As the world’s number one golfer attempts to reel in Jack Nicklaus, and his 18 major championships, you almost have to wonder if a victory at Merion might be at the top of Tiger Woods’ list because Jack couldn’t get er done there in 1971, and let one get away to Lee Trevino. You almost get the feeling Tiger would love to have this victory, and is going to show up on Thursday morning ready to play golf.
I’ll have to admit, up until I saw the playoff at the 1971 US Open between ‘The Merry Mex”, and The Golden Bear, I thought golf was a dumb game played by rich people. This was the tournament that sparked my interest enough to get me on a golf course, and play my first nine holes. This tournament was the beginning of a love affair that has lasted over 40 years.
With the US Open being played on Fathers Day weekend, I can’t say my day was the one that put a golf club in my hand and got me started. Being from a blue-collar family, my dad is responsible for my love of NASCAR and the love of watching the good ole Saturday Night Racing, not golf. It was Lee and Jack locked in a playoff that get me hooked.
Lee Trevino won 29 PGA Tour events during his career. He holds six major championships including two US Opens, two British Opens, and two PGA Championships. He never won a Masters to complete the career slam. Trevino beat Jack at Merion in the 1971 playoff by three strokes. Both players ended regulation play tied at even par, Trevino shot a -2 under 68, and Nicklaus shot 72 during the playoff.
Lee Trevino bogeyed the first hole of the playoff, picked up a birdie at eight(the same place Hogan got his in the 1950 playoff), and added birdies at 12 and 15 before paring out. Jack dug a hole at two and three that he spent the day trying to dig himself out of. He bogeyed the second hole and picked up a double at three.
One of the things that amazes me, is Jack Nicklaus not only won 18 major championships, he finished as a runner-up, 18 times. Six of those runner-up finishes were to Lee Trevino. The 1971 US Open at Merion was the second of the six.
The one thing Tiger Woods is, is a fierce competitor. As he has been in the shadow of the Golden Bear for most of his career, you have to think that Tiger would love to follow in Trevino’s footsteps and pick up his 15th major at a place where Jack couldn’t. Merion would provide that incentive, and I look for Tiger to be in the hunt all week. I just wonder if he has a snake in the golf bag for whoever gets close.
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