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August 23, 2006

Tom Lehman


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: United States Ryder Cup captain, Tom Lehman. Thanks for joining us here at the Bridgestone Invitational. Maybe some opening comments about coming to play this week. I know you've got some other things on your mind, and those will be addressed, but first a little bit about this week.

TOM LEHMAN: Well, a perfect golf course for a very tired person (laughter). That's how I feel, very tired, very tired, very excited. It's been a long two years of guys playing and working hard and trying to make this team. There have been a lot of conversations with a lot of people hoping to encourage guys to play well and.their best foot forward. We're now down to our 12 guys and I think we've got the right 12 guys, and I'm excited about going forward.

Q. Your idea to have them play in groups today?


Q. Is that going to happen

TOM LEHMAN: As much as possible, yes.

Q. Logistically, do you know the arrival plans for the actual matches?

TOM LEHMAN: When we're arriving in September?

Q. Yeah, are you able to get the guys together, or is it too difficult I know Phil's sister is getting married, that's one problem. But do you have anything planned for a group arrival or is everyone on their own?

TOM LEHMAN: We have a charter. For the guys Tiger and Jim Furyk are playing the World Match Play, Phil's sister is getting married on that Sunday afternoon that we're leaving. It's the anniversary of their grandparents' wedding, so they picked that day especially in honor of her grandparents, so needless to say, it's a special day so that's the day they picked. So he's obviously going to get there on Monday, later than we get there, but we'll all be there on Monday evening for dinner.

The rest of the team a bunch of guys are playing the 84 Lumber, I would say probably the majority of the other nine. And we'll all meet in either New York or Washington on Sunday evening and get on the charter and fly over at 10:00 at night and be in Dublin by I think 9:00 Monday morning.

Q. They're sending an 84 Lumber charter I hope?

TOM LEHMAN: No, but Mr. Hardy is very kind. He offered for whoever plays to fly to the charter wherever it is.

Q. Is there a White House appearance?

TOM LEHMAN: Unfortunately, that's been cancelled. President Bush is speaking to the UN on Monday the day after, so he's preparing on Monday to face the UN, so he won't be in Washington on that evening.

Q. It was planned, though?

TOM LEHMAN: It was planned.

Q. There was always been, I guess, an unwritten rule on the American team that the captains play everyone a lot. Are you prepared to be ruthless enough to do what Mark James did in '99 and sit three guys out until Sunday if necessary if they're not playing well?

TOM LEHMAN: I'm not sure that was totally smart, quite frankly. Phil and I played Saturday afternoon against Darren and Lee, and it was quite obvious that they were whipped, they were very tired. To me that was the perfect situation to play one of those teams that hadn't played yet simply because they were fresh, and even if they didn't play that well, they probably would have played as well as tired Westwood and Clarke.

I'm not sure ruthless is the right word. I think that the right word would be I'm not sure what the right word would be, but that's not the right word.

We all want to win, there's no question, and we will play to win. But I can't imagine sitting anybody until singles.

Q. What about maybe just two games?

TOM LEHMAN: Possibly.

Q. How much do you want to get a sense of team for your team? People have said in the past that the Europeans play better as a group together, and obviously what you're doing today and everything. Is that one of your goals, to get these guys a little more familiar with playing with each other type of thing?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, obviously yes. Obviously that's an obvious yes. I would say the one thing I'm most excited about is our guys are already together. They've been aiming for this for two years. It's now really a simple case of the eight guys who have been there before, who have been parts of Ryder Cup teams and Presidents Cup teams embracing the four guys who haven't and making them feel comfortable.

If you want to know what my goal is for the next four weeks, that's what it is. It's to make those four guys feel like they've earned their spots, they deserve to be part of the team, and the whole team is excited to have them as a part of the team and make them feel comfortable.

Q. Could you talk about not what happens on the course at a Ryder Cup but what happens off the course? A lot of players have talked about how much time and energy that takes away from their game. Are you going to try in any way, shape or form to limit that?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, there's some things you can't limit. It's impossible to limit some of the functions that you have to go to, and quite frankly, since we're playing in Europe, this is their agenda. If this were played in the United States, there would be a chance to maybe do something to reduce that.

But at the end of the day, I think the real key is that throughout any day you need to have a little bit of downtime. And if you're busy practicing or taking pictures and then have to run to a function, you've got zero downtime throughout the day. So in terms of our practice schedule and the things that we the first things first kind of thing, we'll get that done and try to do it in a way that gives guys a little bit of downtime each day to be able to go back to the hotel and put their feet up before they have to run off to any kind of a function.

It's a busy week. It's a very, very busy week, and that's all part of it and the guys know it.

Q. Do you think the opening ceremony is getting out of hand given that this is a match that started as a relatively friendly match between two continents? I mean, it's always been hugely competitive, but the opening ceremony just gets bigger and bigger.

