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Chi Chi likes his course, but not everyone does

Chi Chi Rodriguez helped design the course, so he should be the favorite, right? Well, the Senior PGA Tour star won't go that far, but he does like his chances in the GTE Suncoast Classic, which begins today at the TPC of Tampa Bay at Cheval.

Each TPC course has a tour player as a consultant on the design. Rodriguez, however, had never played the TPC at Tampa Bay until Wednesday, when he shot a 4-under-par 67 in the pro-am. Although several players have criticized the design _ specifically the contoured greens _ Rodriguez, naturally, is thrilled with it.

"You'll see the best shot-makers do well here," Rodriguez said Thursday. "Most courses we play, you hit it and find it. Here, you re-load. That's how golf was meant to be played.

"It might be the best golf course I ever played. I hit every club in my bag. It has everything: doglegs, short holes, long holes, water holes. It's very fair _ if you play it well."

Lee Trevino was also impressed.

"I think it's a hell of a test of golf," Trevino said. "Maybe one of the best TPC courses I've played. It's tough when the wind blows, and just soft enough for the amateur.

Who says a pro-am has to take five hours?

Heavy fog delayed the start of Thursday's pro-am by more than two hours, but it did offer a lesson in fast play. Contestants were told the round would be limited to four hours _ no matter how many holes they completed _ so the afternoon pro-am could get completed. Miraculously, almost everyone finished in the morning round.

"It's living proof that golf can be played in less than four hours," said Trevino, who said public golf courses should make it a rule. "I don't ever want to hear that bull that a pro-am has to take five hours."

No individual pro scores were kept Thursday for the pros, and team scores were only tallied through 15 holes. Three teams tied for the overall lead when scores from Wednesday were added.

Amateurs Allen Reeves, Allen Reeves III, Jon Swensson and Joe Simpkins combined with pro Larry Mowry to shoot 10-under Thursday and finish at 26-under; amateurs Tim Eitel, Roche Terblanch, Jeffrey Cole and Shashi Kapur combined with pro Gibby Gilbert to shoot 14-under and finish at 26-under; and amateurs Garl Bienz, Mike Muhlbaier, Gary Avery and Chuck Wiley combined with pro Ben Smith to shoot 12-under and finish at 26-under.

Tee times delayed due to expected fog

Because more fog is expected this morning, tee times have been delayed and players will go off both the front and back nines. Tee times run from 9:50 a.m. through 11:50 a.m. Bruce Devlin withdrew for an unspecified reason. He was replaced by alternate Bill Kennedy.

Here's how seniors field is determined

Here is how the field for senior tour events is determined. The 78 players come from the top 31 available players on the previous year's money list, the top 31 available on the all-time money list, the top eight available from the previous year's senior tour qualifying school, four sponsor's exemptions, and four players from Monday qualifying.

The facts

Tickets: $15. For information, call the tournament office in Tampa at 971-1726.

Directions:

From South Pinellas, take I-275 to Bearss. Left on Bearss to Dale Mabry. Right on Dale Mabry to Van Dyke Road. Left on Van Dyke Road and follow signs to public parking.

From North Pinellas, take Race Track Road or Tarpon Springs Road to Gunn Hwy. Left on Gunn Hwy to Lutz Lake Fern Road. Right on Lutz Lake Fern Road and follow signs to public parking.

From Tampa, take Dale Mabry North to Van Dyke Road. Left on Van Dyke Road and follow signs to public parking. Or, take Bearss to Dale Mabry. Right on Dale Mabry to Van Dyke Road. Left on Van Dyke Road and follow signs to public parking.

Television: The tournament will be televised live today by ESPN from 2 to 4 p.m. and on tape delay Saturday and Sunday from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

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