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Trevino & Graham Reflect on U.S. Open Wins at Merion
It's been 32 years since the U.S. Open was last held at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa. It was in 1981 that Australian David Graham closed with a 3-under 67 to overcome a three-shot deficit to George Burns to win his second Grand Slam title.
For Graham, now 67 and a resident at Iron Horse Golf Club in Whitefish, Mont., that was his second major title following his first in the 1979 PGA Championship at another vaunted course, Oakland Hills near Detroit.
Ten years earlier on Merion's East Course, Lee Trevino won his second U.S. Open title, one of six majors the "Merry Mex" accumulated in his stellar Hall-of-Fame career. In 1971, Trevino, now 73, tied Jack Nicklaus in regulation at even-par 280 with a 1-under 69 then beat golf's "Golden Bear" in an 18-hole Monday playoff.
The two greats got together at Merion on Tuesday to talk about their big U.S. Open victories, and revealed their thoughts about the course and how it will play this year for the 113th U.S. Open. Here's what they had to say.
LEE TREVINO: Our press conference, when Nicklaus and I were here, was on a bench in the locker room. There were four guys in there. In 1968 our press conference was in a funeral tent in the parking lot.
MODERATOR: Some of the players might argue that that's the case here this week.
LEE TREVINO: Y'all have come a long way. This is gorgeous. This is nice.
DAVID GRAHAM: My name is David Graham it's nice to see you all, I'm out of here.
LEE TREVINO: Y'all remember this guy. How are you? Nice to be here.
MODERATOR: It is my absolute pleasure to welcome the 1971 U.S. Open champion, Lee Trevino and the 1981 U.S. Open champion, David Graham. Gentlemen, thank you very much for joining us this afternoon. David, I'll start with you as the most recent of the two winners. Could you talk a little bit about your week at Merion and then certainly being back here this week?
DAVID GRAHAM: I'm also the youngest of the two of us, too. I don't know, it's just great to be back. It's great to be back at Merion, the history of Merion, it's great to be back with my buddy. God, it's been a long time.
LEE TREVINO: It has been a long time.
DAVID GRAHAM: Are you buying dinner tonight or are we splitting it?
LEE TREVINO: I'm not buying nothing. I came to receive.
DAVID GRAHAM: No, we had a great time. My son's here, we walked around the golf course, we loved it. I loved the changes. It really helps offset the new equipment and the distance the ball goes. Stuff like that. The course is in immaculate condition, given the weather that it's been through the last couple of days. And if we don't get any more rain, the wind blows a little bit like it did this afternoon, it will firm up the golf course a little bit and make it play nice. It's nice to go back to the clubhouse and I'm looking forward to the dinner tonight, which is going to be pretty special. So it's fun. I'm glad I came.
MODERATOR: Mr. Trevino, could I ask you to share some thoughts about being back at Merion and what it's like to be back for this week?
LEE TREVINO: Well, I'm having a wonderful time.
DAVID GRAHAM: You only just got here, for crying out loud.
LEE TREVINO: I know and I'm still trying to figure out what her last name is. I know I fell in love with her when I was here. But what a magnificent golf course. And we have talked about this course for probably going on a year now and I've done a lot of interviews and what have you about how Merion was going to fare. And I made the statement and I'm sure it's been repeated numerous times, and I said, if the USGA can control the water to this golf course, it will hold up. The fear is we have so many par 4s here in the 300 something range that are not over 400 yards and these players will take advantage. But they better be straight with it. Because I know this rough is about five inches tall right now but by Sunday it's going to be seven inches tall. And if the wind keeps blowing, it will probably play like Merion should play Sunday.
The greens, as I've heard they're already up to 13.5, so but I don't know, the pressure of this tournament actually puts a little more yardage on this golf course. It means something. And I'm just so glad to be part of it and to be here for a very short time, but believe me, when I go home I'm going to be watching to see how Merion holds up. Yeah, it's going to be a wonderful, wonderful tournament.
MODERATOR: Again, such a pleasure to have you both here. I would like to turn it over to questions.
Q. Removing the golf course, what are some of the most identifiable sort of quirks about Merion? When you think about Merion what are some of the things you think about?