TOM LEHMAN: If we don't have U2, I'm going to be upset. If Bono is not there, I'm not showing up. That's all there is to it (laughter).

Q. I've seen and read so many different stories about this, I wonder if you could just take this occasion to set it straight if I've missed it. But in speaking of your career, when you were at somewhat of a crossroads, could you just relive that for us, when you were debating whether to take the job at Minnesota, what it entailed and where you went from there?

TOM LEHMAN: Sure. I could get the year wrong, but it was '88 or '89, one of those years, and had missed the Tour school the previous fall, which I had done for probably four or five years in a row. You get the annual checkup like what am I going to do now.

It just so happened that at that time, at that point in time, the golf coach at University of Minnesota had decided to quit and they were looking for a new coach.

Maybe this is something I should look into. So I interviewed for the job and met with the athletic director a couple times. It really got down to two people, myself and John Means, and I had in my mind I could be a part time coach and spend a couple months in the wintertime playing golf in Australia or South Africa and then come back and march on. He said, no, we want somebody here 12 months a year.

I saw myself as kind of doing nothing. He said maybe we'll rent cross country skis at the clubhouse and you can do that in the wintertime. The guy's name is Rick Bay, good guy. I think he was partially joking, possibly, but to this day he sends me a letter every year saying, Aren't you glad I asked you to rent skis? Because it turned out well for you and it turned out well for the University program because they hired John Means and they built a great program, and really his legacy is that the guys he ended up recruiting ended up winning a national championship.

Q. Were you married at the time?

TOM LEHMAN: Yeah. My wife being a Southern Californian as someone who loves the beach and the sun wasn't real fond of that idea. She wasn't pushing real hard for me to be a coach. But with that being said, she was ready to do what I thought was best. It's one of those things that was obvious to me because from that point forward my career seemed to take off.

Q. At what point did you get your card?

TOM LEHMAN: '92. It was a couple more years, but I began to play consistently good golf, winning actually winning tournaments. Wherever I was playing I was starting to win and building confidence, growing as a player, started a family.

But it was one of those things where you think about getting a real job, and you say, no, the real job is not for me. I'm going to refocus and continue with my golf career and I'm going to double my efforts and double my dedication and really go after it.

Q. Could you imagine being here from there, and secondly, I wonder if you could speak to the highlight of your career and the low light as it relates strictly to your golf?

TOM LEHMAN: Highlight, low light. Probably the highlight there's been exciting, exciting moments, the Ryder Cup was a great moment, winning the British Open was a great moment.

But I think the thing I'm most proud of is when I got back on Tour in '92, I set my five goals: That I wanted to win; I wanted to win a major; I wanted to be on a Ryder Cup team; I wanted to be the PGA TOUR Player of the Year; and I wanted to be No. 1 in the world. Those were the five goals I set for myself in '92, and by '97 I accomplished all of them.

When I think about where I was in '88, '89, and where I was in '97, having accomplished those five goals, to me that's something I'm extremely proud of. Not many people can look back and say that they've accomplished such worthy and significant goals.

And the low light I'll tell you the lowest of the low. It's a bit of a lengthy story, so you have to bear with me. But I went to play in South Africa and my wife was coming a week later, so I left LA, flew KLM to Amsterdam, 13 hours, had a ten hour layover in Amsterdam, then flew down to South Africa. And because of Apartheid you had to go around the continent of Africa, so another 14 hours to Johannesburg, so another 13, 14 so 37 hours of travel. Got there through immigration. The first play was a place called Palabora. So we drove for six hours through literally gravel roads to this place called Palabora, got there at 10:00 at night. Had a nice Jemsbacher Impala (phonetic) for dinner and went to bed.

So that's 43 hours of traveling and basically no sleep at all.

Got up the next morning, went out to play the practice round for pre qualifying, played nine holes. I thought, This is really strange, there's a tournament here in four days and the pre qualifying is here tomorrow and there's not one soul on the golf course. That's confusing (laughter).

So I went into the pro shop. I said, Where is everybody? He goes, What do you mean? I said, The qualifying is tomorrow. Where is everybody? He goes, No, mate, the qualifying is back in Johannesburg (laughter).

So it was back in the car, back to Johannesburg. I got there at 10:00 at night again, went out to the golf course, found the golf course like at 11:00 just to see what the pairings were and I realized that because I hadn't been there the day before to pay my entry I wasn't in the qualifier.

So I spent my first week in South Africa with complete jet lag, all by myself, couldn't go to sleep until 4:00 in the morning. I think I read three Leon Uris novels in one week, because they're small print and 600 pages. That's what it was all about right now.

At the time I wasn't too happy, but looking back upon it, the one thing it does is it makes you tough. You realize when you're willing to go to the ends of the earth and do what it takes to be successful, then it does affect you.

