There are those who say the PGA Championship hasn't been the same since it converted from match play to stroke play in 1958. They say it lost its distinctiveness and enduring quality. They may be right, but in the final round of the 67th PGA at Cherry Hills Country Club, the venerable tournament became match play, in effect, once again. Hubert Green and defending champion Lee Trevino, paired in the last group, staged a mile-high Western shootout to rival just about anything the good old days ever offered.
Green started the day with a 3-stroke lead, but dissipated it on the front nine. Trevino actually went ahead briefly at the par-5 fifth, where he sank a 15-foot eagle putt, while Green was taking a bogey, but when Lee three-putted the next hole it was all even again.
The moment of truth, in retrospect, came on the 9th hole, a 438-yard par 4 that plays much shorter at this altitude.
Trevino, a salty match player throughout his career, smacked an approach shot that danced to a halt 15 inches from the hole. His birdie was assured.
Green, who won the US Open in 1977 but nearly disappeared from view earlier this decade, needed a big shot of his own to avoid falling behind the opportunistic Trevino once again. He hunkered over his sidehill shot, waggled his club repeatedly, and slashed the ball almost as close to the cup as Trevino's for a matching birdie.
With that, Green turned to his talkative opponent, flashed a crooked grin and pointed a finger at him as if to say, ``I can keep up with you, partner.''
And after the turn, it was Green who played the steadier golf. Twice he went ahead by one stroke only to see Trevino pull back into a tie. Then Trevino three-putted the 15th to fall behind again, and this time Green closed him out with three straight pars, finishing with a 6-under-par 278 that beat Lee by two strokes. The victory was worth $125,000 and a spot on the US Ryder Cup team that will face the European squad overseas in mid-September.
Tied for third were the hulking Andy Bean and the wispish Tze-Ming Chen of Taiwan, older brother of T. C. Chen, who nearly won the US Open in June. Chen the elder fired a blazing 65 the last day here. T. C. himself finished with a 66.
But the tournament belonged to Green, who slumped to a $29,000 season in 1983 before beginning to bounce back last year.