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October 28, 1996

Tom Lehman


LEE PATTERSON: Congratulations.

TOM LEHMAN: Thank you.

LEE PATTERSON: Share a couple of thoughts about coming out here.

TOM LEHMAN: I was extremely nervous starting today. I don't know why I would be so nervous, but I was. And my first drive was into the right bunker and I had to pitch it out sideways, which is not the way I wanted to start. The third hole I hit it left off the tee and couldn't reach the green and made another bogey, which kind of got me -- felt like I was being punched by Tyson; I was dazed. But the birdie on 5 picked up my spirits and the birdie on 6 made me feel comfortable and from there on I played pretty well.

Q. Talk about trying to regear up after a day off and so forth. Is that a problem, especially with a lead, to get yourself back into it?

TOM LEHMAN: I just feel like you get into rhythms, when things are going really well, and you have a 9:30 tee time. You gear up your whole evening and the next morning to play and suddenly you don't. Then you wait around and wait around. Yesterday was a tough day for me waiting around. And having to think about the round some more. So I felt like I came out today just really unsure of myself.

Q. Do you guard against like disaster thoughts? Does all that extra time make it difficult not to think about the near impossible?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, it's so much easier to play, I think, when you're near the lead, either just behind or just ahead. I don't know what it is about having a big lead that makes it difficult, but it seems like to me that it's difficult to walk on that first tee with the right attitude. And actually today maybe making two bogeys early may have been a blessing, because it made me really mad, so I got to the 4th tee and I was really ticked off and I started playing well from that point on.

Q. Maybe you're nervous because you have everything to lose?

TOM LEHMAN: That's part of it and I think when you're way ahead, you're right, the tournament is already decided in everybody's mind. I had everybody and their brother congratulate me, like way to go, way to go, congratulations, congratulations. Tomorrow when it's over are you wanting to go come back here and sign this? Taking it as a foregone conclusion that I'm going to win. And there's no gimmees in this world. There's no gimmees in golf. You don't know what a day may bring. So those kind of expectations, I guess, make me a little nervous.

Q. How was the course? Was it in pretty good shape?

TOM LEHMAN: The course was absolutely phenomenal considering the rain yesterday. I couldn't believe how perfect it was. The greens were nice. The fairways, I never had one lie with casual water all day long. It was in perfect shape. The bunkers were a little different, that's the only thing. I think some of bunkers got washed and they had to the put the sand back up on the lips, and it was real heavy and real -- it wasn't firm like it was earlier in the week, so it was difficult, I thought, to play out of the bunkers.

Q. You win the money title, the Vardon, the PGA Player-of-the-Year points thing, so the wait would seem like it was worth it?

TOM LEHMAN: It was, that's why I really wanted to play today, even though I had -- I didn't want them to say, here, and we're not going to play anymore; you take it. It's good for me, as a player, to go out and deal with those pressures and those feelings of -- those negative attitudes that I had. Because - like I said at the awards ceremony - you never think about shanking it or topping it or junking it, I don't, at least. Suddenly you get in that situation and you're thinking all these crazy thoughts. So to go out and deal with those thoughts and to settle down and play a good round in the end is something that will make me a better player.

Q. You think it would have helped if you had been able to have a decent practice session yesterday afternoon?

TOM LEHMAN: I hit balls for about half an hour. It wasn't long, but I went out to swing the club and I was hitting it really well, so I felt good about that.

Q. Was it the first four holes where you were going --

TOM LEHMAN: The first three holes. The first drive I hit solid, but I pushed it and it got out there and it was dead, blasted out sideways. Actually made a 10-footer for bogey there. And then on 3, I hit a big hook. I pushed the first drive, hooked the next two. So it was like where is it going to go-type attitude.

Q. Do you work harder now than you did when you were still kind of looking for a job?

TOM LEHMAN: Did I work harder?

Q. Do you work harder now or have you worked harder in the last five years than you did in the five before that?

TOM LEHMAN: I think I work hard, but I think the thing that I do well is that I work properly. I think my practice is done properly. I don't waste time on practice. I think I practice constructively. I practice and it means something. There have been times in my life where I thought working hard meant you had to hit 500 balls a day. And at this point in life I realize that a hundred balls hit with a lot of concentration is way better than 500 hit without thinking about it. So I feel like my practice has become a lot more meaningful. Especially being married with three kids, I don't have quite as much time as I used to, and so you have to make the best of it.

