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June 15, 1997

Tom Lehman


LES UNGER: Tom, when that ball landed in the water, I think every one of us could sympathize and feel the emotion and the disappointment you had. I know it's tough to talk about it, but would you?

TOM LEHMAN: I would give anything in the world for a mulligan. I had a perfect yardage, I thought, to a perfect pin. I knew it was my bread and butter, that shot, right-to-left a little bit of a downhill side-hill lie which can help the ball turn. The only thing is, you know, it's easy to catch it a hair fat, if you don't watch out, and, I did. I caught just a smidge on the heavy side, as a result, the ball turned a little bit too much and in the water. So, you know, all week long I've been saying, you know, he's got to put the ball in the fairway and then you can knock it on the green. I don't think I missed a green from the fairway all week long until today. I think every time I was in the fairway or on a par 3 tee, I think I put it on the green all week long. Today I made a couple of bogeys from the middle of the fairway which really hurt.

LES UNGER: Would you mind, on the bogeys or birdies, please, just giving us a little elaboration.

TOM LEHMAN: Okay. Let me see. I guess I bogeyed the third hole where I drove it in the rough again for the third day, actually the fourth day. Wedged it up there about 8 feet, missed that for par. The fourth hole, I made a bogey. Hit a really good 1-iron, hit a good 6-iron right at the flag and I hit just fractionally short of the pin in the rough and it stayed there and made bogey. But, then hit a 7-iron about 2 inches on the next hole made a birdie, 163 to the pin. Drove it in the rough on No. 6, laid it up hit, a wedge, about 20 feet and missed. Made another bogey there. But, then hit a good wedge on No. 8 about, maybe 8 feet and made the putt for birdie to get back to, I guess, minus 4 for the tournament. Hit it close on 10, 11 and missed. Caught a flyer on 14 from the right rough with an 8-iron went long. Made a bogey there, but then hit a sand wedge on 15 from 107 yards to about maybe a foot to make a birdie to get back to 4-under again. Then hit a good drive and had I hit 189 to the pin on 17 -- or on 16 and hit a 7-iron and just didn't quite hit it. It was quite on line, but came up about 30 feet short in the rough. Didn't get up-and-down. And then 17 we've already talked about. And 18, was do or die, and I didn't make it.

LES UNGER: Have you been involved in a four-way deal like this was developing to be?

TOM LEHMAN: Yeah. It was exciting. It was really exciting. You know looking at the board and seeing all the guys at 4-under. It was a four-man race. Everybody else was over par. I guess that's the way U.S. Opens are. It was obvious it was going to be a war of attrition out there. Whoever could hang on and make the most pars, and, if possible, sneak in a birdie was going to win. And, I guess I take my hat off to Ernie. He was able to do that and he is a deserving champion.

Q. Given the extraordinary circumstance of the finish on the 17th and 18th greens being so close together, how did they impact the drama of the event?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I think you saw those, Ernie and Monty were -- well, they had to wait for us to putt or chip or do something, I'm not sure exactly what. We could see what we were doing. I could see what they were doing. You know exactly what's going on. I saw Ernie run his first putt past the hole. I it was 4 or 5 feet maybe. I knew if I could chip in, you know, I still might have a chance. And, you know -- but then I saw him make the putt, obviously, and I needed to make an ace. But, having that whole theater right there was spectacular. There were so many people that were right there and so many people were cheering and excited for golf and pulling for me. It was thrilling. And, I'm just very, very, I guess you would say, bitterly disappointed that I didn't pull it off.

Q. I've got to wonder about this. I know you're in good shape, but you had a seven o'clock start this morning, five holes, Lord knows what time you had to get up to get ready for that. Could you take us through what time you got up, getting out here and then what you did afterwards and before coming back to the course?

TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, I got up at 5 and got to the course about quarter to 6, had some breakfast, played from seven o'clock until 8:30. Did a few things, I guess, with the media afterwards. Then went home and packed up. I guess I'm leaving tonight, so, I packed up my suitcases and cleaned up the house where we're staying. About 10:30 took a nap for a couple hours, got back up, took a shower, had lunch and played golf.

