring average Saturday was 71.141, a drop of nearly two strokes from the combined average of 73.879 through the first two rounds.

"It played like a different golf course because the wind wasn't there all of a sudden," said Billy Mayfair, who held the lead after the first and second rounds and is one stroke behind leader Tommy Armour III.

Kendall, six strokes off the lead at the start of the day, used four consecutive birdies to pull within two shots of the lead by the end of the day. He said it wouldn't have been possible if the winds had remained.

"No chance," said Kendall, who shot a 73 in the second round. "I made three birdies total [Friday] and I was probably lucky to do that. There was no chance yesterday for a streak like that. If the wind is blowing 30 miles an hour like the last couple of days then it's just survival."

Woods, two shots off the lead,, woke up wide-eyed and grinning at the chance to play Valencia in calm conditions.

"Today obviously was the easiest of the bunch," he said. "What wind we did have was minimal so we could be very aggressive."

Valencia was not rendered defenseless, however, by the absence of wind. Pins were placed in more difficult spots, most notably on the sixth hole where putts from the left side could roll off the green and into a nearby lake.

Woods, who made his first par at the sixth hole after starting birdie, birdie, bogey, eagle, birdie, might have been even more aggressive if not for the pin placements.

"There were some pretty scary pins out there," he said. "If you make a three [on the sixth hole] today you're stealing one."

Perhaps, then, it was the pin placements that explained the 25 players who actually shot higher on Saturday than on Friday. The most notable player was Duffy Waldorf, who calls Newhall home and plays Valencia often. Waldorf, who shot 76 on Saturday after rounds of 72 and 73 in the wind, couldn't figure it out.

"The wind is not normal," he said. "The course definitely plays a little harder when the wind is up."

Waldorf might be one who hopes the winds pick up a little today, but you can bet the 53 players who had better scores Saturday than they did Friday are hoping for a similar kind of day.

"As soon as I get up, I'm going to see what the weather is like," Mayfair said. "If we get another calm day then you're going to have to shoot a low number to win."

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