August 16, 2006
JULIUS MASON: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, United States Ryder Cup Captain Tom Lehman joining us at the PGA Championship. Tom is playing in his 13th PGA Championship and coming off a very exciting week in Colorado, and in just five days, he's going to make one of the most difficult decisions he will have to make as a captain.
We're also joined by Corey Pavin, one of Tom Lehman's assistants, and at this stage I'd like to turn it over to Tom for an opening comment and we'll go to Q&A.
TOM LEHMAN: First of all, thank you for being here. I'm happy to be here at the PGA Championship. You know, it is the PGA Championship, after all, and it's a major and I'm excited to be playing in it. The golf course is great, in perfect condition, and I'm sure everybody here is here to talk about the Ryder Cup, so I'll move on to the Ryder Cup.
You know, we're getting really close and our team is obviously taking shape with just one event to go, one big event to go in order to qualify. There's been a lot of near misses and near juggling, but at the end of the day, it's going to stay the same the last couple of months. Our team is looking strong and Julius has it right; I've got a big decision to make with two picks on Monday, and it's going to be very difficult to do. I'm excited and I think our team is very motivated and looking forward to the competition.
Q. Given the number of youngsters, rookies that are likely to be on the team, depending on how things shake out this week, are you looking more at veterans for these two picks?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, you know, I guess at first blush, you would think so. But I guess really more than anything, we're looking for the right two guys, and the right two guys who can maybe fill in some of the guys that we have are weak with some of their strengths; looking for the right two guys who have real passion for the competition, real heart for the competition, guys who hate to lose.
You know, quite frankly, almost all the guys fill that. They are professionals, they are PGA TOUR members. They are where they are because they are good players. So it's going to be a tough call because there really isn't a lot at the moment that is really kind of differentiating one guy from the next between points 11 and 20. Everybody has kind of played well, maybe not great, but well, and it's going to be a tough decision.
Q. Had you won last week, or should you make your way in to the Top 10 this week, would you consider being a playing captain?
TOM LEHMAN: Boy, how long did that take, Julius? It took all of two questions. I thought that was for sure number one. I'm actually a little disappointed. (Laughter.)
You know what, earlier in the year when I was playing extremely well, I thought this was possible. I was putting well and hitting it decently. Over the last three or four, five months, I've hit it very well and putted very poorly.
Last week was one of those weeks where I hit the ball about as well as I've hit it in a long, long time and putted average. A good putting week, who knows what I could have shot with a good putting week.
The Ryder Cup is all about the short game, really. It's about heart and passion and whoever chips and putts the best. In some ways, I feel like I'd be detriment to our team because my putting is streaky. I don't need streaky; I need good, and consistently good to great.
Now, with that said, DiMarco cornered me yesterday, he said, "We've all talked about it, we've all talked about it, if you make the team, you're playing, period. No conversation, no argument from you, we're going to make you play."
I go, "Well, that's really nice, but I am the captain and I get to make that decision." (Laughter.)
So if I were to place myself onto the team, it gives me another option that most captains don't have, which is to look and see who No. 11 is, decide whether that's a better fit for the team, you can take him, take two more picks and move on. It's all conjecture and something we'll actually talk about if it happens on Sunday.
Q. There's been a lot of hand wringing and teeth gnashing a little bit on the number of virgins that could get tossed into the volcano over there relative to the first timers, but given the track record in the last four out of five, is that a bad thing necessarily to throw some new blood in there? Everybody has to start somewhere.
TOM LEHMAN: I've been saying all along, when it comes to the Ryder Cup, there was a time Jack was a rookie, there was a time when Watson was a rookie, there was a time when Irwin, Couples, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, they were all rookies at one time.
So the idea of not having experience in the Ryder Cup does not scare me at all, I'll be honest with you. I was a rookie and I was nervous with this guy, playing with this guy right next to me. Because I was with a solid, great, veteran member of the team, he kind of helped me get over the initial mental hurdles, calm down and play good golf. I think that's what is most important with first year guys is that you have the older guys who are willing to step up and be their so called mentor; someone who can kind of take them by the shoulder and lead the way and walk him through it.
