Can Ray Floyd stick to his secret game plan and be the oldest man to win the Masters?
Well, why not? Floyd, 42, shot a 69 today for a 212 total and a one-stroke lead entering Sunday's final round.
"I'm just going to stay with my game plan," said Floyd. But he kept it a mystery while revealing he took his wife's advice earlier this week and, after 21 years of playing the Masters, actually wrote down what he planned to do instead of just wandering out to smell the dogwood in the Amen Corner.
Floyd, holder of the Masters scoring record (271), decided to commit his thoughts to paper after pulling a no-brain walkabout last week at Greensboro, where he shot 66 Saturday to tie for the lead, then blew it with a 78 on a gusty Sunday.
Can Curtis Strange, the man on Floyd's heels, make the biggest comeback ever in modern major championship golf?
Well, why not? Strange Curtis, who shot 80 in Thursday's first round, continued his scorched earth policy this afternoon with a 68 on top of his 65 of Friday. Nobody ever has won a Masters after a worse first round than 75 (Craig Stadler in 1982) and preliminary inspection of the record books shows nobody capturing a 20th century U.S. Open or PGA after such a horrid beginning.
"Yes, I give myself a good chance and, yes, I'll be surprised as hell," said Strange, who had made plane reservations out of town, figuring he'd miss the cut.
Can Seve Ballesteros win his third Masters of the 1980s?
Well, why not? Despite leaving two bunker shots in traps in one round for the first time he could remember, Ballesteros positioned himself nicely with 71 -- 214, tied with Bernhard Langer two strokes behind Floyd.
"I think I would like to buy this game plan from Raymond Floyd," said the mischievous Spaniard after hearing all Floyd's secretive hints about it. "I think my chances are very good. It is the right position to be."
The last time Floyd led the Masters after three rounds was just two years ago, in a tie with Stadler. Stalking him then was Ballesteros, who started that Sunday birdie-eagle-par-birdie, paralyzed the field and won by four strokes.
Can Tom Watson continue his cycle of winning the Masters every fourth year, adding a green coat to those of 1977 and '81?
Well, why not? Despite three-putting four times in one day, something he never remembers doing before, Watson stayed very much in the hunt, three shots behind after a 75. "I have a secret game plan written down in a green folder on the third page of my yardage chart," said Watson, also spoofing Floyd. "It says, 'Take 22 putts and hit 16 greens.' "
Can Lee Trevino, who four times in the past turned up his nose at Masters invitations, complete his career Grand Slam by adding the final major title that he lacks?
Well, why not? There's Trevino in perfect striking position, tied with Watson and Gary Koch, at 215. Last fall, at age 44, he won the PGA title that had eluded him so long. "I'm playin' good because nobody expects me to, including me," said Trevino (72).
This year, thanks to a pep talk and dressing-down by his new wife Claudia, Trevino claims to have an "I won't be intimidated by the Masters" attitude.
Finally, is it possible to have a 21-way playoff for one green coat?
Well, why not? That's how many players are within five shots of Floyd's precarious lead. Hal Sutton, David Graham and Stadler, all holders of major titles, are at 216; Jack Nicklaus and Lanny Wadkins call 217 home. Heck, Wadkins has already won two events in '85 with closing scores of 65 and 64.
If you think that this Saturday the 13th was confusing, you're right.
Saturday at the Masters isn't supposed to be like some 128-127 double-overtime NBA game where you can't remember what happened. Watching golf on a spring day shouldn't make you feel as if you just got trampled by buffalo.
This day did. The morning coleaders -- Watson, Stadler and Payne Stewart -- had a worst ball of 84. Stadler (76) tried the same sand shot three times in the front trap at the 12th on his way to a triple bogey.
Even more embarrassed was Gary Hallberg (75 -- 216), who actually held a three-shot lead after a great save of par from the trees at the 10th. Maybe he can get a photo of himself waving his Indiana Jones hat as he approached his 30-foot birdie putt at the 11th.
The Corner said "Amen" to him as it has to so many others. Hallberg bogeyed his way through 11-12-13, then took triple gas at the 16th with a 6 (water, sand, missed three-footer). At least Hallberg, after his nines of 33 and 42, was in good company. Defending champ Ben Crenshaw (77) took 7 at the 12th.
What transpired this afternoon was so exotic, so fast-changing that Floyd recalled, "I looked up at the board as I walked off the 15th green and said, 'My goodness, I'm in the lead.' It was kind of shocking."
Floyd says he's hitting the ball "terrific and long." Also, his curling 15-foot par putt at the 18th -- "probably the hardest putt on the course" -- gave him food for sleep. "To finish the day on that note gives me 24 hours of positive thoughts." Floyd may also have the advantage of a novel strategy. His "game plan" talk is no joke.
"I've always gambled here," he said. "But not this year. Some of the pin placements are just so severe, and the greens are getting so hard, that I don't think it's smart to go for them anymore."
On the other hand, the brave boys who usually rise to the top here -- particularly Watson and Ballesteros -- have been paying for their sins more dearly than usual. "You really have to pick your spots," said Watson.
"My game plan sort of floats," joked Floyd. "Whether I go for the pin or not sometimes depends on where my tee shot lands. Call it a floating zone."
On the down side, Floyd -- who is two months older than Gary Player was when he won in '78 -- hasn't won any tournament since '82. Floyd says of '84, when he was 68th on the money list, "it didn't happen."
As for Strange, he will have to prove that he can stand the heat. He's won nearly $1.8 million, including $336,998 this year to top the money list. But none of his seven Tour titles in nine years was so important a prize.
Langer has the distance and the courage for Augusta, but his flaw is his brutal putting touch. There's nothing against Ballesteros except streakiness. Watson finds himself alive after a could-have-been disastrous round, and that could be invigorating. As for Trevino, he held up for four days at the PGA last year and will have incalculable gallery support.
Few golf climaxes have been set so well, or so Strangely.