Senior Leader Davis Feeling Very Chipper

Times Staff Writer

Rodger Davis doesn't know the name of the guy who gave him the tip, but you can be sure he's going to find out.

Davis shot seven-under-par 64 Saturday in the second round of the Toshiba Senior Classic at Newport Beach Country Club and has a two-day total of 13-under 129, two strokes better than first-round leader Jim Ahern.

An Australian who has never won on American soil, Davis said a chipping tip he received before the tournament began has been the difference in his game the first two rounds.

While on the putting green Thursday, Davis bumped into an instructor from the Dave Pelz short-game academy. The instructor told Davis he had the ball too far forward in his stance while chipping. He moved it back and gets the ball rolling better now, he said.

"I don't know if it's fate or whatever," Davis said. "But look where I am. The way I was chipping, if I missed the green it was almost guaranteed a bogey. Here, I've been making some nice up and downs. It's probably saved me two or three strokes a round."

Davis got up and down for par twice during his round Saturday, but a hot putter provided the right finishing touch. He made 12-foot birdie putts on Nos. 7 and 9, a 10-footer on No. 11 and one from 15 feet on No. 13.

He made seven birdies without a bogey and is bogey free through two rounds. His 65-64 start is a tournament record, breaking the 130 set by Terry Mauney in 2001.

"I like the position I'm in," Davis said. "I've won quite a few tournaments when I've been leading." Just not in the United States. A fixture on the European and Australian tours in his younger days, Davis won 27 times between 1977 and '96. He tied for second at the 1987 British Open. His best finish on the Champions Tour is a third last year.

To earn his first stateside victory, he'll probably need to shoot low again.

Ahern led by a stroke after the first round and shot 67 Saturday. A shot behind him at 10 under are David Eger, who shot a second consecutive 66, and Jose Maria Canizares, who birdied five of his first eight holes and also shot 66.

Defending champion Hale Irwin also shot 66 and is tied with John Jacobs four strokes back at nine under. Jacobs also shot 66 Saturday. Thirty-seven players broke 70 Saturday.

"The course is playing short right now," Irwin said. "The ball is running and the fairways are pretty firm."

Irwin hit wedges into seven of the 11 par-four holes and reached all three par fives in two. He birdied four of his first five holes, but his putter went cold and he made only one birdie after that.

The winner today will receive $232,500, and Davis could use it. He was one of six players robbed while eating dinner at a tournament in Mexico last week. Davis was pistol whipped and the robbers made off with six expensive watches.

Fending off those behind him will not be easy. Davis has been fighting allergies that have forced him to ride a cart in order to maintain energy. He will return to Australia to visit a specialist next week.

Not only that, those chasing him are well-credentialed. Irwin is the all-time leading money winner on the Champions Tour. Ahern is a former winner on tour, Eger has won already this year and Canizares won at Newport Beach in 2001.

"They've all got an advantage over me," Davis said.

Except, maybe, in chipping.

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