PALM BEACH GARDENS, FLA., AUG. 8 -- Larry Mize, born and raised in Augusta, Ga., won the Masters. Scott Simpson, born and raised in California and educated at USC, won the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. Nick Faldo, born and raised in England, won the British Open. Three majors, three native sons. Never happened before.

So, guess who's tied for the PGA Championship lead heading into Sunday's final round. That's right, the only native Floridian in the entire 150-man field -- Mark McCumber.

On the omen scale, that's a 10.

"It's true, I play my best in Florida. My brothers and I grew up picking crab grass off the 14th green at Hyde Park {in Jacksonville} for greens fees. I just feel more comfortable on the courses here," said McCumber, whose 18th-hole birdie gave him a 69 and tied him with D.A. Weibring (67) at 4-under-par 212, one stroke ahead of Ray Floyd (73) and Bobby Wadkins (71).

Although a half-dozen players have excellent chances, including Seve Ballesteros (72) and Lanny Wadkins (74) at 214, it is startling to see how much McCumber fits the profile of a winner here. Of his five tour wins in 10 seasons, three have been in Florida, including two at Doral's Blue Monster, the one course on earth that may most resemble the Champions, a watery, sandy 7,002-yard test.

Also, McCumber is a streaky player whose confidence and concentration tend to be either sublime or nonexistent. Just one month ago, he won the Anheuser-Busch Classic in Williamsburg, and he's currently a solid 21st on the money list with $252,765.

In fact, McCumber is in such an unflappable zone that he began this tournament on Thursday with a triple-bogey 7, yet never got upset. "Don't know why. I just didn't," said the 5-foot-8-inch long belter. "I was 20 feet from the hole in two and had a lie so bad I couldn't see the ball at address. Eight fans told me the ball was eight different places. I felt like I was walking through a mine field -- figured I'd step on it.

"When I finally found it. I took three of the most vicious swipes you ever saw. The first shot moved the ball half-an-inch, the second went five feet and the third went five feet. Then I got up and down for seven. Figured I took a week's worth of medicine on the first hole."

Many here are totally spooked by this 69th PGA's rugged conditions. The rough, says Weibring, is as bad as any he's ever seen. As Ballesteros said of one of his greenside saves, "I couldn't see the ball, but I knew it was down there, so I just swung."

The greens are hideously bumpy due to a chemical blight. Nobody can make a putt. Weibring's 67 tied the course record, but he might have had who-knows-what if many short birdie putts hadn't rolled like walnuts on a gravel driveway.

As one of the top five money winners in the history of golf put it today, "I hope I never set foot on this course again the rest of my life. It wasn't so hot to start with and it's in absolutely abominable condition."

McCumber, however, feels like he's right at home. "I understand these Bermuda greens where the ball may break uphill. I know if you don't hit a putt just right when it's into the grain, it'll bounce straight up in the air. I know that when you drive it into the rough, you don't even think about going for the green. You're lucky if you can control a 60-yard wedge shot well enough to put it back in the fairway."

Few have been able to cope with the vicissitudes of the Champions. Lanny Wadkins, co-leader with Floyd to start the day, began birdie-par-birdie and reached 6 under to lead alone. The next 10 holes he played in 5-over-par, digging himself deep into his infamous Lanny Funk.

Floyd suffered almost as much. The leader alone at 5-under through six holes, he went from rough to rough for a double bogey on the 222-yard seventh. It took him two hours to recover his momentum, but birdies at the 17th and 18th holes revived his spirits, and his chances. "At least now I'll be able to sleep tonight," said the 1969 and 1982 PGA winner.

The most tormented soul by far was Ballesteros. He came here vowing to be a loosey-goosey golfer, out for a good time. In other words, the opposite of the uptight fellow who's been grinding his brains out, trying to win another major for more than three years. So, after birdieing Nos. 5, 6 and 10 to reach 5 under par and the lead, what did the Spaniard do? He went back on his vow to play aggressively and daringly. He pulled out a 2-iron at the 441-yard 16th hole and a 1-iron at the 541-yard 18th. And hit them both into the water. Say hello to a double bogey and bogey.

Afterward, in a summation which may outlive any lore produced here Sunday, Ballesteros said, "I'm trying to convince myself that I'm a happy man."

If he could convince himself to hit a few drives in the fairway in the final round, he could win his first PGA and tickle himself a bunch.

As if Ballesteros needed any further aggravation, he will be paired on Sunday with Lanny Wadkins and Floyd. If anybody smiles all day, somebody get a photo. Floyd, the high-stakes gambler, is renowned for The Look -- an expression of such self-absorption that he walks right past his own wife. With his fast swing, grumpy temper and cocky air, Wadkins is nobody's favorite last-round partner. Playing with him is as restful as driving a car that's out of transmission fluid.

Of all this event's subplots, one of the best is the possibility of a Wadkins-vs.-Wadkins shootout. Lanny is headed for the Hall of Fame. Bobby has cashed over a million dollars in checks, but has never won a tour event. But if he wins here, he'll equal Lanny's career total in majors -- one PGA.

"If Lanny wins, he won't talk about it too long, 'cause I'm bigger than he is and I've been beating him up since he was 15," says Bobby, who's bigger by four inches and 25 pounds. "If I win, I'll never let him hear the last of it."

On such a fascinating scoreboard, the man who's easy to miss is Weibring, simply because he's only won once in 11 seasons on tour and is visibly hung up on shaking his Never On Sunday tag. "I've been around. I welcome the challenge," said Weibring, who probably had the week's best ball-striking round today, hitting every fairway and never making bogey.

"I've reached a lot of the goals I've set in golf and in my life. But I keep getting it thrown back in my face that all I've ever won is the Quad Cities Open. I understand that. But I want to change it," added Weibring, a sports psychology aficionado whose mantra for the week is: "be as mentally engaged, yet as physically relaxed as possible."

All around McCumber are men on quests. The Wadkins brothers. The driven Floyd who wants badly to make the Ryder Cup team. The frustrated Weibring who wants to vindicate his competitive heart. And, of course, Ballesteros, the man who would be happy.

McCumber, asked for his deep golf secrets, said his best guru is Addison McCumber, his 11-year-old daughter. Not long ago, McCumber waited in line with her for two hours to ride a roller coaster. When their turn came, she was in tears. "Addison, you don't want to have nightmares for a month," said the father. "Let's leave."

"Daddy," said Addison, "if you're not scared, you're not having fun."

"That gave me a new theory of golf," said McCumber. "{On Sunday} I'll be scared. But I'll also be having a lot of fun."