June 17, 1998
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
LES UNGER: We have a gentleman with us who, I think most of us would like to see smiling after the fourth round instead of only the third round for a change. He has been a fantastic competitor in this Open for a while now and, Tom, we are glad to have you here. How are you playing.
TOM LEHMAN: Well, thank you. It is good to be here. I am playing pretty well. Feel like my golf game is probably as sharp as it has been all year.
LES UNGER: What is your comment about the golf course?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, I'm sure everybody said the same thing and so I am just going to echo what they say. You just don't want to be in the rough, period. But it is difficult because of the slope of the fairways. It is hard to keep the ball from running into the rough. So I don't care who you are, you are going to be playing out of the rough at some point in time throughout the week. So you just have to kind of swallow the pill, knock it back in the fairway, and try to make a 4 or a 5 the hard way.
LES UNGER: What is your mindset, your willpower knowing how close you have come? I mean, does that just make you try harder, or how would you describe that?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, I think I know what it is that got me into contention, and so I feel like that is something that I can just try to repeat, and that if I am playing well, and, you know, staying patient -- like I have been the last three, four years -- then I will probably be in contention again.
LES UNGER: Questions, please.
Q. What have you fixed since the Masters to get your golf game back on track.
TOM LEHMAN: Just rhythm. Rhythm has been off, I think mostly, because I have been swinging so much with my arms and my shoulders and my upper body instead of the lower body which has always been the leader of my golf swing. I have been working with Jim Flick for the last month pretty seriously on getting my legs back in control of the golf swing. The more I do that, the better I play.
Q. The previous Opens here have a history of where surprise winners knock off the big names in the game. (1) is there anything about this golf course that might dictate that and, (2), are there any unheralded golfers out there that you know of that are playing very well that might surprise most people this week.
TOM LEHMAN: Well, I mean, I am sure there are. Actually the second part first. There is a bunch of guys who are, quote-unquote, unheralded players who are great players. If you just go down the money list, those are the guys who are on the Tour, you will go across a bunch of them. So you can just start picking names out of a hat, really. A guy like Harrison Frazar has been playing so well this year. He fades the ball and hits it real long. And so, you know, a guy like that, if he plays well, is probably going to have a chance. So there is just all kind of good players. In a US Open, I think, especially on the course like this where the fairways have so much slope, you can hit really good shots and end up in the rough. So you don't have to be too far off, and there is little bit of a chance involved even sometimes with keeping the ball from rolling through the fairway. So I think you can hit a good shot, and you can be in a tough spot.
Q. You and Andy Martinez worked so well together. And, you have for the last few years. When he cracked his ribs in the basketball in L.A. this year, you have missed him for a couple of months. How significant of a loss is that and how glad are you to have him here this week?
TOM LEHMAN: I am thrilled to have him this week. Missing out of that 350-grand, second place check at TPC didn't make him very happy, but it made his replacement very happy. But Andrew is invaluable. He is really good. He is at his best when the pressure is on. And, so when the heat is up and you are nervous, he is always very positive, encouraging, let's-play-get-it-done-type guy. So I like having him out there with me. He knows the course very well. He plays here a lot.
Q. How would you describe your Open memories? Are they bittersweet? Are you glad they happened? Do you wish they would have never happened so you wouldn't be tormented like this? How would you describe them?
TOM LEHMAN: I think torment is a bad word. I have never been tormented by it ever. They are good memories. There is not many people who have a chance to play in the last group of a US Open, much less three years in a row. And there is not many guys that go to 72nd hole with a chance to win ever, much less two years in a row. I think my memories have been just great.
Q. When you left Congressional last year, I guess you wondered aloud what that little tiny missing element was to finish off the tournament. In the year that has past, do you think you have pinpointed what that is.
TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, I think, you know, getting a little bit too impatient. Kind of -- when you kind of get to the end, you feel like you have a chance to win, getting a little bit maybe too aggressive, trying to force it. Instead of just trying to keep on hitting, you know, conservatively, good shots and letting somebody else make the mistakes. So, I think if I can get in that situation again this year, I am just going to be looking towards more the middle of the greens.
Q. Tom, did you feel like you only have X-number of chances to be in contention at the Open? Do you worry about that -- that you have let some get away and --
TOM LEHMAN: Well, I think age is the only thing that limits you. If you look at all the great players, starting with Nicklaus, and their Open records, great players are going to be up there a lot. Only thing that slows you down is, you know, really your age. So, my abilities still are as good as it was last year, and I think I have four or five, at least, good years ahead. So I expect four or five more good chances.
