The final U.S. Open group on Sunday will have a different look for the first time in the past five years. Tom Lehman, a member of that twosome since 1995, will have a much earlier tee time at Pinehurst No. 2 after a 73 today that left him at 10-over-par 220 after the first three rounds.
Lehman was the leader after 54 holes in 1995 at Shinnecock Hills, in '96 at Oakland Hills and '97 at Congressional, and was second to Payne Stewart after three rounds last year at Olympic Club. Each time, Lehman failed to win the championship, finishing second once, third twice and in a tie for fifth last year.
This year, tired of being asked about all those collapses, the normally accessible Minnesota native had taken something of a low profile over the last month, and especially this week. He was asked to appear for an interview in the media tent on Tuesday, but declined, saying he did not want to focus on the past.
"If you thought about what happened before, you'd go crazy, but I guess it's all anyone wants to talk about," he told a group of reporters on Wednesday. "When you talk about something so much, it becomes the focus of everything you do. So I've tried to avoid it. I'm here to practice and play golf on Thursday."
Lehman hasn't putted well all week, with only three birdies -- one a day -- to show for his effort. Today, his only birdie came on a chip-in from off the 11th green.
Lehman was not particularly pleased to see such short rough at Pinehurst this week, saying the course more resembled Augusta National during The Masters than a typical U.S. Open venue. Today, under what he described as "horrific" conditions for the early starters, he said he thought par for the course should have been 72, and that his 73 felt as if he had finished under par.
"If it hadn't been for the cloud cover and wind dying a little, it would have been the highest scoring day in [Open] history, impossible," he said. ". . . Somebody may be under par after three rounds, but nobody will be after four."
Lehman was paired with Ted Tryba, who won in Memphis on Monday on a day Lehman had tied for second. Today, Lehman walked off the green 10 over and Tryba was 19 over.
"I still think I have a 59 in me," Lehman said. When a reporter asked him, "For which nine?" he laughed and said, "That's pretty cold."
Lost and Found
Paul Goydos, the first-round co-leader and still in the lead after 11 holes on Friday, had every reason to collapse much earlier in his second round. While he was on the fourth tee, his wife, Wendy, told him she had lost her wedding ring.
She had taken it off in the clubhouse while washing her hands, and had forgotten to put it back on. She noticed it was missing as she was walking outside the ropes, and she was rather distraught.
A USGA official accompanying the threesome radioed the clubhouse to launch a search for the ring, which was recovered.
Dry by Design
As difficult as the course was today, at least no one was complaining about too much water on the course. That's because course designer Donald Ross did not favor adding water hazards unless they were a natural part of the topography.
There is a small pond at the 16th hole, but it came about only because a few years after the course was opened in 1903, a low-lying area between the 16th tee and the fairway wasn't draining properly whenever it rained. Ross didn't like the look of what became a mud hole, and had the pond built, with water starting 125 yards from the tee.
It comes into play only for the thousands of amateur hackers who may have difficulty carrying the necessary 175 yards to the fairway. Through the first three rounds here, no player in the field could claim the distinction of getting his ball wet at the 489-yard No. 16.