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March 17, 2007

Tom Lehman


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Thanks for joining us here after a 1-under par 69. You put yourself right into contention heading into Sunday's final round. Maybe some opening comments about a good day.
TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, into contention, that's right. The course, with the change in the wind direction, that was to me the biggest deal for today. I felt like when the wind blows the way it did the first two days, it makes the course play the easiest it can play. And when the wind blows the direction it blew today, that makes it play the toughest it can play. You start out into the wind and you finish into the wind, and the toughest holes are all into the wind.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: You've had three Top-10s here and I think you finished second back in 1999. Maybe just talk about your comfort level here at Bay Hill.
TOM LEHMAN: Well, it's a hard, hard golf course, and I take comfort in that; in the fact that you just can't of slop your way around this golf course. You have to do something really well or do a lot of things really well. If you're not driving it well, you'd better be putting great. But it certainly helps to hit a lot of fairways and a lot of greens and make a few putts.
So the harder the golf course, I guess I always feel the better my chances, simply because I feel that I can hang in there as well as anybody.

Q. What was it like for you after the captaincy? You were a player first and foremost, but when you reassessed, started goals for this year, what was that like for you, with the Ryder Cup the focus for you for so long, and now you're just a player again.
TOM LEHMAN: Just a player.

Q. Civilian.
TOM LEHMAN: All of the above. I really, really enjoyed those two years as captain. Really, an incredible experience with being able to interact with the players, interact with the guys out here. And even still a lot of guys still call me "Captain" which is nice, because it feels like they appreciated the fact that I put my heart and soul into it.
I've thought a lot about the Ryder Cup, and of course the big disappointment is that we didn't win. But I felt like our team was ready to play and, you know, bonded and the whole -- we were a true team and just didn't get it done.
But flip the page forward; it's time to get back to your own game and that's what I've been doing. I've been working very, very hard. I just turned 48, and decided that my goal to finish my career is going to be to make the next Ryder Cup Team. So whether I do or whether I don't is yet to be seen, but that would be for me a great way to wrap it up.

Q. The Thursday score was three guys at 6-under. Right now the lead is right at 7-under. Are you surprised that it didn't move further?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, like I say, not with the wind blowing this direction. I think when the wind blows whatever that is, north, northwest, whatever it was blowing today, it makes the course really difficult. And it's difficult -- it's difficult to start well and it's difficult to finish well.
You know, so I'm a little surprised that maybe 8-under or 9-under isn't leading. I thought maybe some of the guys at the top would shot even par or 1-under or something like that. It's just a very, very tough golf course and you've got to do everything so well. To me it's all about the conditions with the way the wind blows.

Q. It's looking like Vaughn Taylor might be the 54-hole leader. I need to you give us an anecdote from when he was on your team, I heard there was at least one instance where Furyk tried to get him to sing karaoke and they didn't succeed. Wondering if you can give us some color on the guy, because it's hard to beat it out of him; the way we do it, he just doesn't say much.
TOM LEHMAN: I know, I know, I know. (Laughing) Let's just say that all week long we were waiting for Vaughn Taylor time during the Ryder Cup. We finally got it on Sunday night. It was Vaughn Taylor time. He can really dance. I'm just going to tell you right now: That boy can dance. It took a few beers to get him to that point, but once he got there, there was no turning back. (Laughter).

Q. You've messed around with different putters over the years. Where are you at with that, and how did that part of your game go this afternoon?
TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, you know, the story of my putting has been kind of a here-and-there-and-everywhere type thing.
Bottom line is, I started messing with my stroke about six or seven years ago, kind of going from a very square to square putter to try to open and shut the blade, you know, kind of the way you see Faxon and Crenshaw and those guys do it. And to make a long story short, I completely lost it. I lost my putting stroke. I couldn't do it that way and I couldn't find my way to the way I was doing it. So I went to the long putter.
And so I tried that, for, what, 2 1/2, three years and just came to the conclusion that I can always be an average putter with that long putter. But if I want to be a really good putter, I'm going to have to go back to the short putter and just grind my way through and make it work. So that's what I've been doing.
And I actually feel like I have made a lot of improvement. I've made some putts this week. Today I stroked the ball very well. I didn't always get the speed right. I was fooled by the speed a few times. More than that, the grain is so shiny on the greens when you're downgrain and it's so dark when you're against, and there's times when it looks so shiny, I thought it would be fast and it wasn't.
The whole thing with the putting is trying to get to be a -- I don't want to be an average putter. I don't want to be a decent putter. I want to be a great putter. So I'm willing to sacrifice and a little bit of pain here in the short term to make myself a great putter.

