Sunday, February 9, 2003
Updated: February 10, 6:16 PM ET
Lehman finds lost confidence at the Beach
By David Lefort
Tom Lehman couldn't quite pull out his first win in three years, but it must have felt good to be in the hunt on a Sunday afternoon again.
For Lehman, whose wife is expected to deliver the couple's fourth child soon, the runner-up finish at Pebble Beach was his first top-20 since August of last year, and his best showing since October 2001.
After two bogeys on his first five holes to start the final round, Lehman birdied his next two and went on a near-record run on his final nine holes (his 31 on the back was one stroke off the course record) to make Davis Love III work for his first victory since 2001.
|Tom Lehman had his best finish since 2001 thanks to a memorable day at the Beach.|
''I feel like my game is the best it's been in a long time,'' said Lehman, who has just one victory since winning the British Open and the Tour Championship in 1996. ''I really am hitting the ball more like I used to. It became quite evident to me at the beginning of the season that if I start making a few putts, I'm going to be a factor in some tournaments this year.''
Lehman birdied four of the first five holes on Pebble's back side, and added another at the par-3 17th that, coupled with Love's bogey on 16, lifted him into a tie
for the lead heading into the final hole.
After a tough chip from the right-hand rough, Lehman had an 8-footer for birdie at the par-5 picturesque finishing hole, but just missed it, leaving the door open for Love to make his birdie and dash Lehman's title hopes.
Still, the blood was pumping again and the life was back in the 43-year-old Lehman's game.
More tidbits and analysis from the weekend in golf:
||Phillip Price -- best known for beating Phil Mickelson in last year's Ryder Cup -- had three eagles in a seven-hole stretch Saturday in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, but later withdrew from the tournament with a back injury.
Because of his withdrawal, the Welshman's round wasn't official -- so he won't be remembered as the 13th player since 1970 to get three eagles in a PGA Tour round.
||Did you see that?
||On the 14th hole at Pebble on Sunday, Mike Weir tried to execute a bump-and-run out of a bunker onto the green, which was steeply sloped toward the front.
Weir's shot landed on the front, steep portion of the green and, just as it appeared it would roll off the green, unexpectedly stopped rolling. Weir, realizing he had caught a break, ran up out of the bunker and onto the green to mark his ball before it had a chance to start moving again.
||''This tournament has always been about attitude. (If) you come here thinking it's going to be wet, it's going to be windy and cold, you've got to play with amateurs, it's going to take six hours -- you're already lost. It definitely is a week for a good attitude, and that fits for me.''
-- Davis Love III.
The number of events between victories for Love, whose last win before Sunday came at the 2001 Pebble Pro-Am. |
Around the tours
AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am
Pebble Beach, Calif.
Courses (par 72):
Pebble Beach (6,816 yards)
Spyglass Hill (6,858 yards)
Poppy Hills (6,833 yards)
1. Davis Love III (-14)
2. Tom Lehman
T3. Tim Herron
T3. Mike Weir
T5. Jim Furyk
T5. Rocco Mediate
Royal Caribbean Classic
Key Biscayne, Fla.
Crandon Park Golf Club (6,893 yards, par 72)
1. Dave Barr (-9)
T2. Bobby Wadkins
T2. Gil Morgan
4. Rodger Davis
5. Hubert Green
New South Wales Golf Club (6,810 yards, par 72)
1. Paul Casey (45 pts.)
T2. Nick O'Hern
T2. Stuart Appleby
T4. Peter Lonard
T4. Jarrod Moseley
Welch's/Fry's Championship (March 13-16)
Jacob's Creek Open Championship
(Feb. 27-March 2)
1. Love won Sunday's battle of two players whose careers had suffered a lull in recent years, and here's how he did it:
Played best on the hardest holes: While most of the field was struggling just to get through the toughest holes on the course -- the bay-bordering eighth, ninth and 10th -- without dropping any strokes, Love remarkably birdied all three to make up for a poor start to his final round.
Got a little lucky: On 12, Love's tee shot flew the green into the thick rough, but he got a fortuitous bounce off a photographer and the ball trickled back onto the green within four feet of the cup. After converting the birdie putt, he tossed the ball to the photographer as a souvenir.
