Werewolves need a full moon. Sawgrass only wants Atlantic winds and baking Florida sun.

The madness for which the Tournament Players Championship has been renowned since coming here in 1977 returned today as TPC once again stood for Terminally Punitive Conditions.

Welcome Jawgrass III.

The average score for the third round for 71 of the world's best professionals was 77.5. Jack Nicklaus shot 82 and walked, no, staggered, off the course, laughing.

No one prospered today; only a few survived.

Lanny Wadkins, the second-round leader at a shockingly irreverent nine under par, was brought to earth with a 76 that included sev en bogeys.

"If I hadn't made some great saving shots," he said, "it would have been 85."

That 76, however, was enough to keep him right where he had been, three shots ahead. On the other hand, he now has four players grouped in second place behind him-Lee Trevino, George Burns, Bill Kratzert and Jack Renner, whose 71 was the only score under 73.

Behind those five stretched a vast wasteland of disaster. Only one other player, Gary Koch, is at even-par 216, five shots behind Wadkins.

Typical of Sawgrass' revenge was the case of Ed Fiori, who came to the 18th green one under par, thinking of a birdie to move into second place. Pin high on the par-5 in two, he left the green with a quadruple-bogey nine.

Duffers wait years to hear the pros complain, throw down their clubs and say, "The game's unfair." Little do they know that for 99 percent of the golfing population, the game is always as unfair as it was for them today.

Tough luck, rich kids.

"I've never seen the wind blow this hard consistently anywhere on earth," said Burns, "including the British Open.

"I was lucky to shoot 76. I hit the ball lousy. I just wanted to get out of there without getting hurt."

Burns, a former University of Maryland golfer, learned quickly that Sawgrass has a long memory for those that dispoil her. In the first round, Kermit Zarley shot a course-record-tying 66. The next day, on the first hole, he took triple bogey. In the second round, Burns shot 66. Today, his first swing drove the ball out of bounds and nailed him with double bogey.

"The greens are getting that nice blue U.S. Open color...kinda dead, ya know," said Burns. "If we don't get some rain tonight, it's going to be like basketball out there tomorrow. Bounce, bounce, bounce and out of bounds."

"I shot a helluva score," Trevino said, beaming after carding a 75 with a birdie at the home hole. "Ain't 75 about two under par out there today? "Heck, I was three over after four holes and I hadn't played a hard hole yet. Standing on the fifth tee, I'd have taken 77 right then, run in the clubhouse and drunk beer all day. I figured I was headed for 80. I coulda shot what Jack (Nicklau) shot, easy.

"This is one helluva course, but it's unplayable in the wind. Even with the wind behind you it barely helps, 'cause the greens are so shallow and so hard that it's impossible to stop any kind of shot."

Few things in sport are as pure as a round of golf, each player in a battle for his golfing soul.

Wadkins fought that battle nobly all day. His wheels were on the verge of coming off for 18 holes, yet he followed his simple One Rule of Golf: "If I can see the flag stick, I aim at it."

"I'd turn around and watch Lanny and I couldn't believe it," said Burns. "He's shooting at the pins from the jungle . He's gunning down the stick from places where other people ask themselves, 'Am I going to make 6 or 7?'"

For instance, at the fifth, Wadkins drove out of bounds, got a penalty drop in an ungodly patch of sidehill under growth-and pulled out his three-wood. He blasted the ball pinhigh, but left himself a terrifying, roller-coaster chip shot. He hit it to a foot from the hole to save bogey.

Whenever his chances seemed bleakest, Wadkins pulled out a miracle. At 10 and 11, he bogeyed and said later, "I don't even remember playing those holes we had to wait so long for the group in front (Burns, Kratzert and Mark McCumber, whot shot 80)9 You almost go a little crazy waiting. I'm gonna bring a razor to shave and my dinner tomorrow."

Wadkins gunned down the flag for a 10-foot birdie at 12, just when he seemed impatient and on the verge of distruction.

After terrible-looking iron shots at 13 and 16, which gave him his sixth and seventh bogeys, Wadkins pulled another birdie out of his hat, sinking a 45-foot putt at 17. It was the only birdie of the day on that treacherous hole.

"I'm hitting drivers off the fairway, going for the par-5s in two, even when it's narrow," said Wadkins, who is proud to have gone to Wake Forest on an Arnola Palmer scholarship. "I don't know any other way to play. I go by the way I feel and, right now, everything in my life is going perfectly."

Last year Wadkins went through a divorce, after seven years of marriage, and a remarriage. "I was living out of three houses," he said. "I didn't know where I was." Where he was was out of the top 60, after winning a quarter of a million dollars in 1977.

"Well, tomorrow, if the wind blows like this-across the course, which is the toughest direction-I'll just try to remember that sometimes par can be a hell of a score," said Wadkins, four of whose five tour wins have seen him come from behind.

Of course, that is just what the average golf fan loves. Tell us more, they grin when Nicklaus says with bitter analytical dispassion, "This is an American-style inland course built by the seaside. That is why it is almost impossible to play in the wind. And why it is impossible to play on days like this when the greens are rock hard."

Hubert Green told the truth after Thursday's marvelous round, when 74 scores of par or better were shot. "God only gives you one day to get Sawgrass, and I blew it," he said with a moan.

Now Sawgrass is doing the getting, with bold little Lanny Wadkins the primary target of her affections. Double bogey, thy name is Sawgrass.