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May 10, 2006

Tom Lehman


TODD BUDNICK: We welcome Tom Lehman. We bring you in as the captain of the Ryder Cup today, but I think we should talk a little bit about your play this season first. You've made eight of ten cuts and had a nice stretch in February with three Top 10s. Assess your season and how you feel you're playing.

TOM LEHMAN: I started out very well. I played extremely well from the beginning of January all the way through to the Players Championship. I had a poor last round there, otherwise it could have been a great week.

The last few tournaments out have been a bit more of a struggle. I didn't play well at Augusta and made the cut last week even though I played what I consider to be quite poorly, so my game is a little bit shaky, but golf, you know how it is, it can turn around at any time. One good swing of the club sometimes is all it takes to get back in the groove, and one good round of golf and you're off and running again.

TODD BUDNICK: You haven't played here since 2001, and looking at the results, not one of your better venues, looking at them. What brings you back here this year, I guess?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I should probably explain, not one of my better venues, I'm not sure I've made a cut here since about 1985 or something like that. The statistic is I know it's not very pretty.

I'm here you know, it's a big tournament and usually gets a really good field. It has maybe the greatest ambassador for golf, if not in the history of the game, at least one of the Top 5 as a namesake in Byron Nelson. Every year that I don't come here, I feel badly that I don't come here, simply because I feel like it's hurting Byron's feelings. I don't know if that would be true or not, but that's the way I feel about it. I want to definitely let him know that I appreciate the things that he's done for golf and for the people in golf, and that's a big reason why I'm here.

Q. Not many of us have been shot at, even by accident. On a serious note, in that kind of a situation, do you find yourself saying in the aftermath of it, there but for the grace of God, two feet up, does it change any perspective in the aftermath looking being?

TOM LEHMAN: I guess the biggest thing, I'm just very thankful that I was on my way to the airport to get my wife and kids and it wasn't after I had already picked them up. When I think about it, that's what I come back to is I'm glad it was me and an empty car. 15 minutes later, it would have been me and a carful of the people I care about most, and that could have been a fairly ugly situation.

Q. Do you allow yourself to think about even you alone in the car, had that bullet been a different spot in the car, had something things could have gone much worse than they did. Does it give you perspective at all or do you allow yourself to think about it?

TOM LEHMAN: I've always been the kind of person who sees the glass half full so I don't dwell too much on what could have been, what if, what if, it didn't. I'm thankful that the guy is a bad shot.

I guess I'm also somewhat pragmatic and I realize that it wasn't meant to be, I'm supposed to be here for a while longer, so that bullet was meant to go somewhere else but into me. We'll leave it at that.

Q. If you qualify for the team

TOM LEHMAN: That's a big if, by the way, at this point in time.

Q. Why is that a big if?

TOM LEHMAN: You know what, I guess I have found that as the months have ticked by, a lot of the mental preparation that I used to put into playing tournaments is being consumed by other things, a big part of which is Ryder Cup related things. In order to play good golf, you have to be so single minded, and people have said all along, and I've always said, well, that's true, but earlier in the year it was pretty easy to be single minded because there wasn't a whole lot going on Ryder Cup related, and now as the heat is slowly turning up, I find a lot of my preparation time is being consumed by brain time thinking about Ryder Cup stuff. It's hard to prepare properly for a tournament if you don't do it both physically and mentally.

That's why I say it's an if.

But as I said before, golf is a game of momentum. I could go out this week and play great golf and turn it around like that and be right back in that mode again, just chugging along, playing great, and making things all work.

Q. Given that and knowing what you know now, do you still think it would be possible to do? Are there more responsibilities

TOM LEHMAN: I'm going to stick to what I have been saying is that we want our 12 best guys for starters. Number two, we're doing an awful lot and have been right now to get our team prepared. Our guys know that the preparation doesn't start two weeks before the Ryder Cup. It doesn't start right before.

