Stars of Last Year's Hope Are Back : Wadkins Defends Title He Won From Stadler in a Classic

Times Staff Writer

If the final round of last year's Bob Hope Classic had been in the U.S. Open or the Masters, it would be talked about as long as golf is played.

No two golfers ever performed in more spectacular fashion than Lanny Wadkins and Craig Stadler did before Wadkins sank a 15-foot putt to win on the fifth extra hole. The two had shattered the tournament record with 27-under-par 333s.

The battle, during which Stadler ripped away half the side of a mountain at Indian Wells to keep the match going on one hole, lasted almost until darkness. Had Wadkins not ended it when he did, PGA officials were planning to carry it over until Monday.

Wadkins, who went on from victory in the Hope to become player of the year in the PGA, and Stadler, who never came as close to winning during the entire year as he did here, are back for the 27th version of golf's Boston Marathon, now known as the Bob Hope Chrysler tournament. A field of 128 professionals and 384 amateurs will tee off today on four desert courses.

The host course for the five-day, 90-hole tournament is Bermuda Dunes, but until Sunday the La Quinta, Indian Wells and Eldorado courses will also be used. La Quinta, at 6,911 yards, is the longest, and the shortest is Indian Wells at 6,478 yards. Bermuda Dunes is 6,837 and Eldorado 6,708. All are par 72.

As defending champion, Wadkins will play today in the feature La Quinta pairing with former President Gerald Ford, host Bob Hope and Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill.

Also opening at La Quinta will be five-time champion Arnold Palmer, Curtis Strange, Ben Crenshaw, Greg Norman, John Cook, Raymond Floyd and former U.S. amateur champion Nathaniel Crosby.

Stadler will be at Eldorado today, the home course of former President Dwight Eisenhower.

Calvin Peete, who started the 1986 season off right last week by winning $90,000 in the Tournament of Champions, will open his bid for a second straight win at Eldorado. Others on Ike's old course include PGA champion Hubert Green, Larry Nelson and Johnny Miller, who won the Hope in 1975 and 1976.

In years past, most of the name players were grouped together on the same course so they would appear on TV Saturday and Sunday, but this year the star names are well scattered.

Masters champion Bernard Langer of West Germany heads the group starting at Indian Wells, which also includes Jim Thorpe, John Mahaffey and hometown favorite Mac O'Grady.

Starting on the host Bermuda Dunes layout will be Mark O'Meara, who equaled the Tournament of Champions record last week, only to lose to Peete by six shots, plus Hal Sutton, Payne Stewart, Gil Morgan and Rex Caldwell.

If history is any indicator, a playoff is likely late Sunday afternoon. The last four Hope tournaments have gone into extra holes.

Ed Fiori upset Kite in 1982, Keith Fergus beat Caldwell in '83, Mahaffey turned back Jim Simons in '84 and last year it was Wadkins over Stadler.

The professionals will be shooting for a $650,000 purse, of which $108,000 will go to the winner. The amateurs will play four days, changing professional partners in each round.

Among the amateurs are entertainers Jack Lemmon, Glen Campbell, Andy Williams, Mickey Rooney, Joey Bishop, Scatman Crothers, Buddy Rogers, Claude Akins, Foster Brooks, Telly Savalas, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., baseball's Johnny Bench and astronaut Alan Shepard. All are playing today at La Quinta.

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