Rhoden moves into tie for fourth | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Rhoden moves into tie for fourth

Halfway through the Champions Tour National Qualifying Tournament, Rick Rhoden is rising to the task just as he did when he pitched to power hitters like Mike Schmidt and Johnny Bench with the game on the line.

The former major league pitcher shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 to move into a tie for fourth place with Reno’s Butch Sheehan and Mark Pfeil.

All four of Rhoden’s birdies were 6 feet or less as he moved within two good rounds of earning his 2003 Champions Tour card.

“I was hitting the ball a lot better today,” said Rhoden, who opened with a 70 on Tuesday. “I had quite a few birdie putts, nice par saves and I wasn’t trying having to scramble for pars as hard as the other day.”

The 49-year-old Rhoden trails co-leaders Des Smyth of Ireland and Seiji Ebihara of Japan by three shots. Ebihara, the 2002 European Senior Tour’s leading money winner, shot a 7-under 65 to join Smyth at the top. Smyth followed an opening-round 67 with a 68.

“I think I need to keep shooting under par … I better keep trying to anyway,” Rhoden said. “I don’t think guys are going backward.”

The top eight players after four rounds will receive full exempt status for the 2003 tour. The next eight will earn partial status.

Rhoden, who has won 41 celebrity golf titles over the past decade, hit 93 percent of the fairways off the tee, 78 percent of greens in regulation and needed 28 putts.

“I decided to just go play golf … line it up and hit, instead of thinking about it so much,” he said.

Sheehan’s scoring card wasn’t as clean as Rhoden’s as he birdied five holes and bogeyed three on his way to a 70.

The field of 110 was trimmed to 74 after the first round. The tightly bunched leader board doesn’t leave much room for error, considering six additional strokes would have Rhoden in a tie for 42nd place.

“It doesn’t matter who’s out there. I don’t know half of the guys who are playing out there,” Rhoden said. “The way I look at is I need to shoot under par. It doesn’t matter who you play with, if you shoot under par, most days you’ll do OK.”

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