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61! : Tryba Sets Riviera Mark, but Golf’s Biggest Names Are Bunched Behind Him

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Here’s how Ted Tryba spent his Saturday at Riviera Country Club: He shot a course-record 61, he made nine birdies and an eagle, he came from six shots back to take the third-round lead at the Nissan Open and he became a nervous wreck.

Maybe not, but if he isn’t one yet, then he probably should be. When the final round begins today, Tryba will be the guy with a two-shot lead at 13-under-par 200 and a worried look on his face.

Put any more heat on Tryba and he would be toast. How can this be? Try this answer: Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Davis Love III. These guys, who have won 27 PGA Tour events and four major championships among them, are only two shots behind.

And right there, only four shots behind Tryba at nine under, is David Duval.

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Add it all up and you know what that means.

“I think Ted Tryba is going to have an uneasy night,” Els said.

His day was pretty fine, though. Under blue skies and warm sunshine, Tryba broke the course record of 62 held by Larry Mize, Fred Couples and Kenny Perry. But that’s not all. Tryba even had a chance at shooting a 59, if he could have birdied the last hole, which is something he turned over in his mind for a moment when he stood at the 18th tee.

“I’m thinking, that’s definitely making history, shooting 59 at Riviera,” Tryba said.

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But Tryba made bogey instead of history. That happened after his second shot bounced over the green, he chipped short and missed a 12-footer for par.

However, Tryba was not heartbroken.

“I made bogey and that’s it,” he said. “So I finished 10 under instead of 11 under.”

Yeah, so what? So you can add the Riviera course record to Tryba’s ledger of achievements, which includes one PGA Tour victory in eight years. Other than that, Tryba is probably best known for having a terrific head of hair and for playfully knocking golf balls out of his grandfather’s mouth as a birthday stunt as a kid.

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Tryba won the Anheuser-Busch Classic in 1995 and hasn’t had that many chances since, although he did begin last week’s Buick Invitational with 65-65, but wound up tied for 21st when his back started acting up and he shot 74-74 on the weekend.

He didn’t feel so hot when the third round began Saturday because he had a bad night’s sleep after drinking two cans of soda, blaming the caffeine.

There’s nothing like writing down a 61 on your scorecard to make a player feel wonderful.

“Maybe I’ll wake up later,” Tryba said.

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Meanwhile, a trio of golf’s heavyweights answered their own wake-up call. Principal among them was Woods, whose six-under 65 featured six birdies and no bogeys. Woods has now gone 39 holes without a bogey.

A winner last week at Torrey Pines, Woods figures he could have gone even lower Saturday, but he missed four reasonable birdie chances from 15 feet and closer.

Woods said his ball striking was his best of the week and wasn’t even upset about the birdie putts that he missed.

“It’s just one of those things,” he said after his best round at Riviera. “But I also saved a lot of pars. Those are the things that keep you in the tournament.”

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As for his putting, Woods said it’s just fine. He spent some time with Nick Price on the putting green the day before, but said he didn’t pick up any putting tips.

“We were discussing fishing spots in the Bahamas,” Woods said.

Love’s 68 included a bogey at No. 18 that dropped him into a tie with Woods and Els, but he figures he got the most out of his round. Love, who has won 13 times in 14 years on the PGA Tour, said he feels quite comfortable chasing another tournament victory.

“You can see guys who are comfortable and you can see guys that are uncomfortable,” Love said. “I don’t think Ernie or Tiger are going to be very uncomfortable tomorrow. You’ve got to learn something if you’ve been in that position before. Ted’s been there a few times.”

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Els, who has been there enough to win the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997, played the front nine in five-under 30, but he bogeyed No. 11 and made a double bogey six at No. 13 when his drive hit a tree and bounced out of bounds.

“That was a big shock,” Els said. “I’m one shot out of the lead, now I look like I’m playing my way out of the tournament.”

As it turns out, he wasn’t. Els recovered with a birdie at No. 18 with a six-iron approach shot and an 18-foot birdie putt.

By then, Els knew all about Tryba’s round. Still out on the course, he knew that Tryba had a chance for a 59 with a birdie at No. 18.

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“I’m thinking, at Riviera, that’s almost unthinkable.”

Thinking or unthinking, it was all that, even though the numbers don’t really say it. Riviera wasn’t exactly a rude host Saturday. The field played Riviera a combined 45 over par Thursday. Saturday, that number was a combined 75 under.

Tryba said anyone within six shots of the lead has a chance. That means there are 14 players who could pass him. He knows he must go low again today, judging by the challenge from Woods-Els-Love and the rest.

“Guys are just unconscious,” Tryba said.

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His preparation for today’s final round won’t be that complicated, he said.

“Go to the driving range, take a couple of good swings, make a couple of putts, show up,” Tryba said.

It’s as good a plan as any.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

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Record Round

How Ted Tryba shot a 10-under-par 61 at Riviera, topping the old mark of 62 held by Kenny Perry, Larry Mize and Fred Couples:

Front nine:31

Back nine:30

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Eagles:1 (No. 11)

Birdies:9

Pars:7

Bogeys: No. 18)

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Leaders

TED TRYBA: 70-69-61--200-13

TIGER WOODS: 69-68-65--202-11

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DAVIS LOVE III: 69-65-68--202-11

ERNIE ELS: 68-66-68--202-11

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All Scores, Page 9

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Noon-3 p.m.

Channel 2

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MOVING DAY

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Tiger Woods, who charged at Torrey Pines last weekend, was at it again. Page 9

LOW BALL

With scores so impressive, players say there’s no time to back off. Page 9


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