DUBLIN, Ohio – Tom Lehman didn’t spend much time with John Wooden – just long enough to learn a few things that will last a lifetime.
Lehman was the Ryder Cup captain in 2006 when he met the former UCLA coach who died at the age of 99 on Friday.
Lehman came away humbled – and with a close friend.
“He was the ultimate teacher,” Lehman said Saturday after playing in the third round of the Memorial Tournament. “What little time I spent with him, it was obvious how much he loved the people that he taught, that he worked with. Our world is going to miss him.”
Lehman was the Ryder Cup captain. During a stop in February at Riviera, he arranged to meet with Wooden at his home.
“It was definitely one of the highlights in my life,” said Lehman, who won the 1996 British Open.
There was one crystalline point that the Wizard of Westwood conveyed to him.
“He looked me right in the eye and said, ‘Don’t be concerned about your image and your reputation. That’s who people think you are. The only thing that matters is your character, who you really are on the inside. Focus on that. Be more concerned about that,”’ the legendary coach said. “That’s the one thing I took from him. Because that’s the way he was. You talk about integrity, doing what you say you’re going to do, being who you really are. That was him. A man of incredible integrity and character.”
That was their only face-to-face meeting, although they spoke on the telephone a couple of times.
Lehman hated to impose on a man who would not have thought it an imposition.
“I feel like I didn’t want to take his time, even though I know that if I called him he would have said come on over,” Lehman said. “There’s so many people that he gave to, so many more people that he was way more involved with than me. I didn’t want to be one of those guys who just demanded his time. I was really, really impressed with that man.”
POPULAR PAIRING: Huge crowds followed the third-round grouping of Tiger Woods, Ricky Barnes and Dustin Johnson.
Barnes, of course, torched the Muirfield Village course for eight birdies and an eagle in a blistering 10-under 62 that left him tied for second, three shots back of leader Rickie Fowler. Johnson, another one of the top young players on tour, shot a 73.
Woods, playing in his first tournament after three weeks off due to a neck injury, followed a 72 with his second straight 3-under 69.
There were plenty of highlights and lowlights for the world’s No. 1-ranked player. So good was Barnes that Woods never had honors on the tee until the 13th hole.
He had five birdies to energize the many people shouting encouragement along the ropes, but also had a disastrous double-bogey 6 at the 10th. He sailed his drive far, far right – perhaps 50 yards right of the fairway – and into the backyard pond of a house that usually doesn’t enter into play.
Woods disgustedly flipped his driver after the shot and muttered under his breath. He quickly teed it up again and hit a provisional, then didn’t even walk over to where his first drive went because he knew it was out of bounds. Lying three in the middle of the fairway, he hit onto the green and two-putted from 55 feet.
He birdied the next two holes and two more after that.
Woods had eight pars on the front side, breaking up the monotony with an 18-foot birdie putt on the par-3 eighth.
He was walking toward the hole at No. 1 when his ball was headed for the cup, then stopped as it dipped in and out of the hole. He had birdie putts inside 15 feet on four straight holes starting at No. 3 and missed them all.
After his round, he declined to speak with reporters.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: Vijay Singh, asked if he ate a lot on a day when there were two suspensions of play totaling 6 hours: “I don’t eat that much. I need to keep my figure, you know.”
TIGER TAUNTS: For the most part, the fans have been almost worshipful in their treatment of Tiger Woods, in spite of his highly publicized marital indiscretions.
But there were a couple of minor incidents during the third round.
After Tiger putted for birdie on the 14th hole, a spectator twice yelled, “Get in the water!” as the ball rolled toward the hole. The putt missed and Woods tapped in for par. The man quickly blended into the gallery.
Another fan yelled, “Big swing, Tiger. Big swinger. You’re the biggest swinger on tour,” as Woods walked to the seventh tee. A Dublin police officer walked over to where the man was standing and asked him to calm down.
Woods never looked the man’s way.
After completing his round, Woods signed his scorecard and then walked stone faced past a line of autograph-seekers.
“He’s a changed man,” a man said caustically – and loudly.
LONG DAY: Play was initially supposed to begin at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, but just before the first golfers could tee off it was pushed back by a line of thunderstorms. The delay eventually lasted 4 hours, 15 minutes. Later in the day, more rain and inclement weather stopped the proceedings for 1 hour, 44 minutes.
That meant that the last groups played in a deepening twilight.
“It’s been a long day for sure. I’m looking forward to turning in, relaxing, having some dinner,” said Justin Rose, who shot a 70 and was alone in fourth place, four shots back of Fowler. “It’s 20 to 9. I can’t remember the last time I played golf at 20 to 9 in the evening.”
DIVOTS: It was the fifth time Barnes (62) and Woods (69) have played together. Barnes has posted the lower score only twice, but overall is seven shots better. … Past champions Kenny Perry and Jim Furyk are tied for sixth, seven shots back. … Play has been suspended six times in the first three rounds, a record for the perennially weather-plagued tournament. … Phil Mickelson shot a 70 and then also declined to speak with reporters. … Seven of the top 11 players are in their 20s. … Furyk had six consecutive subpar rounds at the Memorial before shooting a 72. … Brendon de Jonge’s 65 was his lowest score on tour this season. … Argentina’s Andres Romero had a triple-bogey 8 at the 15th in the second round. A day later, he had an eagle 3 there.
AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson contributed to this report.