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Lehman Ready to Defend Senior PGA Championship Title Next Month
On May 24-29 Lehman will come to Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville as a favorite to repeat as the winner of the Senior PGA Championship. One of the Champions Tour's hottest current players, Lehman will be among 25 major champions with a combined 43 titles in the 156-player field.
On April 19, Lehman was in Louisville as the featured guest for the annual Senior PGA Championship Media Day. The 72nd Senior PGA Championship will be making its second visit to Valhalla and first since 2004 on the 7,297-yard Jack Nicklaus-designed course.
It will be the 52-year-old Lehman's third appearance in the most prestigious event in senior golf. He captured the 2010 championship in a playoff over Fred Couples and David Frost, who are also among the entrants for this year's event.
Lehman also played in the 2000 PGA Championship at Valhalla, but admitted last week that he was not ready to compete following knee surgery two weeks before. He withdrew after a first-round 82.
" I haven't played it since 2000, and even that year it was shortened (to 7,167 yards)," he said. "I had just come off knee surgery so I had two weeks of rehab after surgery and tried to play and didn't do it very well and made it one round and had to withdraw. I'm sure I made that first alternate really unhappy."
The 1996 British Open champion and captain of the 2006 U.S. Ryder Cup Team has already logged two Champions Tour victories in four starts this season. "I've been really happy with my game for the last three years," Lehman said.
"When I think of the number of tournaments that I've played and the number of tournaments where I've played well over about the last three to 3½ years, it's really gratifying because I've played well in 95 percent of them."
Lehman will be one of 11 Senior PGA champions in the elite field. Others include Michael Allen (2009); Jay Haas (2006, '08); Hale Irwin (1996, '97, '98, 2004); John Jacobs (2003); Mike Reid (2005); Doug Tewell (2000), Tom Wargo (1993), Denis Watson (2007); Tom Watson (2001) and Fuzzy Zoeller (2002).
Lehman said that doing well on a Nicklaus-designed course requires "a really good game plan." He tied for 14th in his debut at Valhalla in the 1996 PGA Championship for his second-best showing in the final major of the year.
"You have to have good strategy because there are a lot of places that you cannot recover from if you hit it there," said Lehman. "It's a difficult place to recover from, period, around some of these greens. So, you have to have a real good game plan. And, then once you get that going you have to hit it solid. I think it's a shot-maker's golf course. I thought it was back then and I think it is even more so now."
Competing on the Champions Tour has been a boon to his career, Lehman said, resulting in many positive stories for the over-50 players off the course as well as on. "I do think this about the Champions Tour, senior golf, that a lot of guys feel like they have been given a second lease on life.
"They have been able to continue competing and playing and at a time when most folks have had to quit long ago. And I think that is one reason why so many guys feel the real responsibility to be good citizens, to give back, to be involved with their communities, and to serve."
Lehman added that his third season on the Champions Tour has not allowed him to relax among his contemporaries. "You have to be on your toes and you have to be firing on all cylinders or else you're not going to win," he said. "There's just not 156 great players like there is on the PGA Tour. There's a whole bunch of good players and there's been a bunch of great players."
Originated in 1937, the championship has attracted the legends of the game and the newest members of senior professional golf. For information about both day and weeklong ticket packages, visit www.2011SeniorPGA.com or call the PGA Ticketing Center at (800) PGA-GOLF (742-4653).
The above report is courtesy of the PGA of America. For additional information, visit www.pga.com.
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