Can Lehman Really Do It


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.
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