Caldwell, for one, should never have been in the position of looking over his shoulder at Wadkins. At the Buick-Goodwrench Open in late August, he had a four-stroke lead but shot a last-round 75, and finished tied for fourth.
Diehl also felt that bad luck was hounding him. A week earlier he had skipped the Southern Open to attend his sister-in-law's wedding. No money there. And the week before that, at the tour stop in Napa, Calif., he had a very bad time. During the second round there, Diehl was bemoaning his poor play when Jeff Goodwin, the head professional at the Napa course, approached him.
"Don't worry, things aren't going to get better," Goodwin said.
Diehl looked puzzled.
"Remember all the stuff you used to own?" Goodwin said. "That condo you were staying in doesn't exist anymore. It just burned down."
In Florida both Diehl and Caldwell went up in flames. They were paired during the first two rounds, and Diehl dubbed their group "The Heartbreak Twosome." They both collapsed and badly missed the cut, Diehl by five shots, Caldwell by six.
Afterward, they were sitting side by side in the bar. "I never gave up trying to make every thin dime, and I came up $1.98 short," said Caldwell, painfully aware that Wadkins and Hayes probably would move past him.
"Who missed the ashtray?" asked the barmaid, cleaning up some spilled ashes.
"I missed everything all week," muttered Caldwell.
In the second round at Pensacola, Wadkins shot a 65 and jumped into a tie for fourth place. "Did I strike terror into Rex's heart?" he asked later, recognizing that to pass Caldwell he needed $1,232. Which meant he was going to have to finish at least 27th at Pensacola.