I'm here to tell you right now that we've got a team full of those guys who are not only willing, but have told me, don't worry about the young guys; I'll take care of them.
Q. I was interested in the answer to your first question. You said when you're picking the two picks that you'll have on Monday, that you'll look at the weaknesses as parts of the team. Could you tell me if you had the Top 10 that are in this team now, what would you see as the weaknesses? And secondly, we know that you've been tracking Top 10 Americans, can you tell us who currently is highest on your list of Top 10 Americans that isn't currently on this team?
TOM LEHMAN: You know, in terms of team strengths and weaknesses, you know, I think we have a lot of power on our team. We've got a lot of guys who can really move the ball out. We just annihilate the par 5s. To me the guys who play the par 5s best are the guys who hit it long and are good chippers and putters. You know, you don't dominate par 5s without being strong and without having a good short game. And our team's strength is that.
We don't hit that many fairways as a group, statistically. So that could be an issue. But as you all know, sometimes it really helps to kind of get in the thick of battle where the pressure is really on; it gets you more sharp, more focused, and the guy who supposedly can't find the fairway starts hitting every one because he's concentrating so well.
At the end of the day, I don't really worry too much about our team's ability. I think we have strength in almost all of the areas. If there's one area where we could probably use a little bit of help, it would be hitting a little straighter and maybe a little better around the greens.
Q. You had expressed concern about David Toms' back injury after he withdrew from the British Open. After David's recent performances, what's your mindset regarding him?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, he told me he feels fine and he's ready to go. So they all know that they need to be totally up front and honest with me about how they are feeling and how they are playing and if there's any nagging injuries.
He's assured me he's feeling good. He's right on track, maybe not completely 100% yet, but close and getting better. You know, he's got another four weeks, five weeks after the PGA to make sure he's 100%, so I'm sure he'll be fine.
Q. Davis Love has played in virtually every Presidents Cup and every Ryder Cup probably in, I don't know, the last 20 years' time. How would you assess his position right now and how will you be looking at him this week, as opposed to keeping him on the team?
TOM LEHMAN: I have a huge amount of respect for Davis, both as a person first as a person, and also as a player. You're right. He has a huge amount of experience. He's been a great player for a long time. It's a situation right now where he's trying so hard to make this team that he's, like a lot of guys, probably in some ways getting in his own way.
You can want something so bad that you inhibit your ability to really perform your best, and I think he's been there because he knows he knows, like everybody else knows, how special this Ryder Cup is going to be in Ireland. It's going to be an amazing, amazing event, the biggest event in the history of Ireland and the biggest sporting event, I should say.
He understands that and he wants to be a part of the team. He's a leader. People look to him as an example. He's done everything I asked him to do throughout the last couple of years in terms of taking part in things and getting guys together, talking to players.
So he has quite a legacy as a player, but he needs a good tournament, no doubt about it.
Q. Tom and Corey, this is for both of you. Can you talk about the significance that you both bring to the team room having played so well leading into the Ryder Cup, Corey with your win, Tom with your playoff last week and also Loren Roberts playing great this year on the Champions Tour.
COREY PAVIN: Well, I think Tom picked both Loren and I for a reason, and we do have experience. We have played Ryder Cups. More importantly, we're very good friends.
What I'll bring there is some very straight shooting conversation and help the guys any way I can; any way that Tom wants me to help them, I will. Whatever Tom asks for me to do, I will do that.
I think the experience that Loren and I have will be a pretty positive asset when we get over there. We understand what the Ryder Cup is all about and how the feelings are when you stand on that first tee on Friday morning. Hopefully we'll be able to give some insight to the guys who haven't played and be able to help some of the veterans with whatever they may need. They shouldn't need too much.
TOM LEHMAN: You know, I'll just kind of follow up with that. First of all, I would say that if I'm half as good at picking my two captain's picks as I am in picking my assistants, we're going to be in good shape.
You know, the reason that I appreciate Corey and Loren's game so much and what they have to bring is that their attitude is just like every as every great player who has ever played the game, which is they never give up on a shot, ever. That's the way they have always played golf. They have never quit on a shot, no matter if it's a 50 footer for an 8, they are grinding trying to make it. It's that kind of never say die, I'm not going to quit ever attitude that I think makes them invaluable to our team.
