Defending champion Lee Trevino, the 46-year-old Supermex, finished today's second round of the PGA Championship with a one-stroke lead over Fred Couples, who was followed closely by other rejuvenated "name" players seemingly intent on making a comeback in the season's final major tournament.
On a windy, misty afternoon that made the par-71 Cherry Hills Country Club course play considerably tougher than on the previous day, Trevino came from two strokes back to take the lead over Couples and a string of others with a four-birdie round of 68 that gave him an eight-under-par total of 134.
There have been more first-time winners than usual this PGA season, and many of the recognizable names -- including that of Trevino -- have not had a victory. Things figured to go the same way in this tournament, particularly after a journeyman named Doug Tewell had taken a two-stroke lead with a course-record 64 Thursday.
But today, the leader board needed no translation. While Tewell remained in the thick of it with a one-over-par 72 to trail by two strokes, name players such as Couples, Hubert Green, Tom Watson and Lanny Wadkins were right there, too.
Couples had the low round of the day, a 65 that put him one stroke behind Trevino. Green, who had a 69 today, and Tewell were at 136.
Also among the contenders was Peter Jacobsen, a two-time runner-up on the PGA Tour this year who shot even-par 71 to go with his opening-round 66 for a 137 total. He was tied with Watson, who added a 70 to his first-day 67. Wadkins, one of the few two-time tour winners this year, had an inconsistent 70 that included the only eagle of the day, for 139.
And the master himself, Jack Nicklaus, cannot be counted out. Nicklaus shot a disappointing 75 but still was tied with Masters champion Bernhard Langer, who shot par, at 141.
If Trevino got help from any particular hole, it was the par-5 17th, a 555-yard adventure surrounded by water that is noted as the place where Ben Hogan lost the 1960 U.S. Open to Arnold Palmer by hitting a wedge into the moat in front of the green on the final day. Trevino's birdie there today meant he has played it in three under par for the tournament.
In the last two days, the hole has given up five of the tournament's nine eagles. One of them was Trevino's Thursday, when his iron shot bounced into the moat, only to skip off the water and climb an embankment to within five feet of the pin.
Today, it looked at first as if Trevino was trying to put the ball in the water again. His sand-wedge shot from 70 yards out was a dubious, low-flying thing that caused caddie Herman Mitchell some nervous moments.
Mitchell hollered, "Get up, ball."
"Get up for what?" Trevino said coolly.
The ball cleared the water, just made it up the slope and rolled to within eight feet.
"I thought I hit it perfect," Trevino said. "But Herman scared me to death. I thought he was going to faint on me. I was more afraid of Herman than the shot."
Trevino had a good save on the 18th with a 10-foot putt for par, and rightfully attributed his lead to his work on the greens. He has yet to three-putt in the tournament. Today, he had birdie putts of 25, 15, and 10 feet, in addition to the putt at 17 and the save at 18. "That'll cure your bad hitting," he said.
Couples, the 1984 Tournament Players Championship winner who is ranked 33rd on the money list, had no particular reason to play well after a six-week layoff that he took with the clear intention of doing absolutely nothing, suffering from a slight case of burnout.
"I usually take about four weeks off about midsummer," he said. "But once I do it, it seems like I take another week, and then another, and pretty soon it's been six weeks. I was ready to hang up the clubs for a while. I just gave up. I wasn't having any fun."
But Couples played Cherry Hills as if he owned it. His bogeyless, six-birdie round included a series of dead-on iron shots that left him birdie putts of eight feet at the par-4 third hole, 10-feet at the par-4 seventh, one foot at the par-4 10th with a wedge out of a bunker, and eight feet at the par-5 17th.
Green, the 1977 U.S. Open champion, has been struggling the past two years. But he ran off four straight birdies today, beginning with a 40-foot chip-in on the 13th, and his mood afterward was almost whimsical, unlike the brooding Green of the last couple of years.
"I died two years ago, and it's no fun dying," he said. "But my game is back . . . I'm another pretty face on the tour now, like all those young blond guys who look alike."
Nicklaus, also winless on the tour this year and frustrated by a poor record in the majors -- he missed the cuts at the British and U.S. opens -- seemed revived Thursday with a round of 66. But his 75 put him seven shots back.
"It's aggravating and frustrating," Nicklaus said. "I really didn't play much worse today than yesterday. I seemed to be one foot off the fairways and greens all day."
The PGA is the only major that Watson has not won. He has done just enough to keep himself in this one and is displaying a familiar purposefulness that probably means he will be present on the final day.
"Three strokes behind is a hell of a lot better than four, and a hell of a lot worse than two," he said.
A number of well-known players did not fare so well. Among those that did not make the cut of five-over-par 147 were Greg Norman, Gary Player and current U.S. Open champion Andy North, all at 148; Ray Floyd, at 149, and leading money winner Curtis Strange, at 153.