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July 22, 2009

Tom Lehman


SARAH GWYNN: Tom, thanks very much for coming in, and welcome to your first Senior Open Championship Presented by MasterCard. How has the week been so far for you?
TOM LEHMAN: I've had a great time. I drove down from Turnberry Monday morning, got here about three in the afternoon. This is really one of my favorite golf clubs in the world. I just think that Sunningdale has that something extra special that most clubs don't have, starting with the two great golf courses, great clubhouse, great membership, great head professional, good bunch of caddies. Everything you want in a club, it's here, and I just love being here.
SARAH GWYNN: Have you played the course before?
TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, I've played here a few times. I played here a few times before The Open. I would come over here early and play Sunningdale and a few other places, and so got into a rhythm where I would come in here and play a couple of rounds.
SARAH GWYNN: How is your game this week?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, I would say my game is a little bit of a mystery at the moment. I'm playing well enough to make cuts. I played at Turnberry, made the cut; so I'm playing well enough to make cuts but not well enough to contend. So it's a bit of a wait-and-see game with me.
SARAH GWYNN: And speaking of Turnberry last week, what do you make of Tom Watson's feat there?
TOM LEHMAN: You know, he's such a great player. There is a reason why he's one of the best players of all time, and he proved it last week. I was really impressed with the way he played. I thought he played from start to finish on Sunday from hole 1 through 18 like a champion. But sometimes your great performances don't get rewarded.
But the flip side of that coin is Stewart Cink a very good friend, and I'm very happy for him. He played great. Stewart played great, and you can't take it away from him, either.

Q. You were out on the 11th or the 10th on the Sunday. Presumably you went out because you thought you were going to see history in the making.
TOM LEHMAN: I actually watched from the third hole on. Finished my round, had lunch, took my son out and started on the third hole and watched every shot the rest of the way.
My son, who obviously likes the Cinks a lot as well and is friends with their kids, he ran ahead and watched Stewart play the last four or five holes, and he came back and watched the finish.
Yeah, I watched every shot, I figured it was something I wouldn't want to miss.

Q. Of Tom?
TOM LEHMAN: Mm-hmm. And he hit it great. Of the holes I saw, I don't think he missed a shot. It was amazing. He hit the ball phenomenal and made the game look easy.

Q. He said on Sunday night I think, if not Sunday night then Saturday night, he said he would like to think that his peers would say about him, "That Watson, he was a hell of a golfer." You would say, "That Watson, he was a hell of a golfer?"
TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, that's not even good enough, though. He's beyond that.

Q. Knowing Stewart, how do you think he will cope with the fact that that many people, although they appreciated his golf, didn't want him to win?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, one thing about Stewart Cink is he's a realist. He's not a pie-in-the-sky kind of guy. He understands very clearly the world around him. I'm sure he's very, very aware of the fact that he was as much as they may like him, people wanted to see history made and to see Tom Watson win.
For him, to handle it the way he did, I thought he was very classy. And the interviews afterward, he gave proper respect to Tom Watson and the rest of the field, and I think he gave himself proper recognition for playing great golf, which he did. I thought he handled it really, really well. He was in a kind of a sticky situation in a way, and he handled it very well.

Q. But he's still a true champion, isn't he.
TOM LEHMAN: He proved it. He played those four holes 2-under par, very difficult golf holes, and sure thing -- and even that isn't a sure thing is No. 17, he played great.
I just liked what he had to say. It was a long time coming for him, and he deserved it and he beat one of the great players of all time to do it with the crowd not really pulling against him, but pulling for Tom. And I think that's what he understood best of all is they weren't pulling against him; they were pulling for Tom Watson.

Q. What can this do for The Seniors Tour, Champions Tour; last year Greg Norman, and this year Tom Watson in terms of the profile and the perfect in the game now.
TOM LEHMAN: You know, one of the things that I took away from the last couple of Opens is that on courses that just demand pure shot-making and skill and heart and that kind of thing, that age is a bit, I won't say irrelevant, but it's an equaliser. You play a wet course like Bethpage where only those who can hit it 330 have a chance, versus a Birkdale in the wind and this past week at Turnberry in the wind, you realise that there's a lot more to golf than just hitting a long ways.
I would hope that the public would say, you know what, I'm kind of sick and tired of these 7,700-yard courses where only guys that hit 350 can win. It's fun to watch guys that hit shots have a chance to win.

