Lehman loses on Vijay day

Andy Farrell watches the battle of two perfectionists go into extra time xx xx xx xx
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The Independent Online
That Ernie Els, so unpredictable. One minute six down, the next six up. All a bit too flashy, really. For some solid consistency, nose- down-and-grind- it-out stuff you needed to be with the Vijay Singh-Tom Lehman semi-final. All 37 holes of it.

Both are products of unfamiliar golfing outposts. Singh, the Fijian, was a club pro in Borneo where the main requirement was to duck the planes descending on the adjacent airfield. Lehman grew up in Minnesota and once worked in a pro-shop where most of the year was spent selling skiing accessories.

Singh played on most of the world's golf tours, including a successful spell in Europe, before making it to the US PGA Tour. Lehman, similarly, wandered the mini-tours before making it to where the money is. Both know what it is like not to have any and invested time instead on the practice range. Singh, the folklore says, only leaves the place to go on the course. Lehman is finding, now he is Open champion, that he cannot get there so often.

It is a requirement of the US tour to hit the ball long and straight and both Singh and Lehman succeeded in this. Both can also be inspired with the putter, but it was a misjudgment with his long approach putt at the first hole after lunch by Lehman that put Singh one hole up.

With Els already eight up against Mark Brooks, the marshals were worried. "If that game finishes early, all the crowd will be with this match," said one with quintessential Wentworth bushy moustache, whose navy Toyota jacket made him look like a mechanic. "Then we'll really have to work," he added.

Lehman's five iron to four feet at the fifth brought him level and by the seventh he regained the lead, but the game always had the look of going the distance. The 1994 President's Cup match was tied after 21 holes when everyone else lost interest with the overall result decided.

Both hit superb tee-shots at the par-three 14th but Singh holed from outside Lehman. The American responded with his approach to the 16th in to four feet; one up again. At 17, Singh's long eagle effort, right on line, came up a foot short but Lehman three-putted - the match went on. With only one more hole Singh's birdie putt fell into the cup with its last roll. It looked like going on all night, until on the first extra hole Singh found that bit extra to make birdie to win.

As well as beating the Open champion on the way to final, Singh has seen off the US Open Champion, Steve Jones, and this year's leading money earner on the US Tour, Phil Mickleson. Els will be in for a grind today.

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