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GOLF SENIORS VINTAGE INVITATIONAL : Bad Start Overcome by Powell

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Jimmy Powell, the first-round leader, was nervous when he teed off Saturday in the $500,000 Vintage Arco Invitational.

Powell pushed his drive on the 414-yard first hole so far right he thought the boy who picks up range balls would think it came off the practice tee.

Instead of an easy seven-iron to the green, Powell had to hit a three-wood 230 yards to reach the edge of the green. Then he three-putted for a bogey.

However, the 56-year-old Senior PGA tour veteran from La Quinta steadied, finished with a one-under-par 71 and tied for the lead with a 36-hole total of 137.

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Chi Chi Rodriguez and Terry Dill share the lead with Powell, who led by two shots after the first round. Rodriguez had a five-under 67, and Dill, a nonwinner in two years on the tour, had a 68.

The best round over the Vintage Club’s 6,900-yard Mountain Course was a 66 by Bob Charles. He is at 139, tied with Mike Hill two shots behind the leaders. Lee Trevino is at 141 after a 72.

There are eight golfers ahead of Trevino, including Don January, John Brodie and Gibby Gilbert, all at 140.

Rodriguez won three weeks ago at Ojai, his 17th senior victory. Powell has won once, last year at Oklahoma City. He birdied four of the last six holes there to beat Dill, the second-round leader, by two shots.

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“This will be the fourth time I’ve been in this position,” said Dill, a Texan who didn’t win on the regular tour, either. “I keep getting closer. I sure didn’t blow it at Oklahoma City. Jimmy just beat me.

“I like my chances,” Dill added. “I would like them even better if the wind blew--say about 50 miles an hour. I’m strong, and the wind doesn’t bother me.”

The forecast for today is for high winds, but no rain.

Powell, who said he hit the ball better Saturday than he did Friday when he shot a 66, hopes to regain his putting touch.

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“From my first putt on one, I had trouble putting,” he said. “The putt went eight feet past and I bogeyed.

“When I was hitting my second shot on the hole, I said to John Brodie, my playing partner, that I had no idea it was such a long hole.

“But I settled down after the first hole and hit some great shots. I just didn’t putt well. If I regain my touch tomorrow, I’ll do all right. I think a 69 might be good enough.”

Powell regained his putting touch for a brief time in the middle of the round. He made a 15-foot putt for a birdie on nine, another putt of the same length on 11 and a 10-footer on 12. At that time he had a two-shot lead.

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“I had a great chance to move even farther in front,” he said, “but the monster (the 406-yard 16th) got me. I hit the ball in the water and had to rally for a bogey.”

The 16th, a par four, has been the toughest hole, averaging 4.40 shots.

Will Powell be nervous today?

“Yes,” he said. “If I weren’t, I wouldn’t have a chance.”

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