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August 12, 2002
MODERATOR: Tom Lehman, Ladies and Gentlemen, Monday afternoon, Hazeltine National Golf Club. Welcome to your backyard.
TOM LEHMAN: I should say welcome to you.
MODERATOR: Some opening thoughts on your perceptions of Hazeltine National and we'll go to Q&A.
TOM LEHMAN: Well, I'm really impressed with the golf course. I haven't really played a whole lot here in recent years. The course has improved dramatically. I think it's a wonderful, wonderful golf course. Great greens. Even though the length is, you know, long on the score card, it doesn't play that long. There's so much in the par 5s here. The other holes are much more target golf, put it in the right spot top thing, as opposed to taking a driver out and bombing it. My perception, you need to put the ball in the right spots off the tee in order to attack the pins.
MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Dave Hill many years ago branded the place a cow pasture. From having grown up around here, having played it now and again, when did the cow pasture start to go away, when did it start to become the golf course it is now?
TOM LEHMAN: Boy, that's a good question. I was about 11 years old when he made those comments, 12 maybe. You know, quite frankly, there wasn't a whole lot out here back then. It was pretty much, you know, farmland around the golf course. The course has changed dramatically since then. Every golf course I think evolves. It grows and it changes and hopefully improves year by year by year. It was a good course in '71. It was a lot more dog legs, sharper dog legs, than there are now, which is probably one thing all the players didn't like. But, hey, the whole area has matured, grown. There's houses around here, little towns and villages around here. It's much more of, you know, a major championship feel than it was 30 years ago.
Q. No. 16 has been described as the signature hole of the course. Could you give us your thoughts on 16, how you would play the hole.
TOM LEHMAN: Well, it's a great little hole. It's a very scary hole, especially the fact that the wind almost always blows here in some form or another, usually in your face and across, normally left to right. So it's a tough tee shot. I know a lot of the college guys I talk to, they chose to attack it more, hitting 3-woods and drivers off the tee as opposed to hitting 2-irons and 3-irons to get it to the fairway. I think that's probably the way to play it. For me I think it's probably going to be a 3-wood to get it up the fairway far enough to hit a shorter iron to the green. I think it's a great hole. It requires a great tee shot, a great second shot. It takes a lot of courage to play.
Q. Your game good enough to win this right now?
TOM LEHMAN: You know, my game, I feel like it's good. But, you know, it's been a Jekyl and Hyde type thing here for me. If I'll play well, like I played well at the Scottish Open, finished fifth, felt really good going into the British Open, missed the cut. I had a bad round on Friday. That's kind of the way the year has been. Right when my game feels like it's kicking in gear, I'll have a bad week. I feel like my game is good, I'm swinging well, putting well, certainly happy to be here. The fans have been really enthusiastic and supportive. There's no question that it's a great week to have a great week. I'm just hoping that, you know, my good game shows up this week.
Q. You played nine holes this morning, you were on the range. For a Monday, are you surprised to see this many people here?
TOM LEHMAN: No, no.
TOM LEHMAN: This is Minnesota. This is the land of the greatest golf fans in the world. So I'm not surprised at all. People are very excited about this championship, just like they're excited about every championship that happens here in this state, whether it be golf or baseball or hockey or football or whatever. The fans here are great fans. I'm not surprised at all.
Q. When you think of the majors, what are the characteristics of this one separated from the other ones? What sort of springs to mind when you think of the PGA, whether it be the field or whatnot that makes this different?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, you know, I think this may have the strongest field of any tournament that we play all year. I think all Top 100 guys in the ranking are here this week.
MODERATOR: It was last week. We're now at 99 of the Top 100 because the world rankings bumped one person, which would be an all-time record.
TOM LEHMAN: There you have it right there. It's a great field. It's not like the US Open, the Masters, THE PLAYERS Championship aren't, because they are, too. But we're talking, you know, every guy in the Top 100 except for one being here. That alone makes it special. The venue, the golf course, The PGA of America does a great job of organizing the event. It's a major championship. The golf course is definitely a major championship material. It's legitimate championship track. It's always produced, you know, great winners.
Q. Do you remember what Hogan Tour event you were playing in '91 when the US Open was here? What were you doing that week?
