Champions Tour stars Kite, Fleisher disappear from leaderboard quickly.
By JOHN SCHWARB
Published February 22, 2004
LUTZ - Safely off the course and underneath the scoring tent, Tom Kite shook his head, took a deep breath, guzzled a bottle of water and shot a glance at Bruce Fleisher.
"Whew ... wow," Kite deadpanned.
"Yeah," Fleisher answered.
It was that kind of Saturday afternoon. The two Champions Tour headliners teed off in the second round of the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am in contention - Kite with the lead - but both shot 74 and plummeted down the leaderboard.
"We struggled out there, both of us," Kite said. "That's not nearly as much fun."
Kite, who fired 8-under 63 on a bogey-free Friday, was 11 shots worse on his second trip around the TPC of Tampa Bay. The backpedaling started almost immediately with consecutive bogeys on the second and third holes, plus another bogey at the par-4 eighth hole.
"I mis-clubbed on (No.)3 and (No.)8; that cost me badly," Kite said. "I hit it over the greens there, and you're never, ever supposed to hit it over any of these greens."
Kite missed only one fairway and two greens the first round, then five fairways and seven greens in the second round.
"I just wasn't getting anything close to the hole, so I didn't have many birdie opportunities today," Kite said.
Fleisher's descent was steeper and surprising. The two-time champion at TPC started the tournament with 4-under 67 then got to 6-under early with birdies at No.4 and No.6.
Then on the 541-yard, par-5 seventh hole, a birdie hole for Fleisher Friday, he made a triple-bogey eight after a rinsed tee shot. At the par-4 eighth the bleeding continued with a double-bogey six after Fleisher missed the fairway, the green and then took a couple extra whacks from greenside trees.
"I didn't miss a shot for six holes; one bad swing got me going in the wrong direction," Fleisher said. "It set the tone for the day."
The 74 was Fleisher's second over-par score in 17 rounds at the TPC. Fleisher and Kite were not the only ones to struggle on a windier day, but it was little consolation at an event where both have had success.
"I'd say (teeing off Friday and Saturday) early/late was a bad end of the draw, but the leader (Mark McNulty) played in that half, so obviously it can be done," said Kite, who tied for fifth in the 2002 event.
With that, Kite hit the autograph line, still shaking his head.