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PGA OF AMERICA MEDIA CONFERENCE
August 1, 2006
TOM LEHMAN: Thank you for being here. I think you saw the video, I recognized so many of those looks on that video, there's looks of joy, looks of complete fear, looks of exhilaration, the pressure. All of that, it's all about the Ryder Cup.
And I think that's what makes it so special is that it creates so much passion and so much emotion in the players and the fans. Even in the people who cover the event, the television or the press, whoever. I mean, everybody gets involved with it. I think that's what's the beauty of it, and the video really captures that, I believe. So I can't wait for it. The teams are taking shape. Both the U.S. Team and the European Team. We have three big weeks ahead of us on our tour, a lot can happen in these three weeks.
It's an exciting time to see how it all shakes out and how it all ends up at. Julius is right, I've got two big decisions to make in 20 days, and it's going to be very tough to do that. It's tough to pick two guys when there's probably six or seven or eight who can probably fit the bill. So I'm not looking forward to that, but that's part of the job.
Anyway, I think our team is looking good, so I'm excited about it?
Q. Where are you in terms of the captain's picks, how close are you to narrowing it down to where you're comfortable with a couple of guys?
TOM LEHMAN: You know, I think I've gotten to the point where there's -- the easiest thing to do almost is decide which guys I wouldn't pick unless they got their spot. Of course, that's for me to know and nobody else. But there are some players I really feel like, you know, for whatever the reason, maybe they need to claim their spot.
There's other guys who you feel like, well, on paper, it sure makes sense to pick them, but where is their game at, where is their health, there's all kind of issues that go with it. Other guys, you know what, may be a first-time player, but he is a good player. But do I want to pick that player when we already have four guys on the team right now who have never played before. So there's so many issues.
I think at the end of the day, I'm really looking for guys who are going the right direction with their game; if they were 25th three months ago and they are 20th two months ago and now they are 15th or they end up 12th where they are improving and improving and getting better and better. It's a tough call, though.
Q. Would you say with what we see now, quite a few young guys, would it be a fair assumption that you may be looking at captain's picks with experienced guys who have been to the Ryder Cup before?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, certainly it would make sense to do that in some ways. I've said it before and I'll say it again. I'm not the kind of person that thinks that it's all everything to have the experience of having played before. It doesn't take long to get used to that environment. Practice rounds, you're nervous. The first match is always nerve-wracking. But if you're a good player, you can handle that. If you're a good player and you're mentally strong, you can handle it, whether you're a first-time guy or not, you can handle that kind of pressure. I think it will be more, what does our team need.
For example, if our team is a bunch of long hitters who can't find the fairway, we're going to need some guys that can put it in the fairway. So you start looking at the list, it becomes pretty obvious who some of those guy the might be. If it's the fact that, you know, we need guys who can put the ball in the hole, there are some really good putters who are just outside the Top-10. That's an issue, as well. Personalities play a part of it.
To me, there's also an intangible: Just how badly do you want it. Do you just, there's some guys who want it so bad, they would do anything, they would run through that wall right there. It's tough to weigh that, what it's worth to the team. But when a person is willing to do anything to get on the team, that's worth something. So I've said a lot and I've said nothing right there. (Laughter)
TOM LEHMAN: Well, you know, I've been on the list and you can start at No. 11 and go on down and I can give you a reason why every one of those guys would be a good part of the team. You get to someone like Freddie who is 15. Just being Fred is worth something. Just the name Fred Couples is worth something and it brings a little bit of extra to the team. Just people have a huge amount of respect for him.
So you can go all the way down, Tim Herron is 16th, he gets along with everybody really well. He's funny, people love him. He brings a lot of light-heartedness to the team and I think that's something our team could use.
Funk is a great player, he's streaky and when he's on his on streak, he's really tough to beat. So there's every guy is like that. So at the end of the day, it could be a tough call.
Q. The chemistry, is that something that you think about?
TOM LEHMAN: You know, I don't think -- I think our chemistry is good. I think it's sometimes good to get a few new guys in there because they bring in kind of the freshness back a little bit. I think the mix, you know, I'll be really up front, getting a Chris DiMarco back in there is a huge boost to our team, a huge boost. I can't even begin to tell you how big that was. Because he's the passionate, outspoken-type guy that you need. He's the guy that's going to be in the locker room chest-bumping and you stuff like that. That's what he does and our team needed that. The rest of the guys on the team, there are subpoena guys who are more like that than others. Brett Wetterich is that way, he's that kind of a player.
