Normally, the leaders in the Masters, if they are playing 10 holes apart, never get to meet and chat.

Today, however, as David Graham walked up to the seventh green, standing alone in second place just one shot behind Severiano Ballesteros, he counted the bills on the green.

There was an extra one, sitting near the cup.

"Where'd the third ball come from?" asked the puzzled Aussie. "No one's playing mulligans, I trust." "That's Ballesteros' drive from the 17th tee," Graham was told.

"Oh, well, good enough," said Graham. "That explains it."

Ballesteros, the man who won the 1979 British Open from a parking lot, is golf's longest and wildest driver. He stamps his golf balls with a zip code so they can be returned.

Today, Ballesteros stamped his name atop the Masters leader board -- four shots ahead of anybody else's with 66-69 -- 135.

As the 6-foot-4 Spaniard strode toward the wrong green, Graham greeted him: "Another good drive, eh, Steve? Care to putt for your eagle, or would you just like to play through?"

"I am a fine driver, yes?" snicked the shy, sheepish belter. "This is the first time I hit the seventh green today. I missed it the other time I played it."

"I'll trade balls," offered Graham. "Yours is closer to the hole."

Ballesteros took a free drip in the fringe, pulled out a seven iron and hit a 150-yard hook over a line of pines. The ball bit 15 feet from the flag. Ballesteros sank it for birdie.

Three times today Ballesteros hit his titanic and atrocious hooks into oblivion off the tee. Each time he found the ball in a lucky lie, and each time he made birdie.

Ballesteros led this 44th Masters after a round that included six birdies, three bogeys and a number of Augusta odysseys.

Behind him at 139 were two of the central characters from golf's previous major championship, the '79 PGA winner Graham and contender Rex Caldwell.

Graham faded quickly after seeing the bizarre Ballesteros birdie at the 17th, doing well to cling to 73 today. The brash Caldwell, so proud of his hot putter that he said, "I coulda shot zero today . . . I was runnin' to get to the next green," had the day's low round -- a bogeyless 66.

Except for Ballesteros, this field is marvelously bunched. Jerry Pate (68), Tom Kite and Ed Snead are in a quintet at 140. Larry Nelson's in a trio at 141. And Hubert Green, Tom Watson (69), Gary Player, Fuzzy Zoeller are among 11 players at 142.

A 135 midpoint score is, of course, no assurance of winning. Craig Stadler was coleader last year after 69-66, but finished the tournament 74- 76. By Sunday, he was back in the azaleas behind the 12th green sobbing.

Ballesteros may be made of sturdier stuff. Life outside the gallery ropes holds no fear for him. Explaining how he could be straigt as a dye in the first round yet erratic today, Ballesteros grinned: "Yesterday was Thursday. Today is Friday."

Without a doubt, Ballesteros could become to the world of international golf what Arnold Palmer was to the U.S. tour.

Enormous length, a superb short game and bottomless daring are moderately marketable when mixed with the kind of looks that bring him, in his words, "many, many, many girl friends."

"I am great fun for the gallery," Ballesteros said. "It is very boring to hit fairway, fairway, fairway. I mix with them and let them tell me what to do."

At last year's British Open, Ballesteros, in amongst the parked Saabs and Volvos, was asked by a fan, "Seve, are you going to make birdie from here?"

"What can I tell him but the truth," recalled Ballesteros today. "I say, 'Why not?'"

At the 565-yard second hole, Ballesteros' hook disappeared in the woods, but ricocheted back into the fairway. He made birdie. At the 14th, his drive rattle amongst the limbs and squirrels for a considerable period, then fell to a lovely lie. Another bird. And, at the 17th, he became the first person ever to drive the 365-yard seventh hole, though he did it his way.

In addition, Ballesteros made what have become routine birdies for him at the par-five 13th and 15th which he reaches in two shots with a syrupy long-iron.

"Ballesteros is in a position where the tournament depends on him," said Nicklaus, who finished birdie-birdie for 74-71 -- 145 to edge Arnold Palmer by a stroke for low legend. "If he keeps playing well, he can control the whole thing. He has the advantage that you can get away with a lot of wild shots here -- more than at a U.S. Open. He's got a helluve short game. He's just a magnificent chipper and pitcher," Nicklaus said.

The four majors have become a Ballesteros obsession, just as they have always been for Nicklaus. Privately, he acknowledges to friends that, if his chronically bad back will permit it, he can go down as one of the game's dozen greatest.

He fell in love with golf at age 9 in Pedrena, Spain, where his father's farm in the northern Basque country adjoined Real Pedrena golf course. As a caddie, he was permitted to play the course only once a year. Ballesteros would rise at 5 a.m. to sneak on the links each morning and play with only a three iron.

By 12, he had shot 79, and, as he confesses, "I try soccer, but, truly, I can only do golf . . . but perhaps I can play that a little."

His father, a strapping champion rower, bequeathed Severiano his strength, while his uncle Romn Sota, Spain's best golfer 30 years ago, helped teach him technique. The family remains close; Ballesteros is building a house in Pedrena next to his father's farm and overlooking his childhood course.

Though Ballesteros looks a Hollywood playboy type, he is retiring and shy. He is staying a few blocks from Augusta National with his agent and a few Spanish guests. Says one house guest, "Seve is the quietest, the most polite and the first to bed. For him, everything right now is golf. It is his one topic of interest ."

For three months he has planned only for the Masters, shortening his swing to improve his accuracy and to heal his back. In a practice round, he told Graham, "Only I will ever know how bad my back has really been."

Ballesteros came to Augusta two weeks ago to practice alone for a week, and to visit an Augusta chiropractor.

So far, he looks like a prototypal Masters champ. "He about fits the bill," drawled J. C. Snead (142). "He'd look good in a green coat."

Nevertheless, Augusta National has been knocking the wheels off good men for two days. Graham went in the drink at 12 today and was lucky to escape with only a double bogey. And Jack Newton, who had moved up to second place temporarily after reaching six under par through 13 holes, lost his temper and self-destructed with four bogeys in the last five holes.

The most pathetic sight, without doubt, is Tom Weiskopf, a 6-foot-4 golfer with a classic swing and handsome bearing who, 15 years ago, had an almost identical future predicted for him that is now anticipated for Ballesteros.

Ballesteros' potentially major flaw is his passion for length and a flamboyant game. Weiskopf's was his intemperance in the face of imperfect shots from his almost perfect swing. Weiskopf never found his cure.

After taking 13 at the 1ith on Thursday, Weiskopf hit two more balls into Rae's Creek today for a quardruple-bogey seven. That's 20 strokes in two days -- and seven splashed -- on a 155-yard hole. Today Weiskopf never went to muddy, grassless drop area, but rather took his medicine standing on the tee.

Weiskopf also went in the water -- for the second straight day -- at the 13th hole. His 85-79-164 includes three sevens today. A great, yet disappointing career is, almost certainly, at an end.

Another career, of similar promise, is just beginning.