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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Snedeker joins 59 club at Wyndham
Brandt Snedeker opened the Wyndham Championship with an 11-under 59, becoming just the ninth player in PGA Tour history to card a sub-60 score in a tournament round.
Snedeker offered an excited fist pump after rolling in a 20-footer for birdie on the ninth hole at Sedgefield Country Club, his 18th hole of the day. It was Snedeker's 10th birdie on the round to go along with a hole-out eagle from 176 yards on No. 6 and gave him the first 59 on Tour since Adam Hadwin at last year's CareerBuilder Challenge.
Snedeker's round eclipsed the tournament and course record of 60 at Sedgefield, most recently shot by Si Woo Kim en route to victory two years ago. Amazingly, the round could have been even better: he opened with a bogey on No. 10 and missed a 6-footer for birdie on his 17th hole of the day.
Snedeker was still 1 over on the round before reeling off four straight birdies on Nos. 13-16, but he truly caught fire on the front nine where he shot an 8-under 27 that included five birdie putts from inside 6 feet.
Jim Furyk, who also shot 59, holds the 18-hole scoring record on Tour with a 58 in the final round of the 2016 Travelers Championship.
Snedeker told reporters this week that he was suffering from "kind of paralysis by analysis" at last week's PGA Championship, but he began to simplify things over the weekend when he shot 69-69 at Bellerive to tie for 42nd. Those changes paid off even moreso Thursday in Greensboro, where Snedeker earned his first career Tour win back in 2007 at nearby Forest Oaks.
"Felt like I kind of found something there for a few days and was able to put the ball where I wanted to and make some putts," Snedeker said. "And all of a sudden everything starts feeling a little bit better. So excited about that this week because the greens are so good."
Snedeker was hampered by injury at the end of 2017 and got off to a slow start this season. But his form has started to pick up over the summer, as he has recorded three top-10 finishes over his last seven starts highlighted by a T-3 finish last month at The Greenbrier. He entered the week 80th in the season-long points race and is in search of his first win since the 2016 Farmers Insurance Open.
Woods' caddie paid heckler $25 to go away
Tiger Woods is known for his ability to tune out hecklers while in the midst of a competitive round, but every now and then a fan is able to get under his skin - or, at least, his caddie's.
Joe LaCava has been on the bag for Woods since 2011, and on a recent appearance on ESPN's "Golic and Wingo" he shared a story of personally dispatching of an especially persistent heckler after dipping into his wallet earlier this month at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
According to LaCava, the fan was vocal throughout Woods' final round at Firestone Country Club, where he eventually tied for 31st. On the 14th hole, LaCava asked him to go watch another group, and the man agreed - under the condition that LaCava pony up with some cash.
"So he calls me a couple of names, and I go back and forth with the guy. And I said, 'Why don't you just leave?'" LaCava said. "And he goes, 'Well, if you give me $25 for the ticket that I bought today, I'll leave.' And I said, 'Here you go, here's $25.'"
But the apparent resolution was brief, as the heckler pocketed the cash but remained near the rope line. At that point, the exchange between LaCava and the fan became a bit more heated.
"I said, 'Look, pal, $25 is $25. You've got to head the other way,'" LaCava said. "So he starts to head the other way, goes 20 yards down the line, and he calls me a certain other swear word. So I run 20 yards back the other way. We’re going face-to-face with this guy and all of a sudden Tiger is looking for a yardage and I’m in it with this guy 20 yards down the line.”
Eventually an on-course police officer intervened, and the cash-grabbing fan was ultimately ejected. According to LaCava, Woods remained unaffected by the situation that played out a few yards away from him.
"He didn't have a problem," LaCava said. "And actually, I got a standing ovation for kicking the guy out of there."
Highlights: Snedeker's closing blitz to 59
Brandt Snedeker's first round at the Wyndham Championship began with a bogey and ended with a birdie for an 11-under 59.
Snedeker made four consecutive birdies on his opening nine holes and then raced home in 27 strokes to become the ninth different player in PGA Tour history to break the 60 barrier.
A very good round turned historic beginning when he holed a 7-iron from 176 yards, on the fly, for an eagle-2 at the par-4 sixth. Playing his 15th hole of the day, Snedeker vaulted to 9 under par for the tournament.