So everybody is important but you need the chemistry and you need a little bit of everything.
Q. Have you had a thorn in DiMarco's side telling him you really wanted to see him do something?
TOM LEHMAN: Did he say I was? (Laughter).
Q. I saw on Ian Woosnam talking about Lee Westwood, that he gave him a talking to and he responded really good.
TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, he's been playing a lot better. I've had conversations with everybody, and one of the toughest things I think you have to know how to approach each guy. Some players, you give them a challenge, kind of tick them off a little bit and they respond. Some guys, you've got to be encouraging.
So in going to the guys, we're talking about 7, 8, all the way on through to 20 or whatever it might be. The idea is like look at, you know, you need to step it up and you've got to play better, and at the same time you don't want to put so much pressure on them that they can't perform. The one thing that there definitely is that there's this Ryder Cup-itis where people want to be on the team so bad, they get so focused on earning points that it's like just trying to make cuts. You just try to make a cut, you usually either just make the cut or just miss it, you're right there on the bubble every time. Same way with the Ryder Cup, they want it so badly. I just talked to a couple yesterday and they said they want it so badly they find themselves getting into position and shooting 73 on Sunday and finishing 12th or 15th and can't quite seem to get those points.
So I'm trying to say, look, you know how golf is. You just play your game, relax, just enjoy the game. You're playing in the Buick Open this week. Well, you're there for Buick open. So go out there and try to win Buick open. So trying to get guys think more about playing golf and playing their game, and less about what happens, if.
Q. Have you been to The K Club yet?
TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, I've been there twice, two different weeks. We had I think six or seven guys that were there around the British Open. Obviously Tiger's been there a lot. He's played there 30 rounds. And then we have a trip being planned for after the NEC. So probably take a pretty good number of guys over there after the NEC for a couple of days.
Q. Who went after the British Open?
TOM LEHMAN: Let me see, who was there -- Furyk was there, Campbell was there, Toms was supposed to be there but withdrew from the tournament and didn't go. Lucas Glover was there, Davis Love was there, Couples was there, Verplank, he might have been there, too. So I think that's, what, seven, seven guys.
Q. Your impressions of the course?
TOM LEHMAN: It's a good match-play course. I think it would be a great course for match play. There's a lot of risk on the back nine. A lot of shots that have a lot of -- well, they are very penal in nature, water and things like that. So it's going to require some serious, you know, serious good nerves under pressure to be able to hit some of the shots you have to hit.
Q. Does it emphasize one part of the game or another?
TOM LEHMAN: If it's set up like this, set up for the European Open which is what I play, the rough is high so you have to drive it straight. You have to hit the ball in the fairway.
You can get away with hitting it a little crooked, but I think getting it in the fairway, you need to do that. It's a great course for good iron players, and that's one of the reasons why I like our chances. I think we've got a bunch of guys on our team who can -- with the irons, are just amazing. Starting at the top of list with Tiger, he's the best. Mickelson is right there with him. Furyk and Campbell, those guys all have great iron play. So if you can combine those guys with guys that drive the ball straight, in alternate-shot, for example, you've got a great chance.
On top of that, our team is comprised of guys who make a whole bunch of birdies. That's one thing I enjoy, too, is you have guys that make a lot of birdies, and the course I think will give itself up to making birdies. The strengths of our team have always been -- the par 5s, if you look at the stats, one thing that stands out in the top of your mind, if you were going down this list it would be that almost all of the guys on the Top-10 are the guys that just abuse the par 5s. They just tear them to pieces. The par 5s at The K Club are all reachable. They are all the kind of holes that you can make eagles on. If you have the courage to do it and you want to take the chance, and our guys are great on the par 5s. The last hole is a par 5, and I feel really good with who we have and the way the course is set up.
Q. Have you talked to David Toms recently and where is he at?
TOM LEHMAN: Yeah. He's going to be playing I think this week. I think he's playing this week and if not this week, for sure next week. But he was hitting balls and feels pretty good and he's planning on playing like three in a row. So he feels pretty good about where he's at.
