She was standing on a bench 50 yards away, high enough to peek over hundreds of heads for the last dash of drama today, and when her husband finally won the Masters, Sue Stadler leaped and let loose a wild, nonsensical wail of emotion.

"Unfortunately," she recalled later, "I was standing with Dan Pohl's wife."

Mitzi's man had missed the four-foot putt that gave Craig Stadler victory. Sue apologized for the outburst to her close friend; Mitzi understood. It had been a wringer of an experience, part frenzy and fantasy, cruel and wonderfully ironic. She had cried twice, once in agony when it seemed as though Stadler was about to let another chance to win slip away and later in playoff ecstasy, when somebody else couldn't get up and down.

"We've been the underdog for so long," she said. "(During the final three holes of regulation) it was the Crosby (collapse) all over again, and I couldn't handle it. He's never been in command like he was today (six shots up at the turn), and I could see it falling apart."

Golfers play out their fate; wives suffer.

There never will be a more touching tableau in sports than Sue Stadler just off the 14th fairway as her husband was lining up a four-foot par putt. He had bogeyed 12 and gotten a lucky par at 13. A dreamy stroll into history was getting sticky.

As Craig lined up his putt, Sue leaned against a pine 100 yards away, her hands in her pink jacket and her eyes closed tightly.

She was alone, but her lips told everyone nearby what was in her heart: "Please. Make it. Make it. Make it. Make it."

He missed.

The round had started so well. Stadler had birdied three of the first seven holes and no one had made any sort of move. On the 10th fairway, humor filled the air around Sue and Craig's parents.

"Stadler chokes," somebody in a red sweater yelled as he walked by.

Sue smiled. No stranger jokes about that in front of her and gets away without at least 20 lashes from her tart tongue. But that was no stranger. It was Stadler's tour caddie, Judd Silverman, unable to work the Masters but here to help in any way he could.

"Still want your job?" she cooed.

Three years ago, two holes deeper into "Amen Corner," Stadler had all but blown any chance of winning the Masters with a double bogey. Sue vividly remembers something even more bitter:

"A man near me by the ropes yelled, 'All right, fat boy, bogey 'em all.' I really laid into him. It was emotional as it was, and Craig was a bunch over (par). I proceeded to the next fairway and had a good cry by myself."

Today, seconds apart, Sue was both cautious and greedy.

"Three more birdies will do it," Craig's mother said after a gritty par at 10.

"Eight more pars," his wife corrected.

Then she said, "I want some goblets. I want an eagle."

She talked about the family having an Easter egg hunt this morning with their 2-year-old son Kevin, how Craig and Kevin had played hide-and-seek before Saturday's round. Smoke from a fan's cigarette reminded her of the morning sickness of late and she moved away.

"Haven't been to (my) doctor yet," she said, "but I had some tests at Hilton Head. It's due in October, probably. Imagine! Two of them on tour."

Suddenly, the Masters machine was sputtering, and Sue's smile grew harder. And then disappeared.

Crowds here are so enormous that only those who stake out seats hours before the golfing parade begins or scurry for mounds see every shot. So Sue followed Craig, but rarely saw him. Often, her ears told her what her eyes couldn't see over five-deep galleries.

Twice, her senses failed her.

On the 16th tee, a ball was struck and shouting greeted it: "Go in the hole." Clearly, it was a gorgeous shot. Sue Stadler jumped for joy and clapped.

It was Jerry Pate's ball.

Stadler's shot found sand; his wedge shot barked at the hole but wouldn't bite the green. A three-foot par putt became a 30-footer. He missed. Another bogey. The Stadlers had gone from golfing paradise to purgatory in less than an hour.

As Sue was walking toward the 17th hole, numb or however one feels with the chance of a lifetime melting, an unknowing person in her path said, "Oh, he's going to do it again."

Another was more graphic: "He's too much walrus for me."

Came a splendid par at 17 and Stadler came to the point of his career he and every other golfer want more than any other: the 18th tee at Augusta National in the final twosome with a one-shot lead. Still shaken, his wife walked up the left side of the fairway. She saw none of the shots, had no idea where Stadler's ball was on the green until a television aide in a tower above the green gave her two okay signs.

He had a makeable two-putt.

Sue pushed through the crowd and sat in a golf cart behind the scorer's tent, letting her ears describe Stadler's fate. Loud applause. Great lag putt. She shot out of the cart with anticipation.

It was for Pate again.

She sat back down. When groans greeted Craig's timid lag and missed six-footer for par, she looked ill. Then she gathered herself, tried to pep up her husband as he stalked toward the 10th hole and the playoff with Pohl.

The ironic 10th.

The last time down that fairway had been so pleasant. The major thoughts had not been whether Craig would win but by how much. This trip was torture, and she couldn't get any closer than a bench near the 15th tee box. Near the wife of the man who could make Craig Stadler a humiliated loser again. One of her good friends.

Sue never looks at Craig's short putts; she did see Pohl's limp by. Masters green coats whisked Stadler off the 10th green and back uphill for a television presentation before his wife could get to him. So she walked back up the long hill by herself, alone again but so happy.

In about 20 minutes, Stadler was slipping into a green jacket. They had one large enough to fit after all. One of Jack Nicklaus' from his hefty days, somebody said. Sue Stadler could be seen sipping water from a Masters goblet. Her husband hadn't made that eagle, but nobody seemed to care.

They seem a good-natured couple, unpretentious. When somebody asked Sue Stadler what she thought would be an appropriate endorsement for her Craig she said, "Probably light beer." That crowd would like him.