Closed the deal: After making a bogey on 16 that dropped him into a tie with Lehman, Love sank a par-saving, nerve-testing 8-footer on 17 that hung on the lip for an instant before dropping. He followed that with a 316-yard drive on 18, the longest on the hole all day. His second shot was even better, a 227-yard 4-iron that ended up just 12 feet from the hole; he'd get down in two to secure his second Pebble Beach title and biggest payday of his career ($900,000).
2. The normally wet and wild weather at Pebble Beach stayed away this year, yielding to warm, sunny skies and low winds -- but not lower scores.
Love's 14-under 274 winning tally was the same number that Matt Gogel won the tournament with last year, tied for the highest winning total since 1994. But if the skies were clear and the winds low, why wasn't the scoring any better than it was last year, when the first round was delayed by frost and temperatures were as low as 35 degrees?
The warm sun and lack of rain baked the three courses this week, leaving them firm, dry and fast, forcing big adjustments for players used to playing the Pro-Am in much different conditions.
''It's just been different,'' said Jim Furyk, who finished tied for fifth. ''I've never seen the golf courses this way in a lot of years playing here.
''I never realized how much slope there is on some of these greens. I've played here a lot when the greens were very wet, and they're usually slow. Not this year.''
3. Just two weeks into the season, the Champions Tour suffered its first PR disaster Friday at the Royal Caribbean Classic.
In violation of a rule that prohibits practicing on the tournament course between rounds, Fuzzy Zoeller was disqualified after using the sixth tee to give a demonstration to a local television reporter because the range was full.
The DQ comes at a bad time for the Champions Tour, which introduced a series of fan-friendly initiatives in an attempt to lift sagging ratings. Zoeller said he thought the taping had been approved by tournament officials.
Some Champions Tour players were livid at the decision, and the tournament director said the incident "has been a firestorm."
4. Phil Mickelson finished in the top 10 in each of his first two tournaments of 2003 thanks to a pair of stellar final rounds. In Sunday's final round at Pebble, however, Mickelson crumbled instead of surged.
Lefty shot an 8-over 80 to finish last among those who made the cut. His dreadful final round included two double-bogeys and a triple-bogey on the 18th.
Makes you wonder if perhaps "inferior equipment" was to blame.
5. Playing on a sponsor's exemption, Casey Martin struggled at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am this week. The cart-riding Martin went 75-78-78 and missed the cut by a mile in his first action since a final-round meltdown at Q-school cost him his PGA Tour card.
What it means for ...
Mike Weir: The Canadian is off to the best start of his career. He followed up last week's victory at the Bob Hope with a tie for third at Pebble this week, and had a chance to catch Love until the final holes. Weir is hitting the ball solidly and has set himself up for a breakout season.
Tim Herron: Last week's heartbreaking blowup obviously didn't have an effect on Herron at Pebble. Herron finished tied for third with Weir this week after a 6-under 66 on Sunday -- the best round of the day.
David Duval: He missed the cut in his second straight event with three straight rounds above par. It's not time for Duval fans to panic just yet, but this certainly isn't the start he was looking for after such a disastrous 2002 season.
Ty Tryon: It appears he's not ready for the PGA Tour. The 18-year-old missed the cut in his third straight event to start the 2003 season, shooting 80-78-79 to finish 174th out of the 175 players who played through Saturday.
Up next ...
PGA Tour: Buick Invitational
After a two-month layoff, Tiger Woods returns to the PGA Tour this week at Torrey Pines, where he's never finished worse than fifth at the first Buick-sponsored event of the year. It's hard to tell what the story of the week will be, how Woods responds to his surgically repaired knee or whether he and Mickelson chat about Lefty's "inferior equipment" jab.
Champions Tour: ACE Group Classic
The over-50 crowd moves over to Naples, Fla., this week for the ACE Group Classic, the first of four titles Hale Irwin will defend in 2003.
European Tour: Johnnie Walker Classic
Ernie Els returns to action after a week off, rejoining the European Tour this week in Perth, Australia.
David Lefort is ESPN.com's golf editor, and can be reached at email@example.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.