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June 12, 1997

Tom Lehman


LES UNGER: Tom Lehman joins us once again, 3-under today. Tom, were conditions pretty good to play in today?

TOM LEHMAN: The conditions were absolutely ideal, could not be better ever. It was perfect.

LES UNGER: In the group that you were playing in, was the crowd a factor or not?

TOM LEHMAN: The crowd was incredibly supportive of all three of us in our group. Tiger, Steve, and myself. If you hit a good shot, they appreciated it. I thought they got behind me and supported me, and I thought it was -- you know, it wasn't anywhere near what I expected. I was expecting more of a three-ring circus out there. And, it was very organized, very well run. The media, people did a great job of doing their thing. And, so, it was just very good.

LES UNGER: Would you mind taking us through your card, not the routine pars, if there were any of those, but any of the other holes that might be interesting.

TOM LEHMAN: Yeah. I bogeyed the third hole, I hit a big pull-hook off the tee with a 3-wood, just pitched it out, hit a wedge up, missed about an 8-footer. Next hole, I made a birdie, hit a good 1-iron, a good 7-iron about 15 feet from the hole, made the putt. I think I should note that I made a 4 on No. 6, which felt like a birdie. All pars until the 10th. 10th, I hit a good drive and a 6-iron from about 180, hit it about 12 feet past the hole, made that putt for a 3, which is like making an eagle, at least, you know, I kind of treat those two holes as par 5s almost. If you make a 5, you're not too unhappy. You make a 4, you feel great. You make a 3, you're ecstatic. So, I felt pretty good about that 3. All pars until 13, I drove it in the rough, had to lay it up. Hit a wedge from about 107 yards to about 12 feet, made the putt for a par. It was a real good save. Then, 15, made a birdie. Hit a 1-iron off the tee and a 3-iron and a pitching wedge about 10 feet, made the putt. 16, hit a 3-wood, 9-iron from 160 to about 18 feet above the hole, made that putt. And, then had two good chances on the last two, missed them.

LES UNGER: Are you surprised by the number of people in red numbers?

TOM LEHMAN: No. No, not really. You know, the course is a great golf course. It's extremely difficult. You have to be in the fairway. The rough is so punishing. I think it's easily the thickest rough I've ever played in a U.S. Open, although, I haven't played in that many of them. If you hit it in the rough, it's a penalty. But, if you keep it in the fairway, you can score. The course is playing shorter than it was in the practice rounds. The ball was rolling some. It was real warm. The ball was carrying a long way. It played a bit shorter. If you kept it in play, you could score.

Q. Tom, just following up with that, Opens tend to back up, guys will score 5- or 6-under, maybe 1- or 2-under the first day. Still, from what people indicated coming in, aren't these very, very low scores? And, did the greens soften up a bit?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I think you touched on it right there, that there wasn't any wind today, first of all. The fairways are still a little soft. The greens are still soft. The ball is holding. You know, if you had just a little bit of wind, if you had an 8-mile-an-hour wind, the greens get a little bit firmer. The fairways get a little bit firmer. The scores will definitely go higher in a hurry. But, with conditions like this, you're going to see a lot of guys shooting, you know, good scores. I'm talking about even par, 1-over, 1-under, 2-over, I mean, you shoot 72 in a U.S. Open, you can feel good about that.

Q. Are you surprised by a 65?

TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, you know, I felt like the way conditions are, being that it was soft, that somebody was going to be able to do that.

Q. Tom, let's say, around 13, kind of seemed you were playing good, but did that get you going and then did you think the ball was going to land in the hole on 18?

TOM LEHMAN: 13 was a big save. Any time you save par out of the rough in this tournament, you feel like you've escaped from jail, like a get-out-of-jail-free card, or something like that. You know, I hit a good pitching wedge and made a 12-foot putt for a par there. It's like making a birdie. A good save give you the momentum like making a birdie or eagle. Then 18, you know, I was aiming 10 feet right of the hole and kind of Yankee-doodled it a little bit and hit it right at it. But I'll take a 3.

Q. Tom, early in your round when you got out there, did you know that Montgomerie and Sutton were putting together some pretty good rounds, did that give you any kind of feeling that there were birdies to be had out there, there could be low scores shot, or did you just stick to your game plan and see what happened?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I told my caddie before the tournament that, you know, somebody's going to, you know, go low on this course in these conditions. This course is very beatable in these conditions. And, I saw Monty shooting 5-under. I said, "See, I told you. I knew somebody was going to do that and prove my point." You can take advantage of the golf course if you play well.

