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January 24, 2006

Tom Lehman


JOHN BUSH: We appreciate you coming by, 2006 U.S. Ryder Cup Captain. But first thing's first, coming off of a runner up finish here last year in eight out of your nine last starts, you have Top 25 finishes, so obviously a place you feel very comfortable.

TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, I really like it here. I always have. Like I said, we have a place here, we spend our summers here so it's very much like home to me and to my family.

But as far as the golf course goes, I've always played well here. I don't know exactly why that would be, but I have a very comfortable feeling when I get on this golf course, both golf courses, both North and South and I enjoy it.

Q. Inaudible?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, it's a very different golf course, identical routing but they are very different. And you have to hit it longer, that's one thing. You need to hit it longer. The penalty for missing greens is a bit more severe.

I think that's always played into my strength is I've always been a pretty good iron player, but the fairways I think I like them because there's a pitch to them. A lot of places you kind of have to keep it up one side or the other; the ball will sometimes roll off. The 10th hole is an example, the 9th hole is an example. It's a really good driving course. The 7th hole, another great tee shot with the fairway sloping left to right. Maybe that's one of the reasons I like it is my draw fits well in the fairways right up against the slope.

Q. Looking at the Ryder Cup points list that has been coming out the first couple three weeks of the year, with the changes, the volatility has been abrupt, guys dropping two or three spots, does that make your job harder trying to figure out when you have a decent idea of who you have on the team? You figure at the U.S. Open, you may still not know outside of the top couple.

TOM LEHMAN: Well, it's all relative with quadruple points this year. Obviously the whole point was to weight the second year significantly more in the hopes of getting players who are playing their best golf the year of the Ryder Cup.

I think these first few weeks, it's kind of a free for all. Like the beginning of a NASCAR race; there's cars everywhere. But as the season winds forward, I think you'll see a pattern happening. As the big ones come along and the top players are playing more, I think the points system will become way more normal.

Right now with the newness of it, the weighting of the points, this first month is going to look pretty crazy. I think all in all, it will be a great system. I think the reason for adding extra points in year two, adding a bonus for winning are all legitimate and very good changes by the PGA of America.

Q. Are you watching more golf on TV?

TOM LEHMAN: I do. I do pay attention, I always have, but more so now. I watched last week. I wasn't playing, so I watched the final round. I pay attention to where guys are finishing inaudible.

Q. Talking about players, public and press, in that context, do you think Europe cares more about the Ryder Cup than America?

TOM LEHMAN: Players, public, press. I would say the answer to the first would be no. The European players do not care more.

Q. No, I meant when I say Europe cares more than America, I'm talking about the press, their fans.

TOM LEHMAN: Oh, I see. I see.

Q. More so than America.

TOM LEHMAN: I don't know. I think that's an interesting question. When I played over there, the only comment I heard the whole summer last summer was Ryder Cup related. I get the same thing here a lot. I get the same thing here no matter where I go.

In fact, I'll tell you last year at the PGA Championship, I got there on Monday and went to play a practice round and my left knee was hurting so bad that I couldn't even hardly walk. It just got really swollen that evening, went up the next day to play and literally couldn't play; and it was big and it was sore. And so I went to see an orthopaedic guy in a little town near Baltusrol. And we're going up the elevator and there's this little black guy with a very, very thick Jamaican or Haitian or some kind of accent inaudible saying he's an American citizen, he's proud to be an American citizen and he's immigrated from somewhere in the Caribbean, and he knew who I was and he knew about the Ryder Cup and he was all jacked up; "You must go win, Mon." (Speaking in Jamaican accent). (Laughter.)

So to me that says it all. I think our fans are ecstatic about it. Americans are different personality wise, but I think we're just as into it.

Q. The reason I ask, you can't get through the first few weeks in Europe, whether it's Abu Dhabi or the Royal Trophy or whatever without a Ryder Cup mention. Justin Rose is sixth going into the fourth round at Bob Hope, and Justin Rose is hoping to improve his Ryder Cup chances. And yet, like when Chad won yesterday, I'm pretty sure they talked about him winning more than what it did for his Ryder Cup possibilities.

TOM LEHMAN: I think that's true. I think the press keep it front and center way more in Europe. I don't know why that would be. But they do. I've had way more requests for my time from European writers than I have here for my time.

Q. Inaudible?

TOM LEHMAN: I appreciate that very much.

I think it's always been my perspective as, again, you get closer to the event, is that changes and then the American press engages at some point to a greater degree. But for now, you know, it's so much like cable TV, there's so many channels to choose from, how do you pick one.

The same thing I think with the Ryder Cup. There seems to be it's more of the only game in town. They don't have the NBA. They don't have the college NCAA basketball. There's not as much sports wise. There's some what they have are all huge events, World Cup soccer, World Cup cricket possibly, the Ryder Cup. Those are major, major events and we seem to have way more of those.