We need him to be at his best. He's an important part of the team. He's one of our top players. He's the kind of player that does everything well. He drives it well, he hits his irons well, he putts great, he chips well. He's the perfect teammate. No matter who he plays with, he's going to make the other guy better, so we really need him to be healthy.
Q. Have you talked to Tiger since the British Open?
TOM LEHMAN: I have not talked to him. I sent a nice letter but I haven't spoken with him. I'll see him in Chicago. You know, any time you go through a tough, tough loss, he with his father, Chris with his mother, it's a tough, difficult time. And time is what you need.
Tiger's just the greatest champion in golf. So I never had any doubt that he wouldn't be back on his game. It's just a matter of, you know, when he decided it was time to go. I think we found out, he's ready.
Q. You mentioned Toms and making whoever he plays with better -- inaudible?
TOM LEHMAN: You know, I think we have a pretty good starting point. But there's still quite a bit of flux in the system right now. There's still a lot of chances for some big changes. So you know, we've touched on it, that we're not real deep into it. One of these points probably in the next few weeks, I'll sit down with Corey and Loren and we'll be talking to all of the different guys about their desires are and what their wishes are in terms of who they would like to play with.
Some guys like certain styles of players. You give anybody who can put the ball in play to Phil Mickelson, he's going to be really happy. He likes going with a guy whose game he trust, who puts it in play, who puts it in the fairway and puts it on the green and let's Phil be Phil. So you pick anybody on that team that can do that, he can play with Phil. So you have some options.
Q. Both your assistants won last week.
TOM LEHMAN: How about that! Amazing. I mean, one thing I like about those guys is they have always been great putters under pressure, and they understand what it takes to make putts when the heat is on. They are continuing to prove it. Loren and Corey both, it's just amazing. Again, you couldn't ask for two greater things than to have your two assistants still playing such great golf and having the respect of the players on their team and guys looking at them like they are still winning. If they have a secret they can mayor with me, maybe they can help me; I'm sure they will.
Corey gave me the greatest piece of advice I ever got in a Ryder Cup. In the first match I ever played I was so nervous. He said: Really simple, Tom. You've got to get committed to the swing. Pick your shot, get committed to it and swing, and that stuck with me ever since. He and Loren both have a lot to share and a lot to offer.
Q. What kind of input, impact do you expect those two guys to have?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, they think differently than me. My personality is, you know, I have a much more emotional, much more probably impulsive, approach, than either Corey or Loren. They think about things that I wouldn't think about. So I'll have this brainstorm idea and Corey will say, yeah, but what happens if; oh, I never thought about that.
That's where the value of having people around you, smart thinkers and good thinkers and have a different perspective because then it stops you to make sure you've thought it all through and if you still want to go ahead, at least you've covered all the bases and you know it's probably a good idea. Otherwise, you can decide to go a different direction.
Q. Two years ago when we sat with Hal, he was talking about how he was going ultimately going to make decisions on his own and he felt that was the best way to do it. Sounds like your philosophy may be a little different than that, or will it still ultimately boil down to you making the decisions?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, I think it has to be one person that makes the decisions; that's the captain, because he's the one who is the one who makes the final decision. But I definitely believe that if you're smart and you're wise, that you get good advice from the people around you. You listen to them. I think that's one thing I do, is I do listen to the people around me, what they have to say. If I think it makes sense, you know, we'll discuss it further. At the end of the day, it's my decision, it's my gut instinct, and I just think having them around will help me make better decisions.
Q. How do you think your personality has already come into play as a Ryder Cup Captain, what do you think you bring, and how do you think it will come into effect during the actual Ryder Cup?
TOM LEHMAN: You know, that's a good question. I'm not really sure I'm the person to ask about that. I think if you would ask the other guys, what do you think Tom brings, they would probably give you a better answer. Because very often you don't really know how it's being perceived. A lot of times you can say something that goes right over somebody's head, and you read in the paper, well, Tom said something to me; and wow, I thought he was saying listen.
But I think my strength has always been, you know, one-on-one getting along with guys, understanding and helping to motivate them. I think one of my strengths is that I'm able to communicate with other men in a way that can touch them and motivate them. So when it comes to, you know, time to really put together -- because we've already had some stuff. We've gotten together and had a couple dinners and I've had a chance to share my vision and stuff and guys have walked away really motivated and really excited, like, I can't wait. I think that's part of my style I guess is I'm able to do that.
