Austin-born and Alexandria-raised Tom Lehman rallied to beat “rookie” Steve Stricker in the Tucson Conquistadores Classic for his 10th PGA TOUR Champions event yesterday.
Two strokes behind Stricker with three holes to play, the 58-year old Lehman closed with two birdies and a par for a 7-under 66 and a one-stroke victory over playing partner Stricker. Lehman is coming off arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow.
“I haven’t been playing a lot of golf,” Lehman said, who had the surgery in November. “(I) had a great doctor and had a great physical therapist, Tom Bratcher, who kind of really put me through the paces over the last 3 1/2 to 4 months getting ready to play. I give him a lot the credit.”
The 50-year old Stricker shot a final round 70, after firing a 63 on day two. The Wisconsin native was trying to become the 19th player to win in his first start on PGA TOUR Champions and first since Miguel Angel Jimenez in 2014.
“It was a good week. It was a good positive week,” Stricker said. “I did a lot of good things. My game is always a work in progress, it’s like anybody’s, and I haven’t played that much yet so far this year. I think this is just my fourth event. Yeah, I’m excited.”
Stricker registered a bogey on the par-3 16th, matched Lehman with a birdie on the par-5 17th, and bogeyed the par-4 18th after hitting a 3-wood drive left into the water.
“I clawed my way back and I took a couple-shot lead going up to 16 there,” Stricker said. “I three-putt and he makes birdie and that was really the tournament. The drive on the last, which I thought was a good one, it was 300 yards to that water there on that line and I hit 3-wood and we thought we had it into the wind, so I don’t know how it went so far.”
Lehman won for the first time since 2015, finishing at 20-under 199 on the Omni Tucson National’s par-73 Catalina Course. He won The British Open in 1996 and four other PGA TOUR titles.
“I’ve been working hard to get in shape. Since I couldn’t play golf, I spent a lot of time just trying to get in better shape and I think that really paid off this week. I feel much better over the golf ball, hit a lot of good shots, made some good putts, had a lot of energy.”
Stricker turned 50 on Feb. 23. The 12-time PGA TOUR winner will captain the U.S. Presidents Cup Team in September.
Lehman and Stricker were each vice captains of the U.S. Ryder Cup team in Minnesota this past fall.