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Weather in desert feels very English

Rose leads Verplank by two after a 66 on a chilly day. Mickelson stays in the middle of the pack.

January 20, 2007|Chris Dufresne | Times Staff Writer

Phil Mickelson finished his Friday round at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, popped out of the scorer's trailer behind the 18th hole at the Classic Club, and said, "It's not what I was expecting."

The three-under-par 69 he had just signed for?

The weather?

Yes on both counts.

Mickelson's middle-of-the-road play kept him comfortably separated from the lead -- he's 11 shots back and tied for 41st -- but the real star of Friday's show was the weather, which whipped up rudely and threatened to turn golf balls into ice cubes.

The low temperature reached 47, made chillier by winds that kicked to 15 mph.

It seemed fitting that Justin Rose, who was raised in England on bacon sandwiches, breakfast tea and hand warmers, should emerge as the tournament's 54-hole leader.

Rose, who shared the second-round lead with Scott Verplank, shot six-under 66 on Friday to get to 18-under 198. That gave him a two-shot cushion over Verplank, who stands at 16-under 200 after shooting a 68.

Three players -- Lucas Glover, John Rollins and Robert Allenby -- are five shots back at 13 under. Charley Hoffman is at 12 under, with six players tied at 10 under.

The Bob Hope event is played over five days, on four courses in the Palm Springs area, but it has never, to anyone's knowledge, been played with hockey sticks.

Rose shivered his 66 at the Palmer Course at PGA West, while Verplank bone-chilled his 68 at Bermuda Dunes.

Today marks the last day of the pro-am portion of the tournament; on Sunday the low 70 and ties will play the final round at the Classic Club.

How cold was it Friday?

Bob Hope, master of jokes and ceremonies at this event until his death in 2003, at age 100, might have requested a nose cover.

The Riverside County sheriff assigned to monitor Mickelson during his round had to go back to fetch his jacket.

Some marshals wore earmuffs, huddled in chairs, with the snow-dusted mountains as their backdrops.

Arnold Palmer, who paid a courtesy visit to the Classic Club host course that he designed, and told funny stories about former playing partner Gerald R. Ford, probably never considered fire rings in his course design.

Rose didn't allow a little wind-chill to keep him from his appointed round.

You want cold?

Once, playing as an amateur in England, at a course near Royal St. George's, Rose distinctly remembers "not being able to feel my hands" during a round.

"It was that cold," Rose remembered. "My dad was caddying for me

Rose, though, now lives in Orlando, Fla., so his blood has thinned a bit.

Players expect cooler weather when the PGA Tour starts in California.

"I think it's part of playing the West Coast, to be honest with you," said Rose, looking for his first PGA Tour victory. "But I came prepared; you pack your beanie and you pack your mitts and you come over here."

The weather didn't stop Bernhard Langer, the venerable German, from firing the day's low round -- a nine-under 63 at Bermuda Dunes.

Langer's leap moved him from 89th to 13th in the standings. He made consecutive eagles at No. 7 and No. 8. The first was a hole in one, the 16th of his career, at the 176-yard, par-three seventh.

"I never saw it," Langer said of his ace. "It just flew straight into the cup. I dunked it."

Langer was just getting warmed up -- if that was possible. His back nine included four consecutive birdies.

A two-time Masters champion, Langer is going to have a birthday in August that will match what the weather average was Friday: 50.

"I've played in worse, but this is pretty cold," Langer said. "There's no sun."

With the windchill, Langer said, it felt like 35 or 40 degrees.

The highlight for Mickelson's round at the Classic Club came before noon, before the weather kicked in, when he rolled in a 15-foot eagle putt on the 568-yard fourth hole.

That got Mickelson to three under for the day and seven-under overall -- but that was about it in terms of a charge in his first tournament of the year.

He struck the ball straight, finding 12 of 14 fairways, but was betrayed on the par-threes, three-putting for bogey on No. 6 and then not being able to save par out of the bunker on No. 17.

"It wasn't an easy round today," he said.

But it was a chilly one.

*

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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