Trevino Takes on USGA, Analyzes Oak Hill, Picks Zach Johnson to Win PGA

Kathy BissellCorrespondent IAugust 5, 2013

Trevino with Corey Pavin at 2012 Ryder Cup Celebrity Captains event
Trevino with Corey Pavin at 2012 Ryder Cup Celebrity Captains eventDavid Cannon/Getty Images

Lee Trevino is never at a loss for words, which is a great thing if you're asking him to be a dinner speaker. He's been a day laborer, a struggling pro, a major-winning golfer, a television analyst, a winning senior golfer and is known—along with Greg Norman—as one of the best ball-strikers ever to play the game. This week, he will receive the 2013 Distinguished Service Award given by the PGA of America. He's always a breath of fresh air.

Trevino has a few thoughts on what is right and what is wrong with the game. He's got an opinion on the USGA, long courses and rules. He also thinks Zach Johnson is the guy to beat at Oak Hill.

Let's start with Trevino's pick.  

"There's only one guy that plays like I play, and if you look at him, I actually picked him to win the British Open," Trevino said. "Zach Johnson is a holder, he's a body hitter. He hits the ball extremely straight, and not a bad putter."

Enough said there. What about Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson and their chances?

"I still think Tiger is the best player out here," Trevino added. "I love Mickelson and I love his short game, great wedge player. I don't think there's a man that's ever lived that has ‑‑ they always talked about me being good with wedges. I don't think I could have caddied for Mickelson when it comes to hitting wedges. I mean, this guy is phenomenal, what he can do."

Trevino believes that the quest for distance by Mickelson, Woods and others has taken them in directions that create more problems for them rather than solutions.  

"I can't believe these people hit the ball as crooked as they hit it, and they win everything," he elaborated. "I would think that I would learn to hit a driver, whether it's 180 yards or whatever. I mean, it's unbelievable how crooked they hit this ball."

Most PGA Tour players, he thinks, need to shorten their swings. He said he's discussed Mickelson's backswing with Butch Harmon.

"On the backswing, they get past parallel," Trevino explained. "And when you get past parallel, your body can't wait that long for the club to get to the ball. If you remember, Doug Sanders was a great ball‑striker, and why? He had a very short backswing; he could play in a phone booth."

Exceptions, Trevino said, are John Daly and Fred Couples, who wait or pause at the top of the backswing to let their body catch up with what their hands are doing.  

In terms of what to expect at Oak Hill, Trevino says the greens will be trouble because of their subtleties.

"The hardest greens in the world to read are greens that don't have a hell of a lot of undulation. When you walk up on a green and you see a hump on the right or a hump on the left, you can tell whether you're uphill or sidehill, you can tell it's going left—you don't know how much, but you can tell it's going this way or that way," he explained. He said the greens at Oak Hill are somewhat similar to Muirfield in that regard, flatter with less defined, easy-to-see breaks. He knows because he won in both places.

Trevino said he was a great iron player but just an adequate putter.

"When I putted great, you couldn't beat me, but I was an average putter. If I would have been a putter like [Dave] Stockton, hell, no telling how many tournaments I'd have won."

He once won a tournament using a putter he found in the attic of a home he had rented for the week. It was 1974, the PGA Championship at Tanglewood Park in Clemmons, NC.

"I had the upstairs bedroom, and I saw this door, and I opened this door, and I saw, it was kind of over the garage, and there was an attic. And I saw this set of clubs lying on the floor," he recalled. Among them was a Wilson Arnold Palmer putter. "It sat perfect. It had the right loft, the right lie. It had the grip—the leather fat grip that's illegal now—it was smaller at the top and this was the grip that came on it."

They had invited the homeowner, Mrs. Mayberry, a recent widow, to come to dinner that evening, and Trevino asked if he could buy the putter. She said no, she was saving it for her son. But she said he could use the putter in the tournament.

By the time Saturday night rolled around, Trevino was in contention, and Mrs. Mayberry was back at the dinner table. She told him if he won the next day, he could keep the putter. He did and from then on, the putter became the "Mrs. Mayberry."

Finally, when it comes to pace of play and rules-making, Trevino thinks the USGA is confused and the wrong group makes rules. He thinks the USGA should regulate the length of courses. He didn't say and not putters, but as a former Champions Tour player, maybe that was on his mind.

"The problem is our designers are making golf clubs for professionals, and I don't think that they are making golf courses, they are not developing golf courses for people," he insisted. "They have got this campaign going, 'While We're Young.' What the hell does that mean? If the course is 8,000 yards long, has 400 bunkers on it, the greens are 8,000 square feet, elephants buried in them, while we're young? Are you kidding me?"

He wonders why the USGA doesn't regulate the length of golf courses if they want to do something to improve the pace of play.

"Why isn't the USGA saying the courses can't be more than 7,000 yards long?" he wondered. "They govern everything else."  

Trevino also picked on the choices the USGA has allowed in equipment in recent years, the big drivers, hot shafts, hot balls.

"I want you to look at the average handicap player in the last 15 years when all this new equipment has come along. Has not helped a damn one of them. The average handicapper is still 18.7," he said.

Today, the average golfer faces a harder golf course that he or she can't play well and certainly can't play faster, according to Trevino.

Finally, he takes issue with the USGA as the rules-making body, even though he has won a U.S. Open and a British Open. He thinks the club professionals, the PGA of America, should make the rules because they do more to grow the game and promote the game, work the game and teach the game. He cited the long hours, work over vacation days and a life of dedication that he said is chosen by PGA of America members.

"We should have a bigger voice in rules-making and what equipment we are using and stuff," he insisted. "I really believe that, because we are the ones that are promoting it and pushing it. We have got people making rules on golf balls and everything else that go to work at nine o'clock and go home at four, and they are home on holidays. We have got to get this thing right."    

Nobody ever said Lee Trevino didn't have both guts and common sense.

Kathy Bissell is a Golf Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand or from official interview materials from the USGA, PGA Tour or PGA of America.


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