That's the attitude you need to have in match play. Match play, it's personal. It's me against you. It's personal. It's all about the heart and passion, and you may not win them all, you know, but you can go down kicking and fighting if you do go down, and that's what they help bring to this team.
Q. With all of the focus on the youth on the team, I guess I wanted to ask you as it relates to your captain's picks, how valuable is experience, if most of that experience is losing?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, you know what, I've thought about that. Experience, it can be a good thing or a bad thing, no doubt about it.
I think we've done, the whole group, I mean, I can't, I guess, overstate enough how involved our top guys have been over the last year and a half for preparing for this Ryder Cup, guys like Tiger, Jim Furyk, Phil Mickelson, David Toms. When your best players are motivated, like Chris DiMarco, it does a lot for the morale of the team. So our team has a huge amount of momentum going for it because our top players are so excited to go in.
So when it comes to experience, well, you know what, you need to have good experience, all right, and those guys are champions. I think they are going to bring that champion mentality to the rest of the team, whoever they might be, and so when it comes to having actually Ryder Cup experience or not, like I said, I am not that concerned about it.
Q. A little bit off the track here, but the last time we were at Medinah in a, quote unquote, Ryder Cup year, the big controversy was over the money and how it was being used. Could you recall that, what kind of how divisive that was, and is it better this year to have the controversy to be over a points system?
TOM LEHMAN: Is there a controversy over the points system? I wasn't aware of that.
1999, all I'll say about it is this: The last time the U.S. Team won the Ryder Cup was in 1999 in Medinah when we played for the PGA Championship. I think about those things and I think we've got some good karma going. I'm not too worried about the sideline issues.
Q. You mentioned Chris DiMarco accosting you and saying the guys want you to play. Whether you do or you don't qualify for the Top 10, whether you do or you don't play, can you talk about your philosophy as a captain to this point in terms of the example you tried to set; you lost 30 pounds, you've grinded, you're playing well. Just talk about, are you trying to set the example that these guys will see and appreciate whether you play or you don't play?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, yes, definitely. You know, I think your actions always speak louder than your words, and if other players see me working and grinding and juggling all of the balls in the air and really passionate about my own career, about my own game, about them as people, about the Ryder Cup, it motivates people. It inspires people. So absolutely, you know, I feel like the best thing I can do as a captain would be to somehow inspire the guys around me, and no matter who you are, whether you're Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson or Chad Campbell or Vaughn Taylor, you can be inspired in some way, all right. So that would be my goal, for us to find an inspiration as a team to go play our best golf.
Q. Given how well DiMarco played in the Presidents Cup last year with Mickelson and also his obvious passion, how thrilled were you with his play at the British to virtually lock up a spot?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, I think I was, first of all, thrilled with his play simply because it kind of gave he and his family something to smile about. He's had a tough year, first with injury, and then more importantly in tragically losing his mom.
That week was something that he and his dad and his whole family needed just to lift their spirits a little, just to give them something, a little break in the clouds. So more than anything, I was happy for them that it gave them a chance to smile.
Secondly, obviously, it was a huge boost to our team, huge boost to our team. Just he brings such a great energy to the group. He has so much enthusiasm and so much passion and he wants to win so badly. And you know what, the whole thing is about winning, guys who want to win, and he wants to win. He's not going to finish second. He got in the hunt at the British Open. He wasn't there to make a good showing or to finish second. He tried to win the British Open, and he played well enough to. Just unfortunately for him, the best player in the game played better. But he was out to win. And that's what he helps bring to the team.
So when he had that good finish, I thought it was just a blessing for him, for his dad, for our team, for everybody around him.
Q. Corey, this one's for you because it's been a hard question for Tom to answer. What do you think that he's brought to the team; what are his unique qualities that make him the captain that he is; and how has it been watching him go through this process?
