Originally created 07/14/97

Lehman goes from lochs to links

TROON, Scotland (AP) - Tom Lehman has had three disappointing finishes in a row at the U.S. Open. Now he's in good shape to make it two straight British Open triumphs.

Fresh from a five-stroke victory Saturday in the Gulfstream World Invitational 50 miles up the road at Loch Lomond, he arrived at Troon on Sunday to begin his defense of the British Open title he won at Royal Lytham last year.

He started by taking the day off.

"This win at Loch Lomond has put me in a very positive frame of mind," said Lehman, who prevailed in a field that included U.S. Open titlist Ernie Els, Greg Norman and Nick Faldo.

Lehman, who has placed third, second, third in his last three U.S. Opens, says his game is a little better than before his victory at Lytham.

"To play that well for four straight days isn't something you do very often," he said. "And two bogeys in 72 holes - that's something I've never done.

"To go into a big tournament you need to go in with confidence and belief to deal with all the intangibles that come with golf. I am swinging and putting well and I'm definitely at the top of my golf."

Lehman even ducked out of a spying mission to this year's Ryder Cup venue at Valderrama, Spain. U.S. team captain Tim Kite has gone there along with a group of Americans, including Tiger Woods.

"I don't think Tom Kite will kick me off the team," said Lehman, who is second to Woods on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list.

"I have an extra day off now to do some of the things I don't normally have the chance to do."

After enjoying the picturesque, leafy Loch Lomond course and scoring a big victory over many of his Open rivals, Lehman has moved to a flat, coastline links course with hardly a tree or a hill in sight.

It's almost like moving to another part of the planet, and Lehman will need to be at his best at Troon if he is to become the first player since Tom Watson 14 years ago to win the British Open two consecutive years.

Woods returns for the first time as a pro and comes in as a favorite, with hometown hero Colin Montgomerie not far behind.

Faldo is chasing his fourth Open in 11 years but first since 1992. Norman, who last won four years ago, seeks his third title. Els, who finished second to Lehman at Loch Lomond, is out to prove he can win something other than two U.S. Opens and three World Match Play titles.

Jeff Sluman, who was playing Sunday in the Quad City Classic at Coal Valley, Ill., was disqualified when he failed to show for his British Open qualifying round.

According to Open officials, Sluman, along with seven fellow U.S. Tour players Tommy Armour III, Rocco Mediate, Patrick Burke, Taylor Smith, Paul Goydos, Tom Byrum, Tom Gillis and South African Warren Schutte, did not give reasons for not arriving at courses in Scotland, and likely would receive a strongly worded letter from the Royal and Ancient.

"This is not the first time we have had to write such letters," said Royal and Ancient secretary Michael Bonallack. "We usually get a reply from the players' management companies saying it was their fault.

"It is a serious matter because simply not turning up could deny somebody else the chance to play in the Open."

Last week, former Masters titlist Fuzzy Zoeller withdrew from qualifying without giving a reason, but gave officials plenty of notice.

So did Wayne Grady, the Australian who lost in a three-way playoff when the tournament was last played at Troon.

Like Zoeller, former PGA titlists Sluman and Grady have lost exempt status and needed to qualify.


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