Q. The fact that Jack played so well at The Masters and Tom Watson winning, are the older guys starting to reclaim this support a little bit, and how does that play into a tournament like the Open with the experience being such a factor?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, I think that there is -- just my feeling is that I remember four, five years ago when European players won all the Majors. The media was writing off the U.S. players saying there is no good U.S. players. Then of course the U.S. players have won almost every major since. Last year, some of these younger guys started stepping up, and now it is the young guys that are in control of the Tour. That happens for a season, and then Tom Watson wins, and Couples wins a couple of times, and suddenly it is the old guys again. So, things kind of go in cycles. And, great players are great players period; no matter how old you are. I think it is just kind of one of those things that happened last year. Justin and Tiger and Davis happened to win Majors. Now, this year if O'Meara and Freddy and myself and Greg Norman win Majors, then suddenly, well, the old guys are back. Well, the old guys never went anywhere. It is just that the younger guys played a little better last year.
TOM LEHMAN: A tournament like this? As far as age? Well, experience is definitely a factor. It helps to I think more than anything. Experience helps you take out that sand wedge and just pitch it back out in the fairway rather than just try to hit some miracle shot to the green. I made a bet last night with somebody that, unless you get incredibly lucky and happen to drive it in the rough in somebody else's divot where there is some grass missing, that I don't think you will see a single player reach the green in two from the rough.
Q. There was a lot of talk last year about Tiger winning the Grand Slam, it didn't hatch. Now, we are on a streak of what, 14 straight different champions in Majors. You talked a little bit how many great players there are out there now. Is that a streak that is going to continue because there is such excellence in the field that is just going to be hard to win back-to-back Majors.
TOM LEHMAN: I think that a big part of it is the depth of the field. I think another factor is the fact that so much happens to a player after he wins the major. And there is so much stuff coming at you, and there are so many demands on your time. Golf has got gotten to be so big, and you have so much corporate involvement. The top players have so many great sponsorship deals. If you win Majors, you are able to get to do all kinds of things for them as well as whatever else. So your time gets really cramped. So think combination of the depth of the field, having to deal with all the extracurricula stuff that takes time away from practice is a part of it also.
Q. You mentioned earlier that you are not tormented by any of the past three. Does one stand out more than the other - that bothers you the most when you think about any of the three that might have lingered or if you think back on it when you are asked about it still, gets to you a little bit?
TOM LEHMAN: No.
Q. Two questions. First, you played here in your first Open in 1987. How is the course been then as compared to now and --
TOM LEHMAN: From what I remember it is close to being very similar. The fairways, I played yesterday afternoon late and the fairways were just so fast. The one thing that USGA has done which has been good, they have given you a little bit more room on a couple of the holes that were the most severe, No. 9, for example, No. 17. 17, they shifted the tee further to the right so you are hitting more into the hills as opposed to across the hills, so the ball has a better chance of staying in the fairway. The flip-side is it is about 30 yards longer. I still haven't hit less than a 3-wood into that green for my second shot. So it is playing pretty long. But the course is very difficult.
Q. Is there something that you feel like from playing the course a couple of times that has maybe produced these wrong guys winning? Is there some element of chance here that isn't on other Open courses?
TOM LEHMAN: A little bit. I think there is a little bit of element -- you have got to hit really good shots. And, I mean, let's play put it this way: There is about maybe four, five holes out there where if you hit a shot and the ball just draws slightly, you are going to probably end up rolling through in the left rough where if you hit just a slight cut, you may stay in the fairway. Obviously, it is a pretty fine line. But, that is how fine a line it is. I have hit shots out there in practice where I have hit little fades that have faded three yards and stayed in the fairway and hit a ball that has actually gone straight and it has hit and rolled into the rough, so just that little bit of movement into the hill can keep you in the fairway. So you can hit a really good shot, and be in the rough. And I think that is the one thing about the course that makes it difficult. There is a little bit of chance involved. But that is what makes it so hard.
Q. Could you talk about your weight-training program, and did you have to relearn your body this year or --
TOM LEHMAN: I have read somewhere that I am like a gym rat now, that I lift weights and go workout everyday for an hour. That is not true. I just lost some weight. I am not pumping iron; I am not running a marathon; I am not a true athlete by any means. I just lost 25 pounds, and it is probably 20 right now. But, it did take some adjustment.
Q. Can you compare your life now to what it was when came here in 1987 -- the hotel you stayed in then compared to now and just everything?
