Can Lehman Really Do It

By George WhiteMarch 31, 2005, 5:00 pm
Well, well, guess who is all alone in fourth place in the Ryder Cup standings? Oh I know, the qualifying is still in its infancy. But look at the standing of the captain. Yep, Tom Lehman is in fourth place.
One-fourth of the way through this season, Tom Lehman is beginning to stick out like ' well, like a sore thumb. Sooner or later, we will have to face the proposition that America may have a captain who also is a player.
Tom Lehman
If Tom Lehman keeps playing this well he may have to pull double duty at the Ryder Cup.
Lehman finished in a tie for second at the Players Championship last week. That continues a steady string of performances he has had for the last seven months, since September of last year. Twice this year he has been in a deadlock for second place. Last fall, in his final five events of the year, he finished out of the top 10 only once. He added another T2 at Las Vegas in October.
I'm really sick and tired of finishing second, Lehman said. I'll leave it at that.
In his first 10 seasons on tour, Lehman never finished out of the top 25 on the money list. In 2002, however, he finished 74th after some puzzling knee problems began to surface. He ingrained some bad swing habits and finished only 61st in 2003 before finally submitting to knee surgery. He had problems with the pain initially, but eventually he inserted orthotics and played completely pain-free for the first time since he could remember.
Then, the good shots started coming. Unfortunately, so did the invitation from the PGA of America to be Ryder Cup captain. The PGA, as did most of the golf world, did not think Lehman would be playing at this level for this long. But at age 46, he shows no signs now of giving in.
To me, it's a goal, a dream. I'd like to be able to play well enough to be on the team, he said.

Should he make it, he would continue as playing captain, giving the lions share of his duties to his two assistants, Loren Roberts and Corey Pavin. That is, unless the PGA of America said no, and no means no. But I don't think they would. I think they realize that the group we have put together as captain, assistant captains are very committed, very passionate and very comparable. I think they feel it would be in good hands.
Lehman has got to this position by rather intriguing ways. He isnt particularly long, averaging just under 280 yards a drive ' and that doesnt even put him in the top 100 on the tour. He isnt particularly accurate ' he stands 73rd on drives which find the fairway.
But he is very good at finding greens in regulation (18th). He doesnt wield his long putter in outstanding fashion ' standing 96th in tour stats. But add it all up and the sum is much greater than the parts ' hes fifth on tour in the critical scoring average category.
In short, it sounds just like the manner in which he wants his Ryder Cuppers to play ' scratching, clawing, always fighting even when the statistics dont say an awfully lot. Tom Lehman, it must be said, finds a way to get it done.
It goes simply to the idea of not thinking about the results and just trying to stay in the moment, he said. At times it seems easy to do that, and at times it's very difficult to do that. The times I can think about are the what-ifs, but over the last couple rounds in the last couple of months I've been able to think more about just playing the shots.
I think that's when your good golf always comes is when you're not thinking about the results, you're just thinking about executing.
Lehman is slowly but surely getting that old confidence back, the confidence he had in 1996 when he won the British Open.
If I had that kind of confidence that I had in the mid '90s, I would probably play a little better, he conceded. My game is pretty solid.
Too solid for a Ryder Cup captain, thats for sure. This is supposed to be for guys who have pretty well played out the string on the regular-tour career and are ideal now for making the player decisions ' the Curtis Stranges, the Ben Crenshaws, the Tom Kites or the Hal Suttons.
Lehman had better stop this foolishness of finishing in the top 10s. Doesnt he know that it isnt good for Cup captains? If he isnt careful, someone is going to mistake him for a player.
Email your thoughts to George White
Related links:
  • Full Coverage - Ryder Cup
  • Getty Images

    Korda happy to finally be free of jaw pain

    By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 2:43 am

    PHOENIX – Jessica Korda isn’t as surprised as everyone else that she is playing so well, so quickly, upon her return from a complex and painful offseason surgery.

    She is inspired finally getting to play without recurring headaches.

    “I’d been in pain for three years,” she said after posting a 4-under-par 68 Friday to move two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

    Korda had her upper jaw broken in three places and her low jaw broken in two places in December in a procedure that fixed the alignment of her jaw.

    Korda, 25, said the headaches caused by her overbite even affected her personality.

    “Affects your moods,” Korda said. “I think I was pretty snappy back then as well.”

    She was pretty pleased Friday to give herself a weekend chance at her sixth LPGA title, her second in her last three starts. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand three weeks ago in her first start after returning from surgery.

    “I'm much happier now,” Korda said. “Much calmer.”

    Even if she still can’t eat the things she would really like to eat. She’s still recuperating. She said the lower part of her face remains numb, and it’s painful to chew crunchy things.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    “Chips are totally out of question,” Korda said.

    She can eat most things she likes, but she has to cut them into tiny pieces. She can’t wait to be able to eat a steak.

