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March 15, 2006

Tom Lehman


JOAN vT ALEXANDER: We'd like to thank Tom Lehman for joining us in the media center at the Bay Hill Invitational. This is a big year for you, you've already had a great year personally with your own golf, and it's a long road to the Ryder Cup. Why don't you just talk about the next couple of months and what's going to happen.

TOM LEHMAN: Well, we're six months away, so time does March somewhat quickly. I'm very excited about the way things are shaping up. We have a lot of guys on our tour who are playing extremely well, a lot of guys who are week in and week out performing very consistently.

It really is in some ways a waiting game. You wait to see kind of how the team shapes up and encourage the guys along the way, and I'll do whatever I can do to keep the Ryder Cup as a part of their dream and part of their goals for the year, which is not difficult to do since the guys are already very motivated. Just kind of wait and see what happens.

JOAN vT ALEXANDER: You've been here every year since 1992, except for missing 2003, just talk about the Bay Hill Invitational and Mr. Palmer's tournament and changing the name.

TOM LEHMAN: I think the name change is so appropriate. I'm not sure there's anybody who loves golf in this world more than Arnold Palmer. I think it's just he has a passion for the game and a passion for the traditions that go way beyond almost anybody. So I think, therefore, it is appropriate to honor Arnold with putting his name on the tournament. We all call it Arnold's tournament, but now it's officially Arnold Palmer's Invitational. I think it's very appropriate and he deserves it.

Q. In conversations you've had with past Ryder Cup Captains, what's the best advice you've gotten, and are there any other ways that you're going to go your own way and try different things that have been tried in past Ryder Cups?

TOM LEHMAN: The best advice, I've gotten quite a bit of advice. (Laughter).

Q. From past captains.

TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, I think without I think the best advice, one captain told me, you know, you set the agenda. I think it was more in terms of the message that I want to be giving, and maybe even more specifically in dealing with the media and with the players both. You're the captain and you set the agenda. You figure out what your message is going to be and you stick to it and put it out there. I think that's been the best advice I've gotten.

Q. Has Julius put you through media training?

TOM LEHMAN: Absolutely.

Q. What did he tell you and what did you learn?

TOM LEHMAN: What did I learn? You know, I learned not to nod my head when people are asking me questions. Something stupid like that, but I always find myself if somebody is asking me a question like: "Tom, you ran across the 17th green and you trampled on Jose Maria's lie," and I'd be like nodding the whole time, like, yeah, okay, I'm listening to you. He's like, okay, don't nod your head like that. Just keep your said still and listen to what they have to say. Something simple, but I learned that. That was something new.

Q. On the second part of that, is there any other are there any ways where you are going to do things your way that may not have been done in the past?

TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, there's some things that I definitely am going differently. The questions I like to ask are: What do you think you did well and what do you think you did poorly. If you could do it over, would you change anything, and what you think was really successful.

But also being a part of three teams, there's other players who have been part of more, I know exactly what I've liked and what I've disliked. So I have not only their perspective but mine as well. So when all is said and done, I have a pretty good handle of what I think is the right thing to do or what I think are mess takes.

Q. To follow up on what you were saying before about Arnold, if you were going to compare him to anybody in any sport, what other sports figures does the name Arnold Palmer conjure?

TOM LEHMAN: You know, there's very few in his league, or I should say very few are in his league. He's one of the few people who actually have had that tremendous impact on their sport. The world of golf is the way it is a great deal and a great day and to a large extent because of Arnold. His charisma, his style of play, it built the TOUR. Then along with Jack and Gary and everybody, obviously, but his personality was I think the driving force. There's not too many other people that I can think of would have had that kind of an impact on their sport like he has. I mean, there are some, but I probably couldn't think of who they might be.

Q. You said we're six months and counting, now time is flying, have you had any, middle of the night, I'm going to put this pair together to play foursomes, wake up and go write it down?