Q. Inaudible -- feelings about the Ryder Cup?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, first of all, I'm honest with them. I tell them -- I've told them that other players have been selected to be the captain that have won more tournaments, have won more majors, who have better records, who are older. And I realize that.
So even though while they may have had better careers, there is nobody more passionate and cares about it more than I do. Maybe as much, but not more. So my passion for the Ryder Cup is pretty strong. I think the guys know that.
So the one message I have is: This Ryder Cup, we have this incredible opportunity. I see it as an opportunity to go to a place we've never gone to before, to play in Ireland for the first time in front of an incredible crowd and the biggest sporting event in the history that have country and we have a chance to go there and do something special. So trying to build the idea that, we get to go do this. I can't wait to go do this. I'm embracing this and I can't wait to tee it up. As opposed to like the pressure builds and it's like, I'm afraid to make a mistake. That's the other side. That's what we're trying to get away from.
Q. A lot has been made about supposedly the European Team having more chemistry and being closer and that's why they have come out ahead in the last couple of Ryder Cups. Are you buying that at all, and if so, how do you go about changing that lack of closeness?
TOM LEHMAN: I think the guys are pretty close on our team, I really do. I definitely won't buy into that argument. I think there's as much conflict or maybe more on the pure even team internally than there are on the Americans side. I know that for -- not for a fact, but I'm sure they have their own issues. Guys on our team, you know, they get along great. So I don't see camaraderie or anything being an issue.
Q. Have you paid much attention to the way the European Team is shaping up, looking at it out of the corner of your eye?
TOM LEHMAN: No, I'm looking at it dead center. They are very strong. They have a very strong team. Like us, theirs changes weekly. But the guys that need to be in there are basically all working their way in there. Donald is in there now and Sergio is in there now and Olazabal is in there. It's the whole team. You look at guys who you would expect to be in there who are not, Darren and Westwood, Björn, Poulter, but they are working their way up, as well. So they have got a pretty strong team.
Q. The new points system this year, there's been discussion about DiMarco finishing second at the British and gets 360 points and Rollins gets 375 for a win with a weaker field.
TOM LEHMAN: We'll have to wait and see. The system, the way it was adjusted was a very positive thing. Without question, you want to have the guys who are playing the best in this year and getting the most points, and it's done that.
I think you look at it, all of those guys who are in the Top 15 or 16 or whatever are all guys who have played the best this year. And to the getting by off the air year the year before, you're sinking like a rocket. I think the points system in my opinion is a very positive step. If there's a way to make it better, I'm sure the PGA of America will look at that in the future and adjust accordingly. But I think this has been a great change, and I think it's going to produce a very good team.
You know, getting back to John Rollins, I don't care whether you're playing the B.C. Open or wherever. Winning is winning. He knew what winning was worth to him. He knew what it would do for him. If you don't think he wasn't nervous, you know, then you're mistaken. He to step up on the last hole, I think he had to make a five- or six -foot putt to win or something like that and I guarantee you he was nervous. That putt was huge to him, and he made it.
That's the whole purpose I think of this whole point system is you want guys who are going to have that kind of thing on the line, they know what it's worth and they can step up and make the putt. So does he deserve as many points as DiMarco? You can debate that all you want. All I know is John Rollins got the job done when he had to, and that's a good thing.
Q. Looking at your career, would you be as defensive for these guys as anybody, these younger guys, the mainstream American public who are saying, who are the Ryder Cup guys and the long time it took you to put your game together?
TOM LEHMAN: You're absolutely 100% correct about that. They are all very good players. It's kind of interesting, a year ago over at the European Open, the big topic amongst the European writers especially was where are all of the young American guys at and there are no young Americans anywhere on this point list anywhere; there aren't any. I go, no, they are there, trust me, they are there.
This year at the European Open, there were five first-time guys on the list and now, everyone is like, man, this is a big mess, you have five first-time guys, what's wrong. Well, a year ago, you're saying where are they, where are they, and now you're saying, please go away. What are you trying to say here?
