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June 13, 1997

Tom Lehman


LES UNGER: Well, we'll get started with Tom Lehman, 70 today after a 67 yesterday. And, as I looked at that board, I think the first 10 holes, you had four pars and a lot of other things going on there. What was happening?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I got off to a very slow start. It was kind of unfortunate. I mean, on the 2nd hole, I hit one of the best 1-irons I have hit in my life, just 15 feet past the hole, but then 3-putted straight down the hill for bogey. 3rd hole, I drove it in the left rough again for the second day in a row and then pitched it out and made bogey. But, after that, I played very well. I played very well the rest of the day, hit it really close on the 5th hole, hit a 9-iron maybe 8 inches from the hole for a tap-in. Then hit a wedge on the 8th hole, about 7 or 8 feet and made that for birdie. And then the 9th hole, hit a 9-iron about 2 feet for birdie. But 3-putted 10 for bogey again. Then hit it really close on 14, hit a 9-iron there about 6 inches. And then bogey at the 18th.

LES UNGER: Did the respite bother you, help you, whatever.

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I think it it's hard to say. It may have hurt a little. It was very difficult to have to wait two hours, then hit the tee shot on 17. 17 is maybe one of the toughest tee shots on the golf course. It's a long hole, obviously. It's a blind over-the-hill tee shot. You can't see the fairway very easily. It was tough to start there.

LES UNGER: And the crowd today?

TOM LEHMAN: The crowd was great. They were enthused. I think the fact that Tiger played so well, you know, really got the crowd jump-started. They were hooting and hollering all day. They were really excited about seeing good golf.

LES UNGER: No questions?

TOM LEHMAN: All right. Thank you. See you later.

Q. How about the course, still playing well? Still in good condition? And, do you think a little rain that it might get will even make it more playable?

TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, it's very soft. Everything about it is soft, the greens, the fairways. It's in great shape, and the greens are holding up really well. And, I expect to see some low scores.

Q. What are you thinking for yourself before you prepare for tomorrow morning?

TOM LEHMAN: What am I thinking about tomorrow? I'm hoping the Jazz will win. I guess that's all I'm thinking. (audience laughter). You know, the game plan doesn't change. This course is too severe, you know, to change what you're doing. What I'm doing is working I'm putting it in play and putting it on the green and then just taking my chances, so I'm not going to change that at all.

Q. A few questions. Did you get the driver and the 3-wood worked out? And, how was your game like, comparatively speaking, to the last two Opens at this point?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I worked a bit in the range last night. And, I feel like my 3-wood went a lot better today, and my timing was better. I drove the ball better, I thought. And I'm feeling -- I know last year at Oakland Hills, I played really well the first day. I think I shot like 72. Then I played absolutely terrible in the second round and shot 71, you know, so my game was kind of very inconsistent last year. And, at Shinnecock, it was pretty much terrible all week long. I just was putting out of my mind. So, I feel pretty good the way I'm playing right now.

Q. Tom, how many holes on this course, given where you are, are attempting to make a gamble on and you think the gamble would be a good percentage?

TOM LEHMAN: Zero. I don't see anyplace to gamble out there. I really don't. Are you talking about off the tee? Is that what you're saying? I mean, the par 5s, I can't come close to reaching in 2, so there's no gambling to be done there. Then the par 4s, if you don't put it in the fairway, you can't reach the green anyway. So I'm trying to take the club that will put me in the best shot, the easiest one to hit the fairway with, and that's what I'm going to play. If there's any gambling, it's your approach shot and whether you're going to aim at the pin or not.

Q. Tom, you talked a couple days ago about building momentum as you go into the cut. Do you feel at this point, this round today, that you're still building your momentum?

TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, I do. And, the reason being, I started out poorly, plus 2 early and got it back to even, even though I bogeyed the 17th, I made a great up-and-down for par on -- sorry, bogeyed 18, but a great save on 17. So, I feel good about the finish, and I like the way I'm playing.

