Tom Weiskopf, George Burns and Bill Rogers, all of whom admit they are perplexed by the pressures and mysteries of their sport, shared the lead today at nine-under-par 207 after 54 holes of the Kemper Open golf tournament.
The leading trio had only to look over their shoulder at Chi Chi Rodriguez, George Archer, Lou Graham and rabbit Doug Tewell - all at 208, to feel the heat in this birdie hust.
The pros turned this scorched 7,160 yard Quail Hollow Country Clun track into a cheerful glen of birdies today as 50 players matched or broke par. The leader board was awash in red (the color of birdies) as 16 contenders cracked 70.
But the ideal scoring conditions - (burned fairways the players are allowed to improve their lies), plus receptive, true greens - only increased the pressure.
"Lord knows what you'll have to shoot Sunday to win," said Burns, 210 bound belter from Maryland University who had the day's second best round, a 66.
"You can't believe how rough it is on the tour until you get out here," said the second-year pro. "The numbers you have to put on the board to get close are incredible. No one can imagine the pressure until he has done it for a living."
The pressure has so soured Burns in recent months that he has completely revamped his golfing philosophy. Well aware that he had acquired the reputation of a player who folds when he get near the lead, Burns says he resolved five days ago, "To just play for fun. I don't care what happens."
Many oldsters here chuckle that the just-for-fun approach is the last phase before club-breaking and a long rest. But Burns, son of a well-to-do family, insists, "I have too good a life to let the game churn me up the way it has . . . I've been in the position to win in the past and I've failed. I just hope I don't have one of those rounds tomorrow. But I don't care.Winning is a big thing, but not the only thing."
Burns' good friend Weiskopf has the hard-to-live-with reputation as a man with an impeccable swing and a knack for searching out second place. He has not won a tournament since 1975 and confesses that it is hard for him to believe.
"You'd think the percentages would catch up with me, wouldn't you," Weiskopf after a 69 that he called frustrating.
"I was close to the hole all day, but I only made one putt worth mentioning. If you continually play well, you still have to make the birdies sometime."
Burns, by contrast, capitalized on his brilliant shot-making in what he called "The best round I've ever played where I had to shoot a good round to get into contention."
Using an iron stroke as syrupy as butterscoteh (a byproduct, he says, of his sudden peace of mind), Burns set up reasonable birdie putts of one, six, six, 15 and 15 feet, plus a 30-footer on the 17th as the national TV cameras found him.
The surprise at the top of the pack in on the tour," said Rogers, a tour rabbit who has averaged only $18,000 a year in his first three seasons. Any finish in the top five here would surpass his best career check of $9,500; the $50,000 top prize would almost match his career earnings before this season.
Rogers' biggest problem was to decide overnight whether or not to watch the cluttered board on Sunday. I've never had to think about that before," said the 150-pound, 25-year-old who for one night lives the dream of every tour struggler.
While Weiskopf wondered when he would get another victory and shake a few of his numerous detractors, while Burns wondered if a casual 18 holes in the Carolina sun could bring him his first tour championship and while Rogers merely wondered what it was all about, four men licked their chops.
Graham tried to pretend that he did not exist. "I had a completely boring round. Nobody wants to hear about it," he dead-panned. "I hit just about every fairway, every green and made three putts. That equals 69."
This is the week for the seven palyers at the top here to become healthy in a hurry. Jack Nicklaus, Ben Crenshaw and Tom Watson are not here.
It's time to discover new theories and dust off old confidence. Rodriquez, making birdies and again doing his Latin dances after two awful years, credits a bundle of changes, including silent instructions to his crosshanded putts, grunts a la tennis player Jimmy Connors on his tee shots and a lesson form his brother Jesus.
The potion that dissolves this logjam probably will not be mysterious.
"Somebody's going to come up with a round that's closer to zero than par," said Graham, "and he'll run away."
Ed Sneed showed how today withthe day's low round 65. "I did'nt play very well," he said, shaking his head after an amazing 25-putt round. "But I sank everything I hit on the greens and one chip.
"I sank some 'seagoers' today," said Snead in the tour's inexplicable lexicon. "I don't know what the term means, but I know the guy who makes some of 'em tomorrow is going to make a heap of money."
And not feel the pressure - for a little while.