With timing as immaculate as his golf swing, Tom Lehman tuned up for next week’s defense of the British Open with a five-stroke victory Saturday in the Gulf stream World Invitational in Loch Lomond, Scotland.
Carding a final-round 67 for a 19-under-par total of 265 at the Loch Lomond course, Lehman collected a winner’s check for $224,000 five days before he defends the British Open at Troon.
He left most of his British Open rivals way behind, although some - notably Tiger Woods - weren’t here to witness his display.
As he walked off the 18th green at the picturesque course, Lehman was hugged by daughters Rachel and Holly, and kissed wife Melissa and 2-year-old son Tom.
It was almost as if he’d won the Open again.
“What a fulfilling week of golf,” the American said. “Just two bogeys in 72 holes, that’s something I have never done before. I am very pleased the way I played.”
In a high-quality field, U.S. Open champion Ernie Els wound up second after a 66 left him 14 under at 270.
“Finishing with a 66 completed a very nice week,” Els said. “But I gave Tom too much of a start for the way he’s playing”
Greg Norman finished with a 68 for a 271.
Of the other big names in the field, 1996 U.S. Open titlist Steve Jones, who once held second, fell to 10th place by shooting 73, Colin Montgomerie carded a 67 for 11th and Nick Faldo finished 15 strokes behind Lehman, despite a closing 68.
Sweden’s Pierre Fulke, who had been Lehman’s nearest challenger for 30 holes until Els overtook him on the leaderboard, finished 11 under, tied for fourth place after a two-over 73.
South Africa’s Retief Goosen fired a course record 62 to jump into third with a total of 272.
Brad Fabel, playing in his 318th PGA Tour event, has a good chance for the first victory of a career that started in 1984.
He shot a 5-under-par 65 to go 10-under for the tournament, tying David Toms for the lead after three rounds of the Quad City Classic in Coal Valley, Ill. Toms shot a 67.
Frank Lickliter, Robert Gamez, Russ Cochran and Brandel Chamblee were one stroke back at 9-under 201. Five others - Keith Fergus, Scott Verplank, Brad Sutterfield, Eric Johnson and Craig Bowden - were two behind the leaders.
There were nine players at 7-under and nine more at 6-under, putting 29 players within four strokes of the lead.
The collapse was so rare, so completely out of character, that even Jack Nicklaus was surprised.
Nicklaus started the back nine with three consecutive bogeys to waste a two-stroke lead, opening the door to a four-way tie after three rounds of the Senior Players Championship in Dearborn, Mich.
“I had a chance to run away and hide, and I didn’t do it,” Nicklaus said.
Nicklaus, starting the round a stroke behind secondround leader Larry Gilbert, shot an even-par 72 for 208 over the 6,876-yard Tournament Players Club of Michigan, which he designed.
As a result, Gilbert, two-time champion Dave Stockton, South African John Bland and Bob Dickson shared the lead, each at 9-under 207, a shot better than Nicklaus. Gilbert also shot 72; Stockton, Bland and Dickson 69.
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