TOM LEHMAN: I had to qualify, obviously. I made it through the first round, then lost in a playoff in the second round in Louisville. You know, it's the kind of thing where the Hogan Tour was in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, the week of the qualifying. All the Hogan Tour guys signed up to play in Louisville for the sectional. As you well know, unless it's where the Tour guys are playing, you have two or three spots only. We had 60 or 70 Hogan Tour players fighting for three or four spots in Louisville, which was very difficult. I lost in the playoff, which was extremely heartbreaking because I really wanted to play the US Open here. I ended up sitting on the sidelines watching, unfortunately.
TOM LEHMAN: I'm sure there was. I take that back. We had a week off that week and I was in Michigan with some good friends of ours watching it on TV. We went to Michigan, spent the week fishing and water-skiing, doing all the stuff that younger guys can do without getting hurt.
Q. When you think of August, playing golf in Minnesota, do you think of hot, still, humid, or do you think of windy, fresh days like this?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, when I think of Hazeltine, I think of windy, fresh days. It seems like there's more of those days here than otherwise. If you have seven days to play golf, I would think you're going to get four or five breezy days and maybe a couple that are, you know, mild. So the temperature is 70 or 90, it could be anything. But usually the wind does blow here.
Q. Can you tell us, do you think 16 is going to play the hardest this week? What is going to play the easiest?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, I think the 12th hole is a great hole. I think that's a very difficult golf hole. There's a few new tee since the '91 Open. It's quite a bit longer. It's a tough par 4. I think that's going to be a very difficult hole. It's one of the toughest greens on the course, as well. The 16th hole is just tricky. You have to hit a good tee shot and good iron. I'd say there will be more big numbers made on 16 maybe than any other hole. But I think 12 will be very difficult, as well. It's normally going to be into the wind, unless the wind switches to the north. It's going to play very long. Easiest hole more than likely will be No. 7, unless there's (inaudible) able to hole it. I don't know. I think I know it fairly well. It's a par 5 that you can reach in two. If you can't, you can lay it up short, hit wedges to it. I think you'll see a lot of birdies and some eagles on the 7th hole.
Q. Regarding your roots here, could you talk about the time you almost took a job at the University, you were going to be selling skis part of the year, I think?
TOM LEHMAN: Pretty close. I interviewed for the job. The thing that kind of broke the deal, besides the fact that I probably wasn't going to be any good and they didn't want me (laughter), they wanted me to rent cross-country skis in the wintertime. Rick Bay was the athletic director. We still trade notes every year. He sends me a note usually at Christmas to say, "Aren't you glad that I wanted you to rent cross-country skis at the U of M golf course?" U of M made a great decision when they hired Ron Means (phonetic). He did a great job with the program for a long time. Obviously, it was a great decision for me, too.
Q. Do you remember when that was?
TOM LEHMAN: I think that was about '88 or '89, right in there somewhere.
Q. From there?
TOM LEHMAN: From there I started playing in Asia, Japan, Hogan Tour for the next few years.
Q. Given that you have four Tour guys from Minnesota, given the long summers you had here, would you consider that a high number or low number of guys on Tour?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, I would say it's actually kind of a low number, is my opinion. There's always been many, many talented golfers from this state. Just because you were born and raised in Minnesota doesn't mean you have a lack of talent, it just means you have a lack of experience. So I think there is many golfers who have the capability of being Tour players who may not give themselves enough time to achieve and to gain the experience and the maturity they need as a player. Perfect example, for a different reason, is Dave Tentis, who I played with this morning. Dave played. I think he won the Australian Open one year down on the Australian Tour. He was always a great player, played at Houston in college, got his Tour card, wrecked his shoulder after four tournaments, had to quit. He's a club pro. Very talented guy. A guy that could have been a world beater on the tour if things had gone his way and he had a little bit of luck with his health. There's always been talented guys in this state.
