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February 24, 2006

Tom Lehman


SCOTT CROCKETT: Tom, many congratulations, a fantastic win today. Before we take questions, give us your thoughts on a great victory.

TOM LEHMAN: It's always nice to win a match, especially against a player of the caliber of David Toms. I've had three really tough ones, Appleby and then Adam Scott and David. I think it would be safe to say that I played pretty steady golf all the way through to this point. My opponents have all played less than probably their best.

David today hit some shots that were uncharacteristic of him, especially off the tee. He missed a few putts. He made some mistakes that really kind of opened the door for me. Even though I played pretty steady golf and pretty solid, he played less than his best.

SCOTT CROCKETT: You've got to play the man.

TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, my philosophy in match play is make the guy beat you. You want to be aggressive and shoot a good score, but make the other guy win the hole; don't give it to him. And I think the common theme throughout all my matches is I've done that and my opponents have not.

Q. The drive on No. 9 hit the cart path and went forward. You probably didn't know what kind of shot you'd have. You made birdie from there; was that the turning point?

TOM LEHMAN: That was a good break, great break. If it misses the path then I'm 40 yards short in the rough. You hope to make par. And it turns out I had a reasonable lie in the area where the gallery trampled it down. I hit a good shot and hit it close and made birdie. That got me 1 up. And the next hole David drove it in the thick stuff and I made a nice birdie to go 2 up. And then it was 1 up and it was 2 up and he made some mistakes, and I got the match.

Q. What did you have in on 9?

TOM LEHMAN: 162, I think it was. 152 over the bunker plus ten.

Q. Does your game feel close to where it was in your prime when you were playing in the last group of the U.S. Open and winning The British Open?

TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, my game then it's close it's probably as close as it's been in a while. My game then, every shot came out of the barrel the same way. Everything I hit was a bit of a push draw, and if I tried to get a fade it went dead straight.

So I really, really had control over where my golf ball was going to go, especially off the tee. I put it in play or the fairway or the first cut so often. My iron game was sharp and I would do well just by hitting great shot after great shot after great shot. I could get away with being a streaky putter.

Tee to green I'm getting closer to that again. I've been quite a ways away from there and I'm getting closer.

Q. We know you've been playing well lately, but do you think some of these guys might be looking past you a little bit? David looked past you and thought who am I playing next?

TOM LEHMAN: I hope so. I hope that was the case. I think it would be really not very smart to look past anybody in this field. I look at No. 1 through 64, and in 18 hole matches it's more than every person is more than capable of beating anybody. Even the best player in the world has had a couple of tough matches the last two days, and just goes to show that in 18 holes there's not a lot that separates players. It's whoever makes the fewer mistakes and gets the job done.

Q. I know the usual answer is to say that you don't care who you're playing the next round, but given your druthers, do you care who you play in the next round?

TOM LEHMAN: No, it's going to be a great challenge if Tiger wins this match for me tomorrow. It will be a great challenge if Chad wins the match. I think you always want to go out there and embrace that, and that's what I plan on doing. Whoever I'm playing tomorrow, it's a great opportunity for me. I'm in the quarter finals and I've got to beat somebody.

So the idea for me is that whether it's Chad Campbell or Tiger Woods, I've got to go out and play my heart out and that's what I'll do.

Q. You look physically as fit as you've done for a long, long time. Do you feel mentally as fit and as tough as you appear to be?

TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, I do. I feel like I've got quite a bit of energy. This is my fifth tournament in a row, which is quite a lot for me. And to be able to physically be as strong today as I was the first day five weeks ago and also mentally as sharp, I don't feel like I'm fatigued. And that's definitely a big change for me.

Q. Can you discuss your swing evolution from ten years ago to now? Did some bad habits creep in? How did your swing change or did it change without you realizing it? How did you get from '96 to here?

TOM LEHMAN: It started when I hurt myself at the British Open. I separated my shoulder and ended up playing for three or four months with a separated shoulder and then had surgery and rehab. And the bottom line is I had a very tight right shoulder for quite a while.

So for starters that changed things.

Q. Which year was that?

TOM LEHMAN: I think it was '98 British Open.

