The way the leaders stumbled through the desert during the last two rounds of the Tucson Open made Lee Trevino's early comments appear all th more accurate.
"It's much too early in the year for a guy to give a truthful answer that he's playing great," the Loquacious One declared after Tom Watson had dry-gulched the field by shooting 13 under par through the first 36 holes.
"It's too early for anyone to know where the ball is going," Trevino added. "We have no idea, or at least I don't."
Trevino finished in a tie for fourth place, three strokes behind Watson, in what was a good opening event for the PGA tour. The national television audience was treated to an exciting finish, with the $200,000 event decided on the last hole. Bobby Wadkins bogeyed and Watson Parred.
The name and the faces will change from week to week (the Phoenix Open begins today) but the Tucson tournament is cetain to be repeated many times this year in terms of stereo-types.
Trevino is a member of the old guard, determined to hang on. Watson represents the nouveau riche, now established but eager to achieve wider recognition from the public.And Wadkins, 26, is one of the many hungry young professionals who respects his elders but certainly does not hold them in anything resembling awe.
There were 11 first-time winners on the tour last season. The improved junior golf programs are beginning to pay off.
This mixture of the old, the relatively new, and the hungry should make for good entertainment in 1978. Phoenix is the second stop, then it's on the Crosby at Pebble Beach and, before long, the boys with the big backswings will be in Florida, looking toward the Masters in Augusta, Ga., April 6-9.
Jack Nicklaus will join the caravan for the Crosby, the play Inverrary and the TPC at Jacksonville in Florida. Once again. Nicklaus will be pointing for the four major events - the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open, and PGA. He plans to appear in fewer tournaments this year than he did in 1977.
Trevino was 38 years old last month. The tour us not lacking for players pushing 40. The PGA is going to have to develop replacements for its established stars.
Television's rating were off slightly last season, probably because many viewers could not associate with the unfamiliar names that began to achieve prominence. ABC has pulled out of several tournaments for 1979, but CBS and NBC picked up the slack. Thirty-one of this year's tournaments will be on the tube. The commercial spot sold well.
Fear not Professional golf is healthy. By conservative estimates, more than 2 1/2 million fans attended tour events last year. If Tuscon was indicative, the crowds will continue to increase this season. More than 40 tournaments offering in excess of $10 million will be offered from sea to shining sea.
Attendance has been climbing from 2 to 5 per cent each year over the last five years. It is television that needs the star system. The people who pay to witness the events enjoy following the superswingers, naturally, but they also come to see the general excellence of play. They like to try to spot the future "names" early, before the media catches on.
Now if only the fine young men on tour who are bidding for recognition would become a little more colorful or charismatic, the gap between the Nicklaus and the Watson or whomever era whould be considerably easier for television to preach.