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May 30, 2010

Tom Lehman


KELLY ELBIN: Ladies and gentlemen, the 71st Senior PGA Champion, Tom Lehman. Tom finished regulation with a final round 71, defeated Fred Couples and David Frost on the first hole of the playoff. Tom, congratulations. What does winning this championship mean to you?
TOM LEHMAN: You probably need to ask me a week or so. Probably hasn't quite sunk in yet. I mean this always is an amazing sense of satisfaction when you win. But I think to win the PGA Championship with the history of having the PGA of America, that always is more significant than most.
Just, I've had so many good friends in the association and so many great experiences because of the PGA of America. The Ryder Cups and PGA Championships. And so this winning this is really significant.
KELLY ELBIN: Thank you. On the playoff hole you obviously were the only one in the fairway, did you feel good going to the play off?
TOM LEHMAN: Well I think that -- I think I had an advantage from the start because I just finished. The longer you have to wait I think the tougher it gets to play in a playoff.
So David Frost obviously was, I wouldn't say the deck was stacked against him, but he had a longer more uphill battle. I guess he finished such a long time before we did.
Fred had to wait a half an hour. I just basically finished, signed my card and went back and hit again. And I think being number one off the tee, I was really hoping that I would get the first pick, so I could hit first. I think if you miss that fairway the hole becomes much more difficult.
KELLY ELBIN: Open it up for questions.

Q. I believe you're the only player in the field this week to post all four rounds under par. Can you just talk about what that is like on a course like this; and then also is the chest bump just reserved for team wins? Because I notice you didn't do that.
TOM LEHMAN: Well there was nobody to chest bump out there. My caddie was too busy going after the pin flag, so he was busy.
The question was about the wind? I forgot.

Q. You had the four rounds under par.
TOM LEHMAN: Yeah. The course requires a lot of patience. It's a very strategic course. One of the reasons why I like it so much. There's so many options and decisions you have to make and I really believe that it gives you the ability to really go for it as much as you want to or not.
So if things aren't going well, you always have the chance of kind of playing it safe. If things are going really well you have a chance of being aggressive. And there's par-5s and drivable par-4s and so there's all kinds of holes out there where you can make your decision that day depending upon how you're playing.
So I would say that this week I was playing very well and I took advantage of a lot of those opportunities.

Q. If I did my math right you haven't been in the winners circle in an individual stroke play since 1996. I think at the TOUR Championship. It's been a long time.
TOM LEHMAN: I think 2000.

Q. 2000?
TOM LEHMAN: Actually that's not true either. I won the Argentina Masters last December. So before then it had been quite awhile.

Q. How does it feel just to be back in the winners circle here in the States?
TOM LEHMAN: Well it feels great. It feels wonderful. I think more than anything it's -- I'm a very consistent player, basically I've always been pretty steady, and conditions like this have always worked in my favor.
I always hit it -- I normally hit it solid, which you need to do in the wind. So a championship like this really it kind of works right into my wheelhouse.
So to get back in the winners circle, after being close a lot, feels really good. I've had some chances earlier this year to win and I didn't. And so to kind of hang in there and -- which was what it was, I was, I started off poorly and just kind of just kind of hung in there and let kind of the field back up a little bit and I made a couple birdies and then I got in a playoff.

Q. You played 18 beautifully in the playoff, of course. The four you had to make to get into the playoff, talk about that a little bit. You got it out there in the rough.
TOM LEHMAN: The rough is really dense here. Really sticky. I hit a real nice drive off 18, but I thought I would -- I thought the wind would push it left a little bit and it killed it and it flew kind of beyond the turn of the dogleg and into the first cut of rough. And the lie didn't look too bad, but very, very sticky and the ball just did not come out at all. It just had nothing on it.
So, yeah, I made a really really nice up-and-down. But I felt incredibly calm. The whole day I just felt very, very focused and calm and that especially that, like the last three or four holes when I had to make some birdies, Freddie was making eagles and David Frost had gotten in at 9-under, so I needed to hit some good shots and make some good strokes. And the rhythm got just really nice and smooth and I made a really nice little 4-footer on 18 to stay alive.

Q. You mentioned this course being a strategic course and forces you to make decisions and one of the decisions you made was on 17 to go with putter. Could you talk about the lie there and what factored into you deciding to go with the putter rather than trying to chip it up there.
TOM LEHMAN: I just thought that I could get at it very cleanly, it was just barely just sitting on the very edge of the first cut of rough. And there was nothing behind the ball, so I could get a really solid contact on it. And there was nothing in front of it to inhibit the roll.
Chipping it was landing on a real severe down slope and I just didn't know if I could control the first bounce that well if I chipped it. So I thought running it up into the green, kind of up against the slope and let it kind of run down sideways in affect would take some of the speed off and make it easier to get it close.

Q. You mentioned being a consistent player, when players are kind of vaulting up-and-down the leaderboard like they were, does that help you and do you just think about, I just need to play my game and keep throwing pars and birdies at them?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, exactly. At the start of the day, tied for the lead and I got 2-over par after six holes, and playing quite poorly, actually, hit some really squirrely shots for me.
So I got behind. I was down two and then, but the wind started to blow and so I just talked to my caddie and I said, let's just play 12 really good holes, let's not beat ourselves, let's give ourselves a chance to win.
That's what we did, we played very steady golf from that point on. From the 7th hole to the finish I think I played 3-under. And I really didn't do anything exceptional, but didn't make any mistakes. And I kind of let myself move up a few shots and let those who were up ahead fall back. That's kind of what happened.

Q. How far did you have in on the playoff hole on the 18th?
TOM LEHMAN: I think it was about 132 yards. It wasn't very far.

