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January 14, 2005

Tom Lehman


TODD BUDNICK: We thank Tom Lehman for joining us after a 2-under 68 in the second rounds of the 2005 Sony Open in Hawaii. Tom at 5-under through two rounds. Talk about the start to the season, Tom. You have to be happy to be in contention through two rounds. I know it's early but it's always good to get off to that nice start.

TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, for the places that I've hit it over the first two days, I feel pretty good about my score. I haven't really hit it very well, but I have been chipping very nicely and making a few putts. So managing to stay out of the real bad places and put it in the places where you can recover from, and I have been able to do that. So I'm pretty pleased with my short game.

TODD BUDNICK: I guess we should also congratulate you on your Ryder Cup Captainship; and will you talk about how that might affect your play during the year, if at all.

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I want to make the team, so I think it will affect my play in a very positive way. We had a nice meeting last week, my wife and I. We went to West Palm Beach and met with PGA of America Ryder Cup officials and the staff and got a real firm grasp on all of the things that are required over the next two years.

So I think there's really a good way of spreading it out over the course of the two years where I can keep put my best foot forward in terms of being both a captain and playing.

TODD BUDNICK: You mentioned you want to play on that team, and obviously this is a Presidents Cup year, as well; that's got to be on your goal list I would imagine.

TOM LEHMAN: I had not even thought about it until you mentioned it, but it would be a nice goal. It would be fun to play in the Presidents Cup. I think I have a long ways to go. I think I'm quite a ways back on the list. My game is pretty good. I finished the year strong last year, and I've got a good attitude which probably means more than anything talk.

TODD BUDNICK: Talk about the end of the season. You came close to winning a couple of times, was that more frustrating or was that, hey, I'm knocking on the door again?

TOM LEHMAN: I think it was both. It was both encouraging and frustrating. It's hard to believe, three weeks in a row, every week seemed to get a little more difficult, not having won the week before. So it would have been good to have won. You know, if I could have won Vegas, for example it would have made I think the next two chances easier. Maybe even win a couple of them.

But still, it's encouraging to be back in the lead again. It's encouraging to be playing smart golf again and to feeling like I belong out here.

Q. Did you find something during that nice run you had at the end of the year? What finally clicked in for you, were you able to put your finger on it?

TOM LEHMAN: A couple things. Probably the biggest thing is that I've been struggling so much with just injuries. Had Plantar fascitis in my feet for about a year and then problems with my ankles because of that and knee surgery following that. Finally beginning of September the pain went away, so I actually was able to play pain-free for the first time in a long, long time. Legs are everything in the golf swing, and if you're sore, if your feet are hurting or your ankle or your knees, it's tough to make aggressive swings, 72 holes straight. So that was the big thing.

Then beyond that, I finally gave up on the short putter. I fought it and fought it and fought it, and finally I just said, enough is enough and I went back to the long putter and I started making a few more putts.

Q. You did belly, too, for a while, didn't you?


Q. Always long?

TOM LEHMAN: Always long.

Q. You missed a length there.

TOM LEHMAN: Yeah. Well, the belly, I actually practice with that sometimes at home, and it's just one of those things where I can't consistently get the feel. The long putter I feel like day-in and day-out, I can generally get that ball somewhere near my line pretty consistently.

Q. When you were in contention the last few tournaments of last year, were you as confident as you were in say, '96, '97?

TOM LEHMAN: I think I was, actually. In fact, I was probably more calm about it, too. I really had a great, phenomenal attitude, I would say about my approach to those last few tournaments. I felt like I had everything to win, nothing to lose and I played pretty loose. Just made too many mistakes. Just made too many bogeys. You've got to play awfully well. I played with Brent Geiberger at Greensboro he won and shot 64, I think it was the last round. You can't go out there and shoot for those 69s or 70s on Sunday. You've got to really keep the flow going. You've got to shoot low scores. I think going forward, I kind of feel that I have plenty of game to make things happen. I can make plenty of birdies, just a matter of making fewer mistakes.

