In the lobby of the massive old Prince of Wales Hotel in Southport, England last Saturday morning the incomparable Lee Trevino started winning the British Open shortly before eating his poached eggs. He burst upon a table occupied by his wife Claudia and a few friends, a table surrounded by Englishmen, turned his cap around backward like a helmet and started babbling. "Where's Tony Jacklin?" he said. "Man, he's gonna think the German army's after him."
It was the same display of overwhelming confidence that Trevino had shown when he faced Jack Nicklaus in a playoff for the U.S. Open championship at Merion. "I believe the Mex will get big Jack today," he had said in the locker room before their playoff. And the Mex did. Two weeks later—all confidence again—he won the Canadian Open in a playoff.
Now he was in England, down at Royal Birkdale, and after three sparkling rounds of the tournament the British call simply the Open Championship, Trevino had a date with destiny. On this day he could become the fourth player—Bobby Jones, Gene Sarazen and Ben Hogan were the others—to win both U.S. and British titles in the same year. All he had to do was hold his one-stroke lead over Jacklin, the English hero, and a graceful little man named Lu Liang-huan from Taiwan. The 35-year-old Lu, who came to be called Mister Lu by just about everyone at the Open, had five times played in World Cup competition but was almost totally unknown at Birkdale. Except to Trevino, of course.
"I used to play with him in 1959, when I was a marine on Okinawa," Lee said. "I remember playing him in Taiwan one day and he beat me something like 8 and 7. He's always straight with his drives."
Even so, Trevino kissed off Lu, too. "I'm going to send Lu to the laundry," he joked, "and the German army's gonna get Jacklin."
With that, Trevino went out for his last round and the way he began to play made it look as though something far fiercer than the Wehrmacht, with the Luftwaffe thrown in, was after every other golfer on the course.
The situation was this: Jacklin was playing up ahead, just in front of Trevino and Lu, who constituted the last twosome. Trevino, 11 under par for the first three rounds, was one stroke ahead of both the Englishman and the little, hat-tipping Chinese, who was rivaling Trevino as the most incongruous sight the century-old Open had ever seen.
Trevino's first few holes that last day won the tournament for him, since they saved him when he got into serious trouble later at 17. In those early holes he breezed away from Jacklin and pulled so far ahead of the field that the Open Championship was over—unless some unforeseen horror like, say, a sandhill, crept into the script.
What Trevino did was birdie the first hole with a nifty iron out of the rough and an eight-foot putt—and this right after Jacklin had birdied it to tie momentarily for the lead. He saved his par on 2 with a 15-footer after hearing that Jacklin had double-bogeyed. He jammed an iron into the third and dropped an 8-footer for another birdie. He chipped out from under a bush at the 4th and got his par. He wedged into the 5th and dropped that one from eight feet for a third birdie, and then he absolutely destroyed the 6th, the toughest hole on the course, a cutthroat of a par 4 that had been cursed all week, even by the circumspect Lu, who had said, "Green makes putts three."
The 6th was a bad hole, a converted par 5 that called for an iron layup off the tee to avoid some crossing bunkers, and then a wood shot over a hill to a blind green. Trevino had been using a one-iron regularly and he loved the club. "I got me a one-iron I can hit 260 and right through the doorway," he bragged.