If wind is the truth serum of golf, then Sawgrass, home course of the Tournament Players Championship, is the perfect lie detector. When the Atlantic storm fronts howl, there is no duffer's Fifth Amendment here. Every bad swing probides its own, instant self-incrimination.
Lanny Wadkins, the brash lad with the quick backswing and the bottomless self-confidence, shot the round of his life today. He bored his wood and long iron shots under the Sawgrass gales for a dazzling 68 that gave him a two-day 135 total kand a three-shot lead at the midpoint of this rich TPC.
"It's one of the finest rounds I've ever played anywhere... no, I'm not sure I've ever played this well anywhere," said Wadkins, whose bogeyless round was carved through 40-mile-per-hour, swirling winds. "It's not often you can beat a course like this on a day like this."
The $440,000 TPC's second round was played on more like two days. In the calm, hospitable morning, half the field continued to assault the 7,083-yard beast with birdies -- George Burns, the former University of Marylander, tying the course record with a 66 that left him at 138, in second place behind Wadkins. Nine of th top 11 two-round scores were shot by those lucky early birds.
But at noon the mini-tornado began. Among the contenders, only Wadkins and Jack Nicklaus survived.
"That was some long way around," said Nicklaus, who started the day tied with Wadkins after opening 67s, but shot a grimly-determined 73. "Boy, you know, I'd love to play in a 50-mile-an-hour wind. It's these 100 mile-per-hour winds that get me down.
"That's some score Lanny shot, hard to believe," said Nicklaus, who is tied for sixth at 140 with Mark McCumber and Ed Fiori, a shot behind Lee Trevino, Bill Kratzert and Dan Halldorson. "I thought I played well for 73. I'm really surprised there's somebody that far in front of me who played at the same time I did."
"It was incredible out there as soon as you turned for home," said Homero Blancas, proud owner of a 79. "From six through nine, and 15 through 18, you were blown off your feet on every shot. Folks had to jump on a two iron to hit it 150 yards."
"At the eighth hole, I saw two mallards trying to take off from the lake," Nicklays said mischievously. "It took 'em three tries. Once they got in the air, they looked down at the water and decided to come down on the land. They didn't want to try it again."
Under these conditions, it is no surprise that Wadkins, the one player here who says, "I'm hitting the ball the purest of my life," should be the dominant figure.
"To go around without bogey is more remarkable than making a few downwind birdies," he said."I was hittin' my driver off the ground on the tee to keep it low... in fact, a couple times I had to hit two drivers in a row on par-4s.
"When I got to 15 and that wind hit us, I said, 'Just squeeze out four more pars and you've shot a helluva round.'"
That squeezing required saving up-and-downs from a bunker at 16, then the fringe at 17.
As Wadkins trudged up the 18th, Nicklaus, already finished, watched him as though scrutinizing the enigmatic, unpredictable Wadkins for signs of what he might do the last two days. When Wadkins, dressed in brown, as was Nicklaus, noticed the Bear's gaze, Nicklaus quickly looked away.
Of the five people in front of Nicklaus, only Trevino and Wadkins figure to hold up for 72 holes, as Halldorson, Burns and Kratzert have one tour victory among them. So Nicklaus was not exaggerating when he said, "I'm not disappointed at all with what I shot or where I stand."
Golf is the game where all the brushes are to the brain, where the compound fractures are of the psyche and the internal bleeding is a hemorrhaging of confidence. Sawgrass winds only make the ills worse.
Consequently, almost eery contender here seems to be going to a swing doctor to find an Rx for bogeys. Burns has been the most successful.
The one common denominator on the tour is total absence of peace of mind. Burns, for instance, has won $250,000 in the last three years, yet two weeks ago was down to wimpering.
"I'm in the wilderness," he said to Nicklaus when they played together. "I'm going through hell with my swing. I just don't trust it anymore."
Nicklaus helped a little. An obscure guru among teaching pros, Phil Ritson, helped a lot.
"I had to unclutter my mind," said Burns. "You can't have freedom in your swing if your brain is grinding. Even your good friends among the players out here don't know what you're feeling.
"You need someone to strike your confidence, someone to stand behind you while you hit hundreds of balls and say, 'That looked great, George. Now do it again.' None of the guys out here are going to do that," Burns said with a sardonic smile.
Ritson, something of a cult figure with his video tapes and self-sell tips, got Burns untracked, just as he has taught and cured Gary Player for 20 years.
"I hadn't broken 70 in six weeks," Burns said after his eight-birdie 66. "I couldn't start a round right or finish it right. I'd get too keyed up and blow up. Today I got the juices flowing and never stopped."
Burns also sank three transcontinental putts of 35 to 45 feet.
The crowed pleasers, Trevino and McCumber, also are doing nicely here. McCumber, the home-town boy who won last week at Doral, continues to cause amazement with his strength and insouciance. His prodigy for the day was a 305-yard one-iron.
"Musta hit a couple of sprinkler heads," McCumber said. Then what did his 366-yard drive at the 11th hit?
"I'm just so pumped up that I'm hittin' it right through the wind," McCumber said. "So many nice things have happened. You should see my mail; there letters from the Masters in one day. I didn't know which one to open first. 'Course I also got an American Express bill, too, just to remind me of the past."
Trevino has, in the last week, totally restructured his game, going from a 2-year-old hook back to the fade that brought him fame.
"It took me a while to remember what I already knwe," said Trevino. "You can talk to a fade, but a hook just won't listen."