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61-year-old Tom Lehman delivers stunning round in PGA Tour’s return

FORT WORTH, Texas — Tom Lehman is 61 years old, 11 years into his Champions Tour career.

Lehman won the Colonial 25 years ago, posting a 67 in his opening round and finishing that week with four rounds in the 60s in 1995.

Until he teed it up in Thursday’s opening round of the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club, invited as a past champion, Lehman had not played this event since 2013.

On Thursday morning, playing in a star-packed field that includes the top five ranked players in the world and 16 of the top 20, Lehman shot a 5-under 65 to stand two shots out of the morning-wave lead of 7-under, held by Justin Rose.

“Do I feel like I’m capable of shooting a 65 out here at Colonial? Well, for certain, I do,’’ Lehman said. “Did I expect to do it [Thursday]? Well, I would be probably lying if I said I fully expected to play and shoot such a low score. But I did expect to play well.

Tom Lehman
Tom LehmanGetty Images

“I’ve been aiming for this week for a while,’’ Lehman went on. “I live in Arizona, and we’ve been able to play golf all the way through this COVID-19 thing, so I’ve been playing a lot, practicing a lot. My game feels pretty good. I love the golf course. It benefits people who put the ball in the fairway, no doubt. I hit it straight and made a few putts.’’

He did more than that.

He shot the same score as reigning U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland. He was six shots better than Dustin Johnson and reigning British Open champion Shane Lowry, four shots better than Phil Mickelson.

“I really like the way I played,’’ Lehman said. “I kind of felt like if I could just finish out 2-under, 3-under, I would have been really happy with that. To get a couple more is definitely frosting on the cake. There’s a lot of rough out there, and if I don’t drive it well, I’m quite a ways back in some pretty thick rough. In order to play well for the next three days, I need to keep putting the ball in the fairway.’’

Why is Lehman here for the first time in seven years?

“The opportunity presented itself, and as a past champion being eligible to play, I think the biggest thing is knowing that I’m not taking a spot from some young guy out here on this tour,’’ Lehman said. “So, the ability to come and play without causing somebody else to not play actually was part of what determined whether I would play or not.

“The opportunity to play and to play in a tournament that I love so much and that I’ve had some success at and I’m part of the history here, that’s kind of what drove me to want to do it.’’

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