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SENIOR GOLF AT NEWPORT BEACH

Green Is Left to Feel Blue

Golf: The leader going into the final round, he plays well but is no match for Irwin.

March 16, 1998|JOHN WEYLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEWPORT BEACH — Too many nights during the last 10 years, Hubert Green has gone to bed with sore joints after a round of golf, the result of his inability to "hit a ball solid."

Sunday night, the ache probably went a little deeper.

Green had been sending out some new vibrations recently, shooting 67 and 66 in the first two rounds of the Toshiba Senior Classic to take a one-stroke lead going into Sunday. It was 36 holes of golf that included an unusual number of well-struck drives and iron shots along with the usual crafty chips, pitches and smooth putts that have long been his trademark.

He stepped up to the first tee at Newport Beach Country Club Sunday with a chance to earn his first victory since the 1985 PGA Championship. But the red numbers on the leader board next to Hale Irwin's name already were a foreboding omen.

Irwin, who birdied five of the first seven holes en route to a course-record 62, blew past Green and the other 16 golfers who began the day ahead of or tied with him.

Green--who birdied one, five, seven and eight and felt as if he was sending the right message to Irwin--held his ground until the 17th, where a bogey all but assured Irwin of the win. Green finished with a 68 and a second-place check of $96,800, his best finish in two seasons on the senior tour.

"A great, great golfer played a great round of golf," Green said, shrugging. "It's a little different when scum like us try to get out there and play. You just have to shake his hand, get his autograph and go home.

"I did not hit very many good shots today, especially on the last five holes, which is just the opposite of the way Hale played."

And which is pretty much par these days for Green, who survives on tour with three things, according to Lee Trevino: "Hubert's got a wedge, a putter and guts."

Green sank birdie putts of 15 feet (on No. 1), 10 feet (No. 7), 12 feet (No. 8), hit a pitching wedge to within three feet to set up a birdie on 12, rolled in a 35-foot birdie putt on 13 and a 15-footer on 18.

On the par-three 17th, however, it was his magic putting stroke that betrayed him when his 10-foot par putt back up the hill stopped a revolution short of the cup.

"I always laugh at people who leave their putts short on the last few holes of a tournament and call them chokers," Green said. "Now I guess I've got to include myself in that category. That was pathetic. You just don't do that."

Green cut a three-iron safely away from the water that borders the right side and the front of the green and ended up just beyond the left edge. He faced a tricky downhill chip, but almost slipped the ball in the hole before it slid 10 feet past.

"I felt totally comfortable standing over that putt," he said, "but it never even occurred to me that it was uphill. I guess a light should've gone on, considering that I was shocked when the chip went so far by."

Green finished 10th and tied for 34th in the first two tournaments he played this year, but he apparently wasn't all that excited about Sunday's run at a victory.

"I just didn't hit very many solid balls today," he said. "It was a step back. Yeah, I shot a 68, but sometimes the scoreboard lies, you know?

"Sure, I wish it had a different ending, but I'm not going to slash my wrists or anything. And I could deal with the disappointment of not winning a lot better if I played better."

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