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February 22, 2002

Tom Lehman


JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Thank you, Tom, for joining us. Fun little match out there today. Why don't you share a little bit with us, and then we'll go into some questions.

TOM LEHMAN: Well, it's definitely my pleasure to be here.

It was a good match. Actually, it was a great match for about the first ten or 11 holes. Matt started off the day playing extremely well. He made three birdies in the first five or six holes, I think, but I was able to kind of match him and then birdied the ninth to go 1-up. At that point, it seemed like everything was going my way.

So the turning point probably -- not sure whether that there was one, but there was one at the turn, knocked it onto 12 in two and made birdie to go 2-up. Then he made three bogeys in a row to finish the match so, it was a fizzling finish.

Q. The shot out of the rough on 10, was that an indication of how well you were hitting the ball?

TOM LEHMAN: I'm hitting my irons, especially, right in the mid the of the club face, hitting it solid. Driving the ball in play for the most part. The drive on 10 is a tough drive because the tee aims you straight into the trees and subconsciously, it's hard to aim far left and that's why you see a lot of guys missing right there. But overall tee-to-green my game is in really good shape. If I can make a few more putts I'll be in business.

Q. What was the yardage?

TOM LEHMAN: I had 156 to the front and 171 or something like that to the pin. 8-iron No. 10.

Q. Can you talk about the greens and their consistency or inconsistency, to the poa annua?

TOM LEHMAN: The poa annua, what can you say, they are very inconsistent. You have some putts that roll very nicely and some that don't roll at all. You know, when I played Ernie yesterday, he had to make two 5-footers on the 18th hole and then again on the first extra hole, and 5-footers are about 50/50 out there sometimes on some of those greens; and he made one and missed one to lose the match. It's not uncommon to miss 5-footers on these greens.

Q. Does this format suit your game, does it fire you up maybe in a way that stroke-play doesn't?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, it's unique in that, there's really no carrying over. It's all just, each is its own day and the next day a new one. There's really no past and no future and that's what's going on right the way in front of you and that's really the way it should be in stroke-play. So, I think there are some lessons to be learned in this format.

Q. Some people, after all of these high seeds were eliminated, said perhaps they should have this be stroke-play followed by match-play. Do you have any problem with this format, just, hey, you've got to produce or you're out?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I think it's crazy. I mean, maybe the TV doesn't like it so much that Tiger is not here, but what the heck, if Pete Sampras loses the first round, he doesn't keep on playing until he makes it to the finals. That's the way sports is, the top guy can lose to the bottom guy and that's the beauty of sports.

Q. What lessons could you apply to medal play?

TOM LEHMAN: Just that there's self-imposed pressure playing in a stroke-play event, knowing that you have to post that score. If you were to go around with most of the guys you were playing this week, who are winning, they probably would be about 18-under for four rounds or something like that. It's like, "oh, yeah, I guess I'm 16-under for the first four days here and I only played 63 holes."

So, that's the lesson, is don't get too bogged down with your score. Just kind of keep it in the present, so to speak.

Q. Have you ever been in a situation where they had to measure -- take that string out?

TOM LEHMAN: Dental floss, no less.

Well, yeah, that's happened a few times.

Q. I know it's an old theme, but from last year, do you kind of relish the opportunity to remind some people of what a great match-play player you have been in the past? Does that come into play this week?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I'm not ready to answer that question at all.

Q. After 2001, did you come into 2002 with a fresh approach, the same approach?

TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, the same approach. Fresh, it was definitely -- I've been looking forward to the season since probably last October. I feel like I'm coming in here with a great attitude. My game has not been quite what I've been hoping for and I haven't been really making a lot of putts that year, but the greens on the West Coast, it seems to me like they are either going in or not going in, playing on so much poa annua. It's hard to get the ball rolling consistency.

And putting is so much confidence, you can make it in on a gravel road if you have the confidence going; and you can't make it from three feet on perfect surfaces if you don't have it.

I feel like getting off the West Coast will be better for me when it comes to making a few more putts.

