By RICK BROWN, PCC Senior Reporter
Fifteen players have won a tournament on the Web.com Tour, PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions during their careers.
Defending Principal Charity Classic champion Tom Lehman is one of those 15. He’s also the only man to be named player of the year on all three tours.
Lehman struggled to get established on the PGA Tour, with a heavy dose of playing in Asia and the mini-tours. Those rocky times make him appreciate his success even more.
“I do think that having to fight and grind and go about it the hard way made finally being successful more enjoyable,” Lehman said. “No doubt. I would not change the early struggles for anything. I think that really helped me to learn the value of fighting for every single shot, no matter what the circumstance, no matter where I’m at in the tournament. To this day it matters to me even if I’m in 40thplace. I’d rather finish 35ththan 47th.”
Lehman’s competitive zest is a reflection of the tough times in his professional life.
“That just kind of comes from playing for no money on the mini-tour and overseas, where every shot mattered,” Lehman said. “That’s one of the great lessons, where golf in South Africa or Asia or the mini-tours or wherever around the world, really benefitted me, is that refusal to be okay with wasting shots. Now you do waste shots, don’t get me wrong. But it’s not because you’ve given up. It’s because you simply hit a bad shot, or made a bad chip, or made a bad read, or whatever. But it’s not because I just don’t care.”
Lehman won last season’s rain-shortenend event with rounds of 66-65. His 13-under-par 131 total was two shots better than Bernhard Langer, Scott Parel, Glen Day and Woody Austin.
Lehman’s final hole of Saturday’s second round was also his only bogey of the tournament. He hit his approach to the 18thover the green and couldn’t get up-and-down. Lehman had a best-ball 61 for his two rounds.
“If you drive the ball well you’re going to be able to be more aggressive, for certain,” Lehman said. “So I think that really is the key to playing well, is to play the par-3s well and drive the ball in the fairway. That gives you the opportunity. Because if you have a good week with the irons, where you’re on, with those shorter irons mostly, you’re going to hit a lot of irons close and you’re probably going to make a few putts.”
LANGER’S IMPRESSIVE RESUME
Langer’s PGA Tour Champions record has been nothing short of spectacular.
From his 39 victories to an unprecedented $27, 594,658 in earnings, Langer’s career is the envy of most. But of all his eye-popping statistics, the most impressive might be this fact.
Of the 27 events on the 2019 PGA Tour Champions schedule, Langer has won all but nine of them. The Principal Charity Classic is one of those nine.
Langer has had his chances at Wakonda. He finished fourth in 2017, shooting 66-71-67 to finish two shots behind Brandt Jobe. And he shot 64-69 in last season’s rain-shortened event which left him in a tie for second behind Tom Lehman. In four appearances at Wakonda, Langer has a 69.73 stroke average.
The two-time Masters champion has finished in the Top 15 in all eight appearances this season. A victory at the Oasis Championship was one of five Top 10s.
Langer has not played in two of the nine events he hasn’t won – the Mastercard Japan Championship and the Sanford International.
Langer has won the season-long Charles Schwab Cup race five times in his career, and is in contention for a sixth. He is currently third in the standings.
Scott McCarron, the 2016 Principal Charity Classic champion, is leading the Schwab Cup this season. He’s won twice on the PGA Tour Champions this year, has seven Top 10s and won $1,346,628.
His former UCLA teammate Ken Tanigawa, who won the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship at Oak Hill last week by a shot over McCarron, is second on the Schwab point list. Rounding out the top five, behind Langer, are Kirk Triplett and David Toms.
The top five players, and 26 of the top 30 players on the Schwab Cup list, are in the field this week.