DAVID GRAHAM: One thing I think about is the wicker baskets. I think about how unique that is to look on the tee and go down there and not see a flag stick, you see a wicker basket. Which is really cool. I think the Merion logo in itself is just wonderful. You see it on the shirts and everything, but when I think of Merion, I think of history.
LEE TREVINO: I think about the guy that I beat. (Laughter.) When you mention Merion I say, yeah, that's where I beat that guy. Yeah, that's it, in the playoff. But I have to endorse what David said. But the thing that intrigues me more about this golf course than most others is that it's a proven fact that you can have a golf course that's under 7,000 yards long and bring a U.S. Open to it and still challenge a golf professional. And that is living proof and architects from all over the world should come and see something like this. And it shows you that you don't really have to build a golf course that's a hundred yards wide fairways, and the greens are 12,000 square feet, and it has to be 7,600 yards, 8,000 yards long. You can still build something on 115 acres which will challenge the best.
And don't go by what they score here this week, simply because Merion may not have its teeth in because of the wetness. They have small greens here, it's going to be a big premium on driving the ball here. These guys hit it a long way, I don't think they will some of them will get behind a little bit and probably Sunday if they're way back you'll see them pulling out those drivers on most of these par 4s to see if they can make a move. And then that's going to be really interesting also. So that's what I think of Merion.
Q. David and Lee, we could have a very interesting finish here because we're going to get rain on Thursday, but then it's going to dry up. So the potential for mud balls on the weekend is huge. I just wonder for both of you how do you feel about a tournament maybe of this stature being decided by how much mud is on the ball and how to deal with mud balls from players on Sunday afternoon.
DAVID GRAHAM: Well, I'll answer that and I just that's golf. It's just the luck of the draw. You get a good lie, you get a bad lie, you see two guys drive it 275, 300 yards, one finishes in a divot, the other one's got a perfect lie. So it's the rub of the green and maybe that's one of the facets of golf that make it so intriguing is to be able to play and adapt to those kinds of things. I think that happens really every week that it rains on any golf course. So I don't think this week's an exception.
Q. But on the PGA Tour they would play lift, clean and place. In these situations, Lee, do you feel that -
LEE TREVINO: Well, I had an advantage in the mud. I hit a low ball. Very seldom my ball ever picked up mud because I went so low that it cleaned itself before it stopped rolling. You think about that. You think that's funny, but it's true. And you have to adapt your game to that. If your ball starts picking up mud out there and you're going up here, brother, you better bring this baby down here (Indicating). And the lower you hit it, it's not going to pick up mud because it will absolutely clean itself before. All this theory about, oh, if the mud's on the right it will go left and if the mud's on the left it will go left and believe me, that's a bunch of baloney. You don't know where the hell it's going to go when that mud is on there. But where it's really difficult is you do pick up mud on the ball if you have a wedge shot in, and it's on the hitting surface. It's very difficult to, in other words, to get the right distance off that particular shot. But that's one of the reasons that I played so well when it was wet. Also, here's the only time that we were off when we were working is when it was raining and it was muddy and the course was closed, so we could go out and play. But I learned to play that way simply because I didn't like that mud on the ball. So I bring the ball down. Just hit it low. You won't pick up any mud. No.
Q. A question on golf architecture. There's 115 yard par 3 here and there's some long par 3s, too, but there's a very, very short par 3. What do you think about that hole and your memories of No. 13?
LEE TREVINO: Well the par 3s, I don't think that 17 played the distance that it's playing today. 13 was a relatively short hole. We were actually hitting 9 irons to it. There's a tremendous amount of pressure when you stand the thing about a U.S. Open is that when you go to that tee, and in the back of your mind you know that if you miss that fairway that's a possible bogey. It's going to be a very difficult par if you miss the fairway. Not so much on all the other tournaments that you play, they just bomb it out there and it doesn't they don't worry about it, the greens are bigger.
Par 3s are the same, even if they're short or they're long. Actually the longer ones we don't have as much pressure because if we hit a shot that strays a little left or a little right, well, that's okay, we're hitting a hybrid or a wood in there. But when you come to a par 3 like 13, it's a moving hole if you can make two on it. And if you make bogey on it, you really feel bad because what is it playing 127 or something like that? But believe me, that's not the easiest hole out here. And there's a tremendous amount of pressure on a little hole like that. I wouldn't be surprised if you you might see a couple of hole in ones there this year. These guys are good, just like the commercial says. They're good.