Q. How will that change next year with the grooves?
TOM LEHMAN: It's harder to control that ball. You're going to see -- I think what you're going to see is the ability to use a really hard golf ball in order to achieve maximum distance being somewhat diminished. You'll see guys playing a softer ball, one they can spin more and one they can control more. And they will look for that recipe that still gives them a lot of distance but gives them back some control, because without square grooves out of the rough, it's tough to control your golf ball. We all know that.

Q. What I meant was, would that bring those guys of the old way playing, will that give them a little bit back again?
TOM LEHMAN: Shot-making. You know, I liken it to American baseball where a pitcher has four or five great pitches versus a pitcher who has one great pitch.
I think golf has gotten to be a power game where guys hit it one way, they just hit it hard, hit it high, and let square grooves help them out where they need on position; whereas guys who are older grew up having to hit high, low, left-to-right, right-to-left; the Corey Pavins of the world will be ecstatic next year when shot-making becomes more of a premium.

Q. Straying a little bit from the point you were just making, given that you are exempt to play The Open the next several years, Bernhard was in earlier, and he's doing so well on the Champions Tour, leading it and everything else and is not exempt and has not been for five or six years, says that he would like to see the Champions Tour and Senior Tour events carry World Ranking points. Do you have any thought about that? Or failing that, to have the top two or three seniors/Champions Tour people issued invitations?
TOM LEHMAN: I think that makes more sense. I would tend to disagree with him -- though I agree with most things he said. To give it World Ranking points when you are not competing against the other tours getting World Ranking points, it's tough to do. It's hard to compare.
But I do think that the guys who play well out here, who have an exceptional year, like Bernhard is having, should be rewarded, and let him play in the majors, I think that would be a good idea.

Q. For you to drive down, you have no fear on our roads? You're accustomed to them?

Q. You've been driving them for a long time.
TOM LEHMAN: I like that left side of the road.

Q. You've been coming here a long time --
TOM LEHMAN: I hit the ball left, so -- (laughter).

Q. How long did it take?
TOM LEHMAN: It took about seven hours, but I stopped a few times. I did more passing than being passed; I will tell you that much. (Laughter).

Q. What's the most change that you have to make coming off a links course to come to an inland course like this? Is there anything where you have to change your game particularly?
TOM LEHMAN: It's softer here. I played here before when it has not been soft and it will bounce like crazy, which I liked, but the course right now is soft, and so the shots you hit to bounce up to the green are not bouncing up to the green.
You need to flight your ball up near the pin. Unless something happens differently where the course dries up, that's the biggest adjustment is getting back to kind of more of an air game, carry the ball up near the pin and it will stop.

Q. You wouldn't describe this course the way some of the others have, as linksy?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, I would, I would describe it as linksy in the style, but it's not playing like a links at the moment. There's a little bit of run in the fairways I suppose, but not a huge amount, and the greens, like I say, they are soft. Now, I hit a lot of shots yesterday around the greens that just didn't stop, and I tried to bounce it up and it didn't bounce.
But I've played it before when it played just like a links where you had to chase it up No. 1, you had to land it to 20 yards short with a little draw and chase it on to the green. I really like the way it plays here.

Q. How many times have you played here roughly?
TOM LEHMAN: Six to ten times.

Q. Most recent?
TOM LEHMAN: Oh, it's been a while. Probably 2001.

Q. I was going to ask your overall thoughts on this year's Senior Open Championship, being part of it, and the great names of golf taking part like yourself.
TOM LEHMAN: It's exciting. It's great seeing the guys who have played so well for so long here, especially being here at Sunningdale and seeing so many of the guys who are kind of my vintage Ryder Cup players, all of the guys who played for so many years are now playing right here this week.
I just think that's really cool: The Faldos, the Langers, Lyle and the list goes on. I missed a couple obviously, but all of the great players the European teams for so long, having them play here, and you toss in the Gary Players and Tom Watsons, it's a really cool atmosphere and a really great field.

Q. Brings on a lot of reminiscing when you think about the great matches you've had with so many of these players.
TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, and I think this course will be tough. Us from overseas don't know the course all that well, and a lot of the guys who live here have played here a lot. So they know the course. I'm playing with Woosie the first couple of rounds, and I'll be kind of paying attention to how he plays the course. I may learn something.

Q. Have you strayed into the heather at all?
TOM LEHMAN: Not yet, and hopefully I'll keep it away from there. I've hit in there before. I know that's no bargain at all.
SARAH GWYNN: Okay, thanks very much, Tom, good luck this week.

End of FastScripts

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