Q. So would you say you like your chances here better than you did the two years when you finished well?

TOM LEHMAN: You know, I really liked my chances last year a lot. After the 65 last year, the third round, I really felt that, you know, I just had the feeling that I was going to win that tournament, and I didn't. So, you know, all you can do is go out and keep plugging away. And, as long as I don't go out and beat myself the next two days, I'm going to be a factor on Sunday.

Q. Yesterday, you were put in the position of telling us what happened with Tiger because Tiger didn't want to talk about it. Today Steve Jones doesn't want to talk about it. Can you just tell us a little bit about how his day went?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, he -- it was a tough finish for him. He was playing pretty well. I'll tell you, he was surviving. He hit some bad shots, but he hit some great up-and-downs. And, he was hanging around par all day long. He was hitting it left starting on about the 13th hole - 12th hole, I think the par 3, hit it left, made a great up-and-down, then hit it left. From that point on, he really struggled; capped off by the disaster on 17. And, you know, I felt bad for him because I know for certain that if he wouldn't have had a delay, you know, he may not have been near the lead, but he, at least, would have made the cut. You know, that really cost him, I think, in making the cut.

Q. Can you talk a little bit more about the par on 17, your clubs and distance and just how big you thought that was.

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I hit a pretty good drive, I thought, off the tee. And, I snuck in the right side of the rough there, and hit a terrible lie, so I hit a sand wedge. It probably went up maybe 90 yards and hit another sand wedge from, I think -- at 102 yards to the pin for the third shot and hit a really nice shot right over the flag and spun back to about 4 feet, then made the putt. So, it was, you know, like I said, making a par essentially like that is like making a birdie. It keeps momentum going or gets momentum going and you feel really good about that.

Q. Tom, after the last two days where you are right now, tell us a little bit how you feel about Saturday and Sunday, what are you going to do to win this golf tournament?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I think the history of the U.S. Open is that if you can not beat yourself, if you're near the lead and don't beat yourself, you have a great chance of winning, so I think I learned some lessons over the last two years. I know last year I felt like I played very well, but played very aggressively and aggressive play cost me a couple bogeys. So, I think my attitude is just going to be do what I'm doing right now which is trying to play very methodical, very, A-to-B-to-C-to-D type golf. Keep it in the fairway. Put it on the green.

Q. Tom, how do you feel a par 3 finishing hole will affect the outcome of the tournament?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, it takes an element of risk out of the hole when you don't have to hit a driver, but it's not to say that this hole can't cause you some problems, because, it can. I think everybody has seen the fact if you make a bad swing, it can cost you two shots in a hurry. But, I still think if you have a lead going into the last hole, it's going to make it easier. You just aim at the middle of the green, put it in the middle of the green and hope to 2-putt. And, you take the element of hitting a driver out of the play.

Q. If it happens that some of the leaders have to come back out tomorrow morning, what kind of effect do you think that will have on the tournament?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, it's for certain that we're going to be heading -- starting times are pushed way back tomorrow. I'd be surprised tomorrow if the lead groups could play more than 9 holes. Because the guys who are finishing today, I mean, they're going to have 9 holes to go, they have to come out in the morning, play those 9 holes, and repair, if there's any kind of a big cut at all, it's going to be pushed back, back, back, so, the leaders won't tee off until five o'clock or six o'clock probably.

Q. Tom, would you talk about your thinking out on the course, your course management; are you pleased with it?

TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, I am pleased with it. I made four bogeys today, two of those were 3-putts, so, it shows that I was in play and on the green; just didn't get the ball in the hole quick enough. So, I mean, you're going to miss fairways. You're going to miss some greens. But, I'm not missing too many. And, I'm thinking well and I didn't let a bad start get me down. So, I'm pleased with the way I'm thinking.