The preparation is already started, and the preparation I'm talking about is mental because everybody is preparing physically to play their best golf. They're grinding, they're preparing, but when the message I've been giving over and over is that golf is an individual sport, and I would like all of the guys out there to achieve their goals. I'm sure they have goals to win tournaments, to win majors, to be the best they can be, and I hope they achieve all of that. But it's still possible to have as part of your goals to be part of a winning Ryder Cup effort, to be part of a team that goes over to Ireland to win. Let's make sure when you think about your goals for the year that you include that, and our guys are doing that and they've done that and they're talking about that.

The preparation is already started, so if I were to finish seventh in the points list, for example, and I was playing real really well, a lot of the groundwork for what we're doing has already been laid. Could I play? I don't know. We'd have to cross that bridge when we get there. I know what I've wanted to do would have already been achieved.

Q. There's like a four or five year window where it seems like every major on Sunday you were in the back nine with a chance to win. I'm curious, how much art is there, how much science is there to getting your game to peaking on demand for those events of the year? Everyone is obviously trying to build their year around that.

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I think there's a couple of key, key factors with the biggest events. Number one is you have to really love it. You have to really be looking forward to playing. Like I can't wait to get to the U.S. Open, I can't wait to get to the British Open, I can't wait to get to the Masters, I can't wait to get to the Ryder Cup. I can't wait to get to the Players Championship, whatever your favorite weeks are, like for me the Phoenix Open, I can't wait for the Phoenix Open. I have a huge amount of enthusiasm for those events, so the more enthusiasm I have for them, the more I'm willing to pay the price to prepare. That's why I think you see guys who kind of elevate their game to the biggest events. I think those are two of the biggest factors, that they love them and they're willing to work and pay the price to be ready.

Q. I'm just curious, maybe give me some specifics on your workout regimen, what it's been this year. You look like you're in really good shape.

TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, I'm better. It started in August, and there's this place called Athlete's Performance in Tempe, Arizona, and they train elite athletes. Me as a golfer in there, I wouldn't say I'm physically an elite athlete, but obviously when it comes to competing I'm right in there. But you go in there and they train a lot of these guys with NFL combine, they train a lot of baseball players, Kurt Schilling goes in and does his song and dance and walks on the treadmill for 20 minutes and calls it a workout, but then he throws a 95 miles an hour fastball and it doesn't matter.

I just went in there and said I need to get in shape. It was stretching, weight training and cardio. There's some cardio machines there that there's one machine that's like the anti Christ. I do not even want to go near this machine because it hurts so bad. But they put you through it, this incredible training program, and what it does, it just gets your body burning efficiently and gets you stronger, gets you more flexible, and I've lost 25 to 28 pounds as a result.

Q. Has that helped you on the course?

TOM LEHMAN: I would say definitely, without question. Over the course of this year and last year, I feel like I'm physically more able to swing the club the way I want to.

Q. You talked about how a lot of the preparations are going on. I've heard that you had a meeting at Wachovia last week. Is there anything you can tell us about that?

TOM LEHMAN: It was well attended. I was really happy quite frankly. Sometimes it's really hard to get the word out to the players exactly what's going on because everybody is playing tournaments, maybe they're at home, maybe they're on vacation, so you make phone calls, you send invitations and whatever. The bottom line is for the top 50 guys on the points list, which there might have been 43 playing last week, and of those 43 I probably had 35 to 37 show up. I would say it was very well attended, and I think everybody left there with a very clear picture in their mind of what this Ryder Cup is all about, what it means to me, and what my hopes are for the team.

You could probably ask them and they could tell you more about it, but I thought it was pretty good.

Q. How close do you look at these things at this point in the year?

TOM LEHMAN: I keep a weekly tab on it, yeah. I look a few times a week.

Q. I mean, is it something that you put all these different ifs ands or but scenarios, or is it something you wait until you get two weeks out? At what point do you really look at these seriously?

