Originally created 02/08/98

Pate takes lead midway through Buick Invitational



SAN DIEGO -- Steve Pate birdied three of his final five holes and finished the rain-delayed second round under sunny skies Saturday to take the midway lead in the Buick Invitational at 12-under-par 132.

Skip Kendall, who birdied three of his final four holes, was two strokes back at 10-under 134, with Davis Love III, Tom Kite, Bob Tway, Robert Damron, Kevin Sutherland and Jeff Sanday at 135.

The field of 152 players was cut to 81 for the third round. With the last tee time not until 3 p.m., the leaders were unlikely to get more than nine holes finished before dark.

The third round could turn out to be the key round since the possibility of storms on Sunday could mean the tournament will be shortened to 54 holes. Under a rule change this year, 54 holes need to be completed for a victory in an event to be considered official.

Pate and Kendall both climbed up the leaderboard by taking advantage of the easier North Course at Torrey Pines, Pate shooting a 65 and Kendall a 63.

Love, who was on the South Course, began the resumed round tied for the lead with Kite at 9 under and quickly made a birdie when he hit a driver and wedge to 4 feet on No. 10 -- his first hole of the day.

But a balky driver betrayed him coming in as he missed his last three fairways and finished with a bogey when he hit into the pond in front of No. 18 from the left rough.

"I had a good lie," Love said about trying to reach the par-5 hole in two shots from the rough. "I thought I was going to get a flier and I got the exact opposite."

Tiger Woods finished the second round with three consecutive birdies for a 66 on the North Course and was at 7-under 137, five strokes off the lead, exactly where he was when play was suspended Friday by driving rain with Woods on the 13th hole.

Brian Henninger made the biggest move, shooting a course record-tying 29 on the back nine for a 66 on the South Course for a 139 total midway through the rain-delayed event.

While the course was in surprisingly good condition considering the El Nino storms that have slammed the area in the past week, and while the sun smiled on the completion of the second round, more storms were predicted for late Saturday and Sunday and getting all 72 holes in remained questionable.

"The greens were soft," Damron said. "Chipping was a problem. I had trouble getting the ball to the hole."

After the Pebble Beach tournament was suspended last week by rain to be finished Aug. 17, players will be happy to endure any conditions just to get this tournament in.

Divots: Damron used the time between rounds to go to the practice range. "There are a couple of things I need to work on," he said. "I didn't hit the ball well." ... The field was cut at 2 under. ... Chip Beck, who missed 29 cuts in 32 tournaments last year and in both tournaments he's played this year, withdrew after 27 holes when he followed an 82 with a 40. ... Fulton Allem, Olin Browne and Donnie Hammond also withdrew after the suspension of play Friday since they were well off the pace. ... Dick Mast made a hole-in one on the third hole of the North Course.