March 24, 2000
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA
JOAN V.T. ALEXANDER: We'd like to welcome Tom Lehman in the interview room. Excellent
round today. 4-under, 68; 5-under for the tournament. Let's talk about your round and then
take a couple of questions.
TOM LEHMAN: Well, I think I am not sure what has been said in here before -- I really
think that we, meaning the guys who played early yesterday and late today, got a big break
with the weather. I am not sure how the scores all balanced out, but it seemed like it was
probably quite a bit easier from our half of the draw. I think we got a nice break. But
with that said, I played pretty well, drove the ball very well, and made some putts,
especially made a nice save on the 18 for par, which is always a nice way to kind of
finish it off. So it is a kind of course where you hit some good shots that turn out
poorly and some poor shots that turn out pretty good. And so you just kind of take what
you can get.
Q. You have always seemed to play well at this course. Any particular reason?
TOM LEHMAN: I am not exactly sure why. I mean, other than that, I like it a lot. This
is one of my favorite courses we play all year. I think next to Pebble Beach, this maybe
Q. Why is that?
TOM LEHMAN: I just like the way it plays. I mean, there is some quirkiness to it, but I
think more than anything I like the fact that you can aim away from the pins a lot of
times and still get the ball close to the hole. You can be creative, and you can really
shape shots and use the undulations, and the ball can travel 50 feet across the green and
end up close to the hole. I kind of like that.
Q. How much of what you have done already this year, Tom, if any, would you think would
help you this weekend?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, I think having won this year kind of broke the streak. So I feel very
comfortable with my golf game. I am very at peace with myself and with my game and with
everything going on around me, so I am very comfortable on the golf course. So I am -- I
think my chances are as good as anyone's.
Q. I am trying to remember when you won at Phoenix, we asked you where you were there
in relation to your Player-of-the-Year season. I think you said you thought you were there
or maybe even a little better; is that --
TOM LEHMAN: I think I am playing as well as I was playing in '96, yeah.
Q. The question then is right now compared to say 1996, are you continuing on a forward
TOM LEHMAN: The first two days at Phoenix, I played about as well as I could play. I
don't think I am playing quite as well as that this week. But mentally I am very focused,
very sharp, which makes up for a lot. So I would say in terms of how I am playing now
compared to Phoenix, I am very, very close. Definitely driving the ball every bit as good
and making some putts too. So that is two things that are very important around here.
Q. Does that sort -- I know you are concentrating on this tournament, but there is
another one in a couple of weeks. Is it exciting to be playing like you are playing right
now at this time of year?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, it is always nice to play well. Especially in the beginning ones,
there is no question that if you are going to pick a tournament to play well in, you might
as well pick a big one. Unfortunately, you can't always control that. But a lot of times
when you kind of look at the past history and what works best for you, in terms of maybe
normally always playing best the second week in a row that you play, you know, you can
kind of gear up for the big ones that way. So it is nice to be able to feel like you are
peaking at the right time.
Q. I told you earlier in the week you had that look about you, and you talked earlier
about -- touched on it a little bit, about how you're at peace with yourself and happy
with your game. You have got that look and good feeling back.
TOM LEHMAN: (laughs) Yeah, I feel good. I really do. I feel good. I just feel
comfortable. I can't say it any other way. There is times when you get on a golf course
where you just don't feel comfortable, you don't---maybe you are not swinging well or
maybe there is something going on in your life where you are out of focus. I just feel
like everything is where -- right where it needs to be. My game is good, I have got a
great caddie, and together I think we are really making a lot of good decisions on the
course and we are not making many mistakes.
Q. Do you, because of your success here in the past, do you approach this tournament
more positively than, say, some others?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, I'll give you an example: Byron Nelson, I have never made a cut
there. I will go there and play as -- play as well as I can play, and I will shoot 142. I
will go there, and I will play as badly as I can play, and I will shoot 142. So I might as
well just send in my 142, which misses the cut by one, every year and just stay home. I
don't -- I am not comfortable there. The course for some reason doesn't quite click with
me; but this one, I have always played fairly well. I expect to play well. I feel like I
know how to play the course; and, therefore, I have a lot of really positive feelings
about this tournament.
