- The Washington Times - Friday, June 28, 2002

OWINGS MILLS, Md. Robert who?

R.W. Eaks' initials might have elicited that quip yesterday at Caves Valley after he carded a record 64 in the first round of the U.S. Senior Open. He is, after all, a mystery to most including Jose Maria Canizares, who identified Eaks as "that guy" during a post-round interview.

But for all the years he spent toiling in anonymity on the Buy.com Tour, Eaks never had doubts about his ability. So, when he was asked if he had surprised himself by shooting so well yesterday, Eaks wasn't overwhelmed.

"Gosh," he said, "I'm kind of disappointed I didn't shoot 63, actually."

Informed that only five players had won the Senior Open in their first year on the tour, Eaks kept it just as cool: "Well, I'd like to be the sixth."

Eaks has never been one short on confidence. During his basketball playing days at the University of Northern Colorado, he was a self-described "black hole" on offense, one who never gave up the ball once it was passed to him.

Not even a debilitating hip injury five years ago shook his self-assuredness. After earning his way to the PGA Tour in 1998, Eaks lost his balance stepping into a bunker during a tournament and tore the labrum around the ball socket in his right hip. "It sounded like a shotgun blast," Eaks said.

Eaks opted not to have surgery and instead sought the attention of his best friend, a chiropractor in Phoenix. He has helped return Eaks to playing shape, even as Eaks has maintained a relaxed rehabilitation regimen.

"You guys aren't going to believe this, but no exercising," Eaks said. "I wear a lift in one of my shoes and I be careful about what I'm doing.

"Channel surfing is as much as I working out as I do."

He's also been on a diet, cutting down on sugar. He says the weight loss has affected his drives, if only marginally.

"I've lost 33 pounds and I think a little bit of my strength went with it," he said. "But I think it's helped my hip out."

Along for the ride

Trying to keep pace with Eaks paid off yesterday for amateur Paul Simson, who sits in the top 10 of the tournament field after posting a 1-under 70.

"[R.W.] was on fire out there and I was just kind of hanging under his coattails as best as I could," said Simson, who teed off with Eaks and Terry Mauney.

"I haven't been playing well [lately], but Monday believe it or not I took my first lesson in about 20 years over the phone," Simson added. "One of the assistant pros down at [Northridge Country Club] kind of gave me some ideas."

After that conversation, Simson started feeling comfortable right away, shooting a 68 in his practice round on Wednesday. Then came his round yesterday, the best of any amateur by three strokes.

Simson said he usually prefers not to fiddle with his game in the week before a tournament, but

"Things were so sorry I had to do something," he said.

Simson a vice president for an insurance agency qualified for the tournament with his finish as the low-scoring amateur at last year's Open at Salem Country Club. He's already off to a better start then he managed then, when he failed to post any red numbers in his two rounds. He earned three birdies yesterday.

Chip shots

A year after coming back from four strokes back to win the 2001 Senior Open at Salem, defending champ Bruce Fleisher will enter today's round 12 strokes off the lead. He got off to a rough start on the back nine, settling for three bogeys. A double-bogey on the par-5 No.7 was the killer Jim Ahern, who pulled his back earlier in the week, finished his round yesterday at 2-under Arnold Palmer finished 11-over par. "I suppose I have to give up hitting it long," he said. "I just have to be satisfied hitting it straight." After a 50-minute weather delay, the first round was suspended for the day last night. The 10 groups yet to finish will resume their first round today at 7:45 a.m. Round two will begin as scheduled at 7:15 from holes 1 and 10.

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