Trevino recalls '72 win at Muirfield
By Phil Stambaugh, Champions Tour
The 1972 British Open was a battle between defending champion Lee Trevino, England’s Tony Jacklin and Jack Nicklaus, who was attempting to win his third straight major championship and keep alive hopes for a Grand Slam. Nicklaus, a winner already at the Masters and the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, trailed Trevino by six strokes entering the final round but the Golden Bear made a charge and seized the lead at the turn. He wound up shooting 66, taking the clubhouse lead at 279. When Trevino and Jacklin reached the 17th hole, they were tied for the lead, one stroke in front of Nicklaus, who had failed to make birdie at No. 17.
Just when it appeared that Jacklin would take control and win, Trevino turned the tables and went on to capture his second consecutive Claret Jug, thwarting Nicklaus’ Grand Slam dream in the process. Muirfield will serve as the Open Championship venue for a 16th time in 2013 and just over 40 years later, Champions Tour Media Official Phil Stambaugh caught up with Trevino to get his take on what happened in East Lothian, Scotland, in 1972 and also get his opinion on Muirfield’s championship layout.
CHAMPIONS TOUR: As you look back on your Open Championship victory at Muirfield just over 40 years ago, what memories stand out about your win there. It will always be recognized as the place where you stopped Jack Nicklaus’ run at the Grand Slam and I guess you chipped in a total of four times that week, right?
LEE TREVINO: I almost wish that I wouldn’t have beaten him there in 1972 because I would have loved to have seen the crowds in Detroit at Oakland Hills. I chipped in four times for the week, yeah. I chipped in on No. 2 on the second day, which is a par 4, for a birdie. And then I chipped in on the third day, which is actually a Friday, out of a bunker on No. 16. Back then, the Open Championship ended on Saturday. I chipped in on No. 18 that same round from the left side, and then that famous chip-in on No. 17 on the Saturday, the last day, which everyone remembers.
I remember coming to Muirfield that year and I was the defending champion. The funny thing about that is when we left El Paso, there were 12 of us in all, there were six couples, and so we all flew and we got off at the wrong airport. We got off at Prestwick instead of Edinburgh and no one was there. At that time, I was used to a lot of media stuff knowing when I was coming in and being defending champion that year. We get off at the airport and I said, you know, how quickly they forget. There wasn’t a soul there to greet us. My caddie wasn't even there, nothing. We found out shortly thereafter that we flew into the wrong airport.
CHAMPIONS TOUR: So you had to drive over from the western side of Scotland?
LEE TREVINO: Yeah, so we rented a van and we rented a driver and we looked like a bunch of migrant workers because we had luggage out the windows and on top and everyplace else, 12 of us. We finally found Gifford and we were staying at Yester Castle. We had leased it for the week.
I think that the most exciting thing about the whole thing is my odds were 14 to 1 and we bet, and then I shoot 71 in the first round, and 70 in the second round, and the odds went up and my friends bet again after each round. Then I came back with a 66 and the odds went down and they bet again. I don't make bets. But anyway, so all the other people, when we ended up winning the golf tournament, I threw a party for the media, I invited the media over and threw a party for them at Yester Castle, and the bookmaker came in with a suitcase full of pounds and we emptied it.
CHAMPIONS TOUR: Can you talk about the strategy that week? How did Muirfield play for that British Open?
LEE TREVINO: Well, it played dry. There was a drought and the course was extremely dry. For the first time in my life, I used my driver very little because that's always been my favorite club in the bag. I used a 1-iron, believe it or not, because the ball was running 300 yards. It was just unbelievable how short the course was playing. The problem with a golf course that dry is that if you get the ball going the wrong way, it's not going to stop until it gets into some trouble. That week, you had to be very accurate on how you were coming off that tee. There was very little rough and it was just dry.
I remember the last day when we played, I knew exactly where every flag was going to be and it was going to be at the lowest part of the green simply because that was the only place there was any grass left. Back in those days they didn't have irrigation. In other words, they didn't water the greens or anything. So everything was just little by little drying out until you got to the low spot and that's the only green patch of grass and that's where they put the cups. It was extremely dry. You could hit a 1-iron off the tee 210 yards and you could see where it landed because smoke, powder would fly off from the dirt.
CHAMPIONS TOUR: In those days could you use the small ball?
LEE TREVINO: Yeah, I won both British Opens with the small ball.
CHAMPIONS TOUR: Describe in detail the situation at No. 17 when it appeared Tony Jacklin was in control and there was a reversal and it was you who took a one-stroke lead to the 18th tee in the final round.
LEE TREVINO: Well, first off, Jack Nicklaus made quite a run at both Tony and myself, but when he bogeyed No. 16 and didn’t birdie the 17th, we knew that it wasn’t going to be enough to win and I think he did too. Tony and I were tied playing the 17th and I got in trouble off the tee. I remember getting ready to hit my tee shot and a photographer or cameraman crossed the fairway and I had to back off. I lined up again and another guy with a camera comes behind the first and I had to back off again. I was pretty distracted at that point and hit a duck hook off the tee about 200 yards and my ball was in a awkward lie in the bunker. I was pretty hot and I didn’t hit the fairway or the green with any of my next three shots. I just wanted to get the hole over with and I think Jacklin was about 18 feet away for a birdie. I was pretty frustrated at how I had played the hole and I grabbed the 9-iron quickly, glanced at the hole and then pitched it in for a par. I think it stunned Tony and he was overly aggressive with his first putt and then missed a short one coming back. Suddenly I had a one-stroke lead and Tony ended up bogeying the last hole as well and Jack finished second.
CHAMPIONS TOUR: Where do your rate Muirfield among the courses in the Open Championship rotation?
LEE TREVINO: I have always loved links courses. They are right down my alley and I was thrilled to win the British Open twice. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the Old Course at St. Andrews and I would put Muirfield second . The others in the rotation just fall where they may.