THE 126th OPEN: `Dumb' mistake hurts Lehman

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The Independent Online
It would be an embarrassing mistake at any time but Tom Lehman's absent-minded blunder on the second green was magnified by occurring in the championship of which he is the holder, writes Andy Farrell. The American forgot to replace his marker, after moving it out of Vijay Singh's line, and the error cost him a two-shot penalty.

"I have not done anything dumb like that before," Lehman said. "This was a bad time." He had bogeyed the hole anyway so he ended up with a seven. Lehman responded with three birdies on the rest of the front nine, although a bogey at 17 left him at four over.

No one had spotted the champion's mistake and Lehman only realised after he had teed off at the third. "At first I thought I would be disqualified and that it would be an embarrassing walk in from there," he said.

"I had seen our referee, Tim Taylor, looking at his rules book and wondered what someone in our group had done to cause him to do that. Then I thought, `Shoot, I didn't move my mark back'. But he hadn't noticed, maybe he was just boning up on the rules. Vijay felt bad about it but I said it was not his fault."

Lehman said that it was checking with his playing partners about getting his ball, which was cut, changed which caused him forget to replace his marker. "I was mad at myself and a little ticked off at my caddie. For two of us to miss that was nearly inexcusable."

Lehman two-putted from off the green at the par-five fourth for the first of his three birdies in five holes. Then he holed from six and eight feet at the two short holes, the fifth and the eighth, to be out in 36. His only deviation from par came when he missed the green at the 17th.

The recovery allowed the defending champion to make the cut, but he is unlikely to be taking the claret jug away with him again.