Tom Lehman wins Champions Tour event with clutch birdie on final hole
BY JOHN BORNEMAN Sun-Times Media June 22, 2014 8:45PM
Tom Lehman celebrates after he won the Encompass Championship golf tournament in Glenview, Ill., Sunday, June 22, 2014. Lehman finished at 15 - under par. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Updated: June 22, 2014 9:42PM
Maybe the Encompass Championship doesn’t have luck with the weather, but it has photo finishes figured out.
For the second year in a row, a rain-delayed tournament ended on the 18th green at North Shore Country Club in Glenview. This time, 55-year-old Tom Lehman rolled in a 12-foot birdie putt on the final hole to reach 15-under par, one stroke better than Michael Allen and playing partner Kirk Triplett.
In 2013, Craig Stadler made a 12-footer on the 18th to beat Fred Couples by a shot.
“I had the perfect line,” said Lehman, who dropped his putter and raised his arms to the crowd when the final putt fell. “It’s always nice to make a birdie, but especially when you have to make a birdie, there’s no feeling quite like that.”
Lehman appeared to take most of the drama out of the tournament after shooting 65 on Friday and 66 on Saturday to take a three-shot lead over Triplett, John Inman and Roger Chapman. He even had luck on his side, finishing Saturday minutes before heavy storms forced 31 players to complete their second rounds Sunday morning.
So complete was Lehman’s domination of the event that as the final group walked to the first tee Sunday, a fan mistook Triplett for Lehman, a University of Minnesota alumnus, and yelled, “Go Gophers!” Triplett politely informed the fan that he had the wrong guy, then proceeded to outplay Lehman for most of the day.
Triplett birdied the first and sixth holes to get within a shot and took the lead when Lehman made back-to-back bogeys after finding greenside bunkers on 13 and 14. Meanwhile, Allen birdied 15, 16 and 18 to finish 14-under.
“All week you kind of feel like it’s going to be 15-under to win,” Triplett said. “I could see what was happening on the leaderboard and it just looked like 15-under was going to win the golf tournament.”
Lehman regrouped with an 18-footer for birdie on 15. That helped set up a 9-iron from 149 yards on 18, and his first Champions Tour victory since 2012.
“I didn’t hit the ball quite as well today … then just told my caddie, ‘Let’s play the best four holes of the week these last four,’ ” Lehman said. “Made a good birdie on 15 and a good birdie on 16, and then a pretty clutch birdie on 18.”