One of Champions Tour’s best gets a feel for Omaha, U.S. Senior Open course - Omaha.com
Published Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at 10:28 pm / Updated at 10:33 pm
Golf
One of Champions Tour’s best gets a feel for Omaha, U.S. Senior Open course

Tom Lehman stood at the front of the dew-draped 15th green, his Scotty Cameron putter tucked under his left arm.

For three minutes Wednesday morning, he studied the contours, scribbling his little pencil on a black-and-white Omaha Country Club yardage book. He shaded the steepest parts of the green, where even the USGA wouldn’t put a pin. He drew arrows to signify the falloffs.

“I’m a very visual person, so when I draw it myself, I remember it.”

In the distance, Lehman heard workers erecting bleachers behind the 14th green — the Senior U.S. Open begins in three weeks and he badly wants to win. In his mind, the former No. 1 player in the world envisioned the pins he can attack and the ones he can’t, the places he wants to chip from and the places he doesn’t.

Then Lehman, wearing a maroon and gold Minnesota hat, moved to the back of the 15th green and studied another few minutes, scribbling more.

He arrived in Omaha on Tuesday afternoon, laid eyes on OCC for the first time and spent three hours walking the front nine, just putting. Wednesday morning — after a late night watching his Spurs lose — he returned for the back nine. Again, no clubs, just a flatstick.

“You can get a lot of knowledge absorbed in six hours out here, walking it, not hitting,” said Lehman, the 1996 British Open champion. “When you’re hitting shots, you can get distracted when you hit a bad shot. You drop another ball and you start hitting and pretty soon you’re just working on your swing. The idea is to be learning the course.”

What he doesn’t like is showing up the week of a big tournament and cramming alongside 150 competitors. The more he learns now — without distraction — the better he can focus on polishing his game during official practice rounds.

Lehman, 54, isn’t far from his golfing prime — he nearly qualified for the 2006 Ryder Cup team he captained. In 2011, he was Champions Tour player of the year. But he’s best known for his near-misses at the U.S. Open. Four years in a row, 1995-98, he played in the final group. He went 0 for 4. In other words, he knows how Phil Mickelson feels.

“I do know that pain,” Lehman said. “I’ve been there before.”

At first glance, he thinks Omaha Country Club could be the place that delivers his first USGA championship. Walking up to the 15th green, Lehman shook a maintenance worker’s hand.

“You’ve got a beautiful course,” he said. “I love it.”

OCC plays to Lehman’s strengths. He drives the ball well and was once the best iron player on the PGA Tour. The past two days, he noticed numerous uphill second shots, a steady diet of downhill par 3s and thick cabbage flanking the fairways.

“The rough, unless they cut it, is way higher than I’ve ever seen for a U.S. Senior Open,” Lehman said.

Players will have to decide whether to lay back on flatter spots in the fairway and approach with longer irons or attack with driver and try to get a wedge in their hands, knowing that an errant tee ball means a likely bogey.

With courses as difficult as OCC, Lehman said, everybody will make mistakes — “It’s just who does it less.”

Kind of like ... Game 6 of the NBA Finals. Lehman showed up Wednesday morning a little later than he planned. It’s not easy to sleep when your team loses a five-point lead in the final 30 seconds.

“I thought the referees really blew the last two calls,” he said. “That no-call on (Manu) Ginobili was just pitiful. Then when a guy takes a 3 and gets knocked into the bleachers, you gotta call that.

“But they shouldn’t have ever gotten there. The little things they did all series long, they didn’t do last night down the stretch.”

Then Lehman was off with his putter and his yardage book, first to finish the back nine, then to fly to Chicago for a Champions Tour stop, where Thursday night he’ll carve out a few hours to study Game 7, hoping the old guys can shove aside past disappointment and find a way — finally — to close the deal.

Contact the writer:

402-649-1461, dirk.chatelain@owh.com, twitter.com/dirkchatelain

Contact the writer: Dirk Chatelain

dirk.chatelain@owh.com    |   402-649-1461    |  

Dirk Chatelain is a staff writer for The Omaha World-Herald and covers Nebraska football and general assignments.