TOM LEHMAN: No, I haven't had that. I'd call it blessed with my personality style that I don't worry very much. I don't have a lot of anxiety about too many things. I do have ideas which I'll write down, but I'm not waking up at night thinking about them. I'll be driving in the car maybe and think about them, but I'm not losing any sleep.

Q. You've talked a lot and you've been asked a lot about playing on the team, if you were to be in the Top 10 and were happy with your game, do you see any issue with playing? Is too much being made of it? Should it be that difficult for you to captain and play at the same time?

TOM LEHMAN: Did you just say is too much being made of it?

Q. There have been some that have said that you shouldn't do both.

TOM LEHMAN: You know, first of all, we're in the beginning of the season basically, so there's so much golf left to be played. I'm not even in the Top 10 right now. I'm outside of the Top 10. So at this point in time when I look at our list and our team, the Top 10 we have are very, very strong and I get two more picks on top of that, so I feel very comfortable with the guys who are playing well.

I have said all along that if you look at the history of the last decade, the U.S. Team is just an eyelash away from having lost five in a row. We're just that close to losing the last five straight.

With that said, knowing how strong the European Team is and what the quality of their players and are how good they are and how well they play as a team, we would be completely foolish to not put our 12 best guys on the golf course, whoever they are. To have a chance to beat those guys, a chance to knock off a strong team, you need to have your 12 best guys.

So I don't know how that's all going to shake out and only time will tell. But we would be quite foolish to not have our best team out there, whoever they are.

Q. You talk about guys playing well, obviously Tiger is dominating, and now running up to the Masters, if he were to win here, what would that do mentally, to the field and going into Augusta?

TOM LEHMAN: Oh, I don't think he has to win here for guys to know going into Augusta that he is going to be awfully tough to beat.

I think everybody knows how well he's done on that course and how the course is so suited to him. Anybody with a short game, as good as his short game is, is going to have that dominant factor every time he plays and Tiger is. If he were to win this week, it would probably just re enforce that much more his confidence. If, for example, if I had great hopes to win The Masters, I certainly would want to beat him here this week, too.

Q. If he cranks is up to the level of 2000, what toll is that going to take on his competitors?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I mean, everybody out here is professional and everybody has an ego, they have pride in what they do, and nobody wants to be a part of that Tiger and everybody else crowd. Everybody would like to be able to have an impact on what's going on, which means you have a chance to win and hopefully you do win.

So I think from the golf fan perspective, having somebody that dominant and be that good is really very cool. From a competitor standpoint, I certainly want to play my best and have a chance and I'd like to beat the guys out here.

Q. I had a couple of Ryder Cup questions regarding you as a rookie. Was your first match with Corey (Pavin)?


Q. And it came down to the 18th hole? Can you just talk about the nerves you remember as a rookie? That was a big match, wasn't it?

TOM LEHMAN: Oh, yeah. We were the first match out in '95. We played Montgomerie and Faldo alternate shot. It was a back and forth match. They won four holes, we won four holes, they won a hole, we won a hole and it ended up going to the 17th hole all square, and it was raining and windy and cold. I was, you know, so nervous, I could hardly swing the club. And Corey gave me I think the best advice I've of gotten in golf. I told him I was nervous, having a hard time with controlling my emotions and he said, "Look, just get committed and swing." That advice has stuck with me ever since, get committed and swing. Last hole he drove it in the first cut of rough, and the year I was in the high stuff I got committed to a 5 iron and hit it 205 to the front middle of the green and we 2 putted for the win. So his advice to me was invaluable for my whole career.

Q. Second question, and I apologize for nodding my head a minute ago, your singles match with Seve, I think you hit every fairway and every green, he didn't hit a single fairway and you're only 1 up at the turn. Did that tell you anything about yourself about your mental toughness to have someone who is still fairly legendary at the time pulling out little magic tricks along the way and not caving in? I would think it would be easy to get frustrated and get going the wrong way there.

