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Price Celebrates Birthday With a 67 That Ties O’Meara

Times Staff Writer

Nick Price gave himself as good a birthday present as he ever had Saturday in the AT&T; Pebble Beach Pro-Am golf tournament.

Price, who turned 32, also turned in a round of 5-under-par 67 to tie Mark O’Meara for the lead at 207 on a day when the weather took a turn for the worse.

The sun disappeared, and it was cold and windy on the 3 courses.

Veterans Dave Stockton, 47, and Jack Nicklaus, 49, who were in contention after 36 holes, also disappeared from the leader board.

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Stockton, who was one stroke out of the lead Friday, shot a 78 at Spyglass Hill for a 54-hole total of 213 and trails Price and O’Meara by 6 shots.

Nicklaus, who was 6 under par after his round Friday, fared even worse. He shot an 80 at Pebble Beach.

So Price is charging and O’Meara, who had a 73 at Pebble, now shares the lead that he held by a stroke over Stockton starting the day.

Tom Kite and Bernhard Langer are also in contention at 209 going into today’s final round at Pebble Beach. David Ogrin, Ken Green, Mark Brooks and Steve Pate, who had the best round of the day with a 66 at Pebble, are grouped at 210.

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Price, who grew up in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), has been noted for his second-place finishes in recent years, especially being runner-up to Seve Ballesteros last year in the British Open.

And he hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since his victory in the World Series of Golf in 1983.

“I try not to think about the last time I won,” Price said. “I’ve had a lot of second-place finishes, and I’m confused because my game has improved. But it’s been no cigar.”

Price is mildly surprised that he’s playing so well, considering that he hasn’t played in 3 months.

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He said that he pulled the tendon off the bone in his left thumb last October when he slipped in what he called a a freak accident.

However, Price was on his game Saturday with 7 birdies and 2 bogeys at Pebble Beach, which had been described as a “sleeping lady” by the pros earlier when the weather was mild but now is more formidable.

Not for Price.

“It was a good ball-striking day for me,” he said. “I hit my drives so well that I was in in a perfect position every time. I’m also hitting my irons well and getting close.”

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Price said he didn’t even have a practice round on Pebble, having spent his time on the other two courses, Spyglass and Cypress Point.

“I played it blind. Pebble is the most honest of the 3 courses,” Price said.

O’Meara, who won here in 1985 when the tournament was last identified with Bing Crosby, said he had an uneventful day with 2 bogeys to go along with 1 birdie.

“The speed on the greens was tricky, almost borderline U.S. Open,” O’Meara said. “I hit some pretty good putts, but you can’t be aggressive because the greens are so quick and sloping. You have to be cautious on them.”

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O’Meara said that he likes his position, though, and that the weather here is similar to what it was when he won in 1985.

“That gives me a little boost knowing that I have won here,” O’Meara said.

O’Meara had a 1-stroke lead over Curtis Strange at the start of the final round in 1985 and went on to win by 1 shot.

He also won the California State Amateur title here in 1979, which preceded a victory in the U.S. Amateur championship.

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As for today’s final 18 holes, he said: “If I have to be aggressive and go for it, I will.”

O’Meara has only 3 tour victories, his last ones in 1985, when he won here and at the Hawaiian Open.

However, he earned $438,311 on the Tour last year and has also had some success playing in foreign countries.

“To win outside our own country is a great honor,” O’Meara said.

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While O’Meara and Price were having a good time, Nicklaus wasn’t.

He didn’t get off to an auspicious start at Pebble. He bogeyed the first 2 holes, the second when he said his iron shot on the par-5 hole went across a road and out of bounds.

He also had a double-bogey on the 15th hole, a 397-yard par 4.

“I had a good tee shot, but it hit a tree and went straight down,” Nicklaus said.

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Even though Nicklaus has been bothered by back problems, he wouldn’t use that as an excuse for his poor round.

“My swing was not as good today,” he said. “Pebble can take a bite out of anyone, and I didn’t enjoy the bite today.”

Nicklaus is in a group at 218 that barely made the cut.

Kite, a steady player who won here in 1983, started as badly as Nicklaus, but he rallied for a par-72 at Pebble.

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“The front 9 was work today,” he said. “You have to take advantage of the first few holes. But I had such a horrid start, I wondered if I left my swing at the hotel.”

Kite had 3 bogeys and a birdie on the first 4 holes. He shot a 3-over-par 39 on the front 9.

The back 9 is regarded as more demanding, and Kite settled down with 3 birdies without a bogey.

“Conditions were not as bad as I made them,” Kite said. “However, I’m not out of it by any means.”

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Golf Notes

Steve Pate, who said he hasn’t been putting well, shook out of his slump at Pebble with his 66. He had 7 birdies and only 1 bogey. “I three-putted only one green,” he said. “I’ve seen the greens as fast here, but never better.” Pate, a former UCLA star, said he brought a different putter with him to the tournament. “I threw the other one back into the garage. It had to be the putter’s fault.” . . . Dave Stockton on his round of 78 at Spyglass Hill: “It seemed that every time I hit a bad shot, I paid for it.” . . . For the 25th time, actor Jack Lemmon failed to make the cut in the pro-am division. He and his pro partner, Peter Jacobsen, were at 213, 13 strokes off the cut-off point. . . . Mark O’Meara, who played in the same foursome with Lemmon, said: “Once again Jack kept his record intact. But he played really well, and he was very supportive on the round.” . . . Steve Jones, the defending champion, shot a 71 at Cypress Point and is 4 strokes off the lead at 211.


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