Originally created 02/12/99

Golf roundup: Journeymen atop leader board at Buick



SAN DIEGO -- Wayne Levi, who faded away after being named the PGA Tour Player of the Year in 1990, may be on his way back.

Levi was bothered by back problems for much of 1998 and had played only four competitive rounds this year. Yet he shot a 6-under-par 66 on Thursday and was tied with three others for second place behind Ted Tryba in the opening round of the Buick Invitational.

Tryba finished strong, with two birdies and an eagle in his last five holes to shoot a 65.

In fact, a handful of journeymen had better rounds at Torrey Pines than Tiger Woods, who was among 11 players at 4-under 68.

"It's kind of early in the year to really expect a whole lot, but to shoot a good round, finally, feels good," Levi said. "It's just a matter of going out there and not making mistakes."

Sidelined in July, Levi came back in the Phoenix Open at the end of January, but withdrew after one round. He missed the cut at Pebble Beach last weekend.

But he started strong Thursday on the Torrey Pines North Course, sinking a 12-foot birdie putt on No. 1. He followed that with an eagle on the par-4 No. 2 when his 105-yard second shot with a pitching wedge went a foot past the hole, then backed in.

Levi is playing this season under a special medical exemption due to his back injury, which limited him to nine starts in 1998. He made only two cuts.

Levi, who turns 47 on Feb. 22, said his back hurt so bad last March that he could barely walk 30 yards without having to stop. "I thought I was going to come apart," he said.

He attributed to injury to wear and tear, and said intense therapy and exercises have "done wonders."

DUBAI: Ireland's Paul McGinley and Welshman Phil Price each shot 5-under-par 67s to take the first-round lead in the Dubai Desert Classic, ahead of a slew of big names, including Mark O'Meara, who was five strokes back.

McGinley and Price led Wayne Riley, Alex Cejka and amateur Sergio Garcia by a stroke. Eleven others, including defending champion Jose Maria Olazabal, finished the first day at 69.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN: Australia's Craig Spence shot a 9-under-par 64 in the first round of the Australian Masters, while six-time winner Greg Norman was in danger of missing his second straight cut.

Spence, 24, who opened with five straight birdies, had a three-stroke lead over American Robin Byrd and Australia's Peter McWhinney.

Norman, still making his way back to top form following shoulder surgery last year, shot a 74. He missed the cut last week in his own Greg Norman International, the first time he has failed to advance to weekend play in an Australian event since the 1976 Chrysler Classic.