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August 10, 2005

Tom Lehman


JULIUS MASON: Tom Lehman, ladies and gentlemen, the 2006 United States Ryder Cup Captain joins at Baltusrol Golf Club for the 87th PGA Championship.

How about some opening comments on the golf course, and then we'll go to Q and A.

TOM LEHMAN: I'm sure you've heard, because I'm probably the last guy to come three here in the last few days, that the golf course is a great course, great driving course, very straight forward. The rough is high. You have to put the ball in play off the tee. It's essential to do that.

But I really enjoy it. I think it's very fair. It's putting a premium on all the right things, testing your game. So it should produce, I think, the guy who's playing the best this week.

Q. This is kind of an off the course question here, but obviously at all golf tournaments, they've banned cell phones and Blackberries and all that. From a player's point of view, I'm assuming you see that as a good thing, and I'm wondering if you can talk about the inconvenience that the fans have to suffer through?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I think personally if there's a way to control everyone to have their phone or Blackberry on just a vibrate mode and having a place where they could go to make a phone call, that would be the best of all worlds. But we all know someone is going to forget, and you're going to get a bunch of phones going off in your backswing.

I think it's a tough issue because the players carry their phones during the practice rounds because they need to, just like the average fan needs to. Like I said, you can't have 10,000 phones going off on the golf course through the day. That would be a difficult thing.

Q. We've heard so much the last few days about this golf course is for guys who hit it long, guys who hit it straight, guys who hit it high. What's your take on that? Who is this golf course best suited for, what kind of player?

TOM LEHMAN: I would tend to say it's for the guy who hits it straight. There's been times when I've thought we've played tournaments where, oh, man, this is a long hitter's delight, because the guys who hit it long are going to be a field day. And then Mike Weir wins The Masters. Length is always going to be an advantage if you can hit it straight. If there's not much rough then length is a huge advantage.

Turn off that cell phone, Julius (laughter).

The rough is so high this week, but you need to hit it far enough, but you've got to hit it straight, so I would go with straight as my number one priority.

Q. We're still at more than a year out from the Ryder Cup, but do you find yourself now looking at guys and how they're playing and trying to formulate some kind of an idea as far as captain's picks goes for next year, or is it still too early to think to think about that?

TOM LEHMAN: I do pay attention. I definitely pay attention to how guys are performing, and not just the point list. There's a lot of weeks that a player will have a very good week and finish 11th. Tim Herron, for example, finished 11th at The Masters and got no points, and there's a couple American guys who finished 13th or so at the British Open and got no points. I do pay attention not to just the point list that I'm looking at in front of me here, but also to where guys are finishing also in the big events.

It's always been in my opinion the best players seem to be able to elevate their games in the big tournaments, majors and THE PLAYERS Championship and the World Golf Championships. So whatever the best fields might be, I like to see who is, if not winning, at least kind of up there consistently. There are some guys who consistently do that.

Q. Being a veteran of these affairs, coming into the last tournament such as this, and such a big tournament, your confidence level has to be high. Can you challenge that confidence level and your emotion at the same time for the four days of the tournament?

TOM LEHMAN: Can you please repeat that question? I didn't quite catch it.

Q. Coming into a big tournament like this, your confidence level of playing well has to be high for the four days, can you channel that into your emotion at the same time?

TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, golf tournaments are a little bit like marathons. In fact they're a lot like marathons where you need to prepare. You need to do all you can do to be ready to play. The tournament lasts four days, 280 shots or 275 shots, or whatever you hope to shoot; that's a long time and a lot of golf swings, a lot of putts. So your confidence does need to be high, but you need to be very patient, and I think over the course of four days, you need to just continually tell yourself it's a long tournament, hit the ball and chase it.

You can maintain momentum as long as you stay in the moment. If you stay in the moment, you focus on every shot, you can keep that momentum going for four days, no problem.

Q. I'd like to ask again about the Ryder Cup. Recent captain's selections have all been generally veteran guys, somebody that's played the Ryder Cup before, somebody that's had a good year, whatever. Do you feel it's a problem that there haven't been more young American guys put on the team over the years? I mean, are we losing a generation that hasn't played in the Ryder Cup the way the European young kids have been their Sergio has been there for it seems like forever, and he's only 25 years old.

TOM LEHMAN: Well, that's true. I think in terms of captain's picks, who knows who they will be in 2006, but I know one thing for certain, that you want your 12 best guys on the team. So whoever the 12 best players are, those are the guys you want to tee it up, whether they're 25, 35 or 45.

So, who knows? I mean, who really can tell sometimes who that might be at this point? But I do know we want our 12 best guys playing over in Ireland.

