Lietzke expressed his thanks to the gods of golf by firing a 9-under 63 at the Senior Tour Championship in Oklahoma City. After 36 holes, he leads the tournament with a 10-under-par 134, holding a one-shot edge over Bob Gilder and two shots over Tom Kite and Gil Morgan.
If there were a day this week when I was going to get back at the golf course, today was the day, said Lietzke, who has two wins in his rookie season on tour. I made it play easy as well as I drove it today. Quite a few shots were easier than yesterday, just because of the lack of wind.
Lietzke could do no better than a 71 in Thursdays opening round when the winds blew out of the north consistently at 15 miles per hour and gusted at times to 25. Friday it died down to five.
That comes from a guy who hits the ball real high, said Lietzke. A good wind player might say it was only 2-3 shots easier today from lack of wind. The high ball that I hit all the time, I struggle in the kind of winds we had yesterday. Today is the kind of day that I try to take advantage of the golf course. This is the kind of course that keeps the driver in my hands all day long. When the wind dies down like it did today, it just plays right into my strengths.
The forecast is for breezes to be around 5 miles per hour both Saturday and Sunday with temperatures in the upper 60s, so the field had best beware of Lietzke.
Lietzke made the nine-hole turn in 30, stroking the ball adroitly on the greens with the long-handled putter. He finished the 63 with a birdie on the difficult 18th, a 553-yard par-5 that curls directly into the northerly breezes. He used two shots to place the ball in the middle of the green 18 feet away, then two-putted for the birdie.
Gilder led after the first round with a 67 and was 3-under again after only three holes Friday. He eagled the par-5 3rd for the second day in a row, this time with a 35-foot putt. But his progress was halted on the 5th hole with a double bogey. Still, he finished with a 68 to stand one shot behind Lietzke.
I hit the ball as good as I did yesterday, said Gilder. But its hard to follow with another good day. Im very happy with a 68.
Tom Watson would be tied for the lead had it not been for an eight he scored on the third hole Thursday. He has scored 11 birdies and an eagle in the two days, but it was the miscue on the par-5 hole that ruined him.
At the junior clinic on Tuesday, I talked a lot about how you shouldnt follow a bad shot with another bad shot, said Watson. Thats one of the things Ive always prided myself on.
But thats exactly what I did. In fact, I hit a shank after a bad shot. That runs up your score pretty fast.
I hit it in the bunker off the tee. Then I pull-hooked a 3-iron way out to the left. We found the ball, but I had to drop it. I had a little constricted backswing, and it just went urnnnt ' low right and my playing partner, Vicente Fernandez, had to jump.
So Im lying four ' three shots and a penalty. The ball is lying in another hazard after the shank. I had to go over a wall with the next shot, and I had to make sure I hit it high enough. Then I hit a lousy chip shot to 10 feet, and two-putted for eight.
Still, one must remember that Watson was three shots behind at the halfway point last year, and he wound up the winner in this tournament.
Sure enough, this year he is at 7-under-par 137. That is three shots behind.
Full-field scores from the Senior Tour Championship