Q. I seem to recall you being close here, maybe the year Jerry Kelly won, a couple strokes off the lead; is that right?

TOM LEHMAN: I finished second here once and third a couple of times. I've had a number of good finishes.

Q. You don't remember unless you win?

TOM LEHMAN: I just remember finishing second and getting a little pineapple one year.

Q. That's a consolation prize?

TOM LEHMAN: Consolation prize.

Q. The year Faxon won.

TOM LEHMAN: It Faxon, exactly.

Q. Was there ever a point, that great run you had from '93 until a couple of years ago, that you ever took contending for granted?

TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, I'm sure I did. Yeah, I'm sure you expect it to last forever because there was a time where I fully expected for quite a few years there that I fully expected to be, you know, near the lead, and Top-10s were a disappointment in a lot of ways. A lot of times be to be finishing 6th or 7th or 8th, I always walked off the course just really upset with myself. Then for a stretch of time there it's like I could not crack the Top 20. I finished 25th every week or 30th, you kind of scratch your head and wonder why.

But there's just a fine line. It's a matter of making mistakes, that's all I can say. The years that I played so well, I made so few mistakes. I made so few bogeys, it seemed. If I made two bogeys in a round, that was a lot. It got to the point, you know, over the last few years where if I made two bogeys in a round, that was like pretty good. The idea of playing a bogey-free round was almost nonexistent.

I watch the guys who are playing so well, Vijay, Ernie, Tiger, the guys who are on top of their games, they make par from everywhere. They don't waste shots; they don't make bogeys; they don't go backwards.

Q. Can you see taking Michelle as a captain's pick?

TOM LEHMAN: (Laughter.) You know, what a talent, what a talent she.

I'm not sure how she played yesterday, but, you know, 75 in that wind for a 15-year-old is I think phenomenal. We were talking in our group, when I was 15 what would I have shot here when I was 15 years old? I can promise you that it would not have been 75.

Q. Since you are widely credited with her nickname, has it been fun at all to watch your little girl grow up? What was she, 11, probably when you first met her?

TOM LEHMAN: She was 12. The thing I remember most about that, too, was we were playing that little pro junior thing, and we were partnered up and I walked over the fairways and I asked her and I said, "What's the lowest round you've ever shot"?

And I was expecting, you know, like 69 or something like that. "64."

I went, "64? How old are you?"


"When did you shoot 64, yesterday? Day before?"

"No, I shot it when I was 11." Shot 64 when she was 11, it's like you've got to be kidding me. That's amazing. It's just I think a flawless golf swing.

Q. Has it been fun to watch her progress?

TOM LEHMAN: It has. I really hope that -- you know, my first impression of her was, let her alone and let her play golf. Don't nobody get in her way, because she doesn't need a whole lot of coaching.

Reminded me of a story that Hal Sutton told about his dad taking him down to see Harvey Penick when he was an 18-year-old. And he went out on the range and Harvey watches Hal hit 50 balls and didn't say a word. He said, "Okay, that's enough. Let's go in," and had not said a word. They went this and found Hal's dad and Harvey Penick said, "Mr. Sutton, your son is going to be a fine player. Just stay out of his way." That was the lesson. That was the lesson, is he's a great player. He's got all kind of talent; don't get in his way.

So that was my feeling and still my feeling is; I think she's going to be a great player as long as nobody gets in her way.

Q. Like what or who?

TOM LEHMAN: Just maybe anybody. I think it's very easy to want to get to that next level, for example, and so you start making a few changes in order to get better and kind of get away from what made you really good. She has a natural ability that you rarely ever see to swing a golf club. So there's no need for her to make any changes at all except in the matter of perfecting what she has.

Like, for example, I noticed her grip is stronger this year than it has been in the past, and I don't know why that is and without saying it is good or bad, but it is different. I personally think it's probably not a good thing. But, you know, let her play. She's like a thoroughbred, let her run.

Q. She seems to fit in very easily with the men. There's no bits of hysteria running around on the putting green, just as if she's one of you. Is that the general feeling, because you had her here last year; do the men think, well, she's good enough to be here, let her get on with it?

