Second Nature On the eve of the U.S. Open, perennial bridesmaid Tom Lehman is ready for another run at the title

June 20, 1999

Since Tom Lehman and Hal Sutton know all about the virtues of
perseverance, it came as no surprise that on Monday the two of
them were still in the thick of things at the rain-delayed FedEx
St. Jude Classic, which took so long to deliver a winner that
next year's sponsor should be the Pony Express. Assuming that
the tournament ends before the U.S. Open begins--actually, Ted
Tryba won it by two strokes over Lehman and Tim Herron on Monday
afternoon--Lehman and Sutton appeared ready to contend for their
first Open and second major championship title.

But first they had to cope with the effects of a deluge of
almost two inches in only 30 minutes early on Sunday afternoon
that suspended play and made the TPC at Southwind look like the
set of Waterworld. Several cars in a parking lot close to the
clubhouse were half-submerged. The groundskeepers couldn't get
the course ready before 7 p.m., which meant that the 52 players
who hadn't finished their round would have had one hour to play
before darkness. Tour officials decided it would be better to
postpone play until the next morning. "That way you don't
interrupt the round twice," Sutton said on Sunday evening. "Not
going back out today was a good decision."

The 54-hole tournament, former commissioner Deane Beman's
favorite solution for inclement weather, may be officially
declared dead. If the players' desire to get to Pinehurst for
this week's U.S. Open was not enough to force the cancellation
of a round, nothing is. The players, the majority of whom did
not agree with Beman, established a Tour policy before the 1997
season that made playing 72 holes a top priority. They wanted to
avoid fiascoes such as the 36-hole Byron Nelson Classic in 1994,
the so-called Half Nelson, which ended on a Sunday with a
six-man playoff. One of the losers in that shoot-out, David
Ogrin, was in Memphis on Monday morning to finish the six holes
left on his final round. (He wound up 42nd.) "You've got to keep
the sanctity of 72 holes," he said. "I benefited from the Half
Nelson, but it wasn't a complete tournament."

When the fourth round resumed at 7:30 a.m. on Monday, not a
single player had withdrawn. The 32-year-old Tryba shot his age
on the back side to finish with a 66 and a 19-under total of
265. After winning the Anheuser-Busch Classic at Kingsmill in
1995, Tryba worried that he might become a one-hit wonder.
"Everybody wins one tournament," he said on Monday. "I won the
first one when I was 28. Maybe some people chalked it up as a
fluke. I felt like I was a solid player. This one felt good
because I didn't back into it."

The victory took on added significance because he won coming off
the disabled list. On the Monday before the Players
Championship, in March, Tryba separated ribs from his sternum
while trying to lift some cinder blocks that were in eight feet
of water beneath the dock at his home in Orlando. "I was trying
to hold my breath," he said. "My feet went down [in the mud], my
body went up."

There was no way Tryba was going to bail out of Memphis, but as
a rule, asking golfers, who are the hyper-organized sort, to
alter their travel plans is like asking them to play without
their caddies. Nevertheless, a chartered jet bound for
Pinehurst, arranged months ago, left town on Sunday night with
lots of moms and kids but only a few dads. "I'm not sure I
wanted to see Pinehurst one extra day anyway," said Fred Funk.
"The less I see of those greens, the better."

Lehman, who was fighting a heavy cold, would have preferred to
wrap things up on Sunday. The most famous also-ran since Alydar,
Lehman, 40, has become as much a part of the Open as the photo
op of the winner hoisting the Havemayer Trophy, which is why his
tie for second in Memphis made the stomachs of sympathetic fans
churn. Lehman has spent the last four Opens in the final twosome
watching someone else win, and his good play in the St. Jude
Classic only heightened expectations for Pinehurst.

Although he's quick to say, "There's way more to life than the
U.S. Open," the unfortunate fact that he's better known for his
annual near misses than he is for winning the 1996 British Open
at Royal Lytham and St. Anne's bugs Lehman. "I was watching TV,"
he says, "and they were talking about a guy who had made some
bonehead play that had cost his team the World Series or
something. That's not fair. Only the die-hard fanatics will
remember that." (O.K., so he's not a Red Sox fan.) Almost as an
afterthought Lehman adds, "I think my Open record is pretty good."

Before Lehman, no one, not even Jack Nicklaus, had finished in
the top five in four consecutive Opens since Ben Hogan did it
from 1950 to '53. "Certain golfers excel when it comes to dire
conditions," Lehman says. "Personally, I'm at my best when it's
hard, firm and fast. You can always count on getting the bounce.
You can go into a difficult shot with a real commitment."

