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They're in it for long run

Five players share the lead at the Bob Hope Classic, but the 90-hole marathon that can test a golfer's patience is just getting started.

January 17, 2008|Thomas Bonk | Times Staff Writer

Show up at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and you can bet your windsock that there will be massive delays at the turn, somebody's going to go low right out of the gate and something funny is going to happen.

That's probably why it didn't faze Robert Gamez even a bit in Wednesday's first round at SilverRock Resort at La Quinta when celebrity partner Anthony Anderson flipped his club and conked Gamez in the head.

"I've got a hard head, so it really didn't hurt me too much," Gamez said. "But it was all in fun."

Gamez shot a six-under-par 66, so that's why it didn't even bother him when another celebrity in his group, 18-handicapper Jimmy Fallon, danced across his putting line.

"I had a blast with him," said Gamez, playing on a sponsor's exemption.

And so it went on opening day at the Hope, where 7,360-yard SilverRock made its debut in the rotation, the wind whipped up a mess in the late afternoon, 95 players shot under par and there's a five-way tie for the first-round lead.

Tim Petrovic, Joe Durant, Omar Uresti, Mathew Goggin and Shigeki Maruyama begin today's second round with a share of the lead at seven-under 65, one shot ahead of a group of seven that includes Gamez.

There are a number of valuable traits in how best to tackle the Hope, a village of a golf tournament populated by 128 pros and 384 amateurs. Patience probably would be foremost among them, because rounds of 5 1/2 hours were the normal pace on day one.

Petrovic, who shot a 31 on his first nine holes at the Classic Club at Palm Desert, made the turn and walked to the next tee, where he saw four groups waiting ahead of him.

"We had halftime," he said. "Let's see, the Super Bowl halftime is 20 minutes and ours was about 40 minutes. With no entertainment.

"But in this format, you've got foursomes and it's a pro-am format, so we don't expect to run around here in four hours. So you just got to expect that."

Either that, or you don't play the Hope, a tactic that most of the top-ranked players have adopted this week. With only three players ranked in the top 30 in the field -- Stewart Cink, Scott Verplank and Mike Weir -- the Hope may be accused of being short on star power, but may well earn a reputation as the place for churning out young talent.

At the very least, there's a shift going on. It's fair to point out that the tournament that Phil Mickelson won in 2002 doesn't exist anymore because the courses have changed -- Indian Wells, Tamarisk and Bermuda Dunes are not being played.

A total of 11 alternates made the field, including Uresti, who shot his 65 at the Palmer Course at PGA West.

Petrovic said the Hope is the Hope, and there may even be a certain charm in its four-course, pro-am format, all 90 holes of it. "The guys that don't like it, you don't have to play, you know," he said. "Try to look at the pluses instead of all the negatives. The round is going to be a little slower, but you're playing the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and that's part of the week."

Of course, it's a long week full of long rounds, which is why Durant didn't even want to be reminded of his 36-under total that set a record when he won the Hope in 2001.

"I don't even know how to respond to that one," said Durant, who played the Classic Club. "I'm just glad to have one good round under my belt. But it's just a marathon and you have to treat it like that. You almost don't even know where you stand in this tournament until after the fourth round because there's such a contrast in golf courses."

Maruyama finished fast, with birdies on his last six holes at the Classic Club to work his way into the tie for the lead, while Goggin started fast with a 31 on his first nine at the Classic Club.

Goggin's longest wait was 15 minutes at the 220-yard, par-three eighth, his 17th hole. After he missed the cut last year, Goggin came back with a revamped outlook on how to handle the Hope and its four-course meal.

"Just be relaxed and chill out," he said. "You just can't get upset about the delays or bad amateur partners. It's five rounds; it's like a low-pressure version of Q-School. It's a grind, it's hard to concentrate for six hours, but at least the whole next year doesn't hinge on it.

"These courses. . . . It's not like Indian Wells or Bermuda Dunes where you're wearing out your pitching wedge and your sand wedge. It's mid irons and stuff like that."

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