Hubert Green: Major Champion With Quirky Swing

Hubert Green was one of the stars of the 1970s, with all but three of his 19 career PGA Tour wins happening during that decade. He even once won three tournaments in three weeks. Green was a two-time major championship winner, a three-time Ryder Cup player, and a World Golf Hall of Fame inductee. And he did it all with a homemade and unorthodox swing.

Full name: Hubert Myatt Green

Date of birth: December 28, 1946

Place of birth: Birmingham, Alabama

Date of death: June 19, 2018

Nickname: Hubie

Green's Tour Wins

Hubert Green won 19 times on the PGA Tour, first in 1971 and last in 1985. Those 19 victories get Green a place on the list of golfers with the most PGA Tour wins.

Green also had three official wins on the European Tour, and won twice on the PGA of Japan Tour. See Hubert Green's Majors and PGA Tour Wins for the full list and more details about his pro victories.

In the Majors: Two Wins, One Death Threat

Hubert Green had a one-stroke lead in the 1977 U.S. Open as he walked off the 14th green in the final round. But tournament officials stopped him to share some news: Someone had phoned the FBI and said they were going to kill Green on the 15th hole. The officials wanted to know: Did Green want to continue?

You bet he did, and he wound up winning his first major championship. But that doesn't mean Green wasn't shaken by news of the death threat: He knocked his drive on the 15th tee into a tree.

But, needing to par-in for the win, Green steadied himself and made par on the 15th. A birdie on the 16th rendered his final-hole bogey moot, and Green won by a stroke over a charging Lou Graham.

Green didn't have to deal with any death threats in his second major championship victory at the 1985 PGA Championship, but he did have to deal with Lee Trevino. Green and Trevino passed the lead back and forth a few times.

Trevino was the 36-hole leader, with Green two behind. Green took the lead after 54 holes, with Trevino three back. When Trevino eagled the fifth hole in the final round, he went back on top. By the 14th hole, they were tied again. But over the last four holes, Green made pars while Trevino suffered two bogeys. Green won by two strokes.

The One That Got Away: Infamous Short-Putt Miss

Green took a three-stroke lead into the final round of the 1978 Masters. He was seven strokes ahead of Gary Player after the third round.

Then Player, several groups ahead of Green on the course during the final round, went out and shot a 64 to take the clubhouse lead. When Green reached the 18th tee, he trailed Player by one.

But Green, with a reputation as an excellent putter, put himself in position to force a playoff. He had a putt whose length is variously described as 2½ or three feet. Make that short putt, and Green would face Player in a playoff.

As he stood over that putt, though, Green was distracted by the voice of a radio announcer who had approached too close to the scene of play. He stepped away from the putt to regroup.

When Green got back over the putt, he pushed it to the right. Miss. No playoff, no Masters Tournament glory.

It became one of the game's infamous misses (some even called it a choke). Green was never bitter about the announcer's distraction, though. Years later he told Golf Digest, "Pros know how to handle that stuff. Only an amateur would have been put off by the interruption — or would try to make excuses about it."

Green did eventually get a win at Augusta National, though — in the 1985 Masters Par-3 Contest.

His first appearance in a major championship was in the 1969 Masters, as an amateur; his last was in the 1996 PGA Championship. See Hubert Green's Career Wins, Major Championship Victories for more of his best finishes in majors.

Green's Unorthodox Swing and Putting Technique

Hubert Green played at a time in professional golf when quirky swings were not uncommon. And quirky is one word used to describe's Green's own swing. Short and fast are the two words most-commonly used.

Sportswriter Gary Smits once described Green's swing by writing, "... he kept his hands low and after numerous twitches, would lash at the ball with a short, quick backswing."

Peter Alliss wrote that Green, "bends down to the ball, takes the club back on the outside and loops it to an inside position. He hits the ball relatively low and is not particularly long."

The World Golf Hall of Fame, calling it a "homegrown swing," said Green's swing "featured low hands and a quick tempo."

What did Green himself say about his swing? He told Golf Digest, "I looked at it once on film and almost got sick."

But it worked for him, and although Green was a tinkerer he always came back to what worked. He was also known as one of the game's great chippers, and as an excellent putter.

It wasn't just his full swing that was different from most of his pros, though. As a putter, Green, in the words of the authors of the 1976 Who's Who In Golf (commissions earned), "bends over more and grips his putter lower than any of the top pros on the tour, but finds it very effective."

"He uses a putter made in 1930," Alliss wrote in 1980, "with his hands spread well apart and right forefinger down the shaft. Unlike a clear majority of good putters, he feels that the stroke is made with the left hand."

Green once modestly described his approach to golf as this:

"I just try to move an object from one place to the next."
But he was also known as a hard worker who spent countless hours on the practice range making his unorthodox approaches repeatable.

"My father told me if you're digging a ditch, dig a good ditch," he once said. "If you're cutting the grass, cut it well. Whatever you're doing, do the best you can."

More About Hubert Green

Hubert Green's father was a doctor and Hubie grew up learning the game at Birmingham (Alabama) Country Club, where the family had membership. He was good enough as a junior to earn a scholarship to play golf at Florida State University, where his teammates included another future Champions Tour winner, Bob Duval (also the father of David Duval).

It was while he was in college that he earned his biggest amateur victories, including two NCAA wins. In 1966, Green took the Southern Amateur, one of the biggest regional amateur tournaments in the U.S. The tournament was played on Green's home course, Birmingham CC, that year. He won that title again in 1969. In between, Green won the Alabama Amateur Championship in both 1967 and 1968.

Green graduated from Florida State in 1968 and turned pro in 1969. He worked one summer as an assistant pro at Merion Country Club in Pennsylvania.