TOM LEHMAN: You know what, it did prove a lot to me. I think it proved to me, not for the first time, but again that when I get that focused, that I'm pretty tough to beat.

I would also say that I was very prepared for Seve. I watched him play for a couple of days. I only played three matches that year. I played in the alternate shot and then the foursomes, or four ball, whatever you call it; I still can't get them straight, but I didn't play the best ball matches. So I went out and watched other guys play, so I saw a lot of Seve, so I knew exactly what to expect. I knew not to pay attention at all to his body language, because he's got very strong body language, and just know that he's going to hit it everywhere and get it up and down. So play your own game, which is exactly what I did. Eventually, you just kind of wore him down.

Q. Can a Ryder Cup, for someone who is young experience wise, if it's a good week, can that propel them to great things?

TOM LEHMAN: I think you it can do a lot for your confidence. I think performing well under the pressure of the Ryder Cup can do a lot for your confidence.

Even as nervous as I felt, it was an extremely enjoyable experience. I enjoyed that kind of competition. I really enjoyed that kind of mano a mano type atmosphere whether it be the two team matches or team matches or individual, it was us against them, and to me, even though it was at some times nerve wracking, it was also very fun.

Q. You had your best year a year later; is there any correlation there?

TOM LEHMAN: I was playing very well. I qualified for the team in '95, either second or third in points, so I had been playing well. You know, everything kind of was moving in the right direction. A lot of things were going right through the mid to late 90s.

Q. Just to go back to the answer you gave about Tiger, it seems in his wins recently, the next closest player finishes with a bogey. Do you suppose the guys just try to do too much when they are going against Tiger on Sunday afternoon late?

TOM LEHMAN: I think Tiger doesn't beat himself. That's always been his method. He's a great player, he's mentally strong, he doesn't beat himself. And so therefore, if you're going to beat him, you've got to go beat him and he's not going to lose. I think that does put maybe, not an added pressure, but it does maybe change your mind set knowing that if you're behind, you've got to catch him and pass him; he's not coming the other way.

So it's easy to make mistakes when you're going at the pins that are tucked. It's easy to make a bogey when you missed by just a little and you know you have to make a birdie. That's kind of the way it is. I'd rather be in front than having to chase.

Q. This issue kind of surfaces every so often, but at Doral, the issue between Tiger and David whether or not to watch leaderboards, it's almost like the technology has gotten to the point where you almost can't not look at the leaderboard because it seems like there's one on every home, every other hole. As a player, what's been your philosophy, and does it change from one tournament to the next, for example, at Augusta, where a lot can happen, so do you pay more attention at events like that?

TOM LEHMAN: You know, I think it's important to know where you are. I remember one time awhile ago, I started playing, and I would maybe win if I was having a great round, I'd start getting really nervous. And I kept on playing well, but as I got to about the 10th or 11th hole, "I've got a chance do win, I've got a chance to win," and you feel the excitement and nerves that come with being in the hunt. Well, I look at the board and somebody else is having a phenomenal day and I'm like six shots behind. I'm like, why am I so nervous, I'm six shots behind.

The point is, I guess you've got to look and see where you're at. I don't know anything about Doral, I don't know about the leaderboard thing, but you need to pay attention I think to where you are. I mean, Jesper, he didn't know where he was at that British Open that year and ended up losing. I'm sure if he could do it over, he would maybe have taken a peak at the board. So look there's if you're looking at it too much means you're out of the present and you're thinking about the what ifs. But just knowing where you're at, I think is always smart.

Q. If you're behind trying to catch up, do you have to know about the what ifs? Is that the time to really pay attention?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, you know, there's some golf courses, like, say, you're playing this golf course and the last two holes are straight into the wind, blowing 30 and so you get to the 16th hole, you see you're a shot behind and the guys behind me, well, if I can make a birdie here over the last two holes. So you kind of think about, if I can just play three great holes, it's going to be really hard for somebody else if he has to make a birdie on 18 to catch me. So that's very important. Maybe he got a one shot lead on 18, if I can just make a par, it's going to be really tough for a guy to birdie to beat me, so it can affect the way you play.

