Golf / 123rd Open: Of bunkers, banter and one birdie: It is a long time since Lee Trevino won the championship, or even threatened to, but he still talks a good round

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The Independent Online
THERE was a bit of a traffic jam on the 15th tee, and the elderly gentleman with greying hair was in the mood for a natter. Lee Trevino invariably is.

'Crazy money, man,' he told Darren Clarke. 'Do you know how much I've earned on the Senior Tour this year?' The 25-year-old Ulsterman (who will have to wait another 25 years before he qualifies for a tilt at the seniors' swag) did not.

'One million dollars, man. In five months. Is that crazy money or what?'

Clarke agreed that it was. Trevino then got on with his round, a 75. Another one of those today will book him an early flight home, and some not very crazy money. His 1994 earnings, in fact, will have risen to a million dollars - and pounds 600.

The 1971 and 1972 Open champion had a feeling it was not going to be his day. Walking from the putting green to the first tee, he gazed wistfully at the course and bemoaned the fact that it was not the same colour as his brown trousers. 'Remember Birkdale?' he asked the marshal. 'Dust on every shot. Even the greens were brown. Too much irrigation now. No bump and run any more. It's still a great championship, but . . .'

After his opening drive, which plopped into a brown area known as a bunker, the 54-year-old Trevino was even more convinced it was not going to be his day. If the shot pleased anyone, it was the man who responded to the R and A's advertisement in 'Greenkeepers' Monthly' and found himself assigned to raking duties. This was an early chance to smooth out the great man's footprints, and Trevino - having hacked out sideways - rather startled him by saying 'thank you', as though he had just helped an old lady across the road.

The bunker raker had described himself on the first tee as 'more nervous than the players' but if he began the round off a handicap of, say, 24, after half a dozen holes with Trevino he was already down to scratch. As the bunker raker descended for the fourth time, Trevino apologised for over-working him. 'Hell, I should have brought my own rake.'

Conversationally, Trevino had been slow out of the traps, and on the fifth tee appeared to connect this to the fact that he was two over par. An official 'quiet please' as he teed up his ball was enough to get the larynx working.

'Hell, don't worry about that. At my age I can't hear anything.' Trevino then spanked one down the middle, and then demonstrated that at his age, he can't see anything either.'

'Where'd it go?' he enquired, as the ball disappeared into a bunker in front of the green. 'Bunker? What? Hell, I didn't know there was one there. Hell, I was hitting that thing in low. I didn't know about any bunker.' This was not jovial badinage, either. His remarks were adressed to Willie Aitchison, his Open caddie since 1968, and Willie had omitted to alert his man to the blind hazard.

Willie declined to make any verbal riposte, neither did he have to. He smiled at his employer as if to say: 'Sorry sir, but after three practice rounds, I rather thought you might have been aware that there was a bloody large hole between yourself and the flag.'

Were Trevino not such a quick player, no fiddling around with practice swings or throwing up bits of grass, he might have avoided it. Faldo or Langer would have known whether there was a hidden buttercup in the way, never mind a bunker. It was also a ghastly lie, and he took two to get out. More work for the raker.

Striding down the eighth fairway, Trevino took time out from nattering in Spanish with the third member of the group, Miguel Jimenez, to chat to Clarke's caddie. For some reason, the conversation revolved around Peter Alliss. 'As good as anyone in his day,' Trevino said. 'Helluva striker of the ball. Couldn't putt to save his life though.'

Faldo once said of Alliss, 'he climbs a set of stairs to a commentary box and suddenly he's an expert', but Trevino clearly thinks of Alliss as a man who knows what he's talking about.

On to the ninth, which sticks out into the ocean, and where, when the wind gets up, hymns are sung for 'those in peril on the tee'. When you get there, however, you find the real peril is in the form of a noxious smell of sewage, which rather detracts from the romantic image of the hole known as 'Bruce's Castle'. It was here that Trevino lit the first of his two cigarettes of the round, one more than his birdie total. Clarke and Jimenez, however, scarcely hit a ball without checking which way the wind was blowing their smoke.

On the 15th tee, Trevino lit his second, which was not surprising in view of the fact that they were there for a good 15 minutes. Having appraised Clarke of his Senior Tour earnings, Trevino then got into aeroplanes.

'Woosie still got his? A lot of guys in the States have got one. Chi Chi, Floyd. I fly mine everywhere. My five- year-old acts as the stewardess. I have a lady friend in Kansas City just bought one for 25 million dollars. Know how old she is?'

Clarke didn't.

'Eighty. Eighty years old. Hell,' he chuckled, 'she only uses it to do her shopping.' Clarke smiled. If he was thinking, 'perhaps she could buy you a rake', he didn't say it.

(Photograph omitted)