Lehman claims first Tradition title

Tom Lehman holds the Lyle Anderson trophy up in the air after winning the Regions Tradition on May 8 at Shoal Creek. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

By WESLEY HALLMAN / Sports Editor

SHOAL CREEK — Tom Lehman nearly kissed his chance to capture the Lyle Anderson trophy at the 2011 Regions Tradition, the first major championship of the season on the PGA Champions Tour, goodbye after he missed a short birdie putt on the 18th green at the end of his final round Sunday, May 8 at Shoal Creek.

Tom Lehman chips onto the 18th green during Sunday's round. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

Tom Lehman watches as a potential tournament-winning birdie putt rolls towards the hole on the 18th green. Lehman missed the putt, leaving him tied with Peter Senior at 13-under par. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

Tom Lehman reacts after missing a birdie putt on the second playoff hole. However Lehman won the championship when Peter Senior missed his par putt moments later. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

Tom Lehman shakes hands with Regions Financial Corp. CEO Grayson Hall as Hall presents Lehman with the Regions Tradition trophy. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

Lehman again nearly watched his shot to win the trophy slip away after firing an approach shot right of the green on the first hole of a playoff on hole No. 18 with Peter Senior, but the Scottsdale, Ariz. native recovered nicely with a close chip shot and a par putt to force a second playoff hole.

Peter Senior watches chipping onto the 18th green during the second playoff hole. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

Peter Senior hits a shot from the fairway during Sunday's round. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

His third chance to seal the victory almost passed him bye as well, as he missed a birdie putt again on the 18th green on the second playoff hole. However, Senior missed a short putt for par, which sealed Lehman’s third PGA Champions Tour tournament win this season and his first Tradition title. Lehman increased his lead in the Charles Schwab Cup championship standings and earned $330,000 for winning the Regions Tradition. The total purse for the tournament was $2.2 million.

Lehman acknowledged his struggles with his short game, but he said the length of the course helped him make up for his shortcomings.

“This is a ball striker’s golf course,” Lehman said, “and it really suited my game.”

Lehman and Senior finished tied for first with a 13-under par 275 following the 72-hole tournament. Lehman, who shot a 3-under par 69 in the final round, worked his way back to the top of the leaderboard after leading the field with a 5-under par 67 in the first round May 5.

Lehman, who won his second major championship in a playoff scenario since 2010, said he couldn’t have dreamed of a better first trip to Shoal Creek for a major championship on the PGA Champions Tour.

“I think the golf course gets an A plus,” Lehman said. “I would have to put this one at the top tier of golf courses.”

Senior, an Australian, carded a 4-under par 68 in the final round Sunday to force his way into the playoff scenario.

“I played pretty well, but I hate losing in a playoff,” Senior said.

While Lehman and Senior worked their way to the top of the leaderboard, Mark Calcavecchia, the tournament’s leader following the second and third rounds, plummeted down the leaderboard after carding an even par 72 in the final round.

Calcavecchia, who bogied two of his final three holes, finished in a five-way tie for fifth place with Eduardo Romero, Nick Price, Kenny Perry and Jay Haas with a 9-under par 279.

“It’s beyond disappointing,” said Calcavecchia, a Tequesta, Fla. native. “It’s going to be a rough few days.”

Mark Calcavecchia chips onto the 18th green after a disappointing final round on Sunday. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

Mark Calcavecchia tries to chip onto the 17th green during Sunday's round. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

Mark Calcavecchia hits out of the sand during Sunday's round. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

Loren Roberts of Memphis, Tenn., made a late charge up the leaderboard with a 7-under par 65 in the final round, the lowest round during the final day.

Roberts, who started Sunday at 4-under par, finished the tournament with a four-day score of 11-under par 277 and ended up third in the individual standings.

Michael Allen of Scottsdale, Ariz., finished fifth in individual standings with his 10-under par 278.

Greystone resident Steve Lowery carded a 3-over par 75 for the second consecutive round and finished the tournament with a 3-over par 291.

Lowery had a rough start in his final round Sunday with a double bogey on hole No. 2, a par 4, and consecutive bogies on the next three holes. Lowery recovered a few of his strokes on the back nine with birdies on holes No. 11 and No. 14.

Lowery, who sat just outside the top 10 following his 3-under par 141 score after the first two rounds, finished tied for 36th in individual standings.

Lowery said he enjoyed playing in the PGA Champions Tour’s first major championship at Shoal Creek. The Tradition relocated from the Crosswater Club in Sunriver, Ore. to Shoal Creek, which has a three-year contract signed to host the tournament through 2013.

“It was awesome,” Lowery said. “I was hoping we would see some bigger crowds, but it was a good start for the Tradition here in Birmingham.”

Wayne Grady of Orlando, Fla., the 1990 PGA Championship winner at Shoal Creek, who earned a sponsor’s exemption, carded a 5-over par 77 on the final day and finished with a tournament total 22-over par 310. Grady came in tied for 70th on the leaderboard.

Visit PGATour.com/s for complete individual results from the 2011 Regions Tradition.

Kenny Perry hits a drive during Sunday's round. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

Tom Pernice, Jr., chips out of the sand during Sunday's round. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

Fans pack the stands behind the 14th tee box during a tee shot by Tom Pernice, Jr. during Sunday's round. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

Fans jump out of the way to avoid touching a shot by Jay Don Blake that bounced off of a tree during Sunday's round. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

Tom Lehman gets ready to hit a shot on the 18th hole at the end of Sunday's round at Shoal Creek. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)