Q. If that's the case and you guys only get in 9 tomorrow, how does that affect Sunday?

TOM LEHMAN: You know, I mean, that was conjecture. I was talking to Jeff Hall in the scoring tent. He was just saying there was a chance we could play 9 holes tomorrow if there's a big cut. If that's the case, you know, you just deal with it. You know, adverse weather is always a problem. But, you just make the best of it. And, you make sure when you do get to play, you're ready to play.

Q. Tom, 18 you were talking about playing it kind of cautiously, but you must have been trying to land it on top of the flag on 18, looked like you were trying to hook it in?

TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, well, that pin there, you pretty much have to go for it. It's just a little bowl there, if you get on the wrong side of the hump, it's a really tough putt. So, I was aiming at the right edge of the green trying to draw it back to the pin, and just push it just a fraction, maybe 4 or 5 feet. If it had been 5 feet left, it would have caught the left edge of the green instead of bounced to the right. It was a tough chip shot.

Q. You and Steve Jones are obviously good friends on and off the course. Is there anything you could say to him today, you know, you said that at a certain point he started hitting the ball left and he started slipping a little bit. Do you talk to him much on the course about anything he can do?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, you can't really help a guy. You can't say, "Your left-hand grip is too strong." You can tell them, "Hey, your shirttail is hanging out. Maybe that's why you're hitting it left, I don't know." You can't offer advice. You can encourage a guy. You can say, "Hang in there. Just keep plugging away." But, as far as anything physical, you have to leave it alone.

Q. You said Tiger got some bad breaks yesterday. Did he get some good breaks today?

TOM LEHMAN: I wouldn't say he got anything, you know, I mean, he played awfully well. He didn't really need any breaks today. He hit a lot of good shots, hit it close a lot, made some good putts, made some good up-and-downs. He made an up-and-down at 10 today that was just phenomenal. He played very well.

Q. Tom, if you only play 9 holes tomorrow, does that mean you would finish with 27 on Sunday; is that a real disadvantage to the leaders?

TOM LEHMAN: No, I don't think so. 27 holes is very -- it's not that big a deal.

Q. Could you imagine what it would be like to play 36 holes on this golf course on the final day?

TOM LEHMAN: That would be tough. That would be very difficult. If it got hot and steamy like it was up there right now, it would be tough to play that many holes.

LES UNGER: Just ask Mr. Venturi, right?

Q. Tom, you really developed a pattern of playing well in majors. Is that a reflection of having an on switch, you know what to go to for majors or do, they just suit your game?

TOM LEHMAN: You know, that's a great question. I really don't know. I think, with me, if I can get focused and concentrate, I'm going to play well usually. And, it seems to me that the majors bring out, you know, just a little more focus. And, that's really the only difference that I see is I'm not playing any differently than I was a week ago or two weeks ago or a month ago. But, my concentration has definitely gone up a level. And, to play well in majors, you need to have good concentration. You can't afford to fall asleep at the wheel for a couple holes.

Q. I realize a lot of it is your demeanor, but this even keenness that you have, just stay the course state the course, this, obviously, has helped your play. Is it something a lot of golfers are missing out here?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I think that's one thing that you do need when you play a course like this is have almost just a sense of serenity on the golf course where nothing can really get in there and bother you. I usually have that. I do get upset at times, but I definitely feel like I have a sense of peace on the golf course, and it allows you to have patience. And more than anything, I think things that get you out of this tournament is just hitting bad shots or, you know, bad breaks get under your skin and pretty soon you're so worked up, you can't play.

Q. If I could just follow up on the point you just made. Obviously, Steve is a good friend of yours. Maybe he doesn't quite have that attitude all the time. He doesn't let things good get under his skin. Do you have the same philosophy off the course? Have you ever talked to him about that?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, personally, all of us are different. Steve is a lot more demonstrative than I am. He's a clown. He likes to joke around. He's more extroverted, more overtly, you know, clownish, if you want to call it. He likes to have fun, and, you know, I think his personality is a little more volatile than mine. Mine is a little more subdued, a little more introverted.

LES UNGER: Tom, thanks as usual. Very good job.

TOM LEHMAN: Thank you very much

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