There's nothing wrong with making a smart par somewhere. If it's a tough hole, the guys behind you are going to have a very hard time beating you. That's why I think there's always scenarios, but to know exactly where you stand and what you have to do and gives you the best chance to win I think is something you need to do.

Q. Where were you in '86 when Jack won?

TOM LEHMAN: Where was I? I don't know.

Q. What do you remember about it?

TOM LEHMAN: I don't recall where I was exactly but I did watch it.

Q. What do you recall about watching it, and why do you think that has become such a signature moment in Augusta history?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, a signature moment, it was a phenomenal comeback, the greatest player possibly of all time late in his career, one last hoorah. I think everyone likes to see the old champion come through one more time.

Jack wasn't that old, he was only 46, but in terms of age of guys who win majors, he was pretty much pushing the limit. And the way he did it, it was a big part of it. He came from way behind, making all of those birdies and the crowd was going crazy. My palms were sweaty just watching it on TV, it was so exciting.

Q. Were you rooting for Jack or for Seve that day?

TOM LEHMAN: Absolutely I was rooting for Jack. That's nothing against of the other players. But to see that kind of any sport, you see Joe Montana come on the field one more time and lead his team to victory, that's exciting. So to see Jack Nicklaus who had not won in, I'm not sure how many years, but to come out and win a major in the fashion that he did, that was great for golf.

Q. Do you believe in fate when things like that happen?

TOM LEHMAN: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Q. Would it be easier for you if the team was solidified earlier, or is it more exciting to see some of these young guys that are coming kind of out of month where and playing great and may be on your team?

TOM LEHMAN: I'm sure it will work out this year the way it always has. Most of the team is solidified by the end of July. There's usually only a few spots that end up changing names a whole lot from the British Open on.

A lot has been made out of the points system this year and by quadrupling the points. I think early in the year, it does shake up the list quite a bit because there are so many points, but over the long haul, it's all relative. It's all relative whether you're playing for one point or a hundred. The guys who are playing the best are going to make the team.

Q. Why do you think Tiger doesn't have a stronger Ryder Cup record?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, he's got a pretty strong singles record. I don't know exactly what it is, but there's sometimes first of all, I would say that match play is all about the heart. Match play is a matter of the heart. It's all about what's inside of you, and we all know that Tiger Woods has more inside of him than any three guys put together almost. He's got an incredible amount of heart.

But match play, also, is the kind of thing where you can get beaten. No. 150 can beat No. 1 any day over 18 holes. Then you throw the team thing in and maybe you're not playing well or your partner is not playing well or you drive is in the rough a few too many times and before you know it, you've gotten beat.

I know that watching the Presidents Cup last year, he played awfully well. He played extremely well and he won a lot of matches. He and Jim Furyk teamed up together beautifully. So I'm not at all concerned about that.

Q. In recent Ryder Cups, the role of captain's wife has become more important, where do you think Melissa's strengths are going to be in assisting you, and what kind of functions have you handed off to her other than perhaps designing the wives clothing?

TOM LEHMAN: You know what, I guess the strength would be that she's the most loyal person that I know and patriotic. So she is I'm sure going to be very much with the same message that I have; that we're a team and it's not just the 12 guys who are playing, it's the caddies, it's the wives, it's the coaches who are there. Everybody who is there on behalf of our effort is all kind of a part of the bigger team.

So the goal is to win. And so whatever it takes to win, that's what we're going to do. That message that she'll have in leading the wives and the families, that's what her strength is. I know for a fact that if people are out partying at 2:00 in the morning on Friday night, she's going to be putting a stop to that well before it happens. Not that I would say that's going to happen, but that's the kind of person she would be. Like, hey, we're here to win, we'll party on Sunday. So let's pull together and we're a team.


End of FastScripts.

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