Q. Describe from the point of where you've come the last 8 years, from mini-tours to the Hogan Tour to this point?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I don't -- I'm sure there's people out there who are just shaking their heads saying I used to just kick that guy's butt every week; it wasn't that long ago. And it's really true. I didn't even win a tournament on the Golden State Tour until 1990. So that's -- you just never know what it's going to take to kind of get you clicking. And for me it was mostly confidence, and once I gained some confidence things start happening pretty quickly. And that old cliche that confidence breeds confidence and success breeds success, it's true. It's hard to get confidence when all you do is get your brains beat in. Or get down to the nitty-gritty and told - it seems like that's all I did - I'd get bad or get to the last two holes and collapse and lose. It took a long time to get over those negative thoughts and lack of confidence.

Q. Was the close call at this U.S. Open kind of a building block to make that next step?

TOM LEHMAN: Yes, it was, mostly because, as I said before, I played that round with a lot of confidence and very aggressively, and I never backed off. And it's one of the first times that I can honestly say that I played 72 holes in a big event and never backed off once. And so even though I lost I felt like that was -- it was a big stepping-stone for me. It was getting me over another hurdle.

Q. Have you seen the tape at all of that tee shot at 18 at Oakland Hills bouncing in -- taking that kick into the bunker?

TOM LEHMAN: It wasn't pretty. But it wasn't a bad bounce, because the fairway slopes, the way the ball is going to bounce left. I just hit it so solidly that I carried it past -- a little flat spot on the right side of the fairway and it goes out to about 285; if you can land on the top of the flat spot it will bounce straight. My ball carried over. I killed that thing, must have carried it 290 almost. And the thing I thought was unlucky is where it ended up in the bunker. If I had been back 4 feet, I would have had a shot on the green. But to be back on the lip like that, your hands are tied.

Q. What does the Vardon mean and money title, all that stuff?

TOM LEHMAN: The money title is nice, but I've never put a lot of emphasis on the money title. The guys who have won it I've always felt happy for them, but I've always been more impressed with the guys who have won the Vardon Trophy and the Player-of-the-Year. I think the Vardon Trophy is a more true indication of who has played consistently well throughout the year, and the Player-of-the-Year is obviously voted on by the players, and you're not going to win that unless they think you're a heck of a player.

Q. Tom, when people describe your game they talk about how strong you are, yet in some of the tournaments where you've lost in the majors at Augusta and the Open, talking about coming down the stretch and hitting it too hard. How do you control your emotions, or control being too pumped up?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I think you need to use your strengths to your advantage, and so for me it seems to me that I hit the ball better when I swing harder. But it's not necessarily that I can't hit a three-quarter shot, because I can. Just that when -- when I get nervous, I'm better off swinging full. And I really don't see -- I don't really know of a time when I've lost because I've hit the ball too hard. The drive at the U.S. Open this year was -- probably should have hit it 15 feet further right. So you need to be able to go to something when the heat is on, and for me it's taking a full swing.

Q. This week before this tournament started you said you could maybe only stake a small claim on the PGA TOUR Player-of-the-Year, that realistically you didn't have much of a chance. Do you feel differently about that now?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, Phil Mickelson's won four tournaments. I've won two. And so if you look at it that way, there's really no -- it's kind of open and shut. You have to say Phil has had a better year. But if you toss in all the other things, which tournaments he won and which tournaments I won, the second in the U.S. Open, the Vardon Trophy, I think it becomes very close. And I don't think there's any way that you could possibly say that Tom Lehman has played better than Phil Mickelson in 1996. But yet I don't know that you could honestly say that Phil Mickelson has played better than Tom Lehman in 1996, either. I think we've both had very good years. And if you want my honest opinion, I think winning four times may be a little more significant, but it will be close.

