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There's No Hope Without Birdies

Herron is the third player in two days to shoot 61, and he's tied with Ames after three rounds. Lowery and Gossett card 62s, and only two players are over par.

February 01, 2003|Thomas Bonk | Times Staff Writer

LA QUINTA — Tim Herron might look like an unmade bed but then he shoots a 61 and it's a beautiful thing. In fact, you could put him on a runway. No, not an airport runway.

They refer to Herron as Lumpy, for obvious reasons, but after 54 holes of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic here in the desert Friday, Lumpy led the tournament.

Actually, Herron wasn't alone. He was tied for the lead with Stephen Ames at 194, 22 under par, in a remarkable scoring tournament.

Consider this: There are 126 pros in the Hope field and 124 of them are at par or better.

Last October, in the Disney Golf Classic, the PGA Tour set a record for the lowest cut at six under and only 14 players were over par. If the Hope cut had been made after Friday's play, it would have been at 10 under, with only Mark Hayes and Paul Azinger over par.

What is going on here?

After his 11-under 61 on the Palmer Course at PGA West, the third 61 in two days at the Hope, Herron said he had an idea.

"The hole looked like a bucket," he said.

"I was really in the moment and that's probably the hardest thing. You kind of get in the zone and you kind of forget what you're shooting. I was just trying to make every putt I looked at. Almost did too."

Ames, who shot a nine-under 63 at La Quinta, is the first touring professional to come from Trinidad and Tobago in the West Indies. His dad is English, his mother Portuguese, he lives in Calgary with his Canadian wife and he has had his passport stamped so many times it could travel on its own for a couple of years.

"For me, if I had to live or wanted to live in Trinidad, it's too hard of a commute to play golf in the States," Ames said.

Right on the heels of Ames and Herron, at 21 under, was Jay Haas, who shot his 61 Thursday and is already old news. Haas went to Indian Wells, turned in a five-under 67 and almost felt as if he'd messed up.

"Could have been better," he said.

Steve Lowery did better at Indian Wells, where he aced the sixth hole on his way to a 62. Lowery is in a three-way tie at 18 under, along with Chris DiMarco and David Gossett, who had a 62, also at Indian Wells.

What's happening is a full-scale assault. After this weekend, par will be removed from the rules because it won't mean anything.

As usual, the greatest carnage occurred at Indian Wells, the shortest course on the PGA Tour at 6,478 yards. Phil Mickelson, Donnie Hammond, Frank Lickliter and Chris Riley all shot 63s there. Matt Gogel had a triple-bogey 7 on the 11th hole and still shot a 64 there.

Mike Weir and Rod Pampling were two shots behind the leaders after shooting 65s at Indian Wells. Weir said he was lucky to be in his position, especially after a rotten start -- five straight pars.

He knows how far under par he'll have to go to contend.

"I think in the back of your mind, you know it's going to be in the 30s," he said. "You know, you just keep plugging away and put the pedal down here if you're going to have a chance to win.

"That's what everybody is going to have to do the next two days."

Ames hasn't won a PGA Tour event, although he has three international victories. Herron has won three times, although not since the 1999 Bay Hill tournament. Hoping to change that, he has altered his putting style, using the "claw" technique that both DiMarco and Mark Calcavecchia practice.

There has been one other change.

"I'm doing something different with my eyes," Herron said. "I move my eyes kind of down the line and then bring them back to the ball. I'm kind of more into looking down the line more, instead of probably the mechanics of the stroke."

Herron birdied four of the first five holes, then after three pars, birdied seven of the next nine. This is his first visit to the Hope since he tied for 61st in his rookie year of 1996. He's here again because his schedule is different and so is his putting.

"Now, I feel like I can putt," he said.

There aren't many here who feel like they can't.

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