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November 2, 2011

Tom Lehman


THE MODERATOR: Like to welcome Tom Lehman to the media center, our current money leader, and the Charles Schwab Cup points leader.
Tom, maybe get us started. You had a chance to play the course. Maybe just some differences from a year ago. You played here last year and finished T5.
TOM LEHMAN: The fairways weren't all that great last year. If I remember correctly, we played it up. My caddie calls it lift, clean, and cheat. That's what we did, we picked it up, cleaned it off, and set it back down. That kind of makes the game -- unfortunately that's part of golf, I guess.
So this year, the golf course is in great shape. The greens are fantastic. Fairways are much, much better. I think it's going to be a really good test. The rough is thick enough to be a real issue. So if drive the ball straight, the greens are firm enough to make hitting out of rough that much more treacherous.
All in all, should be a great tournament.

Q. Looking at all the scenarios, do you bother yourself with all these formulas?
TOM LEHMAN: No. No, I don't. And for that reason. All I know is if Tom Lehman plays the way he's capable of playing, he's going to be a happy guy on Sunday, win or lose.
I can't control what everybody else might do, but I can control what I do. So that's the way I've approached every tournament all year long. Of course, I would like to win this tournament and the Schwab Cup and all that kind of thing. You know, sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn't.
Rather than worry about what Calc might shoot or what John Cook might shoot or whether Peter Senior is going to get his first win at the right time, you know, I chose to not play that game and just, you know, try to go out and play.
It's not a cliche. I think that's just the way you got to approach sports. You know, any time you start thinking about the result before you get on the playing field, you're in big trouble. That's all the what ifs do, keep you thinking about the results.

Q. Similarly, you're probably not thinking about what you would do if you get Player of the Year out here, but you would sort of make some history in that no player has ever won on the three tours, Nationwide, Hogan of course when you played it. That would be sort of a nice distinction, wouldn't it?
TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, it would. But there is a big asterisk with that, being that I'm one of the first generation of guys that has a chance to do that. I played the Hogan Tour at age 31 when I was Player of the Year out there.
So guys who have played -- and it was just starting; it was brand new at that time. '90 was the first year, so I'm one of the first guys who had the chance to do something like that. So it'll happen in the future.
The flip side of that is a lot of guys weren't crappy enough to have to play the Hogan Tour. You know, they went straight on the PGA TOUR because they actually were good. So they wouldn't have that opportunity.
But it's a nice thing. Of course it would be a nice thing.

Q. Kind of piggybacking on your humble beginnings, was there a time when you were on the Hogan where you had a Plan B in place for if this golf gig didn't work out?
TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, there was no Plan B the. But there was definitely going to be a need for a plan B pretty quick, meaning that at some point, either you get it done or you quit and do something different. I was getting pretty close to that point.
I didn't want to be a 35-year-old traveling mini-tour player. You know, I remember distinctly, you know, in 1991, saying, This is it for me. I'm either going to make it or I'm done. You kind of have that attitude of on the one hand, it's a back-to-the attitude; on the the other, it's like, Hey, it's all in God's hand. And if I play great, I'll keep playing. If I don't, then I'll good to Plan B, whatever that might be.
Then that's the scary thing about golf, I think, is you play the mini tours, you don't make any money, so you have no money saved up. Plan B? What is it? You don't have the experience to get a real job, and you just don't want to teach golf your whole life.
So what would Plan B be? Probably would entail going back to school and getting a master's degree and kind of starting over at age 35. That doesn't sound too pleasant either.

Q. Talking about the early days, there wasn't much money to be made. That tour has grown. Do you feel somewhat like a pioneer for that tour, that now it's a tour that guys can play on and make a little bit of money and advance to the next level?
TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, definitely. I mean, in '90, '91, the purses were all $100,000. First prize was 20%, so 20 grand for first prize. You know, I think it -- well, 1991 I won three times, finished second three times, and had a whole bunch of other high finishes and I made 140,000 Bucks. I won the money title that year by -- over Olin Brown by probably about $35,000.
So equate that to today with $500,000 purses, somebody would be making 700 grand. Obviously you can ma e a very nice living. But at 140,000 bucks with all the travel you do and the expenses, I mean, there was no money to be made at that level.
That's what makes it so tough in golf, you know, is just you can struggle for so long and keep improving. If you don't get that break you need to get over the hump, you end up waking up one day and you're 35 years old and you're still broke and your game is getting worse and not better. What are you going to do now?

