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SENIOR PGA TOURNAMENT AT NEWPORT BEACH

He Takes a Roundabout Way to Top of the Leaderboard

Golf: J.C. Snead avoids a TV trailer, then sinks 40-foot birdie putt to finish at five under and in a four-way tie for first-round lead.

March 14, 1998|STEVE KRESAL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEWPORT BEACH — That J.C. Snead birdied the 18th hole really wasn't that surprising. The uphill par-five at Newport Beach Country Club isn't that difficult for a pro golfer.

The news was the unconventional way he went about it.

Snead, who starts today as the best known among four tied for the lead at the Toshiba Senior Open, needed about a 40-foot putt to cap his round of five-under 66.

His troubles started on the tee of the 510-yard hole. Snead, thinking eagle and the outright lead, took a giant swing and pushed his tee shot well right.

"I'd been driving it pretty good," Snead said, "and I was really going to tear it up there on 18 and I blew my girdle off."

Snead's tee shot was so far right that his best available shot was up the 15th fairway, another par five that is along the right side of the closing hole.

Snead's second shot was sound and he was left with about 115 yards. However the television broadcast trailer was between the ball and the green. Snead was able to take a drop in order to see the flag, but said he still didn't feel comfortable standing over the ball because he was unsure of the yardage.

"My caddie said I had a 112 but that didn't look right," Snead said, "I hit a little nine iron and I pulled it a little. It wasn't nearly enough but I got it on the green."

Snead, who will play in the final group today, teeing off at 11:55 a.m., said he never considered making the left-breaking putt and would have been thrilled with anything within a foot or two.

"When it was about halfway there," Snead said, "some guy in the stands yelled out real loud, 'Get in!' I ought to hire him and take him with me."

Snead's day started with birdies on the second and third holes and a 15-foot par-saving putt at the par-four fifth. "The only reason I made that putt was because I remembered it from last year."

Snead remained at two under until the 170-yard 13th.

He drilled a five iron through the wind and it stopped within two feet after hitting the flag stick. He made the easy putt to go three under and got to four under with a four-foot birdie putt on the par-five 15th.

He gave a stroke back on the par-four 16th when his approach shot--a nine iron from the rough--left him short of the green. He used his putter from there and made his only bogey.

He got the shot right back and nearly one more on the next hole, a 185-yard par three over water.

Snead called on his five iron again and hit a crisp shot that again finished two feet away. "That was the best shot I hit all day," he said.

Snead shot 65 in the first round last year at the Toshiba tournament and was in a three-way tie for the lead, but followed with rounds of 74 and 72 and finished tied for 14th.

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