Lee Trevino, the champion of 1971-72, arrived this morning for one day of hurried preparation for the 106th Britain open golf championship, which begins Wednesday on a course never before used for the ultimate test of links golf; the 6,875-yard, Parto Ailsa course of the Turnberry Hotel.
Trevino's coming is always a time of mirth, if no longer championship golf, and he was exceedingly chipper after arriving at Prestwick airport - in the town where the open was first played in 1860 - at 7:40 a.m. following a circuitous journey from Milwaukee.
Trevino, 37, played in the greater Milwaukee open last week because the believes golf's big names should support their share of smaller tournaments. Rain delayed the event, and "Super Mex" had a 26-hour layover in Montreal because of an air traffic controllers' strike in the United Kingdom.
"I told them in Montreal there was no way I was going to miss the British Open, and asked how long they reckoned it would take me to swim," he wisecracked. "I'd have come even if I got there only five minutes before tee-off time."
Trevino, who missed the open at Royal Birkdale of Southport, England, last year because of a disc injury which required surgery later in the year, is a 40-to-1 longshot in odds posted today by Ladbrokes, the British bookmakers. He said, "unless lightning hits the rest of the players, I don't have a chance to win . . . not in my wildest dreams."
But his presence in the field of 156 exemplifies the high regard in which the top American players hold the British Open, third leg of the modern grand slam, which is unlike any American challenge because it is always played on demanding seaside links, carved out of rugged terrain between the hills and the coast.
There are 27 U.S. golfers in the chase for the "Old Mug." the hug silver cup that holds prestige worth far more than the winner's share of $17,200 from the purse of $172,000.
Among that 27 are the eight top favorites: Jack Nicklaus (6-1, according to Ladbrokes), Masters champ Tom Watson (8-1), Tom Weiskopf (10-1), U.S. Open champ Hubert Green and defending champion Johnny Millet (both 14-1), Ben Crenshaw and Hale Irwin (both 16-1).
Another American, 1976 Masters champ Ray Floyd, is at 20-1 with 20-year-old Severiane Ballestros of Spain, the leading player on the continent, who tied Nicklaus as runner-up last year, and three-time champion Gary Player of South Africa.
Australian Graham Marsh, who is well prepared and thoroughly familiar with the idiosyncracies of links golf, and the man who can scramble out of trouble and play in tricky winds, is rated 25-1, but considered the best bet by many knowledgeable observers.
George Burns, 6-2 210-pound former University of Maryland golf captain, is 33-1 (along with 1969 champ Tony Jacklin, 1976 U.S. Open champ Jerry Pate, and David Graham), but something of a favorite by poetic license because of his name. Robert Burns, the poet, was from Ayrshire. His cottage is nearby, and he is greatly extolled in local lore.
Turnberry is the first course added to the British Open rotation since England's Southport in 1965. It should be a worthy test, with some holes as demanding as they all are delightfully named: "Woe-by-Tide," "FinMe Oot," "Roon the Ben," "Tickly Tap," "Rick and Hope," and "Lang Wang."
The Ailsa course was rebuilt after sending as an RAF airfield in World War II. The reasons Turnberry was never chosen before were nongolfing - doubts about the suitability of access roads andaccommodations troubled the Royal and Ancient - but careful planning seems to have alleviated potential problems. Som 8,500 spectators watched today's final practice rounds, and there were few traffic tieups though the real crunch will not come until Saturday's final round.
The course has been widely praised. It is in good shape, especially the greens, though some of the rough is not its usual Scottish troublesome self because of a prolonged dry spell. Nevertheless, tall grass, tangled underbrush and bunkers to punish shots that are ill-conceived or poorly extremely narrow. "Maybe they will put some fairways in tomorrow," joked Pate.
"If the wind blow, and I hope it does then you can strike about 10 American players off right away, though I won't mention any names," said jacklin, 33, who hopes he is regaining the form and hunger that brought him the 1969 title at Royal Lytham and St. Anne's and the 1970 U.S. Open.
Jacklin, who played in a gale on Saturday, said that Weiskopf's five under par 30 on the back nine in practice today, after a six-over 41 going out, would have been impossible in the wind, which he feels is necessary to make Turnberry a true championship test.
Tervino said the fairways were the narrowest he has ever seen. "I played with Tommy Horton, and we had to walk single file." If the calm persists, he thinks the winner will be a long hitter, probably Nicklaus, Weiskopf, Watson or Miller. If the wind picks up acting as a leveler for shorter hitters, it could be a more wide-open.
Watson, leading money winner on the U.S. tour with $269,155, got over the transatlantic time change by winning an eight-man event in Barcelona last weekend.
In addition to the 63 exempted players and qualifiers, the field includes five players "straight in" because they won the open prior to 1967: Bob Charles, Arnold Palmer, Henry Cotton, Bobby Locke, and Peter Thomson.
Club pro, Jim Seeley of Prince Georges Country Club, Md., qualified Saturday at Barassie. He suffered a slipped disc on arrival in Scotland last week, but a doctor manipulated it, allowing him to play, he gutsily shot 71-74 and won a playoff for the final qualifying spot.