Read more related stories
Intoxicated man with pellet gun climbs billboard's scaffold; is arrested
Notes: Montalvo signs Division I papers with Texas State
Changstrom, Jays ready to face off with league leader DePaul
Maha Music Festival announces lineup; might be its best yet
UNO guard Jalen Bradley transferring to Northeast CC
UNO’s Spenner sets school record in heptathlon
Reiver shot-blocker headed to Pittsburgh
Creighton men get two commits for next season
Jensen, Omahans set for Bellator bouts
Last day of 2014 Legislature: Praise, passage of a last few bills and more on mountain lions
'The war is not over,' Chambers says, but legislative session about is
A recap of what got done — and what didn't — in the 2014 legislative session
Airbnb event seeks Omaha-area hosts for Berkshire weekend, CWS
PAC funded by Senate candidate Ben Sasse's great-uncle releases Shane Osborn attack ad
Omaha woman, 30, battling breast cancer for third time
Teen killed at Gallagher Park was shot in head as he sat in SUV, friend who was wounded says
Kelly: Creighton's McDermotts put good faces on an Omaha tradition
When judge asks, Nikko Jenkins says ‘I killed them’
New UNO center strengthens ties between campus, community
Threat found in Millard West bathroom deemed 'not credible'
Lincoln principal apologizes for flier advising students not to tattle on bullies
Union Pacific's profits withstand challenging weather
New public employee pay data: Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy Counties, plus utilities
Author Gabriel Garcia Marquez dies at 87
Program gets students with disabilities on the job, ready for future
ON TWITTER »

VIDEO »
Deadline Deal thumbnail
Dr. Welbes Natural Health Clinic
$129 for 2 LipoLaser Sessions with Additional Complimentary Services ($605 value)
Buy Now
PHOTO GALLERIES »
< >
SPOTLIGHT »
Blog: Dirk's 'Mad Chatter'
Dirk Chatelain offers his thoughts on the latest news from around the sports world, complete with links to the best articles, opinion columns, YouTube videos and more.
Civic Auditorium Timeline
World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel asked readers for their favorite memories of the Civic Auditorium. We combined their submissions with a few key events or moments in the auditorium's history.
CWS: Banner Years
The College World Series historical database, a growing home for historical information about past NCAA baseball championships, which have been played in Omaha since 1950.
Downtown Omaha event map
Discover the area surrounding the CenturyLink Center, TD Ameritrade Park and downtown Omaha -- including restaurants, arts & entertainment venues, hotels and local retail outlets.
Facebook: Tom Shatel's page
Get Tom Shatel's sports columns delivered straight to your Facebook feed.
Follow Tom Shatel on Twitter
Get instant analysis and commentary from World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel on Twitter.
Nebraska high school basketball's greatest night
Four elite teams. Two buzzer-beaters. One packed house. On March 11, 1989, the stars aligned and produced the best night in Nebraska high school basketball history.
Shatel's blog
Check out the latest from World-Herald sports columnist Tom Shatel.
Shatel: Tom's Take on 20 Unforgettable Years in Sports
Get World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel's book "Shatel: Tom's Take on 20 Unforgettable Years in Sports."
Super Bowl: Through the years
The Super Bowl is a yearly media madhouse. See how The World-Herald sports section's front pages portrayed each of the Super Bowl victories won by those players celebrated in our Mt. Rushmore of Super Bowl QBs.
Talk sports with World-Herald reporters
World-Herald reporters log on to talk about the latest news surrounding the Huskers, Jays, Mavericks, high schools sports and more. Check out the upcoming chat schedule or replay the latest discussions with the fans.
The disappearance of small-town football
Friday night lights across rural Nebraska are going dark. But one town, in its last season of gridiron independence, proved that school spirit is stronger than ever.
The Nebraska 100
In an historic 2005 series, The World-Herald selected the state’s all-time top 100 athletes. In a new web exclusive, see the digitized collection for the first time.
2013 college football preview
View our 2013 college football preview, a 26-page, three-part section filled with coverage of the Huskers, Big Ten conference and more.
Big Red Bowl Retrospective
See complete historical results, game recaps and photo coverage from the Nebraska Cornhuskers college football bowl game appearances, from the 1941 Rose Bowl up to today.
WORLD-HERALD ALERTS »
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for Omaha.com's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »