USC's basketball team ended a 10-year victory drought against UCLA Saturday night, and now a former Trojan named Craig Stadler is in position to end his own drought, his four winless years on the PGA Tour.
"I loved it," Stadler said of the basketball win, "and I hope to follow in their footsteps."
He can do that in Monday's final round of the Bob Hope golf tournament, which he enters tied with Larry Nelson for the 72-hold lead at 276, 12 under par.
Amid the type weather that brought renown to this resort area, Stadler shot a three-under-par 69 at Indian Wells Country Club today, picking up two shots on second- and third-day leader Nelson, who had a one-under-par 71 at LaQuinta, where a gallery estimated at 20,000 was attracted by the biggest names among the many competing in the final round of the pro-am phase.
A team captained by nine-handicapped Willie Mays finished 56 under to win the amateur competition. Rod Curl and Mike Sullivan each won $1,750 after tying as the low pros. Their teams were 58 under.
Sullivan shot 71 at Eldorado today and is 11 under on his own ball, tied with Tom Purtzer (who had 69 at LaQuinta) one stroke behind the coleaders.
George Cadle and Vic Regalado, the third day coleader, had 73s at Bermuda Dunes, and are another stroke back while Lanny Wadkins, Bob Murphy and Mark Hayes are within three strokes of the lead.
All 71 pros who survived the cutoff figure of one-over-par 289 will play, at LaQuinta Monday, and both Stadler and Nelson said that they expected it would take a 67 or 68 to win.
Stadler, who had previously shot 69 at Eldorado, 68 at Bermuda Dunes and 70 at LaQuinta, would have led by himself had he not bogeyed the eighth hole (his next to last since he had played the front nine first) by hooking a three-iron out of bounds.
He had five birdies and only one other bogey, however, and he said, "I played very well, I hit only two bad shots. The way I played today I don't care where I play tomorrow."
Stadler has played well enough in his four years to win $182,530 but he has not played well enough to win, which, he said, "is a disappointment considering that the only reason I'm out here is to win."
Now 26, Stadler was a two-time All-America and a national amateur champion while at USC, which he left in 1975 "about a semester and a half shy of a business degree." He estimated that he has since been in position to win six or seven times, including three or four last year when he was tied for the 36-hole lead in the Masters only to finish seventh.
Those who know Stadler do not think it is a matter of nerves because, they say, he is pretty much a free spirit, a man who enjoys the crowds and has no problems sleeping no matter what he faces the next day.
He is the type who "can't play without letting out some steam," he said, and he also said it was unlikely that anyone will ever know how effectively he could play if he was in shape. "I'd like to play at 190," the 5-foot-10, 215-pounder said with a shrug, "but I'm not promising when that will be."
Stadler came here with the additional weight of a Grizzly Adams type beard. His round face is covered with auburn hair, which does not really please the image-conscious PGA. There is no rule prohibiting beards, a PGA official said, "but the other players generally bring enough pressure that they (the whiskers) don't last long. I'm sure that Craig has taken some kidding about it already."
The official also said that he was sure Stadler would want to shave it to reestblish a recognition factor. Asked if the beard didn't actually make Stadler more recognizable, the official shook his head emphatically and said, "No way."
Lanny Wadkins also arrived here with a beard but shaved it before the first round. The subject seemed to amuse Stadler, who said he would happily remove it if there was a request, that he had nothing in mind when he grew it and that he has more important things on his mind now.
"I think," he said, "that every time I got close (to a win) before I was probably too eager and I probably tried to force it. I think I've learned how to lay back and let it happen."
Nelson, the tour's second-leading money winner last year when he scored his first two victories, rallied from a disastrous start today to get five birdies on the final 12 holds and maintain a share of the lead.