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June 20, 1998

Tom Lehman


LES UNGER: Tell us what a difference a day makes.

TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, it does. I walked off the 18th yesterday, just ready to take somebody's head off, and I walked off the 18th today, feeling very happy. It was a very good day.

LES UNGER: Could you put it in terms of how you were hitting, how you were putting, or what.

TOM LEHMAN: I thought the course played extremely difficult. The fairways -- the sun really baked the fairways, and the wind has made them fast, and the ball kept on rolling. It was very difficult to get the ball in the fairway, much more difficult today than it has been the other two rounds. But I hit it pretty well, and I really didn't putt that great. The speed was off all day, but the greens were a lot slower than I was expecting.

LES UNGER: Would you mind taking us through the holes, please.

TOM LEHMAN: I started off on the first and just hit a great drive and hit a 6-iron to the green, but I missed the green and had a good chip. Made about a 5-footer for birdie. Second hole, 8-iron for 4 feet, and made a birdie. Third hole, I hit a 6-iron about 15 feet past and made that. I proceeded to miss the fairway on the next three holes, and made three good bogeys. Then the next birdie came on 14, hit a good drive on -- a pretty good 8-iron, that slid off the edge of the green, just off the edge and chipped it in from about 15 feet away. On the 18th, I hit a good 4-iron,-- and pitching wedge about 6 feet and made that, too.

LES UNGER: Okay. We'll take questions.

Q. Tom, this is the 4th straight year you've had a 60 in the third round, what is it with you and the third round?

TOM LEHMAN: I'm not sure. I guess sometimes when you just know that you just have to -- I don't know. Today, I was in a situation that I knew if I just maintained my composure and kept my head, that I could get back into the tournament. It was a tough day, I thought even par would be a good score. It was the same at Oakland Hills and Shinnecock and Congressional. The kind of day you're not trying to shoot yourself in the foot. Sometimes when you do, that good things happen.

Q. Tom, after leading this tournament three straight years, is there any comfort or some kind of -- do you feel good about having to make a run at somebody this year, instead of being the one that's being hunted?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, yeah, I think there's a -- definitely a little difference. I wouldn't say I would take a different approach to the way I play tomorrow, but a difference in how you feel about where you're at. I'm not sure what Payne Stewart is doing, but if he had a 2- or 3- or 4-shot lead going into the last round, it would make it easier for everybody else to feel a little less pressure, maybe be a little more at ease with the play -- and therefore shoot a good round.

Q. What did you feel, you said that you would have less pressure, can you speak about what you felt coming to the course those last three Sundays?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I'm sure that -- everybody has probably been very nervous at some point in their life. So nervous that you want to throw up almost. And the butterflies are there, and they come and they go, and it's not really until you start to play that they kind of settle down and go away a little bit. So the nice thing about playing here in San Francisco is that there's a 12:30 start for the last group, as opposed to 3 o'clock or 3:30 at the British Open when I won. Having to wait around all day to play sometimes can be very difficult, and playing at 12:30 is much easier.

Q. Tom, do you feel like this tournament owes you one?

TOM LEHMAN: No, I don't think it owes me one. I think I owe myself one, though.

Q. Tom, last time you were here for the Open, your career was having not the greatest success, you were struggling a bit. Do you think about that at all when you're out there, do you think about going back 11 years, and what it was like being here in '87?

TOM LEHMAN: I've thought about it a little bit. In '87 I was an assistant golf pro, and so I wasn't even playing at the time. So times have changed quite a bit. But as the times change, they just -- things keep building and keep on getting better, it doesn't seem like it's that monumental of a difference, because it's happened so gradually over the years, therefore it doesn't seem like it's that big of a deal.

Q. You put a pretty good hurt on the door yesterday when you came up. Were you mad at yourself or the pin or both?

TOM LEHMAN: Probably a little of both. I was more angry, really, at the way the 18th hole was set up. And I was angry that the day before the green was firm and yesterday it was as soft as a sponge. I was angry that the pin was in a spot that was going to make it very difficult or make it very easy for it to turn into kind of a luck type thing. And I was very angry that I hit a good 4-footer that hit a power lip and went ten feet back down the hill. If I would have gone ahead and made that putt, I would have been in a lot better mood. It was difficult. I didn't like the fact that the 16th hole I hit a little 9-iron that skipped over the green, and the 18th hole I hit a skipper wedge that backed up 16 feet. The greens weren't consistent.

Q. Tom, which holes are giving you the most trouble out there, which ones don't you want to face tomorrow?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, if we could just maybe skip that 5th hole, I'd appreciate it. We just go right from the 4th green to the 6th tee, and I'd be very happy. The tee shot is very awkward, and it's not just for me, I think, it's for everyone, especially today, the wind was right to left and the fairway goes right to left. And trying to get the ball in that fairway is really, really hard.

Q. I was wondering if you did any soul searching after last year's Sunday, and if so, how you could put that to practice tomorrow?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I think -- I definitely have thought about it, and I really don't think that I was too far away. I think if anything I just need to be a little more patient.

Q. Tom, would Payne have an advantage having won the Open and another major over somebody who hasn't won before?

TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, I think there's definitely the element that when you've won a major, when you've been a great champion like he's been, even though he hasn't won for a while, those feelings come back. You don't forget. You may get a little jittery, because you haven't been in that situation for a while, but you remember. I'm sure he'll be just fine. But I think that the advantage is a pretty marginal advantage, if any.

Q. Tom, the scores would suggest that the conditions were much more difficult today, were they?

TOM LEHMAN: I thought so, yeah. Definitely. The fairways were a lot faster, and it was hard to keep the ball in play.

