"I used to," he continues, as he cuts a high arching iron shot over an oak tree that stands 150 yards away in the middle of the driving range, "but I don't anymore."
Not seeing trouble was one piece of advice that Lehman gave during a driving range demonstration at the grand opening of his new signature course north of Sauk Centre. He also advocated staying centered and balanced, focusing on the shot you want, and finding a repeating swing and trusting it to work for you.
I heard his advice for six holes on the new championship caliber, links style course before fear and doubt overtook me. Four of the course's holes are located in the woods surrounding the driving range. The others are lined with knee-deep rough in rolling hills within view of U.S. Highway 71. Water is a factor on at least 10 holes.
I heard Lehman's words as I lined up my first tee shot, with trees on both sides and long rough in the distance. And, fortunately, my ball ended in the first cut of rough. Findable. Hittable. Playable.
I had four pars on those first six holes, but my game deserted me after my first tee shot landed in the thick stuff. Any golf fan knows how the professionals look hitting out of the rough during the British Open, with grass flying and wrapping round the shaft of their club. I didn't feel nearly as majestic when I barely managed to roll my ball back into the fairway.
I started to see hazards everywhere.
On one of the last holes, my hardest hit drive of the day landed a foot into the rough. Not content to punch out, I tried to advance the ball down the fairwayŠand found myself 50 feet into the rough for my next shot when the grass grabbed my club shaft and I pulled a worm burner into the deep grass.
On some holes, your tee shot had to carry nearly 200 yards of thick grass. And you had to choose your landing area carefully. Most fairways weaved and curled toward the greens, each guarded by a series of deep bunkers.
I prefer trees to tall grass. Oak branches and trunks, at least, can give you a bounce back to the fairway once in a while.
I compensated for my early pars with two quadruple bogeys, three triple bogeys, and two double bogeys. I walked away barely in the double digits, with an 18-hole score of 99.
That score put Tiger Woods' feat at the U.S. Open in perspective for me. Tom, whose foursome was followed throughout the day by a sizable gallery, beat me by at least 20 strokes. Might have been 30. Tiger beat him and the other top professionals by 15 on an even tougher course.
As good as Lehman looked on the practice range, it's hard to imagine someone clearly superior to him on a golf course.
Lehman said he wasn't surprised that Tiger played extremely well in winning the U.S. Open. He was surprised, though, that no one else played well at all. While Tiger probably would have won anyway the way he played, Lehman thought someone should have given chase at least.
Lehman's driving range lesson ended when a spectator asked him to hit the oak tree in the middle of the fairway. The spectator didn't want to feel bad when he hit the tree himself, so he wanted Lehman to be first. Lehman's one-iron shot was still rising when it hit the trunk of the tree.
I've hit a lot of trees on a lot of golf courses but couldn't hit one intentionally from 150 yards for PGA Tour prize money.
Return to 'Minute With Mike' Archives