Q. You hit?
TOM LEHMAN: Hit a pitching wedge.

Q. Mark O'Meara was saying he really wanted to win this tournament because this was kind of like a who's who of former winners and stuff like that. Did that mean a lot to you the fact that this was kind of a star studded field?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, yeah, absolutely. Any time you play an event where all the best players are there, I mean you feel really good about competing and you feel really good about winning.
I always felt that -- that's why the Majors are so special. The four Majors on the TOUR, the Majors on the Champions Tour, the PLAYERS Championship, any time you get the best players all together in one place to compete, and you win, you really accomplished something.
So yeah, it's nice to win.

Q. What was your thinking when you saw that Fred had made back to back eagles? Did that play into your mindset at all?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, yeah, he made a really strong move. The way the whole thing was working it was Frost was on ahead and he was going low and kind of setting the pace. And then Fred kind of came from nowhere, with a couple birdies and a couple eagles.
So I was just kind of cruising at 5-under. And just knew that I had to just, I didn't have to make eagles, but I had to keep pace. So those two par-5s were really crucial. I hit beautiful drives and beautiful putts. I just played the holes really well, just to kind of keep pace with what they were doing.
Frosty being the one in first I thought was in the driver's seat. Because 17 and 18 are not easy.
So he got in first, Fred held together and got in at 7 and I was fortunate to get in at 7 with that up-and-down at 18.
And then the playoff was just a bizarre playoff. I'm not sure I've ever experienced anything like that. I turned to my caddie and I said, how many shots have they taken?
I didn't know if -- I thought that maybe Fred had taken an unplayable, but I wasn't sure and he wasn't quite sure. And I think he did, didn't he?
TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, so I mean I started thinking, well, he had an unplayable, these guys are both making double, I think. Because, I have to be honest, I was nervous. In having, kind of getting right there to the threshold of winning it was the most nervous I had been all day. And unfortunately for them and they -- you drive it in the left there, you just, nothing good happens on that hole.
KELLY ELBIN: For the record Tom played the par-5s on the back nine in 5-under par this week.

Q. I assume you're going to be at Whistling Straits for the PGA. Could you talk about that course and what this does for your confidence heading into the PGA Championship.
TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, well I've never played there. So I can't really comment on the golf course. But just another opportunity to play another Major is significant to me. I'm looking forward to it.
I wasn't really setting it in stone on my schedule, you know, but I obviously knew I had to win here to get in. So my schedule now is a little bit up in the air. I was planning on playing a few other tournaments and now I may have to readjust. But for a good reason.

Q. You've won Major Championships on the Regular Tour, captained a Ryder Cup team, been the No. 1 player in the world, I wonder if you ever had time to just sit back and think about your career and all that you've accomplished and how you have assessed it.
TOM LEHMAN: I think more than anything I think about -- I've never been the kind of person who sits back and goes, wow, this has been great, look at all I've done. I'm more the kind of person who says, you know, look what more I could do. Meaning if I would just putt a little bit better, if I could just chip a little better, I could win more tournaments.
So I've always been more of a forward looking person and not really much of a backward looking person. I'm sure there will be a day when I look backwards more, but as for now I think I'm still pretty competitive and I still have aspirations and I still look forward.

Q. Along those lines, it must be gratifying though, you have been in contention in a number of Major Championships, in the lead in the 54 hole lead in a number of Major Championships. And it's very difficult to close the door on those. Talk about doing that. I know that it's hard to put into words, but you did it well today.
TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, you know, I've -- one thing I would say that I have always been very proud of is that I've had some near misses, but I've had near misses where I played really well. I remember one year at Augusta, on a really windy day, when the greens were hard as rock, I shot even par and still lost.
I shot 71 twice in the U.S. Open with a lead and lost.
So that kind of stuff happens. The thing about sports is that you just simply can't sit there and say like, well, boy, I'm unlucky. I've always thought more in terms of, if I was just a little bit better, I would have won those tournaments. If I would have shot 70 instead of 72, if I would have shot 70 instead of 71, I would have won. Where did I fall down? Where did I fail?
But at the end of the day I feel like I can hold my head up high, knowing that I competed and played very well in the Majors that I didn't win. Well enough to win many times, but just didn't win.
KELLY ELBIN: Much like the Claret Jug you will have your name on the Alfred S. Bourne trophy before long. Final comments, please.
TOM LEHMAN: Well it's been a great week. I loved the course from the minute I laid my eyes on it. I enjoyed myself here in Denver like I always do. I'm one of those guys who are really upset that the International is no longer here. I always enjoyed playing there. Just always played well there. It seemed like this mountain air has never confused me. I've always been able to pick the right club when I had to it seemed and enjoyed playing here. So I hope I could do it more often.

Q. Do you have a trophy as big as that one anywhere? It's a pretty big one.
TOM LEHMAN: I don't. You know, here's a nice thing. I know the PGA of America will give me a trophy. The last two tournaments that I won, the Legends of Golf and the Argentina Masters I didn't get a trophy. The check is nice, but give me the trophy. Even my kid, he plays peewee football he gets a trophy.
(Laughter.) Give me a trophy.

Q. Playing 18 in regulation, from the right rough there, what was your yardage and what club did you hit there?
TOM LEHMAN: I think I had 150 to the pin or 153 and I tried to hit a 9-iron. And I tried kind of -- I thought I could maybe get it to jump a little bit. And it didn't.
Really tough rough. I saw very few balls come out of that rough this week where they actually flew anywhere near what they were expected to fly.
KELLY ELBIN: Tom Lehman, the 71st Senior PGA Championship champion.
TOM LEHMAN: Thank you.

End of FastScripts

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