COREY PAVIN: Well, it's been very interesting to me to watch him. I think he's made some incredibly excellent decisions in his passion for what he wants to accomplish here at this Ryder Cup for the team members, not only just to win, obviously he wants that very badly, but he wants it to be a great experience for everybody to come away from this with something more than just playing the Ryder Cup, which is a great honour in itself. I just think his passion for it is inspirational to everybody. Even outside of the Tour and people watching him, what he does, he's kept everybody involved on the whole Tour, and it's not just about guys that might make the team; it's about everybody that's on Tour to be involved, to be thinking about the Ryder Cup, whether they are first on the Money List or 150th on the Money List. He wants everybody involved, and he's done a great job with that.
Whenever he mails something out to guys, it's not going to the top 20, it's going to every single American that's playing on the PGA TOUR. I think that sends a pretty strong message to everybody that it's a group effort, not just who is playing, but everybody needs to be involved. Obviously he's made some great picks for assistant captain, I think (smiling). That was a bit of a joke, just so you know.
I was very honoured when Tom asked me to be an assistant captain. You know, it's something that I've wanted to be involved with the Ryder Cup in any way that I can, and I was honoured that he asked me. I take it extremely seriously. Hopefully we can accomplish our goal when we go over to Ireland.
TOM LEHMAN: You know, just kind of adding something kind of off in a different direction. You know, Corey mentioned something about getting something out of the Ryder Cup other than just the victory. You know, that is truly important to me.
This year has been a difficult year for a number of people. I mean, Tiger's father passing away; Chris's mother passing away; Heather Clarke passing away just a few days ago. To me it brings home the reality of this is just a golf match; it's a sporting event. It's something that is very important and something to get all passionate about and really gear up for and give it your best, but at the end of the day, it's still just a sporting event. It's still just a golf match.
So the perspective I'd like to bring to this whole thing is that we'd like to honour the people that we care about, the people that are no longer here, the fans, the media, the golfers in general, by giving them a performance with the exact right attitude, the sportsmanship, the character, in honour of the people we care about and because we've lost some people.
I think you get my point. This is something that can really shape, and you become something in your life that makes a big impact, so let's do it the right way.
Q. Just following up on that first, if I may, I gather you're leading a moment sort of reflection tomorrow morning about Heather. Can you just tell us about that?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, I was asked yesterday well, I don't really know exactly why they asked me, but there's a number of people who could but maybe just are so emotional about it and so close that they would prefer to let somebody else say a few words. So they asked me if I would just say a few words of service in the morning, which, of course, I am honoured to do.
Q. There have been a zillion theories as to why the U.S. Team has lost four of the last five, seven of the last 11. You've obviously had two years, if not longer, to reflect on that. I wonder what your two or three top theories are as to why we have not been as successful as people thought we should be.
TOM LEHMAN: All right. Number one is we don't have fun inside the ropes competing. That would be my biggest, my biggest opinion. And it is a theory, it's just an opinion, but that's something that I feel pretty strongly about.
I think our teams have always enjoyed the Ryder Cup experience, being at the tournament, being a part of the team, all of the stuff that goes with it. But once you get inside the ropes, I feel like we've had no fun. So I think one of the and one of the things when I spend my time with John Wooden earlier in the year, his whole thing about having fun was you have to have fun. If you don't have fun, you're not going to love it, and if you don't love it, you're not going to work hard enough to be successful.
So having fun, enjoying what you're doing is immensely important, so important that it's one of his foundational parts of his pyramid of success. It's right there on the cornerstone, having fun enjoying the competition. So that's where I think we need to improve.
And I really, I've got to tell you, getting back to our leaders of our team, we have some guys on our team who are extremely strong players, starting with Tiger Woods. Their message has been, don't worry about the young guys, we'll take care of the young guys. We're going to go out there and have fun and we're going to play to win. You know, when your top players are talking that way, it makes it a lot easier for everybody.
Q. Back to the Ryder Cup. If the Top 10 in your stable stay the same, do you have a pretty open mind on both the picks or are you pretty fixed on one and speculating on the other?
TOM LEHMAN: Okay. I'm going to be completely honest with you and say I don't have the first clue right now who I'm going to pick.
There are a number of guys who I think would fit. But I don't know I mean, I haven't even finalized on one of them yet.
