- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 29, 2002

OWINGS MILLS, Md. After topping his previous low round in a U.S. Senior Open by five strokes yesterday at Caves Valley, Walter Hall gushed that he was simply performing his best Tom Kite impression.
Unfortunately for Hall and, perhaps, the staying power of his one-stroke lead he and Kite weren't the only ones playing like Kite after two rounds at the 23rd Senior Open.
Hall shot a 6-under-par 65 in the second round to take the lead at 7 under, one stroke ahead of Kite and Jose Maria Canizares. Tom Watson stayed three shots back, tied with Isao Aoki and Fred Gibson.
First-round leader R.W. Eaks was at even-par after 15 holes but then double-bogeyed No.16 and fell to 5 under overall. A day after Eaks carded one of the best rounds in Senior Tour history, Hall's spectacular round which matched his best at a Senior Tour event also was quite the surprise.
"It sure is," said Hall, a University of Maryland graduate. "And I probably won't ever do this again. But I sure had my day in the sun today."
So did a few players who teed off early. Rain-softened greens and cooler temperatures helped make a free-for-all out of the morning round. The course was not quite as friendly to the afternoon starters, whose rounds were interrupted for an hour by thunderstorms. Still, at the end of the day, 16 players found themselves with red numbers, compared to just nine yesterday.
Among the most notable improvements in the second round: Hall, who shot five strokes better; Raymond Floyd, who also shaved off five to get to 1 under overall; and George Allen, who didn't make the cut (7 over) but saved face with a 5 under yesterday after shooting a 96 Thursday.
"[The course] played easier today," said Kite. "That little bit of rain that we had last night really softened up the golf course quite a bit. I think that's why you're seeing a little bit lower scores today."
But tell that to Watson, whose short game betrayed him on a handful of putts inside of 12 feet. Or Aoki, who three-putted for bogey on 10 and 13, then missed a 10-footer for par on 18. Those misses were the only downsides to otherwise solid rounds.
As for Eaks, he struggled early, bogeying the third and sixth holes and feeling the jitters of a man who has never won a major championship.
"The thing that saved my round today was the rain delay," he said. "It gave me a chance to settle down."
Eaks finished one stroke in back of Canivares and Kite, whose finest shot of the day came on 15. He struck a 4-iron 211 yards from the hole to set up a 1-foot putt that he nailed to get him to 5 under. He ultimately got to 6 under and might have improved his score even more had his birdie putts not lipped out on the final two holes.
As it was, the best round belonged to Hall, who played bogey-free and racked up six birdies.
"I was glad that I played the back nine first, mainly because I had more holes to play this morning," said Hall, whose first round was one of those suspended yesterday.
"Making the turn [onto the front nine], I knew that even if I made a bogey on 17 or 18, or even both of them, I still had some good birdie holes on the front with 1, 2 and 3."
With the field cut to 63 players, today's round will begin with seven contenders separated by just three strokes. That leaves plenty of room for someone to distinguish himself.
"The golf course gave up some good scores today," Kite said. "So I think you have to be a little aggressive."
Of course, the more aggressive Kite gets, the tougher it will be for Hall to imitate him. Then again, Hall could be fine today if he simply plays like Hall did yesterday.


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