Blake wins finale; Lehman takes points title
Monday, November 7, 2011
SAN FRANCISCO — Jay Don Blake quietly celebrated his first victory in 20 years with his wife and a close friend in South Korea.
His second win in less than two months drew a much larger crowd of supporters.
With nearly two dozen family and friends in attendance, including several grandchildren, Blake put an emphatic stamp on his year, shooting an even-par 71 to win the Charles Schwab Championship on Sunday.
"That means a lot, to have my whole family here," Blake said. "Sometimes, I'm a little worried about it because you get a little nervous trying to play well and perform for them. Sometimes, I put too much pressure and stress on myself worrying about that."
Not that he showed it.
Almost two months after surviving a five-hole playoff to win the Songdo Championship in South Korea for his first victory since 1991, Blake calmly worked his way through the final round while a crowd of contenders took turns making brief runs at the lead.
Blake hit 12 of 14 fairways, made a pair of nice par saves out of the sand on the back nine, then made the tournament-winning par on 18 after taking a bogey on the par-3 17th.
The only time the normally stoic Blake showed any emotion came after he made the 6-foot putt for par on the final hole for a two-stroke victory in the Champions Tour's season finale. He finished at 8-under 276 at TPC Harding Park.
Blake pumped his right fist twice and tipped his cap to the crowd before disappearing in a wave of family and friends who rushed the green. Blake earned $440,000 for winning and took an additional $200,000 for finishing fourth in the overall standings.
"I was nervous, tense, stressed, the whole thing," Blake said. "But I still tried to stay patient and play my game and just hoped that I could make some birdies and stay out on top."
Tom Lehman managed to stay on top of the points standings and won a $1 million annuity despite not playing well this week. He shot a 72 to tie for 18th at 2 over, just enough to hold off Mark Calcavecchia by 74 points.
Calcavecchia (69), Loren Roberts (70), Michael Allen (71) and Jay Haas (71) tied for second. Calcavecchia needed to finish no worse than a tie for second with one other player to have a chance to overtake Lehman.
"The ending was pretty tight," Lehman said. "(Calcavecchia) just hung in there and overcame a bunch of mistakes. To come in here knowing you have to finish second or better, and finish tied for second for second with just one too many guys was impressive."
Blake had a four-shot lead with five holes to go and got some help from the contenders behind him.
Allen, second in the tournament in 2010, got to 7 under twice but couldn't capitalize. He birdied No. 16, but a bogey on 17 dropped him back.
David Frost, who shared the lead after two rounds, also got to 7 under before fading. Frost had a 72 and finished sixth at 5 under.
With Blake cruising, the only drama surrounded the points title.
Lehman, a three-time winner this season, struggled most of the tournament and never had more than two birdies in a round. Playing several groups ahead of Calcavecchia, Lehman had to watch from near the 18th green until his title was secured.
Calcavecchia made Lehman sweat it out and hit a solid tee shot on 18 before pushing his approach far right. He two-putted for par, then watched his chances at passing Lehman end when Allen putted out for par, guaranteeing at least a three-way tie for second.
"It's kind of the story of my whole career," Calcavecchia said. "I've had a lot of seconds in my day and a lot of close calls, so it could have been a lot better."
Lehman took the points lead after winning the Allianz Championship in February and never relinquished it. He is the fourth different player to win the Schwab title in as many years.
This also puts Lehman in position to become the first player to win player-of-the-year honors on the PGA, Nationwide and Champions tours.
"It's been a long year," Lehman said. "From that second week, I've had that yellow jersey and had a lot of times where guys were closing in. I'm thrilled to win the trophy."
Two-time defending tournament champion John Cook (71) tied for 20th at 3 over.