TOM LEHMAN: Well it was a little bit of a difference. I think in 1987, I was, you know, more -- I was nervous this week, but it was more because I was getting married the following weekend than it was because of the U.S. Open. And, so was here with Melissa and my brother, who was my caddie, and a good friend of ours. We all kind of piled in one hotel room together in the airport, so we didn't have to spend the extra money. I came here as an assistant golf pro at Wood Ranch and hadn't played one competitive round all year long until this week. So, it is quite a difference. Significant.
Q. I wanted to know the stakes on that bet that you mentioned earlier and also.
TOM LEHMAN: What is that now?
Q. The stakes on that bet you mentioned earlier about guys coming out of the rough. Also I was wondering if you could talk little bit about how you spent your Monday?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, about the rough, did you want just me to comment about that?
Q. You said you made a bet with someone.
TOM LEHMAN: Well, it was just a gentleman's bet. He was because he was talking about the rough I was saying no, the rough is so thick, you know, that I have tried to hit -- I have dropped balls in all over, tried to hit shots out of it. I can't hit more than a sand wedge. And I just don't think it is possible unless you get lucky. I mean really really, really lucky to get the ball to the green from the rough. The second part of your question was how I spent Monday? I went to Los Altos, did a clinic, PGA National Golf Day chairman yesterday. So did a clinic there, I showed up in my street shoes and Levis and golf shirt. Hadn't shaved and did their clinic; came out here, registered, kind of roamed around and kind of just putzed around really, couldn't do anything. No clubs, no clothes until about 6 that night.
Q. You have been one of the most consistent golfers in this tournament and a decade that started with you on the Hogan Tour. I mean, do you reflect back at that time and what kind of experience that was for you and what did it do for you now?
TOM LEHMAN: The Hogan Tour?
TOM LEHMAN: I think it was invaluable to me. Really kind of -- I think every golfer who is trying to make it as a professional is looking for that little something that kind of gets them over the edge, kind of gives him that boost they need to get their career going. For some guys it is getting out here on Tour and they struggle, struggle; all of a sudden, you know, the last week of the year they finish second to keep their card and they are off and running. Some guys they come out and they win and for some guys, it is just me, you have to kind of go through the mini-tours and just find your confidence that way. So, the Hogan Tour provided me with a chance to really become confident.
Q. Aside from yourself, who are some of the guys you expect to see on the leaderboard on Sunday?
TOM LEHMAN: You know, I really think -- this is a fader's golf course off the tee. So I think, you know, players who will do well here are guys who can work the ball easily left-to-right, and/or hook the ball left-to-right. In Phil Mickelson's case. I think this is a great course for Phil because he can hit that hard draw and it is working right into the hill where he can kind of hold it into the hill and the ball should stay in the fairway for him. Anybody that can work the ball left-to-right consistently and accurately has a good chance. David Duval, I think he has a great chance. He plays that way. As crazy as it may seem, Jack Nicklaus, if he is healthy, has a great chance. That is his natural shot and his shape. Even at his age, if he can just put the ball in the fairway, I know he is going to make a lot of pars and if he makes a lot of pars, you know, even-par might win. I think Jimmy Roberts has a great chance to win this week.
LES UNGER: Any guess at a winning number?
TOM LEHMAN: I think just like always, if you break par, you have got a really good chance to win.
Q. I read somewhere you were involved in course design work. Could you talk about that project briefly and any other plans you have?
TOM LEHMAN: We have got just finishing up the first two courses that I have been involved with and there are three more that I am just getting underway. There are five and there is a couple more possibly we will be starting in maybe next year. So it is something that I enjoy a lot. At my age, 39, it is something that all we -- I will get more involved with as the years go by. There is one in Tucson; couple in Minneapolis; one in Orange County; one in Tampa, Florida; Keystone, Colorado.
Q. How does one regain his rhythm?
TOM LEHMAN: Rhythm actually comes from starting with good footwork. Good footwork leads to the proper leg action and knee action and what usually happens when a person loses strength -- when I lost my weight, I felt like I lost strength because you start hitting it more with your upper body, try to make up for your lack of strength; you start slugging at it. So to get a good rhythm you have got to start going back to having good footwork, you know, moving your weight properly on your feet, your knees; you hips start working better; pretty soon your upper body becomes secondary -- I worked really hard on good footwork and good balance on my legs.
TOM LEHMAN: I think what happens is that any time you lose some weight, it takes a period of adjustment until your body kind of comes to grips with it. You kind of get strong again. So I feel just as strong now as I did last year. But it took a while to kind of get adjusted. No doubt.
LES UNGER: Thanks a lot. We hope to see you the rest of the week.
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