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updated: 6/22/2014 10:47 PM

Encompass win is on Lehman's terms

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  • Tom Lehman celebrates after winning the Encompass Championship on Sunday at North Shore Club in Glenview.

      Tom Lehman celebrates after winning the Encompass Championship on Sunday at North Shore Club in Glenview.
    Associated Press

 
 

Ho hum, just another former major champion sinking just another 12-foot putt to avoid just another playoff to win the Encompass Championship.

Last year it was Craig Stadler taking the title with a tricky bender from a dozen feet away, and Sunday it was Tom Lehman -- who had putted himself into a 3-shot lead heading into the final round only to see it disappear late, courtesy of a balky flat stick -- coming through with a clutch left-to-righter on the final hole to cap a wild finish at North Shore Country Club in Glenview.

For Stadler, the win at North Shore ended a drought of way too many years without a victory on the Champions Tour.

For Lehman, Sunday's victory put a stop to a winless streak of 26 tournaments dating to 2012. Not quite as severe a run as Stadler's but providing just as big a sigh of relief for the former British Open champ, who took home $270,000 for the effort.

"The check is sweet, but the trophy is even sweeter," said Lehman, who bogeyed 13 and 14 to fall out of the lead but birdied three of the final four to take the title at 15-under. "It's so nice to win again."

It didn't come without a lot of anxiety, however, because Sunday's finish featured four players -- Lehman, Kirk Triplett, Mike Allen and Doug Garwood -- tied for the lead with three holes to play.

After Garwood dropped back, Allen's approach shot at 18 hit the flagstick and came to rest a couple of inches away for a tap-in birdie to make him the leader in the clubhouse at 14-under, tied with Lehman and Triplett, who were in the next group up.

"Well, all week you kind of feel like it's going to be about 15 under to win, and 15 under wins," said Triplett. "I wasn't really trying to watch Tom or Michael or Doug. I could see what was happening on the leaderboard and it just looked like 15 under was going to win the golf tournament."

That indeed turned out to be the case.

Triplett's approach at 18 went over the pin and stopped about 20 feet away. His ensuing birdie try ended up hole-high but just a couple of tantalizing inches from the cup, setting up Lehman's heroics.

"I was nervous," Lehman admitted of standing over his birdie attempt. "Nervous because during the course of the season I've been so erratic with the putter.

"The first two days here I putted well. Today, wasn't nearly as well. I was kind of putting like I had been, so I wasn't overly confident."

You could have fooled the big crowd circling the 18th because all Lehman did was step up, drill it on a perfect line, and then drop his putter and raise his arms in triumph as it fell into the cup.

"My caddie Andy gave me a perfect read there," Lehman said, "so he gets a raise for that one."

And Lehman gets a little boost of confidence heading into next week's Senior Players Championship, a major on the Champions Tour.

Plus, he gets to return to Glenview next year as the defending champion of the Encompass Championship, something Lehman can't wait to experience.

"I've played here twice, finished third last year and won this year, so this course suits my game," he said. "I love the area, love the people.

"I'm a Midwestern guy, so it's like being home."

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