Kite maintains one-stroke lead at Schwab Cup Championship

Friday, October 22nd 2004, 8:57 pm
By: News On 6

SONOMA, Calif. (AP) _ While Tom Kite did more with less raw talent than just about anybody during his PGA Tour days, Morris Hatalsky acknowledges he probably could have done more with his natural gifts.

On the Champions Tour, Hatalsky seems ready to harness that talent _ but halfway through the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, he's still trying to match Kite's resourcefulness.

Kite grinded out a 2-under 70 in the second round Friday to maintain his one-stroke lead over Hatalsky, Dana Quigley and Hale Irwin in the Champions Tour's season-ending event at Sonoma Golf Club.

Hatalsky's 5-under 67 was the best round among the leaders, but Kite stayed in front at 10-under 134 with an afternoon of saves and clutch putting _ though he didn't know it at the time.

``I was so busy trying to get out of the rough and out of the bunker and out of the trees that I didn't have time to look at the scoreboard,'' said Kite, whose 8 under bested Quigley by one stroke in Thursday's opening round.

``It was always my shot, and I was always out, and it was never in a good place. I had to fight for every shot.''

Kite felt he saved five strokes with a few good iron shots, including a 28-foot chip on the 13th. He birdied the 18th to keep his first-round lead.

Hatalsky, a four-time PGA winner who quit golf entirely for three years in his mid-40s, made four birdies on the front nine before surviving a rocky back stretch. He hasn't won on the Champions Tour this season, but was quietly confident he'd have a good weekend in his native California's wine country.

Hatalsky's game has only improved since his 3-year hiatus to focus on his family and a golf course design business. He's hoping to add to nearly $1 million in winnings this season, but hasn't lost his feeling as an outsider among Kite, Irwin and the tour's more accomplished seniors.

``I never feel like I have an advantage on this group,'' Hatalsky said. ``They've been in this position many times and won major championships, but I don't control the way they play golf.''

Irwin shot a 69 to improve his chances for two rewards at the tour's season-ending event, where the tournament winner gets $435,000 and the winner of the season-long Schwab Cup competition takes home a $1 million annuity.

But the 59-year-old Irwin again struggled for consistency because of his strained back.

``My body is not letting me produce the shots I want to produce,'' Irwin said. ``Thank goodness for a few good putts again. I'm surprised somebody didn't (score) a little lower, but there was a little slowdown today.''

Craig Stadler is just 39 points behind Irwin in the Schwab Cup standings, but his triple bogey on the 13th left the husky veteran in a foul mood for the rest of the round. Stadler, who played junior golf against Hatalsky 40 years ago, missed the green with consecutive chip shots before missing a putt. He finished with a 73.

David Eger and 2003 champion Jim Thorpe matched Hatalsky for the day's best round. Thorpe, who led all four days of last season's event and finished at 20 under, is eight strokes off the lead after an opening 76.

In the 54-hole Georgia-Pacific Grand Champions tournament, played within the regular competition for players over 60, Raymond Floyd and Mike Hill were tied at 6-under 138. That competition ends Saturday.