Q. Did you encourage players when they were at Hoylake for the Open Championship to go over and look at The K Club or maybe play it, and do you know if any were able to do so?
TOM LEHMAN: Oh, yeah, we had a number of guys go. I would say over the course of the two weeks surrounding the British Open, this were probably eight to ten guys that went over. That shows a lot of incentive. It makes me feel good when guys make the effort to go over. Some guys I didn't even know went over until they told me a week ago. I'm kind of learning as I go that some guys went there and I never even knew about it.
But getting back to the question about who I'm going to pick, I don't want to sound like I'm clueless about what I'm looking for. I'm just saying that there's about four or five or six guys that I think really, you know, could fit, and I just don't know which two of those five or six are the ones. So I've got it somewhat narrowed down. And if somebody has a big week this week, that kind of even throws more into the equation.
You know, we've had a number of guys over the last few weeks who have been right there and had a chance to make a big move, and the pressure of playing for more than just the tournament is sometimes very difficult. So not a lot has really happened lately.
Q. How important was it for Americans to win last year's Presidents Cup, and what did you take from watching that that you can implement to your team this year?
TOM LEHMAN: I thought it was very important. It was very important to have the Americans win. I read a comment in a golf magazine a year and a half ago maybe and it said something to the effect that maybe the Europeans should be playing the International Team; if you want the two best teams in golf, the Euros ought to play the International Team. I thought that was incredibly disrespectful to American players.
So when the American team won the Presidents Cup, beat the International Team, I kind of felt like, you know what, that's one. That's one off the list. We've got one more to go. And so to me it was motivating.
So to see them play well was important. To see the style in which they played was more important. They played very aggressively, they were loose, they had fun. It goes back to the fun thing; they enjoyed the competition. They played well. They were relaxed, but they competed fiercely and they were victorious. That attitude is something we need to recreate in the Ryder Cup.
Q. You talk about having a heart and wanting guys who don't like to lose. I'm kind of curious as how you think Jerry Kelly fits into that mold, and also, what is your opinion of him taking two weeks off to prepare for this?
TOM LEHMAN: Like I said before, the guys who are fighting for spots would not be there if they didn't have heart, if they didn't have courage. So the reason they are close is because they do have it. And Jerry's definitely that way. He's very passionate, he's very emotional, he wears his emotions on his sleeve, and he's the kind of guy that you would probably like to have around in a locker room because he's so animated.
As far as him taking the time off, I talk to him after the tournament in Milwaukee, I guess it was, and he told me he was taking two weeks off to prepare for the PGA Championship, and I guess over the last two or three Ryder Cups, he's had some chances to make the team. And he played right on through to the end. By the time it got to the end, he was so burned out, he said that he could not play well. He tried to learn from his past mistakes, which was playing too much, by making sure he was completely ready for this week.
I told him, like I told everybody else, you need to do what's best for your own game. You need to do whatever that's going to help you play the best golf that you can play, and whatever that is, you need to do it.
Q. The question was posed about theories as to why you guys haven't had as much success. Psychologically at least, it seems like the Europeans have relished the role of underdog in this event. I'm wondering if given your past run, if that's a role that you might embrace this year, is that something that you're speaking of. Not to say that you guys don't have a chance, but maybe you'll say we should understand that this is a pretty formidable opponent we're playing.
TOM LEHMAN: Well, you know, I forgot to mention in talking about the theories of why the U.S. has lost about how well the Euros have played. They have played awfully well. They do seem to make a lot of putts and chips and wedge shots and 5 irons and whatever else. They play great golf.
But the U.S. Team has always seemed to play like they are afraid of losing something that they don't have. You can't lose something if you don't have it, but we seem to play like we're afraid of losing it. The Cup isn't ours; the Cup is theirs. So that puts us in a different role, I think. We may be underdogs. In my mind, I would never consider some of our guys underdogs, but as a team, maybe we are. But I don't mind that at all. I'd say let them be the favourites. Let them deal with that. That's fine with me.
JULIUS MASON: Tom Lehman, Corey Pavin, ladies and gentlemen. See you back here at 9:00 a.m. on Monday for his captain's picks.
End of FastScripts.