The better known pros took some big shots at young Andy Nean today in the third round of the Doral-Eastern Open, but they didn't catch him. And if precedent holds - the third-round leader has won all of the 10 tournaments on the tour this year - Doral's $40,000 first-place money will be a candle on Andy Bean's 24th birthday cake Sunday.
Lanny Wadkins and Chi Chi Rodriquez threw third-round 66s at Bean and joined the hunt to overtake him. But they were coming from too far back to move into more than a contending position. Rodriguez pulled to within three strokes of the lead, Wadkins to four.
It was young Bean actually expanding to three strokes the two-stroke lead he carried into today's play. He couldn't match the 67s he notched in the first two rounds, but he kept his poise, came in with a one-under 71 and is in front with 205.
Today's biggest threat to the longhitting Bean, a recent Florida graduate who has never won a pro tournament, was his playing companion Leonard Thompson. Thompson, almost as long a hitter as the tallish, 206-pound Bean, tied Rodriguez for second place with a bizarre 70 that boggled the scoreboard people
The husky Thompson, who won the 1974 Inverarry, birdied eight of the first 12 holes, "but I played some wretched golf in between." A double bogey on No. 3 was costly, and so were three bogies on the last six holes. Thompson, a free spirit like Bean, was seated with him on the interview platform and asked, "Andy, you wanna go out drinking tonight."
If a young, nonwinner on the tour ever had an invitation to fold after blowing a two-stroke tournament lead, it was Bean on the incoming nine, after Thompson made a superrun at him with seven birdies in an eight-hole span.
Thompson was hitting all greens, sinking all putts on that streak, and Bean said, "There I was standing on the 13th tee and looking at a scoreboard that said I had blown my lead. I said 'Whew!' and went back to work."
Bean had blown two strokes to Thompson on No. 12, which Thompson birdied. "I tried to get on in two, and bobbled it, hitting a trap." The 12th, which Bean was trying to reach in two, is a 608-yard number on Doral's Blue Monster course, an indication of the power Bean can generate.
Bean went out in a highly respectable 34, playing what he said was aggressive golf. He said after his disaster on 12, he aimed merely for par on the way in. He made par in each of the last six holes while Thompson bogeyed three of six with the wretched shots he had talked about.
Rodrigues and Wadkins shot 33-33-66 to mount their challenges. Rodriguez credited his turn-around to the many lessons he had been taking from his favorite teacher, old pro Pete Cooper, who reminded him of many things to do correctly.
In detailing a litany of instruction that every aspiring golfer could note, Rodriguez said, "Cooper showed me how I was coming over the top, hitting the ball with my shoulders, not my legs. Then he made me keep my head behind the ball, where it would be, and to compensate for my small size (he weighs 128) he made me go to 3 1/2 inch tees so I could hit the ball with more aid under it.
"After 17 years on the tour, he still needed golf lessons, Rodriquez said.
"I'm going for the flag tomorrow," Rodriguez added, as a warning to Bean. "The way I'm playing, even those football players can't outdrive me."
Bunched at four behind Bean in a tie for fourth place, are Wadkins, young Mike Sullivan, and veteran pros Larry Ziegler and David Graham.
Jack Nicklasus turned in his second straight 70 today. It was futile. He's seven strokes out of it in a seven-way tie for 12th place.