Countrywide Tradition Has 3-Way Tie


Saturday, April 27th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


SUPERSTITION MOUNTAIN, Ariz. (AP) _ Bob Eastwood, the golfer, and Clint Eastwood, the actor, joke about being cousins. They aren't related but both have an affection for the wide open spaces.

After a couple of relaxing weeks on his 150-acre Texas ranch, Bob Eastwood mastered the shifting, brisk winds of the Arizona desert for a second-round 66 on Friday that gave him a share of the lead halfway through the Countrywide Tradition.

Eastwood, Bob Gilder and Jim Thorpe were at 7-under 137 through 36 holes of the season's first major on the Senior PGA Tour. Fuzzy Zoeller, a Tour rookie, was one shot back.

``I had a good two weeks off at my ranch,'' Eastwood said. ``I did a little practicing. I've got a little driving range. I go out and work, get on a tractor, do a bunch of mowing, stuff like that _ kind of get away from golf a little bit. It's good R and R.''

Gilder also was a lot more relaxed, especially compared to his flare-up at the Countrywide Tradition a year ago, when he was frustrated by some bad shots out of the rough and slammed his club into his bag and broke a finger.

``I knew it hurt bad enough to have been broken, but I didn't find out until two weeks later and had an X-ray,'' he said. ``It was split in half and that sucker hurt.''

The injury bothered him the rest of the year.

``I was a little embarrassed,'' Gilder said. ``That's not something I'm real proud of. So we're trying to make up for it this year.''

Tom Kite was at 139.

``The golf course got its licks in today,'' he said. ``Guessing on club selection was very problematic, at best. It was a very difficult day except for a couple of guys who were able to pull rabbits out of the hat.''

Eastwood said the wind was not as big a problem for him because he likes to punch the ball to the green and let it roll.

``It's one of my favorite shots,'' said Eastwood, who hasn't won on the senior tour since 1997. ``Even if there is no wind, sometimes I kind of get in between clubs and love to hit a lot of little punch shots.''

Eastwood reeled off birdies on five of the last six holes, culminating with a 9-foot downhill putt on the 18th.

``It's a great feeling,'' he said. ``You hate to have the round quit because you're kind of on a roll.''

Thorpe started the day in a group of four who were one shot back of the leader at 67. He shot a 70 on Friday on the 7,228-yard Prospector course at Superstition Mountain Golf & Country Club. The tournament moved to the 3-year-old course from Desert Mountain in Scottsdale this year.

Seventy was a good score, considering the conditions, Thorpe said.

``I think today's round went as good as yesterday,'' he said. ``With the wind condition, the golf course played very hard. Even when we did put the ball on the fairway, we had a hard time getting it close to the pin.''

Jack Nicklaus, in his first tournament _ other than this year's Senior Skins Game _ since last July, shot a 71 and was at 144. He sat out this year's Masters because of an ailing back and credits an electronic stimulus device that he used over the weekend with allowing him to play.

``As of last Saturday night, I couldn't swing a golf club,'' Nicklaus said. ``I thought if I broke 75 in one round I would be doing very well. I've broken 75 twice so far.

``As a matter of fact, I've even broken par. I guess I've hit 13 or 14 greens both rounds. That's pretty good. I'm very pleased, just tickled to death to be playing golf again.''