Hubert Green shot a one-under-par 70 today to take an unchallenged, three-stroke lead over defending champion Lee Trevino in the PGA Championship as Cherry Hills Country Club took its revenge on most of the rest of an unsuspecting field.
The self-proclaimed "new" Green, who had trailed Trevino by two strokes Friday, put together a round of three birdies and two bogeys for a 54-hole total of seven-under-par 206. Trevino, meanwhile, gave up his claim to the lead after shooting a four-over-par 75.
Trevino was better able than most to minimize the damage, however, as virtually the entire cast on the leader board faltered on a course that suddenly had become unmanageable. Trevino's round left him two strokes ahead of Tom Watson, Nick Price and Fred Couples.
They were not far back enough to suit Green, though. Being the leader is an unfamiliar sensation for the 41-year-old from Birmingham who has suffered through three of the worst years of his career.
"I can win, and I probably should win a major championship," he said. "But better men than me have squandered leads like this. I didn't come here in a turnip truck and I'm not leaving in one."
Cherry Hills, which yielded a PGA-record 31 subpar rounds Thursday and played only slightly tougher Friday, turned disagreeable today with greens that were kitchen-counter fast and a wind that gusted to 25 mph. Friday's leaders met with problems on a variety of holes on the 7,089-yard, par-71 layout.
That was partly because of the state of the putting surfaces, which tournament officials decided not to water overnight because of recent humidity. They also rolled them with 30-pound weights, which added to the difficulty.
Green's resurgence, which included a 66 Friday that put him in contention, was an encouraging sign for the 1977 U.S. Open champion, whose only tour victory the past three years was in the 1984 Southern Open. "I died two years ago," he said. "But my game is back."
Green basically finessed the course, which requires more skill with the irons than length with the driver. In a threesome with Couples and Trevino, he was the only one able to get near the flags.
He birdied the par-4 fourth with an eight-iron to 10 feet, the crucial par-3 sixth, which Trevino bogeyed in a two-stroke swing, and the par-3 No. 8 with a two-iron to 25 feet. That last putt was a somewhat lucky twister that broke about six feet.
"I'm not that good," Green said. "I didn't try to call that one. I just tried to get it close and not embarrass myself."
Green bogeyed the par-4 ninth with a poor six-iron shot that left him with an unmakable seven-foot uphill putt, but then had nine straight pars. He did not waver again until the 18th hole, a long par-4. He closed with a bogey when he hit a two-iron into the rough, left his nine-iron just off the green, chipped to six feet, and hit a poor putt.
Green's reemergence is not entirely surprising. At the Western Open last week, he tied for 10th after birdieing the first seven holes Saturday, one short of the record for consecutive subpar holes.
"This is fun," he said. "You aim over there, and then watch it go where you aim it . . . When you're on that treadmill, running as fast as you can and not getting anywhere, it gets frustrating."
Trevino missed six greens in his four-bogey, no-birdie round, including at the first and sixth holes, where his approaches didn't hold. He blamed it on the "unnecessary" firming of the course by greenskeeper Armen Suny.
Suny denied that the course, which had been criticized after the first two rounds for perhaps playing too easily, had been toughened by course and PGA officials. "It's just the wind," he said. "They can't score here in the wind."
Trevino disagreed, saying one green was "so hard you could land a 747 on it." He was joined in that opinion by Green, who speculated the PGA was reacting to criticism.
Trevino remarked, "There's no way they could have gotten the greens that firm in one night without doing something to them. I thought I hit some good shots. I guess not . . . I wouldn't mind a 75 if I struck the ball poorly, but I didn't."
The turning point in Trevino's round came at the sixth hole, where he three-putted for the first time in the tournament. His 35-foot attempt ran past the hole and he missed a five-footer coming back to drop to six under. Meanwhile, Green had hit a seven-iron to two feet and sank his putt for birdie to take the lead.
"I was frustrated there," Trevino said. "I'm one over par (at No. 6), and I haven't missed a shot yet. On the first hole, I hit what I thought was a perfect wedge, and it went over the green."
Couples, who had trailed Trevino at seven under par Friday, had bogeys at the third, eighth, and 10th holes, and three more from 13 through 15.
Watson had bogeys at the fifth, seventh and ninth holes. A birdie at 10 was only a brief respite, because he bogeyed the par-4 14th and ended with a 74. His putting, a problem all year, was the culprit.
"I played a good back nine," he said. "With some decent putting, it could have been a real good score."
Peter Jacobsen had been tied with Watson, three strokes behind Trevino, going into the round. Jacobsen began the day with birdies on the first and fifth holes to drop to seven under par. But he bogeyed the par-3 sixth, as did almost everyone else, then began to crash.
He bogeyed the par-4 ninth and double-bogeyed the par-4 10th when his drive went into the woods, his iron shot over the green and his chip over the green again. He then parred the next four holes, but bogeyed the 15th and 16th. He finished with a 75 that tied him with Lanny Wadkins and Scott Simpson at 212.
Doug Tewell, who led the tournament after the first day with a 64, shot 77 today for 213.