Q. There has been a lot said in the last week about Colin talking about what happened
with Tiger, whether or not people thought it was over. You and Hal have both said very
strongly the other way this week. Is there a coincidence that you guys are where you are
at this week? And talk about the challenge this weekend in that regard.
TOM LEHMAN: I mean, after one round, I thought what Monty said was a little bit
strange. After one round it's still anybody's ballgame. After three rounds, now, it's a
little different story. Seemed like three rounds there is -- there is a little more
definiteness to the whole thing maybe. After one round, forget it. So this is a kind of
golf course that really rewards great course management, more than anything. I think there
is no reason why any number of guys can't win here. I expect Tiger Woods to play great. I
expect Tom Lehman to play great. I expect Ernie Els to play great. I expect a lot of guys
to play great. Anybody can win.
Q. Whether it is a feeling of needing to raise your game or a feeling of being
intimidated, has Tiger gotten into everyone's head one way or the other because of the way
he has played?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, you have to give credit where credit is due. I think I was always
raised in sports to think there is two cardinal sins in sports. One is underestimating
your opponent, and the other one is overestimating your opponent. Both ways don't do you
any good in terms of your own performance. I respect very much the other players on our
Tour. But yet, if I didn't think I was capable of beating them and winning, I wouldn't be
out here. So you look around, you see what guys have done, and you say: "Well done;
well played. Congratulations." You know. You deserve whatever you get. And you
respect them for it. But at the same time, you have to give yourself enough credit to go
out and do your best too.
Q. Have you seen Monty since Wednesday?
TOM LEHMAN: No.
Q. Would you say anything to him? What were you thinking?
TOM LEHMAN: No, I wouldn't say anything. I mean, whatever -- if that is what he was
thinking, that is what he was thinking. That is Monty.
Q. What is it about difficult conditions and difficult courses that seem to bring out
the best in you?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, I like firm conditions. There is no question about it. If you gave me
the choice of playing on rock-hard fairways and greens versus soft ones, I'd take
rock-hard every time. I think it creates, you know, creates -- it forces you to be really
patient, first of all, and to be very focused. And I guess if I had to evaluate myself,
when I focus well, I play well. Sometimes when the conditions are a little bit easy, a
little bit soft, more benign, my focus isn't anywhere near as good. If it's not a really
big tournament, maybe I tend to let down -- not quite as focused. So the hard conditions
and big tournaments you really kind of narrow my focus. I think that is a big reason why I
Q. How are these conditions compared to last year when there was a lot of complaining?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, I think they have done a better job this year. The greens actually
were receptive today. You could hit -- I mean, I hit 4-iron into No. 11 today, for
example, downwind. Landed on the green, actually stayed on the green. Landed and rolled
about 30 feet and stopped. I mean, downwind 4-iron to 11, forget it. Last year, that thing
would have been in the back bunker. So I think they have done an outstanding job with kind
of keeping control of the greens. I am sure they don't want to see a repeat performance of
Q. Is that fair or too easy? You talk about 4-iron that releases 30 feet. Are you
saying that is fair?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, I think that is fair because I hit it very well. Nice and high. If I
would have kind of blistered a low one in there, it still would have gone over. I hit a
really good shot and I got rewarded for it.
Q. Got a result that you might have expected?
TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, it was -- still rolled out quite a ways, but I was still on the green
putting. Fair is when the good shots are rewarded. Unfair is when a good shot is not
rewarded. Right now the course is rewarding good shots.
Q. What kinds of balance does it require this course between playing aggressive and
hanging onto what you have got?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, a little bit like Augusta in a way, kind of forces you to be
aggressive at times. The greens are sectioned off in a lot of cases where there is big
undulations and if you don't get it in the right spot, you have got a very difficult putt.