Q. Birkdale?

TOM LEHMAN: Birkdale, yeah, that's the one. I had surgery that November and missed a few months the beginning of the season. So my problems started with that. And then from there it went to my knees, and my knees started getting really sore and two or three surgeries and several cortisone shots and getting my knees drained and et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Bottom line is I ended up hitting every shot off my right foot. The lack of to get specific with my swing, the lack of mobility with my shoulder caused me to over rotate my hips. And the more I turned my hips in the effort to get behind the ball, the more I couldn't get back to the ball. I would hang back on my right foot and it got compounded. When my knees started hurting, it made it worse. It got ugly.

Q. Did somebody help you straighten that out or did you just get healthier?

TOM LEHMAN: I've been working with Jim Flick for a long time. We were both befuddled. But I saw some pictures, just a sequence picture of me hitting a 3 iron at the 13th hole at Augusta back in the days when I had that yellow Power Bar bag, so it was '92, '93, '94. And I was looking at it and I was just I kind of came out of my seat like look at this, look how much I turn my shoulders and look how little I turn my hips. If you were to superimpose my swing at the time you would say, oh, my gosh, look how little he turns his shoulders, look how much he turns his hips. It was so dramatic, the difference.

So I went out for about a month I hit balls, just getting my shoulders turned without moving my hips. It got me moving back to my left side easier. Golf is a game like baseball, like tennis, like anything you're swinging a stick at. You have to fire through the ball, you have to hit through the ball. If you're slapping at it, you're in big trouble.

Q. When was that discovery approximately?

TOM LEHMAN: That was probably I'd say two and a half years ago.

Q. That had to be pretty exciting?

TOM LEHMAN: I started hitting it great immediately. And then my left knee went berserk. That was kind of the sequence of events for me. I got it back, and got the feel back and then my knees started really bothering me. I couldn't get the knees to feel consistently the way they should, and it got worse and worse. My feet hurt and my hips started hurting.

Q. So you weren't turning, you weren't

TOM LEHMAN: I was over rotating my hips to compensate for not turning my shoulders.

Q. After beating No. 8 and No. 9 in the world back to back, do you feel like a top 10 player?

TOM LEHMAN: You know, it's match play. You can get away with a little bit more in match play. So I guess the short answer would be I'm getting close. I know that there's not too many guys out here who I would have any kind of that I'd feel like I'm a big underdog to on the golf course.

Q. Put on your captain's hat for a second. Is it encouraging to see all these Americans, eight Americans in the Sweet 16 of the tournament?

TOM LEHMAN: Very. I think I counted 8 Americans, three Europeans, and that would leave five others, international, whatever you want to call them, Australians, South Africans, Japanese, whatever. I feel like our guys are playing great golf. I feel like our American players are showing that they have an incredible amount of talent, and they have the will power and the desire and the capability of playing great golf.

Q. You were talking about that your game as it is now, you wouldn't fear too many people out here. From a mental standpoint, are you concerned about anybody that you face now?

TOM LEHMAN: No, I think mentally the biggest thing is me, just kind of getting back into there was a time in my career where I didn't have a fear of a single person because I felt so much confidence in my own game, so much trust in the way I could hit the ball day in and day out, and I felt like I could get away with playing poorly, because even my bad days tee to green were good. I've lost that.

I'm in the process of regaining that kind of confidence. So the battle for me is not who am I going to play; the battle is regaining the trust in myself that I had at one time. And that's slowly coming back. I feel day by day, week by week, I'm making some putts that I have to make, some clutch putts I need to make, hitting good shots more often when I have to hit them. The confidence I have in my own game is starting to slowly kind of come back. And I'm not where I was, but I'm on the right track.

Q. Over this period of time you were talking about earlier, are there any benchmarks that you can say that was one of the times when I felt like my game was starting to move in the right direction, and that's another time where I felt like I was doing what I wanted to do?

TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, you know, over the last few years there's been a couple of times, I kind of came upon this little swing tip, but physically it became difficult. There was a time I would say from about '94 I'd say '94 through '98, for sure, where I had some setbacks, obviously, but I still felt like there was not too many guys out here who could beat me if I played my game.

Q. How did you feel you did mentally you've been in contention a few times the last year, Torrey Pines and Pebble and a few other places. How did you feel? Talk about that topic. How did you handle those things mentally?

TOM LEHMAN: You know, there's been weeks where I feel like I could have done better. There's been weeks where I felt like I was just really on top of it. You mentioned Torrey; that was a week where I felt like I was just so with it the whole week. And to not win was a big, crushing disappointment.

