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Former champion Lyle finally breaks 70 at Players Championship

March 27, 1997

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ It’s easy to see why Sandy Lyle was so relieved to be in the clubhouse with a 4-under-par 68 on Thursday.

The only time the Scotsman has made the cut at the Players Championship since winning here 10 years ago was in 1994, when he finished tied for 74th, 27 strokes behind Greg Norman.

``The bad memories outweigh the good ones by a long way,″ he sighed.

In fact, he had not broken 70 since his third-round 66 in 1987.

``It is good to have the first round under your belt,″ Lyle said. ``It gives you more breathing space for the second round.″

Lyle, who returned to the PGA Tour on a full-time basis last year, has two years left on his 10-year exemption from winning the Masters in 1998. He has missed the cut in three of the seven tournaments he has played this year, but feels is game is slowly returning to form.

``I have some flourishing moments,″ he said. ``But I’ve allowed silly things to happen, like taking double bogey and three-putts. All of a sudden, you’re struggling to make cuts.″

But he’s finally in good position to make one at the Players Championship again.


TAYLOR TEES IT UP: Taylor Smith tied the course-record with a 30 on the back nine, thanks in part to a pencil.

Smith wanted as much carry as possible off the tee on No. 11 and No. 16, both par 5s, because the soft fairways aren’t providing much roll.

``I usually carry those long tees for holes like that,″ Smith said. ``My little brother was following me today and he said he only had one left and had to play a match tomorrow, so he wouldn’t give me his.″

Enter the pencil. Smith removed the eraser from a short pencil used for scoring, leaving the metal cap to serve as a holder.

``I probably gain about 20 yards off a pencil,″ he said. ``It will carry, but I am not as accurate off a pencil, so I don’t do it very often. Just on par 5s.″

He got good results from it Thursday.


PUTTING A PUTTER TO GOOD USE: The two-grip putter that cost Smith a chance at a playoff with Tiger Woods in the Disney Classic in October has been put to good use.

Smith, who tied Woods at 267, was disqualified because his grips were determined to be non-conforming.

He recently put the grips on a replica putter and donated it to a Christopher Reeve charity auction in St. Louis.

``I don’t know what they got for it, but still, it went to good use,″ Smith said.


FUZZY’S BACK: Fuzzy Zoeller is playing in only his fifth tournament of the year because of back problems. After missing the cut at Pebble Beach, he returned home to Indiana, got up the next morning and couldn’t walk.

``I looked at my wife immediately, because I think she was the only one in there at the time, and asked her if she beat the hell out of me,″ Zoeller said ``Don’t ask me what caused it.″

Zoeller, who has had two back operations, says it could have been a chip that hit a nerve and caused spasms.

Being away from golf for five weeks wasn’t all bad. At least he could still fish.

``All I could do was my fishing show,″ said Zoeller, the host of the ESPN outdoors program on Saturday morning. ``I could hold a pole, I just couldn’t swing a club.″


DIVOTS: Since shooting a 1-over-par 72 in the third round of the Nissan Open, Payne Stewart has broken par in his last 10 rounds. ... Tom Lehman, describing his double bogey on the 336-yard 12th hole: ``I hit a bad drive, a bad second shot, a bad third, a bad fourth, a bad fifth and tapped in for a bad 6.″ ... Phil Mickelson, who won in Florida for the first time last week at Bay Hill, was suffering from laryngitis Thursday. His wife brought him some medicine on the second hole, but it did little to help his game. Mickelson took a quadruple-bogey 8 on No. 18 and shot a 77. ... Lee Janzen, who won the Players Championship in 1995, had a string of six consecutive rounds of par or better broken with a 1-over 73. He bogeyed the last hole. ... Greg Norman, who has played in only four tournaments the past four months, is starting a stretch in which he will play six out of the next seven weeks. He said Thursday he may drop a tournament before the U.S. Open, probably Colonial.

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