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March 21, 2009

Tom Lehman


PHIL STAMBAUGH: Tom, a very fine 3-under par 68 today puts you in the lead through 54 holes of the Transitions Championship at 8-under par 205. We looked it up, the last time you had been in this position you were sharing the lead at the 2005 Buick Invitational. A few general thoughts about the round, and then take us through your holes, birdies, bogeys, double-bogeys and then the four birdies in a row on the back side.
TOM LEHMAN: Okay. General thoughts, the course is -- I just can't say enough about the golf course and how good it is. To me it's 18 very fair holes, very challenging. Length is not an overriding factor out here; putting it on the fairway is, putting it on the green is, and having a decent short game is obviously always important.
But to me, it's a good course for me. I'm playing very well, hitting it very solidly and making a lot of good swings and hitting a lot of really good putts. You know, the results, I guess looking at the stats, they are kind of showing that, eighth in fairways hit and, 10th in greens in reg and fifth putting. It's nice to see hard work pay off.
In terms of birdies and bogeys, the par 5 first hole is driver, 3-wood into the bunker up-and-down, 2-footer out of the bunker for birdie.
The fourth hole, par 3, 7-iron to the right, pushed it, buried it in the lip of the bunker, hit it over the green, chipped up, 2-putted easy double.
Fifth hole, par 5, hit about a 25-footer for birdie.
Eighth hole, par 3, 3-putted from about 30 feet.
Then 12th hole, a good 7-iron to about 15 feet and made it.
13, a 6-iron to about, I don't know, six inches, tapped it in.
14, about a 30-footer right of the hole and made a really nice putt there from 15 feet short left of the hole and made that one after a 5-iron.

Q. How did your injury last year change the trajectory of your season this year and what your goals were coming in?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, I'm not sure if you ever had tendonitis. It's a pain in the rear. Just couldn't shake it. So from The Barclays in August until really the middle of the December, I couldn't really play. Tried this and tried that and couldn't get it fixed, and finally did this thing called prolotherapy which worked. So I had a series of treatment in November, December and started practicing towards the end of December and getting ready for the season.
And the season started horribly. I'm not sure if it was that -- I don't know what it was. All I know is I was hitting it sideways. And the more I worked, the worse it got. And on top of that, my putting didn't feel very good, and just my game was in shambles. It was making that turning 50 look all the more appealing, quite frankly.
But I got a really good tip starting at the Buick when I played very poorly there. I saw Jim Flick for three days. He's my coach, and he told me to start practicing and taking swings in slow motion just to kind of get my rhythm back. And then my dad gave me a little tip, kind of the same thing, a little variation. And my friend, Dennis Trixler, caddied for me in México and said the exact same thing. In México I hit it really well. Led the tournament in driving accuracy that week and hit a lot of good iron shots. And so to make a really long story short, I've been working really hard on my game and it's starting to pay off.

Q. Is there any way to explain a hot streak or a poor streak, do you ever see it coming or what happens when you make four birdies in a row?
TOM LEHMAN: I think you don't even realize that you make four birdies in a row. I certainly didn't even notice when I was out there playing. I had said yesterday after the round, going into this round, it's all about execution. You've been working hard and practicing hard; you should feel good about your game and feel good about -- I feel good about the way I prepared.
And so now, just go execute. Every shot is a shot and just go hit it the best you can hit it. You know when you kind of get into the moment that way, you know, you make four birdies in a row, you don't even realize until you finish playing.

Q. If you had Fergie's job and was writing today's story, how big of a deal would you make of having just turned 50?
TOM LEHMAN: Oh, you know, I don't think I would make a big deal of it at all. (Laughter).
You know, I'm extremely motivated to play good golf. I don't want to finish my career playing lousy. So I've worked really hard. I'm in pretty good shape and I'm working on my game.
So to me, the commitment level is what's important, and sometimes you stumble on a few things that can really help you. You know, I made a few discoveries with my putting which has really helped. And kind of getting back to basics with my golf swing has really helped. And on a course like this where you don't need to hit it, you know, 320, my 280-yard tee shot works just fine out here. So, it's a good course for me.

Q. So if you win tomorrow, do you quit then?
TOM LEHMAN: Retire? Oh, boy, I'm not going to go this far.

Q. Seems like it's inevitable in sports that you finish your career lousy, unless you're Ted Williams.
TOM LEHMAN: You know, you're right, and that's the one thing I've thought about that is, at what point do you say good-bye to the TOUR? I think I've always wanted to do it on a positive note. You don't want to wear out your welcome.
So I've been looking for that upward note now for a couple of years. That's why the renewed commitment to my golf game is I don't want to just kind of disappear. I'd like to play well and then say good-bye.