Q. Was that pre rental ski?

TOM LEHMAN: That was pre. It might have been post, actually. No, it was post rental ski. But that's why I think this travel over on Monday and Tuesday to Ireland is so important, because it's not easy. Guys have families and they have plans they've made and they alter them and it's two days over and then it's back, and while it is nice because we get to fly in a chartered plane, the bottom line is it's a sacrifice to do it.

It's like when I was living in Simi Valley, California, I could have went and hit balls at a driving range on the golf course but I took my own balls from a shag bag and I hit them all and I'd pick them up and it was 20 minutes to get there as opposed to 30 seconds out the door. The effort it took to go do it and to actually spend the day practicing the way I practiced made the practice worth so much more. It was a sacrifice to do it.

So for our team to go over on Monday and Tuesday, it's worth its weight in gold because everybody is going to know that they're paying the price, committing and doing the right thing as a team.

Q. Do you plan to tell that story on the charter over?

TOM LEHMAN: There will be a lot of stories told over the next few days, definitely.

Q. Do you think that golf course in South Africa has your picture hanging up there now saying you played there once?

TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, The Lost American.

Q. How is it as a player this week doing what you've been doing?

TOM LEHMAN: Am I playing this week? I forgot.

Q. Yeah, what's that like. Obviously you've got a lot of other things going on?

TOM LEHMAN: My caddie and I decided this is going to be a low stress week. It's a great tournament, and I'm emotionally whipped. I can only imagine how Tiger must feel. He has these weeks every week where he's on these incredible highs.

Anyway, it's just a week to go play golf, no expectations and enjoy it, just have fun playing golf. That's kind of what my game plan is, to just go play golf and not get too worried about the consequences.

Q. From the Saturday night of '99, do you remember the impact that that Alamo chat had on not just you but the whole team, and are you using that this year?

TOM LEHMAN: The Alamo speech was nice. It was nice to have the governor come and speak. The words were powerful. But I personally got way more out of what Payne Stewart had to say and what Justin Leonard had to say and what Robin Love and Davis Love and my wife and what Hal Sutton had to say. To me that was the power. That was the significance of the evening, and everybody kind of bearing their soul. So everything kind of worked nicely.

I think Governor Bush doing that kind of created a nice mood, but it was the players being so real which created the huge energy.

Q. And that was a spur of the moment thing that followed?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, it's kind of a traditional thing for people to but sometimes it can be forced, and sometimes it can be just spontaneous. The spontaneous part is always best.

Q. So can you plan anything like that for your captaincy?

TOM LEHMAN: I think you can. I think you can create an atmosphere where people really feel comfortable and feel willing to be vulnerable. I'm not talking like some let's all sit around and sing Koom ba ya, that type of thing. I'm talking about people being real. When people are good and real, good things happen.

Q. What's the one thing that happened Saturday night that particularly sticks in your mind?

TOM LEHMAN: Not so much any one thing. Well, I'll give an example of what I'm talking about real. Payne talked about his father who had passed away year before, and he was very emotional talking about how he wished his father could have been there to watch. That's the kind of thing that I'm talking about, guys and their wives, when you kind of get together and form the right kind of bond, it creates a real comfortable kind of thing where you feel like you just don't want to leave.

That's the way it was. People were willing to share what was on their heart and what was on their mind. Robin Love, she's talked about Harvey Penick and what an influence he was on Davis' life and his whole mantra was take dead aim. She kind of shared that. That's always something that they talked about.

Justin Leonard was his typical, witty, funny self and he brought a lot of levity to the group. It was a combination of tears and laughter and tears and laughter. It was a great evening, and I think it helped our team pull together and go out on Sunday and play so well.

Q. Do you feel that's a spirit that's been missing ever since in the U.S. team?

TOM LEHMAN: You know, I haven't been a part of a team since then. I really couldn't tell you. The desire to win, the importance that was put on the Ryder Cup I'm sure has never waned. I think the Europeans have played a lot of great golf, though. It's tough to look happy when you're getting thumped. That's just the way it is.

Of all the teams that I've been on, I think this team right now has the best attitude, the best kind of feel that I've ever been a part of.

These guys are really self motivated and ready to play, and they're really taking leadership, the top guys are incredible the way they've taken charge.

Q. We always talked about the difficulty of being captain and a lot of people say it's not that big a deal, they don't have that much to do and so forth and so on. Obviously being one now for almost a year and a half I think you probably have a different feeling about that. Can you tell us the difficulties you've experienced so far and how difficult out of that was the whole thing of doing the picks?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, that's by far the most difficult. The other things are time issues, how it takes away your time. This uses up all of your emotion. I'm an emotional guy. I'm a sympathetic character, and knowing that you're crushing the hopes of people who are so dedicated and have made it such a goal to make the team isn't easy and wasn't easy for me. I took my time to make sure I was comfortable with what I had decided to do.

