Lee Trevino says this 1 mistake is why golfers get the yips

Lee Trevino talks to Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus.

Lee Trevino says he plays fast to avoid the yips.

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Lee Trevino never likes to wait.

The six-time major champion, who celebrated his 84th birthday on Friday, was one of the fastest players in pro golf during his prime in the late 1960s and 1970s.

In fact, he was so quick, he claimed on the No Laying Up podcast this week, that television cameras almost missed the winning putt at one of his major championship victories.

Trevino told NLU’s Chris Solomon this happened at the 1971 Open Championship.

“I was taking the putter back before my eyes got back to the ball,” Trevino said. “See, I would look at the hole, forward press and as my head was moving back to the ball, the putter was gone.”

That concluded a dramatic final hole where, at Royal Birkdale’s closing par-5 18th, his opponent, Lu Liang-Huan, hooked his second shot into the crowd from an awkward lie in the rough.

He somehow managed to get his third shot on the green and make birdie to tie Trevino, but Supermex second found the green and he two-putted for the decisive birdie.

This wasn’t the only time Trevino’s rapid play was on center stage at a major. At the 1974 PGA Championship at Tanglewood Park in North Carolina, he famously hit his final putt out of turn, before Jack Nicklaus, to win.

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“I was choking so bad that I had so much cotton in my mouth that I could have a knitted a sweater,” Trevino said. “But you know, Jack actually gave me a break there.”

Trevino had just three-putted the 17th to shrink his lead to just one as he, Nicklaus and Hubert Green played the 72nd hole. All three men hit the final green in regulation with Nicklaus the closest, about 15 or 20 feet from the hole, and Trevino the farthest, about 30 feet from the hole, according to his recollection. Trevino would play first and leave his birdie try, which would have clinched the tournament, two feet short.

“I looked over at Jack and I said, ‘Listen, if you guys don’t mind, you know, can I finish?'” Trevino said. “I told him. I said, ‘Listen, if you don’t let me put this thing I’m trying to so bad.’ I said, ‘I’m going to faint. I guarantee you I’ll hit the ground.'”

Typically, it’s customary for players with putts to win a tournament to mark their ball and putt last in the group. But Trevino pointed out that it was not guaranteed he would win because Nicklaus had a birdie putt to tie.

“If Jack makes that make that birdie now, the heat is really on me,” Trevino said. “And Jack didn’t say a word. He kind of closed his mouth and with his eyes and he just nodded his head. Yes, yes, go ahead.”

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Trevino made his short putt while Nicklaus subsequently missed.

But Trevino elaborated that playing fast helps his putting, specifically keeping him from getting the yips on the greens.

“Most people get the yips and can’t take the putter back because they stare at the putter and they’re staring at those lines— I hate putters with lines,” he said. “And they stare at the putter and then they can’t get it back.

“So what I did was I taught myself to look at the hole as I’m looking at the hole. My head was connected to the putter head and when my head came back to the ball, the putter was already gone and that’s why I was so quick with it.”

So next time you have a pressure putt on the 18th green, don’t take your time. Just get up and knock it in the hole like Lee Trevino.

For more from Trevino during his appearance on NLU, listen to the whole two-hour podcast here.

Jack Hirsh

Golf.com Editor

Jack Hirsh is an assistant editor at GOLF. A Pennsylvania native, Jack is a 2020 graduate of Penn State University, earning degrees in broadcast journalism and political science. He was captain of his high school golf team and recently returned to the program to serve as head coach. Jack also still *tries* to remain competitive in local amateurs. Before joining GOLF, Jack spent two years working at a TV station in Bend, Oregon, primarily as a Multimedia Journalist/reporter, but also producing, anchoring and even presenting the weather. He can be reached at jack.hirsh@golf.com.