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SENIOR GOLF AT NEWPORT BEACH | SENIOR CLASSIC NOTEBOOK
/ STEVE KRESAL

Nelson Thrown Off Course Since Switching Tours

March 12, 1998|STEVE KRESAL

Larry Nelson stopped by the press tent Wednesday at Newport Beach Country Club and the way he talked, he was lucky to find it.

Nelson, who picked up his first Senior Tour victory two weeks ago, spoke at length about all the adjustments he has had to make since turning 50 last September and since switching tours.

After years of staying in the same hotels and knowing how to get to all the courses, he is totally lost--for the most part.

"I flew into LAX," Nelson said, "and drove down to Newport Beach, hoping to find the Hyatt where I'm staying, then the golf course through the concierge."

Actually, about all he had to do was look out the window of the hotel, which overlooks much of the course Nelson will play for the first time today in the pro-am.

But he did recall playing in an event in Orange County once before. He wasn't sure on many of the details except he was paired with Amy Alcott at El Niguel Country Club in Laguna Niguel.

"She and I won the world team something championship," he said. "Mr. Goodwrench, that's what it was. She played better than I did. I just kind of walked around."

Nelson took a break from the Senior Tour and returned to the PGA Tour last week, but missed the cut at Doral. Still, it afforded him a chance to compare the tours.

"Nothing's changed that much," Nelson said. "Even before I left for the Senior Tour they were calling me 'old man.' Going back, it didn't change; it just got worse. There were a lot of questions about what are you doing out here. It was good-natured ribbing, I guess."

Pretty tough talk about a man who won 10 times on the regular tour, including three majors--the 1983 U.S. Open and PGA championships in 1981 and '87.

Playing both tours, Nelson also holds the contrary opinion that the Senior Tour's courses are set up to play more difficult than those on the PGA Tour.

Nelson said the pin locations on the Senior Tour tend to be more difficult because the holes are shorter and players are hitting more lofted clubs for approach shots.

"The pins are more likely to be closer to slopes and closer to the front or back of the greens," he said.

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Great things were expected of Nelson from the start of his Senior Tour career and he finally met them by winning last week at the American Express Invitational in Sarasota, Fla.

He played in six events last season and won $312,457. Nelson, who started last week with a 63 and won by four shots, has won $263,700 in three events.

"It means a lot to me to win," Nelson said. "Everybody kind of expected it even a little quicker. The articles I read said it had been a long time and I hadn't played up to my potential. But the worst I had finished since I had been out here was 17th. It's not like I had a hard time."

*

Gil Morgan and defending tournament champion Bob Murphy headline the morning pro-am pairings. Gary Player and Walter Morgan are also in the groups that go off at 7:30 a.m. in the shotgun start.

Among those playing in the 1:15 p.m. shotgun are Lee Trevino, Nelson, David Graham, Hale Irwin and Dave Stockton.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Tee Times

First-round groupings and starting times for the Toshiba Senior Classic Friday at Newport Beach CC:

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Time Group 8 a.m. Kurt Cox Harry Toscano Jimmie Jones 8:10 John Jacobs Billy King Joe Inman 8:20 Mike McCullough Buzz Thomas Jose Maria Canizares 8:30 Butch Baird Walter Zembriski Larry Laoretti 8:40 Dave Hill Terry Dill Larry Ziegler 8:50 Jack Kiefer Bob Eastwood Bud Allin 9 a.m. Miller Barber Harold Henning Brian Barnes 9:10 Jim Ferree Larry Mowry Billy Casper 9:20 Lee Trevino Gil Morgan Al Geiberger 9:30 Bob Murphy Jim Dent Jay Sigel 9:40 Gary Player Dave Stockton Gibby Gilbert 9:50 Bob Charles Jim Colbert Charles Coody 10 a.m. Hale Irwin Larry Nelson Jim Albus 10:10 George Archer Dale Douglass Tom Wargo 10:20 David Graham J.C. Snead Rocky Thompson 10:30 Graham Marsh Don Bies Bruce Crampton 10:40 Dave Eichelberger Walt Morgan Dana Quigley 10:50 Jimmy Powell Hugh Baiocchi Bruce Summerhays 11 a.m. Bruce Devlin Tom Shaw Bob Dickson 11:10 DeWitt Weaver Jerry McGee Orville Moody 11:20 Bobby Nichols Gene Littler Calvin Peete 11:30 Don January Hubert Green John L. Schroeder 11:40 Lee Elder Gay Brewer Leonard Thompson 11:50 Lou Graham Ben Smith Dick Hendrickson 12:00 Bob Duval David Lundstrom Frank Conner 12:10 Fred Gibson Terry Wiens Ray Carrasco

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