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The Anti-Shark
Rick Reilly
July 29, 1996
At the British Open, rough and rumpled Tom Lehman did what Greg Norman couldn't: hold off Nick Faldo to win a major championship
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July 29, 1996

The Anti-shark

At the British Open, rough and rumpled Tom Lehman did what Greg Norman couldn't: hold off Nick Faldo to win a major championship

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Lehman is a Volvo kind of guy and, in fact, drove a Volvo until this year when his wife (and former caddie), Melissa, surprised him with a new Mercedes for his birthday. "He was embarrassed about it," says Andy Martinez, his current caddie. "I almost think he would rather have stayed with his Volvo." Norman spends his leisure time wrestling eels. Lehman just tends his roses, hundreds and hundreds of roses, at his Scottsdale, Ariz., home. "That's the only thing Tom spends his time and money on," says his father, Jim, 63, who was along for the ride in England last week. "Those roses."

And so maybe the biggest difference was that Norman seemed to have so much to prove that Sunday in April while Lehman had so little. When you were the Hogan tour Player of the Year at 32 years old and only six years removed from filling out a job application that would've had you renting skis to University of Minnesota students in the winter, and only one year from surgery on your colon to cut out polyps that proved to be only precancerous, you do not have a lot to prove to anybody. "I've already shown I've got enough guts and courage," Lehman was saying at dusk on Saturday night. "I mean, I want to win, but my life is not going to crumble if I collapse." Then a pause. "Of course, I guess I've got to be realistic about this. How many chances like this come along?"

Lately, lots of them. He and his controlled crash-hook have been part of the final acts of at least one major each year for the last three—losing heartbreakingly to Jos� Mar�a Olaz�bal at the '94 Masters, grudgingly to Corey Pavin at the Shinnecock U.S. Open last year and achingly on the final hole to Steve Jones at the Oakland Hills U.S. Open only a month ago. He was reminded of that last Friday night at Tiggy's, the restaurant of choice in Lytham-St. Annes, when he found Lee Janzen, Scott Simpson and Jones sitting at a table. "Is this table reserved only for major-championship winners?" he asked.

"Yeah," one of them said. "But you can pick up the check."

"That was always my greatest fear," Lehman said on Sunday. "To die and have it written on my tombstone: HERE LIES TOM LEHMAN. HE COULDN'T WIN THE BIG ONE."

For a time, this looked like Lesson No. 4 in How to Lose Gracefully. Lehman woke up Sunday morning and found that his putter had gained 103 pounds overnight and had the feel of a pickax. Nothing went in on the putting green before the round and, from the start, nothing went in on the golf course. Double yikes.

Worse, amid the dust and dirt and pollen convention at Royal Lytham, Lehman was also battling a crowd that was either entirely Faldo kin or near to it, screaming maniacally for Faldo wedges that came to rest within 10 feet of the pin and rooting hard, like on number 3, for Lehman's ball to get in the bunker. (It did.) "Kind of like playing the Dallas Cowboys at Texas Stadium," Lehman said. At one point, on the 7th, somebody yelled out, "Remember Augusta!" and another followed with, "Knock it in, Greg!"

Lehman burned. "No disrespect to Greg," he said, "but history is history and...they were calling me a choker. I didn't want to have a repeat performance of Augusta here. I just wanted to bury that putt [at 7], just to show 'em." (He didn't.) Still, against all odds, Faldo kept letting Lehman out of the box. He missed a six-footer on 5 for a birdie, a three-footer on 6 for a birdie, then a six-footer on 7 for a birdie. "I lost confidence in my putter after that," Faldo lamented.

Of course, by then, there were so many other things for Lehman to worry about. Up ahead, Couples was slapping together a little 30 on the front nine, passing Faldo and cutting Lehman's lead from six strokes down to two as Lehman played the 6th hole. Here everybody was watching the featured pairing, and the winner might not even be in it.

Then came Els, who is bound to win half a dozen majors one of these days. He could have had four of them by now but has only one (the '94 U.S. Open), and he has been no worse than 12th in his last five. This time, Els leapfrogged Couples and Faldo and for a while—after a birdie at 15—he had the eventual winning score of 13 under before leaving it somewhere in a pot bunker on the way back to the clubhouse.

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