Verplank certainly has a different way of talking about golf. "I just try to max out what I'm doing," he says. In the third round Friday, he was paired with 28-year-old Bernhard Langer, the Masters champion who is so good that his caddie, Pete Coleman, drives a Porsche. Langer also is one of the tour's legitimate rocket launchers, 14th in driving distance last year, but Verplank probably made him feel like a weakling as he hit every one of his drives dead-solid, max-out, outhitting Langer and outscoring him by three shots.
Friday was the day Verplank almost made his move. He snaps his fingers when he drains a long putt, and things were clicking until he reached the 9th hole and hit a duffer's duck hook into the water. That cost him two strokes. Then on the back nine he missed birdie putts of four, eight and seven feet. "You can't do those things and win," said Verplank. He added, "Maybe I missed because it's January."
Friday was also the day that Peete broke out of a three-way tie for the lead with O'Meara and Kite. He tied the course record with a 64, getting eight birdies—five of them in a six hole stretch. Peete one-putted 11 times, which quieted talk about his weakness on the greens. His playing companion, Jim Thorpe, the walking muscle, also scoffed at Peete's rep as a powder-puff hitter. "All I know is, when he has to hit it by me, he does."
And when he has something to prove, he does that, too.