SI Vault
Dan Jenkins
August 19, 1974
Cracking jokes as he went, Lee Trevino won the PGA title, even forcing a smile from old rival Jack Nicklaus, the man he beat
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August 19, 1974

He Left Them Laughing

Cracking jokes as he went, Lee Trevino won the PGA title, even forcing a smile from old rival Jack Nicklaus, the man he beat

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First, Jack's putt glided past the hole—no birdie—and he marked the ball. Now Trevino putted, nicely, and only a foot or so past the cup.

At that moment Lee glanced at Jack and the third member of the group, Hubert Green, and asked if he could putt out.

"I'm chokin' to death, men," said Lee. "Do you mind if I go ahead and straighten this thing out?"

Nicklaus and Green nodded approval, and the 56th PGA championship was over. Trevino calmly rapped in the putt for a par 4 and the type of happy smile America has not seen from him lately.

There were several reasons for Lee Trevino to smile. He had not won a tournament since March, when he captured New Orleans, and he hadn't won a major title since the summer of 1972 when he took the British Open from Nicklaus at Muirfield. This PGA, incidentally, was Trevino's fifth major championship in the eight years he has been on the tour. And as far as statistics went, there was one to be added to Nicklaus' imposing total. Everyone knows about the 14 major titles he has now collected, but few realize that Jack has also been second more times than any human. This was the 12th time Nicklaus finished as a runner-up in one of the Big Four, four of them behind Trevino. Thus, Nicklaus has been either first or second in no less than 26 major championships.

Technically, the key to Trevino's victory was in the way the golf course played. Rain turned it very soft. Therefore, the greens held almost any kind of iron shot. It was something like throwing darts. And the soggy fairways prevented many a tee shot from bouncing into the high, brutal Bermuda rough.

It was also to Lee's advantage that Tanglewood called for a fade off the tees, with the exception of two holes. Trevino's fade is as natural as his wit. Moisture on the fairways kept his low fade—the burner—from reaching the rough, and the greens held his "hot" irons, as they might not have normally.

But this is not to take anything away from the fact that he continually drove straight and slapped virtually everything at the flagsticks, even when he should have been playing a bit more cautiously. Like on Sunday.

"You can't resist trying to put it inside of a man when it's you and him," Lee said.

The PGA has a habit of going to a peculiar place now and then for the staging of its championship. It has dug up obscure courses in the past, such as Pecan Valley in San Antonio and Columbine in Denver and Llanerch in Philadelphia. This time it selected a site where the golf course had to be redesigned and an entire clubhouse had to be built. Moreover, Tanglewood was essentially a public course in Winston-Salem with no membership to employ for the volunteer labor so necessary to the running of a tournament.

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