Q. With much of the length in the par 5s, sounds like it's more of a Muirfield where a lot of players will have a shot at victory than it was at Bethpage where it was just the select long hitters, so to speak?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, that's a hard question. I mean, on paper, possibly yes, because I don't think length is the overriding factor here. The favorites are still the favorites. There are still the handful of guys that are the guys to beat. But length is not going to kill you. The only hole that I think that is Bethpage-ish really is No. 3. If you get a good wind in your face, some guys won't be able to reach that fairway. Other than that, it's all right there in front of you and you can play. That's what I like about the course. The course is not tricky, it's not unfair. It's all right in front of you and plays very fair.
Q. How many holes would you pull your driver on?
TOM LEHMAN: You know, not that many. I would think, let me see, three on the Front 9, then 11, 12, 15 and 18. Probably seven, six or seven, maybe eight depending. Maybe about seven.
Q. Can you talk about your feelings about coming home this week with the situation at your alma mater right now?
TOM LEHMAN: It's quite an inspiration. We had some stuff we did together during my charity golf tournament earlier this summer. I got to meet some of the guys for the first time, you know, see some of the guys again that I haven't seen for a while, talk to the coach. It's a very incredible story, the story of their golf season, their golf team. I pulled out my Golden Gopher head cover for this week because I want to show my support and admiration for that golf team.
Q. Given what we were saying about the strength of the field, is this the hardest to win in terms of the four majors? In terms of the setup, is the setup at this major the most like a regular Tour event in that the USGA doesn't come in and make it abysmally punitive and unplayable for a lot?
TOM LEHMAN: I think the USGA has actually softened their setup a little bit in terms of the rough, definitely. So I think this course is very similar to a US Open. The setup historically over the last several years I've been a part of the PGA Championship has been very much like a US Open. You know, great courses like (inaudible), Atlanta Athletic Club, they're all US Open-style courses and the setup has been very much that way. I really don't see much difference. Hardest to win? They're all hard to win. I would say that the hardest to win, you know, for the average guy, might be Augusta just because Augusta, it really requires some special talent, you know, in all parts of your game. The one thing about courses with higher rough is that it can tend to be a kind of course where you can make a lot of pars, whereas Augusta, you definitely need to make some birdies in there, too. It's definitely difficult to do that now with the length and those greens.
Q. Did you ever play here as a junior before they changed the setup when it was all dog legs?
TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, I did. I played here much more during that time when I was in high school and college than I have since then. The course has changed dramatically. It's a much better course now than it was 20 years ago.
Q. They've erected a memorial to Payne Stewart on the 16th. I'm wondering if you've seen it, your thoughts on that.
TOM LEHMAN: I've seen it. I've walked over it. I was actually down there this morning when they had the ceremony, which was a very moving little ceremony. I think it's really appropriate. I made a few comments this morning at the ceremony. I remember in Houston when we had the memorial service after his death, we said we would never forget Payne. I think we haven't. I really appreciate the fact that Hazeltine National has taken the effort, the time, had the desire to do something that will always memorialize him here at Hazeltine. Whenever you walk across that bridge, you'll see that inscription with his name on it. People will think of Payne Stewart. I think it's appropriate. I personally appreciate it.
Q. How are the greens rolling? How are you putting?
TOM LEHMAN: Putting is probably the strength of my game right now. Ever since I switched to the long putter, I have dramatically improved my putting. I feel very comfortable with it. I'm putting well. The greens are very true. They're rolling at a pretty good speed. I'm sure it will quicken as the week goes by. I'm not sure how the greens handle stress or how they handle all the traffic. I'm not sure if they bump up or spike up or whatever, we'll find that out. The greens right now are pretty good.
Q. A lot of focus on Phil this week, being the last major of the year. If you could give him one piece of advice, what would it take for him to do it?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, you know, first of all, I don't think he really needs any advice. I think he understands his game, he understands how to win as well as anyone. I don't think I need to give him any. I have a tremendous amount of confidence in his ability, a tremendous amount of respect for him as a golfer. I truly feel from the bottom of my heart, when all is said and done, he's going to win several majors. Once he wins one, he's going to win a bunch. You can write that down and mark my words on that.