Q. No. 18, it's like a revenge from January at the Mercedes Championship. You hit first before Tiger hit, so you give him a big pressure on him and he put it in the water.....

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I wish it would have turned out that way five months ago.

Q. This is not Sunday. This is only Thursday. But, I wish this is Sunday or something.

TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, well, that's not a good memory, but anyway.....

Q. Tom, hey, listen, you've been waiting for this to happen out on the golf course to you since basically the start of the year. Do you feel it's coming together just at the right time, and do you feel confident now in your position where you are?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, you know, I really didn't feel like -- I don't feel that comfortable, like the 3-wood was supposed to be my club this week, 3-woods off the tee. After I hit a snap pull-hook on No. 3, I tried to avoid it at all expense. I really don't feel that comfortable over my tee shots, but everything else, I feel really good about. And, you know, the idea is to step on the tee and you feel like you know where the ball is going to go. And, I didn't, for the most part, with my woods, so I hit a lot of 1-irons and the course was playing short enough, I could hit 1-irons and 6-irons and things like that. So, that's what I did most of the day.

Q. Tom, were you conscious of any sort of head-to-head thing with Tiger --


Q. -- dating back to -- I'm sure you were not, but dating back from the Mercedes.....

TOM LEHMAN: No, no. It's a 72-hole tournament, and you've got to beat everybody if you're going to win. So, the best way to beat everybody is to play your very best golf and forget about everything. So, I tried just to do my own thing.

Q. Tom, the movement early on, Tiger would hit a shot and everybody would run. Did that bother you at all? You have experienced that, I guess, with Norman in The Masters a couple years ago?

TOM LEHMAN: I felt like the crowd was very controlled today. They did a great job, I thought, of making sure there wasn't too much movement. I didn't notice the crowd moving at all hardly.

Q. Tom, you know, you're given credit as a big hitter, but not with an outstanding touch game that you had - in other words, you feel the putting is there now?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I've always been a pretty good lag putter. And, the faster the greens get, usually the better I putt. And, you know, I feel like greens like the U.S. Open or Augusta or Muirfield Village or when greens get real quick, I do better.

Q. I apologize for this, for all the golf writers, but Tiger flashed by, and we didn't get anything out of him. You played with him. There is a little bit of disbelief among us on what happened out there. I mean, were you surprised and was he just not hitting the ball, can you give an explanation?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, you know, he didn't play any worse than anybody else in our group. I felt like he got some unfortunate luck out there. He had some bad breaks. He hit a couple balls that went up against the thick rough where he had impossible chips. He hit a couple putts that looked like they couldn't miss and they did. He hit a couple bad shots like everybody does. So I think his -- I'm sure he's not pleased, but he didn't play that badly, and I'm sure that tomorrow he'll do a lot better.

LES UNGER: Just to put that issue to rest right now, there is a tape being transcribed from an interview on 18. I'm sure you'll get what you want out of that one when we finish with Tom.

Q. Along the same lines, not with Tiger, but with some of the others, can you talk about how difficult it is to keep your composure and patience when you hit a streak of a couple holes when you're in the rough and fighting to get out, fighting to get on the green?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, yeah, it's going to happen. You know, over the course of 72 holes, it's going to happen to everybody where you have a couple stretches where you're going to be really struggling. I expect it to happen to me and Steve Jones and, you know, every other guy in the field. You're going to have some tough times. The big thing is not to blow yourself out of the tournament. And, when you get those things happen, you put the ball back in play and you march on from there and you take your bogey and go. If you have that kind of an attitude, you can almost feel good about making a bogey if you don't do something stupid and make a double.

Q. Did you not use a 3-wood at all after No. 3?

TOM LEHMAN: I hit a couple. I hit one on No. 5, and I hit it on No. 16. But, in practice rounds, I'd been hitting it almost every hole.

LES UNGER: Tom, when you say the course was playing --

TOM LEHMAN: 1-irons, let me see, I hit one, two, three, four, five -- I'd say six 1-irons.

LES UNGER: When you say the course was playing shorter, were the tees not at the 7,200 mark or was the wind a factor or was bounce a factor?

TOM LEHMAN: Mostly it was warm. The ball was really carrying, and the ball was bouncing some; that was the big thing.