You talk about the age thing, the younger player missing a generation. I'm not sure I totally agree with that, but there is an element of the PGA TOUR which has changed an awful lot, and that's the number of international players who are playing full time over here. And I think this year the number is 78; 78 full time international players, which is a great thing for the PGA TOUR. It's a great thing for a lot of different reasons. It makes this Tour the most competitive Tour in the world.

The down side of that is is that there is less opportunity for our young players, kids coming out of college or just starting out as professionals; there's less spots. Let's face it, when you have the best players from South Africa and Australia and everywhere else coming here to play, they're awfully good players, so you need to be pretty doggone good to get that spot away from them.

So our young guys who are just coming up have that battle to fight. It's taking them longer to get out here as a result, but at the end of the day, our American players I think have proved themselves to be great players.

Q. A number of players this week are putting 5 , 7 and 9 woods into their bags. I'm curious if you subscribe to that notion, or why a lot of players think they can reach the green better with a lofted wood rather than a 2 or 3 iron?

TOM LEHMAN: Definitely you can get a little more mass behind the ball. If you can get a lie in the rough and you can get a 9 wood or a 7 wood on it, you can definitely hit it further than a 3 wood. I think a lot of players are thinking when they get that lie in the rough and they've got 190, I can't reach it with an iron; but I can chase a 7 wood up there somehow.

Q. Do you have any of those?

TOM LEHMAN: I've got a 5 wood.

Q. Would you lean on that club more than you would maybe at a regular Tour stop? Do you think you'll lean on it more this week? Not that you want to be in the rough obviously, but if you are.

TOM LEHMAN: For me, I'm hitting driver on every hole but 2. I'll probably hit a 5 wood on the 8th hole and then probably on the 2nd hole. Otherwise it's drivers all around for me.

Q. Out of the rough?

TOM LEHMAN: Oh, I see. Out of the rough, the way you make big scores on any course that's set up like this is is get aggressive out of the rough, and then put yourself in a position that goes from bad to worse.

You know, if you look at a hole like No. 17, why is that a great par 5? Because if you hit a bad drive, you have to lay up short of the bunker. If you hit a bad third shot from 245 or 250, now you're in a bad spot by the bunker short of the green, and maybe you can't get on the green and then you're chipping 5 and two putting 7. You can see how you can go from bad to worse by getting overly aggressive out of the rough, and I think that's one thing you need to pay attention to. If your lie isn't good and you can't put it in a spot where you can play from, you're wiser just to lay it up to 80 or 90 yards where you can sand wedge it in close.

Q. Actually I had another question, but on that subject, do you find that it's harder for some players to be less aggressive than others?

TOM LEHMAN: Oh, yeah. Personalities are a huge factor in the way people play golf. Everybody has a different way of doing things, and everybody has their own level of excitement they want to create. So some players just want to play more aggressively. That's the crash and burn; you may win a lot, but you may lose a lot.

Q. A question about the Ryder Cup. You're almost a year now in your captaincy. Do you have a new or different perspective on why the Europeans have done so well? Maybe you've looked at it differently since being captain, as opposed to being just a player. Have you found any new answers or solutions?

TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, I think I've understood come to understand a little bit more what the Ryder Cup probably means to not only just the players, but the media and the fans, as well.

I spent three weeks in Europe, and a typical conversation like at the British Open would be: "Hey, nice birdie on 15. Who's going to win the Ryder Cup?" From the average fan. Then from there it goes to: "Well, I sure liked the results; I hope we beat you again like at Oakland Hills." That would be an average conversation with a golf fan over there. It was hundreds, if not thousands of golf fans with that kind of enthusiasm.

It's in the media, and I really believe that understanding their mentality over there for the Ryder Cup is essential, and in their mentality, it's the biggest event in golf and there's no bigger thing to win than being a part of a winning Ryder Cup team. I think that's been hugely beneficial to me, understanding that mentality, because you need to have the same exact mentality, if not better, in order to beat them.

Q. Phil said that the first seven holes might be the toughest that you would face. Are there a stretch of holes, or which holes can you actually go at and maybe have birdie opportunities?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, Phil is definitely right. It was that way in '93 and probably back when Jack was playing and probably still is. The added length, as I'm sure you've heard, is basically putting the golf ball exactly the same club we were hitting in '93, so I'm still hitting 4 iron to 3 and I'm still hitting 4 iron or 3 iron to 6; 5 iron to 7, those kinds of things.

The question and the answer you asked actually is good because then you get to a hole like No. 8, which really is kind of begging for a 1 iron off the tee or a 2 iron somewhere into the fat part of the fairway, but it still leaves you a 7 iron to the green. That's where you think, "I've got to get aggressive," hit a driver and try and get it up there in the neck and hit a wedge and try to get it close. So you kind of get led to believe that when you get a chance, you've really got to go for it.

