Nicklaus awoke on Sunday before the tournament feeling the effects of a 'crick' in his neck. The crick, painful at times during the swing, was at least partially responsible for a lackluster first two rounds at the British. Still, he was only one behind of Tony Jacklin and Lee Trevino to start the third round.
The neck pain had vanished by now, but Nicklaus still shot 71, widening the gap between the first three. Jacklin carded a 67 and Trevino led by one after a 66.
Nicklaus warmed to the task the final day. He actually led early on the back nine. But on 16, Trevino birdied, holing out a near-impossible bunker shot. It was his third straight birdie.
Nicklaus by now was already in the clubhouse with a 66. All he could do was sit and watch on television as Trevino strode the 17th fairway, still needing one more birdie to assure a victory. He had hooked his tee shot into a pot bunker with a bad lie. He successfully got the ball out, but it was with another hook that wound up in heavy rough.
Eventually Trevino would hit his fourth shot through the green. Believing he had just lost the tournament, Trevino quickly pulled a 9-iron from his bag and hurriedly chipped the ball. And it went in!
A downcast Jacklin had made bogey. Trevino parred in the final hole and won the tournament.
Nicklaus had said when he got to 16, ''Finish 3-4-4 ' which is par-birdie-par, and youll win the tournament.' I finished 4-5-4 and lost by one shot.
'So regardless of what Trevino did, or regardless of what Jacklin did, didnt make any difference. I finished the same way. What I planned, I would have won the golf tournament, regardless of what anybody else did. Obviously, you know it didnt happen.'
Trevino remembers the time well, and he remembers that Nicklaus going for the Slam 'wasnt that big of a deal. I know that people were looking at Nicklaus and he was going to one of his favorite golf courses, and if he was ever going to win the Grand Slam, this was his best chance.'
Trevino remembers the tournament for another reason. 'Actually, it was the first major championship I ever practiced for,' he said. 'I trained for a couple of weeks before going to Muirfield.'
'Because I had five couples ' 12 of us (including him and his wife) ' there and we rented a house and had a heck of a party that weekend. I just happened to beat Jack, but it wasnt really that big in the back of our minds. We were kind of pulling for him to win, to tell you the truth.'
And the chip at 17 became a bit of Trevino folklore, as well as becoming burned into British Open history.
'Thats what I was aiming at ' the hole,' Trevino said. 'Everybody thinks youre aiming at the bunker when youre standing out there. Youre aiming at the hole. Its like when you make a hole-in-one, everyone says you were lucky.
'Hell, thats what youre aiming at ' the hole.'