Facebook Twitter

THIRD ROUND’S A CHARM FOR LEADING LEHMAN, AGAIN

SHARE THIRD ROUND’S A CHARM FOR LEADING LEHMAN, AGAIN

The third round is a charm for Tom Lehman. First at the U.S. Open. Then at the British Open. Now at the Tour Championship.

Lehman's brilliant 64 Saturday made him a runaway leader at Southern Hills Country Club, nine strokes in front of Vijay Singh and Brad Faxon going into what promised to be a windblown and wet final round."This is right up there with my best rounds ever," Lehman said, after a round in which he made no bogeys and knocked in putts from everywhere.

"It's up there with the third round at the U.S. Open this year, the third at Shinnecock and the third at the British Open," he said.

The nine-stroke lead was the largest 54-hole margin on the PGA Tour since Jack Nicklaus was nine ahead at Ohio's Kings Island in 1973. Nicklaus won by six.

"I don't think there is much chance of any of us catching him if he keeps playing like this," Singh said. "I don't know what the weather forecast is, but that's probably the only chance we have."

The forecast is for cold, rain and wind.

And unless the wind and rain blows Lehman into Nebraska, the only drama left at Southern Hills is whether Lehman's colleagues will vote him player of the year.

Lehman's third round was reminiscent of his 64 Saturday at Royal Lytham in the British Open. He took a six-stroke lead into the final round at Lytham and won a final-round duel with Nick Faldo.

"You can't afford to back off at all," Lehman said about taking a big lead into the final round. "You need to keep making birdies."

Lehman birdied No. 1 at Southern Hills, made the turn in 33 and finished the round with a 31 on the backside.

"Sometimes you just feel it," Lehman said. "If you asked me to hit it 109 yards, I would hit it 109 yards. If you asked me to hit it 130 yards, I'd hit it 130 yards. Today was one of those days when everything went right."

It was the 13th time in 22 tournaments this year that Lehman shot in the 60s in the third round, including a 65 at the U.S. Open and a 64 at the British Open.

"It was fun watching Tom," Singh said. "Even when he hit a bad shot, he hit it stiff with his second."

Several players made runs that would have put them in contention if not for the brilliant play by Lehman.

Faxon got to 4 under par with a 66 and Singh shot a 69, also for 4 under 206. Fred Couples, Justin Leonard and Tom Watson all shot subpar rounds and were tied for fourth at 1-under 209 going into the final round.

A victory would give Lehman the PGA of America player-of-the-year award - determined on a points system - and the Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average.

The $540,000 first-place check would give Lehman $1,780,159 on the year, surpassing Phil Mickelson on top of the money list if Mickelson finishes lower than third - he's 12 strokes back and tied for seventh. Lehman would also break the single-season money record set by Greg Norman last year.

That would leave only the PGA Tour player of the year award up for grabs. The award is voted on by players, and Mickelson, with four victories, and Mark Brooks, with three wins including the PGA Championship, were considered the front-runners coming into Southern Hills.

Tiger Woods bounced back from the worst round of his brief pro career with a 72. He shot a 78 Friday, just hours after his father was hospitalized with chest pains.