I think our media gets focused on each one as it comes up. Right now it's the Super Bowl. Golf is a back seat and it's the Super Bowl, and then it will be the Final Four, and then it will be Masters, and then opening of baseball and then it gets to be the NBA championship and hockey and oh, wait, Ryder Cup in a month. Better start writing about that, too.

Q. How challenging have you found it?

TOM LEHMAN: I think there's a time and a place for it. There's a lot of kind of downtime that I spend thinking about things and then I write them down on paper and make a plan and end up doing something. Then I kind of put that aside and say it's time to go practice and time to go play.

But the amount of time it takes up can be significant. For example, I live in Phoenix, playing here at San Diego. So I flew from Phoenix to San Diego by way of New York, spent the day in New York on Monday, Ryder Cup related, and then came here Monday night. So it does take some time and there's some effort involved. It doesn't always give you the best chance to prepare, but there's some things that you want to do, you know that you have to do and you look forward to doing it, so you do it and you go with it.

Q. Has it taken a toll on your golf game?

TOM LEHMAN: No, I don't think so. I feel like I'm swinging very well. I went on a big fitness program in August and lost a bunch of weight and feel a lot stronger and feel better over the ball.

Q. Do you think agree there's a more relaxed atmosphere at the Presidents Cup inaudible and so players play better, and if you do, what are you doing trying to foster that atmosphere?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I would say simply that I was there and I watched it. So whatever the attitude was, is the attitude we need. (Laughter).

Q. What is it?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I saw it as a bunch of guys being very focused. But, you know, relaxed you know how when you're playing your best and you always talk about hearing guys who are playing their best, in the zone, things seem to slow down, they are calm and you feel like the Teflon Man; things are just bouncing off you. That's the attitude I got from them, very relaxed, very calm, very determined, very focused and, you know we're just going to go do it.

And they seemed to enjoy the competition, enjoy the challenge, and I think that's a big part of what we missed is actually enjoying the competition. I mean, that's a huge part of it. You have to enjoy it, you have to like it. You have to be thrilled to be a part of it, and so that's kind of what I'm looking forward to. I look forward to going out there and just, you know, relishing the challenge and taking advantage of the chance to win something great.

Q. Will you call Jack Nicklaus and pick his brain, talk about it?

TOM LEHMAN: Definitely. I have a list of about six people who I need to talk to. I've talked to a bunch of people already about things, former captains, things like that. But there's more people I want to speak with, and he's definitely one of them.

Q. When you get to the Masters this year, playing in the majors will talking about the Ryder Cup be distracting going into an event like that, or will you give it the same commitment that you always do?

TOM LEHMAN: No, I felt like the commitment level that I have towards my own golf game is every bit as strong. My dedication to it is every bit as great as it was a year ago.

I have always found it quite easy, actually to kind of leave one compartmentalized in the things I do; leave this here while I go do that and go do that and go do that. I don't really drag them across the boundary, so to speak.

So when I came out here to practice, I practice, all right. And then I take a break, go and have lunch. And there's some of the young guys sitting there, so I'll sit down and we'll talk and maybe talk about their games or the Ryder Cup or whatever it might be, but kind of go into relationship mode, getting to know some people, build some bridges.

Then when it's time to go play, okay, go put that hat on go play. I've been able to do that. I've always been able to do that. So I don't really see that getting in the way. The thing that gets in the way I think is the preparation time when you're home and you should be practicing, but you have things that you have to do, literally have to go to New York for a media day or you need to go to L.A. or you need to go do this or do that.

Q. Inaudible?

TOM LEHMAN: I really do. I have high hopes for my game.

Q. I would assume through the years you've taken mental notes of things captains have done, things you've liked, just wondering with all of that, what do you hope are some distinctive things that you bring to the team will be?

TOM LEHMAN: A victory. (Laughter). That would be quite distinctive.

Q. How do you view your experience last year, top finishes?

TOM LEHMAN: I was crushed. I was crushed. I was incredibly disappointed. I didn't make too many mistakes. I did a lot of things right all week long. Just made too many mistakes. I gave it a good fight and everything, but the finish was disappointing.

Q. Phil Mickelson was in here earlier talking about the schedule changes and getting more of the top players together more often; what do you think about the schedule and how much input should the players have?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I think it's good to get input from as many people who know what they are talking about as possible. Sometimes somebody thinks of something that you haven't thought of, and no matter who you are, you can't cover all the bases completely. So that may bring a perspective that you have considered and that may make things make the final decision better.

But at the end of the day, whoever is in charge makes the decisions. And I don't believe in micro managing and looking over somebody's shoulder. I guess I believe completely when somebody is hired to do the job, you do the job and if you don't like the job, you get somebody new. But don't tell him how to do the job when he's doing it.

I think our TOUR has put quite a bit of thought into it. I think they have considered a lot of the different repercussions and I think it will give a lot of excitement to the TOUR. I think the schedule, it looks like a really interesting schedule, the changes.

The only thing I would be concerned about, and, you know, have been from the beginning is about the opportunity for younger players to play. I am concerned that there will be more guys playing more often and giving less opportunity for the guys who are coming up. With the way our TOUR has become with the huge amount of international influence, which is a good thing for golf, a good thing for our TOUR. It's also made it more difficult for young American guys to get a chance, and that concerns me.