Q. There is just simply no other sport where a guy 48 years old is going to be competing with the young studs, could you just talk about --
TOM LEHMAN: You mean I'm not a stud? Come on.

Q. Young ones.
TOM LEHMAN: Oh, I'm not young? (Laughing.)

Q. Could you just talk about the task of staying competitive for as many years as you can in golf and staying competitive and mentally focused for that long a period?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, there's so many things that go into playing great golf, you know, but the biggest thing is commitment without question. That's the No. 1 -- the No. 1 thing. If you're committed to your game and you're committed to working at your game, you can still stay competitive.
If you look at the guys who have gotten older and are still playing well, that's what they have done. Just do a case study of Fred Funk, and you'll see what I'm talking about.
But some of the younger guys, they are every bit as committed. Look at Tiger Woods, he's the most committed guy on this tour. So, commitment is everything. But as you get older, I've got four kids, they are going through various things in their lives, and you're not able to give the amount of time that you did when you were 25 or 27 or 30. So it's a matter of making the time you have count. So you can still be very committed, but you have less time to do it, so you'd better make it work.

Q. From what you saw of Vaughn Taylor in the Ryder Cup, how do you think -- he's going to have a two-shot lead going into tomorrow, how do you think he'll handle that?
TOM LEHMAN: You know, he's a very strong person.

Q. How so?
TOM LEHMAN: You know, if I had to kind of judge Vaughn by his strengths and weaknesses, I would say that, you know, part of his weakness as a player is also what makes him really strong. And I'm not going to really get into it too much, but because of his quiet personality, because of his introvert-type personality, introverted personality, that's what makes him strong because he I think, I'm certain, feels that he has to work harder and try harder and overcome that.
So he has become a very tough guy, very strong mentally. I'm not surprised that he's playing well. I think he's a great player and I think he's going to be a great player for a long time. Like I told him at the Ryder Cup, I believe in him completely. I really do.

Q. Given that you're 48 and not 38, and you kind of answered this a few minutes ago, and you're in this situation heading into Sunday, do you approach it any different than would you 10 or 12 years ago; do you feel more of a sense of urgency because you don't know how many of these opportunities might be remaining?
TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, there's not that many remaining. Urgency; I think reality. You have to be real. At my age, there are fewer chances and there's really nothing to lose. I'm not going to be leading. It's not like I've got a four-shot lead tomorrow. I'm still chasing somebody.
So I'll be in a good position where a really good round could stand up. So there's really no reason not to. We're out here to play. We're out here to win. So that's what I'll go try to do.

Q. Comparing yourself now and then, how is your game different now, as opposed to when you had the playoff here in '85? (Laughter)?
TOM LEHMAN: '85? You sure it wasn't '75? '79? I forget which.
How is my game different? Well, I don't hit it as far. Even though the equipment makes it go further, I don't hit it as far.
I think I'm still pretty consistent, though. I feel like the strength in my game has maintained itself, which, you know, kind of keep the ball in play and put it in a position where you can hopefully make some putts. That's the way I've been playing this week. I've given myself a lot of chances, and I've made a few, missed a few, and that's kind of been the way I've played.
So you know, I think more than anything is having been around for a while, I realize that you don't -- you're not going to win it on the first two holes tomorrow. You know, it's going to be a -- in some ways, a battle of attrition. If the wind blows like it did today, the guy who hangs in there and holds up and posts some decent scores has a great chance to win.

Q. I've looked at some pictures of you from ten years ago, and I'm looking at you now, and you actually look in better shape. Are you in better shape?
TOM LEHMAN: I am in better shape, yeah. I've had some physical problems so I went on a -- I decided to get serious about fitness two years ago, so I've lost 20 pounds. So I'm definitely far better shape than I was ten years ago.

Q. You might be getting to the point in your career -- I'm not saying you are, but you might be getting to the point where you think about your legacy, how would it mean to join the two-major club, and what kind of separation would that give you in your own mind, as well as to your legacy?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, that's a great question; I think that's been one of my goals for a while. And I still feel like that goal is attainable for me. I think the ability to win is -- still is in there, I believe. To win here would be great. To win a major would be even greater. That would be -- you know, if I could pick two goals, I usually don't share goals, but being a Ryder Cup Team member again and winning a major again have been my goals for a while.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Tom Lehman, thank you.

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