GTE Suncoast Classic officials disconnected the fog horn and moved starting times back to normal for today, beginning at 8:30 a.m.
Dick Rhyan, who is commuting from his home in Sarasota, did not get the word of the fog-delayed tee times Friday, arriving at 6:30 a.m., four hours before his tee time. "I had plenty of time to warm up," said Rhyan, after shooting a 67.
Bumpy greens slowed down
The intimidating bumps in the TPC greens were tamed Friday by the slow surface. The stimpmeter, which measures the speed of a green (the higher the number, the faster) was set at 8.5 Friday, instead of the usual nine or over. "It's what they (Senior PGA officials) wanted them at," TPC of Tampa Bay general manager Wayne White said.
Al Geiberger, who sank a 40-footer on 18, said "with the greens that slow the undulations are not as noticeable. It doesn't look as slow as it is. You say "I have to hit it firm.' Then "wait a minute, I can't hit it that hard.'
Stockton still getting thanks
Dave Stockton, now a full-time Senior Tour player, is recognized more because he captained the U.S Ryder Cup team that defeated Europe in September. The victory was America's first since 1983. Stockton said fans still are congratulating him.
"I love it," said Stockton, who won 11 PGA Tour events and opened the GTE Suncoast Classic with a 71. "They come up and they thank me. You couldn't ask for anything better than that. It means a lot to me."
Arnie gets off to poor start
Arnold Palmer still draws the loudest applause on the 18th green. Palmer, however, had trouble with some earlier holes, including a triple-bogey 8 on the par-5 seventh. In his first tournament of 1992, Palmer started with a 77.
"Just a bad day. (On No. 7) I tried to get a little too much on my tee shot. I didn't hit it good and knocked it in the water. Then I knocked it in the water again," Palmer said. "It's not a good way to start the first tournament of the year."
Among the other name personalities, Chi Chi Rodriguez shot a 1-under 70, including an eagle-3 on No. 14, but a three-putt on 18. Afterward, he parked his cart among the gallery and signed autographs for 30 minutes. Former NFL quarterback John Brodie shot a 36-44-80.
Littler is Vantage leader
Gene Littler is not only two shots off the lead with a 67, but is leading the Vantage Classic (the two-day competition for the over-60 set) by two shots. Tied for second are Bob Goalby and Tampa's Charlie Owens.
Heat proves to be problem
Heat, wide-open space and lots of walking proved a dangerous combination for some in the gallery Friday, keeping the first-aid center busy.
"People don't realize, with the heat, how fast they dehydrate," said Mary Whillock, head nurse of the University Community Hospital emergency room, who runs the first-aid center. "And many people are not taking their morning medication. They're in a hurry to get out here."
Whillock recommends that spectators dress for the weather, drink plenty of fluids and take frequent rest stops.
_ KEVIN THOMAS and BOB HARIG