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Larry Rinker Fires 63 to lead Hope Classic

January 16, 1997

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) _ Larry Rinker, nearing his 40th birthday and still struggling to make a living at golf, shot one of the best rounds of his life Wednesday, a 9-under-par 63 that gave him the opening-day lead in the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.

Rinker, who found out just two weeks ago that he was going to be allowed into the tournament, started with a par and then birdied the next five holes at Bermuda Dunes, one of four courses used for the Hope.

Even 9-under didn’t give him a comfort zone in the tournament, annually decided by very low scores. Last year’s U.S. Open champion and former Hope winner, Steve Jones, and Mark Calcavecchia were just one shot behind with 64s.

John Daly was among a group of four another shot back at 7-under.

A couple of prominent players were noteworthy by their absence from the five-day tournament, Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods.

Palmer, 67, who had played in all 37 previous Hope tournaments and won five, underwent successful surgery for prostrate cancer Wednesday morning at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

Woods, the 21-year-old sensation of the tour, is skipping the Hope after winning the first event of 1997, at La Costa, earlier in the week.

Rinker, who made just $9,975 on the tour in 1995 and $12,770 last year and lost his playing card, squeezed back onto the eligible list by tying for 21st in the PGA qualifying school at Santa Barbara, Calif., last month.

He got into the 1997 Hope on a sponsor’s exemption, and didn’t know he was coming until tournament executive director Michael Milthorpe phoned to invite him on Dec. 30.

Rinker, whose best year on the tour was when he won $195,390 to finish 30th on the money list in 1985, is a member of a golfing family. His younger brother, Lee, also plays on the PGA Tour, and his sister, Laurie, is a member of the LPGA Tour.

The top three players after the Wednesday’s first round of the Hope each played a different course. Jones was at Indian Ridge and Calcavecchia played Indian Wells. The fourth course, La Quinta Country Club, is considered a bit more difficult than the others.

Daly, who played at Indian Ridge, shot a 31 on the front nine on the way to his best round in some time.

Defending champion Mark Brooks, who used his Hope victory a year ago as a springboard to two more victories during the year, shot a first-round 69.

Divots: Although it rained heavily for much of the day just a few miles to the west of the desert courses on Wednesday, there were only late-afternoon sprinkles at the tournament. ... Palmer won the Hope in 1960, 1962, 1968, 1971 and 1973. ... Larry Rinker teamed with his sister to win the 1985 Mixed Team Classic. ... Sunday’s final round will played at Indian Wells. ... Tournament host Hope, 92, hit just two shots, a drive on the first tee and a mulligan, before giving way to another amateur Wednesday.