Stadler blows lead, but not advantage Co-leader Cochran fears cold forecast

PINEHURST, N.C. — PINEHURST, N.C. -- Craig Stadler relinquished his advantage on the scoreboard but may have one in the weather.

Stadler's last-hole, three-putt bogey dropped him back into a tie with Russ Cochran for the lead yesterday after three rounds of the season-ending, $2 million Tour Championship.


They shared the top spot at 208, 5-under-par, going into today's final round of the tournament that replaced the Nabisco Championship as the big-money climax of the official portion of the PGA Tour.

Cochran, one of the rare left-handed golfers on the PGA Tour, was bemoaning the weather forecast, however, after his round of par 71 on the famed old No. 2 course at Pinehurst.


It called for an overnight low in the 30s and a high today in the 50s -- precisely what Cochran did not want in the chase for a $360,000 first prize.

"I hate cold weather," he said. "I'd rather play in the rain.

"I tend to cut everything short in the cold. My hands get cold, and I'm a handsie player.

"I've always struggled in cold weather."

Stadler said he had no such problem.

"It doesn't matter to me. If it's cold, I'll just put my sweater on," he said.

Stadler scored an eagle-3 in his round of 1-over-par 72 and was leading alone until the three-putt lapse on the final hole.

Fred Couples made a 108-yard wedge shot for an eagle-2 in the best round of the tournament, a 5-under-par 66 that gave him a leg up in his battle with Corey Pavin for all the major season-long titles.


Couples was third alone at 211 and within reach of the lead. Pavin had a 72 in the gusty winds and was seven behind the lead with a 215 total.

Pavin and Couples are 1-2 in the money-winning standings. Couples is first and Pavin second in the race for the Vardon Trophy that goes to the player with the best scoring average. They are tied for the lead in the point standings for the PGA Player of the Year. All three races end in this event.

"That's all very good," Couples said, "but that's not what we're here for. We're here to play in the Tour Championship.

"But it's hard not to think about things like that," he said, "particularly when you haven't won any of them."

PGA champ John Daly shot 68, one of the few subpar rounds of the windy day, and moved back into contention at 212, 1-under and four strokes behind the leaders.

He was tied with Nick Price and Bruce Lietzke. Lietzke had a 72, and Price struggled to a 75.


Stadler, who has won more than $2 million since scoring his last American victory in 1984, had two birdies, three bogeys and a double bogey -- where he missed a green and then three-putted -- on the front side.

L "My confidence was slipping pretty bad about then," he said.

After driving into the trees on the 10th, he managed to save par with a chip to about 8 feet.

"That was the turning point," Stadler said. "It's hard to say what would have happened if I'd missed that putt."

He birdied the 14th from about 15 feet, then vaulted back into the lead with an 18-foot eagle putt on 16.

7/8 ROME -- Seve Ballesteros shot a 71 and Jose Rivero had a 72, and their total was good enough to keep Spain in the lead.


But the round cost Ballesteros the individual lead, with Masters champion Ian Woosnam moving in front by two strokes.

Ballesteros and Rivero finished the third round with a 422, two strokes better than Sweden's team of Anders Forsbrand and Per-Ulrik Johansson.

LPGA Nichirei International

INA, Japan -- A team from the LPGA Tour in the United States, led by Cindy Rarick and Elaine Crosby, won four of eight second-round matches and tied another to take an 11 1/2 -4 1/2 lead over a Japanese LPGA team.

Rarick and Crosby shot a best-ball 8-under-par 64 to beat Ikuyo Shiotani and Junko Yasui at the 6,265-yard Tsukuba Country Club. The Japanese women had a 69.