Lee Trevino didn't sign his scorecard today after shooting a first-day 74 in the PGA championship and so was disqualified, an indignity that might have moved a baseball player to hire Edward Bennett Williams to take this outrage to court. What Trevino did was put down five beers, by his modest count, and say his immediate plan was more simple.
"I'm goin' home and try to get limbered up so I can kick myself in the hind end," he said. "And if I can't reach it, I may put a shoe on the TV and run into it backward. . . What do you do? You go pick up Coke bottles and try to make a nickel."
In 15 years on tour, which means maybe 450 tournaments and 1,800 rounds, Trevino never before failed to sign his scorecard. As much as everyone wanted to make excuses for him today, Trevino would have none of it.
"My fault, guys," he said to reporters between sips. "No big deal."
Sure it is a big deal. A big-shot athlete is taking his lumps without crying. A John McEnroe, say, might have burned Atlanta had an official enforced an anachronistic rule with absolutely no relevance in a major championship. Trevino's transgression today did not improve his score, nor did it hurt any other player's chances to win. It was a silly technicality.
Fact is, PGA officials admit they never would have discovered the error. Trevino was brought to his sudsy grief by golf's code of honor. He turned himself in. Not with a smile, certainly, for five major championships and more than $2.5 million in winnings prove your shark's instinct for total victory. But he did it without hesitation.
He did it because another player, Tom Weiskopf, also respected the game so much he could not cover up even the most innocent of violations.
Some play by play is in order here. . .
The players sit three abreast in the scoring tent to sign the cards.Each man marks the scores of another and signs that player's card, then passing it to him for a confirming signature that all is accurate. This is according to Rule 38 of golf, which says each player is ultimately responsible for his score and his signature must attest the score.
Lanny Wadkins was Trevino's scorer. As he pushed the card toward Trevino, Weiskopf, sitting between them, intercepted it. He thought it was his. It is the pros' custom to sign their cards immediately, so they won't forget. Weiskopf signed the card in front of him and only then realized it was Trevino's, not his.
The card then was given to Trevino. About here, Weiskopf had discovered an error on his card, as marked down by Trevino. They fixed it and Trevino went back to considering his own card. Everything was fine.
So Trevino handed the card to the PGA officials at the scoring table. He had seen two signatures on the card, Trevino said, and by force of habit did not stop to consider if one of those signatures was his. For 1,800 rounds, one of those signatures has been his.
"They even gave me a second chance," Trevino said. "A fellow held the card up in front of me and said, 'Is this correct -- 74?' I said, 'What's par?' I knew I was four over par, but I thought par was 71. They told me it was 70 and I said it was correct. . . I looked at it quickly and there were two signatures -- and one wasn't mine."
This last was said ruefully, for Trevino did not recognize the signatures.
"I signed three cards," Weiskopf said. "Lanny's, mine and, by mistake, Trevino's. Lanny was pushing the card over to Lee, but it didn't get there. I got it. I signed it and then said, 'This isn't my card.' I pushed it over to Lee. It's just a very unfortunate thing, because if I hadn't signed the card, Lee would have."
Such confirming signature is an anachronism in this computer age when the PGA can tell you to the decimal point how far Trevino hits his drives (255.6 yards, 107th best on tour). That is especially so at a major championship, where each group also has a scorer who reports to a central computer as the players leave each green.
Still, the signature is a traditional mark of golf's honor, putting the burden of accuracy and honesty solely on the player.
There is more to this.
Trevino didn't realize he hadn't signed. Nor did Weiskopf realize it -- until a friend of his picked up a photocopy of the scorecard, available to the public here in a PGA experiment, and said to Weiskopf, "Lee didn't sign his card -- you did."
This was a half hour after the round. Trevino was in the players' locker room, drinking a beer, when Weiskopf said, "Come here, I need to talk to you."
"You're too big to refuse," Trevino said, laughing.
In private, Weiskopf told Trevino what happened.
"Only one thing to do," Trevino said he told Weiskopf, who answered, "I'm sorry."
"Tom feels worse about it than I do," Trevino said later. He said Weiskopf appealed to PGA officials, saying the confusion in the scoring tent caused the whole thing. "But you gotta do it. How am I going to come back tomorrow and play? It wouldn't be right. Golf is probably the most honest game there is, and you can't make exceptions for anybody. You can't say, 'It was confusing.' It's my job to sign the card, and I didn't do it. Period."
Trevino said he did have one big worry.
"My wife is going to do some hind-end kicking I'll never forget," he said.