"I'm just like a duck. Every day I wake up in a new world." -- Lee Trevino.
Lee Trevino, the little golfer who deserves job because he spreads it, gave his merriest smile today -- the one with the flinty glint of insight behind it -- and said, "I think there's still a spark in my fireplace."
Just four days ago, Trevino was "lost," mired in the worst slump of his career. "I was short, weak and crooked," said golf's second all-time money winner.
Now, thanks to a five-word lesson -- "Move your right foot back" -- Trevino takes a one-shot lead into Sunday's final round of the richest tournament on the PGA Tour, the Tournament Players Championship here at Sawgrass.
Trevino shot a four-under-par 68 over the 7,000-yard course today for an eight-under total of 208. That put him atop one of the most stellar lists of names ever to grace a leader board.
"I love it out front," Trevino said, beaming. "When I've had the lead going to the last day, I've only lost once in my life.
"But," he added, "I've never had the guys breathing down my neck that I do now."
Hubert Green, who tied the Sawgrass record with a 66 today, is second at 209 with Gary Player (69) and Curtis Strange (71) tied at 210.
Just three strokes behind Trevino, in a quartet at 211, are Jack Nicklaus (69) and Seve Ballesteros (69). As if that weren't enough, Tom Watson (72) and Hale Irwin (73) are but four shots off Trevino's pace.
As an almost incredible fillip, the final group off the tee Sunday will be Nicklaus, Trevino and Player -- playing as a threesome in their first tournament. They rank 1-2-7 in all-time money winnings.
"How much money have we cashed? 'Bout 6 million bucks?" said Trevino. "Well . . . just call us the $6 million men."
Obviously, all three members of this trio -- which has actually won just over $7 million and 28 major championships -- still have a spark in their fireplaces.
Trevino, who has won two tournaments the past two seasons while finishing runner-up nine times, was turned around by a practice tee tip From J. C. Snead on Wednesday evening as The Merry Mex was forlornly beating balls in pursuit of a badly out of groove swing.
"I was thinkin' that if my swing disappeared, like Lanny Wadkins' and Johnny Miller's did for a couple of years, I doubted that at my age (40) I could last it out," said Trevino.
"When you get to 40, you don't do nothin' as good any more. Last year I was running three miles a day, but I had to give it up because then I couldn't walk. I either had to run all the time or go to bed.
"I can't even lose weight right anymore. I went on a diet and lost so much that now (at 178 pounds) I only got four pairs of size 34 slacks that will fit me. And they're all the same color. People think I don't change clothes any more."
Both Player and Nicklaus also are pumped up -- confidence and morale at a peak -- though Player is 43 and Nicklaus 40.
"I've won five of my last seven tournaments," said Player, who infuriates his fellow pros by righteously keeping count of all his obscure victories over nobodies on Africa's Ivory Coast.
"It's as good a run of golf as I've ever played," said the chipper Player, who constantly gives pep talks to himself. "I'm blessed with adrenaline. Laddie, I'm always excited."
As Player left an interview tent, he seemed to deliberately turn his back on Nicklaus, who was entering, so that their eyes would not meet. The two have a formally cordial, yet obviously icy, relationship.
Player keeps saying how many worldwide tournaments he has won "more than Jack" -- and talks about the rigors of jet lag that Nicklaus has never faced.
When Nicklaus lost to Ray Floyd in the playoff at Doral last week, Nicklaus remarked, "Player would count this as a win. He'd say, 'Well, I just won me 83rd but lost in a playoff.'"
Nicklaus still is very much on his game. He would be leading Trevino by a stroke except for two badly managed double bogeys on easy par 5s here that he should be able to par in his sleep.
Today, Nicklaus had six birdies, but took a 7 at the eight when he deliberately sliced a three-iron out of a fairway bunker only to watch the wind blow the shot 70 yards to the right and into the swamp.
"I didn't even consider that possibility," Nicklaus said. "I never dreamed a three-iron could be sliced that far. Well, at least not be me."
Nicklaus' newly discovered wedge game around the greens saved his round. At the next hole, he saved a remarkable par with a trick shot taught him recently by Phil Rodgers.
"That turned the round back my way," said Nicklaus, who birdied four of the next five holes and shot 32 on the back line.
There is little doubt where attention will be Sunday. Of the eight currently active players here who have won two or more major championships, one, Trevino, is leading and four, Player, Nicklaus, Watson and Irwin, are in hot pursuit.
Add to them the two most attractive young bloods on the scene -- British Open champ Ballesteros, who has had soccer star Johan Cruyff among his gallery this week, and crisp Curtis Strange, who won $138,368 last year.
The overlooked man, as usual, is Hubie Green, the earnest fellow who seems to spend his life trying to get out of the shadows. In the last two days, he has made 13 birdies and is hitting his irons like a magician.
"I don't have the strength and ability of the Nicklauses and Watsons, but I enjoy the hunt," Green said. "I may choke or putt bad Sunday, but the way I'm swinging, I know I'll hit it well. That's why they have parties . . . so everybody can come."
Poor Hubert. For 10 years, he wore only green outfits so folks would know who he was. Now, he's changed.
"If you wore the same color every day for 10 years, wouldn't you get tired of it?" he asked, dressed in brown. "I felt like I was in the Army.
"I'll gamble Sunday 'cause that's the only way a short hitter like me can play with these guys. I gotta go for the pole (flag) on everything. If I miss the green, I gotta pull out the wedge, find the dern thing, get it on the green as quick as possible, then get it in the hole in one putt."
Green sees his golf world with a persimmon in his mouth. Trevino is just the happy duck who thinks each day is paradise.
In rapid fire, Trevino still delivers himself on a dozen topics. On Nicklaus: "Let the Bear sleep a while longer. Indefinitely, if he so chooses." On the Sawgrass wind: "let 'er blow, long as it's a warm wind. I don't want to wake up and hear the guy on the radio talking about no chill-factors." On golf writers: "Give 'em a good line and they can't keep it straight long enough to get back to their typewriters."
And what will Trevino do on the eve of a shot at another $72,000 prize?
"Same as always," he said. "Go back to my room and cook dinner for my wife. Can I cook? Nobody's died yet.
"I never go out (to eat). And I stop talkin' as soon as I leave this golf course. I love to rattle those pots and pans. And the maids love me, too, I always clean up my mess."