Lehman, knowing he has tough act to follow, back at Allianz Championship

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Even after winning Player of the Year honors last year, Tom Lehman says his goal is to keep improving.
By
Associated Press

Series: Champions Tour

Published: Thursday, February 09, 2012 | 5:35 p.m.

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Tom Lehman looks to continue feasting on the Champions Tour when he begins the defense of his title at the Allianz Championship Friday.

His victory at last year’s Allianz Championship kick-started a season in which Lehman won the Charles Schwab Cup, the money title and was named by his peers as the Champions Tour’s player of the year.

ALLIANZ CHAMPIONSHIP

The Allianz Championship is the first full-field event of the 2012 Champions Tour, as well as its first stop on the U.S. mainland.

That honor completed a rare trifecta. Lehman became the first golfer to be named player of the year on the Nationwide Tour (1991), PGA Tour (1996) and Champions Tour.

"That was a goal of mine,” Lehman said of winning player of the year on all three tours. “To prove yourself as the best player of the year at every level is very satisfying.”

For an encore this year, Lehman said his plan is simple.
 
“Get better at this game,” he said. “That’s the goal every year.”
 
Lehman has a tough act to follow. He won three times last year, including a major (Regions Tradition), was the only player to reach $2 million in earnings and just missed breaking Tom Kite’s all-time Champions Tour record for greens-in-regulation (77.8 percent versus Kite’s 78.0).
 
But Lehman wasn’t content to act his age, so he entered five events on the PGA Tour and made the cut in four of them. The 29 starts last year were the most for the 52-year-old Lehman since the early 1990s. Despite that success, Lehman said he will concentrate more on the Champions Tour this year.
 
“I feel a lot of satisfaction when I go out on the PGA Tour and play well,” Lehman said. “To have a good week out there absolutely makes me wonder what the future might be if I wanted to still play on that tour. But at this stage of my life, in what I want to achieve both personally and professionally, the Champions Tour fits like a glove.”
 
At least he doesn’t have to take any razzing when playing with the 50-and-older set, as he heard the last two years on the PGA Tour.
 
“They call me Mr. Lehman and you get a lot of, `Hey, you can still really play,”’ Lehman said. “I think (PGA Tour players) expect guys our age to be 5 or 6 handicappers.”
 
The Champions Tour’s first full-field event has recently been a good omen for the winners. The last two Allianz champions, Lehman and Bernhard Langer, went on to win player of the year honors.
 
Also in the field is West Palm Beach resident Dana Quigley, who’s playing in his first tournament since his 27-year-old son Devon almost died in a car accident Dec. 1 when his car slammed into the back of a truck in Riviera Beach. Devon, who sustained massive brain injuries, remains in a coma.
 
“My score will be insignificant,” Quigley said. “It’s just good to be back around the guys who have supported me and this is a way to honor Devon. I feel the closest to him when I’m on the golf course.”