Ailing Lehman enjoys coming home

  • Article by: KELLY PARSONS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 2, 2013 - 11:10 PM

The Minnesota native fought through illness to shoot 69 and enjoy being surrounded by supporters.

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Tom Lehman said his putting and ball-striking isn’t as crisp as when he dominated the Champions Tour.

Photo: Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

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Tom Lehman, who missed his scheduled pro-am tee time Thursday because of illness, said he still felt under the weather Friday in the first round of the 3M Championship at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine.

Lehman finished with a 3-under-par 69, five shots behind leader Mark Wiebe. He played through his symptoms, but Lehman refused to blame what he called a frustrating day on sickness.

After all, having an up-and-down round has been a pattern for him this season, Lehman said.

“[There have been] a lot of rounds like today, where I’ve played really well for a while and then just kind of lose it,” Lehman said. “Just very erratic, where I just can’t seem to put 18 holes together.”

The Minnesota native and former Gophers player spent a couple hours practicing Friday morning to make sure he felt strong enough to play. Through the first nine holes, Lehman played as if he were in tiptop shape, recording three birdies on the front nine and another on No. 10 to start the back nine 4 under par.

Lehman said his tempo was slow to start the day because of his illness. As he began playing well and he built up strength, Lehman said the adrenaline caused him to speed up. With bogeys on the 12th and 15th holes, he let the momentum slip away.

In 2012, Lehman became the first player to win consecutive Charles Schwab Cups, the award given every year to the Champions Tour player who finishes the season with the most points. Since then, Lehman said his putting has gotten worse and he hasn’t been hitting the ball as well.

In July the 1996 British Open winner spent two weeks in the United Kingdom, playing at the British Open and the Senior British Open. Lehman said he recorded 30 bogeys during his time there.

“You can’t afford to beat yourself that way,” he said.

Friday ended with a top-heavy leaderboard. A pack of five shot 6-under 66, and even at 3-under, 19 players stand in front of him for the top spot. Lehman, who co-designed the course with Arnold Palmer, said he expected that kind of low scoring.

Lehman didn’t attempt to mask his frustration, but he perked up at first mention of playing before a home crowd. Lehman’s career has taken him far from the place he grew up, but after a tough day, being back was just enough to put a smile on his face.

“I miss it a lot, the lifestyle in Minnesota, the people,” Lehman said. “But more just the way of life, the way your neighbors are your neighbors. It felt really great to be home.”

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