The one-iron shot sailed straight and true to the pin on the 206-yard, uphill third hole today. It bounced five feet in front of the cup and trickled to a stop six inches from the hole.

Jack Nicklaus walked onto the green, took a coin from his pocket and began to mark the ball. As he bent over, a fan yelled, "It's good."

When this PGA Championship started, the spectators' favorite was Lee Trevino, the man who won the 1968 U.S. Open on a slightly different Oak Hill East. After he ran in a 50-footer for birdie on the first hole today, these galleries belonged to Nicklaus.

People perched in trees to watch him play. They yelled encouragement, gave him standing ovations at almost every green. Nicklaus commanded the attention and admiration of 32,700 fans, a large golf gallery by any standard.

Nicklaus' round today gave this tournament a reason to believe it was not just another stop on tour, but a major championship. And it was a two-way street. Nicklaus smiled all day: even his problems on the final four holes did not take the fun away.

"I'm somewhere near the end of my career, you might say, and I'm enjoying it very much," Nicklaus said.

That had not been true during the dry times when Nicklaus failed to even challenge.

"When you're not competing well, no, you don't have much fun," he said. "The whole enjoyment of the game to me is to successfully compete. That's what's fun. When you're finishing 30th, 40th, 50th, that's not competing. That's just going through the motions.

"Even if you're coming down the stretch and playing well and somebody beats you, you're still having fun, because it is a game and you're not going to win everytime."

Walter Hagen's record of five PGA titles likely will be tied Sunday in his hometown. "Winning two majors in one year and tying Hagen's record," Nicklaus said, "is plenty of incentive."

Lee Elder of Washington shot 74 today for 219, tied him for 33d place going into the final 18. Elder, who has not putted well, made only one birdie today.