But at the end of the day, making the phone calls was very difficult. To me that's the toughest part. I feel like I made two great choices and I feel like our team the guys that I picked were the right guys for what I wanted for our team. It doesn't mean in any way, shape or form that the guys I didn't pick aren't great players, couldn't have been picked, because there would have been numerous guys who had high expectations and deservedly so.

Q. Was the process more difficult or more emotional than you thought it would have been?

TOM LEHMAN: The emotion for me is just knowing that I'm that there's going to be some big disappointment because of what I say. I do care about the friendships that I have continuing. It's been good for me actually to come here this week and to have a few conversations with some of the guys who I wanted to talk to just to let them know how much I appreciated their attitude and their responses and let them know how much I admire them.

I mean, you kind of get the gist of it. It's kind of like closing the door on it. To me you close the door and I feel good. I feel great with the guys that I've picked. I feel good about the guys that I didn't, and I'm ready to go forward.

Q. Do you envision moments during the Ryder Cup week when you'll have to keep your emotions in check?

TOM LEHMAN: Emotions in check. Yeah, I don't worry about that at all. I think I'm very ready for what's going to happen. I'm not at all concerned about I really believe that our team, both teams, will be competing with a complete respect for the game, for each other, for the fans, and they're going to play hard and play to win without any question. But life is too short to do it any other way.

Q. Thinking about that process, I know you're a man of faith, so how has that helped keep you sane the last three weeks, and how is it going to help keep you sane over the next four?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I think the only thing I've really wanted throughout this thing is to have a peace of mind about what I'm doing and to have wisdom about the decisions I make. I think that's what I get from my faith.

Q. We discovered our second player who's never competed in match play formally, we had Vaughn and now Brett came to the fold yesterday. Your thoughts on that. And secondly, Loren and Maggs were a pretty strong rookie duo at Oak Hill your first Ryder Cup. I wonder if you've given any thought to throwing two lambs out there.

TOM LEHMAN: I've thought about it and am not opposed to it, depending on who the two are. In terms of match play, I was amazed at that. We were talking on the 1st tee this morning about that, and we decided that it's not true because everybody has played in a $5 Nassau.

Q. But like an official competition, though, just to clarify?

TOM LEHMAN: Officially, no. Where have you been your entire life? I can't believe you haven't played in match play. You've got to be kidding me? That's a pretty mind boggling thing. You know, I guess that's the way it is. If you don't play U.S. Juniors and you don't play in the U.S. Amateur and you don't play in the Western Amateur and if you're not that caliber of player or you can't afford it or whatever, the only thing you play in is the stuff that's stroke play. So I guess that's somewhat understandable.

Q. I know this might sound weird, but are they going to require some kind of tutorial from you on this? There's a lot into playing match play.

TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, there is, and I really believe that we have well, we have the best match player in the world, who's our top player, and we have two of the best match players I've ever known as my assistants. I feel like I've got a lot to offer in that regard. And Jim Furyk, I can't forget him, he's tough. Mickelson, they're all tough. You start discussing guys and it's like, wait a second, down the list, these guys are all tough match players, so they all have something to add. That's the beauty of the leaders of our team is they're very willing and ready and actively sharing that. So I think our guys will be mentored well.

Q. Have you actually said since Sunday what you would have done if you had qualified?

TOM LEHMAN: Have I said what I would do? No, I haven't.

Q. If you had won that playoff in Colorado and it came that you were in the Top 10, did you know what you were going to do?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I said the whole time that I would cross that bridge if it got there, and I never got there, so I'm going to put that one aside.

Q. Let's cross it anyway.

TOM LEHMAN: I'm not going to go there.

Q. Getting into the Ryder Cup, how much of an issue are the individual players' schedules? I'm thinking of guys that played events back to back to back to get into this versus a Mickelson who plays most of his golf before the end of June, tapers off and haven't been his sharpest for a Ryder Cup?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I think it's important that you prepare like it's a major because it is, it's a major tournament. So I've been telling everybody, whatever you do to prepare for the biggest events, that's the way I want you to prepare for this. If you've played two or three in a row and you need some time off, I think it's important to play like the 84 Lumber or the World Match Play, something where you're competing. I want you to be sharp. So part of being sharp is being rested, so if guys need some time off, then I say take time off immediately after this tournament and then get rested and be prepared when September 22nd comes around.

Q. It's been Phil's MO to skip a day at the course during majors. Tiger didn't come out I don't think to the PGA until 2:00 on Wednesday, and Phil has skipped Wednesday numerous times. Are you comfortable with that?

TOM LEHMAN: Skipping a day?

Q. Yes.

TOM LEHMAN: I don't think we'll be skipping any days. We may have some shorter days, but we're not going to skip any days.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Tom Lehman, thank you.

End of FastScripts.

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