With his eye on the Ryder Cup team and his first PGA Tour victory since 1996, Tom Lehman fired a third-round 64 yesterday to take a four-shot lead in the rain-soaked Buick Open in Grand Blanc, Mich.
Slopping along in drenched khakis and doffing his rain-soaked cap on the putting green to keep the water from dripping on to his ball, Lehman lapped the field. He made nine birdies and a bogey while others struggled in deteriorating conditions.
Lehman was alone at 16 under par, four shots ahead of second-round co-leader Ernie Els. Nine players, most of whom got in most of their holes before the worst weather set in, were bunched at 11 under.
"Our back nine was horrendous," Els said. "It really started pouring."
Lehman capped his round with birdie putts of 40 and 30 feet on the last two holes. "The greens are great. You get it on line and it's going to go in the hole," he said. "The rain really didn't seem to affect me."
A victory would be Lehman's first in the United States since the Tour Championship in 1996. A year later he won the Loch Lomond World Invitational in Scotland.
Winning would vault him into the top 10 in the competition for a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. He now ranks 14th. Team captain Ben Crenshaw will pick two players in addition to the 10 who will make the team based on a performance point system.
"I'd love to win and I'm in the driver's seat," Lehman said. "It's going to be soft tomorrow and the scores will be low."
* SENIORS: Bruce Fleisher had three birdies--one-third his opening-round total--in a round of 3-under-par 69, extending his lead to three shots after two rounds of the $1.2 million Long Island Classic in Jericho, N.Y. Fleisher, a four-time winner in his rookie season on the Senior PGA Tour, almost didn't have a chance to extend his one-stroke lead--he misread his starting time and arrived at the course just eight minutes before the final group was to tee off.
* LPGA: Sherri Steinhauer birdied the final two holes for a 3-under-par 69 to improve to 11 under and take a two-stroke lead heading into the final round of the areaWEB.COM Challenge in Sutton, Mass.
* EUROPE: Scotland's Colin Montgomerie fired a 7-under-par 65 to take a commanding six-stroke lead after the third round of the Scandinavian Masters in Barsebaeck, Sweden. The Scotsman is seeking his fourth PGA European Tour victory of the season.