In 1970, Green made it through Q-School to earn his PGA Tour card.

Green served notice of good things to come in his 1971 rookie season. He finished fourth early in the year at the Hawaiian Open, then third mid-year at the Tallahassee Open and second a week later in the Greater New Orleans Open Invitational. Two weeks after that, Green beat Don January in a playoff to win the Houston Champions International, his first PGA Tour victory. Green finished 29th on the money list for 1971 and was named PGA Tour Rookie of the Year by Sports Illustrated (the tour did not yet have its own rookie-of-the-year award at that point).

His second year, 1972, wasn't as productive. But Green got back to winning in 1973 and didn't stop for the rest of the decade. The 1985 PGA Tour Media Guide stated that, "Hubert had stretch of about seven years through the 1970s when he was devastating and certainly one of the outstanding players in the world."

Green won twice on the PGA Tour in 1973, four times in 1974, once in 1975, three times in 1976, once in 1977, twice in 1978 and twice more in 1979. Sixteen of his 19 career wins happened in the 1970s.

Perhaps most impressively, he won three consecutive weeks in 1976 — first at the Doral-Eastern Open (by six strokes), a week later at the Greater Jacksonville Open, and a week after that at the Sea Pines Heritage Classic (by five strokes). Since Green's 1976 streak of three wins in three weeks, only Gary Player and Tiger Woods (twice) have won on the PGA Tour three consecutive weeks on the calendar.

Those three consecutive wins in 1976 tied him at season's end with Ben Crenshaw for the most wins in the season. Green turned 30 in 1977 and got his first major championship victory that year, plus won the European Tour's Irish Open.

From 1973-79, his lowest finish on the PGA Tour money list was 13th, and he was in the Top 10 four times: third in 1974, when he had those four victories; fourth in 1976, ninth in 1977 and fifth in 1978. In addition, Green was 11th on the money list for 1973, 12th in 1975 and 13th in 1979.

Green's performances (and money-list finishes) began to fall off in 1980, but Green still had a few wins left in the 1980s.

After struggling in 1983 and dropping to 135th on the money list, Green underwent shoulder surgery and rebounded in 1984. He won near the end of the year in the Southern Open with the lowest score on the PGA Tour that year, 265; and with a 6-stroke margin of victory, also best on tour for the year.

At the end of the 1984 season, Green ranked 13th on the PGA Tour's career money list. The next year, he was 39 years old at the time of his final PGA Tour victory, the 1985 PGA Championship.

And after earning that PGA trophy, Green was picked, for the third time, for Team USA in the Ryder Cup. His overall Ryder Cup record was 4-3-0, but Green won all three of the singles matches he played.

In the 1977 Ryder Cup, he won a fourball match partnered by Tom Watson, and in singles beat Eamonn Darcy, 1-up. In the 1979 Ryder Cup, Green lost in foursomes partnered by Fuzzy Zoeller, but in singles beat Peter Oosterhuis, 2-up. And in the 1985 Ryder Cup, Green/Zoeller lost twice in fourballs, both times to Ian Woosnan/Paul Way, but in singles Green beat Nick Faldo, 3 and 1.

He also represented Team USA in the 1977 World Cup along with Lanny Wadkins. Team USA finished eighth, but Green tied for second in the individual standings.

Green's last start on the PGA Tour was in 1998, after he had already joined the senior tour. For his PGA Tour career, Green played 607 tournaments. In addition to his 19 wins, he was runner-up 15 times, third place six times, had 55 Top 5 finishes and 91 Top 10 finishes.

Green turned 50 in 1996 and joined the Senior PGA Tour that year. His first senior win was another home victory, the 1998 Bruno's Memorial Classic in Birmingham, Alabama. Green shot 64 in the final round for a one-stroke, come-from-behind win over Hale Irwin. He had an eagle and four birdies over the tournament's final six holes.

Green led the Champions Tour in driving accuracy in 1999 and in putts per round in 1997 and 1999. He also won three more times, the last victory coming in a playoff against Irwin in the 2002 Long Island Classic.

But in 2003, during a routine trip to the dentist, throat cancer was discovered. Green underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments that year, and was able to return to the tour in 2004.

There were complications, additional treatments and other health concerns, but Green continued playing on the Champions Tour for several more years. His final appearance was in 2012.

For his career on the senior circuit, Green made 257 Champions Tour starts. In addition to his four wins, he was runner-up four times, third place twice, had 28 Top 5 finishes and 52 Top 10 finishes.

Green was the Champions Tour's Comeback Player of the Year twice, first in 2002 and then after his return from cancer in 2004. He received the American Cancer Life Inspiration Award in 2004, and the Ben Hogan Award for Perseverance in 2005.

Outside of tournament play, Green also got into golf course design. His best-known courses are TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee, and Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro, Georgia.

Green was 71 years old when he died of throat cancer in 2018.

He is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, Florida Sports Hall of Fame, and the Florida State University Athletics Hall of Fame.

(Book titles are affiliate links; commissions earned)
Alliss, Peter. The Who's Who of Golf, 1983, Orbis Publishing.
Beall, Joel. "Hall of Famer Hubert Green passes at age 71 from throat cancer,",
Elliott, Len, and Kelly, Barbara. Who's Who in Golf, 1976, Arlington House Publishers.
Encyclopedia of Alabama. "Hubert Green,"
Golf Digest. "My Shot: Hubert Green," July 7, 2007,
PGA Tour. PGA Tour Media Guide, 1985. "Hubert Green,"
Smits, Gary. "Hall of Fame golfer Hubert Green, runner-up at 1978 Masters, dies at 71," Florida Times-Union,
World Golf Hall of Fame. "Hubert Green,"

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