Lehmans Terms Include Winning
Even without clear definition, the backlit image is unmistakable.
Tom Lehman is playing the ninth hole at the Palm Course in Round 1 of the Funai Classic. Its his final hole of the day, in his final event of the year.
He makes par, signs his scorecard, obliges fans with a few autographs and is on his way to take his wife and kids to wherever they desire to go inside the Magic Kingdom.
Until he is approached by a solitary scribe with a pen and a pad.
Lehmans expression is best described as one of bewilderment ' a You want to talk to me? look.
The lone reporter asks Lehman if he has a minute to talk.
He balks for a second, and then answers in an if-we-can-talk-while-we-walk sort of way.
The response is abrupt, but not curt. He has better places to be, and fatherly duties of which to attend.
And anyone who has ever before talked to Tom Lehman knows thats as close to rude as Tom Lehman gets.
Lehman is an overly congenial man. But even his temperament was greatly tested in 2003.
This was the year of the veteran player on the PGA Tour, with 11 different players aged 40 and above posting at least one victory.
There was Vijay Singh and Kenny Perry, and Craig Stadler and Peter Jacobsen, and Bob Tway and John Huston. There was Scott Hoch and Fred Couples, and J.L. Lewis and Kirk Triplett, and even Tommy Armour III.
Nowhere was there Tom Lehman.
The 44-year-old failed to win on tour for the third consecutive season. He had but two top-10 finishes and missed more cuts ' six ' than he had in a single year since 1985.
The tension that continually knots in his shoulders just got greater and more difficult to lessen as the season wore on.
Id say its been a frustrating year, Lehman said flatly. Im not really happy with the way I finished up this year.
His 15th season on the PGA Tour started off promisingly when he finished runner-up to Davis Love III in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Unfortunately, he peaked at Pebble.
Lehman cracked the top 20 only twice after February. He missed the cut in the Masters and PGA Championship; tied for 46th in the one major he has won, the British Open (1996); and didnt even qualify for the U.S. Open, where he cemented his blue-collar, laborious image.
Statistically, Lehman performed on par compared to his previous few years. Mind you, hes won just once (2000 Phoenix Open) since his PGA Tour Player of the Year campaign in 1996.
He was best at hitting greens in regulation ' where he ranked eighth on tour, and fared worst in putting ' where he broomhandled his way to 108th.
Those two categories have always been his crest and trough.
But this year there was one torpedo that sunk Lehmans battleship ' a product of his poor putting.
Bogeys, he said. Just made a lot of bogeys, something Ive never done before. Beating myself more than anything.
And while Lehman was struggling just to get into contention on a weekly basis, others in his age bracket were winning and contending regularly.
Im not surprised that those guys that have had good years had good years. Age is mostly in your mind, I think, said the five-time winner on tour. And I think that there is a lot more for guys to stay motivated for. So the guys getting up there in their years still have a lot of motivation to play.
And I feel the same way. Theres no reason why I cant step my game up.
Motivation has never been a problem for this dogged performer. Not for a man who played on nearly every continent and every tour until becoming a fixture on the primary circuit. Certainly not for a man who has dodged every dart thrown his way, and reached the pinnacle of his profession when he became the No. 1 player in the world in 1997.
Im proud of myself that I worked real hard, but disappointed that my game didnt make improvements the last couple months of the year, Lehman said of his 2003 season.
Im looking forward to taking some time off and working on it, and having a better year next year.
Lehmans off-season started as soon as he putted out on the 72nd hole at Disney to tie for 24th.
That gives him a solid two and a half months before he tees it up again competitively at the Sony Open in January.
Until then, his primary role will be one as father/husband. But hell still tinker and toy; hell practice and prepare.
Hell roll up those shoulders, lurch that neck, pull up those shirtsleeves and forcefully launch his bulk into hundreds and hundreds of tiny, dimpled golf balls.
And maybe next year there wont be quite as much tension to work out.
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Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters
Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.
Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.
In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.
Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.
“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”
Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking.
Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup
In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.
Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.
Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.
“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”
McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.
“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
September can’t get here quick enough.
Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.
There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.
In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.
“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”
The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”
Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.
Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.
The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.
The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.
“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.
Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.
After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.
It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.
Tweet of the week:
Welp I didn’t get hit by a ballistic missile today so that’s a plus! #imalive— John Peterson (@JohnPetersonFW) January 14, 2018
It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”
The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.
Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake
Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.
While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.
“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.
Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.<
DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi
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).
“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.”
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.”