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As Skies Clear, Two Storm Shinnecock : Sindelar Shoots a Record 66; Norman Leads U.S. Open by Three

Times Staff Writer

The last thing Joey Sindelar did before leaving for the golf course Friday morning was make plane reservations for later in the day to fly home to Horseheads, N.Y.

“There’s only one thing worse than missing the cut in a tournament,” Sindelar said. “And that’s having to spend the night in the city where you missed the cut.”

Sindelar had shot an 11-over-par 81 Thursday in the first round of the U.S. Open at the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, and his prospects for not making the cut were good.

But Shinnecock Hills was not the same stormy horror chamber Friday that it had been Thursday. The sun came out, the wind died down, and Sindelar got hot on the back nine with five straight 3s for a competitive course record 35-31--66.

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And he had to cancel his flight, because the 147 left him three strokes to the good when the cut was made at 10-over-par 150.

Despite the magnificent weather turnaround, only one player managed to complete 36 holes under par.

Greg Norman, the blond Australian, put a two-under-par 68 with his opening-round 71 for a 139 total and a three-stroke lead at the halfway point of the 86th Open.

Two-time champion Lee Trevino, using the same putter with which he won the Open in 1968 and 1971, shot a 68, moving into a second-place tie with South Africa’s Denis Watson at 142.

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Watson, who missed winning the Open last year by a stroke after being penalized two strokes for waiting too long for a putt to fall, bogeyed No. 18 for a 70.

Another old-timer, Raymond Floyd, also shot a 68 and is at 143 with first-round leader Bob Tway and the other Watson, Tom. Tway, the only golfer in the 156-player starting field who matched par in the opening round, had a 73 despite the improved conditions.

The Wadkins brothers, Lanny and Bobby, are at 144 with Japan’s Tommy Nakajima, West Germany’s Bernhard Langer, South Africa’s David Frost, stylish Payne Stewart, who had a 68, and controversial Mac O’Grady, who had a 69.

Another shot back at 145--still only six shots out of the lead--is a strong trio of Hal Sutton, Ben Crenshaw and Craig Stadler, plus Mark McCumber. Crenshaw birdied three of the last five holes for a 69.

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Crenshaw once shot a 65 at Shinnecock when he was an amateur, but he hit two drives off the first tee and the round was not during competition, so Sindelar’s 66 is considered the record.

The previous record was a 68 by Mal Galetta Jr. in the 1978 PGA team matches.

Norman threatened to break away from the pack at mid-day when he took a five-stroke lead with four birdies in his first eight holes.

Even though the long-hitting Norman said he felt as if he hit the ball better on the back nine, he made two bogeys without a birdie and dropped back.

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“I felt when I finished that 68 was the worst possible score I could have made, the way I was hitting the ball,” Norman said. “Naturally, I’m elated at the 68, but at the same time I’m disappointed I didn’t get more out of the round.”

Norman was hitting the ball so far off the tee, and punching his irons so close to the pin, that his birdie putts were only 7, 1, 12 and 5 feet.

“I’m going to be awfully surprised if someone catches Greg Norman,” O’Grady said. “He has so much inner drive and tenacity that in the position he’s in today, he will be very difficult to overtake.”

Norman, who lost in a playoff to Fuzzy Zoeller in the 1984 Open at Winged Foot and lost by a stroke to Jack Nicklaus in this year’s Masters, has yet to win what is generally considered to be a major championship, meaning the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open or PGA. Norman, however, figures he won a major when he won the Australian Open in 1980.

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After his front-nine 31, Norman said he got “too cute” on No. 10 when he tried to lay up with a 3-iron off the tee on the 409-yard hole and hit it into the rough. That led to his first bogey.

“Pete Bender, my caddy, told me to quit trying to work the ball and just hit it,” Norman said. “That was what I needed. Pete’s a good caddy, and the beauty of a good caddy is to know when to speak up and when to shut up. That was the time to speak up.”

Norman and most of the contenders agreed that a three-shot lead is nothing to get excited about at this stage.

“I have to forget that I’m three shots ahead and play like I’m three shots behind,” Norman said. “A 10-shot lead isn’t comfortable on a course like this.”

