Lehman in position for a possible Sunday sweep

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Tom Lehman followed a second-round 63 with a third-round 62 at Desert Mountain.
November 03, 2012
John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Tom Lehman doesn't give terse answers too often, but he had one on Saturday when asked if he can now daydream of a second consecutive Schwab Cup, considering he's leading the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship.


"No, I don't think you can," he said.

He doesn't want to daydream when there's a tournament to be won.

Lehman leads the season finale at Desert Mountain by a shot after a terrific 8-under 62 on Saturday that moved him to 17 under, one shot ahead of Fred Couples, who also shot 62.

Jay Haas, one day after a Tour-record-tying 60, could only muster a 69. He's at 15 under. Jay Don Blake is at 10 under, so it's essentially a Lehman-Couples-Haas tussle for the title on Sunday.

"You've got to go out and make birdies and shoot low again," Lehman said. "I really like the pairing (with Couples), I really like the fact that he is a streaky kind of a player. Hopefully he plays his best and hopefully I play my best, and we will see what happens."

There will be a charge in the desert air with Couples in the final group. His appearances on the Champions Tour are only sporadic, by scheduling and by health, and the season finale marks just his ninth start. He only finished eight of them, withdrawing from the Boeing Classic in his native Seattle two months ago, but in those eight he won two.

Couples had never seen the Desert Mountain Cochise Course until this week. So in his third round, of course, he shot a bogey-free 62 with two eagles.

"When I played it in the pro-am, I felt like a lot of the holes, as they say, caught your eye. I have hit some pretty good tee shots on those holes," Couples said.

"But, you know, what did I think I was going to shoot? I was hoping I could get it around and start to play and then after this week take a few days off and then slowly start to play."

Instead the 2013 World Golf Hall of Famer is contending for a third win after a two-month layoff, which never fails to impress his contemporaries.

"He is just a very talented guy," Lehman said. "He has one of those swings. I think the fact that his swing is so fluid and his rhythm is so good, that makes it possible for him to do that. With the rhythm like his, and the talent he has, obviously, it's working. It's always worked. He has never not been a great player."

But Lehman's been pretty great for a while on the Champions Tour, including this week. He's 15 under in his last two rounds, with his last bogey coming on the 16th hole in the opening round. On Saturday at the par-4 16th, he engineered what he called one of his saves of the year.

He overruled caddie Andy Martinez's suggestion for a rescue club off the tee, opting for a 3-wood, but popped it up slightly and it landed in a boulder pile in the middle of the fairway.

Fortunately he could get a club on it, so he chipped out sideways and then hit up to the green. He was left with a 35-foot slider from off the front edge for par, and he buried it to keep momentum in the round. He then birdied the par-3 17th and parred 18 for the 62.

"One of those kind of things that happen when things go your way, and it came definitely at the right time," Lehman said.

Speaking of the right time, things have fallen into place perfectly for Lehman and the year-long prize. It will take an unusual set of circumstances for Bernhard Langer to end the week as he began it as the Schwab Cup points leader.

The 2010 Schwab Cup champion went backward on Saturday with an even-par 70, leaving him tied for 10th at 6 under, 11 shots back of Lehman. Langer doesn't have to finish ahead of Lehman to claim the Schwab Cup, but he does have to get a lot closer to Lehman and hope the Scottsdale resident doesn't win at home.

In other words, he may have to shoot one of the magical rounds that is out there this week at the Cochise Course.

"I'll pretty much go at everything," Langer said. "At this point, it doesn't matter if I drop further back. I really need to move forward."