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Sheriff Coody interrupts the showdown at Firestone
Curry Kirkpatrick
September 20, 1971
There they were, showdowning it again. Supermex versus the Gringo Kid. Captain Appendectomy meets the Mod Blond. Healing Scar against Golden Bear. In short, another chapter in the continuing saga of Lee Trevino and Jack Nicklaus, head to head for supremacy on the golf course and, with their disparate life-styles, personalities and backswings constantly intruding, another sampling of delightful incongruity.
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September 20, 1971

Sheriff Coody Interrupts The Showdown At Firestone

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At times during the two days, Nicklaus played as if he expected one of Trevino's snakes to come thrashing after him at any moment. Trevino himself looked as if he were swinging at a Vida Blue changeup. Though he birdied the first two holes on Saturday, he ran into difficulty and lost the fairway so regularly that one man in the gallery called out: "Hey look, it's Tree Levino."

If Trevino was never truly in contention, Nicklaus and Crampton were, right up to the final hole. After trailing Coody by three strokes the first day, Nicklaus made an eagle to Coody's double bogey on the 2nd hole Sunday, and suddenly it was even. Two holes later he took the lead, but Coody was back in front again at the turn. Crampton kept pecking away and when he made birdies at 16 and 17, he was tied with Nicklaus, one stroke behind Coody. But the Masters champion, faced with a delicate wedge from the rough at 18, gunned it close like a sheriff should and claimed the $50,000 reward.

Yet it was not Coody's win but an incident on the 13th hole on Saturday that somehow epitomized this World Series.

Television instructs the players to wear the same colors each day—for spotting purposes—including Friday when they run through a practice round; "rehearsal" to the TV people. At that time stopwatches are used, interviews are conducted and everything is turned out just so. On Saturday, however, at the 13th hole, just as Trevino was addressing a wedge shot, Don Higley, the TV coordinator whose job it is to keep track of the pace of the play and to communicate with the NBC "men in the booth" by walkie-talkie, suddenly ran at Trevino calling to him to "stop, stop, we're not on the air." Lee backed off the ball and slammed down his wedge in disgust. When the cameras were ready, Trevino half-shanked the shot and bogeyed the hole.

NBC later explained that Higley's instructions, garbled in the transmission, were to wait for Trevino to hit and then to hold up the other players for a station break. It is doubtful whether the interruption had as much bearing on his score as Lee insisted ("I didn't hit another good shot the rest of the way"). But Higley's frantic manner in commanding the golfers when to hit and, especially, his attitude in analyzing the incident later left much to be desired.

Lee Trevino acknowledged that "without TV we'd all be on vacation. I'd be willing to wait anytime but I was just about to pull the trigger. After all, this is still a golf tournament. Isn't my game the most important thing there?"

"No," said Higley, when asked the same question later. "I had to weigh the risk of upsetting all of Lee's TV fans who would miss the shot or risk upsetting Lee. The decision was important. Maybe I chose wrong."

Obviously so. Then again, what does Tree Levino know?

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