Lehman Streaking Back to the Top

By George WhiteJanuary 25, 2005, 5:00 pm
It was the year 2000 again. There was Tiger Woods, grinding, grinding, hanging around the lead until the leaders finally made a mistake. The past couple of years, Tiger was the one who finally caved it. This time, however, it was Tiger who played golfs version of the boa constrictor. Dont kill them with a sudden strike - just stay right on them, squeeze them little by little, finally just suffocate the life out of them.
That said, however, lets look at one of those who hung around with Tiger until the end - Tom Lehman. Lehman is best known as the new U.S. Ryder Cup captain. But he ever so quietly is making some very big steps. Do you realize he hasnt finished out of the top 10 since October of last year ' a streak that has now reached five tournaments?
Actually, hes been on a roll since early in September, when he tied for fourth at the Canadian Open. The next event he tied for 17th at the Texas Open ' not bad for a guy who earlier in the season had knee surgery. But then began his top-10 string with a tie for second in Las Vegas, a tie for fourth in Greensboro, and a tie for sixth at Disney. And he began 2005 with a tie for ninth at Sony before almost ' what a sad word, almost ' winning at San Diego.
Lehman played the last two rounds with Woods, and though Lehman is 45, he learned something. An old dog DID learn a few new tricks.
Just watching him chip, trying to understand from just watching what his technique is and then working on that, Lehman said of the experience. Hes played alongside Tiger a number of times, but he says he always learns something.
Actually, the chipping lessons were just a minor part of the changeover that has affected Lehman since he finished T40 at The International early in August.
He took a month off in August and changed nearly everything. For one, he didnt touch a club for 3 weeks. He bundled up his family and took a vacation to Italy ' rented a villa in the middle of Tuscany with some friends and played the role of tourist. To me there's no better way to get away from all the worries of the world and try and enjoy something like that. To me it was one of the greatest places I've ever been, he said.
But theres so much more. For one, he had the knee surgery in the middle of the year to repair a badly damaged tendon. And when he went to Canada after his Italian retreat, he changed the orthotics in his shoe ' his knee felt a million times better immediately.
The pain went away, so I actually was able to play pain-free for the first time in a long, long time. Legs are everything in the golf swing, and if you're sore, if your feet are hurting or your ankle or your knees, it's tough to make aggressive swings, 72 holes straight.
And golf? He changed drivers. And then he went back to the long putter. After the sabbatical in Italy, he came to the Canadian Open and shot 2-over the first round using the standard version. The next day he went to the broomstick roller, shot a 64 on Saturday, and has never changed back.
Maybe, he said, it was simply a by-product of reaching the age of 40. He used to be absolutely deadly from six feet in, but in time he began missing a few. The 40-somethings do some baffling things, he admitted, and Lehman was exhibit A. Lehman himself has seen it all to often when a golfer reaches that certain age.
They want to improve their driving or their iron play and they think theyve got to change their swing. And before you know it, they have lost their game, he said. And that is what happened with my putting. I tried to improve my putting by changing my method and I completely lost my putting stroke. So, therefore, the long putter.
The net effect of all these changes was a marked change in attitude. Life was good, he said. I struggled the first day (of the Canadian), but played great the last three almost entirely because of the fact that there's a whole - the positive feelings you have about what's going on around you. It has a huge impact on how you perform.
Lehman is now at a stage where he no longer is satisfied with good showings. He wants a victory. A questioner asked him about the strong showings over the past four months, and Lehman refused to take any props over Sundays loss, even if it was to Tiger.
I'm sick of strong showings, quite frankly, said a downcast Lehman. I'm disappointed. I'm very disappointed. I'm really ticked off that I didn't win. '
Tiger, though, appeared on the verge of again doing it by acting like Houdini with the short game. There were a lot of golfers who were miffed that they didnt pull it out. But maybe Woods legend is about to be resume.
I have to give him a lot of credit, because he definitely didn't play his best golf this week, said Lehman.
Tom Lehman is back, though. Five straight tournaments ought to say something.
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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials phoned Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial. 

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.