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February 22, 2006

Tom Lehman


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Tom Lehman, thanks for joining us, 3 & 2 victory over Stuart Appleby. Maybe some opening comments on a good day for you.

TOM LEHMAN: Great day, great weather. Course is in supreme condition, the greens are perfect, other than a really horrible opening tee shot where I hit it almost in the 18th fairway off the tee. I played extremely well. Stuart probably didn't play his best. He had a 1 up lead and missed two four footers on the 9th and the 11th to kind of give me back the lead. He gave it to me, I would say.

But I played very strong, played well the whole day, no bogeys. I had a nice birdie to finish off the match.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: You did have to wake up early and play early. Must be nice to finish early to get a bit of rest and maybe practice because if you go on three, four, five, six matches it's a long week.

TOM LEHMAN: Absolutely. There's a lot of golf to be played. If you're going to go all the way, you're going to play a lot of holes. I'll probably take the next few holes off and I'll go to a place in town called The Farms where I'm a member and I'll probably relax, play a few holes and put on my shorts and have some fun.

Q. How do you feel about this setup? Which do you prefer, match play or stroke play? Can you talk about the difference between the two?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, you know, preference is probably stroke play, but match play I think definitely has a place in professional golf. There's a lot of history in golf which match play was a part of. It's good to have at least one big match play event.

The thing that can be frustrating is you can play very well and lose, or you can play very poorly and win. So you can go one day and shoot 66 and get beat, while another guy shoots 74 and wins. So your good golf sometimes isn't quite good enough and you've got a short week.

Q. You're obviously competing this week, but you also have a great opportunity to also look at the board and kind of see what a lot of American players are doing. Are you going to be doing that at all this week or are you just worried about your own game and I'll check later on to see how some other guys did that week? How do you balance that?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I'm here as a player first. I've got my own game to worry about and my own goals I want to achieve. But I will pay attention to who is winning, who is losing. Sometimes it's not really easy to know how you win or how you lose. It would be very interesting to know if some guy birdied the last four holes and beat you 1 up or did you bogey the last three to lose one. Those kind of things it probably would be interesting in knowing, but it probably would take a lot of research to know that. 18 holes in match play is like a short, short sprint. Anybody can win any match any day. I really don't put a great huge amount of probably anything more than normal emphasis on this tournament.

Q. I know you talk about being here as a player first. Do you find yourself maybe wanting to check it out more than you would in other years in terms of normally when guys come out here, they just want to be in their own bubble. Are you less in that bubble because of your other responsibilities?

TOM LEHMAN: No, no, I don't think so at all. I've had this question several times now, and kind of having two hats is not difficult. When I'm out here playing golf, it's very easy to be totally focused on my own game whether I'm on the course and practicing and chipping and putting and bunker shots, I'm all about working on my game. When I go home and the day is over, then I can think about the other stuff, so it's actually quite easy.

I'd be very curious to know if some of the match ups, American players versus European players, how those fare. Those will be particularly interesting to me and will give me probably a barometer of where we're at.

Q. This might be the last stop for the PGA TOUR at La Costa for a while. Can you comment about that, how you feel about this course? Are you happy to leave? Are you sad?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I always really enjoyed the Tournament of Champions being here. I thought it was a great event at this golf course where there's a lot of history. I was in a lot of ways sad to see it leave here and go somewhere else. It was nice to have the match play here, but I was torn about that, as well, simply because it became an opposite event with Tucson, and Tucson is one of the longest running PGA TOUR events, I think it's like 70 something years that it's been going on. This tournament has hurt the Tucson Open.

So at the end of the day, when we shake it all out, I'm actually quite happy that this is going to Tucson because it seems like all's well that ends well for Tucson. The sad thing is there's nothing here, but I think eventually something will come back.

Q. You hear some players saying when they're playing in a stroke play event in a threesome they can go 18 holes without knowing what their playing partner did, obviously in match play it's different. Can you talk about the differences between match play and stroke play and the kind of mano a mano that it is?

