SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- Four years ago, Tom Lehman was the PGA's Player of the Year and set a record for earnings.
He bottomed out quickly after separating his right shoulder just before the 1997 British Open, where he was the defending champion, and having surgery in November 1998.
He came all the way back at the Phoenix Open.
''I'd have to say it's every bit as good,'' Lehman said about his game after beating Robert Allenby by a stroke Sunday and winning his first official title in 58 starts since the Tour Championship in October 1996.
''My whole game is improved,'' he said. ''My good shots are better, I think my putting is better and my chipping is better. I think mentally I'm better.''
Lehman won with a 4-under-par 67 and 14-under 270 total.
He saved par with a 10-foot putt on the final hole, while Allenby missed a 6-footer for par, and that was the difference after a wild round which saw Frank Lickliter, Allenby, Phil Mickelson and Hal Sutton all hold the lead.
Allenby shot a 69, good for a tie for second with 1999 champion Rocco Mediate.
''I'm still very, very happy with the way I played,'' said Allenby, an Australian who had his best U.S. finish, bettering a tie for fourth in the 1998 B.C. Open. ''I'm obviously disappointed about the putt, I've got a long way to go, and I know I'm going to win one.''
Brandt Jobe, Kirk Triplett and Sutton tied for third at 272, with Edward Fryatt, Mark Calcavecchia and Steve Flesch in a group another shot back.
As painful as Allenby's finish was, it couldn't have been as sharp as the anguish of Lickliter, the third-round leader, and Mickelson, the 1996 winner who was one shot behind him.
Lickliter dropped out of contention early, bogeying No. 1 and taking a triple-bogey 8 on No. 3, and finished with a 74 for 274.
Mickelson reached 14 under and held the lead until he bogeyed 11 and 12. He had a 73 and also finished at 274.
Casey Martin, who battled the PGA Tour for the right to ride in a golf cart because of a medical condition that affects the circulation in his right leg, made the cut for the first in his second tournament as a rookie. But he struggled the last two rounds (71-75) and finished at 287.
The $576,000 first prize vaulted Lehman to second on this year's money list with $673,150. He tied for sixth in Hawaii two weeks ago in his only other official start this year.
He credited watching Tiger Woods for his improvement, saying he was inspired by the way Woods remained cool even when struggling.
''During the offseason, I thought about it, 'What is it that I do? I throw away shots,''' Lehman said. ''That's kind of the reason I felt so good going into this year -- that's something you can correct. You know, if I couldn't drive it out of my shadow, and if I couldn't chip or putt at all, then I'd be worried. But I've been beating myself for three years.''
Lehman shot a 63 in the first round to share the lead with Mickelson, and had the lead alone after the second round. But his putter deserted him Saturday, when he shot a 73.
Using Woods as a model, he got his feelings under control overnight.
He began the last round with a birdie. He bogeyed No. 5 but recovered with a birdie on the next hole.
Lehman went to 12 under with an 18-foot birdie putt on 11, and caught Allenby with birdies on 14 and 15.
Allenby played 17 holes without a bogey, but he hit his drive on 18 with a 3-wood, and his 9-iron approach bounced hard and rolled over the back of the green. He chipped up, but it didn't bite and rolled past the cup.
''Obviously, the chip was the worst thing I hit,'' Allenby said. ''Well, I guess you could also say the putt. But I felt confident out of the chip, but it just went a little bit long.''
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.