March 20, 1999
LEE PATTERSON: Good round. Maybe just a couple thoughts about that and heading into tomorrow.
TOM LEHMAN: Well, I am very happy with my round. I putted extremely well. I hit a lot of good shots, though, and hit a lot of greens, hit a lot of fairways. Made all of the crucial putts that you have to make, all the 5-, 6-, 7-footers. And I have been making them all week long, so my stroke feels great. And I hope I just will hold out another day and another week.
LEE PATTERSON: Any questions?
Q. What can you say about the quality of this Tour, with two guys from Minnesota out in the top 3 of this tournament, where your golf season is about what, ten days long?
TOM LEHMAN: What do you mean by that? (Laughter). Are you trying to imply something? I think it just says that, you know, it doesn't matter where you come from. The golf season is short in Minnesota, I know I had played, you know, all the way through high school, I played basically four months of the year. Started football in August, and so you played from April, May, June, July. That was about it. So there is just a lot of really talented kids all over the country. Northern climates, southern climates, and you just need the opportunity.
Q. What happened in August?
TOM LEHMAN: We started two-a-day-football practices. You are too sore to play golf then.
Q. Have you just figured if you will keep playing your chances will come?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, of course, winning is kind of front-and-center on my mind. I think I need to get back on track. But I just really believe that if I keep on playing and working hard that it will happen. If not this week, maybe next. If not next, maybe the week after. But you are right, though. I feel there is a definite need to win for a number of different reasons, but my expectation level is pretty high.
Q. Nice daily double to take Jack and Arnie's tournament?
TOM LEHMAN: It would be nice.
Q. Anything extra special about it since Arnie is hosting this event?
TOM LEHMAN: He is a special person. He is a one-in-a-zillion kind of person. I read somewhere where somebody had said that every golfer ought to hit their knees and thank God for what Arnold has done for the Tour. He is probably right about that. So, he is a special person and he just -- the thing I respect so much about him is just the way he makes everybody around him feel so special. He doesn't ever have the attitude of kind-of-get-out-of-my-face. He's just never in too big a hurry to give a kid an autograph. And that is a very special quality.
Q. Jack Nicklaus has done a lot. This year at The Masters, first time maybe in four years that you all would play at Augusta without Jack Nicklaus present. Would it seem different there without Jack?
TOM LEHMAN: Oh, without question. When you have a legend of the game like Jack, maybe the greatest player ever, in his first one he hasn't played in, it is going to be a definite big gap in the field because of that. He will definitely be missed.
Q. You obviously have been in a situation many times just not as much recently. What is it like to be back in the hunt again, just being out there today and seeing you are close to the lead again?
TOM LEHMAN: It feels really good. Kind of maybe the time away helped because I felt that I was far less impatient with myself today. Didn't have any real anxiety about hitting a bad shots. Kind of forgave myself for the mistakes that I made a lot easier. Maybe the expectation level wasn't quite as high as maybe as it was last year. So I think those are all good things.
Q. As hard as these greens are, do you feel a sense of accomplishment going through 18 without a bogey?
TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, playing a bogey-free golf around here takes great putting more than anything. You have got to make the right putts.
Q. Considering the time you have been away and saying you may be a week ahead of schedule, if someone would have told you Thursday that you would be in the hunt Sunday, would you have been surprised at all?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, if you would have told me that last Sunday as I was shooting 79 at the Honda, I probably would have been pretty surprised. But I have hit the ball pretty solidly all through the last week and a half, playing last week and practice this week, so, am I surprised? A little bit. By the same time, I know that you just never know in this game when your week is going to be.
Q. This is like your third start this year. How is your endurance both physically and also mentally through 18 holes - actually, 54 to this point - are you there mentally as much as you are to --
TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, I think concentration-wise it really helps to be near the lead. Because that got me really focused right off the bat, and I think I had said yesterday the toughest thing has been, you know, almost the toughest thing has been the concentration to be really focused on every shot. It has been easy to let my mind wander off. So playing today, especially with the guys in back making birdies, you know, really kind of kept my mind, you know, right where it needed to be.
Q. Are you 100%?
TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, I think so. I am not as strong in my right shoulder as I was before the injury, but I am still rehabbing. It is getting stronger. It is way stronger than it was like, say, last October. There is no pain. It can get stronger still, but that is about it.
Q. You had mentioned "next week" a couple times. What is the significance -- was that kind of your target date or the --
TOM LEHMAN: I think THE PLAYERS Championship is like a fifth major in every which way possible, great field, great course, usually has high, rough firm greens, narrow fairways - everything about it just reeks of being a major championship, so even though it is not one, in my opinion it is right up there with them. So if you had to pick five tournaments throughout the year that you really wanted to win, it would be the four majors and THE PLAYERS that is my opinion.
Q. As far as it relates to your comeback this year, does that also tie in?
TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, I definitely wanted to be healthy by THE PLAYERS Championship.
Q. Some notice about the talk about the greens on Tour. You have missed some of the tournaments. With the greens being firmer than past years, does that suit you?
TOM LEHMAN: I love it. I have played my best golf normally on very firm greens. I like it.
Q. Does it separate the pretenders from the --
TOM LEHMAN: Well, you need to hit it on the fairway to hit it on the green. You need to hit crisp iron shots to hold the greens, putt well, chip well. Adds a little element of, you know, of separation.
Q. Just to clarify, in your surgery, at some point I saw where it said "Ligament damage." I also saw "Bone spurs." Was it both that happened with the surgery?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, I separated my shoulder and so they had to go in -- the doctor had to go in and because the separation was severe enough where there was constant rubbing and increasing inflammation the bone end of the clavicle basically fell apart. They had to go in, chop off about three-quarters of an inch off the clavicle where it goes to the AC joint and reattach the ligament. There was no muscle damage, no tendon damage; none of that rotator stuff. It was basically chopping off the bone and letting it heal.
Q. You make it sound simple.
TOM LEHMAN: It could be a lot worse. It wasn't a Greg Norman type thing. It wasn't a rotator cuff problem that can be lingering thing for a long, long time. It is the kind of thing where once you do it, unless there is some kind of unforeseen complication, it should be done.
Q. Have you performed your last handstand?
TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, we will see. Usually not that smart as I proved yesterday.
Q. Can you compare coming back from an injury to other things that you have overcome in your golf career, playing all over the world and --
TOM LEHMAN: I think this is the easier, you know, overcoming an injury is easier overcoming a lack of confidence or overcoming, you know, lack of money or something like that. This is definitely easier.
Q. What did you do yesterday that was not so smart?
TOM LEHMAN: I made a comment about the governor of Minnesota. I decided --
Q. Hear from him?
TOM LEHMAN: No, but that was a stupid thing for me to say.
Q. Why don't you go over your birdies for us real quick.
TOM LEHMAN: Birdied 3. Hit a 9-iron about three feet. 4, I hit a 3-wood just over the back edge, chipped up made about 8-footer. Next birdie was 12. I hit a 3-wood pin-high, chipped on about eight feet, made that. Birdied the next hole, 9-iron about ten feet, and birdied the 16th, hit sand wedge about six feet. Then 18, I hit a 9-iron in there about 15 feet.
Q. Any thoughts about The Masters yet?
TOM LEHMAN: No, haven't thought much about it.
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