Kite Leads in Napa Valley


NAPA, Calif. -- Tom Kite fired his second straight round of 6-under 66 Saturday to climb into the lead at the Napa Valley Championship. Kite's 12-under 132 ties the 36-hole tournament record and puts him two strokes clear of overnight leader Allen Doyle.
Doyle also trailed Bruce Fleisher, who originally set the 36-hole mark in 1999. The 36-hole leader has won this event three straight years and seven of the previous 13 times. Kite led at the same point at the MasterCard Championship in the season's first event, which he won by six strokes.
Bob Gilder (67) and Charles Coody (67) are tied for third at 8-under 136. Stewart Ginn (69), Jim Thorpe (69) and Doug Tewell (69) are one shot behind that pair at Silverado Resort's South Course.
Kite, who has won two times on the Senior Tour this season, picked up his first birdie at the fifth, but gave that stroke back with a bogey at the par-3 seventh. He got into red figures for good when he rolled in a long eagle putt at the par-5 ninth.
'The eagle at nine jump-started the round,' said Kite. 'I played solid early, but couldn't convert anything. Making a bomb (60-feet) at nine really got me going.'
Around the turn, Kite birdied the 10th, before carding four consecutive pars. He got to double-digit under-par with a five-foot birdie putt on 15. He made it two straight birdies with a two-footer at the next. He then secured first place with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 18th.
'I am very pleased with my position, but I'm far from secure,' Kite said. 'I played six rounds of golf here in the Qualifying School in 1972. My knowledge of the course isn't going to hurt me. This is the type of course where you can shoot a low score.'
Doyle, who is winless in 2002, struggled out of the gate Saturday as he bogeyed the first two holes. On the first, he drove into a bunker and had a difficult recovery shot. He then three-putted the second. Doyle was able to recover those shots with consecutive birdies beginning at the fourth.
After making the turn, Doyle birdied the 14th, however he gave that shot right back on 15. He closed his round with a pair of birdies on 17 and 18, despite some less than ideal conditions.
'The greens were horribly inconsistent and on the bumpy side,' said Doyle, the 2001 Player of the Year. 'Some greens were like cement, then I got a few bad breaks and a few pins were suspect. Everything that seems to happen is a bounce the wrong way.'
Don Pooley, Fuzzy Zoeller, Tom Purtzer, Walter Hall and Fleisher are six shots off the pace at 6-under 138.
Defending champion Sammy Rachels is tied with a pair of television commentators, Andy North and Gary McCord, as well as Lee Trevino, Gibby Gilbert, Fred Gibson, Jay Sigel, Kermit Zarley and Jim Ahern at minus 5.
Full-field scores from the Napa Valley Championship