It was in Friday's second round that Nelson shot a 65 at Eldorado and started looking like the same guy who quietly won $281,022 in 1979, a total second only to Tom Watson's record $462,636. Nelson took a one-stroke lead on the field with a nine-under-par 135. It looked as if half the population of California was directly behind him. Breathing on Nelson were a lot of Scott Simpsons, Craig Stadlers, Victor Regalados and Butch Bairds. One reason they were close may have been that Nicklaus, Watson, Trevino, Irwin and Zoeller were not in town. The whole roster of big guys won't come together until the Crosby at the end of the month.
Nelson shot a 70 on Saturday at Bermuda Dunes, the toughest layout of the four, and continued to cling to part of the lead. Regalado's 68 at Eldorado also put him at 205, 11 under par. This, too, was the day the fat guys began moving up; George (Cuddles) Cadle and Mike Sullivan fired 65s, and Craig Stadler and Bob Murphy inched up on the lead. The combined weight of Stadler, Murphy, Cadle and Sullivan is around 900 pounds.
On Sunday the fat guys kept coming. Stadler and Cadle shot 69s, and Sullivan and Murphy 71s. One of them, Stadler, wound up tied for the lead with Nelson mainly because Nelson got a triple bogey on the 2nd hole at La Quinta. His drive landed under a tree, and from there Nelson hit his ball out of bounds. After that he settled down, making five birdies and salvaging a 71 for the day.
Nelson's and Stadler's 72-hole totals were 276, a fine, familiar number of the kind one is accustomed to seeing at the end of a golf tournament. But this was the Bob Hope Desert Classic in Palm Springs, where all things are different and where Frank Sinatra Drive is threatening to stretch all the way to the Arthur Godfrey Causeway in Miami. In the Hope they play 90 holes, so the pros had to go back out on La Quinta on Monday to decide whose GIRs would get him the $50,000 first prize.
On the last day, Nelson bogeyed the 9th and Stadler parred it, and the Hope had the fat man with the beard for a leader. Thereafter, it was a contest between a beard and a mustache, because Tom Purtzer, displaying a newly bushy upper lip, was as many under par as Stadler. A birdie for Stadler at the 16th gave him a one-stroke lead over Purtzer and he parred the last two holes to get the 67 that won him the year's first tournament with the funky total of 343.