LES UNGER: If there was a tie, would you have had that house back again?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I have it through tonight, so I was covered.

Q. Tom, two questions: What was the iron at 17 and the yardage, and also the shot at 16, what impact on the shot at 17? Did it change things for you, make you go for it or anything like that?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, first of all, the club -- you said the club on 16 or 17.

Q. 17.

TOM LEHMAN: It was a 7-iron. I think I had 187 or 189 or 188, something like that. It was downhill. It was a perfect yardage. But, yeah, I mean, I hit a 7-iron on 16. I tried to hit a little cut 7-iron from there from the same yardage, maybe not quite as far, came up about 30 feet short in the rough.

Q. Did you have the same distance on that hole 16 as you did on 17?

TOM LEHMAN: Pretty close, yeah. I mean, it's -- the way I was hitting my irons all week long. , I'm surprised -- I guess I'm surprised that I missed both greens. I mean, that's something I haven't done all week.

Q. Would you talk about coming close in the Open again?

TOM LEHMAN: Yeah. Getting back to Bill's question, though, I think having missed that green on 16 and made a bogey, you know, I was playing very aggressively on 17. I felt chances of getting the ball in there close on 17 were better than getting it close on 18. That pin on 18 is pretty tough. It's hard to get it close there. Whereas, the pin on 17, if you can kind of hit a drawing shot in there, you can kind of spin it right down the hill to the hole. So, I was playing that shot -- that hole for birdie, definitely. But, losing three years in a row, this is probably the toughest one.

Q. Why?

TOM LEHMAN: I really felt like I had everything going my way. I was hitting it well. I was thinking well. I was putting reasonably well. And, even throughout most of the day today, I was doing all those things still. I mean, you hit it in the rough, you pay the penalty. But, I hit most of the fairways. I'm not sure exactly how many I hit. But, I know I hit quite a few of them. But, you know, I had my chances. I think on the 10th hole, I think was a big thing. I saw Ernie chip in. I saw Monty make a putt. I'm not sure if it was for par or birdie. But, it was almost like the game was on. I hit this laser 6-iron right at the flag. And, it never left the flag. I hit, what I thought, was a perfect putt, and it didn't break. I missed. I followed up at the next hole with a good tee shot and a great 8-iron about 5 feet. Again, perfect putt, and it didn't break. And, I missed again. That's why it's disappointing. I hit the shots. I hit the putts. The putts didn't go in.

Q. Tom, you didn't get away with a mistake all day. Did you -- I mean, every mistake cost you a shot, right?

TOM LEHMAN: I think that's probably about right.

Q. Tom, after that 7-iron on 17, you obviously took a lot of time, and you were saying something to yourself. What were you telling yourself?

TOM LEHMAN: Nothing. I was just feeling an incredible amount of pain, basically. That hurt. That really hurt, and, you know, my -- you know, my chances to win basically went in the lake right there. And, I knew it. That was painful.

Q. On the 15th hole, after you put the ball right next to the pin, you walked up the fairway and the crowd was cheering and you were pumping your fists. Mentally, did things change for you then? Did you think this was going to be your Open?

TOM LEHMAN: I really did. You know, I was back in the game again. It's hard to make birdies, but I had to make one to get back, and I made one. And, I followed up with a great 3-wood on 16 down the middle. So, I felt like I had all the momentum. And, you know, it was like last year. I was nervous starting out the round. And, by the time you get in that kind of situation, it was just thrilling. And, you know, just -- just, you know, I'm just still a little bit surprised to swing and look up and see the ball not going where I was aiming. That really -- it was really pretty shocking to me.

Q. Tom, you commented that your putts weren't great. Do you feel that maybe because of the rain yesterday, that had something to do with the greens maybe holding the break?

TOM LEHMAN: Definitely. The poa annua really was budding. The greens were a lot less true today than they were the first three rounds. But, there's nothing you can do about that because of the rain, because of the heat, it was growing pretty fast.

Q. Tom, this morning, I believe you characterized the five holes you played this morning as the best five holes you've played all week until that time. Do you feel like you lost some momentum coming back this afternoon or how did your game differ this afternoon from this morning, earlier this morning?

