LOUISVILLE — When the 72nd Senior PGA Championship comes to Valhalla in late May, Tom Lehman will arrive early to practice and game-plan for a major, just as he did when he was younger and playing the regular tour.
But he won't get bent out of shape — nor will his golf clubs — if things don't go well.
Lehman, who was at Valhalla Tuesday to publicize next month's Senior PGA as its defending champ, said that with age comes perspective.
"My experience at this stage is, I'm doing things the same way, working every bit as hard, but having more fun.
"There's this feeling that, hey, you know what? I'm pretty good and I have a good chance to win if I play decent.
"But I'm not so concerned with the results any more."
Lehman, 52, recalled an incident at a tournament in San Diego years ago when he bogeyed the last hole and dropped from third place into a tie for eighth. It cost him a bunch of points in trying to qualify for the Ryder Cup.
He was so angry, he went to the parking lot and repeatedly slammed his golf clubs to the asphalt.
"Those days are over," Lehman said. "Now it's simply about the competition and the love of the game, and I really enjoy that."
Not that the best 50-and-over golfers in the world won't be trying to beat each other at Valhalla next month.
The Senior PGA boasts the strongest field of any Champions Tour event. Among those who have already committed to play are Fred Couples, Bernhard Langer, Paul Azinger, John Cook, Jay Haas, Hale Irwin, Corey Pavin and Tom Watson.
Three golfers who were in the spotlight when the PGA Championship was contested at Valhalla in 1996 will make a return appearance: Mark Brooks, who beat Kentuckian Kenny Perry in a playoff, and Russ Cochran, another Kentuckian, who led after 54 holes of that PGA.
Louisvillian Ted Schulz will also be in the field this time around, as will Fuzzy Zoeller, a former Senior PGA champ who hails from New Albany, Ind., just across the Ohio River.
Hosting a major golf event is nothing new for Valhalla, which is marking its 25th anniversary this year.
Besides the 1996 PGA, the Jack Nicklaus-designed course was the site of the epic 2000 PGA Championship, won by Tigers Woods in a playoff with Bob May, and the rousing United States' victory over Europe in the 2008 Ryder Cup.
The 2004 Senior PGA was also at Valhalla, and won by Hale Irwin.
Lehman played in the 1996 PGA and tied for 14th. He returned for the 2000 PGA, but he was coming off knee surgery and had to withdraw after the first round.
He said the key to playing well at Valhalla is having a solid game plan.
"It's a shot-maker's golf course because there are a lot of places you cannot recover from if you hit it there.
"Driving is a real key. You want to hit it as far as you can and as straight as you can to shorten up the holes so you can get at some of these really tough pins."
As a 15-time winner on the PGA and Champions tours, including a British Open title in 1997 (after which he was ranked No. 1 in the world), Lehman knows he's had a wonderful life in golf.
"How often does your dream become reality?" he said.