Q. Tom, how much of a factor is it coming into today? You've been here now for about two weeks, going on your second week at Kemper. Does that have any effect on this tournament?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I think it -- this is a nice place to be. It's a great place to spend a couple of weeks. It's a great city. And, it's nice to be able to settle in somewhere for two weeks. We rented a house, as I'm sure a lot of guys did, for two solid weeks, so we've unloaded our stuff and made a mess and we feel like we're at home. Don't tell the Showalters that. They'll be wondering what the heck is happening with their house.

Q. When you said you hit six 1-irons, how far do you hit your 1-iron relative to your driver?

TOM LEHMAN: I hit my 1-iron -- if I hit it really well, I can hit it 2- -- if it's a downhill shot, I can probably hit it 250. For example, No. 4 is, you know, is 440 yards or something like that, and I hit a 1-iron and a 7-iron, you know, it plays downhill off the tee. You can't do that, Art?

Q. I can't do that, Tom.

TOM LEHMAN: God, what's wrong with you?

Q. Tom, if the weather conditions stay relatively similar to today, do you have to refocus on what you think is going to win this tournament? What do you have to do in the next day or so to put yourself in position or do you think just because it's the Open, people are going to back up?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, that's generally what happens. I think unless the weather gets really lousy, my goal has always been, if I can shoot par or better, I'm happy, no matter where the tournament is at. In the last year, that's what it was. This year, the same thing. If I can shoot par or under par, any sort, I'd be just ecstatic. And, so, you know, because the course does not give a lot. Let's be serious. You have to play very well to shoot under par, and you can't make a whole lot of mistakes, and it's impossible to play four rounds like the way Monty played today. There's just no way, impossible.

Q. Tom, just for the bookkeeping, you have six 1-irons, three 2-woods. Does that mean six drivers, you hit the driver six times?

TOM LEHMAN: I think I hit three 3-woods, and so that would have made, what, I guess five drivers. Six, three and five, that's 14, yeah.

Q. Did you only miss two fairways?

TOM LEHMAN: Missed two fairways, yeah.

Q. We've been hearing all week about how this is the monster course and the big long hitters are going to dominate, but Monty was here today saying that was a myth, he didn't think so, he thought accuracy was really the key here?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I agree, and I think just the fact that the course is 7200 yards par 70, and I still hit six 1-irons off the tees proves that it's way better to be in the short grass than it is to be 300 out there in the jungle grass. You know, I'll take my chances with a 6-iron or a 5-iron.

Q. Tom, you said earlier this year that some of the recent events are going to force you and some of the better players on Tour to raise their game a notch. Did you prepare differently for this week, and is this an example of your raising your game a notch?

TOM LEHMAN: No, I wouldn't say that I've raised my game a notch. It's that I was -- I really concentrated well today. I think that more than anything, that's -- to me, that's what it's all about, if I can be focused and really concentrate, I'll do well. If I'm kind of in la-la land, I'm going to stumble around and play lousy.

Q. Follow-up question here: We made such a premium of the length of the course and so forth, we thought the power hitters would have such an advantage. In fact, you ended up outdriving Tiger, for example, many times. Has the premium and accuracy taken the long clubs out of power hitters like Tiger's hands?

TOM LEHMAN: You know, I guess, you know, you only have to be long enough. You know, there's a -- there's like a boundary that where you're either too short or you're long enough, and if you can just be to that line where you're long enough, you know, you're okay. And what that really is, I think what you can hit to the greens, if you can be hitting some lofted clubs into the greens, I think a 6-iron or 7-iron or 8-iron, you've hit it far enough. So whatever it takes to hit it to that position, that's what you get. So, I think it's an advantage to be long, because you can hit, you know, 1-irons or 3-woods, so I think Tiger hit a 2-wood all day. You can put the ball in the fairway and, you know, guys who are long aren't just long with their woods. They're usually long with their irons too. There might be a club or two longer with an iron than other guys, so it pays to be able to hit your 7-iron 180 versus 160.

Q. Tom, a lot of comment was made this year about how tough the greens were at The Masters. Were these greens tougher to putt today than those at Augusta were?

TOM LEHMAN: No, no. No, I really feel that Augusta Masters should be on ESPN 2 next year because the extreme games. That's how tough those greens were. These greens weren't as quick. They had some slope, but they weren't as quick. They might get that quick, but not yet.

LES UNGER: Everybody happy? Thank you very much.

End of FastScripts.....

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