March 19, 1999
TOM LEHMAN: It felt good to go out there competing. Weather was perfect. The course is perfect. The greens are very firm, which is really the way that I like it. I like playing when the greens are very firm. I hit lot of good shots; but even more, I hit a lot of good putts. So, there is some areas of my game that are still shaky, but my putting right now is real solid.
LEE PATTERSON: Questions.
Q. With the greens as firm as they are, made putting end up being the key of the outcome of this tournament?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, putting, I mean, is the key to any tournament obviously. But you have to put the ball in the fairway when the greens get this firm or else you really can't really hold the greens. I think driving is always very important here, and you know, just kind of keeping your cool, I think. When the course gets firm and fast and the ball starts bouncing around, funny things can happen. You got to keep your head. So, if you drive it in the fairway and putt well, you are going to be in business.
Q. You're really competitive right now. Are you a little bit ahead of where you thought you might be at this time?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, it is hard to say.
Q. As far as the comeback is concerned.
TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, I was really hoping that -- obviously played that Match Play thing. I played 17 holes, which is four more than my brother thought I would play. In fact, he was talking to a friend of his, and he says Tom is playing this week at La Costa. He goes, yeah, he is probably going to play 14 holes and go home. I actually got to 17, so I feel like I achieved my goal there. But I was hoping that if I can get to THE PLAYERS Championship and have, you know, a decent feel for my game, you know, I would be very happy. And I was hoping that I could, you know, play decently last week, which I didn't. I played poorly. And then maybe improve this week and maybe be on my game by next week, and so feel like I may be a week ahead of schedule.
Q. How big was it to just barely sneak in and make the cut?
TOM LEHMAN: It was a really a big deal. I needed to get four competitive rounds. Mentally and physically, I needed to be able to play for four days. And even though the wind blew really hard and I didn't fair very well, I hit a lot of really good shots. And you know, my short game has been really rusty, so from like the wedges. And I threw a lot of shots from 100 yards in. I needed to have those rounds to kind of work on that.
Q. What has been the toughest part to get back? Short game or the mental part?
TOM LEHMAN: I'd say concentration and the little 80-, 60-yard, 70-yard shots, generally I am pretty good at -- I usually like my chances from 70, 80 yards, and I have been missing greens from 70 yards. I mean, last week, the third round at the Honda, I had 40 yards to the front on the first hole. Missed the green. Had 30 yards to the front on the third hole. Missed the green. It is like: This is great. Hit driver down there 320, then miss the green. But that has been probably the most difficult part to those two things: Concentration and the finesse wedges.
Q. Short game, wouldn't that be the first thing you would have sort of gotten into after --
TOM LEHMAN: It was. I was champion on the range. But it is just funny. Competition is different. You can practice and play all you want to at home, but there is nothing that replaces competition. Hitting a little shot when you have the wind blowing, you know, 30 in your face or a crosswind, or the greens firm, you just need to play, to get used to those shots.
Q. Being the champion on the range, were you surprised that you had the problem?
TOM LEHMAN: No, that is generally the way it goes. I mean there is a million players in this country who are Jack Nicklaus on the range. They get on the course, they turn into a chump, so, you know, that is just the way it is.
Q. Some of us know that feeling.
TOM LEHMAN: I know that feeling. Shoot, like I say, last week I couldn't hit the green from 40 yards away. So --
Q. You think maybe this is your best round back since the British?
TOM LEHMAN: I played two pretty good rounds at THE TOUR Championship last fall, but this is really the first two rounds I played, you know, where I have been able to work hard, practice hard, have no pain and play. So last year just my arm was so weak that it just would fall apart by the middle of the tournament. It was no good anymore. There is a different story. Now I can actually practice hard, play hard, and come back the next day and do it again.
Q. Are you past the point where you flinch?
TOM LEHMAN: Oh, yeah. I worked it in pretty slowly. Started with just little wedges, I would hit 30 or 40 shots a day. Then a week later hit 7-irons and worked my way up. If it ever got to the point where it was painful, I'd stop, so, I am way past flinching.
Q. You said yesterday, Tom, that you have about 80% strength in your shoulder.
TOM LEHMAN: Yeah.
Q. What do you do to get it up to 100 and how long does it take?
TOM LEHMAN: I don't know. I go over to the fitness van when I am here or go to, you know, the physical therapist's place at home. There is just a whole program I go through. It's your basic weightlifting. Barbells, you know, the machines, just there is like probably 20 exercises.
Q. What do you lose with only 80% strength? Distance?
TOM LEHMAN: I'd say maybe a little distance, maybe isn't quite as easy to hit that hard draw that I like to hit, you know, with the flip-side the ball is going pretty straight, straight is never too bad.
Q. Going back as far as you want, back up to the top?
TOM LEHMAN: I feel like I can usually if I get up in the morning I might be a little stiff and maybe feel a little restricted, but once I get loose, it is fine.
Q. Swing is back to pretty much where it is?
TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, it is to the point where there is no excuse with my shoulder. There is none. If I ever say there is, I am lying.
Q. Take off a week after TPC?
TOM LEHMAN: Yeah.
Q. When you realized the shoulder was as serious as it was, how deep were your -- were you thinking it would be a long time and thinking that --
TOM LEHMAN: It might be over? I wasn't too afraid of that. Dr. Yocum is a great doctor. I asked him that question, what are the risks. He said, well, there is always risks but, you know, it is less than a 1% chance that anything bad will happen. This is a pretty basic procedure. You go in, you cut off the end of the clavicle and reattack the ligament and sew it back up and three months later you should be ready to go. I had a lot of confidence in him and he was basically right on the button.
