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Rookie, 31, Has a Blast for Eagle and the Lead

Golf: Australian Senden is one clear of the field after 36 holes, but there are still plenty of birdies to be made in the desert.

January 18, 2002|THOMAS BONK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LA QUINTA — After two rounds of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, your leader is a 31-year-old Australian playing his second tournament of a two-week-old PGA Tour career, who finished his 65 at Indian Wells by holing a bunker shot for an eagle.

It was John Senden's day Thursday at the shooting gallery, but not by much. Senden's back-to-back rounds of 64-65 sent him to 15 under par, one shot ahead of Brandel Chamblee and two ahead of Phil Mickelson and Jay Haas.

Because there are 24 players within five shots of Senden, this tournament probably isn't going to be decided until the final putt falls into the 90th hole Sunday ... yes, good to the last drop.

Chamblee, who had a 67 at Bermuda Dunes, tried to answer the question everybody is asking: "Who knows what the scores are going to be ... 30 under? Who knows?"

In the meantime, who knows John Senden? He earned his tour card at qualifying school after playing in Europe the last four years and says his putting has been improving steadily. Senden says when he's going good, it's all in his mind.

"The best part of my putting routine has just been the mental approach into the putt, just looking, feeling and just running it off," he said.

Mickelson, who had a 67, could have been closer to the leader, but he bogeyed the last hole at Bermuda Dunes when he drove under some trees and couldn't get up and down from just short of the green.

"Not disappointing," Mickelson said of his day, which is a lot different than, say, wildly exciting. There was certainly a lot of that stuff going around, and in any direction you looked.

Charles Howell shot a 32 on the back nine at the Palmer Course for a 67 and moved into a tie for fifth at 12-under 132. Howell is joined by Greg Kraft, who shot a 31 on the back nine at Bermuda Dunes on his way to a 65. Steve Elkington had a 65 at Indian Wells to equal Howell and Kraft and also Heath Slocum. Scott McCarron posted a 65 at Bermuda Dunes to tie seven others at 133. Kenny Perry had a 64 at Tamarisk, but Fred Funk's 63 at Indian Wells was the low score of the day.

Howell says there isn't anything not to like about golf in perfect conditions.

"It's like playing in a dome," he said. "And the roof is closed."

Meanwhile, the Hope is wide open, which is to be expected. Haas followed his opening 63 with a four-under 68 at Bermuda Dunes and must have felt like he was getting windburn from everybody passing him. The philosophy is different now than when he won the Hope in 1988, Haas said.

"Everybody wants to go low every single day now and there's no such thing as kind of holding and protecting your lead," he said. "I shot 22 under when I won and I ended up winning by two. A 22 under this year might finish 25th or something."

Senden says he is going to go out and relax and play his game and not worry about what everyone else is doing. It's a nice approach, a lot easier to take when you eagle the closing hole. Senden's four-iron second shot found a bunker on the right side.

"I just splashed it out and it dropped right in the middle," he said. "I was a happy man."

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