Q. Lee, test your memory. But your good friend Dick Martin, I've read gave you a lesson before you played here or a tip. Do you remember that?
LEE TREVINO: No, yeah, no, I don't remember that because he didn't give me a lesson. (Laughter.) That's why I don't remember it. (Laughter.) You have the names mixed up. His name was Dennis Lavender. He was the pro at Cedar Crest he was Ben Hogan's best friend. And I was before I went to Oak Hill, in '68 he gave me a putter. And then when I came here to Merion, he was telling me to work on my driver, he said, because it's a very it's not a real long golf course, but it's very demanding off the tee, it's got very small greens. And he said if you can drive the ball in the fairway, he said, you got a shot. But when I came in here I was playing extremely well. I was disappointed in 1970. Between April and April where you used to qualify for the Tournament of Champions I did not win a tournament that year. And instead of the Tournament of Champions I ended up at Tallahassee. And I won Tallahassee and I won Memphis and a couple others, I think or one more before I came here.
And the thing that I was doing extremely well when I came here was putting. I was putting the eyes off the ball. And that's why when I left here I won here and then I won in Canada and I won in the British Open. And in four week span. And it was because of the flat stick. As far as hitting the ball, I've never varied much. My variation of hitting the ball was never I kind of pecked it out there from left to right and I then I pecked it on the green from left to right. I was a pretty good bunker player, not the greatest, but I was good. I had a great wedge game. From a hundred yards in I was pretty good. I was pretty good.
Q. Second question, the dinner tonight, neither of you have had that opportunity to enjoy the Masters dinner? What does the dinner tonight mean to you?
DAVID GRAHAM: I think it's I think they have like 28 past champions at the dinner. I think it will be a night to be remembered.
LEE TREVINO: It will be nice just to you know, at this time in your life it's so great that the USGA assembled this group because we don't get a chance to see each other. We don't get much of a chance to visit each other. I saw Jack Fleck out there awhile ago. What is he, 92, 93 years old. What did he win? '56 I think he beat Hogan in a playoff. I mean, Billy Casper. He's there. Haven't seen him in a while. Lou Graham. We don't see much of Lou Graham. I actually think that most of the guys are there, if not all, for the exception of Gary, Gary is in Europe, so wasn't able to make it. But I don't know if Johnny Miller is going to be here or not, I haven't seen him. But this is what it does: We tell the same stories but we have forgotten them. We tell the same jokes but we have forgotten them. We all laugh like hell. But it's going to be a lot of fun. Going to be a lot of fun just to see these guys and we thank the USGA for doing that for us.
Q. In 1971 Jim Simons shot 75 as an Amateur I believe you played with him in the same group that day and just The Open he had, the amateur in '71.
LEE TREVINO: Well, you know, when I played with Jim, he was an amateur and he was, he could play. He could really play. He was very good with the driver, he was a good putter and he was very meticulous when it came to putting he got in and made sure his weight was here and there and I never did do that, I hit it as fast as I could. But I thought he had an excellent chance of winning. I really did. And he was in there up until the last day on the last few holes. The one that I had forgotten that was in there was Colbert. Colbert was in there too. But Jim, I saw him later in life when he had almost, when he had lost his eyesight. And he could still see a little bit. But not great. Couldn't play any more. Because of that. But I thought he was a fine player. I really did. I think that if he wouldn't have had the health problems he would have made a great professional. I really do.
Q. Considering what you were saying before about the course and everything, does it surprise either of you that it's 32 years since they have come back here? Why do you think it is, is that something that hopefully they're not going to wait another 32?
LEE TREVINO: 32 for him?
Q. Well, since they just played the U.S. Open here. 32 years since the U.S. Open was held here?
LEE TREVINO: Oh since it was held here?
LEE TREVINO: Yeah I don't know what happened here. I thought that it probably should have been back before then. I have no answer for you there. But I'm certainly glad it's here now. And it's gotten a tremendous amount of media, thanks to all you guys and the television and everybody. It's really been on TV and stuff and I think that the interest this week it wouldn't surprise me if we didn't have the greatest ratings ever in a U.S. Open this week. Yeah.
