Boros had a long wait on the last hole while the Palmer melodrama unfolded. He waited on the tee as Arnold got a free drop in the rough out from under a television cable strung through the pecan trees. And after driving down the middle of the fairway, Julius had to wait for Palmer to miss that putt. Then Boros hit a poor shot, a funky three-wood that never rose and plunked miserably into the upslope. This left him 30 yards short of the green and about 45 yards from the pin, which was on the back side behind a hump of Bermuda.
"I can't plan what I'm going to do," Julius said. "I'm not like these young stars. I just throw some junk in the air and hope it stays out of the rough and eventually gets to the green."
Boros threw a pitching wedge into the green on this, his third shot, a low punch that hit the hump perfectly and skipped down to within three feet of the hole. It was a shot that knocked out not only Palmer but all of the other challengers who were in and out of it during the day, principally Bob Charles and Marty Fleckman.
Of course, there was a slight chance that Boros would miss the putt and find himself in a playoff with Palmer and Charles and even Fleckman. On Saturday he had missed shorter putts on the 14th and 15th holes for a double bogey and a bogey, turning a 68 into a 70. The grain on Pecan Valley's greens jerked a lot of putts off-line, and nobody in the field took them for granted.
As Boros got ready to study the putt that would win the championship, some of San Antonio's less-than-golfwise fans giggled, and one of them, trying to break the nervous tension around the green, bellowed, "Worried 'bout makin' that 'un, June-is?" Boros either didn't hear it or didn't acknowledge it if he did. He went ahead to the putt as a bunch of PGA officials in their funny red hats growled "Quiet" at the fans. Of course, Julius took an awful lot of time on the putt. Must have been at least two or three seconds. Someone even said he broke stride to stand over the ball.
The PGA Championship that Boros won has been a long-suffering tournament that never quite seems to know what to do with itself. Only out of kindness, or perhaps a sense of history, have people outside the Professional Golfers' Association kept it a part of what are considered to be the four important titles in the game. The others, of course, are the U.S. Open, the Masters and the British Open.
The PGA lost its personality a few years ago when it gave up the only thing that made it distinctive—match play format. It might have made up for that loss if the championship had been played on famed courses, the way the Open is, or if a lot of unexpected guys hadn't kept winning it. PGA champions are not as well-remembered as they were when the Ben Hogans, Sam Sneads and Byron Nelsons were struggling with one another head to head. PGA champions are folks like Al Geiberger, Don January, Dave Marr, Bob Rosburg, Lionel Hebert and Bobby Nichols—players who list it as their only major accomplishment, fine fellows and good golfers though they are.
The PGA has been a freaky tournament since it changed to stroke play, and usually it is played on freaky courses. Last year it was held at Columbine in Denver, a city that has Cherry Hills. It was at Columbus Country Club in 1964, a city that has Scioto. It was at the Dallas Athletic Club in 1963, and Aronimink in Philadelphia in 1962 and a whole suburb full of Llanerches in the past. Occasionally, there would be a beauty among new courses, like Laurel Valley in 1965, where Marr won. But mostly the PGA has let itself be sold on courses which simply do not look good whether they are or not.
Pecan Valley was such a course. It was new, and, with the overlarge supermarket-type sign out on the street and with its small, one-story, modern clubhouse and a row of condominiums straying off in two directions and no trees anywhere near the 9th and 10th greens, it looked pretty much like a place where you pull in, drop off your cleaning and pick up hamburgers for the kids. The fact that the championship had been awarded to Pecan Valley during the late Warren Cantrell's term of office as president of the PGA (Warren Cantrell being from San Antonio and being in the employ of the man who built Pecan Valley and started the development) led to several jokes about the place. It was Dudley Green of the
Nashville Banner who said, "The president of the PGA could get this tournament on a nine-hole course in three years."
However, despite the look of Pecan Valley, it proved to be a course that provided the best PGA tournament in years, an old-fashioned kind of tournament, in fact, that forced the players to think and plan and finesse their shots instead of just slamming the ball as hard as they know how and then reaching for the wedge or putter. Many of the large pecan trees down in the bottom land leaned out into the fairways, prompting either low shots or high, hooked shots or fade shots. Salado Creek ambled in and out of the premises, a dark little snake of a wet bed, but troublesome enough to force lay-ups. Finally, the greens were irregular and grainy and rolling and humping so that the flag positions made a good deal of difference.