The Players Club, which will, in time, become known as the home of Glorious Goofy Golf, had its first installment of serious craziness today as the winds finally began to blow and the golfers wailed in torment at the TPC.
The tone of this wacky day was set early when defending champion Ray Floyd, doing yard work at home in Miami at 10:30 a.m., suddenly learned that, contrary to his belief, he had made the cut.
Thanks to his own illegal driving, a leased jet, a rented helicopter and a wild ride in a golf cart, Floyd traveled 350 miles in mind-bending time, arriving at the first tee exactly one minute before his starting time.
"I even had 15 seconds left over for two practice swings," said Floyd.
On such a day, it was fitting that the leaders stumbled to the clubhouse this evening in a mad backward charge, handing the lead to each other like a hot branding iron. When the dust of retreat had settled, Bruce Lietzke (69) and Brad Bryant (71), who is known as Commander Dirt, were tied for the lead at six-under-par 210, one shot ahead of Vance Heafner (73) and fast-collapsing Scott Simpson (73), who finished double bogey, bogey.
Also in contention is this atypical collection: George Archer at 70--212, followed by Jerry Pate, Tim Simpson, Hale Irwin and Ed Sneed at 213. Tom Watson and Seve Ballesteros are among those at 214.
Other names of interest included Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Arnold Palmer, Johnny Miller, David Graham, Lanny Wadkins and Ben Crenshaw. No, they weren't lurking on the leader board; they missed the cut.
One man wished he had missed the cut, Floyd, who said, "I learned a very expensive lesson today."
When this day is recalled on the tour, it won't be Lietzke and Bryant who will be remembered, nor even the fact that the Players' Club reared up for the first time and showed its fearsome teeth. Though conditions were, by Sawgrass standards, forgiving, the field stroke average was a painful 75.0. The 82 players were 58 strokes over par on the marvelously mean 18th hole.
What stands out will be Floyd's helter-skelter dash from Miami, and, perhaps more surprising, his willingness to do it.
Golf knows no worse social faux pas than for a famous player simply to fail to show up to play after he has committed himself. For a player to do so in the pros' own tour tournament would be doubly egregious. And, for the man who pocketed $325,000 by winning here last year to pull such a blunder would give Emily Post a coronary.
Floyd, understandably, left here Friday night certain that he could not possibly make the cut with his 148, even though 60 players still had a handful of holes yet to play this morning to complete their second rounds (because of a Friday morning fog delay).
Before 8 a.m. today, Floyd went out running on Key Biscayne, then ate breakfast and began puttering. About 10 a.m., Floyd's wife Maria called here out of curiosity to find out what score had made the cut. That's when the worry started. A call back at 10:30 confirmed the worst.
Floyd, "doing things the Florida Highway Patrol wouldn't like," bombed his way to an airport north of Fort Lauderdale in 30 minutes--perhaps a record. At 11:30, he called here for his tee time.
"12:34," he was told. "I got no chance," said Floyd.
"We can have you there in 40 minutes," interjected the pilot. "Well, let's go," said Floyd, reconstructing the tale.
At that point, Floyd stopped worrying. "It was going to be close and that's all I cared about, really," he said, after shooting a 71, one of only 13 sub-par rounds for the day. "I just wanted people to know that I'd given it my best try. If I didn't, in somebody's eyes, I would have quit (and gone home) because I didn't think I could win. This is my profession. I'd never do that. When you've committed to play, you play."
How much did all this cost him? "Ohhhh," said Floyd, who started his round par, birdie, birdie, "I got to play real good to break even."
" . . . I just came by car," said Lietzke, needling Floyd. "Nobody'll even want to talk to me."
In reality, Lietzke, like all the players, was enormously impressed by Floyd's effort. "There aren't a whole lot of guys in the world who know how to lease a jet and have a helicopter waiting when it lands on 10 minutes notice," said Lietzke. "You gotta know some people. But Ray Floyd's one of 'em. When I heard who it was that had done it, it didn't surprise me."
A splendid counterpoint to Floyd's high style was coleader Bryant, a five-season tour rabbit who travels the circuit in a motor home with his wife.
"I'm not much of a jet-setter," said Bryant. "A motor home's about right for me. Heck, I have trouble renting an Avis."