Mr. Lehman, meet Mr. Ross. Danger looms around the greens at
Pinehurst No. 2, the masterwork of Donald Ross, the transplanted
Scot who designed more than 400 courses in the U.S. in the first
half of the century. Unless a shot lands precisely on the flat
areas of No. 2's turtleback greens, the ball might run left,
right or over. Lehman has a plan. "There's a way to play that
course, and it's not aggressively," he says. He learned that
lesson in the '92 Tour Championship, the last time the pros
played Pinehurst. "On the 1st hole in the pro-am I missed the
pin by a fraction to the right," he says. "My ball rolled off
the green into a swale, and I made bogey. After the 2nd hole my
caddie [Andy Martinez] bet me that I couldn't hit more than 13
of the last 16 greens. If he won, I had to give him the really
nice money clip they gave us that week. If I won, he had to
babysit my kids for two nights. I aimed at the middle of every
green and hit 15 of the last 16. Andy pressed me on 18, and I
hit that green, too. He ended up owing me four nights, which he
never paid."

The lesson learned by that wager failed to pay off, too. "The
first two rounds I aimed to the middle of every green and scored
well," Lehman says. "As I started swinging better, I began to
shoot at the pins. I played better golf but had higher scores."
He finished 13th.

Sutton was nowhere near the '92 Tour Championship, reserved for
the top 30 on the money list. He was 185th in earnings that
year. The next season he was 161st. In those two years he made
only 21 cuts in 58 starts and won just $113,378. In the 10 years
that had passed since his dazzling victory in the '83 PGA,
Sutton had gone from boy wonder to wonder whatever happened to...?

All that's behind him now. His tie for sixth in Memphis, his
seventh top 10 of the year, pushed Sutton past $1 million in
earnings for the second consecutive year, and he is close to
clinching a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. (He's fifth on the
points list.) "That would mean a lot," says Sutton, who won
twice last season. "There haven't been too many guys who've made
the Ryder Cup team early in their careers and come back to make
it again 12 years later."

Back in '87, when Sutton last made the team, Sergio Garcia, the
latest boy wonder, was seven. Garcia, who has won $202,650 in
his two starts on the U.S. Tour since turning pro after the
Masters, made news in Memphis when he had to withdraw from the
tournament because acne above his left eye abscessed and the eye
swelled shut. Surgery last Thursday morning took care of the
problem, but if the other pros are smart, they'll hide Garcia's
Phisoderm for the foreseeable future.

When someone asked Sutton about Garcia's sudden rise, you could
almost see him recoil. The first time Sutton reached the top, he
did so in a series of neatly orchestrated steps: college player
of the year in 1980, U.S. Amateur champ later that summer, and
then, in '83, when he was just 25 and in his second year on
Tour, winner of the Players Championship as well as the PGA and
the player of the year award. "Being a kid, I thought this game
was a lot easier than it is," Sutton says. "I'm a good example
for kids today. They had better pay attention."

Sutton believes his game fell apart because he didn't trust the
swing that had made him a star. You name the swing coach, and
Sutton worked with him: Jimmy Ballard, Butch Harmon, David
Leadbetter, Jim McLean. "There was a time in my life when I
worked with anybody who walked up and told me something about
the swing," Sutton says. "Half of them didn't know as much as I
did, but I was playing so poorly I didn't think I knew anything."

Sutton began to duck practice rounds with the top players and
took up raising and riding cutting horses. "I was trying to get
away from golf because I was failing," he says. He went through
three marriages. "The unsettledness of an immature person," he
says by way of explanation.

Sutton looked for happiness everywhere but in the mirror.
Slowly, he began to understand. "We each have a fingerprint," he
says, "and it never changes. That's kind of the way the swing,
and life, is. You can make minor adjustments, but beyond that...."

He found the right woman in his fourth wife, Ashley. The
Suttons, who recently celebrated their fifth anniversary, have
three daughters, Samantha, 2, and five-month-old twins, Sadie
and Sara.

Sutton also found the right coach. He says that Floyd Horgen,
who coached him in college at Centenary, called him three years
ago. Horgen says that he called five years ago and that it took
Sutton two years to call back. Anyway, Horgen, who moved from
Centenary to Brevard (Fla.) Community College in 1983 and won
seven national championships there before retiring to Bozeman,
Mont., had not been a part of Sutton's life for more than a
decade. But he couldn't take what he saw of his former player on
television.

Says Sutton, "Floyd called me and said, 'Hal, if you don't make
changes, your career is going to be real short. Your
competitiveness and athleticism are allowing you to get away
with that swing.'"

Horgen persuaded Sutton to keep the club face open on his
backswing, and also polished his follow-through. "The foundation
of Hal's swing is the same as it was when I coached him in
college," Horgen says. "He's got more all-around game now."

Sutton has no doubt that is true. "The Hal Sutton of '99 would
beat the Hal Sutton of '83 to death," he says. There is pride in
his voice. On Wednesday he was planning to play a practice round
at the Open with someone like David Duval.

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY J.D. CUBAN Two much Lehman, who has played well enough in the Open to make the final pairing for four straight years, is proud of his record. TWO COLOR PHOTOS: PHOTOGRAPHS BY J.D. CUBAN Leading men David Frost tied the Tour's 36-hole record by opening with a pair of 63s but finished 15th, seven shots behind Tryba (below). COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY J.D. CUBAN Iron will The man himself says the Sutton of '83 would be no match for the Sutton of '99.

"We each have a fingerprint, and it never changes," says Sutton.
"That's kind of the way the swing, and life, is."

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)