Today’s fifth and final round of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic looks as if it’s going to be a real horse race. It could be a Haas race. Or maybe it will be something resembling a cavalry charge.
Who’s going to win it? Right now, it’s sort of like handicapping the handicaps.
Jay Haas? The 72-hole leader went four years without a victory until he got one last year in Houston, and he now wonders if he’ll be worried.
Bob Tway? After scoring two eagles in his round at La Quinta that put him only one shot behind Haas, Tway needs to pack an eraser in his golf bag to do away with all the second-guessing about a subpar 1987.
Paul Azinger? The third-round co-leader with Haas is two shots off the lead. He missed a series of birdie putts Saturday at La Quinta and said he wasn’t going to practice with his putter, a tactic he uses only when he putts poorly.
Somebody is going to win the $180,000 prize, and it may not even be one of these three. Haas stayed in front Saturday when he shot a 68 at Bermuda Dunes for a four-day total of 268.
Haas has either led or been tied for the lead after three of the four rounds, which gives him plenty to think about.
“There’s going to be plenty of pressure on me,” Haas said. “It’s human nature to think about what everybody else is doing, but there’s really no defense.
“You can’t jump up and down and holler, or block the ball when they putt,” he said. “It’s a helpless feeling. I just have to hopefully worry about Jay.”
Immediately behind Haas is Tway (67) at 269, then Azinger (70) at 270, but there is a bunch next in line, whetting their appetites for another go at Indian Wells.
David Edwards, who had a 65 at Indian Wells, and Mark O’Meara, who shot a 68 at Bermuda Dunes, are tied at 273, five shots off the pace. Three more are tied at 274--Chip Beck, Bret Upper and Donnie Hammond.
So far, Indian Wells has played patsy to the golfers who have left spike marks all over its reputation. That is expected to change today with new, tougher pin placements on quick, pool table-like greens.
Tway probably had the round of the day, even though his 67 wasn’t the lowest score. After going birdie, bogey, birdie on three of his first five holes, Tway eagled the par-5, 521-yard No. 6 when he hit a 3-wood from 245 yards to within four feet of the cup.
Then on another par 5, the 508-yard No. 13, Tway got another eagle when he sank a 15-footer.
“Those two eagles obviously helped my round,” said Tway, who fully expects Indian Wells to yield some low scores again today in the final round, just as it has the entire tournament.
“When you come into this tournament, you know you’re going to have to shoot a low score and get a lot of birdies,” he said. “You’ll have to have four or five (today) to stay in contention. I need to go out and score a 66 or 65 or something. That might do it or it might not.”
As usual, Indian Wells produced the day’s best round--a nine-under 63 by Mac O’Grady, who is one-part of a gang of four at 275, seven shots behind Haas.
Before the round, O’Grady told Johnny Bench and Vic Damone that he would shoot a 58. Halfway through the round, O’Grady had a 30 and a chance.
O’Grady didn’t make it, but he did sink a 40-foot putt on his closing hole to save par after his drive landed in a pond and he had to take a penalty stroke. O’Grady loved dropping that putt to make par.
“You hit it, you look up and then bingo, your imagination, your fantasy, becomes reality,” he said.
Azinger wasn’t quite as colorful. He followed up his 65 Friday at Indian Wells with a 70. He had five birdies and three bogeys in an up-and-down day with his putter.
Here’s how Azinger started the back nine: birdie, bogey, birdie, bogey, birdie. He finished with a 3-putt bogey on 17 and a par after scoring a pair of birdies playing the front nine.
Here’s how Azinger’s reacted to his putting: “I was a little irritated, needless to say.”
Azinger was asked if he is satisfied with his position, two shots down with 18 holes to play.
“I don’t have any choice,” he said. “But if anyone had told me starting the week that I would be one, two or three shots back going into the final round, I’d take it.’
There is no such thing as a comfortable lead at Indian Wells, Azinger said. “Somebody can shoot 62 or 63 on you real quick,” he said.
The cut for the final round was 284, four under par. The field will play in threesomes with Haas, Tway and Azinger in the last group.
Playing last among the leaders will be a welcome change for Tway, who was not in the final group in any tournaments last year.
“It’s nice to be back,” said Tway, who won all four of the 1986 tournaments in which he played in the final group.
Haas, a professional since 1977, did not win a tournament from 1983-86, but he said he didn’t exactly suffer. He consoled himself by collecting more than $630,000 during his winless spell.
“That kept me going,” he said, and laughed.
“I’m sure I’ll be nervous and won’t sleep well tonight, but this is what I work for,” he said. “I’ve been in tournaments where I said, ‘Gosh, I wish I were 16 or 18 or 20 under par and have a chance to win.’
“Well, I’m there right now, so I’ve got my chance. This is what I’m going to say to myself: “You can do it, Jay.”
One thing is certain. There are probably a bunch of other golfers telling themselves the same thing and they’re all shouting down Indian Wells.