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TOSHIBA SENIOR CLASSIC

Wadkins Is Glad to Analyze 65

March 22, 2003|Peter Yoon | Times Staff Writer

Nagging injuries during his first two years on the Champions Tour prompted Lanny Wadkins to reevaluate his career, but he might never have left the links for television if more of his days were like Friday.

Wadkins, the lead analyst for PGA Tour events on CBS, shot a bogey-free, six-under-par 65 in the opening round of the Toshiba Senior Classic at Newport Beach Country Club and is tied with Australian Rodger Davis, one stroke behind leader Jim Ahern.

A group of four, including rookie David Eger and Mark McCumber, shot 66. Defending champion Hale Irwin is among four at 67.

Wadkins, a 21-time winner on the PGA Tour, won his first start on the Champions Tour in 2000 but has had limited success since. Separate elbow injuries forced him to miss significant portions of 2000 and 2001, and that's when he tapered his playing schedule and replaced Ken Venturi on CBS.

"One thing TV has done for me is it has gotten me healthy," Wadkins said. "For the first time in a long time, I feel like I can practice and work at it. I just need to budget my time well enough so when I am coming out to play, I'll be ready to play."

Wadkins works a full schedule with CBS, which has televised four PGA Tour events this year. He has played the last two Champions Tour events but hadn't shot better than 70 in finishing 68th and 59th.

He has put in extra time at the range in the past few weeks and his 65 Friday was his best round since a 63 a year ago. He started with six consecutive pars, made the turn at one under, then made birdies on five of the first six holes on the back nine.

"It was one of the best iron-striking days I've had in a long time," Wadkins said. "I had the ball around the hole all day long."

Finding a balance between two careers is tricky, Wadkins said. He has been focusing on television more lately because he's still learning the trade.

"I'm the new guy on the block," he said. "I've been putting CBS at the top of the list because I feel like I owe it to them to settle in and get comfortable. Hopefully if I control my schedule good enough that I can stay on top of my game, I can have the best of both worlds."

Ahern, a former club pro who won on the senior tour in 1999, shot a career-best round. It was also the lowest opening round at Newport Beach Country Club.

He made eight birdies and credited another television commentator, Bob Murphy, for a solid putting round.

Before play started, Ahern's caddie told him to slow down his putting stroke and try to putt like Murphy, an NBC analyst.

"I felt like Bob Murphy was inside my body all day," Ahern said. "Every time I got over a putt, I heard a voice telling me, 'You're Bob Murphy.' "

Davis is happy just to be playing. Two weeks ago, between rounds of a tournament in Mexico City, Davis was among a group of six players robbed at gunpoint while eating dinner.

The players were seated at a table when two armed robbers came in and demanded their expensive watches. Walter Hall and Butch Sheehan had guns pointed at their heads and Davis was pistol whipped.

"We were all pretty shaken up," Davis said.

Davis, who played bogey-free, started with three consecutive birdies and could have gone much lower but he missed birdie putts from inside of 10 feet on Nos. 7, 9, 10 and 12. He made an 18-foot birdie putt on No. 14, then made a 10-footer for eagle on No. 15.

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