Lehman out of AmEx – heads to Nelson funeral

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American Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman pulled out of the American Express World Championship before the start at The Grove near Watford on Thursday in order to attend the funeral of golf legend Byron Nelson.

American Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman pulled out of the American Express World Championship before the start at The Grove near Watford today in order to attend the funeral of golf legend Byron Nelson.
“I was looking forward to competing this week, but I felt I had an obligation to return home to honour one of the game’s all-time great players and gentlemen,” said Lehman.
Nelson, winner of two Masters, one US Open and two US PGA titles and also of an amazing 11 consecutive tournaments in 1945, passed away at his home in Texas on Tuesday at the age of 94. His funeral is being held tomorrow.
Lehman had been hoping, of course, to be basking in the glory of a Ryder Cup victory this week, but his side suffered a record-equalling nine-point defeat at the K Club in Ireland on Sunday.
He is expected to be replaced as captain by Paul Azinger in the next month, while Nick Faldo has already been appointed as Ian Woosnam’s successor.
Lehman’s withdrawal today reduced the size of the field to 62.
The players still in the event were all given black ribbons to wear in memory of Nelson.
Sergio Garcia was among the first to start and like playing partners Tim Clark and Scott Verplank he birdied the 351-yard 10th, in his case with a pitch to six feet.
Over on the front nine, however, New Zealander Michael Campbell began with a double-bogey six.
Garcia hit an amazing 389-yard drive at the downhill 11th. It left him less than 100 yards to go, but he pitched only to 30 feet and had to settle for par.
Behind him cup team-mate Luke Donald, who on Monday moved ahead of the Spaniard and became Europe’s top player in the world rankings for the first time, sank a 30-footer on the 10th.
As a result, they were part of an eight-way tie for the lead with Australians Nick O’Hern and Adam Scott, Americans Verplank, Stewart Cink and Chris DiMarco and Swede Johan Edfors.

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