As the pro tour moved to Miami last week, our fighting heroes took on what has become an annual bit of torture—namely, playing the 18th at Doral, the toughest finishing hole they see all year. It is a 437-yard par-4 that is so rugged you have to thread a needle between a lake on your left and a bagel on your right, and if you make the slightest mistake you can go in the water not once but twice. To escape with your life you have to follow Dave Hill's instructions, which are, "Hit a tee ball like you're in a greenhouse and don't break any windows, and then saw a three-iron into that hard green so it will come down like a butterfly with sore feet."
The subject of tough golf holes comes up frequently on the tour, as it does throughout the sport. Golf has never reared a club member who wanted to think that his course was a pushover or who wouldn't care to argue that his 18th hole wasn't as testing and evil as Doral's, or Riviera's or Harbour Town's or Tucson National's, which are the holes most often mentioned when the pros get to talking it over.
Not that the Doral-Eastern Open was a one-hole tournament. It was a tournament like all the others, battled for most of the way by a cast of knowns, unknowns and forgotten-abouts until Hubert Green made it a one-man show on Sunday.
Green was tied with Ben Crenshaw, a fellow known, after the first round. The 36-hole leader was Mark Hayes, a quiet unknown, but then Hubert opened up a four-stroke lead on everybody after three rounds. At this point some of the challengers included those forgotten-abouts, Bobby Mitchell and Marty Fleckman. It wasn't until the final round that Jack Nicklaus (also known) became a mild factor and at one time during the afternoon drew to within three strokes of Green. Nicklaus had turned the front nine in three under par, while Hubert had just bogeyed the 8th hole, making him one over for the round.
Nicklaus wins a lot of tournaments in Florida; to be exact, he has won an astonishing eight times there—three Disneys, two Dorals, the 1971 PGA, the 1966 PGA team championship (with Arnold Palmer) and the Tournament Players Championship three weeks ago—and it would have been nothing new had he overtaken Green. But Hubert's answer to the news on the leader boards was a shot to the par-3 9th hole that landed about a foot and a half from the cup for a kick-in birdie. He was in control.
Green can get in these putting moods were everything drops. Few players crouch any lower over the ball, and few can sink as many in a streak. On Saturday, when he shot the 65 that really put the tournament out of reach for most everyone, he birdied seven of the last 11 holes, dropping putts from all over Miami.
Green wound up winning the Doral by a cozy six strokes, and in order to accomplish this you have to do something like he did on the mean old 18th. Like birdie it the last two rounds when virtually everyone else was fighting to stay out of the lake and the mud hens and the begonias. Green closed out the tournament with a three-iron shot to the 18th that gobbled up the flag, and he rolled in about a 12-foot putt for the 69, which gave him a Doral record-breaking total of 270.
"I don't look good hitting the ball, but I can't make a living and swing pretty," he said afterward. "I may change my grip more times during the week than I change clothes. If it doesn't feel good early in the week, I'll change. I've won 10 tournaments now, counting one in Japan, but nobody thinks I'm a great player because I've never won a major championship. I agree. I'll have to win a major to be somebody besides another skinny kid from Alabama. If Johnny Miller wants to say he's a great player and ranks with Jack Nicklaus, let him say it. Johnny Miller and me are different in a lot of ways. Both of us aren't even Mormons."
When Hayes three-putted the last green, he allowed Nicklaus to tie him for second at 276, a stroke better than Crenshaw, whose fourth-place money put him over $100,000 for the year. Mark Hayes? Well, so far this is the year for slightly mysterious people to finish second. Before Mark Hayes, we have had Howard Twitty, Roger Maltbie, Mike Morley, Larry Nelson, Rik Massengale, Don Bies and Kermit Zarley.
All through the tournament the 18th was a painful reminder to the pros that life was not always a drive, a seven-iron and a 20-foot putt. This hole alone will always make Doral a little different.