The scores will not be low. The greens are firming up and they're fast and the rough is high, and there really aren't that many great chances out there.

Q. The last three U.S. Opens they had here, I think they either set scoring records or tied scoring records, so somebody was making birdies somewhere. I'm wondering, was that mostly by virtue of the fact that relative to some championship courses, the greens are fairly flat?

TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, definitely the greens have some tilt one way or another, but they're not as severe as, say, somewhere like Winged Foot. But the rough is higher. There wasn't that much rough at the Open in '93. The rough was quite a bit shorter then.

Yes, you can make birdies out there, but they've added some length to some of the holes that were somewhat shorter. The holes that were 390 are now 430 or something to that effect.

It's definitely a challenge. Maybe the scores will be low. Who knows, you really can't say, but it's an awfully good golf course. And if scores are low, it's only because the players are really good.

Q. How much scouting and how much consideration will you give to watching The Presidents Cup next month?

TOM LEHMAN: I'll definitely pay attention to who is playing with whom. I think that's probably the biggest thing, who plays with whom and how well do they do; who teams up really well together and clicks and maybe who doesn't. I'll be very interested to see who Jack pairs together. I think it'll be interesting for me and it'll be good for me to pay attention to that.

I also think it's very important for the U.S. Team that they win. I think it's actually a huge week for the U.S. players. I think it's important that they play well, I think it's important that they win.

Q. Going back to what you said about the European mentality about the Ryder Cup, will that play into captain's picks? Not in terms of interviewing players, but judging who really wants to play in this and who considers it the most important tournament of their lives?

TOM LEHMAN: I think one of the things that I'm really trying to one of the messages that I really want to hit home, because this is the way our Tour is, the way our society is, we put a lot of emphasis on individual performance. We've always had a goal. It's like, I want to be on the Ryder Cup team. You talk to any player out there, they'll say, "I want to be on the Ryder Cup team," and that's a great goal, to be on the Ryder Cup team.

But really, who wants to be on a losing Ryder Cup team? So I think the message I'm trying to lead through is I want to be on a winning Ryder Cup team. I want to be on a team that goes over to Ireland and wins. Forget about just making the team to make the team. You're going to make the team because you want to go win.

So with that kind of having been said, what are you willing to do over the course of the next year and a half to make that happen? You, as an individual, us as a team? What kind of sacrifices can we make to make that happen, because the whole goal is to be a part of a winning Ryder Cup team.

Q. Let me follow that question up with this: Would it surprise you then if you had a player who from what happened at the last Ryder Cup, who would say to you, "I'm too tired to play this evening, put somebody else in my spot?" Would you have learned something from that in asking them to be a member of the team? Wouldn't you want to insist that, hey, if I want you twice a day, three times a day, I need your commitment to be there?

TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, I think the best thing you can do I would think as a captain would be to try to anticipate any potential issue that might come along, and that would be one of them. Maybe understand the mentality of a player I know the mentality of a player, knowing like my first Ryder Cup, after my first match I was exhausted, too. I was so exhausted I felt like I probably couldn't play. It was emotionally wrung out. But you quickly realize if they send you right back out again, you know the adrenaline kicks back in and you're ready to go.

So I think any player who would say that I'm beat, maybe somebody else would be better off is probably speaking the truth. But also, I don't think there's anybody out there who if you said, "I don't care, you're going out there again," wouldn't go right back out there again.

Kind of like heading off the issues, anticipating the problems, anticipating the questions, anticipating whatever might be is something that I know I need to pay a great deal of attention to, and that's a good example of it.

Q. Connecting the dots from what you were saying about your experiences over there, from what you were picking up on your radar from fans and such, it sounds like you could state the case that it may mean more to the Europeans than it does over here in the old, individualistic Wild West. How do you fix that among the players? That's almost a sociological cultural thing where they look at themselves as a "we" and "us" as a "they," and maybe it just carries more importance than it does for our guys?

TOM LEHMAN: I would disagree with anybody who says it's more important to the European players than the U.S. players. I think it means a great deal to the U.S. players to be able to participate in a Ryder Cup match.

But I think, like I said before, the idea would be we know how much they want to win. We know how much it means to them to beat the Americans. Who cares if you've beaten that guy nine out of ten times this year? This is a team match and we have to win, period. I think that's where our guys are I think you talk to any guy, any American player right now, they're sick and tired of losing. They're sick and tired of hearing the fact that they're not together as a team, that they don't get along and all the negative things you hear. People are sick and tired of hearing that out here, I'm sure.

I think you'll see a very committed group of guys in Ireland.

JULIUS MASON: Tom Lehman, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much.

TOM LEHMAN: Thank you.

End of FastScripts.

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