TOM LEHMAN has won his second straight Regions Tradition major on the US Champions Tour after a 4-under 68 gave him a two-stroke victory in the 2012 event.
Persistent rain didn’t make things easy for any of the competitors at the Shoal Creek course in Alabama as the lanky American saw off challenges from Bernhard Langer and Taiwan’s Chien Soon Lu who both closed with 6-under 66’s.
Peter Senior made a notable surge on Saturday with a six-under front nine putting him on equal second going into the final round.
Senior looked like he would at least emulate his performance last year when he took Lehman to two playoff holes but it wasn’t to be.
Lehman, a former British Open champion, shot in the 60s all four days for his sixth Champions Tour victory and joined Jack Nicklaus, Gil Morgan and Fred Funk as the only players to win the Regions Tradition multiple times. Lehman played the final hole with his cap turned backward under steady rain.
“I don’t mind any condition other than rain,” Lehman said after finishing at 11-under. “I don’t like playing in rain. It makes me really uncomfortable. I just feel like I lose the rhythm of my swing.
“Today was a real test of perseverance, just trying to move the ball forward. Don’t try to bite off too much, don’t get too aggressive. Just play shots I know I can hit.”
Lehman began the day with a two-shot lead over Senior and Jeff Sluman. He made a 30-foot birdie putt on the 7th after Langer briefly tied him at 9 under, pushing his lead to two strokes with a short birdie putt on the par-3 13th hole. Then he salvaged par with a difficult chip and 12-foot putt on the next hole under a downpour.
“You don’t want to give shots back when you’ve kind of put it in your pocket,” he said. “It really started pouring and that was a really difficult putt. To two-putt that was a huge momentum keeper. That might have been the biggest putt of the day.”
Lehman said the backward-hat on the last wasn’t a fashion statement for his college-student daughters who made the trip.
“I’m sure they thought it was stupid, but you know what?” the 53 year old said. “They probably thought I was doing that to be cool or something. The fact of the matter is that when you putt and it’s raining, the water drips off the bill onto the ball. It’s very distracting. The putt that I missed on 17, two drops fell off my hat onto my ball when I was on my backstroke and it really distracted me.”
Fred Couples closed with a tournament-low 65 and entered the final hole with four straight birdies but still finished four strokes back.
[quote]I’d dearly love to win – Peter Senior[/quote]
As for Senior, it will all have to wait for another day.
“I’d dearly love to win,” the Australian said after he had played himself into second spot on Saturday (US time). “I’ve had plenty of opportunities. That’s the only thing I’m looking forward to now is winning an event.”
Senior had looked out of the tournament with two straight rounds of 1-under 71 and was seven strokes off the pace. He had a magical start to his third round with birdies on 2 and 3 and then went birdie-eagle-birdie on 6 through 8, placing him at 6-under before even making the turn. The big shot came on the 7th where he holed a 5-iron from 185 yards out.
“That was a highlight,” he said. “That really kicked me into gear.”
Senior said that after he made another birdie at No. 11 to go to 7-under on the day, “I thought I could shoot something pretty low. I sort of looked to get a little bit greedy. A couple more (birdies) would have been really nice.”
Instead, Senior made one of his few mistakes of the day, hitting a poor tee shot on the par-4 12th hole. The ball hit the top of a fairway bunker and came down against the bank, leaving Senior with no option other than to chip out. From there he scrambled just to salvage a bogey and then had to settle for pars for the rest of the round.
“You just feel that it breaks the momentum,” Senior said of the bogey. “After that I didn’t hit it close enough coming in to make a birdie. I was 20 feet away nearly every hole.”
It was the third consecutive tournament in which he has posted a particularly low 9-hole total. He shot a 28 on the back nine during the final round of the Senior PGA Championship two weeks ago, and then last week he began the Principal Charity Classic with a 31 on the front nine – a combined 18 hole 59.
“My golf’s been hot and cold,” Senior said. “I’ll play pretty ordinary, certainly not playing my best but sort of hanging around. Then all of a sudden I’ll play nine holes really well. It’s there, but I can’t bring it out for the full day.”
“Even when it’s going well it can turn around and bite you just as quick as it can help you,” the 52 year old said.
And that seems to be basically his story on the final day.
He began with birdies on the 3rd and 6th, followed by a momentum killing bogey on the par-three 8th. Still in the mix at 14 he went bogey-birdie-bogey and compounded the errors with a double on the last to finish with a 2-over 74 tied in 11th position with Dan Forsman on 6-under.2012 Regions Tradition