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Norman, who is second in PGA statistics in both driving distance and putting percentage, said he was a much better player today than when he tied Zoeller in 1984.

“I’m more street-smart now,” he said. “I have always been confident, but now I’m more selective in my shot-making.”

Norman’s recent shot-making has brought him two victories, at Las Vegas and in the Kemper, and two seconds, at the Masters and the Sea Pines Heritage, in his last five tournaments.

Said Tway, a two-time winner this year: “The idea for everyone the first three days is to stay around close. If you can keep in contention until Sunday, then you can let yourself go. Until then, it’s just a question of hanging in there.”

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Tway, who made one miraculous escape after another in shooting a 70 Thursday, had no such good fortune Friday.

“I just didn’t play very well,” he said. “If I’d played yesterday like I did today, I’d probably have shot 76 or 77. I couldn’t keep the ball on the fairway and, unlike yesterday, I couldn’t get up and down from the rough or the bunkers.”

Shinnecock Hills puts a premium on hitting straight because the penalty for getting into the rough is almost always a bogey--or worse.

Which explains why Trevino, at age 46, is hovering near the lead. The merry Mexican is the game’s straightest hitter, and his driver put him in position to make his five birdies.

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“The difference between my game today and yesterday was that yesterday most of the par-4s weren’t reachable for me, and today they were,” Trevino said. “The wind turned around, and I was able to birdie both No. 9 and No. 18.

“Yesterday, I didn’t get close to either of them with two woods. Today I reached 9 with a 4-iron and 18 with a 6-iron. That’s a hell of a change.

“If I play the next two days like I did today, and the weather doesn’t change again, my chances of winning are excellent.”

Trevino last won in the 1984 PGA at Shoal Creek in Birmingham, Ala., another course that puts a premium on straight driving.

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Sindelar’s five consecutive 3s included four birdies in a row from the 12th through 15th holes.

“I felt so good, I kept throwing strikes at the pin,” the former Ohio State star said. “I had (an approach shot) at five feet on No. 12, about a foot on No. 13 and two feet on No. 15. The only tough putt was a 15-footer on No. 14.

“My wife told me when I called her last night to ‘pull a Curtis Strange’ today. I hope she didn’t mean the last five holes.”

Strange shot an opening-round 80 in the Masters a year ago and--like Sindelar--booked a flight home before turning his game around with a 65-68 that moved him within a shot of the lead. On the final day, Strange actually led with six holes to play, then twice hit into the water and lost to Langer.

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“I came out today knowing I needed a 67 to stay in the game,” Sindelar said. “I came out with a good attitude because I hit the ball very well on the last nine holes Thursday. I’d done all the damage with a 43 on the first nine, but my game turned around in time to give me a lift for today.”

Sindelar is a streaky player who holds several course records, including a 62 at Colonial in Fort Worth.

“That was my biggest thrill until today, setting a record on Ben Hogan’s home course,” Sindelar said. “But now I don’t know. Setting a record on a course like Shinnecock is a big thrill, too.”

Sam Randolph, who has been low amateur in the Masters the last two years, added that same distinction in the Open when he was the only amateur to qualify for the final 36 holes.

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Randolph, USC’s college player of the year, squeezed in with a 71--150 in his last tournament as an amateur. He plans to turn pro next week at Atlanta.

The major losses to the cut were Hale Irwin, 74-151; Scott Simpson, 76-154; Strange, 79-155, and Corey Pavin, 79--159.

THE U.S. OPEN 36-HOLE LEADERS

Greg Norman 71-68--139 Lee Trevino 74-68--142 Denis Watson 72-70--142 Raymond Floyd 75-68--143 Bob Tway 70-73--143 Tom Watson 72-71--143 Lanny Wadkins 74-70--144 Tommy Nakajima 72-72--144 Bobby Wadkins 75-69--144 Bernhard Langer 74-70--144 Payne Stewart 76-68--144 Mac O’Grady 75-69--144 David Frost 72-72--144

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NOTABLE NON-QUALIFIERS

Hale Irwin 77-74--151 John Mahaffey 79-73--152 Bobby Clampett 81-72--153 Scott Simpson 78-76--154 Curtis Strange 76-79--155 Miller Barber 80-77--157 Corey Pavin 80-79--159

Complete scores, Page 16.


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