Q. How would you characterize the season out here? You won three times; Cook one three times early; Freddy came back and won twice after not playing for months. Kind of a mixed bag really as far as who's had control.
TOM LEHMAN: Well, yeah. They're very competitive, though. There has been a lot of really good golf being played I think even compared to when I first joined the Champions Tour. Two and a half years ago, I feel like it's more competitive this year than to was at that point even.
So many really good players and really low scores. That's the thing that I've noticed. You have to shoot very low to win and you can't make many mistakes. There was a number of weeks this year where I played three rounds and made two or three bogeys.
Made one bogey in San Antonio and still didn't win. Typically, when you play that kind of golf where you make two bogeys in three days and you don't beat yourself, you're like, I'm going to win a bunch. No. I won three times. Could have been five or six, but it hasn't been.
John Cook the same way. Lost in a couple playoffs. So there hasn't been really one player who I think dominated the year. There has been a handful of guys that have played very steadily and consistently well all through the year.
I think that's the one thing when I look at my year that I am proud of. From start to finish, there have been a lot of good starts and a lot of good tournaments and a lot of tournaments where I was in the mix and played well on Sunday.
You know, so very happy with the way the year's gone.

Q. A lot of your tournaments are three-day tournaments. Is there a fatigue factor that can come into play this week? If so, do you think you might have an advantage because you're in such great shape?
TOM LEHMAN: (Laughter.) I get a vision of a twisted seal. I am, you know, that P90X has been doing me good, I tell you what.
I'm not so sure that four rounds or being in better shape or worse shape is the issue. I think it's more about you have a little bit more room to come back if you make -- you know, start poorly.
Three-round tournaments, especially on some of the courses, we play where if you shoot super low, and maybe you shoot you know, 71, 72, 73, on the first day, you're so far behind that you probably can't catch up.
So having four rounds on a tough course, I think if you shoot 75 on the first day and have three more good days, you have a chance to win. The course can really hold up.
So I just like the four rounds because you don't have to be perfect from the beginning. There is some more wiggle room to make up for mistakes.

Q. Giving yourself that deadline of 1991 and then coming through and doing well, do you consider yourself someone who was at his best when his back is up against the wall, or was that sort of the revelation for you that you could perform under that kind of pressure?
TOM LEHMAN: You know, something happened in 1990 that really changed my golf game. Not going to go into much detail, just played some golf when it really mattered and hit some great shots when it really mattered. I really learned in 1990 to trust my game and believe in what I was doing.
So in 1991, even though it was a bit of a make-or-break year, I really felt like -- You know, a new baby and I can't be driving around in this Volvo forever.
So it was a make-or-break year, but I had this really deep-seated belief that I was going to have a really great year that year. For the first time maybe in my entire career I really believed in what I was doing and really trusted in what I was doing.
The results I guess just did not surprise me. To have to a good year like that was not a surprise. Might have surprises the people I was playing against, but didn't surprise me.
So I would have been very surprised actually if I had a bad year. I I had been working for Anderson Electric in Minnesota right now, I would be more surprised about that.

Q. Does that deep-seated belief stay with you always, or does it come and go?
TOM LEHMAN: It can go. I think it can go if you're not smart with it. I think confidence is something you can build on and confidence is something you can destroy.
You can destroy it very quickly by going away from what it was that got you there and try to improve to the point where you start making changes. Now all of a sudden now you lost what it was you built.
I feel like my swing has been the same and been working on the same thing with Jim Flick for 20 years, and before that it was (indiscernible) for 15 years. So I've been working on the same things in my swing since I was 18 without changing any -- I haven't worked on a different goal at all.
So the confidence for me has steadily been growing. I just have never really wavered too much.

Q. Just finished tied here for 5th last year. What do you remember about last year's tournament? You were kind of hovering under the radar there.
TOM LEHMAN: I was just outside the picture. I never really got really close. I don't even know what they shot to win. I am not even sure what I shot to finish 5th.
I don't think I ever felt like, Hey, if I can just make a birdie on this hole I can win. Never got there. I was always just a little bit outside.
I remember feeling last year that I was just not taking advantage of a lot of opportunities. I played pretty well, but I just didn't quite get the ball to go in the hole.

