Magee Almost Historic : L.A. Open: He shoots 28 on front, then fades to 38 on back. Grady and Nelson lead at 65.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

If golf is a thinking man's game, Andrew Magee doesn't want any part of it.

He was playing what he called unconscious golf Thursday over the first nine holes of the opening round of the Nissan Los Angeles Open at Riviera Country Club.

Magee shot a seven-under-par 28 on the front nine, a course record. Then, as he prepared to tee off at the 10th hole, someone shouted, "28-30."

That was in reference to breaking Al Geiberger's record round of 59 shot at Memphis, Tenn., in 1977.

Magee said he hit his first bad shot of the day off the 10th tee. He didn't come close to shooting 30, getting a 38 on the back nine to finish with a 66, one stroke behind the leaders, Larry Nelson and Australian Wayne Grady.

"I was just doing, not thinking," Magee said of his 28, one stroke higher than the PGA Tour record for nine holes set by Mike Souchak in 1955 and tied by Andy North in '75.

Magee said he started thinking on the last nine holes, during which he had seven pars and two bogeys--in addition to hitting a spectator with a wedge shot on the 10th hole. The woman reportedly wasn't injured and Magee gave her the ball.

As for his 28, matching his age, Magee said: "That was the lowest nine-hole score of my life ."

In warm weather, with minimal wind, sub-par rounds were commonplace at Riviera. There were 21 players who were three under par or better.

Magee shared second place at 66 with two former UCLA players, Duffy Waldorf and Steve Pate, former USC player Craig Stadler and Jeff Sluman.

Fred Couples, the defending champion, was in a group of seven players at 67. Seven more were at 68.

Grady, who won the PGA Championship last year, had six birdies in his round of 65, his last coming on a 25-foot putt from just off the 18th green.

"Last week, I missed the cut in the Australian Masters and I was feeling a little down," Grady said. "If you had seen me play last week, you would say it was a huge change."

Grady was involved in playoff for the British Open championship in 1989 with Mark Calcavecchia and Greg Norman. Calcavecchia won.

"There is a lot of difference between winning a major and losing one," Grady said. He was referring to financially rewarding contracts that aren't offered to second-place finishers.

Grady has bittersweet memories of Riviera. In 1986, he achieved some notoriety by hitting the wrong ball in three tournaments, including the L.A. Open at Riviera.

"I had a great West Coast swing in 1986," Grady said dryly.

Nelson, 43, a former U.S. Open champion and two-time winner of the PGA Championship, was playing in his first tournament of the year.

"I'm happily surprised with the way I played," Nelson said of his 65, adding that he has hit golf balls only seven times since Nov. 30.

Nelson had a bogey-free round with six birdies.

Magee said the greens were "super" and he took advantage of them on the front nine.

He birdied every hole but the 460-yard, par-four second and the 238-yard, par-three fourth. And he had five consecutive birdies until a friend in the gallery reminded him of what he could achieve.

Couples said he popped something in his back while warming up for his round.

"I hit some weak shots because of it, but I never had my back go out to where I couldn't play," he said. "I feel fine."

Couples shot his 67 despite a double bogey on the par-four fifth hole when his tee shot went out of bounds.

"I don't think you can tell someone your back hurts when you shoot 67," Couples said. "I've hit balls out of bounds with a good back, too."

Asked if winning a major championship is a goal, Couples, who hasn't won a major, said: "It's a goal for the L.A. Lakers to win the championship. And if I won the U.S. Open three or four years in a row, my goal would be to win the Open. But if you had never won it, it would be a dream to win it."

Golf Notes

Larry Mize held the previous course record for the front nine at 29, which he set in 1985. . . . Duffy Waldorf had to return to qualifying school last year to stay on the PGA Tour. "It's been a struggle," Waldorf, 28, said. "I haven't played as well as I can on the tour, but my best days are ahead of me." Waldorf's best finish was a tie for third place in the 1989 Texas Open. He's familiar with Riviera, estimating that he played there 20 to 25 times a year while at UCLA.

Most of the low scores were recorded in morning rounds. Craig Stadler, the 1982 Masters champion, who hasn't won on the tour since '84, shot his 66 in the afternoon. Stadler started on the back nine, which he said he played better than the front side. "I couldn't hit a solid iron," he said of his play on the front nine. Stadler missed four greens on his back nine, but he said he made a lot of good saves with his chipping. . . . "It actually makes the round a little more interesting," Stadler said, referring to the missed greens. "When I was having all the success I had in the early '80s, that's basically the way I played. I never hit more than 12 or 13 greens a round, but it didn't matter because my short game was so good." . . . Mac O'Grady had a roller-coaster round similar to Andrew Magee's 28-38--66. O'Grady shot a 30-40--70. . . . How stable is a first-round lead in a 72-hole tournament? In 44 tour events last year, only eight players who were either tied for first or had the lead outright after the opening round went on to win the tournament.

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