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Minnesotan Lehman looking for 3M Championship

Team USA vice-captain Tom Lehman with the Ryder Cup during the closing ceremonies after the single matches in 41st Ryder Cup Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn., on Oct. 2, 2016. John David Mercer / USA TODAY Sports

BLAINE, Minn. — The thought has crossed Tom Lehman's mind once or twice.

This is the former Gophers golfer's final chance to win the 3M Championship in his home state before the event is scrapped for a PGA Tour event next summer.

"The one thing about golf which is great is there's always something you're looking forward to," said Lehman, who grew up in Alexandria, Minn. "This week is a big week for me, because it's the last one, the last crack at it."

He's come close to winning before, finishing in a tie for second at his tournament debut in 2011, and placing sixth in 2015. But those are his only top 10 finishes in the event.

Lehman said this is a difficult part of the schedule for him, the the tail end of a monthlong gantlet that includes the U.S. Senior Open, the Senior Players Championship, British Open and the Senior British Open. Upon returning to the states, the 1996 British Open champion heads to Alexandria to spend a couple of days on the lake to "try to unwind" before arriving in Blaine.

"This tournament has always been difficult in the fact that I'm worn out, emotionally rung out, but excited to be here and play," he said. "So you have to get up emotionally one last week. I think you've seen over the years my performances have been really erratic. I've had either some good weeks or some really bad weeks, and that really is why.

"There's some weeks where I've been able to pull it together and be energetic, and there's other weeks where I've been worn out. So, I'm hoping that this last week will be one of those weeks where I have my game together."

Lehman, who is hosting an event at TPC Twin Cities on Friday night to discuss his experience with colon cancer and commitment to raise awareness, said those good weeks are less common as he gets older. The 59-year-old said he hasn't so much lost length as consistency. He has won on the Champions Tour this season and tied for sixth at the Senior British Open, but other weeks he hasn't sniffed contention.

"The weeks that I'm good, I'm still quite good," Lehman said. "But there's more weeks when I'm average, which makes it frustrating. But the silver lining in that cloud is it makes you want to work harder, because it's not fun being average."

Particularly not here. This event is special to Lehman, who said it's always fun to come back and play in Minnesota. He'll miss the 3M Championship but added he's "thrilled to be a part of this last one," and knows how he'd like to see it out.

"I would love to be in a position, personally, where I'm in the hunt on Sunday, coming down to that last hole with a chance to win," Lehman said. "I think it'd be one of those really fitting things to win the last one here. That's my goal. If it happens, I'll be thrilled."

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