Q. David, talk about the 32 years.
DAVID GRAHAM: Well, I think it's great that these old courses can still host a major championship, if they come in and put in a couple of bunkers and put some new tees in, lengthen it out to offset the distance, I think the players are already excited about being here. This is a classic golf course and these guys are shot makers. Nothing better than to hit great shots on a classic golf course. So hopefully the powers to be will continue to find these traditional great courses like Oakmont and Oakland Hills and figure out a way that logistically they can host a major championship, because I think it's great that you have a Tiger Woods walking the same fairways that a Hogan walked. What's that, 70 years ago? So here you've got the greatest player in modern day golf playing a golf course that Hogan played. I think that's fantastic. I think that's great for the game and it's great that we as players have the ability to watch how they play today compared to the way we used to play. And I think that makes the game very exciting and I hope the USGA keeps finding these classic golf courses where the modern day player can see how great the architecture of these courses really are. So it's a wonderful comparison and I think that's what Lee said. We're all sitting on our kind of chairs I asked somebody what's the winning score and people say I have no clue. I mean it's going to be a little bit lower than I think what it would have been had it not rained because the greens are so receptive. But I tell you, a couple of trips into that rough off the tee ball and you're going to realize how tough this course is pretty quick.
LEE TREVINO: Where the softness helps you more than the greens is actually if you fade it or hook the ball over-hooked it or overcooked it, either left to right or right to left, with a soft fairway the ball will stop before it gets to the rough. When the fairways are firm, and that ball has too much of a turn on it one way or the other, it will run into the tall rough. So don't think that it's just going to be the greens are receptive here, because it's not. It's the fairway. It starts from the tee. And actually the USGA prides themselves on making narrow fairways and what happens is when you get this much rain it actually adds width to them, even though it's not there, because of the shot that's moving one way or the other it won't run into the rough. And that's the difference.
DAVID GRAHAM: And I think No. 12 is a perfect example of that. Where you've got that big sloping fairway where if it's hard and fast, you've got to aim it down the left side and you've got to be able to maneuver the ball to land it in the left edge of the fairway so it's got room to run out. But now a shot that's pushed a little bit to the right's going to hit that slope and it's going to stay on the fairway, which is exactly what you're saying.
Q. Lee, do you still have the snake? It's kind of like Hogan's 1 iron.
LEE TREVINO: It died. It's been 42 years ago. No snakes live 42 years. (Laughter.) Come on, man. Where the hell what did they teach you in journalism school? Not about snakes, right?
Q. What did you do with it?
LEE TREVINO: It died. (Laughter.)
Q. David, when Adam won the Masters this year -
LEE TREVINO: I've been watching you guys, I've been watching you on the channel and y'all are asking too many silly questions. (Laughter.)
Q. When Adam won the Masters this year it was first Aussie to win the Masters. You were the first Aussie to win the U.S. Open. There was euphoria back home for him. What was the reaction in Australia for you?
DAVID GRAHAM: I think similar. I think that it's great that golf has become such a global sport. I think that everybody that plays competitively, and we all saw what happened to Adam Scott at the Open Championship, we all dreaded that ever happening to us. And to see someone that's got the golf game and the fortitude and the heart and the guts and the desire to put that behind them and come back and win a major championship is a true testament to his abilities mentally and skill wise. It's great. European golfers are great. Golf has become a global sport. And I think that you've got to look back to when Palmer and Nicklaus and Player Gary Player won seven Australian Opens in the late '60s through the mid '70s. I mean traveling from South Africa. We didn't have non stop flights from Jo Berg to Sidney in those days. Trevino came and played in Australia. That's where guys of my era, that's where we saw the best players play. Jack Nicklaus won six Australian Opens in the late '60s and '70s.
So guys that were like 10 years behind those folks, we got to stand there and watch these guys. So it's great to see that the game has become such a global sport. And it's great that we see modern day players continuing to make it a global sport by going overseas and showing the world what great golf is. It's a wonderful thing to see. I never thought I would see in my life time where I think six of the Top 10 players were from Europe. And if you would have told me that 30 years ago, I would have said you've got to be kidding. No one envisioned the game would grow as much as it has and it's great for the sport.