    “They broke my palate, so I can't feel anything, even heat,” Korda said. “So that's a bit difficult, because I can't feel any heat on my lip or palate. I don't know how hot things are going in until they hit my throat.”

    Korda has 27 screws in her skull holding the realignment together. She needed her family to feed her, bathe her and dress her while she recovered. The procedure changed the way she looks.

    While Korda’s ordeal and all that went into her recovery has helped fans relate to her, she said it’s the desire to move on that motivates her.

    “Because I was so drugged up, I don't remember a lot of it,” Korda said. “I try to forget a lot of it. I don't think of it like I went through a lot. I just think of it as I'm pain-free. So, yeah, people are like, `Oh, you're so brave, you overcame this and that.’ For me, I'm just going forward.”

    Getty Images

    Finally adapted to short putter, Martin near lead

    By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:54 am

    PHOENIX – Mo Martin loved her long putter.

    In fact, she named her “Mona.”

    For 10 years, Martin didn’t putt with anything else. She grew up with long putters, from the time she started playing when she was 5.

    While Martin won the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2014, about nine months after giving up Mona for a short putter, she said it’s taken until today to feel totally comfortable with one.

    And that has her excited about this year.

    Well, that and having a healthy back again.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    “I've had a feeling that this year was going to be a good one,” Martin said. “My game is in a special place.”

    Martin was beaming after a 6-under-par 66 Friday moved her two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

    “Just a beautiful day,” Martin said. “I was able to play my game, make my putts.”

    Martin hit all 14 fairways in the second round, hit 15 greens in regulation and took just 27 putts. After struggling with nagging back pain last year, she’s pain free again.

    She’s happy to “just to get back to a place now where my ball striking is where it has been the last few years.”

    Martin, by the way, says Mona remains preserved in a special place, “a shrine” in her home.

    Getty Images

    Clanton rides hole-out eagle to lead at Founders

    By Associated PressMarch 17, 2018, 1:47 am

    PHOENIX - Cydney Clanton holed out from the fairway for eagle on the par-4 13th and closed with a birdie Friday to take the second-round lead in the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

    Clanton shot a 5-under 67, playing the back nine at Desert Ridge in 5-under 31 to reach 9-under 135.

    Clanton's wedge on the 13th flew into the cup on the first bounce. She also birdied the par-5 11th and 15th and the par-4 18th. The 28-year-old former Auburn player is winless on the LPGA.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    Ariya Jutanugarn, Marina Alex, Karine Icher and Mariajo Uribe were a stroke back on a calmer day after wind made scoring more difficult Thursday.

    Jessica Korda and Mo Martin were 7 under, and Michelle Wie topped the group at 6 under.

    Getty Images

    Ko's struggles continue with Founders MC

    By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:26 am

    PHOENIX – Lydia Ko loves the Bank of Hope Founders Cup and its celebration of the game’s pioneers, and that made missing the cut Friday sting a little more.

    With a 1-over-par 73 following Thursday’s 74, Ko missed the cut by four shots.

    After tying for 10th at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in her last start, Ko looked to be turning a corner in her quest to find her best form again, but she heads to next week’s Kia Classic with more work to do.

    “I just have to stay patient,” Ko said. “I just have to keep my head high.”

    It was just the fifth missed cut in Ko’s 120 career LPGA starts, but her fourth in her last 26 starts.

    Ko’s ball striking has been erratic this year, but her putting has been carrying her. She said her putting let her down Friday.

    “It seemed like I couldn’t hole a single putt,” she said. “When I missed greens, I just wasn’t getting up and down. When I got a birdie opportunity, I wasn’t able to hole it.”

    Ko came to Phoenix ranked 112th in driving distance, 121st in driving accuracy and 83rd in greens in regulation. She was sixth in putting average.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    Cristie Kerr saw the struggle playing two rounds with Ko.

    “Her game’s not in good shape,” Kerr said. “She seemed a little lost.”

    Ko, 20, made those sweeping changes last year, starting 2017 with a new coach (Gary Gilchrist), a new caddie (Peter Godfrey) and new equipment (PXG). She made more changes at this year’s start, with another new coach (Ted Oh) and new caddie (Jonnie Scott).

    Ko doesn’t have to look further than Michelle Wie to see how a player’s game can totally turn around.

    “It always takes time to get used to things,” Ko said. “By the end of last year, I was playing solid. I’m hoping it won’t take as much time this year.”

    Ko had Oh fly to Asia to work with her in her two starts before the Founders Cup, with their work showing up in her play at the HSBC in Singapore. She said she would be talking to Oh again before heading to the Kia Classic next week and then the ANA Inspiration. She has won both of those events and will be looking to pull some good vibes from that.

    “This is my favorite stretch of events,” she said. “And I love the Founders Cup, how it celebrates all the generations that have walked through women’s golf. And I love the West Coast swing. Hopefully, I’ll make more putts next week.”

    Ko, whose run of 85 consecutive weeks at Rolex world No. 1 ended last summer, slipped to No. 12 this week.