Originally created 02/11/00

Gow, two others break par in Australian Masters



MELBOURNE, Australia -- Greg Norman shot only a 3-over-par 76 and Sergio Garcia struggled to a 78. Yet both remained in strong contention in the Australian Masters.

Only three players managed sub-par scores as strong, swirling wind battered the par-73 Huntingdale Golf Club course in Thursday's first round.

Australian Paul Gow led with a 71, Australians Chris Gaunt and Shane Tait shot 72 and defending champion Craig Spence had a 73.

Garcia, who arrived in Melbourne less than 24 hours before teeing off, was almost thankful to escape with a 5-over round.

"It's not as bad as I thought it would be after the first nine," he said.

"The wind was coming that hard at you, you couldn't stand up a lot of the time," Gow said.

"On putts and even teeing off with the driver you really have to hold your posture and stand strong. ... It's not hard to lose your head out there."

Gow, 29, whose only previous victory was on the Nike tour in 1997, was confident he could win despite the conditions.

On the other hand, John Daly was in danger of missing the cut after opening with an 82.

Garcia struggled with fatigue and jet-lag in a round containing five birdies, four bogeys and three double bogeys.

The 20-year-old Spaniard, who flew in from the United States Wednesday due to a delay to the finish of the Pebble Beach pro-am, opened with two pars and a birdie. He lost his designated playing partner, Aaron Baddeley, before tee off when the 18-year-old amateur, winner of the Australian Open in November, withdrew due to the flu.

All players struggled as the northerly wind swept over the course and the temperature approached 100.

Norman, a six-time Australian Masters champion, showed his experience off the tee and fairways but struggled with his putting.

"If I eliminated the three-putts, there is six strokes difference right there," he said, adding that he should have shot 70.

Norman was 1-over after nine holes but stumbled early on the back nine with a double bogey-6 at the 11th. He had two birdies and two bogeys over the remaining seven holes.

"The worst anywhere in the world," was his assessment of the conditions.

"It (the wind) is very draining because it is hot, but you don't know it's hot."

His playing partner, Lucas Parsons, winner of last week's Greg Norman International in Sydney, was 6-over at the turn before recovering with an eagle at the par-5 10th. He finished at 79.

WADKINS DEBUT: Lanny Wadkins is making his PGA Senior Tour debut today in the ACE Group Classic in Naples, Fla.

But isn't concerned about when he's playing, where he's playing or what tour he's playing on.

"I really haven't thought much about it," he said. "I'm just going to come out here and play a golf tournament like I've always done. That's pretty much what it is."

What Wadkins wants is to get back in a time machine and capture a swing he had for a memorable three weeks some 27 years ago.

In the spring of 1973, Wadkins tied for fifth in the Tournament of Champions, won the Byron Nelson in a playoff and finished third at the USI Classic in Houston.

"I felt like my swing was as good as it's been since I've been on tour," said Wadkins, who tees off shortly after noon in Friday's first round of the ACE Group Classic.

So last year, Wadkins enlisted the services of instructor Chris Walkey to reconstruct that swing. Wadkins is using photographs of his swing taken during that time, including one he just was sent from a magazine two weeks ago.

"We've really kind of worked at putting things back towards that," Wadkins said. "I wasn't looking for a new swing. I just wanted to get my old one back."

Now if Wadkins can do that, he can deal with reliving the experiences of a rookie and the feelings of sons Travis, 12, and Tucker, 7.

As with fellow rookies Tom Watson and Tom Kite, Wadkins is looking forward to getting reacquainted with some old friends on the senior tour who he played with a lot on the PGA Tour.

"A lot of the older guys, Orville Moody, Gene Littler, are guys I played a lot of golf with back years ago have been out here off the regular tour for a long time," said Wadkins, who beat Littler in a playoff to win his only major, the 1977 PGA Championship. "It's kind of neat to see those guys. (John) Mahaffey, Howard Twitty and Watson and Kite, we've been playing since junior golf together."

Along with that comes playing new courses and, in some cases, traveling to new cities that aren't stops on the PGA Tour. While Watson and Kite are excited about that aspect, Wadkins doesn't seem to be as much.

"The first five places I play, not only are they tournaments I haven't played, golf course I haven't played, they're cities I haven't even been to," said Wadkins, who won 21 times on the PGA Tour. "I'm arriving at the airports going where in the heck do I go? It's different."

So will being away from home more. Wadkins played a limited schedule the past couple of years while recovering from a torn tendon in his left wrist. He got a chance to be closer with sons Travis, 12, and Tucker, 7.

"My youngest is probably not real excited about it," said Wadkins, who plans on playing 25 events this year. "That's the tough part. Then you add the fact I've been home more the last couple of years than I've ever been. They've got used to me being there.

"(Tucker) will ask me where I'm going. I'll say I'm going to the golf course. He'll ask is it in a car or in an airplane. If I'm going in a car it's OK. If it's an airplane, he doesn't like it."

Wadkins doesn't have any goals for this season. No magic number of victories, winning the money title or even a senior major. He just wants to get that golf swing back and take it from there.

"I haven't really tried to get ready for this tour as much as I've just tried to get me ready," he said. "If I get me ready to play, then everything else will take care of itself. I feel very confident in my ability. If I could be rookie of the year again like I was the first time around with Watson and this group, that would be OK, too."

LPGA: Se Ri Pak is seeing the world more clearly now, and she hopes her improved sight pays off on the golf course.

The 1998 LPGA rookie of the year had laser eye surgery in Los Angeles a month before the start of the season, and the immediate results weren't good.

Pak shot a 79 in the third round of the wind-buffeted Office Depot tournament and was disqualified for failing to sign her scorecard.

"Sometimes during that week I did have to wear my glasses," she said. "I really did worry about my eyes a lot that week and especially with the wind blowing so much."

She skipped the next tournament in Naples to spend a few weeks preparing for the $750,000 Los Angeles Women's Championship that begins today at Wood Ranch Golf Club in Simi Valley, Calif.

The tournament moved to Simi Valley in Ventura County after three years in suburban Glendale. Defending champion Catrin Nilsmark, who won for the first time last year, is back, along with Laura Davies, Meg Mallon, Dottie Pepper and Sherri Steinhauer.

Karrie Webb, who opened the season with a victory in West Palm Beach, Fla., and Annika Sorenstam, who lost in a playoff to Nilsmark last year, are taking the week off.

Rain soaked Wood Ranch on Thursday, but the wet, chilly conditions didn't disrupt pro-am play. Designed by Ted Robinson, the 6,222-yard, links-style course is one of the more difficult in Southern California. It has twice hosted Senior PGA Tour events.

"There are a lot of trees out there and it is very narrow, too," Pak said. "During my practice round, I noticed that the greens were a little slow but with water things can change."

Besides her eyesight, Pak has changed clubs and her swing. She's gone back to the Callaway clubs that helped her win four tournaments last year after playing with Maxfli in the season's first event.

"I just wanted to try them and find out what was good for me and better for my game," she said.

During her time off, Pak practiced eight hours daily on everything from her short game to driving. The 22-year-old wants to make more time for herself after she became a sensation in her first two years on the Tour.

"I will get more practice and more thinking before playing and also more time to really focus. I want to make better decisions about my game and be a stronger player in my mind," she said.

Perhaps mindful of her scorecard debacle last month, Pak wants to handle whatever comes her way, including the large contingent of Asian media on hand this week.

"When things happen on and off the course, I want to be ready," she said. "Small things I don't want to get upset about. Either bad or good, I want to be able to control and have better control."