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July 29, 2009

Tom Lehman


THE MODERATOR: Welcome Tom Lehman to the interview room. Tom is the 1996 British Open champion, a five-time winner on the PGA TOUR, and the 2006 USA Ryder Cup captain. Tell us about your preparations for the week and thoughts on the golf course.
TOM LEHMAN: It's interesting, I have yet to see the course. We came from the Open championship and then the British Open, and we got here late, and I was still working on my short game, getting over the jet lag. I have yet to see the course.
My caddy was out there yesterday and yesterday evening and he's been here before, he has a good knowledge of the golf course so I'll be leaning on him quite a bit.

Q. Tom, you just mentioned coming over and you're a little jet lagged, how fatigued are you entering into another Major Championship this week?
TOM LEHMAN: I'm a little tired. I played at the John Deere before the British Open and then the Turnberry Open and then the Senior, so I'm a little weary. And it's funny how the frustrations of the game tend to overcome the weariness.
I'm not at all satisfied with how I've played over the weeks, so I'm coming here with a fresh attitude, prepared to work hard and hopefully to play well.

Q. Tom, obviously, big story over the last few weeks has been Tom Watson's run at the British Open. You made a good run at Transitions earlier this year, and Greg Norman last year made a good run at the British. There have been other Senior Tour players who have given it a good run in regular events, and I'm wondering your thoughts on how you guys -- you used to be the -- there was a wall at 45, and then you waited until you are 50. How have you guys been able to extend the competitiveness we've seen?
TOM LEHMAN: I think golf has changed so completely over the last 20, 25 years in many different ways -- the equipment, the size of the purses, even the way the Tour is run.
When I first started playing golf there was a top 60 and the rabbits and stuff like that and now there is the exempt Tour, and everything has worked to the benefit of a player who is willing to stay focused and stay committed and willing to sacrifice to maintain his game.
As a result, there is certain tournaments, certain weeks, certain courses which can benefit a player who has more of an old style game, a shot-maker's course or a course where experience really is important. I think you will find that there are some courses that guys in their 50s have very little chance on, but there are some courses where they do have a chance if they've kept their game short.

Q. Following up on that, getting to you specifically, what do you think are the qualities that have allowed you to remain competitive, regardless of the Tour?
TOM LEHMAN: The first and foremost is the commitment to my game, and I think you will find probably a similar comment from every guy who is older who is playing reasonably well, is that they are committed to their game and committed to working hard.
They're not willing to sit back and say, I've had a good career, from here on out it's all gravy. I think if you were to sit Tom Watson down, which you probably have, and asked him about his Open Championship experience, he had quite a higher expectation than people in golf might imagine, and I think that's a common theme throughout the guys my age who are still playing well.

Q. How difficult, though, on a mental level is it to make that transition coming off the regular Tour going into the Championship Tour?
TOM LEHMAN: I don't have a lot of experience out here yet. I haven't played my best golf here. I've only played three events and two of them were marginal.
But the guys out here still play very well. They still hit great shots, they make putts. I guess I tend to find myself almost becoming more aggressive out here than I typically play on the other Tour, so I think I've learned a couple of quick lessons about the approach to the game, how you maintain the same approach, a bogey-free round, and taking your birdies when you get your chances works as well here as it does on the PGA Tour. To try to force the issue and try to make more birdies tends to always punish you. I think I've learned a lot about being patient and playing the same style of golf.

Q. You have one day to prepare. What will you do differently, given the fact that you'll take your first look at the golf course today?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, two days. I spent all yesterday afternoon hitting balls and mostly chipping and putting and getting used to the feel of the greens and the texture of the grass and getting my short game a little sharper.
Like I said, my caddy knows the course fairly well, so I will see the course for the first time today, but we have, you know, between the two of us quite a bit of experience on this golf course, he has more, obviously.
So as I see the course today, compiled with his experience in the past in a Major Championship, I think we'll have a good game plan starting tomorrow.

Q. Driving areas, it's been called a "second shot" golf course. How does that match up to your game?
TOM LEHMAN: I've always enjoyed Pete Dye golf courses, and I frequently have done well on them. They're typically the same in terms of the demands which is a second shot course, putting the ball in play off the tee, don't miss on the wrong side, being accurate, understanding where to take your chances and where to play it safe. Pete is, in my mind, one of the real geniuses of golf course design, because he understands angles, and the psyche of players and what they're willing to do and what scares them and what doesn't, and he forces you to challenge the hazards to get the best angle into the pins, and if you don't get that angle, it's hard to get it close.
So knowing when to play it safe and knowing when to get aggressive are two of the important strategies when you're playing his golf courses, so I've always liked him for that reason.

Q. A lot of close calls in U.S. Open, so obviously you know how to play a U.S. Open course, wondering, probably doesn't change much for a Senior Open other than how it's set up.
TOM LEHMAN: Pars have always been good on Opens, you make a lot of pars, you're going to have a chance to do fairly well as long as the other things that aren't pars are not bogeys and doubles; you've got to get some birdies. U.S. Opens you have to make some birdies, but you are going to make some bogeys, and taking your opportunities when you get 'em has always done well, and I would expect it will do well here, also.
THE MODERATOR: Tom, thank you.

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