Lehman aiming to be first past post

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The Independent Online
Tom Lehman may have won the Open at Royal Lytham in July, but it took a little time for the post office in Scottsdale, Arizona, to make the connection. The fact that he was receiving 40 letters a day should have given someone the hint.

But the one missive Lehman was missing was that containing his winner's cheque for pounds 200,000. It was delivered to a nearby address. "It was four blocks away and someone thought it was his lucky day," Lehman said. "It was returned, but then it sat around the post office for a while."

Meanwhile, the Lehman family got on to the Royal & Ancient and a replacement was sent out. It arrived on the same day as the original. "It worked out well because I was able to frame one cheque and cash the other."

This week, Lehman is hoping to add the Smurfit European Open to his British title. The event is being played at the Arnold Palmer-designed K Club, 18 miles south-west of Dublin. Lehman played last year, finishing ninth, amid the celebrations of Philip Walton's heroic deeds when Europe won the Ryder Cup the week before. This time, Lehman arrives on the back of an American victory over the International team in the President's Cup.

Bernhard Langer is the defending champion after holing a 75-foot eagle putt at the last to get into a play-off with Barry Lane. The German then holed from 20 feet at the second extra hole for his 34th - and most recent - European tour victory. His wins date back to 1980, but if he is to match Seve Ballesteros' record of winning for 17 years in a row, he needs to succeed with his new long putter.

Langer used the implement for the first time in the Lancome Trophy and did not take three putts once. "And I did not miss anything from four or five feet," he said. "This putter can help me get my confidence back. If I get the opportunity to win, I know how to do it."

Langer, with Nick Faldo, has passed the pounds 5m mark in tour prize winnings, and Colin Montgomerie can join them with a first or second place this week. The Scot is now pounds 140,000 ahead of his money-list rival, Ian Woosnam. The Welshman is also present, but his chances of overhauling Monty are running out.

They may have run out for third-placed Robert Allenby, who has strained ligaments in his left ankle after a fall at the end of the Loch Lomond World Invitational.

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