Q. Does that mean you delay -- you're 50, you could start playing out there right now.
TOM LEHMAN: I could. I've thought about, you know, just to work really hard this year. There's a number of reasons why I have to play 15 tournaments out here. Contractually I have to with some of the stuff I have going on.
So I'm just going to work my buns off and see where it takes me. But you're right, at some point, when you know the time is right, it would be nice to say, okay, I'm done out here. And I'm going to transition over to the Champions Tour, because I'm actually very, very anxious to play out there. I'm looking forward to playing out there. They play great golf and you have to be really sharp. You don't go out there and win just by accident. It takes good golf.

Q. Tendonitis was where?
TOM LEHMAN: Right elbow. Yeah, I couldn't get the club past my waist. Took it halfway back and just a shooting pain through my elbow and all the way to the top of the backswing, and at impact it was not pleasant, either.

Q. Were you ever close enough to the green on some of the shots, so when the ball landed you to almost see a putt on dry soil?
TOM LEHMAN: Oh, you could see it. Absolutely.

Q. Does that remind you of anything? June?
TOM LEHMAN: June? Like, what? U.S. Open-type stuff. Well, these greens today, I thought they were slick on Thursday afternoon, but they were really, really fast today. Some of the areas around the hole looked like there was no grass. The idea of having to putt 4-footers for par today didn't appeal to me very much.

Q. What did you do on 4?
TOM LEHMAN: I buried it on the bunker just right of the pin a bit, and then you know, as in most bunker shots that are buried, you have to hit it pretty hard. And it came out just beautifully and flew all the way over the green and down the hill. Easy double.
But you know, it's easy to shake off a bad hole when you know you're playing well. And it makes you mad and you regroup and you go on, and you know that that was just a freak -- there was nothing about that hole that makes any sense whatsoever, so you move on.

Q. What do you think presents the bigger challenge for you tomorrow, the nature of this course, and how difficult it is, or Goosen, Immelman, Appleby and just how stacked it is?
TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, there's a lot of guys right back there.
Well, I actually think that the golf course works in my favor. It's not an easy golf course to go out and shoot 63 on. It can be done. It has been done. But it's difficult. Which means that for me, just keep on playing my game and be patient. Hitting good shots, hitting good putts, just kind of executing shot by shot by shot, that's something that I can do, and if somebody goes out, and if I do that, and somebody beats me, well, more power to them.

Q. The chip on 17, I wonder if you can speak to how important that was, and clarify whether Johnny was correct in saying that you had accidentally chunked that one?
TOM LEHMAN: Is that what he said?

Q. "Accidentally chunked it."
TOM LEHMAN: I have to work with him. That's one of the best shots I hit all week!

Q. We'll get that in there.
TOM LEHMAN: Please do. (Laughter) Gosh, that makes me mad.
No, it was sitting down a little bit, and the rough in between myself and the green, there was a little patch of thick stuff, and then it was trampled down firm. And that's all I had to do was hit it four or five feet and it was going to trundle down to the green; and once it got to the green it was going to stop. I was trying to hit to four feet, and I hit a four-foot chip shot and ran down to the green about six inches and tapped it in. That was a great shot.

Q. How hard is it to commit yourself to hit it four feet?
TOM LEHMAN: You know, it's easy from a thick lie like that to hit it one foot, than trying to hit it four feet. So it takes some skill. Takes some practice.

Q. Can you just talk about going to bed with the lead and playing for something tomorrow? Been a while.
TOM LEHMAN: It has been a while. Yeah, it will be a challenge for me, absolutely. But you know, I was -- the better I played, or the closer I got to the lead today, and when I got into the lead, the more comfortable I felt and the slower things were moving and the slower I was swinging.
I watched some of the swings on TV and they were the most relaxed-looking swings. It fits the way I feel right now. I mean, I just turned 50. That actually works in my favor I think. You realize there's a lot more important things in life than a golf tournament; though this is very important. And hey, expectations, I feel like I shouldn't win. So I feel like I have everything to win tomorrow and nothing to lose, and I feel good about that, too.

Q. Have you looked at the Champions Tour schedule at all? Will you consider any tournaments this year?
TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, I'm playing the legends of golf, and I'll play the Senior PGA Championship, Senior Open Championship, U.S. Senior Open, the JELD-WEN and then at the end of the year, I'll play at Pebble and maybe a couple others. So I'll probably play seven or eight this year out there.

Q. I think you left out a major. There are like six of them?
TOM LEHMAN: All I know is I'm playing like five majors in seven weeks this summer, when you include the PGA Championship and the British Open and all of the senior majors; and if I qualify for the U.S. Open.

Q. Will you be in the PGA?
TOM LEHMAN: It's in Minneapolis -- I shouldn't open my mouth. But that to me seems like the way to retire, PGA Championship in my hometown, go play, play well, say bye-bye. But only if I'm playing well.
PHIL STAMBAUGH: Tom, thank you very much, and good luck tomorrow.

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