Lehman captures Senior PGA in playoff

Denver, CO (Sports Network) - Tom Lehman won the Senior PGA Championship on Sunday with a routine par on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff.

His opponents made it easier than it should have been.

Fred Couples and David Frost hit their drives way left at the par-four 18th, with Couples taking an unplayable lie out of a bush and Frost curling his ball even further left out of a fairway bunker.

Lehman, meanwhile, was in the fairway with his drive and onto the green with his approach, sitting just 15 feet away from the hole for birdie. His putt hung on the lip of the cup, and Lehman tapped in for the winning par.

Couples and Frost both made double-bogey on the hole, an anti-climactic end to what was a close final round at Colorado Golf Club.

"To win this championship means such a great deal," said Lehman, who captured his first senior major and a $360,000 check. "I'm so proud."

Lehman, 51, had to scramble for a closing par in regulation to even make the playoff after hitting his drive into the middle cut of rough. He caught too much of the Colorado soil on his approach, coming up 40 yards short of the 18th green.

From there, Lehman pitched to five feet and made the par putt, closing with his third straight one-under 71 to join the playoff at seven-under 281.

Couples came from nowhere, following a birdie at the 13th with back-to-back eagles at the par-five 15th and 16th holes. But he missed a 10-foot birdie putt at the 18th with a chance to win in regulation, shooting a 69.

Frost finished off a spectacular weekend with a five-under 67 in the final round, which followed the 65 he posted in the third round Saturday. He made three birdies in a row to take the lead at the 17th hole, then drained a gutsy five-footer for par at the 18th to secure his spot in the playoff.

"I'm not really disappointed," said Frost, 50, who was a 10-time winner on the PGA Tour but has yet to break through on the Champions Tour. "I played well. Tom obviously finished it off."

Mark O'Meara, still seeking his first individual win on the Champions Tour, shot a 71 and took fourth place at five-under 283, two shots out of the playoff.

Nick Price, who captured the Legends of Golf with O'Meara last month, had a 70 and finished in fifth place at four-under 284.

Jay Don Blake held the lead midway through his round, but made four bogeys on the back nine for a 76 that dropped him into a tie for eighth place.

The first of five majors on the Champions Tour, the Senior PGA turned into a free-for-all on the back nine Sunday, especially after Couples holed an eagle putt from seven feet at the 15th to join Lehman and Frost in the lead.

Frost and Lehman responded with birdies -- at the 16th and 15th holes, respectively -- to move to six-under par. Frost then holed a six-footer for birdie at the 17th to take sole possession of the lead.

The long-hitting Couples answered with another eagle putt at the 16th hole, again from seven feet. He made his third consecutive three when he parred the 206-yard 17th.

Lehman caught the leaders with a two-putt birdie at the 16th, his second in a row, and he saved par from the short rough from behind the 17th green.

With Couples and Frost already in the clubhouse at seven-under, Lehman's scrambling par at the 18th was as gutsy as it gets. He took a long time over the five-footer before dropping it into the hole.

Of course, it was the second day in a row he found himself needing a score on that hole. After making a triple-bogey at No. 17 on Saturday, Lehman holed a 40-footer from the fringe at 18 for a closing birdie that gave him a piece of the 54-hole lead with Blake.

Sunday's win came on a day when Lehman started poorly, making three early bogeys in four-hole stretch on the front nine.

"I just kind of hung in there and let the field back up a little bit," he said.

Lehman won five times on the PGA Tour, including the 1996 British Open, and captained the 2008 U.S. Ryder Cup team to a victory over Europe. But Sunday marked his first individual stroke-play victory in the U.S. since the 2000 Phoenix Open on the PGA Tour.

He won last year's Legends of Golf with Bernhard Langer for his only other title on the Champions Tour.

"To get back in the winner's circle, after being close a lot, feels really good. I had some chances earlier this year to win and I didn't," said Lehman.

The 50-year-old Couples -- aptly named "Boom Boom" for his length off the tee -- has made an explosive debut on the Champions Tour this season. He won three tournaments in a row in February and March, and Sunday marked his seventh consecutive top-12 finish.

His length gave him a good chance to win in regulation, leaving the 1992 Masters champion with just a pitching wedge into the 18th green to set up a birdie.

"Be right, baby," Couples, a 15-time winner on the PGA Tour, called after his shot.

And it was good, settling just 10 feet below the pin. But Couples was off-line on the putt, taking a closing par to make the playoff.

NOTES: Couples and Frost both earned $176,000...Former Masters champion Larry Mize shared sixth place with Bill Glasson...Robin Freeman and Andrew Oldcorn tied Blake for eighth place...2009 champion Michael Allen tied for 11th place...The top club pro was Lindy Miller of Shady Oaks Country Club in Westworth Village, Texas, who tied for 29th place.

05/30 20:22:23 ET

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