Minnesota Golf Association

Lehman Overtakes Toms on Final Hole to Win in Hawaii

January 19, 2019

KA'UPULEHU-KONA, Hawaii -- Billy Jean King, on the subject of double faults in a tennis match, says it's not how may you have -- it's when you have them.

In a reverse kind of way, you could say the same thing about leading a golf tournament. It's not how many holes you lead -- it's when you have the lead, as Tom Lehman demonstrated in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship.

David Toms, the former PGA champion, led for virtually the entire tournament, and he led or shared the lead for 17 holes in the final round on Saturday at the Hualalai Golf Course. Lehman, on the other hand, had the outright lead for only one hole during the tournament. But it was the last hole, and that's the one that counts. 

Lehman birdied three of the five holes preceding the last one on the way to a second straight bogey-free 7-under-par 65, and when Toms three-putted the 18th green for a bogey, Lehman had his 12th PGA Tour Champions victory. It was worth $305,000. 

Lehman ended up with a 54-hole total of 199 (17 under), one ahead of Toms, who closed with a 70 and earned $180,000. Bernhard Langer and Jerry Kelly shot matching 67's and tied for third, three strokes behind at 202.  

It seemed like a cruel way for Toms to lose, and Lehman was sympathetic. 

"I feel bad for David," he said. "He played so well all week. But I'm happy to finally get this win. I love the trophy." 

The wooden trophy, for anyone who might be wondering, is a hand-crafted 'Makau' hook, an ancient Hawaiian symbol representing excellence, strength, prosperity and beauty. 

Lehman nearly won it twice before, most recently in 2016, when he finished one stroke behind Duffy Waldorf, who birdied the last hole. The situation that year was similar to the one this year. Lehman and Waldorf  played the final round together, and they were tied going into Hualalai's 18th hole, a 410-yard par-4. Waldorf hit his second shot to 25 feet, Lehman to 15. But Waldorf made his birdie putt, and Lehman missed.

This time, Lehman and Toms were the final twosome, and they were tied going into the 18th. Lehman hit a similar approach shot to the one he hit three years ago, a 7-iron from 169 yards (both he and Toms hit 3-woods off the tee) to about 14 feet. Toms, from 12 yards closer, hit an 8-iron 28 feet right of the hole. But unlike Waldorf, he missed his birdie putt, and faced a 6-footer coming back for his par. Lehman's birdie putt was on line but wasn't hit quite hard enough. He tapped in from 6 inches for his par. 

So Toms needed to make his 6-footer to force a playoff. His first putt at 18 had slid a couple of inches to the right. He started the par putt from the opposite side at the left edge of the cup, and  -- not surprisingly -- it went left from there. 

"I hate to end up that way, three-putting on the last hole," Toms lamented. "I was trying to make it (the first putt), because I figured if I made it, I had a chance to win right there. It never entered my mind that I was going to three-putt."

Lehman, who will turn 60 on March 7, has now made nearly $12 million ($11,998,842) in his decade on the Champions Tour (that's what it was called when he turned 50), which puts him at No. 15 on the career money list for seniors. The former University of Minnesota star -- and winner of the 1981 State Amateur, plus two MGA Players and two State Open titles -- won five times on the PGA Tour and made $21,495,878 out there. He won the 1996 British Open and was the PGA Tour's leading money winner that year, as well as the Player of the Year. As a senior, he's won three major championships and been the Champions Tour Player of the Year twice.   

Toms, 52, was tied for the Mitsubishi lead with Joe Durant after an opening 65 on Thursday. He shot 65 again in the second round and was four ahead of Durant and Lehman going into the final round. (Durant closed with a 72 and ended up tied for eighth at 206.) 

Lehman birdied three of the first four holes on Saturday, added another birdie at the 551-yard, par-5 seventh and turned in 32. He was within two strokes of Toms at that point, but he missed the fairway at the downhill par-5 10th hole (566 yards) and was 60 yards short of the green in two. Meanwhile, Toms hit what he described as a "slightly chunky" 6-iron from 240 yards. The ball landed short of the green but took a big bounce and rolled about 40 yards to within 15 feet of the cup. Lehman didn't get that close in three. Both players two-putted, and Toms' birdie increased his lead to three shots.

That, however, turned out to be the last birdie Toms would make.

Lehman parred the 11th and 12th holes, then began his back-nine charge by hitting his second shot to 9 feet at the 387-yard, par-4 13th and converting the birdie putt. The 14th at Hualalai is a 519-yard par-5. Lehman hit a rescue second shot just short of the green and two-putted from there (roughly 70 feet) for his second consecutive birdie, thus cutting the deficit to a single shot. Toms, who missed from 8 feet at the 14th, had another birdie chance from 12 feet at the 15th (428 yards, par 4), but he missed that one, too.

At the 440-yard 16th, Lehman hit a 310-yard drive and a wedge to 3 feet. He made it from there and was tied for first. Toms actually outdrove Lehman by three yards on that hole. He hit his second shot to 18 feet but missed the putt. It was one of four birdie putts from inside of 20 feet that he missed in the last eight holes on Saturday. Not to mention the 6-footer for par at the 18th.

"I played about as well as I can play," Lehman said after accepting his long-coveted Makau hook trophy. "I liked the fact that the wind was blowing (for the first two rounds, but not the third). I always feel like when the wind blows, my chances get better. Historically, I've always been a real steady ball-striker, and when the wind blows, that's what you really have to do. And I also made some nice putts when I needed them."


Mitsubishi Electric Championship

At Hualalai Golf Course

Par 72, 7,017 yards

Ka'upulehu-Kona, Hawaii

Final results 

1. Tom Lehman               $305,000    69-65-65--199

2. David Toms                 $180,000     65-65-70--

T3. Bernhard Langer      $120,000     70-65-67--202

T3. Jerry Kelly                $120,000     71-64-67--202

T5. Kevin Sutherland       $85,000      69-72-63--204

T5. Fred Couples             $85,000      72-66-66--204

7. Colin Montgomerie      $70,000      69-66-70--205

T8. Brandt Jobe               $57,500      69-69-68--206

T8. Joe Durant                 $57,500      65-69-72--206

T10. Tom Watson            $45,000       71-67-69--207

T10. Mark Calcavecchia $45,000        71-67-69--207

T10. Marco Dawson        $45,000       69-68-70--207

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