TOM LEHMAN: She hits it past half of us. (Laughter.)

I think there's a great deal of respect for her talent. I think she proved to everybody last year that being that she lives here, that she deserves a spot in the field. I think everybody pulls for her. I think that's really probably the most important thing. I think everybody out here is pulling for her.

Q. They don't see it as the worst thing in the world to be outdriven by Michelle Wie then?

TOM LEHMAN: I don't think so. She hits it far. If you hit it 300, she hits it 305. It's like, I feel good about my 300-yard drive, but she hits it longer.

Yeah, she doesn't step on anybody's toes. She's respectful. I think people respect her talent as well.

Q. We all know the story about the skis and the Minnesota coaching job, etc., and your life on the mini tours, etc., and now, here you are. I'm wondering if there was ever a point in your career that you realized that you were able to lead the lifestyle that you're leading? Follow me okay there?

TOM LEHMAN: I do. No, probably not, and for a number of reasons. It would be hard to even imagine 15 years ago the amount of money that we're playing for. That's one thing.

Another thing is, you never know which way the ball is going to bounce. You hope and dream that your goals, your dreams come through, but you never know if they are going to. So I've been fortunate that things have really gone my way over the last 15 years. And so now that the real challenge becomes, you know, to not live like you expect it, to expect the red carpet rolled out and to expect all of the perks that go with it.

I think of what a friend of mine said, about the pro athlete that lives in a dreamland. That's kind of their impression of professional sports is athletes who live way out of reality. I read a comment that Randy Moss made in the paper, you know, "Ten grand, ten grand is nothing to me," the fine that he got. I think that's the kind of attitude that you can get because there's so much affluence out here.

Q. There was never an epiphany or one moment you looked around at your surroundings and said, "whoa"?

TOM LEHMAN: You know, that happens. That happens quite frequently. I know my kids in school get a lot of abuse for the fact that their dad has done well and live in a nice house and everything. They catch quite a bit of flak for that. So, you know, I'm very aware all the time just how lucky we are.

But at the same time, you know, as your confidence builds as you play and you come to trust in your game and you expect the most out of your game, the stuff that comes with it, you know, it doesn't surprise you. Sometimes you get surprised by the amount of the check that you collect. Like I know when I won that Tiger Woods tournament, a check for a million bucks, that was -- wow, that's a lot of zeros right there.

Q. Back when a million meant something.

TOM LEHMAN: And it still does. You know, I think -- I guess the short answer there would be you're not really too surprised about it all while it's happening, but eventually you sit back and you think about it all and you think, wow, that was something.

Q. How do you tell your children to deal with this situation when they get flak for you being who you are?

TOM LEHMAN: I try to tell them to kill them with kindness. There's no reason to be mean back. Without being crude, they get the rich-bitch thing all the time; that's what the kids call them. I tell them, you know, just you are who you are. Don't be ashamed for who you are, and don't be ashamed for the fact that you live in a nice house and don't be ashamed for the fact that your dad has made a lot of money.

Now if you're a complete moron and you're a jerk, then you have to be ashamed of that, but as long as you're a good person and treating them well and with respect, don't be ashamed or don't be ashamed about anything. That's their issue and not yours.

TODD BUDNICK: Tom, let's just go through your card. Birdie on No. 1.

TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, I holed out a wedge. I hit a drive in the edge of the rough and had to lay it up to 105 yards and I made it for a 3. A nice start to the day.

Then I hit terrible drives on 5 and 6 up against the tree on 5 and up against the hedge on 6 and made bogeys there.

Made a birdie on the 9th hole. Hit a good bunker shot to about eight feet and made the putt.

Then hit a nice little flip up to the 10th green from about 40 yards away, about three feet and made that.

Chipped in from the back of the green on 11 for birdie.

The bogey on 13, I drove it in the fairway bunker missed the green right. Made a bogey.

Then hit a 9-iron to about 20 feet on 14 and made that for a birdie and then parred out from there.

TODD BUDNICK: Thank you, Tom.

End of FastScripts.

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