It kind of forces you very often to be somewhat aggressive to get it in a spot where you
can make a putt. So there is -- you can't play this course scared. Just no way. You can
play it smartly, play it with respect, but you can't play it scared.
Q. Two questions about 17. How big is the box that you are aiming at on 17?
TOM LEHMAN: It is not real big. I am kind of looking towards the middle of the green,
right on top of that hump. The pin today was back left. Tomorrow it is probably going to
be back middle, so I am kind of looking just over the ridge, it would be about 15 feet
short of where the pin will be.
Q. Like a kiddie pool size?
TOM LEHMAN: No, it is bigger than that. The pin on Sunday to the right is kiddie pool
size. That one there, you kind of have to go at that pin -- in order to get it close --
there is a little -- you can play a little bit left, kind of trickles down, but you can't
go too far left, so...
Q. Secondly, do you like that hole in terms of a concept? This is a great course. Does
this hole add to it or detract from it at all?
TOM LEHMAN: I think it adds. Although I would make one change to the green. I would go
in and raise up the front left of the green a little bit. It's gotten to the point now
where it really just slides right off. It gets to the fringe, comes like this; then the
fringe drops down even more. The ball is going off the left side of the green, just right
in the water. So I would flatten that just a little bit so that a ball that is coming down
the bank doesn't always go down into the water.
Q. How far has this golf course come since you started playing out here?
TOM LEHMAN: It's a different universe. When we played the Tour School here in 1982, the
greens were -- I mean, the greens were just -- well, as I say, if the greens were as fast
then as they are now, you couldn't have putted them. You probably couldn't find pins in a
lot of them. So they have tamed the greens down. They have added bunkers, taken some away,
but it's in phenomenal shape, so I think the course is tremendous.
Q. Fulton Allem was in here earlier entertaining us. He said that the guys in the
locker room make sure he has got a lot of friends in there, and a lot of other guys think
he's a jackass. Where do you fall in that spectrum? And do you --
TOM LEHMAN: Repeat that question.
Q. Fulton Allem -- good guy or jackass?
TOM LEHMAN: Oh, gee. Well, I think I like Fulty a lot. I met Fulton Allem in -- I guess
it was late '80s I was playing in South Africa. He is from a place called Bloom Fontaine
(phonetic), which is just basic South Africa towns. That is where I met him at. We get
along really well. I think he is -- Fulty is kind the of guy that you really don't get a
neutral opinion of. So either you like him or you don't. I like him a lot. My wife and I
both get along great with him. We like him a lot.
Q. Never had to get on you about speeding up at any time?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, not yet. No, but we are friends. We are definitely friends. And I
appreciate his friendship.
Q. You said that I am sure they didn't want to see a repeat performance of last year,
talking about the conditions. Who is the "They"?
TOM LEHMAN: That nebulous "they" out there --
Q. Also is there a player input that goes into the fact that it is not going to get as
severe this year?
TOM LEHMAN: I think there definitely is player input. And the "They" would
have to be the Tour staff, the guys who do the setup of the golf course along with the
superintendent. So I am sure that the players have given input. Like last year was a joke,
we can't get -- that was over the edge. So keep the greens alive this year. That should be
the goal. Let's keep them at least somewhat green, and somewhat living; therefore,
somewhat playable. So I think the rules officials, along from player input working with
the superintendent here, they have done a really good job.
Q. You said that today you thought the course was fair. Do you think the course was
TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, I think it was fair yesterday. It was a tough day, though. Because
even yesterday the greens held a shot. They were firm. They were down right hard in spots,
but they did hold for the most part, hold a shot. If you hit it in the fairway, you could
usually hold the green.
Q. Are you more satisfied with yesterday's round considering the conditions, or today's
TOM LEHMAN: Well, today was somewhat gusty also for a while there. But I think I played
better -- probably played better today. So I am happy with today's round.
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