Stadler, Sauers Take Lead At Pga

Posted: August 14, 1992

ST. LOUIS — Normally, when Craig Stadler decides to take a timeout from golf, he tosses his clubs in a closet and forgets about them.

Last week, when "The Walrus" retreated to his San Diego home after missing the cut in the European Tour's Scandinavian Open, he did more than grab a little rest and relaxation.

He got together with his teaching pro, Dick Harmon, to iron out some of the kinks in a swing that has largely deserted him this season. Yesterday, Stadler shot a course-record 4-under-par 67 to share the PGA Championship first-round lead with Gene Sauers.

The consult with Harmon was out of character, but drastic circumstances called for extracurricular tinkering.

"The state of my game's been pretty ugly for a while now," Stadler said. ''Just awful. For the last month or so, it hasn't been much fun. I hated the way I was playing. I hated to play golf. It was an absolute killer. (Harmon) really helped.

"Usually, I don't touch a club when I'm off. But I played with the kids for a couple of days, and for some reason, Dick and I hooked up. There was no rhyme or reason to my game. Day by day, I started feeling better about it. Small things straightened around. But I came here with really no idea of what to expect."

The 1982 Masters champion carded six birdies and two bogeys on the Bellerive Country Club course. He reached 5-under through 14 holes, but needed to make a nasty 12-foot, left-to-right putt at the 18th to remain tied with Sauers.

A year ago, Stadler finished seventh in this tournament, just as he had in 1989.

"That gives you confidence," Stadler said. "It's like, 'You did it before, so why not do as well again?' There haven't been a lot of positive things about my game this season. I've been going through the motions. But I've got more competitiveness in me than that."

Stadler plays left to right off the tee, which means a half-dozen dogleg par-4s here figure to give him trouble. But he got around that yesterday by making birds on three of the four par-3s. And on the six holes where he hit his ball into the rough, he still played them in 2-under.

"You're certainly not going to get away with that every day," Stadler said. "And playing the 3-pars like that isn't going to happen a lot, either.

"But I'm just hopeful it'll continue, so I can maybe make something out of my year.

"This is fun."

He'll get no arguments from Sauers, an eight-year tour veteran who has never led a major.

"The key was, I only missed three fairways," said Sauers, who also had six birds and a pair of bogeys. "I only hit two bad shots all day. I'm playing good right now. I was just trying to keep it around par. I thought that would be pretty good. But things went my way.

"This definitely has to boost my confidence up. It's been an OK year (two seconds and a third, 34th on the money list), but I've been improving. That's a bonus.

"I'm not surprised to be where I am. I know I'm capable of shooting a good round. And I know I can handle it."

Three players were one shot back: No. 1-ranked Nick Faldo, Jay Don Blake and Brian Claar, who (shades of John Daly from a year ago) got into the 151- man field as an alternate.

Claar, the 1986 Rookie of the Year, lost his exempt status and had to requalify for his Tour card via the qualifying school.

"That's as easy as the course is going to play," Claar said. "We played

from the very tips (back tees) in the practice rounds, and it seemed impossible. But if you can hit the greens, you can beat this course. If you miss the fairways, you might as well pack your bags. Even if you find your ball, you're only going to (be able to) hit it out sideways."

Six more were grouped at 2-under 69, including money-leader and reigning Masters champ Fred Couples and two-time PGA winner Ray Floyd, who is eligible for the Senior Tour when he turns 50 in three weeks.

Eight were in at 70, and 12 at even par, topped by 1991 British Open champ Ian-Baker Finch, three-time U.S. Open winner Hale Irwin, Greg Norman, Corey Pavin and John Cook, who finished one shot behind Faldo at last month's British Open.

LEADERS' CARDS

Hole 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 (Out) 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 (In) Total

Par 4 4 3 5 4 3 4 4 5 (36) 4 4 4 3 4 4 3 5 4 (35) 71

Sauers 4 4 3 4 4 2 3 5 4 (33) 5 4 3 3 3 4 4 4 4 (34) 67

Stadler 4 5 2 4 4 2 3 4 4 (32) 4 4 4 2 4 5 3 5 4 (35) 67

Claar 3 3 2 5 3 3 4 5 4 (32) 4 4 4 3 4 4 4 5 4 (36) 68

Blake 5 4 2 4 3 2 4 5 4 (33) 5 4 4 3 4 5 2 5 3 (35) 68

Faldo 5 4 3 4 5 3 3 4 4 (35) 4 4 3 3 4 4 2 5 4 (33) 68

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