TOM LEHMAN: I'll give you an example. On 8 Stuart drove it in the right rough and had to lie it up. He had quite a long third shot. I hit a really nice drive, had 270 to the front edge. My caddie and I talked, well, he's out of position, got a long iron for a third shot. Do I put it up there for a lob wedge, play the percentages? Or should I go ahead and play as if I was playing on my own and hit a 3 wood and try to knock it up, on or near the green? But that's a risk because if I hit it right, knock it in the water, now I've given away a great opportunity. At the end of the day, I hit a 3 wood and we still tied the hole (laughter).

But I think probably the best way to play match play, quite frankly, is to play your own game, but when there is an obvious reason to do the change of strategy, then you do it.

Q. Do you take more chances in match play than you would normally take? And then do you become conservative at other times?

TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, you can, but it can turn in a hurry. The wind can really turn. The 14th hole today Appleby drove it in the creek, and he was 70 yards behind me in the rough, had to take a drop in the rough, and he hit some kind of a rescue club onto the green about six feet from the hole, and I hit a beautiful drive and a 7 iron that spun back about 18 feet, so all of a sudden I've got a 50 foot putt which I've got to two putt because he's probably going to make his for par. The thing has turned in a hurry, looking like it was an easy hole for me, and he could have won the hole quite easily. You can never get too conservative. You can never, ever feel like the other guy is out of the hole. You always expect him to do something heroic and therefore play a short but aggressive shot.

Q. When you think about Adam Scott and his game and matching up with you

TOM LEHMAN: I think a lot of him and his game. He's a wonderful person and a beautiful player. He's going to be very tough to beat. He's had success here. He doesn't have any weaknesses, there's no chinks in the armor, so I'm going to have to play very well. I've beaten Ernie here before, and I've had some big wins here against some good players, so I know that it's not impossible. I may be the underdog but just barely.

Q. It's interesting how the draw plays out. You end up with two pretty tough Aussies to start the tournament.

TOM LEHMAN: I've got one Aussie flag on the side of my car. It would be nice to have two.

Q. You were happy about the tournament going to Tucson. Does the fact that the rumor about it may go The Gallery which you codesigned make you even happier?

TOM LEHMAN: I think it's kind of cool. Although I think they're going to play the South Course. There's two courses, and I helped design the North Course, and I believe the plan is to play the South Course if I'm not mistaken. If they were playing my course, I think that would be cool to play the course that I helped design. They played there one time and the players were all favorable in their comments about it, and I know they like it. But it's a beautiful spot and it'll be a great place for a tournament.

Q. Since being a Ryder Cup captain's pick probably isn't an option for you this year

TOM LEHMAN: That's quite right (laughter).

Q. Where would you rank in terms of accomplishments if you're able to play your way onto the team?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, it would be the achievement of a goal that I've accepted myself, so it would be very satisfying in that regard. I've done a lot of work to try to prepare myself for this year, and I feel like already this early stage it's paying off, and I feel pretty happy about that, as well. I really don't see any reason why I can't continue to improve and why I can't have a legitimate shot at making the team. I don't see why that's not possible.

Q. How big of a part in that is playing into the lean, mean Tom Lehman

TOM LEHMAN: Well, leaner, not too mean (laughter).

You get to a point in your career where you either decide it's time to get serious and make some changes, or you quit. There's too much I love golf too much and there's too much to play for to quit. I only had one option, and that was to get serious about fitness and rededicate myself to that and my game, and to work harder. With the feeling that the Ryder Cup to me is the greatest event in golf I mean, the majors where individual events obviously are huge, but there's nothing like a team event. There's nothing like a team event to bring up passion and emotion in the players and the fans, and therefore I think it's the biggest, greatest spectacle in golf, the Ryder Cup. I would love to be a part of it as both a captain and a player. If it doesn't work out that way, I can accept that and I get to be there either way.

Q. What's been the hardest change in your lifestyle?

TOM LEHMAN: Just the time commitment. It takes time to start where I started and try to work off all the flab.

You have to give something up, and to my it was always the kind of thing that well, I can't do it because I've got to work on my game. I've got to work on my chipping, work on my driving. I've got to do something with my game. I said, you know what, it's not going to do me any good at all if I can't walk the golf course because my knees hurt so bad. I'll give up three hours a day of chipping or three hours on the range to make it so my knees don't hurt. I think it's been a good decision.

Q. How much have you lost?

TOM LEHMAN: You know, I started at 229 in August when I started training, and now I'm 205.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Tom, thank you.

End of FastScripts.

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