TOM LEHMAN: It wasn't significantly different. You know, I missed a few fairways today which cost me bogeys. But, I kept on coming back with a birdie, you know, to get myself back in there. 2-over after 4, make a birdie, make a bogey, make another birdie. So, I kept on getting back. And missing the putts on 10 and 11, really hurt.

Q. I heard from someone last night that you guys got in a little bit late after your round. What did you do last night, you got home late and had a pizza I heard?

TOM LEHMAN: We got back to the house and called the restaurant that we'd been ordering take-out all week, and they were closed, so we raided the people's freezer whose house we were renting and got a couple of pizzas and watched Independence Day. It's a really motivational-type movie. (Audience laughter)

LES UNGER: Maybe it was the pizza.

Q. You said on 17 you wish you had had a mulligan. If you had, would you have played the shot the same?

TOM LEHMAN: Oh, yeah, exactly the same. You know, because I was -- it's just a little bowl back there. I aim at the right edge of the green and just swing. The ball's almost always going to turn right in there. And, when you catch it solid, it's going to be perfect, you know. That's what happens when you catch it just a hair heavy.

Q. Tom, Colin Montgomerie has been here, and he's confessed to being in tears when he finished his round today. Unlike you, he hasn't won a Major Championship yet. What would you say he can do to prevent the accumulation of despair eating into his future hopes and aspirations?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, you know, it's a tough situation because, I mean, yes, I have won a major. But, I also feel like I've let a couple get away, and the more often you let them get away, I mean, you only have so many chances. Let's put it that way. You just don't have many great chances unless you're a phenomenal, phenomenal player. And, I've been very fortunate. I've had a lot of chances, and Monty has had a lot of chances. I've only one won. He hasn't won any. I think, yes, we each should have won more, but that's part of really what hurts is knowing that I'm still lacking something, I guess, you know, to just get the job done. And Monty maybe is feeling the same thing.

Q. Tom, could you talk us through your 18th hole and how did that shot look from the tee? The ball mark was pretty close to the hole, wasn't it?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I think the ball mark was about 8 feet left of the pin. You know, I got over my tee shot, and I was just totally zoned out like I wasn't even thinking about what I was doing. You know, I felt like, you know, the disappointment of the last hole, I just, you know, my brain stopped working. And, so, I backed off and I wanted to get -- you know, clear Ernie's 4 and I'm 2, right? That's right. So why am I aiming 15 feet right of the hole then? So I reevaluated and fired at the flag and hit a pretty good shot. I mean, I was pretty happy with that shot. But, you know, holes-in-one are hard enough to make, especially when you have to make them on the 72nd hole of the U.S. Open.

Q. Coming into this tournament, Tom, a lot of the attention was focused on the par 3, 18th. But, it seemed like 17 turned out to be the most pivotal with you knocking it in the water and Colin making a 5 all four days. I was wondering if that came as any surprise to you that that hole turned out to be the hole that kind of stole the spotlight?

TOM LEHMAN: No, I'm not surprised at all. It's one of the best par 4s in golf. And, you've got to hit a great tee shot. And, you've got to hit a great second shot. And, you have to hit, you know, good putts. Everything about the hole is world class.

Q. Tom, you said that you felt like you were still lacking something to get the job done. What's that something?

TOM LEHMAN: You know, I don't know. I really believe that I am mentally tough enough. I believe that I have enough confidence. I believe that I'm patient enough. I believe that I'm good enough. You know, I haven't backed down. I haven't wimped out. I haven't, you know, choked my guts out. It just hasn't happened. I'm not sure if that's just, you know, golf or if maybe my thinking still isn't quite right. I don't know.

LES UNGER: One more.

Q. Tom, could you talk about defending your championship at the British Open?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, it would have been a lot more fun going over there as the U.S. Open Champion. I was thinking about that how pleasant it would be to play the Open Championship, having this trophy also. It will be disappointing, you know, in one respect. But, on the other hand, you know, I'm looking forward to going, I guess. I mean, it's too soon to think about that one.

LES UNGER: Tom, thank you very much for joining us.

TOM LEHMAN: Thank you very much.

End of FastScripts.....

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