Q. Do you think it's anything wrong or just a matter of circumstance?
TOM LEHMAN: He's played some very good tournaments and lost. He's made a few mistakes and lost, too. But haven't we all? I thought last year, for example, I thought he played great. I thought he played a phenomenal tournament the first two days, didn't make many mistakes. He didn't make any mistakes on Saturday or Sunday. He 3-putted the 16th hole. That's the only mistake I saw him make the whole Back 9. David Toms just played a little bit better. I'm sure he was very disappointed with that, but I was actually very proud of the way he played because I thought he played a very smart tournament and played very well and played well enough to win, but just didn't. He played well at Augusta a couple times, hasn't won. One of these times I think he's going to start the last round two or three shots behind, shoot about 65, and he's going to win. That's going to be the kickoff to his run of majors.
Q. The disappointment of not making The Ryder Cup last year, is that still with you? Do you agree with the decision to keep the team as is?
TOM LEHMAN: Are you from England or something? Give me a break (laughter). Of course, it was disappointing. That's a year ago. A lot's happened in the last year. I think everybody - at least I have - I feel especially with what happened last September kind of puts the right perspective in your head to put away your frustrations and move on. Life is too short to hold on to resentments or grudges or anger or disappointments. You just move on. I wish that team all the success in the world. I think they have a great squad. I'm sure they're going to go over and play very well. They have a great captain, assistant. They'll be just fine without me.
Q. Will it matter that a number of the players on both sides are not playing as well this year as they had been leading up to last September?
TOM LEHMAN: I don't think it really matters. Once you get in that environment, in that atmosphere, which is very exciting, very electric, the adrenaline starts pumping. You can be playing very poorly going in and suddenly your game kicks into gear. There's really nothing like the atmosphere of a Ryder Cup, which is what I'm going to miss, miss being part of that atmosphere. I respect this year's Ryder Cup will be conducted very competitively and I'm sure, though, that the atmosphere will be a little more dignified, a little more respectful of each other possibly. But still, you know, country against country does bring out competitiveness. It will be exciting.
Q. If someone in the Top 10 has to withdraw for injuries, do you go to the 11th person?
MODERATOR: If a person that has made the team on points is injured, the next person on points, which happens to be the No. 11 person, which happens to be the person sitting next to me, moves in. If it's one of the captain's picks that are injured, the captain identifies anybody he likes.
Q. Is your relationship with Curtis good enough that you think he might consider you?
TOM LEHMAN: How do you answer that one? Well, no, you know, I fully expect that the 12 guys who made the team are going to be the 12 guys to tee it up. Would I be ready to play? Of course, I would. It would be a thrill to go play. Certainly you wouldn't want to do it at the expense of somebody else being hurt or sick or whatever. You know, I'm hoping that the 12 guys who are on the team, they all deserve the right to go compete, they all deserve the right to go play for the United States, they've earned it. I would prefer it greatly if all 12 of those guys went over there and played.
Q. The 3rd hole, a hole that long, does it frighten you, make you chuckle, think, "Where is this game headed?"
TOM LEHMAN: It would make me chuckle if somebody hit driver, 5-iron on the green. Then I would be worried about the game. I'm hitting driver, 3-wood, 9-iron when it's into the wind, which is what I hit today. Actually, driver, 3-wood, 8-iron. The distance these guys is hitting it is very scary. Capitol Pines a couple weeks ago, Hank was hitting a house on the side of the mountain about 380 yards away, 90 feet above the level of the range. How a guy can hit a ball that far or high is beyond me. I was hitting my best drive, landing 70 yards short of the house. The house is supposedly built there because you couldn't reach it. I guess Hank proved them wrong. That's pretty spooky.
Q. Speaking of one of the guys who might reach that par 3 in two, Tiger Woods. Is there a sense in the locker room, are guys kind of hoping that somebody really can challenge him, I don't want to say root against him, but rooting extra hard for someone to step up and knock him off?
TOM LEHMAN: I don't know. I really don't concern myself with that a whole lot. My biggest concern is, "What can I do to get better? What can I do to compete better?" That's really the way it should be. You tee it up on Thursday against everybody else. Everybody starts on the same level. If you can't beat the guy, you can't beat the guy. You need to give him a lot of credit. If you're rooting against him, I think you're definitely a poor sport, definitely should maybe look at yourself in the mirror and try to examine what you're all about. To root against somebody I think is the ultimate in poor sportsmanship.
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