2006: Kite sails to end drought

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Valencia, Calif.

Tom Kite didn’t think it would be this hard.

The 56-year-old Texan snapped a two-year drought with a five-shot victory March 12 over Gil Morgan at the AT&T Classic. Before Sunday, Kite’s last triumph was the 2004 3M Championship.

“This was way too long of a drought,” Kite said. “These last two wins, it’s been kind of sparse. When I first came out here and won five or six events, I was thinking this Champions Tour thing was pretty easy.”

Kite joined the Champions Tour in 2000 and posted six victories the first three years. In his next 76 starts he had only one victory – until Sunday.

“This is definitely the best golf I’ve played in a long time,” Kite said. “My golf swing is great, my putting stroke is great. It’s fun to play well and I’m hoping to build on it. . . . There is no question about it. To come out and win with this field on this golf course was pretty good.”

Kite was second in the field in putts per greens in regulation (1.650). He made three eagles and 12 birdies to offset six bogeys for the week. After starting with an up-and-down 70 Friday, Kite played the final 36 holes in 10 under with only two bogeys.

Kite set up his second victory here (he also won in 2002) with a course-record-tying 64 Saturday that included an eagle-and-four-birdie stretch between Nos. 9-13. It was the best eagle/birdie streak on tour this year.

15 minutes of fame: Monday qualifier Mitch Adcock garnered attention early as he took the first-round lead with a 67.

Adcock, who finished T-43 at Champions Tour Q-School in November, also Monday-qualified at the Turtle Bay Championship (T-67).

“It’s tough,” Adcock said of having to qualify. “You look at that list and there are a lot of good golfers. It can be a little bit of a letdown after you get in. You just have to keep it going.

“I would have loved to have gotten through Q-School. Any good finish helps my position as far as status out here and that is good for me.”

Adcock shot 70 in the second round and was third behind Tom Kite and Andy Bean. However, a final-round 80 knocked Adcock to a tie for 17th.

“I’m grateful for what I’ve got,” Adcock said. “This tour wasn’t built for guys like me. It was built for the Crenshaws and the guys who are here.”

Adcock was a journeyman for most of his career, playing a couple of uneventful years on the PGA Tour in the early 1990s, then playing in Europe and on mini-tours. He was sidelined for a couple of years after back surgery in 1996.

Noted golf instructor Jim Hardy has been working with Adcock the last two years, and Adcock said Hardy is responsible for the improvement in his game.

“He took me from the couch to feeling like I could play again,” Adcock said. “I really owe him for all that he has done.”

Still searching: Andy Bean, who started the final round one shot behind Tom Kite, was looking for his first over-50 triumph.

“It’s been very frustrating,” Bean said of his Champions Tour career. “My putting is what has kept me back. If I can go out and play a good solid round, I’m not going to say I’m going to be disappointed if I don’t win, but we all come out here to win.”

Bean, who won 11 times on the PGA Tour, struggled Sunday, shooting 79 to tie for seventh.

Bean’s best finish on tour is a T-2 at the 2004 Commerce Bank Long Island Classic. In 2004, Bean shared the 36-hole lead with Bob Gilder at the Farmers Charity Classic but had to withdraw because of an allergic reaction.

Short shots: Runner-up Gil Morgan made a run at his fourth victory at this event. Morgan won in 1996-97 and 2004. Morgan has 19 rounds in the 60s at this event out of 32 played, and 24 sub-par rounds. . . . Loren Roberts’ streak of 14 consecutive rounds of par or better this year ended with a final-round 2-over 74. Roberts (T-7) finished out of the top 5 for the second time in 11 Champions Tour starts. . . Players battled cold temperatures and rain during the week. Temperatures the first two days were in the mid-40s with a wind chill in the 30s. “It’s like an Iditarod race out here,” Gary McCord told the Santa Clarita Valley Signal. “You get your lead dog out there and make sure his nose is in the air and it’s let’s go – mush, mush.

I live in Vail, Colo., and it’s nicer in Vail than it is here.” . . . Sunday’s scoring average for was 74.295, Saturday’s was 73.077 and Friday’s was 73.615.

– Staff and wire reports

On the tee

Next up: Puerto Vallarta Blue Agave Golf Classic, March 31-April 2, Vista Vallarta Golf Club, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Defending champion: New event.

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