How low can it go at the Hope?

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:39 AM ET

These are the fastest tracks in golf and even in an idyllic sport like golf, speed can kill.

"It can get a little frantic out there," said Fred Couples yesterday, after shooting a 66 to go with his first-round 65, to stay in touch with the two-round leaders at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.

The Hope is a birdie barrage unlike any other event in golf.

Anybody who wants to win it has to be ready to go low for five consecutive days. It messes with the heads of golfers who are trained to be patient.

"All our lives, especially in the most important tournaments where we play under the toughest of conditions, we're always guarding against making the big mistake," Couples said. "But out here in the desert, man, you have to just keep pouring it in there close and making putts.

"If you go a couple or three holes and don't make something, you start to get a little anxious."

Joe Ogilvie is not a household name in the golf world but he is bidding to become the first first-time winner at the Hope since 1986. He followed an opening-round 64 with a 63 yesterday.

At 17-under-par after two rounds, he has the tournament record of 36-under -- set by Joe Durant in 2001 -- in his sights.

"It's all about momentum," Ogilvie said. "You get it going on these golf courses and you can really go low. My mind set when I come here is that 67 is par and then you go from there. The greens are perfect, the courses are fairly short, the weather is great. There just isn't anything to protect par.

"Heck, I've made three eagles in two days. I made three eagles all last year."

Phil Mickelson, who won this event last year at 30-under, is keeping Ogilvie in his sights, just three shots behind in second place, tied with Sweden's Freddie Jacobsen, who flew up the leaderboard yesterday with a 62, low round of the day. Mickelson is coming off some horrendous putting last week in San Diego but he has found the cure in Palm Springs.

"The ball rolls perfectly on these greens," Mickelson said. "These are golf courses where you can just let it go. A lot of places you have to be careful to guard against bogeys and worse. Here you have to guard against playing too conservatively."

The other problem is that if you don't get out in the fast lane early, there is just too much ground to be made up.

Just ask Mike Weir, who won this tournament two years ago and used it as a springboard to his best season to date.

This week, Weir's putter has left him high and dry. He is sitting at even par, tied for 117th place in a 128-man field.

"I've hit the ball just fine," he said. "I've been in position to make a lot of birdies but it just isn't happening."

Weir shot a 73 at Tamarisk yesterday, while all around him players were giving par a proper mugging.

After two rounds, Weir is dead last in putting. He needed 32 putts to get around Bermuda Dunes in 71 strokes on Wednesday, then putted worse yesterday, needing 35 putts.

Stephen Ames leads the three-man Canadian contingent at four-under, but he'll probably need to improve on that number to make the 72-hole cut after tomorrow's round.

Of the 127 players left in the field, 117 are under-par after 36 holes. Both Weir and Glen Hnatiuk are among the unlucky 10 at the bottom of the pack. Hnatiuk, making his first start since elbow surgery last April, struggled to a 76 at LaQuinta yesterday and sits at four over par, in 124th place.

He still is ahead of David Duval, who is astoundingly out of step.

DUVAL IN LAST

Duval shot 79 yesterday to go with an opening 82 and is last at 17 over par. This is the same man who made headlines five years ago at this event when he shot a 59 in the final round to win the tournament.

It's clear, though, he no longer has what it takes to handle this kind of track meet.

Unless you can dare to think like Joe Ogilvie, then you might as well get out of the way.

"Right now I'm at 17 under," he said. "I figure if I double that, I might be able to win."

Thirty-four under par?

Just enough to win.


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