A rejuvenated Pate takes lead in International

Friday, August 2nd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. (AP) _ Steve Pate looks rejuvenated.

He finished 13th on the PGA Tour money list in 1999 when he was on the Ryder Cup team, but he has struggled the past two seasons.

His game was in good shape Thursday. He took the first-round lead in The International, capitalizing on a 5-point eagle and favorable playing conditions.

Pate finished with 11 points under the event's modified Stableford scoring system. Billy Mayfair and Rich Beem had 10 apiece, with Duffy Waldorf, John Senden, Heath Slocum, Hank Kuehne and Jeff Quinney at 9.

British Open champion Ernie Els was in a group at 8, and Sergio Garcia used a birdie-eagle-birdie finish to get to 7.

Players earned 5 points for eagle, 2 for birdie, 0 for par, minus-1 for bogey and minus-3 for double bogey or worse.

Pate slumped to 151st on the money list in 2001, partly because of a back injury. He ranks 152nd this year.

``I've played well the last six weeks, so this round doesn't really surprise me,'' he said.

Golfers with morning tee times, including Waldorf and Senden, had to contend with swirling winds and hard, fast greens at Castle Pines Golf Club. After a high temperature of nearly 100 for Wednesday's practice round, those with morning tee times played in 60-degree weather.

Conditions improved in the afternoon, and so did scores.

``I went out for a newspaper this morning, and it was cold and windy,'' Pate said. ``I was glad I wasn't playing until this afternoon. We got the better of it.''

Pate started at No. 10 and had four birdies on that side.

At the par-5 first hole, he got his eagle, pitching in from 8 yards short of the green.

``An eagle generally is real good in this format,'' Pate said.

That got Pate to 13 points. He gave back points with bogeys at Nos. 5 and 9.

Mayfair and Beem also played in the afternoon. But even afternoon players faced slick greens, which Els called ``quicker than I've ever seen them.''

Two-time International winner Phil Mickelson had minus-2 points.

Defending champion Tom Pernice Jr. had five double bogeys and fell to minus-9.

Pate tied for second in The International in 1988 and 1990, when scores did not accumulate and there were daily cuts. Players started from scratch on Sunday.

``I'm happy I get to carry this over now,'' Pate said. ``But it's Thursday. This doesn't mean anything. It would mean a lot more if this were Saturday.''

Mayfair, who had six birdies and two bogeys, said he hoped to stay with that formula.

``In this format, you've got to try to stay aggressive,'' he said. ``You have to keep making birdies because bogeys don't hurt you that much.''

Beem was somewhat surprised at his score.

``I felt like I drove the ball all over the place,'' he said. ``I just made some putts when I had to keep the momentum going.''