Q. If you were to sum up your round today, what was the key to the round?

TOM LEHMAN: I'd say the key to the round was I made some really good short putts from about the 8th hole through about 13 or 14. I'm talking about some 3-footers and 4-footers, one 10-footer, but nice little short par putts that kind of kept the round going.

Q. What are you going to do with yourself tonight and tomorrow morning?

TOM LEHMAN: I've got to take -- I'm taking my kids to see Mulan tonight. They had a choice of going downtown to Pier 39 or a puppet show or going to the movies, and they chose the movies, so that's what we're doing.

Q. The last three years, I don't know if your superstitious, but did you try to vary things going into Sundays, each the last three years, or did you pretty much do the same thing year after year?

TOM LEHMAN: You do the same thing, definitely.

Q. Can you compare the course you anticipate tomorrow as opposed to the course you played in the last three Opens on the final day?

TOM LEHMAN: I think this one is more difficult to hit the fairways. I think as far as difficulty, this one may be the trickiest, just flat out hard I think Shinnecock was the toughest, but this one is trickier.

Q. Even where Payne was sitting yesterday, Hale said no one will be under par when this thing is over. Would you agree with that then, and would you agree with that?

TOM LEHMAN: Who said that?

Q. Hale Irwin, yesterday.

TOM LEHMAN: It's -- I think it's going to take some great golf to finish under par.

Q. Tom, the history of the Open at Olympic sort of dictates that the leader gets caught on Sunday and passed. Does that inspire you, the past three Opens here?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I guess that would be encouraging. But when you're really nervous, these fairways look like they're an inch wide, because of all the slope on them. And I think therefore if you're the leader and all you have to do is put the ball in play, it's a very tall task, it's a tall order. And so you can get pretty nervous with the lead on this course. And therefore I think guys who are behind don't quite have that pressure, and it's easy to make a good swing when you're feeling less pressure. So maybe that's the reason for it.

Q. Obviously we're asking these questions about the Open, and your order. The rest of the year, how often do you think about that, the Open, obviously at the Open you've got to be thinking about your history, how about the rest of the year, does it dominate your thoughts?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I think about it from time to time throughout the year. And as the season leads up to the Open, more and more I think about it. But I've always been pretty good at just focusing on what I'm doing, the task at hand, so playing Westchester, I'm thinking about Westchester, and on and on.

Q. Is being in contention on a Sunday at the U.S. Open fun or is it torture?

TOM LEHMAN: Good question. Well, you know, it's fun, but it's not fun in a way that -- like going to Six Flags is fun or riding a roller coaster. That's gutbusting lots of fun, and this is more like an experience. The experience of being there is what's fun about it. The competition is what's fun. But I don't think anybody enjoys completely just being really, really nervous, your stomach is churning all day. That's not fun. But the thrill of the competition is the thing, I think, that is the most fun.

Q. Wondering if that's a statistic sheet in your hands, and if so what leaps out at you?

TOM LEHMAN: It is a statistic sheet, I think what leaps out is just how the number of fairways and greens has decreased each day, as the course has gotten more difficult, it's more difficult to hit fairways and greens. I've hit 11 greens today, and so I think to hit 11 greens and shoot 2-under at a U.S. Open is -- that's pretty good.

Q. Are you as nervous as you have been in the past three, or is it being a little bit behind is making you less nervous?

TOM LEHMAN: I've been very calm this week, very calm. I've been nervous, definitely, but I haven't been caught up in the whole U.S. Open hysteria. And I think that's a good thing.

Q. Talk about the nervousness, is it different here at this Open than it is at the Masters or the British, where you've been in contention, as well?

TOM LEHMAN: I think nervous is nervous, but there's some tournaments where you don't just play with the fear of -- yesterday I played very well, I shot a 75. There's very few times I can ever remember going out and playing well and shooting five over. A U.S. Open can do that to you. You can shoot a bad score -- that's why it's important to make birdies. The one thing about the statistic sheet that I notice, it's obvious, but I made six birdies the first round and five birdies the third round. And the second I made zero. It shows you if you want to shoot a score, you have to make some birdies, and you can't go around any U.S. Open course just two putting all day, because you can't hit all the greens. You've got to make birdies somewhere.

Q. What would happen on the PGA TOUR, if Tour officials set up a course like an Open course every week?

TOM LEHMAN: You think slow play would have been a problem all through the years, it would have been a joke if we played these conditions all the time. I don't think the players would really object too much if the rough was real high and the greens were firm and fast, but the pace of play would be obscene.

Q. How do you avoid getting caught up in what you call the hysteria of the U.S. Open?

TOM LEHMAN: Oh, I think part of it just maturity. I think part of it is realizing that all you can do is your best. You go out and you play and your swing and you chase it. As long as you focus in on every shot and give your best, you can accept the results. And so hysteria kind of gets you thinking into the future, thinking about winning or thinking about what if I miss the cut or what if I hit it in the rough or what if I do this, what if I do that, that kind of thing leads to poor play.

Q. Everyone knows that a U.S. Open is going to be tough, the course is going to be set up to where it's really difficult. Do you think sometimes people get psyched out coming into the tournament knowing that -- knowing that the conditions will be rough?

TOM LEHMAN: I think so, because it's like a fight. You know you're in for a big fight, and if you don't feel like you're up to four days of just busting your buns and never giving up, it can deflate you before you even start. So, I think you have to come in knowing that it's going to be tough, knowing that it's going to be difficult, it's going to test you emotionally, it's going to test your nerves, it's going to test how much stamina and perseverance you have.

Q. The fact that the course changes every year, is it a little easier to put the past behind you because you're in a new setting and have different, new holes?

TOM LEHMAN: You know, the past is not really something that haunts me, so I don't think that's really too big a deal.

LES UNGER: Good luck tomorrow, Tom.

End of FastScripts....

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