The rise of Irwin and Morgan as the new Senior sultans occurs at a time when the tour's television ratings are down. Part of the slide might be due to Woods's drawing viewers to the regular Tour—its ratings were up substantially when he played—but there could be more to it than that. "We still need guys like [Billy] Casper, [Arnold] Palmer, Chi Chi [Rodriguez] and Trevino," says tour veteran Jimmy Powell. "We need all of those guys to play to bring nostalgia into our game. That's the reason the Senior tour was created, not to see who's the best Senior player."
Since Nicklaus isn't likely to increase his playing schedule, a resurgence by Trevino, who until this year had been a focus of attention ever since he joined the tour in 1989, might be critical. A comeback seemed more likely when Trevino left the Dunes than when he arrived. He didn't keep score in last Wednesday's pro-am but admitted that he wouldn't have broken 80 if he had. "I can't wait for this week to be over," Trevino said, shaking his head. "It's been a terrible year. I've played awful."
Trevino leads the Senior tour's alltime victory list with 27 but was rarely in contention this year. His body breaks down as regularly as a '62 Corvair, and the question is whether or not he can still be a factor at his age. Only Powell and Bob Charles have won more than once after they turned 58, which Trevino will do in a few weeks. "Basically, I think Trevino can still do anything he wants to do," says Irwin. "He just needs that mindset. There are some things he may not physically be able to do anymore, but we're all in that boat. If he lost a little weight around the beam, it might help."
Says Murphy, "It's going to take a commitment on Lee's part. He's played a lot of golf this year, but by his own admission he hasn't practiced as hard. I think he's going to go home this Christmas and say, 'How could I go out there all year and not win?' That's going to rekindle his passion. Only when he decides he wants to play well again will he win. And he will."
Trevino says he made a mistake by playing hurt early in the year, after pulling a muscle in his right shoulder. "The only reason I kept battling was, if you finish in the top 24 on the money list, you only have to play in one pro-am, on Thursday," he says. "If you're outside the top 24, you have to play pro-ams on Wednesday and Thursday. When the time comes that I can't stay in the top 24, I'll quit playing. That extra day is big for me. I have two little kids at home, and I'm not going to leave my family. I'll retire first."
Trevino has a daughter, Olivia, 8, and a son, Daniel, 5, with his second wife, Claudia. He also has four children from his first marriage, but Trevino wasn't around to see them grow up, and they're now in their 20s and 30s. He says he won't make that mistake again. "I never spent much time with my other children," he says, "and if I had it to do over, that's the one thing I would change. You can't make it up, no way. I know that now. I have probably spent more time already with my little boy than I spent with my four other kids put together. We take naps together, go to karate class, to soccer and football practice, we fish. He's my pal."
Trevino demonstrated his devotion to his family last month in Hawaii. Five minutes before he was supposed to tee off in the Thursday pro-am of the Kaanapali Classic, he discovered that Sunday's finishing time had been pushed back two hours, to 4 p.m., which meant that he might miss a flight that would get him home in time for Daniel's birthday on Monday. Trevino withdrew from the tournament. "I had promised that I'd go to school with Daniel with cupcakes," Trevino says matter-of-factly.
Yet on Sunday as he left Myrtle Beach, Trevino was enthused about playing golf next year. During a practice session after Wednesday's disastrous pro-am round, he rediscovered an old preswing move, a two-step shuffle that helps him position the ball in the center of his stance. Suddenly be began to hit the ball solidly again and opened with a 69. He eventually tied for fourth, eight shots behind Morgan.
So fragile is Trevino's game that one good tournament gets him talking about taking off 20 pounds over the winter (an annual, and as yet unrealized, goal) and getting the best of Irwin. "He [Irwin] might get tired next year because he has to defend a lot of titles," Trevino says. "All we have to do is sneak around and not play the tournaments he plays, and we'll all have a hell of a year." Trevino bristles at suggestions that a comeback at 58 might be impossible. "When I come back the strongest is when everybody is writing me off," he says. "I drive myself because I want to show everybody I'm not dead yet. I won't be surprised if I come back pretty damn strong next year." He chews on that for a second, waves his index finger and adds, "Don't be surprised if '98 isn't the best year I've ever had on the Senior tour."
That would be quite an accomplishment, but would it be as difficult as Irwin's or Morgan's topping what they achieved this season? "I'm not even going to think about that," Irwin says. "I haven't had time to enjoy this year, and I really want to. This is a year that may never come again."