My feeling is these guys belong here. They belong here because they play good golf and yes I will defend that. On top of that I also firmly believe it's a good thing to have a competitive chip on your shoulder. These guys feel they have got something to prove, well let's go prove it. If you think that you are detractors or don't think you belong here, well, I felt that way when I first got there. You don't think I belong? Well, I'll show you. And that's not a bad way to approach it.
It's not about them. It's about the person. It's about having pride in what you're doing, believing in what you're doing and taking that as a motivation, and I think that's a great thing. And so you know, if you want to overlook those guys, then I would say to anybody, you know, feel free, because I think they are going to come up really big, huge.
Q. Speaking about motivation, what did you learn from John Wood about motivation?
TOM LEHMAN: Gosh, where do you start? You know, you probably know him, what an amazing person. There isn't one thing about him that isn't motivating. I think the thing I was most impressed with is he started, it's almost all about the internals. It's all almost about doing the right thing, personally, professionally, morally, preparing, being true to yourself, all of those things that make you in the end a good teammate.
So he said so much in two hours, but I just, I guess the overwhelming sense I had is I walked away from that two hours with this incredible sense of the goodness of that person. Just, you know, a special something that is good and you want to be around that. That kind of a thing attracts you. And it makes you a better person. That is what helped make him team so good is the people around him became better people and better basketball players. In terms of how it affected me, I hope I can make the golfers around me feel like that when they walk out of the Ryder Cup.
Q. Are you subscribing to the thought -- inaudible?
TOM LEHMAN: Who, me? Oh, I don't know about that. Are you joking or are you being serious?
Q. That there's a place -- inaudible?
TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, there definitely is. I think the place for being upset is if a player doesn't prepare, okay. Then, okay, a guy would have every right to be upset.
If a player did all he could do to prepare and honed his game and he worked at it and went through this whole process and got on the team and then got there and played poorly, I mean, you know what, that's kind of golf, that's kind of life. As long as they did what they had to do.
And I see guys making the effort. I see guys making the effort. You've got nine or ten guys here who are going to hop on a plane after the NEC and fly over to Ireland for a few days. That's a huge commitment that these guys are willing to do that.
So when I think about the Ryder Cup this coming year, I see the guys going the extra mile and making the effort to be prepared, to be ready because they want to go in. So if we don't win, it's not going to be because they don't care. It's not going to be because they didn't make the effort. It's going to be because the Europeans played better.
Q. Did you hear about the golf course -- inaudible?
TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, I remember two years ago at the British Open in St. Andrews, first two days ever tournament I was paired with McGinley and Sergio. We got to the 12th hole at the Old Course and somebody in the back of the tee said something at the Ryder Cup that was a very benign comment and I just responded like, you know, whatever I might say. Then he kept on going, like, "Well, we're going to thump you." That's fine. "We're going to get you worse than we got you at Oakland Hills." That's fine. Then he said something else, I forget, he just kept on going. You could tell this guy, he wasn't the typical.
So finally I stopped and turned around and looked at the guy and I said, "I can guarantee you that's not going to happen." You could have heard a pin drop on this tee. Sergio is pounding his tee into the ground, you know. (Laughter) But at some point, you've just got to stand up for your team. You know, it's like I've had enough. It's like -- no, it's nothing. That's very few and far between. But I enjoy the good-natured back and forth, I really do. I think it's fun, it's all in good humour and people want to see a good tournament.
Q. Well, it's so much different than what you normally face in golf, people want to be so cordial, they want to be -- they don't get in your face about another player. But this is, you know, the World Cup of golf, and there is more than just personal player preferences.
TOM LEHMAN: Oh, yeah. Yeah, I mean, international teams, there's personal, political, social, all of these issues that come into play. So you need to understand I think sometimes the perspective that your opponents have that, you know, beating the Americans is a big deal. They really want to beat the Americans. It's more important to beat the Americans than to go beat the Angolans, and quite frankly, so you need to understand that.
And people talked about the Europeans care more. I don't think they care more. They grew up in a different society and in a different way and have a different perspective. It seems like they do but a lot of it, it's fun to beat the Americans. Why not? You know. You're playing basketball in the NBA back when Jordan was playing it, would be fun to beat the Bulls. I guess that's who you wanted to beat. You didn't want to beat the New Jersey Nets. You wanted to beat the Bulls.
JULIUS MASON: Tom, thanks for coming in.
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