Sunday, March 22, 2009

Other than Tiger Woods (who won the United States Open by 15 shots in 2000, in front of screaming New Yorkers in 2002, and on one good knee in 2008) Tom Lehman and Retief Goosen are as identified with golf's national championship as much as anyone over the last 15 years. Look, I realize that the Transitions Championship is not the U.S. Open. It is, however, playing like one on TV.
Lehman, who played in four-straight final groups in the Open from 1995-98 and never won, and Goosen, who won in '01 and '04, are leading this tournament for a reason. They find fairways, especially Lehman, who hits a big 'ol draw that always seems to end up in the short grass. The Goose? He's a bit more crooked off the tee, but he can get up and down from a trash can.
I will be watching to see if Lehman, at 50, can become the seventh oldest winner in PGA Tour history. He has a one-shot lead over Goosen, no youngster himself at 40. The greens are baking (dying?) in these low-humidity breezes, and it will take a cool putting stroke to master them. Lehman and Goosen have both experimented with long or belly putters in recent years. Neither one looked good with the broomsticks. It's been nice to see them back with traditional-length putters and playing well.
The leaderboard is stacked with quality behind them (Immelman, Appleby and the like), but I'm thinking the winner comes out of the final group - Lehman, who can hit fairways in his sleep, or Goosen, who putts better on dead grass than anyone alive.

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