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Trevino's dismantling of Jacklin


In the years when the Nedbank Golf Challenge was known as the Million Dollar and access to exclusive areas was less strictly demarcated, it used to be the custom of some of us golfing hacks covering the tournament to gather for "moon-risers", because we would stay until long after the sun had set, on the stoep of the Gary Player Country Club.

On one such occasion fellow golf writer Adrian Frederick and I ended up in a group of sages exchanging reminisces about great events and humorous incidents they had experienced travelling the fairways of the world. There was the generous patron of South African golf Uncle George Blumberg, respected correspondents from two great London broadsheets Peter Dobereiner (The Observer) and Michael Williams (The Telegraph) and Tony Jacklin, winner of the British and United States Open championships and about to become the captain under whom Britain and Europe's fortunes would change in the Ryder Cup.

The mood was light-hearted - Uncle George told a wonderful tale about coming across Henry Longhurst standing grimly in the telephone booth in the Rusacks Hotel alongside St Andrews' 18th hole and the venerated BBC commentator and The Times correspondent complaining that "this is the slowest bloody lift I've ever been in!" - but a story about Lee Trevino changed Jacklin's demeanour.

He became earnest and candidly, almost in the manner of a confessional, revealed to us how Trevino's fun-loving, ebullient, perhaps over-the-top, nature had got under his skin and how losing to the Mexican in The Open at Muirfield had ended his career as a major contender.

In the last round of the 1972 Open, Muirfield's 17th hole was the setting for one of the most dramatic turns of fortune in championship golf.

Jacklin and Trevino were level on the tee needing, as it proved, two pars to beat Jack Nicklaus (who had finished with a 66). Trevino pulled his tee-shot into one of the bunkers down the left-hand side, exploded out, slashed a wood into the rough short and to the left of the green and walked after his ball looking a dejected and defeated man, lying three.

Jacklin had followed a fine drive into the fairway with another good shot to the perfect position for his third shot.

Next Trevino seemed to thin his fourth shot over the green and his ball settled in the scruffy grass beyond the fringe.

Lying four it seemed certain he would drop at least one shot, unless he chipped in, or perhaps even two and be behind playing the last as Jacklin's approach, although not as sweet a shot as he would have wanted, was lying handily around 15ft from the pin, and it seemed the worst he could do was a two-putt par five.

But even before Jacklin could mark his ball Trevino played his chip. He gave it an almost cursory rap and it was travelling quite quickly when it hit the flag and disappeared into the hole.

Jacklin, sitting on the bank behind the green watching, was visibly stunned at this turn of events and proceeded to rush his putt for the birdie, miss the short one coming back and it was the Englishman who suddenly found himself trailing as they went to the last.

The jovial Mexican was on a high and proceeded to make the par he needed to shut Jacklin out, with the Englishman dropping another shot to fall behind Nicklaus into third place.

That night at Sun City we sat silently listening as Jacklin admitted that that was the straw that broke the camel's back. It is too long ago to recall his exact words but it was something along the lines of, "after that I was never the same again; something went out of me. The flame went out and I was just not able to rekindle that competitive streak that had always driven me."

Jacklin never again finished inside the Top 10 in a major, while for Trevino it represented back-to-back British Open wins and his fourth career major.

He would end up with six.

Jacklin will be attending this year's Open in his capacity as a Glenmorangie ambassador, where hopefully there will be the opportunity of an interview and a picture opportunity with Nick Faldo and Justin Rose who recently at Merion became the first Englishman in 43 years, since Jacklin at Medinah in 1970, to win the US Open.

I will be able to remind Jacklin that his first victory as a professional came in South Africa in an event called the Kimberley 4000 - because the purse, put up by De Beers, was R4 000!

It came in unusual circumstances. Harold Henning had raced away from the field with opening rounds of 66, 66 (I think) but then requested an early tee-off time on the Saturday (in those days the pros played two rounds on the Saturday) so that he could catch a plane and make his connections on his way to the Far East.

Henning seemed a shoo-in, whizzed around the course in 72, 71 (again if memory serves), packed his bags and departed. But now enter a young Englishman from Scunthorpe called Tony Jacklin.

Jacklin matched Henning's pair of 66s on the final day to tie and with the South African not present to contest a play-off it was decided to declare Jacklin the winner.

Each week Dan Retief, in association with Glenmorangie, will be bringing you a new Open Championship column as we build up to the Muirfield event that starts on Thursday, July 18.


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