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GOLF

'Boring' round puts Alex Prugh in the lead

Rookie shoots a 65 at La Quinta, putting him one ahead of Bubba Watson and Martin Flores.

January 24, 2010|By Diane Pucin

Reporting from La Quinta — The Bob Hope Classic golf tournament is missing a sponsor to pay the bills and missing the big names that help draw sponsors, unless Mike Weir, ranked 37th in the world, is selling more tickets than anyone expects.

And the tournament directors probably won't want to put the quote from Alex Prugh, the third-round leader, on its sales brochures either.

"Boring," is how Prugh described his seven-under-par round of 65 Saturday at La Quinta Country Club. He has a 54-round total of 21 under par, good for a one-stroke lead over second-round leader Bubba Watson and fellow PGA Tour rookie Martin Flores.

What Prugh was speaking of Saturday was how his maneuvering through the tight course didn't even entertain himself.

"I was almost bored with myself a little bit," he said. "It's not a bad thing. I was hitting the driver well and I kept on hitting fairway after fairway."

Prugh, 25, is a University of Washington graduate who is playing only this third PGA Tour event. He pointed to a chip-in on the ninth hole as an energy-drink kind of eye-opening moment and was proud of getting up and down out of a bunker on the 16th hole for par. "That's because I was in the center of the fairway and missed my approach to the right," he said.

Flores, 28, is also making only his third start. "I don't really think about winning the tournament right now," he said. "I'm thinking about making as many birdies as possible."

Watson, who had set a SilverRock Resort course record of 62 on Friday, had little good to say about his 68 at the Palmer PGA West course Saturday.

"I just played bad," Watson said. "The 68 was getting a lot out of my round. My caddie kept yelling at me, trying to get me to pay attention and stay focused. I should have been at 71 or 72 and somehow I got a 68 out of it."

Though Prugh and Flores are both rookies, they have played as if they are unaffected by seeing their names on the leaderboard.

Prugh has played 41 straight holes without a bogey and Flores has been bogey-free this entire tournament, 54 holes.

This 90-hole tournament, which will now have a Monday finish because of a Thursday rainout, doesn't make a cut until after 72 holes.

Some of the more well-known veterans in the field are creeping closer to contention.

Weir shot his third consecutive 67 and is six strokes back and in a tie for eighth. Ryan Palmer, who won last week's season opener, the Sony Open in Hawaii, had an eight-under 64 to move from an opening-day tie for 93rd into a tie for 15th, eight shots back with two rounds left.

Watson, the long-hitting left-hander who is the veteran among the three top scorers so far, said Monday's winner will be the guy who putts the best.

"In this tournament," Watson said, "you know you've got to make putts because everybody is going to have tough shots out of the rough. You just have to make putts."

Prugh said besides making putts, he'd like to do a little better the next couple of days on par-five holes. "I parred a couple of them today, would like to do better," he said.

Still, Prugh is the first rookie to lead this tournament since John Senden was first after 36 holes in 2002. Phil Mickelson ended up winning that year. But there are no Mickelsons in this field.

diane.pucin@latimes.com

twitter.com/mepucin

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