With Sedgefield being a par 70, Snedeker needed two birdies over his final three holes to shoot 59 and he got one of them at the par-3 seventh, where he hit his tee shot on the 224-yard hole to 2 feet.
Snedeker actually had 58 in his crosshairs, but missed an 6-foot slider for birdie at the par-4 eighth.
Still, 59 was on the table and he needed this 20-foot putt to shoot it.
At 11 under par, Snedeker led the tournament by five strokes.
Rosaforte Report: A tale of two comebacks
Comeback (noun): A return by a well-known person, especially an entertainer or sports player, to the activity in which they have formerly been successful.
Even by definition, the word comeback is subjective.
There is no question that Brooks Koepka has completed his comeback. With two major championship victories that encompassed wins over Dustin Johnson and Tiger Woods, Player of the Year honors have all but been locked up for the 2017-18 season.
But knowing Koepka, he wants more. A No. 1 ranking, topping his boy D.J., is a possibility and a goal. A Ryder Cup is awaiting. By all rights, Koepka could be Comeback Player of the Year and Player of the Year all in one, except the PGA Tour discontinued its Comeback honor in 2012. Even without an official award, the conversation comes down to the two athletes that hugged it out after finishing 1-2 at Bellerive.
What Woods has recovered from is remarkable, but not complete. He hasn’t won yet. With triumphs in the U.S. Open and PGA Championship, Koepka has completed his comeback from a pair of wrist injuries that could have been equally as career-ending as the physical issues that Woods had to overcome just to contend in the last two majors.
“There was a question on whether or not I’d ever be the same,” Koepka said Sunday night in the media center at Bellerive, following his third major championship victory in six tries. “Whether I could do it pain-free, we had no idea.”
The wrist traumas occured five months apart, with the initial issue, which occured at the Hero World Challenge in December (in which he finished last in the limited field), putting him in a soft cast with a partially torn tendon. That cost the reigning U.S. Open champion 15 weeks on the shelf (and couch), including a start in the Masters.
His treatment included injecting bone marrow and platelet-rich plasma. When he returned at the Zurich Classic in April, Koepka revealed the ligaments that hold the tendon in place were gone – thus a dislocation – and that every time he went to his doctor, “it seemed like it got worse and worse.”
Koepka’s second wrist injury of the season occurred on the practice grounds at The Players, when a cart pulled in front of Koepka just as he was accelerating into the ball with his 120-plus mph club-head speed. Abruptly stopping his swing, Koepka’s left wrist popped out. His physio, Marc Wahl, relayed a story to PGA Tour radio in which he advised Koepka before he reset the wrist: “Sit on your hand and bite this towel, otherwise you’re going to punch me.”
Koepka admitted that he never dreamed such a scenario would threaten his career. He called it, “probably the most painful thing I’ve ever gone through, setting that bone back.” But, testament to Koepka's fortitude, four days later he made an albatross and tied a TPC Sawgrass course record, shooting 63.
Woods’ physical – and mental – recovery from back surgery and prescription drug abuse was painful and career threatening in its own way. As he said in his return to Augusta, “Those are some really, really dark times. I’m a walking miracle.”
As miraculous as it has been, Woods, by definition, still hasn’t fully completed his comeback. While he’s threatened four times in 2018, he hasn’t won a tournament.
Yes, it’s a miracle that he’s gotten this far, swinging the club that fast, without any relapse in his back. As electric and high-energy as his second-place finish to Koepka was at the PGA, Woods has made this winning moment something to anticipate. As story lines go, it may be better this way.
Coming off a flat weekend at the WGC-Bridgestone, Woods was starting to sound like an old 42-year-old. But instead of ice baths and recovery time, the conversation was charged by what he did on Saturday and Sunday in the 100th PGA.
A day later, there was more good news. With Woods committing to three straight weeks of FedExCup Playoff golf, potentially followed by a week off and then the Tour Championship, that moment of victory may not be far away.
Scheduling – and certainly anticipating – four tournaments in five weeks, potentially followed by a playing role at the Ryder Cup, would indicate that Woods has returned to the activity in which he was formally successful.
There were times post-scandal and post-back issues, that Woods stuck by the lines made famous by LL Cool J:
Don’t call it a comeback
I’ve been here for years
I’m rocking my peers
Not this time. As he said Sunday before his walk-off 64 in St, Louis, “Oh, God. I didn’t even know if I was going to play again.”