Q. With the injury, I believe it was at Birkdale, the British Open injury, did that affect your game for a couple of years were you healthy and are you completely recovered from that now?

TOM LEHMAN: It took a while, but I think any time you have surgery, it take as while to recover, and getting the full strength back, that probably took at least six months.

But beyond that, getting it to the point where you don't feel your shoulder, it took a year and a half. If you were walking normally, you don't, you know, you don't feel your knee or your ankle; it's just there, but when you can actually feel the tightness in your shoulder and it feels like it's tight and it is tight, you can feel it for a year and a half, that was difficult.

Q. Does it affect your confidence and the fact that, hey, I can't do this, or when am I going to be able to do what I did before?

TOM LEHMAN: It can change your swing. I think if anything at all through that injury, maybe I've changed my swing a little bit and it is not quite as repetitive as it was in '96, '97 and '98.

Q. Are you looking at the majors this year, you have one in Minnesota, Hazeltine, and I'm not sure if you're familiar with Bethpage. What are your thoughts heading into the four big ones this year?

TOM LEHMAN: The majors, I really look at there's five tournaments throughout the course of the year that are above the rest, THE PLAYERS Championship and the majors and if you had your choice of winning anything it would be one of those five.

But it is a special year for me because the PGA Championship is in Minneapolis, which I am looking forward to very much. Bethpage is a course no one has played before, which I think is -- there's really no advantage to anybody knowing the course, so to speak. Augusta will be interesting because of the added length. The British Open at Muirfield is probably as good as it gets, also. I think it's going to be great year for all of the majors.

Q. Have you played Hazeltine more than a lot of people?

TOM LEHMAN: I haven't played it very often.

Q. How important is it to win here for you this week?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, you know, winning, gosh, you play for four days and there are still three rounds to go, so we're almost kind of right in the middle of the tournament still. The thing about match-play is just take it one at a time. I don't think you've been thinking about winning the 36-hole final when it's only the third quarter.

But having said that, of course, winning this would mean a lot to me. It would mean a great deal to me. I feel like, you know, my game is suited to this tournament, and I think my chances are as good as anyone's.

Q. Do you think you've surprised some people still being around, considering who you have beaten and what you have accomplished?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I would hope not. I mean, maybe they are, but, you know, the way I look at it is the past five or six years, I've accomplished a lot in golf, been on Ryder Cup teams, ranked No. 1 in the world, winning a major championship. And I've done a lot of things IN golf that a lot of guys haven't; so I think overlooking me is a big mistake.

Q. You changed balls in Las Vegas this year and you said that at the time it made a big difference in your game. Are you still playing that ball and do you feel like that's really helped your game since October?

TOM LEHMAN: I switched to Srixon. I had played the Pro V1 and gained all of the length I wanted off the tee, but I really could not control my irons at all. The distance was way off. That's why I switched to a ball where I can control my distance and control my trajectory.

Q. Is this an event that -- how do I say this delicately, that someone with your experience or someone with a great deal of experience, has more of an advantage?

TOM LEHMAN: No, I don't think experience -- experience can help you if you have won close matches. If you've played in tough situations, with a lot of pressure and you've come through and you've won. If you've been in those situations and you've lost, experience is just the opposite. That's a bad experience; that's a nightmare, you want to forget about it.

Q. You said your game fits this course?

TOM LEHMAN: Fits this type of format.

Q. Could you expand on that?

TOM LEHMAN: My typical game is very consistent and if I make some putts and make some birdies, I'm going to be tough to beat.

It's not unusual for me to play a round of golf where I make five or six birdies and no bogeys or one bogey or two bogeys because my game has generally been: Keep it in play, knock it on the green and if the ball goes in the hole, I've got a good chance.

Q. Is there a reason you went to the Tam O'Shanter look this year?

TOM LEHMAN: Just because I like it. That's about it, yeah.

Q. It's a good look.

TOM LEHMAN: Thank you.

End of FastScripts....

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