Lehman completes Schwab sweep for family and Flick

December 04, 2012
John Schwarb

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Tom Lehman has tried to talk to his longtime teacher and mentor Jim Flick every day while Flick battles terminal pancreatic cancer.

He was able to get a few words with Flick on Sunday morning before starting his final round at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.

Flick's words of wisdom: "Be Tom Lehman."

Lehman was. And being Tom Lehman is pretty good these days.

Lehman won the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship by six shots, shooting a final-round 65 to finish at 22 under on the par-70 Desert Mountain Cochise Course. He set a Champions Tour record aggregate score of 258 and, oh yeah, in doing so also won the Charles Schwab Cup, becoming the first back-to-back winner of the season-long points race.

Bernhard Langer came to Desert Mountain atop the Schwab Cup standings by 211 points, but the volatility of the double-points final left a few scenarios where Lehman could leapfrog his friend. The simplest one was for Lehman to win the tournament, and he did.

"There's a lot of times in this world where you need to play well and you don't. This is one of those weeks where I needed to and I did," Lehman said. "All in all, it's a bit of a dream-come-true week."

Lehman is the first player since Tom Watson in 1995 to claim the season-long title by winning the season finale. His spectacular play at the Cochise Course (68-63-62-65) included a 47-hole bogey-free stretch from late in Round 1 to the turn of Round 4, and his Moving Day 62 was a personal best by two shots on the Champions Tour.

On Sunday, he birdied the second and third holes to open up a cushion that was never threatened, then birdied four of the final five to finish in style.

"Today, he went out and played extremely well," Couples said. "When you know you have to win and you win, that's a nice feeling."

Couples, playing alongside in the final group, went birdie-less until the final hole and shot 73, the third-highest score of the day in the field of the year's top 30 money winners. Jay Haas, who started two shots back of Lehman, shot 69. He was 10 under in the second round in a Tour-record-tying 60, but was just 6 under on the other 54 holes.

That left the spotlight squarely on Lehman, who dazzled in front of family and friends in his hometown and, through television at home in California, Flick.

Lehman couldn't get away from the memories of two-plus decades with Flick, though he tried to push them to the back of his mind while competing.

The now-seven-time Champions Tour winner first contacted Flick in 1990 while on the Hogan (now Web.com) Tour, looking for help on his wedges. Flick, having no idea who Lehman was, first called pros Andrew Magee and John Adamsto see if the Minnesotan was worth his time. Yes, fellow pros told Flick, he was worth spending some time with.

So they did over Flick's lunch hour, kicking off a long and fruitful relationship. Lehman went on to win five times on the PGA TOUR, including the 1996 British Open.

Lehman remembers many times wearing out the back of the range at the Renegade Course at Desert Mountain, where Flick was the longtime PGA teaching pro. Then there was the time they were in the fairway on the eighth hole at the Cochise Course, launching 3-wood after 3-wood down the hill to the par-5 green.

"We probably spent half an hour just back there hitting shots," Lehman said. "Those are the kind of things you think about.

"But the more I thought about that, the more teary-eyed I would get. I decided I can't play this round of golf with tears in my eyes. I have to wait until business was finished.

When it was -- with a birdie on the last hole -- Lehman buried his face in his white TaylorMade hat, able to take in all those emotions.

"The last hole, I know that he was probably watching today," Lehman said. "I felt quite certain that that was probably the last driver he was ever going to see me hit and I wanted to make it a good one. And the last 7-iron he will ever see me hit, and I wanted to make that a good one. And the last putt, I wanted to make that putt."

Lehman didn't make that last putt -- it was a two-putt birdie -- but his work was complete. He was then swarmed by family, plus fellow pros Langer, Fred Funk and Loren Roberts.

"Back-to-back (titles), that's awesome. That just shows you what a consistent player he is," said Roberts, one of four others (Hale Irwin, Watson, Haas) to win a pair of Schwab Cups. "He's always been a consistent ballstriker, and when he gets the putter going he's hard to beat, because he's just always there tee to green."

"When you beat Tom, you've played your ball," Haas added.

Except there was no beating Lehman this week. Just being himself was more than enough for a historic sweep.