Lehman wins going away

Tom Lehman has won the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic – but acknowledges that his victory didn’t come easily.

Tom Lehman has won his second Champions Tour title of the season at the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic – but his victory didn’t come easily.

The former US Ryder Cup captain shot a closing 3-under 69 at Fallen Oak in Saucier, Mississippi on Sunday, that took him to his winning 16 under total, earned him $240,000, gave him his fourth career Champions Tour victory and extended his lead in the Charles Schwab Cup standings.

“But it was hard-earned,” Lehman admitted afterwards – even though in the end he was able to beat the second-placed tie of fellow American Jeff Sluman, Zimbabwe’s Nick Price and South African David Frost by all of four shots

“As nice as yesterday was, today was rugged with the wind the way it was blowing. I thought some of the holes, especially on the front nine against the wind were really difficult.”

Lehman, who won the Allianz Championship in February, started the day in this 54-hole event one-stroke clear of Sluman, but bogeyed the first hole to briefly fall into a tie.

But that was it.

The 1996 Open Champion never lost ground to the field again, marching clear with five birdies after methodically cheating the wind and conditions far worse than they were on Saturday when he shot a course-record 64.

After two days of ideal weather conditions, Sunday brought with it variable winds gusting up to 25 mph. but Lehman managed to keep his nose clean, hitting 13 out of 14 fairways and staying out of the deep bunkers that line most of the holes.

He said he was always confident of holding his lead heading home on the final stretch.

“The back nine has more opportunities to score,” he said. “Even if someone ahead started making a run, I was going to be able to play the same holes and there were some real birdie opportunities. So I felt comfortable.”

“Going into this week I was playing well and I had a good week of practice, so I expected to have a good week,” said Lehman whose victory extended to 12 the number of successive rounds he has now shot in the 60s.

First round leader Sluman, meanwhile, shot even par on Sunday after back-to-back 66s in the first and second rounds and despite a sloppy finish marked by two late bogies, he said his confidence had been boosted by his overall performance.

Both he and Frost said the wind made the course difficult not just because of its intensity, but also because it was blowing in a different direction than it had been on the two previous days.

“It was really demanding out there,” Sluman said. “But it was a fun, really fair test of golf. It’s really what we kind of treasure. You don’t want to have this every day of your life, because you’d be in the funny farm. But occasionally, especially on Sunday, it’s a terrific challenge.”