1998 Buick Invitational - Thursday Notes
Davis Love III Leading At 10-Under

Former champion Davis Love III shot a sizzling 62 on the North Course, one shot off the course record, and after 18 holes, he leads the 1998 Buick Invitational by one shot over four other players who also played the North Course.

In a day in which "El Niño" did not "play", the courses where in great condition. They played the "ball down", which means there was no "lift, clean, and place" rule. "We got just a little bit mud on the ball", said Love. The key to his round, though, was hitting his irons extremely well (hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation), and decent putting (1.5 per GIR). "I'm more consistent around the greens", he said. "I'm more confident with my putting, so I don't get too concerned when I'm a bit off", he added. "But the greens today were perfect. I hit shots so the ball would not back up, but just stay where it landed". His 62 included 8 birdies and an eagle 2 on the par-4 second hole (his 11th), where he pitched in from 45 yards. "The ball took one hop and rolled in", he said.

Love is one shot ahead of another former champion, Fuzzy Zoeller, who bogeyed the first hole, a par-5, (hit driver-driver) but birdied the next three, and then seven more for a 63. "I was very accurate with the irons. It felt good to see the ball go in the hole", said Zoeller. "Last year I couldn't putt a hoot. My right eye wasn't focusing", he added. But new prescription glasses corrected his eyesight and he is no longer missing "everything 6 inches left". "Everyone says the North (Course) is easier, but if you play well the hole looks like a bucket; if not, it looks like a thimble". He'll be playing the South Course tomorrow, where today the holes looked like a thimble for most of the players.

Yet another former champion, Bob Tway, also shot 63 (nine birdies). "I'm back playing Ping irons", he said, "after playing Mizuno for eight years". Tway played in the same group as Love and Payne Stewart (66). "We had a great group today", said Tway. "When the group is playing well, we feed off each other. You hate to lose ground to your own group", he added.

The other two players with 63 were Steve Jurgensen, and Monday qualifier Jeff Sanday. "I wasn't thinking about the weather", said Jurgensen, who made 10 birdies and one bogey (7th hole), "but it's important to go as low as you can to take advantage of the short course".

Jeff Sanday played in various minitours, "but basically you go where there is money", he said. It's his first appearance in a PGA TOUR event. "I hit most of the greens (he hit 15 of 18 greens, with 24 putts), and once I made the putt on #10 (his first hole, for birdie) I felt OK", said Sanday. "This is quite a surprise, but 63's have been popping up lately", he added. His round included 10 birdies and 1 bogey (11th).

The North Course, as usual, was the most vulnerable, playing to a 68.805 average. The South Course average for the first round was 72.266, almost 3.5 shots more difficult than the North. Not surprisingly, 23 of the top-25 players after 18 holes all played the North course. Steve Pate and Neal Lancaster both shot 67, the best rounds on the South.

But tomorrow those who played the North will play the South, and viceversa. All tee times were moved two hours ahead of schedule because they are expecting rain in the late afternoon. It'll be interesting to see if "El Niño" comes back to play.

First Round Notes

  • Dick Mast aced the 3rd hole (North). His first ace on TOUR.

  • There were 7 eagles today. Both 18th holes were eagled twice. The first three holes on the North were eagled once.

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