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It’s Called Shootout for Good Reason

TIMES STAFF WRITER

What will be the deciding factor in today’s closing round of the Franklin Templeton Shark Shootout at the Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks?

Would you believe, darkness?

It’s not likely, but considering the type of format and considering that a single stroke separates half of the pairings in the 12-team field, this could be a long day.

Davis Love III and Brad Faxon shot into the lead Saturday by combining for a 10-under-par 62, giving them a two-day total of 130 in front of a crowd of 7,107, largest ever in this event, which began in 1989.

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But right behind at 131 are Fuzzy Zoeller/John Daly, the first-day leaders, Tom Kite/Billy Mayfair, Greg Norman/Steve Elkington, Costantino Rocca/Scott Hoch and Billy Andrade/Jay Haas.

Kite/Mayfair and Scott McCarron/Bruce Lietzke, the defending champions, also had a 62 Saturday, McCarron/Lietzke sitting four strokes back of the lead.

That’s a long way back considering that the format switches to the scramble, where each player shoots and the team then uses the best ball of the two for the following shot.

Today’s final round will feature the third format in as many days. In Friday’s opening round, it was best ball only on the drive with the partners alternating shots after that. On Saturday, each golfer played the hole separately, with the lowest score counted.

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“With the scramble format,” Kite said, “everybody shoots low, so it’s really hard to get it so much lower than the rest of the field. It’s hard to pick up more than two or three strokes on the lead [when] you’ve got two guys shooting at [the same ball]. There’s a lot of bunching up on the last day.”

Not that Kite was complaining. Most of the players furrow their brows a bit at the alternate-shot format because they say it’s difficult to generate any rhythm when they shoot, watch, shoot.

“I was most nervous with the alternate format,” Love admitted, “but we got by that, everybody enjoys the last two days.”

Part of the reason, of course, is a chance to win some money. The purse is $1.3 million with each member of the winning team collecting $160,000.

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But beyond that, it’s the enjoyment of being part of a team in a relaxed atmosphere that offers welcome relief from the tension of a long season on the tour.

“The guys keep coming back,” Kite said, “because you get a partner you enjoy being with. You’re with someone you can feed off.”

Of course nobody wants to feed without hitting a few important shots of his own.

Kite, who struggled earlier in the year with his putting, was thrilled that he had regained his touch before this event.

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“I didn’t want to be a total load to [Mayfair],” he said.

Just the opposite. Kite came within one aftershock of a share of the lead. His birdie putt on the 17th hole hung up on the lip of the cup.

“Any tremor at all and that baby was in there,” Kite said, “and this is the place for tremors.”

No such luck Saturday.

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Love and Faxon both carried a share of their load.

Love went birdie-eagle-birdie on the first three holes

“I watched,” Faxon said.

“And then I watched,” said Love, as Faxon took over in parring the next three holes.

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But by the time the day was over, it was the other 11 teams who could only watch as Love/Faxon moved slightly ahead of a hot-pursuing field.


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