Some golfers never stop tinkering with their golf swing. Others, like Tom Lehman, simply go with what they have.
Nobody can doubt that Lehman’s approach has been and continues to be a winner.
Lehman added another victory last week at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Classic, his second in four starts this year on the Champions Tour.
Lehman has four wins on the Champions Tour to go along with five career victories on the PGA TOUR, including a major triumph at the 1996 British Open.
He is No. 1 in the greens in regulation statistic on both tours. He’s at 80.56 percent on the PGA TOUR and at 83.33 percent on the Champions Tour. By any standard, that’s a remarkable achievement.
Lehman learned the basics from his late father, Jim, and has never forgotten them.
“The grip and the posture and the position,” Tom Lehman said. “He always talked about making sure you turn your shoulders. But he wasn’t a real technical golfer. So I basically learned the swing on my own, getting the basics and then hitting shots.”
Lehman has studied under two men — Les Bolstad, a Minnesota legend in golf circles, and for the past 20 years or so, Jim Flick.
“Les kind of got me on the right path with my swing, and then Jim kind of kept me there,” Lehman said. “I’ve always lived by the philosophy that you find what you do well and then perfect it. What I have done well is draw the ball, and so every teacher I ever had, every lesson I ever had I always said don’t ever, ever, ever try to get me to do anything where I can’t draw the ball.
“If you think I hook it too much, then make it less high or something, but I always want to hook it. And I was telling Jim this, if you ever try to get me to hit it left or right, I’m dropping you like a bad habit. You know, we’re done. So obviously he never, ever pushed that, never even tried to go there. He simply just helped me work through my swing issues until I could fix them in the middle of a round and then always, always keeping the path of my swing in such a way that I could hit a draw.”
Lehman, 52, has moved to the top of the Champions Tour’s Charles Schwab Cup standings and money list ($718,038) with his two victories. The first came at the Allianz Championship.
Lehman’s game was in good shape as the Mississippi event approached.
“I really expected to have a good week,” he said. “I expected to play well. You don’t ever predict a victory. But I did feel that, knowing the golf course is a good course, that it would probably fit my style of play.
“A lot of the guys out here have been telling me for a year, you need to go there and play, you’ll love the course. It’s really good for you, and I think they were right.”
Lehman’s win in Mississippi came 20 years after he won a Ben Hogan Tour (now Nationwide Tour) at Windance Country Club in Gulfport, Miss., in a playoff with Tim Straub and John Wilson. One of the other competitors in that event was Olin Browne, who finished T5, the same finish he posted Sunday at Fallen Oak.
Lehman is the only player to have claimed Player of the Year awards on both the Nationwide Tour (1991) and the PGA TOUR (1996). With two victories on the Champions Tour in 2011, Lehman he’s in position to contend for Champions Tour Player of the Year and complete an unprecedented hat trick.
He’s also the fourth straight former major championship winner to claim a Champions Tour title this year. Lehman began the string with his win at the Allianz Championship, followed by Bernhard Langer (The ACE Group Classic) and Nick Price (Toshiba Classic).
Champions Tour Insider Notes:
Fred Couples remembers the noise. Couples was on the 18th green at Augusta National Golf Club in 1986. He was almost close enough to shake hands with Jack Nicklaus, who was putting on the ninth green. Nicklaus made the birdie putt, the first of three straight on his way to winning the Masters at age 46.
“It was loud and furious,” Couples said. “Great.”
Couples, who will tee it up Thursday for the 27th time in the Masters, was too preoccupied to see much else of the historic victory by Nicklaus until he went back to watch a highlight reel.
Couples, who won his Green Jacket in 1992, has come close to adding another on more than one occasion. He finished sixth last year a few years earlier, in 2006, couples tied for third behind Phil Mickelson.