This Time, 18th Is All Uphill for Sutton : Hole Turns Against Him . . . and Wadkins Is on Top by 2 Shots

Times Staff Writer

In the 1983 PGA Championship, Hal Sutton came to the 447-yard 18th hole at Riviera needing a par four to hold off Jack Nicklaus. He played the long, uphill hole in textbook fashion and won the prestigious major title.

Saturday, Sutton came to the same hole needing a par to share the 54-hole lead of the 59th Los Angeles Open with Lanny Wadkins. This time, the result was a double-bogey six that dropped the Louisiana professional into a second- place tie with Gary Koch and former UCLA star Corey Pavin, two shots back of Wadkins.

Pavin, a product of Oxnard and Las Posas Country Club in Camarillo, had the day's low round, a seven-under-par 64, despite having been up most of Friday night with food poisoning. Sutton and Koch had 70s.

Wadkins shot a 67 for a 13-under-par 200 to regain the tournament lead that he held after an opening-round 63. The tournament record at Riviera is 14- under-par 270 by Johnny Miller in 1981.

Koch, who in last year's San Diego Open came from six shots back on the final day to catch Gary Hallberg and win in a playoff, said he considered "anyone within five shots of the lead" to be a contender for the $72,000 first prize.

That would include Scott Simpson, Chip Beck and Larry Mize at 203, Bruce Lietzke at 204 and Don Pooley and Andy Bean at 205.

Simpson, a former two-time intercollegiate champion at USC, and Beck had 66s. Mize had a par 71 one day after shooting a Riviera-record 62.

Sutton had moved into a share of the lead with Wadkins by making birdies on the 15th and 16th holes to go 13 under par, only to court disaster on the 18th when his drive landed in the right rough--his path to the green blocked by a stand of eucalyptus and a long fairway bunker. Sutton's second shot crossed the fairway and dropped into thick Kikuyu grass on a hillside short and to the left of the green. Unlike many shots to the same spot, it didn't bounce down to the fairway.

Sutton's chip shot off the slope came up 40 feet short of the pin. Desperately trying to save his par, Sutton drilled a putt that rolled straight over the hole and six feet past. He missed the come-backer and actually had a tough three-footer to keep from four-putting the green.

"I felt good about the way I was playing and the way I was putting, and I thought I could make that long putt," Sutton said. "Obviously, I'm disappointed at the way I finished, but I'm still a force to be reckoned with tomorrow."

Wadkins, who won the Bob Hope tournament two weeks ago in a five-hole playoff with Craig Stadler, said he doesn't feel comfortable with his two-shot lead.

"I'd feel better with a 12-stroke lead against this bunch," he said. "I'm going out tomorrow and play every hole the best I can. I remember what happened to Stadler in the desert. He shot a 66 on the last day and lost."

And the man he lost to was Wadkins.

Wadkins, probably the fastest player on the tour, played solid golf all day, and his only bogey--on the 180-yard 14th hole--was caused by a capricious breeze.

"The wind was in our face, so I hit a 4-iron," he said. "I hit it good and solid, right at the flag, but just as I struck the ball the wind died and the shot flew over the green. I had a difficult chip back down to the green and missed about a 10-foot putt."

Wadkins said the course record of 270 is of little or no concern to him today.

"Winning the tournament is my No. 1 priority," he said. "My strategy will be the same as if I were tied for the lead, two shots behind, or six shots behind. On this course, the strategy is drive it in the fairway and take it from there. That's what I've been doing and that's what I intend to keep doing."

Wadkins' driving has been near-perfect. He didn't miss a fairway Saturday after missing only two Thursday and one Friday.

"I feel like I'm very much in control," he said. "Anytime you're 13 under par on a course like Riviera, it means you've played damn solid golf."

Pavin, who said he received a tremendous lift from playing in front of his hometown friends, is the surprise among the leaders going into today's final round. Pavin, 25, last year's PGA Rookie of the Year, has won only one PGA Tour event, at Houston. He is challenging Wadkins, a former PGA champion and winner of 13 events, including the 1979 L.A. Open; Sutton, also a former PGA champion and 1983 Player of the Year, and Koch, a winner of five tournaments, including two last year.

"I hope that tomorrow will be a fun day," Pavin said. "I think I'll need to make a lot of birdies."

He had a lot going against him before he shot his 64. He had never broken par at Riviera before this year. He was sick most of the previous night. And he was using a new swing pattern, one that he and pro Bruce Hamilton of Las Posas decided to make last month to eliminate a sway in his swing.

"I have been amazed at how fast I adapted to it," he said. "The first week I tried it in a tournament, I won the New Zealand Open. And today I shoot one of the best three rounds of my life."

Pavin eagled the first hole, a 501-yard par 5, and made seven birdies and two bogeys for his 64. The primary reason for the par-breaking performance was 12 one-putt greens.

"It's fun to putt like that," Pavin said. "I had so much confidence in my putter that on No. 12, I had about a 30-footer and when it was still five feet from the hole I started walking to the next tee. That's how you feel some days. You absolutely know the ball's going in the hole."

Koch may be the sleeper today. He managed to shoot 70, after a pair of 66s, without playing particularly well.

"I lost my rhythm out there today and I'm surprised to be only two shots back the way I was hitting the ball," the Florida veteran said. "I can sleep well tonight, knowing I don't have to worry about holding the lead."

Koch, who said he planned on going to the driving range to "work on a few things for tomorrow," had a see-saw round of four birdies and three bogeys. Today's final round will be televised at 12:30 p.m. on Channel 2.



Lanny Wadkins 63-70-67--200 Corey Pavin 68-70-64--202 Hal Sutton 66-66-70--202 Gary Koch 66-66-70--202 Scott Simpson 66-71-66--203 Chip Beck 71-66-66--203 Larry Mize 70-62-71--203 Bruce Lietzke 66-70-68--204 Andy Bean 67-71-67--205 Don Pooley 69-66-70--205 Larry Rinker 71-70-65--206 Mark Lye 68-68-70--206

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