The wind, an occasional light rain, the rugged Sawgrass course and the most famous bunker since Archie conspired today to keep the opening round of the 770 Tournament Players Championship all in the family.
Seven players tied for the lead with two-under-par 70s. They were Ben Crenshaw, Victor Regalado, Bobby Adkins, Gary Groh, Gibby Gilbert John Schroeder and the Papa Bear Jack Nicklaus.
The TPC is the showcase of the PA Tour. All the big names are here, competing in the world's richest golf event. Mark Hayes won last year at one over par. If the wind continues to move in briskly from the Atlantic, or becomes any stronger, the breaking of par over four rounds again will be extremely difficult.
"It's blowing hard, but at least the greens are holding a little better, because of all the moisture they've had in recent weeks," Schroeder observed after he had missed an excellent opportunity to gain sole possession of first place. The son of former tennis star Tom Schroeder was four under through 13 holes , only to miss a two-foot putt on the 14th and bury his ball in the bunker guarding the front of his last green.
That shot resulted in another bogey. "I understand I had considerable company in there today," Schroeder said. He was telling it like it was. Six players with seven threesomes found trouble there.
Wadkins also had an excellent chance at the lead. The "little brother" of '77 PGA and World Series winner Lanny Wadkins was one stroke in front coming to his last hole. He drove to the right and hooked to the left with his approach, the ball stopping a few feet before a row of 15 Pott-O-Lets.
Wadkins stroked a nine-iron to within 20 feet of the pin and two-putted for a bogey. "Any time you break par on this course, you got to be happy," Wadkins said. "One bad shot and you have a quick double. There ae going to be a lot of funny scores here before it's over, if the wind acts up any more."
Lanny Wadkins posted 79, Tom Watson 76. Fuzzy Zoeller took an eight on the 18th. Sawgrass keeps everybody loose, which is to say the course must be approached conservatively and patiently.
"Some guys have said they shouldn't have rough here because of the wind and the length of the course," Schroeder noted. "I disagree. If you drive the ball in the fairway, you should be rewarded. If a guy wants to get aggressive, fine, but he'll pay the price."
Nicklaus continued to display fine Florida form. He was one-over at the turn because one putt made a 360-degree tour of the cup and came right back toward him. The back nine saw him fashion four birdies in thoroughly professional style.
"I'm surprised that there are so many of us at 70," the victor at Inverrary and runner-up at Doral said. "I didn't think it was the easy. Seventy was a good round of gold today.
"This kind of day is tough for me," Nicklaus added. "I really would like to stay away from this kind, and the bluedbird days, those days when there's not a cloud anywhere. That's when everybody's shooting 65 and you know you have to get yourself up to getting 67 or 68 to stay in touch.
"What's helping all of us here this week is that there's enough water on the greens so that the ball's not slipping away from you too much."
Nicklaus was asked how he "found the wind.
"I didn't have to," he replied. "It found me. It was gusty, and it changed enough to worry you, but I drove well. Two bad chips and a three-putt caused my bogeys."
Washington's Lee Elder recorded 75. Gene Little withdrew from competition after nine holes because of an aching back.