About when we had forgotten him, Bob Murphy used his pretty little game to shoot 66 on a big ugly golf course today for the first-round lead in the PGA championship in which Lee Trevino was disqualified for not signing his scorecard.
Interrupted for 55 minutes by a mid-afternoon thunderstorm, play was suspended when lightning and rain returned at 7:40 p.m. Six groups will finish the round Friday morning. Keith Fergus was one under par with only the 18th left.
Mark Lye and Bob Eastwood, whose statistics together add up to mediocrity, are at 67. The 1978 U.S. Open champion. Andy North, had a 68, as did two more seldom-heard-froms, Vance Heafner and Rex Caldwell. And only Lon Hinkle in a four-man group at 69 is worth remembering, for it won't be long until the cavalry comes whooping over the hill to wipe out these claim jumpers.
Half the world shot even-par 70, including the legitimate contenders Bruce Lietzke, Fuzzy Zoeller, Lanny Wadkins, Larry Nelson and Dave Stockton. The defending champion, Jack Nicklaus, opened with a 71, as did Ray Floyd, Tom Weiskopf, Jerry Pate, Seve Ballesteros, Tom Kite, Hubert Green and Hale Irwin. The fellows in this paragraph have won 31 major championships.
Arnold Palmer went splash-splash the last two holes for double bogeys, the resultant 74 ruining his day. Trevino had it worse. He forgot to sign his scorecard for a 74 and was disqualified. Tom Watson finished bogey-bogey-double bogey for 75, back with Lee Elder.
For Murphy, 38, a million-dollar winner who hasn't won a tournament since 1975 and currently is 52nd on the money-winning list, this PGA is a monumental assignment. The Atlanta Athletic Club course is 7,070 yards. It has been heavily watered to keep the grass from burning out. "So it's playing 9,000 yards long," said Murphy, whose golfing gifts do not include distance.
Yet here is the tour's 114th-longest driver, averaging a silly little 254.7 yards, starting a major championship with a 66 on a course longer than I-85. Murphy said, convincingly, "I'm playing well enought to win. I've felt it coming for three or four months."
The redheaded round man might do it, if he doesn't wear out his five-wood first.This course has six par-four holes more than 445 yards. Said Murphy: "On the first three holes (which measure 456, 458 and 469 yards), I hit good drives for me -- and had second shots of 221, 220 and 222 yards. Now, I'm a good accuracy player, but that's stretching it a bit."
Mruphy hit five-woods to those three holes, getting each shot within 15 feet of the cup, making a birdie at the third. Of his next three birdies, none came on a putt longer than five feet. He did not make a bogey all day, largely because he putted sensationally on greens softer and thus slower than normal in the major tournaments. Murphy one-putted nine times, needing only 27 putts.
"There is a definite advantage here to the guy who hits long," Murphy said. "I'm beating on five-woods and Watson is hitting three-irons. But he still has to hit the fairways, and that's the key."
The powder-puff hitter may be 114th in distance, but Murphy is seventh in driving accuracy. He hits the fairway 72.4 percent of the time. And he is sixth in greens hit in regulation (.696). Apparently recovered from a sprained right thumb that kept him out of last week's Canadian Open, Murphy was out of the fairway only twice today. He made par both times.
Lye, previously best known for making five straight double bogeys in last year's PGA en route to an opening-day 86, shot 31 on the front side today. His four birdies were the work of magical iron play, three of his putts coming from within six feet.
But Lye figured he did his best work the last four holes. "Those holes, you gotta just survive out there," he said, meaning it is no picnic to need pars on holes like this: 215, 410 (uphill), 213 (over water) and 463 (dogleg left, lake left, pond in front).
Trevino, Palmer, Watson and a whole bunch more made double bogey at the 18th, which Lye called "the scariest hole I've ever played." But Lye saved par there from a trap, and sat back to watch the late-comers shoot at his 67.
"Somebody will do better than this," he said, predicting a big scoring day.
For about an hour, Lye was a prophet. Dave Stockton was on fire. But all he wound up with was the bizarre round of the day, an even-par 70. Stockton, a two-time PGA champion, was three over par after four holes. Nine holes later, he was four under par.
In those nine holes, Stockton made five birdies and an eagle. He made six 3s in eight holes. But he bogeyed the 14th, double-bogeyed 15 and made bogey at 18 to wind up where he started, even par.
"Just your basic seven three-putt and seven chip-ins round," Stockton said, kidding, but not by much. "You can look at the course and say it's not for me (he's 159th in driving distance, 242 yards). But I love this rough. If anybody gets in it, they can't get out. And I'm not getting in it."