Q. Could either of you ever imagine a competition golf ball?
LEE TREVINO: I don't think you need a competition golf ball, I think that if I think if you feel like that the game has that the golf courses are overrun by these young people, and they are better, I think there as good, I think that a few of us were as good as they are. But I think they're deeper. They're taller. They're more in shape. They learned to play with the core which we never played with the core, we played with our knees. This is where they're getting the speed from. This is one, we couldn't figure out how Ian Woosnam could hit it so far as a little guy and he was the one that locked up that knee which made his hips and his shoulders turn faster. And that's what Tiger did. Remember I made statement I said it's like a car going to red light at a hundred miles an hour and screeching. I said he's going to blow that knee out and he'll do it again and again and again if he doesn't learn to hit with an a little broken knee. Nelson did it probably as good as anyone. That's how we learned to play.
And these guys are getting better and better and they're longer and longer and the ball has made the big change. And it's not the equipment, it's the ball. Because I tell amateurs, I said you keep talking about this equipment, it hasn't helped you a damn bit. Your handicap is still 18.7. Even though you got the big headed clubs, the graphite shafts, the ball that goes four miles and all this stuff. Your handicap is still high. It helped the professional because he can hit the ball harder and it doesn't turn as much. The only solution to this ball business is to go bigger. Is to go 1.72. We had one at Spaulding many, many years ago. And a lot of people liked it, to tell you the truth. It makes the hole smaller, more wind resistant. The only the only drawback they're going to be able to do with it.
Q. For elite players or for everybody?
LEE TREVINO: I think everybody. They used to have the small ball everybody played with. Do you remember? Everybody played with the what was it, 1.62 or something. Then it went to 1.680. And now if you are talking about bringing some of these golf courses back, the only way you're going to be able to do it, it's not the anchoring, it's not this, it's not that, it's the ball. It's that that's what it is. It's the ball. And the ball's going to have to come back somehow. And Nicklaus told them 30 years ago about it. And I think that the only solution is that they're going to have to go to a bigger ball which is a 1.72. Yeah.
Q. David, do you have thoughts about that is well?
DAVID GRAHAM: Well, I certainly don't disagree, but I think that's a great idea. I just am concerned with the importance of the game for what the pros do and the scores they shoot versus how the amateurs we need more people to play golf. Golf is not going to change whether somebody wins this tournament with 268 or 272. What we need to figure out is away to get more younger people into the game. I don't think we should concern ourselves with winning scores. These are the best players in the world. So if somebody can go out there and shoot 62 or 63, God bless them. But we still need to be able to promote the game. And I think that these guys promote the game simply because amateurs can buy a ticket to this tournament and see the game played at a level that they only ever dream of. So if you consider it a form of exhibition golf, which in some regards it is, I don't think the winning score's that relevant. I think these guys are putting on a show and it's the best show in town and it's the best show in golf and I think that's not a big deal.
And we all talk about winning scores, I think it makes the game more popular if somebody shoots a low score. But I do think that they could adjust the ball. They hit it a very long way. But you also have to put in the equation these guys are putting on much better surfaces than we ever putted on. We never putted on these guys putt on good greens every week.
LEE TREVINO: They're tees are better.
DAVID GRAHAM: They're tees are better. They all have different strokes. You don't see anybody out there making any money with a pop stroke any more they all have that fluid stroke. And once they get the speed, they putt on good greens every week, which we were lucky if we putted on good greens three or four times a year. So they're playing on much better conditioned courses, which allows their skill to be enhanced.
LEE TREVINO: Believe me, if someone shoots really low here, they won't refuse the trophy. (Laughter.) They say, no, I shot too low, I'm not taking it. Give it to somebody else. Give it to the guy who shot 281.
DAVID GRAHAM: Give it to somebody else.
LEE TREVINO: Yeah. They're not going to do that.
MODERATOR: I know I speak for everyone, here we could probably sit here all afternoon and share their thoughts and experiences so thank you for joining us. It's a thrill for everyone here and we wish you well and thank you for coming out here this week.
LEE TREVINO: Well, thank you.
DAVID GRAHAM: Thank you.
LEE TREVINO: I see a couple more familiar faces. He probably can't even walk any more.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.