Q. Inaudible?

TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, there was had some great pairings and some groups that really seemed to mesh and play well together. And there were some that didn't. There were a couple that didn't, and, you know, I didn't think they would, for example. I'm not going to mention what I'm talking about, but it kind of helped validate my feelings about what makes a good team a good team.

So it was kind of good to see in a perverse kind of a way, if you want to call it, the teams I did think not do well not do well, because it reinforced my own beliefs about partnerships.

Q. Inaudible?

TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, I think I would say my style would be more that way. I think a good team is a good team whether you win or you lose. You don't really change up your starting five. If you're Duke you're not going to toss the second team right now because you lost a game. Yeah, a good team is a good pairing.

Q. Inaudible?

TOM LEHMAN: They might still win it all. They know what I'm talking about.

Q. So does that mean, Mickelson and DiMarco, Furyk and Woods inaudible?

TOM LEHMAN: I think it's a good starting point. The thing that I liked was that they all seemed to enjoy their teammates. They seemed to enjoy, aside from the fact that they had success, they seemed to enjoy playing with the guys they played with, and that's a big deal.

Q. You are perceived much differently by the press in this country than the press in the U.K. Brookline inaudible?

TOM LEHMAN: I forgot. What was that again?

Q. Do you feel that? Does it hurt you, bother you?

TOM LEHMAN: I'm trying to think of something clever to say. You know, I never even stepped foot on the green. Never even stepped foot on the green. Didn't lead the charge. That's the one thing, my wife, she goes crazy. There's a really nice fellow and you all know him, he's a reporter from Ireland and one of my favorite guys over there, a really up front guy, straight up, honest. And there was a photo and it said "Tom Lehman leads a charge across the 17th green." Okay, he wasn't in charge of the photos or the captions, just wrote some of the stuff on the inside. So she kind of "I've got show you something!"

She gets the book; "He's one of the good guys. He's one of the good guys.

"No, I've got to show you this right here. It really irritates me, 'Tom Lehman led the charge.' He didn't lead the charge. He didn't even set foot on the green." So she's got to let them know, let's get by, let's get over it.

It's going to come up and I know it's going to come up and it should be a dead issue, it really should be.

Q. I know he didn't get points for winning in Abu Dhabi, but did DiMarco's win register with you?

TOM LEHMAN: Definitely. I remember one year as a player, one year I won the Scottish Open. The American press, 'Tom Lehman hasn't won since 1995,' or whatever it was, and I won that year the Scottish Open. So in my mind as a player, the Scottish Open is a great event, big great, it has a great field, Ernie was there, Goosen was there, great field and I won. So it's like, hey, I won a great event. Didn't get any points, but a win is a win; that kind of covers my feeling about winning wherever you might win is important, and he didn't get Ryder Cup points with me, he got brownie points for sure.

Q. What thoughts do you have and whether you agree or disagree inaudible?

TOM LEHMAN: I have not been there. I plan on going right after THE PLAYERS Championship or the week before. I haven't seen it. Heard about it. , in fact, I got a bum steer on one hole. Somebody told me they moved the 4th tee about 30 yards back and 30 yards to the right. I'm like, oh my gosh, 30 yards to the right, I can't even keep my 5 iron on that green where it is right now. And to go further right hitting with the slope, just put me in the left bunker. But I was wrong about that, he was wrong about that. So that was a big, wheewww.

But even still, the first hole, to me that's I don't know, they keep on moving that tee back and I keep on thinking they just ought to extend that bunker. Don't make it any longer. Just put the bunker further out there, build another bunker, do something. But don't keep moving the first tee back, because I'm hitting into that upslope and I'm not getting any roll and I'm hitting a 5 iron. I used to a wedge, then I hit a 7 and now I'm hitting a 5, soon I'll be hitting a 3 to where I can't see the green.

Some of the most positive great changes to Augusta National have nothing to do with length and have everything to do with just raising the green. For example, they raised the 15th green. That made the hole way harder. When they raised the right edge of the 11th green, that made it way harder. You don't need to add length all the time to make it better. Simply doing something like that can make all of the difference in the world. Adding length is sometimes good, sometimes bad.

Q. Do you have any theories as what we will see inaudible?

TOM LEHMAN: I think it's already happening. I think if you look at a lot of the press conferences, you'll hear guys talking about wanting to be a part of this team. I think that's because we've been talking about this for a while now. I've relayed to a lot of our guys, if not all of them, that according to the Irish press and according to the people in Ireland, this will be the biggest events in the history of Ireland. That's gotten guys' attention and they want to be a part of this event. They see it as I do, as a great opportunity.

So I think for starters, guys always have it on their radar. You read some of the comments made in the press and sometimes it gets to around the Ryder Cup, and they are already talking about wanting to be a part of it. And so I think we are way ahead of the game right now.

JOHN BUSH: Tom, thanks a lot.

End of FastScripts.

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