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O’Grady’s Theory Pays Off for Leader Stockton : Veteran Shoots 7-Under-Par 65 at Pebble Beach to Lead Pro-Am by a Stroke

Times Staff Writer

Those who doubt the theory that you’re never too old to learn would be advised to consult Dave Stockton.

Stockton is a 47-year-old veteran, a 2-time winner of the PGA championship, who is in the twilight of his career on the PGA Tour.

Yet, Stockton, who is much in demand for clinics, changed his entire approach to the game about a year ago with Mac O’Grady as his teacher.

It paid dividends for him Thursday in the opening round of the AT&T; Pebble Beach Pro-Am as he shot a 7-under-par 65 to take a 1-stroke lead over Nick Price and Mark O’Meara.

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On a perfect day on the Monterey Peninsula--minimal wind, clear sky and relatively warm weather for January--low scores were common.

Lennie Clements, Loren Roberts, John Cook and Tom Kite were grouped at 67, with Tim Simpson, Peter Jacobsen, Ken Green, Ted Schulz, David Ogrin, Hubert Green and Sandy Lyle another stroke back.

Steve Jones, the defending champion, shot a 71, same as Mark Calcavecchia, who had momentum coming into the tournament from his 7-shot victory last week in the Phoenix Open.

And there was an even more familiar name on the leader board. Jack Nicklaus, who doesn’t play as often on the tour as he once did, came in with a 69.

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It was Stockton’s day, though, in the bright sun. The former USC star was paired with his son, David, a freshman in eligibility at USC and the No. 4 man on the golf team.

Stockton had 9 birdies and 2 bogeys in his round of 34-31 at Pebble Beach, a course that Simpson said was “a sleeping lady” because it allowed so many low scores.

Stockton, who played in only 13 tournaments last year, may not have surprised himself with his 65. But he caught tournament officials off guard.

They didn’t have his name previously printed to be available for the leader board at the 18th green at Pebble. So they had to improvise in a hurry.

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That didn’t bother Stockton, who said he is hitting the ball better from tee to green than he ever has.

He credits O’Grady with changing his concept of the standard golf swing.

“Mac showed me a whole bunch of stuff that I didn’t even know about the game,” Stockton said. “It’s all based on body rotation.”

Stockton said that the swing is counter to the theory of the long arc on the backswing with the elbows held rather tight to the body.

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“He (O’Grady) has taught a lot of people, guys who have won,” Stockton said.

Stockton said Seve Ballesteros, Chip Beck, Jodie Mudd, Robert Wrenn, Mark Brooks, and Tom Sieckmann are among those who have been influenced by O’Grady.

O’Grady, the ambidextrous teacher, had to settle for a 1-under-par 71 while playing at Cypress Point.

Stockton, who once played with his late father, Gail, in this tournament, hasn’t won since his second PGA title in 1976. He doesn’t think he will retain his lead.

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“My flame is out, basically,” said Stockton, in good humor. “Do you think Mark Calcavecchia is worried that I shot a 65?”

For sure, the field is bunched with 11 of the top 13 scores coming out of Pebble Beach and Cypress Point, regarded as relatively easier courses than Spyglass Hill.

O’Meara shot his 66 at Cypress in a foursome that included Peter Jacobsen and actor Jack Lemmon.

He hasn’t won on the tour since 1985, when he won here and in the Hawaiian Open. He earned $438,311 last year and, although O’Meara concedes he is not averse to a good paycheck, he’s hungry for a win.

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“Winning is what it’s all about, and that’s what I want to do,” O’Meara said.

O’Meara had 6 birdies in his round, and he received an unusual assist on the 12th hole.

His second shot on the par-4, 404-yard 12th hole hit a spectator on the top of his head, with the ball ricocheting 20 yards past the green.

O’Meara saved par on the hole, though, with a chip shot and a 15-foot putt.

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“I was concerned about him, because his head was bleeding, but somebody put an ice pack on his head and he didn’t seem bothered,” O’Meara said, adding humorously that he wished the spectator had tilted his head so the ball would have had a favorable bounce on the green.

The spectator with the ice pack was identified as Bill Spaeth, who followed O’Meara the rest of the round.

O’Meara gave him a pass to the remaining rounds of the tournament.

On the same hole, Jacobsen hit a woman in the back with his second shot. But he didn’t recover as well as O’Meara, winding up with a double bogey.

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Price, who says he has never been a fast starter on the tour, surprised himself with his 66 at Cypress.

“I took 2 months off last year when I slipped and hurt my left thumb,” he said. “I feel refreshed and ready to play.”

Price’s round included an eagle on the the 292-yard, par-4 hole when he holed a sand wedge shot from 106 yards.

Golf Notes

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Actor Jack Lemmon, who has said he might even consider giving up a couple of his Oscars if he could make the cut at Pebble Beach, is striving toward that end. He and his partner, Peter Jacobsen, shot a net 66 in the pro-am field. However, they are in 28th place, and the top 25 make the cut. Pro John Cook and baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth are the leaders with a net 61. . . . Lemmon said that in a practice round he had 7 birdies at Cypress Point with the strokes that he was given. “I didn’t swing as well today as I did on the range,” Lemmon said. That’s a common lament of most golfers. Lemmon has a 16 handicap. . . . Johnny Miller Jr., playing with his father, had a hole-in-one on the 151-yard 15th hole at Spyglass Hill. . . . Loren Roberts, who shot a 67, said of the Pebble Beach course: “This is as easy as Pebble is ever going to play. If you get the ball on the green, you’re going to make a lot of putts.” Roberts said he used to sneak onto the Pebble Beach course when he was 15 and a student at San Luis Obispo High School. “But the best I ever shot here was a 69,” he said.


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