Tom Lehman will return to the site of his triumph in The Open in 1996 when he tees it up in The Senior Open Presented by Rolex at Royal Lytham & St Annes from July 25-28.
Lehman, Team USA Ryder Cup Captain in 2006, held off the challenge of compatriot Mark McCumber and South Africa’s Ernie Els as he won his third of five US PGA Tour titles, going on to top the American Money List at the end of the season.
The 60-year-old is relishing the opportunity to return to Royal Lytham & St Annes seven years after his last appearance at The Open on the same golf course.
“It’s quite a golf course, a complete test,” said the American. “Like most links courses you have to drive it straight, there’s more than 200 bunkers out there. If you can find a way to avoid those you are ahead of the game, but it’s hard to do.
“When you get a chance to play Championship golf on some of the world’s greatest courses, there’s nothing like it. Any Open gets me interested, but this one sticks out in particular. I’ve not won The Senior Open. It would be great to win it, period. But it would be somewhat fulfilling to do it at the same venue where I won The Open.”
The American played one of the best rounds of his life on the Lancashire links as he carded a course record 64 on Saturday to take a six-stroke lead into the final round – Lehman’s seven under par score, matched by Adam Scott in 2012, still stands to this day.
“I really rolled the ball beautifully that day,” recalled Lehman. “Every putt I hit was dead solid, I had great speed off the putter face and I holed a lot of them. I ended up shooting a 64 with the wind blowing.
“It was truly one of the best rounds I’ve played in any competition. A lot of good things happened that day, the only negative was bogeying the 18th. At that point you can’t complain too much. I did so many things well it would have been foolish to worry about that.”
On the Sunday, McCumber and Els set the clubhouse target of 11 under par. Lehman made the turn at one over par before a birdie on the par three 12th hole saw him move back to level par. Despite bogeys on the 15th and 17th holes, Lehman held his nerve on the last, taking a two-stroke lead down the final hole.
After finding the 18th green in two, Lehman left himself a three-foot putt for par which he tapped in to become the first American winner at Royal Lytham & St Annes since Bobby Jones 70 years earlier and ensured that The Claret Jug remained in American hands after John Daly’s victory at St Andrews the year before.
“A two-stroke lead isn’t as good as a three-stroke lead,” said Lehman. “One bad shot can cost you a double but it’s very rare that you make a triple. The issue was putting the ball in green grass off the tee, which I did. The next shot was a beautiful eight iron which found the top of the green, and that’s when it really became fun.
“The walk to that green was quite the thrill. It was the only time my father had been to The Open – so he was one for one, that was a big deal. I know he was a proud dad, and I was a proud son. It was a wonderful moment.”
Lehman will be one of a host of former Major Champions, Ryder Cup Captains and European Tour winners competing at Royal Lytham & St Annes later this year.
He will join fellow former Ryder Cup Captains Bernhard Langer, Paul McGinley Colin Montgomerie and Ian Woosnam in the field at Royal Lytham & St Annes as the stars of the golfing world descend on the North West of England for Europe’s only Senior Major Championship.
Do not miss your chance to watch Miguel Angel Jiménez defend his title against the world’s best over-50s golfers. Tickets start from £13.50 and are available here. Hospitality options in The Lehman Lounge are also available here. Entry for Under-16s and parking are free.