For snubs, it ranked up there with the best anyone could recall, surely the first time such a thing had happened at the Masters since the ugly rooting against Nicklaus when he was dethroning Arnold Palmer in the early '60s.

Masters crowds have the reputation for being the most knowledgable and polite in all of golf, generous with their affection to even the most obscure amateurs and foreign players. But they can be downright nasty to anyone who dares publicly suggest that Augusta National is less than sacred ground.

Lee Trevino discovered this yesterday.

There were several hundreds fans around the first tee when Trevino was introduced as he prepared for his first drive; not one bothered to applaud. It was a silent message that the uppity Mexican had gone too far, that his honest comment about the tournament had the impact of a one-iron upside the head.

Here was the one master of golf who dared insist, as late as a few weeks ago, that he would suffer no great pangs if the Masters ceased to exist.He still refuses to enter the Augusta clubhouse, or at least did yesterday after recovering from that early embarrassment and putting sins to shoot a two-under-par 70.

In truth, silence was not the worst of what happened to Trevino on the first tee.

Suddenly, as he seemed about to prepare for his drive, Trevino snapped his head toward someone in the gallery and said: "What's so funny about that, clown?"

"Nothing," the man said.

"That's right," Trevino said, clearly angry. He explained later.

"On Thursdays, before the first shot I hit in every tournament I enter, I always cross myself, 'cause I'm Catholic," he said. "Well, this guy started laughing. So what do I do? I smack that drive about 300 yards."

He laughed - and danced off to join a knot of friends off the course for a most un-Masters-like dinner, liver and onions.

For much of his round, however, the Trevino dance was in frustration. He had driven as long and as straight as anyone could possibly hope - and walked off the 10th green two over par.

Once Trevino's game could not have been less suited for the Masters, and he did not mind admitting it. He hit low fades on a course that demands high hooks, and only managed to make the top 24 twice despite being part of fields much weaker than most tour stops.

But Trevino now has a Masters game, in part because of back problems.

"Now, I'm longer off the tea, at least 20 yards," he said, "because I've exercised so much after the operation. I've built up the back muscles and the stomach muscles. I'm getting through the ball faster, and working it right to left."

"I've never denied I couldn't hit high shots, with seven-, eight- and nine-irons. But before I was hitting so many three-irons for second shots. Now I'm going into the greens with reasonable clubs."

Trevino knocked his second shot at No. 11 to eight feet from the pin and ran it in for a birdie. He sank a 20-foot putt for bird at No. 14 and slipped in three- and four-foot putts for birds at Nos. 16 and 17.

"I came to play," he said.

That was not always the case. In his first Masters, in 1968, he was in contention through three rounds. Then he shot 80 and stormed out of town, cursing his fate and the course.

In 1969, Trevino made the top 24, with a final-round 69, but refused to compete the next two years. Jack Nicklaus coaxed him to play in '72, but he was in a snit even before driving down Magnolia Lane four days prior to the tournament.

"The only things that's really upset me," he insists, "is the ticket situation. That year, my best friend, the guy who was driving for me, had to get out of the car and walk clear down to another gate because he didn't have the right ticket.

"They sent me tickets I bought for the tournament. Why couldn't they send me tickets for Monday through Wednesday, too? I'd pay for 'em, like I do the others. But my driver, my mother-in-law and everybody close to me has to get out of the car and walk a pretty good piece those days."

Although the crowds did applaud his back-nine shots, Masters officials also seemed reluctant to give Trevino his due. His name hit the leader boards quite late, and at first in the space usually reserved for messages.

If the chemistry between Trevino and the Augusta customers is volatile, Trevino did make an effort to be his usual loose self, perhaps out of desparation after three-putting from 15 feet on the seventh green.

His drive was long and not far inside the ropes on the eighth fairway. Trevino walked toward a knot of fans and said: "I'm still frightened from that movie I saw last night. Anybody see it? It's called 'Race With the Devil.' Ooooh, I slept under the bed."

There was some banter, the fans finally loosening a bit for Trevino to feel comfortable at last. He laced a wood to nearly the fringe, chipped to tap in distance and gathered his first bird of the tournament.

But he kept his distance from the clubhouse.

"Why should I subject myself to the opportunities for problems?" he reasoned. "I have enough trouble with the golf course."