But there's been other weeks, because it's been so few and far between. The thing that's nice right now is that I'm consistently starting to play the kind of consistent golf that always bred confidence in me. For me to have a great week one week and play poorly the next, it ruins my confidence. I just don't know what I'm going to get. But to week in and week out play consistently well has been always what made me more and more confident.

Q. I know Loch Lomond is one of your favorite courses. Playing the sort of golf that you're playing now, are you looking forward to going back there?

TOM LEHMAN: I guess I have to have the other cap on now. I always look forward to going back there, always. It's a phenomenal golf course with great crowds, great tournament, the perfect time of the year. Even when it's rainy and cold, I still love it there. It may not be perfect for links golf. But it's competing and competing against great competition on a great golf course. I just think it's one of my favorite weeks of the year.

Q. Are you going to get any fishing in while you're there?

TOM LEHMAN: I always say I'm going to and I very rarely do.

Q. Are there any parallels between this time period of you trying to come back as to what it was like when you were trying to struggle on the Nationwide Tour and trying to get on the PGA TOUR?

TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, definitely there's some parallels. I think someone asked the question, maybe it was you, about being overlooked. I think that's exactly the way it was in '92 when I got back out here. People didn't give me a second look, didn't pay any attention. This guy has been out here, he was terrible and he's probably doing better now than he was then, so I'll discount him after that.

I'm not sure it was that way. But I'm sure there were a lot of heads that were a little bit surprised when I played well, because I wasn't the same player that I was previously.

Now there's been nothing to instill any fear in anybody the way I've played lately. But I do know one thing, my caddie did say something at the start the week, he said, "I pity the guy who looks past you this week," because he knows I'm playing well and he knows I'm on my game.

Q. Were you terrible?

TOM LEHMAN: When? Way back when?

Q. Yes.

TOM LEHMAN: Way back in the '80s?

Q. Yeah.

TOM LEHMAN: I was awful. But I started getting pretty good, though, about when I started going overseas, when I started playing in South Africa and Asia, that's when I started getting good.

Q. Is there a reason?

TOM LEHMAN: I think without question there's a huge amount of there's a huge attitude you have to have of saying I'm going to fight for every shot. When you go to Asia and have to Monday qualify, if you're in Taiwan and you have to Monday qualify and you don't make it, you sit in the hotel all week. There's no golf courses to practice on. Nobody speaks English, there's no food that you're normally used to eating. You sit there bored out of your skull for a week waiting for the next Monday to qualify. If you don't want to do that, you make the money.

Q. Sounds like Todd Hamilton.

TOM LEHMAN: Absolutely. Todd Hamilton is guys that do that get tougher mentally. And there's a couple young American guys who asked me recently what I thought they ought to do. They were playing the Gateway Tour in Scottsdale, which is a good Tour, and I said if it was me and I were you, because it's what I did and I believe in it, I would find my way to Australia, I'd find my way to the European Tour qualifying, Asia, I'd go somewhere where I have to travel and play and Monday qualify, or do whatever it takes. But I'd go and play the best golf under the most diverse conditions that I could find. I'd do it every week.

If you're a touring professional you have to tour. You have to travel. You have to move point to point and you have to stay in hotels and learn that. You're not doing yourself any favors by staying in one place and living in an apartment for five months and playing the same style of golf week after week.

Q. You'd advise Kevin Stadler to stay out there?

TOM LEHMAN: On the European Tour?

Q. Yes.

TOM LEHMAN: Yes, you want to play the best golf in the most different kind of conditions. Your game will improve that way, definitely.

Q. You said earlier that over 18 hole match play at this level, professional level, Tour level, there's very little separation?

TOM LEHMAN: There can be very little separation. There's obviously the times when somebody birdies the first six or seven holes.

Q. Well, I was getting to that. And the common refrain every year here is anything can happen in an 18 hole match play. So given that tenet, how amazing is 9 & 8?

TOM LEHMAN: Oh, gosh

Q. Is that one of the more remarkable things we've seen in golf at this level?

TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, that 9 & 8 is just a that's equated to something else in sports. Let's call it 56 to zip in football, or let's call it 98 32 in basketball, something so absurdly lopsided that you can't even begin to count it. The thing is you can actually play decent golf and still get beat if the other guy plays phenomenal. You can go out the front nine and shoot even par, 1 under, and everybody that did that would have been six down to Tiger. So the only answer to that is you've got to play better. Even if you play better, you shoot 4 under, you're still 3 down. So you kind of get the picture.

SCOTT CROCKETT: Many congratulations, Tom.

End of FastScripts.

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