Jane Blalock and Pat Bradley are rolling through the Hershey Country Club course like a pair of runaway locomotives.And about 18 fairways up the road, America's sweetheart is tied to the tracks.
The surge that produced the longest winning streak in the history of the LPGA - five straight - slowed to a funeral march yesterday as rookie Nancy Lopez shot a two-over par 74, placing her three over for the tournament and eight strokes back of leaders Blalock and Bradley going into today's finale.
Bradley rallied with a three-under 69 while Blalock, Friday's three-stroke-leader, came in at even par for the shared three-stroke lead over Jane Renner.
When Blalock came into the club-house, it was pointed out to her that Lopez was eight strokes back.
"I dare her," she said.
Blalock at one point in the day led Lopez by 11 strokes. But slow play interrupted her momentum and she bogeyed 14 and 17.
Lopez, who had rallied from five strokes back for one of her seven victories this year, was not ready to concede defeat.
"With Janie and Pat playing the way they are, they'll be putting pressure on each other. One might falter," said Lopez. "I'm not giving up.
"I'm going to go for it tomorrow. Anything can happen. I'll just hit it and go find it and hit it again."
Lopez had four bogeys, spending much of the sunny afternoon in sand, under trees and in tall grass. Her best shot of the day, a 25-foot putt on the third hole, saved her from a double bogey.
The hole had been a smorgasbord of disasters. Her tee shot landed in the right rough between two trees and in front of a chain link fence separating the course from a row of backyards. She signed an autograph for a fan hanging over the fence, and then shanked her shot about 35 yards - into a fairway trap. "You feel kind of stupid when you play like that," she said.
She pitched out about 35 yards and finally reached the green of the par-4, 345-yard hole on her fourth shot. The bogey putt lifted her spirits, but she bogeyed the next hole after hitting into a trap.
After the eighth hole she was introduced to a writer from a national magazine who had just arrived. She whispered to the few people huddled there. "This is ridiculous. I'm playing like a dog." She made a face to illustrate her point.
She then illustrated it further with a bogey on nine going from the rough to a trap and ultimately to the turn in two-over 38.
"I don't feel any pressure. I think I'm just tired," said Lopez, who had said after Friday's 73 that all the media attention had distracted her. "I haven't been sleeping well and I don't know why.
"I felt real good when I started but I'm still not concentrating the way I know I can. Mentally, I'm hurting right now.
"I was guessing on my second shots, how hard to hit . . . how far back to swing.It was nice that so many people in the gallery stayed with me when I'm playing so bad. It kept me going."
On the way to 18, Lopez stopped and tried to smile (she had just missed a six-foot birdie putt) for an older gentleman with a camera. In an apologetic tone he said, "I wanted to get you up close." She smiled and went on.