TOM LEHMAN: I think with three majors coming up, there's going to be a lot of moving and shaking through the summer. But with that said, we've had a year and a half of play already behind us with this points system. There are definitely some trends that I see. The best players are coming to the top, and they always do. No matter what the system, the best players are always going to end up on top. I look at this and what I see is Woods, Mickelson, Furyk, Toms, Campbell, top five guys you would expect to be there. They're five of our very best players in this country. Then you go down and you've got Davis Love and Fred Couples and Scott Verplank at 12 and DiMarco is at 14, and again, more of the guys you would expect to be close are either in there or very close. All the guys you would expect are there.

Then on top of that, there are some guys that I've had my eye on for a year and a half now because I think these guys really have what it takes. There's several younger guys in there who I've felt all along are great players, and they're proving it.

Lucas Glover is No. 6. Big heart. He's got a huge heart and hugely talented, too, and on top of that a phenomenal person. I really like that guy. As I look at this, I pay attention to see, okay, how is Lucas doing. He's had a chance to have a good week that week, what did he do? Well he finished it off and finished 4th last week at Wachovia. Great week for him. And I pay attention to that.

Not just Lucas, but Vaughn Taylor, same way. Vaughn Taylor's story is a great story, grew up on the munies in Augusta and had to work his tail off, had to earn everything he's got and he's a very tough, tough individual, very tough minded, very competitive, very hard on himself. He expects a lot from himself, and again, I really like that about him.

You can go right down the list of these guys, Arron Oberholser, same thing. Scott Verplank, No. 12. He's one of those guys who's up there every week in a big event. If you look at any big tournament on the list, you're going to find Scott Verplank somewhere in the top 12. He's exactly the kind of guy I'm talking about, a guy who plays his best in the big events.

Q. Talk a little bit in the alternate shot format, how much of a factor when you go to pair guys is matching up the golf balls they play and how much of a factor was that for you when you were paired up in alternate shot in some of your Ryder Cups?

TOM LEHMAN: You know, I think a lot of it is matching up strengths, you know, what are the strengths of individual players. You hope that they complement each other. It seems like I've gone through the K Club, and it just seems like there's always a rhythm to the golf course where one guy is going to be hitting a lot of tee shots or one guy is going to be hitting a lot of putts, and the K Club is no exception, is no different. There is a rotation of play at that course where there's going to be one guy possibly hitting a huge number of birdie putts and one guy hitting a huge number of approach shots.

So what are you going to do, match up two wild drivers are two shaky putters or a great iron player with a straight driver, and is that straight driver a good putter? You look at someone like Jim Furyk, he hits the ball really straight off the tee, he's a great putter, and you put him with a guy that can hit his irons phenomenal, they're going to be hard to beat. So I look at what are the strengths of each guy and personalities, and the golf ball would be probably my last consideration.

Q. But it is a little bit of a consideration for some guys?

TOM LEHMAN: It could be.

Q. I was thinking last Ryder Cup where the talk was people thought Tiger should go back out with Riley in the afternoon, and there would have been some extreme differences in their golf balls. Would that have made it untenable or not really?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I think what you don't want is you don't want the strength of your game to be diminished because you're playing a golf ball that doesn't work for you. So for example, if the strength of your game is iron play, and you play a ball that spins a lot, and you suddenly play a ball that doesn't spin at all, it's going to diminish your effectiveness and the strength of your game. You have to pay attention to that.

Has there been any change in the captain's agreement about one ball rule or not? I know there was some talk about that. I don't know.

Q. Did you ever switch to a different ball to play an alternate shot match?

TOM LEHMAN: May have used the I played the Tour Balata forever, and I may have used whatever the next generation of

Q. Professional 90 or Professional 100?

TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, Pro 100 or whatever you call it. Might have been with Mickelson or something like that. It was never really a big issue to me.

TODD BUDNICK: Thank you very much, Tom.

End of FastScripts.

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