Lehman Still Linked to 42 Seconds at Brookline
Of particular interest is the 17th green at Brookline.
In what became the most indelible image in Ryder Cup history, Justin Leonard made a 45-foot birdie putt that ultimately clinched an unlikely U.S. victory and unleashed a celebration that crossed the line of etiquette. American players, caddies and wives raced onto the green, even though Jose Maria Olazabal still had a putt to tie.
It was ugly.
It was wrong.
And apparently, its not over.
Not long after Lehman was introduced in November as the next Ryder Cup captain, just about every reaction coming out of Europe began with something that happened five years ago and lasted only 42 seconds.
Lehman knows how long because he watched the tape with a timer in his hand.
There ought to be a movie, Lehman said. Call it, The 42 Seconds to Eternity. From the time the ball went in the hole when Justin made that putt until the time the green was clear was 42 seconds. I wanted to see how long it took.
Lehman agrees it was a mistake, but an honest mistake.
But the statute of limitations has run out, he said. Its time to move on.
Lehman, more than any other player, for some reason has become the poster boy for bad behavior at Brookline.
He was 3-0 in Ryder Cup singles, beating Seve Ballesteros in a riveting match at Oak Hill in 1995, and never missing a green in regulation when he beat Lee Westwood in 1999.
No one mentioned that when he was named captain.
He is a former British Open champion and PGA Tour player of the year, and he played in the final group at the U.S. Open four straight years.
Hardly anyone mentions that these days.
If people want to criticize his selection as captain, they could look at his overrated record compared with other candidates'only five PGA Tour victories and three Ryder Cup teams.
No one talks about that, either.
Its all about Brookline.
And even though players dont hold it against Lehman, they continue to associate him with Brookline.
Consider this opening comment from Padraig Harrington: I certainly think it was a good choice of captain for them. I think hell do a good job. Ive said this before about Brookline ...
And from Paul McGinley:
I played with him the year he won the Open, and Ive always found him to be a perfect gentleman. Now I didnt play in Brookline ...
Colin Montgomerie was asked recently why Lehman gets singled out for all the bad blood from 1999. Quietly and quizzically, without a hint of criticism, he replied, Well, he was first on the (17th) green, wasnt he?
Monty couldnt be sure, playing in the match behind. All he saw was a blur of ugly maroon shirts worn by the Americans that day, and worse yet, maroon sweaters and cream-colored skirts worn by the wives.
Ive seen it a billion times, Jim Furyk said. I havent watched that closely to see where Tom was. But for a million dollars, I couldnt swear he was even on the 17th green.
Why pick on Lehman?
No idea, Tiger Woods said. It wasnt like he was the only one.
During his study of the 42 seconds, Lehman found out exactly where he was.
First out of the pack was the late Bruce Edwards, who was in charge of the caddies that week. Then came another caddie, presumably Bob Riefke, who was working for Leonard. Then it was Woods, with a 40-inch, spread-eagle leap before sprinting toward Leonard. He was followed by Davis Love III.
And then Lehman.
I know I was the fifth, Lehman said. And I know I never set foot on the green. Not that it matters.
In some respects, Lehman was a victim of timing.
In the immediate aftermath, when European blood was boiling, Sam Torrance singled out Lehman on Sky TV when he called the incident disgusting and said of Lehman, And he calls himself a man of God.
European captain Mark James, the ultimate goat at Brookline, took Lehman to task in his book for leading the gallery in a rendition of God Bless America.
Lehman said he threw a roundhouse fist pump after making a big putt during one of his matches, and a European player he declined to identify shot him a nasty glare. He confronted the player a month later.
It couldnt have been the fist pump. Europeans dont exactly tip their caps when a big putt drops.
He said, It was out of your character. That was the answer, Lehman said, shaking his head. I guess they thought it was out of character for me to be so emotional.
Lehman said he and Torrance have made their peace, and that Torrance sent him a nice note upon his selection as captain. And he believes, as Hal Sutton said during his tenure, that its time to move on.
Whether that happens is doubtful.
Fred Couples might have summed it up best when asked why Europeans continue to bring up Brookline whenever Lehmans name is mentioned:
Probably, Couples said, because hes the captain.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.
Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.
Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.
So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.
How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:
1. Stay healthy
So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.
Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.
Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.
2. Figure out his driver
Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.
That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.
In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.
Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron.
Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”
That won’t be the case at Augusta.
3. Clean up his iron play
As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.
At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.
Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.
That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.
Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”
4. Get into contention somewhere
As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.
In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.
“I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”
Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.
And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go.
“It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”
Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.
Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA
Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.
The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.
According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.
Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.
The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.
Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.
Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.
“Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.
Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.
Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”
With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.
Thomas was asked about that.
“I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.
“I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”
Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.
“It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.
“I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”
Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.
“That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”
Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.
“Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.
Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.
McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.
“Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said. “That's what he said.”
The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.
The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.
“He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”