My Greatest Shot
Lee Trevino
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My Greatest Shot

When it comes to Lee Trevino’s win at Muirfield in 1972, it is hard to pick just one shot out.

The man they called the Merry Mex produced moment of magic after moment of magic throughout his weekend in becoming the first man to claim back-to-back wins at The Open since Arnold Palmer.

His short game had by then become the best in the world, and to hold off a charging Jack Nicklaus – who was on for a Grand Slam that year – and home favourite Tony Jacklin it needed to be.

He holed a scarcely believable five chips from off the green during that wonderful week at Muirfield – a course Trevino had never been to before – but there is one that everyone remembers. 

The set-up

That final round at Muirfield could not have been more beautifully poised. 

Nicklaus was making a customary Sunday charge from six shots back while Jacklin and Trevino in the final pairing were involved in a matchplay battle for the ages. 

Trevino had been on the ropes a number of times that week against the Englishman who was being roared on by the British support. 

It had taken an astonishing back nine in the third round for Trevino to keep pace, he birdied holes 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18 to shoot 30 on the back nine and that had included two absurd chips, one from a bunker that bounced once and plopped straight into the hole and one on 18 from the fringe that took him into the final day on a high.  

All that meant that, on the tee box at 17 in the final round, Trevino and Jacklin were tied at six-under with Nicklaus in the clubhouse a shot behind. 

It's your Open, Tony

What unfolded from then has gone down in golfing folklore. 

The Gods had been smiling on Trevino all weekend, but when his tee shot found a bunker on the par-five 17th it appeared his fun was at an end.

Trevino then had to hack his way to the rough behind the green in four while the composed Jacklin was just short of the green in two. 

Trevino was all at sea to save his par while Jacklin needed to get up and down for his birdie. A two-shot swing looked on the cards. 

But what happened next will never be forgotten by all who saw it – least of all Jacklin who admitted his career was never the same after this defeat. 

Trevino had already metaphorically handed the title to Jacklin on the walk to the green, ‘It’s your Open Tony’. Mind games? They didn’t call him the Merry Mex for nothing. Trevino loved to stir the pot.

But he could walk the walk as well as talk the talk. 

As he remembered afterwards: ‘Let me tell you something, my chili was hot, I was mad. But I hadn’t quit. I chipped in five times that week. The one at 17 was the killer.”

Moment of magic

Jacklin’s third was left much shorter than he would have liked, indeed Trevino was probably closer but from the off the green, so the Englishman waved him through. 

Then without much hesitation, on a downhill lie and out of thick rough, Trevino produced the deftest of touches from the most difficult of lies. 

The ball skipped, bounced and rolled on the baked Muirfield turf, and found its way inexorably into the cup. 

Trevino had run out of celebrations by this point. His latest miracle left him momentarily stunned where in round three he had been pumping fists and throwing his clubs in celebration. 

But it mattered not how the chip affected Trevino, it was Jacklin who could not compute it. 

Finishing the job

Somehow, Trevino had saved his par but Jacklin had a 15-footer for his birdie which would still have put him back in the outright lead. 

However, his head was clearly still swimming. His putt went three foot past the hole and then, as the tension ratcheted up, his return for par didn’t even hit the hole. 

Almost inexplicably, Trevino was now a shot clear when it looked like he would be at least one shot down playing 18.

Jacklin did not recover, bogeying 18 to end up third in the end while Trevino now had a Muirfield win to add to his Birkdale triumph the year before. 

Before 1972, Trevino had never set foot on the course at Muirfield. 

But by the time he left, it was clear he was a fans’ favourite and more importantly he had Lady Luck on his side as well. 

Yet the self-made magician who had risen from humble beginnings to become one of the all-time greats had earned that slice of fortune. 

This was his fourth major, his second Claret Jug and one that will never be forgotten.