BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Tom Lehman won the Regions Tradition for his third victory in seven Champions Tour events this year, beating Peter Senior with a par on the second hole of a playoff Sunday.
Senior, from Australia, missed a 5-foot par putt when it lipped out on No. 18. Lehman two-putted from about 20 feet, polishing off his second bogey-free day at the first Champions Tour major of the season. They quickly walked over to shake each other’s hands in a subdued reaction.
“I didn’t putt well all week,” Lehman said. “I made a few good putts when I had to. I wasn’t sure I was ever going to make a putt to win. I just haven’t made anything of any length. It’s unfortunate to win when somebody misses. I wish I could have made a birdie.
“That would have been more fitting.”
Both parred the first sudden-death playoff hole, also No. 18 at Shoal Creek.
Lehman and Senior finished at 13-under 275. Lehman had a 3-under 69, and Senior shot a 68.
Senior also missed a potential winning putt on the first playoff hole by a couple of inches to the right, then had an even closer one from the other side.
“It looked like it was going to go to the left,” he said of the first. “The last 3 feet it just went straight. I really thought with 3 feet to go I definitely holed it. It stayed pretty straight the second playoff hole, coming the other way.”
Lehman won his second Champions Tour major and fifth overall title on the 50-and-over circuit. He won the Senior PGA Championship last year, beating Fred Couples and David Frost in a playoff after he parred and they both double bogeyed.
Loren Roberts (65) was third at 11 under after a closing birdie, and Michael Allen (69) was 10 under. Third-round leader Mark Calcavecchia shot a 75 to fall into a tie for fifth at 9 under.
Lehman had to salvage par after his tee shot sailed into the woods on the 17th hole to keep at least a share of the lead.
Senior tied Lehman with a birdie on No. 17, maybe with a little help from a timely gust of wind.
“I had 238 yards to carry the water, which is right on my limit,” he said. “But a breeze started coming up just as I was about to hit. I really needed to make four. If I wanted to win the tournament, I had to mmake four there. Pretty good 3-wood just made it over by about 3 yards.”
A 35-footer caught the hole’s left edge and went a few more feet.
Calcavecchia held the lead for much of the past three days and didn’t relinquish it until double bogeying No. 12 for the second straight round.
“That pretty much started the slide both days,” he said. “It’s beyond disappointing. It just wasn’t my day.”
Lehman had taken the lead after the first round, again without any bogeys, and then spent much of the next few days, in his word, “lurking.”
“I made four bogeys for the week and only 17 birdies,” he said. “That’s not enough birdies, you wouldn’t think. I think I played really smart.
“I just kind of kept the ball in play, moving it forward. Hit a lot of greens. A lot of stress-free pars.”
Senior moved to 12 under with a long birdie putt on No. 15, then saved par on the next hole. He landed at the bottom of deep rough next to the green then went past the hole but made another long putt to remain a shot behind Lehman.
Calcavecchia, seeking his first Champions Tour win, had moved to 14 under after 11 holes, but it wasn’t a smooth round.
His tee shot on No. 4 landed just behind a tree, prompting him to fling his cap onto the ground as he arrived at the ball. But he hooked it to just below the green and even with the pin to save par.
But he three-putted for his first bogey on the next hole and reacted by hitting the ball into the water, showing the roller-coaster emotions of his weekend.
Calcavecchia had to punch the ball back onto the fairway after again landing right behind a big oak on No. 12, then slammed his club into the tree in exasperation.
Putting proved a much bigger obstacle than the tree on the hole.
Jay Haas went 3 over on the first nine holes after coming in one shot behind Calcavecchia but rallied for a 73, still four shots back. He double bogeyed on No. 5 when his tee shot hit a tree limb and went into the water, then he three-putted.