Q. Norman talks about his time off; that it was a great refreshing time - to recharge and everything. Was it in some ways -- did that work for you?
TOM LEHMAN: Oh, yeah, he is right on the button. I haven't had three months at home straight, you know, since before I went to college, I think. So it was nice to have that time to be home and in fact it is no nice, you almost kind of look forward to doing it again sometime. Obviously there is a time and place for that, but it is really nice to kind of have your life with in a routine; to be able to do the things that, you know, a normal lifestyle will allow you to do. But I miss the competition. You can't have both and so, you know, you kind of take the travelling circus on the road, take the kids, grab your wife, and away you go.
Q. Was the surgery direct result of -- was your shoulder messed up and the British Open finished it off?
TOM LEHMAN: It was a direct result of that injury.
Q. Do you enjoy the physical exercise?
TOM LEHMAN: I enjoy it. The hardest thing is being disciplined enough to make sure you get the time to do it. Because three times a day for me and it takes 45 minutes a crack. That is a lot of time to be devoting. It was nice to kind of force yourself to do it. It feels good to work and be physical and work hard and, you know, because not only doing with the shoulder, but you are working on the Stairmaster and the bike and that kind of thing and getting a good workout. It felt good to be able to do. That is -- that is kind of the routine is that I am talking about, getting in a routine to do things like that and it felt nice to do that.
Q. How much physical work outside of golf itself do you do now?
TOM LEHMAN: I am still doing -- well, it takes about 45 minutes everyday to do the weightlifting. So, that is basically what I am doing.
Q. With the fairways at Bay Hill overseeded, do you see any difference as far as distance off the tee?
TOM LEHMAN: Less roll. But we have been fortunate that the weather is so good and they have gotten kind of baked so the ball is bouncing some. If it were a little bit wet it would be playing really long because there definitely is a difference in the amount of roll you are getting.
Q. Greens even firming up little more than they were yesterday?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, I wouldn't say significantly softer this morning, but they were noticeably softer this morning than they were in the afternoon. I am expecting that they will be very firm in the afternoon again.
Q. How well do you know the Herron family?
TOM LEHMAN: Reasonably well. I played a lot of golf against Lumpy's dad as an amateur. He was obviously older than me, but he is a very good amateur in Minnesota. Tim is quite a bit younger than I am. I think he might be what, late 20s? Is that about right?
LEE PATTERSON: That is right.
TOM LEHMAN: So I really didn't play any golf against him growing up at all. His sister Alyssa (ph) works for my brother, so I have got to know her pretty well. I know them some better than others but it is a great family, very warm, open, fun loving bunch of people.
Q. His dad's name?
TOM LEHMAN: Carson.
Q. Did you do anything different with the family? Rock climbing? Gardening?
TOM LEHMAN: I went skiing once, but, no, nothing new. Just did a lot of bike riding with my kids, just the things that -- even still I am getting more involved with golf course design so I spend a lot of time visiting courses that we are building. I still stayed busy. You still gets tons of letters and things in the mail that you have to deal with. But it was just nice to have the time to, you know, go coach the softball league for your daughter or go watch your other daughter practice for her play, just the things that they are doing on a daily basis that I usually miss.
Q. Any term papers for Minnesota basketball team, did you --
TOM LEHMAN: They called me but they knew they had failed, so -- how about Jesse The Body saying why couldn't this wait until after the tournament? Like, give me a break, this guy is the governor, you have got to be kidding me. Wrong is wrong. I don't care if it's the day before NCAA or the day after, if something is not right, you call it. For him to say that, the guy is a complete idiot. Unbelievable.
Q. Tom supports the media.
TOM LEHMAN: Well, I mean, you just got to play by the rules. That is just plain and simple. If you don't play by the rules you get caught, shame on you.
Q. How did the Skins game fit in? What kind of shape are were you in that week? Was the surgery the next day or two days --
TOM LEHMAN: It was the day after, so.
Q. How did you do it that week?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, by last fall it was just -- my arm was so fatigued if I played more than actually -- if I played a four-round tournament I started out playing great; ended up playing terrible. So I can play nine holes a day, no problem; which the Skins game is nine holes a day. I was kind of hitting my stride.
LEE PATTERSON: Why don't you go over your birdies and eagle real quick.
TOM LEHMAN: Started on 10, first birdie was 14, hit really good 3-iron about 15 feet, made a good putt. 16th hole I hit a 3-wood from about 240, I guess. 15 feet back of the hole made that for eagle. Bogeyed the 18th. Birdied 6, hit a good drive, good 1-iron just over the back right side of the green, chipped up about two feet. Then 8th hole, hit a nice drive, 7-iron from 172, 15 feet back of the hole, made that.
Q. Thinking about taking three months off every year?
TOM LEHMAN: No, I will leave that for another time.
Q. You were testing balls earlier in the week. Did you make a ball change?
TOM LEHMAN: No. Actually went back to my old irons and stayed with the same old ball.
Q. What happened on 18?
TOM LEHMAN: 18 I hit it -- tried to hit a little cut 7-iron in there, went straight, bounced in the bunker, one-hopped in there and plugged. So I had to blast it out to the back of the green; made a good 2-putt from about 90 feet for a bogey, so I was happy to make a 5.
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