Q. The second part of that question, do you feel confident on this course coming in here right now?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, it's a tough course. It seems to be playing tougher than it was last year. Or it was softer last year. I don't know if I remember it correctly or not, but I just know that the rough seemed to be pretty punishing in spots. We played the back tees today, which makes a difference.
Last year in the tournament we played some of the up tees, and today we played all the back tees. So some of those par-4s that weren't quite so long last year played very long today. Not sure if they'll use those tees or not, but the course is playing pretty (indiscernible.)

Q. Your relationship to the game, how you feel about the game, how is it different now than it was in 1990, 1991?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, you know what? I think -- you wish you could go back and take what you've learned over the last 20 years and apply it to what you were doing back then.
I think more than anything, what makes the Champions Tour so enjoyable is guys, I think, see it as a game and they play it like it's a game and they have fun at it like it's a game, yet taking it seriously and competing. They want to win and really go at it hard.
But golf is supposed to be fun. Supposed to enjoy it. It's not life or death. I think when you're just starting everything is so important - and it stays important. But.
If I could go back 20 years, I would be way more focused just on the process of playing golf and improving and way less concerned with the results. Because the results always are there for those who are truly talented. If you're a talented player and you just work on your game and play the game, you are going to get the results.
I think I could have saved myself a lot of heartache by worrying about the results when in actual fact I think I had the talent to just go ahead and play.

Q. Similar to Hale Irwin, you look at Champions Tour as maybe a way -- you get the Player of the Year award this week -- to validate your career, bigger picture the way Irwin did by coming out and dominating so much?
TOM LEHMAN: I don't see Hale, for example, having to validate or anything. He won three U.S. Opens. He proved long ago what a world-class champion he is.
You know, I don't know. I don't think about stuff like that. I don't know really know how to answer it. I'm not the kind of person that really can give you a flippin' answer.
All I know is what Hale I think has continued to do over the years is keep working hard and trying to improve. That's really all that I've been trying to do as well. I think people understand the talent level and how good you are, or how good you aren't.
And so if I can achieve my potential out here, I think people will perceive me as being quite a player.

Q. Last year you were limping around here pretty good, I think, and Fred Funk was trying to talk you into a new surgery. How did you stave that off?
TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, a year ago I was in so much pain I wasn't sure I could even play my knee was hurting so bad. People say to me, You still limp. I go, Yeah, I limp because I don't have full motion with my knee. I can't extend it completely, so I have a bit of a hitch to it. But I don't have any pain in my knee anymore.
Well, what did you do? The answer is: I went skiing. Okay, that's the reaction I get right there. People laugh. Yeah, right, you went skiing. True.
My knee was in so much pain, I decided -- well, they're talking knee replacement. What are you going to do, go wreck your knee even more? Maybe just push that knee surgery a little bit quicker.
We went skiing and skiid for four days, and you really get that burning in your quads and everything. Seemed like that kind of kick started my quads and my hamstrings. They started working again.
I strengthened them some more, and before you know it, my knee didn't hurt anymore. Went to Steamboat Colorado in terrible shape, and I left there feeling like a million bucks. And I felt good all year.

Q. When was that?
TOM LEHMAN: It was between Christmas and New Year's last year. And it's the truth. I mean, I'm not fabricating or exaggerating one bit. When I left that ski resort and got back home, my knee felt great.

Q. Sometimes you do things and your body ends up in a different direction, particularly your legs.

Q. You don't put your weight on your knee as much as you do your quads?
TOM LEHMAN: I do know that when the knee hurts, the muscles around the knee start to shut down. You know, so your quads get weak and your hamstrings get weak, everything gets week around your knee.
It's kind of a Catch 22. Inflammation, you can't work out, your muscles shut down, and they just get weaker and weaker and weaker. Is skiing was like jump starting a battery. All of a sudden started working again.
Then I was was able to start working out and strengthen and getting it back where it should be. I've seen what Fred Funk has gone through with that knee replacement. No thank you. I don't hurt like I did.

Q. There is a truck out here with a sign, Knee pain?
TOM LEHMAN: Yeah. Those guys in there last year were, You got to get this thing replaced. You got to get it replaced. No way. Got to be a better way.
Anyway, so skiing is the answer.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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