Everybody figured he would be a huge success on the Senior PGA Tour, but Lee Trevino is cramming a season of excellence into a month. Already a winner of two tournaments and $160,000 in his rookie season, Trevino continued his hot play in the first round of the Chrysler Cup on Thursday by making six birdies and helping the United States to a 12-4 lead over an International team of senior golfers.
"I'm still playing very well," said Trevino, after teaming with partner Chi Chi Rodriguez to defeat Bob Charles and Bruce Crampton 4 and 2. "I'm in a groove. Hopefully it will stay for a long time. I've got a lot of confidence right now in everything _ bunkers, chipping, putting. A lot of confidence."
Trevino is unused to match play, but it didn't bother him on Thursday in gusting winds at the Tournament Players Club at Prestancia. The format was team best-ball match play, where the low score
among teammates counts for the hole. Victories were determined by number of holes won, not by strokes.
Each match was worth four points. Gary Player and Harold Henning took the only International victory with a 2 and 1 win (meaning they were up by two holes with only one to play) over Miller Barber and Don Bies. Arnold Palmer and Orville Moody defeated Peter Thomson and Roberto De Vicenzo 1-up and Al Geiberger and Dave Hill defeated Billy Dunk and Bruce Devlin 4 and 3.
The wind gusted up to 40 mph but that was of little concern to Trevino, always known as one of the game's best wind players.
"I like the wind," he said. "The harder it blows, the more I like it. It makes you concentrate more. You're hitting golf shots you normally don't hit when it blows that hard. You're hitting shots that are damn-near ridiculous."
One was the 6-iron Trevino hit from 112 yards on the par-4 ninth hole. That would be like a baseball player hitting home runs over a wall just behind the infield. But with the wind, Trevino _ who would normally hit an easy pitching wedge from that distance _ punched his shot 8 feet behind the hole for a birdie.
He also birdied the 10th hole after needing a 6-iron for a 134-yard shot. That put him and Rodriguez up by two. Trevino closed out the match with a 25-foot birdie putt at the 16th.
Trevino's play had Rodriguez, who made two birdies, in awe. "I never went on vacation as far as he hits it," quipped Chi Chi. "We have three tours. The senior tour, the super-senior tour and the Lee Trevino tour."
Trevino will go head-to-head today against Charles, the 1989 Senior PGA Tour money leader, in individual match play competition. Each match is worth two points, so 16 points will again be at stake today.
The Palmer-Moody victory on Thursday was not easy. They were behind most of the day because the 67-year-old De Vicenzo kept making miraculous birdies and pars. The Americans didn't take the lead until Moody made a 20-foot putt at the 17th hole.
The match came down to the 18th hole, where all four players had birdie putts. Thomson's was the closest, but the five-time British Open champ missed a 5-footer that would have tied the match and narrowed the score to 10-6.
Geiberger and Hill were never seriously threatened in their victory over Devlin and Dunk. The Americans lost only one hole all day and closed the match after the 15th hole.
Player, the International captain, and Henning won their match over Barber and Bies when Henning made a 2-foot birdie putt at the 17th hole. The turning point for them was at the 15th, where with the match even and Henning's second shot in the water, Player decided to go for the par-5 in two.
Standing 238 yards from the hole, Player carried his 3-wood shot 1 foot over the water and onto the green. He two-putted for a birdie and the lead.
"We played the outstanding shots just at the right time when we needed them," Henning said.
They'll need more of those shots if they are to upset the Americans, who lead the series 3-1. The United States team has more depth and the streaking Trevino. But most of the points are available over the weekend, when they compete for 28 on Saturday in team best-ball stroke play competition and 40 on Sunday in individual stroke (medal) play matches.