Q. What were your goals coming into 1996?

TOM LEHMAN: What were my goals? Well, my goal has always been to keep improving, because I know that if I keep improving I'm going to see better results. And for me better results would mean winning a major, winning more than just one time in the year. So winning the major, that was definitely a goal. Winning twice now, that was something I wanted to do, even though I still feel I should have won more than I probably did. But I just know that any player, whoever you are, if you keep on working and improving, you're going to see better results.

Q. Looking back, were you kind of surprised how it turned out for you this year?


Q. You said you were frustrated earlier in the week about the year, I guess talking about LA and Hawaii and a couple that maybe got away a little bit. Does this completely change it? Is this a 180 kind of win?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I think maybe I may have overstated my frustration or my disappointment. I think it would have been a good year, even if I would not have won here. I was just saying that it's frustrating to get in position a lot and to not win that often. I feel like I should be winning more than I have been. So that was the frustrating part about it. But this win here definitely makes up for a lot of the -- the two tournaments I won, this one and the Open definitely makes up for a lot of the near misses.

Q. You've had a couple of your wins been a runaway like this. What does that feel like? What do you think afterwards? How did I do that, or why don't I do that more often? Because not many guys have had these 6, 8, 9 shot wins?

TOM LEHMAN: That's the one thing I think, is why can't I do this more often. Because I know that each time that I've had big leads like that, it seems so easy. And if I really had to get really analytical and analyze it all I'd say that the most significant thing would be that I putted very well. And when I putt as well as I putted this week or as well as I putted at Lytham the first three rounds or Memorial when I won there, I just feel like I can run away from the field. And I'm sure there's a lot of guys on the TOUR who are able to do that when they're at the top of their game. But it's nice to know, though, that your best is really good.

Q. Do you remember the first tournament you won as a pro?

TOM LEHMAN: As a pro?

Q. Yes.

TOM LEHMAN: I do, yeah.

Q. What was it?

TOM LEHMAN: It was in Minot, North Dakota, on the Dakotas Tour, 1982, fall of 1982. I think it was my very first tournament as a pro. And I know they paid -- it was four grand for winning, and they paid off with 40 hundred dollar bills and I thought I was just richer than you can ever believe. I was a wealthy man.

Q. That was your first --

TOM LEHMAN: My first pro tournament.

Q. Who finished second?

TOM LEHMAN: I beat Chuck Moran on the playoff. First hole par 3, I hit a 7-iron about 8 feet and made it. But ask me where the next win was, and that's probably not until about 1986. Jimbo, is that when I won the Minnesota State Open?

Q. '88.

TOM LEHMAN: 1988 was my next win, so six years later.

Q. That's a pros and amateur deal or just pros?

TOM LEHMAN: Pros and amateurs.

Q. What was the deal with that six year drop?

TOM LEHMAN: I was playing with some pretty good competition, and I wasn't very good.

Q. How close did you come to taking that coaching job?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I think if they would have made it attractive I probably would have been very interested. At that point in my life I still didn't want to quit completely, I wanted to be able to play golf in the wintertime and I didn't see the Minnesota coaching job as being a 12 month job. But the AD did, and therefore I was never really a candidate, from that point on it was Rick Bay.

Q. You get Rick Bay letters, now and then when you win?

TOM LEHMAN: He's sent me a couple. He writes up and just tells me that aren't you glad that I asked you to rent skis. And I answer and say, yes, I am glad (laughter.)

Q. Was there a low point? Do you remember, I don't know, '88, '89 anytime?

TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, I remember specifically one point I was playing in the Asian Tour and I wasn't exempt, so I had to do the Monday qualifying thing. And I made the qualifying for Taiwan, made the cut, so I was exempt next week in Korea. Week after that was the one in Japan, which was like a $600,000 purse, which was -- I thought was just huge. So you had to make the cut at Korea to get in that tournament automatically and I missed the cut. And I kind of waited two days in Korea and had to go play against 180 guys for the spot in the Japanese tournament and I think that was a very low point. What are we doing here, we're halfway around the world, it costs 8 bucks for a pint of Haagen-Daz and we can't afford that. And I've got to qualify tomorrow against these guys and what am I doing?

Q. What year?


Q. Did you make it through qualifying?

TOM LEHMAN: I made the qualifying, shot 69 on a windy day and played pretty well on the tournament. So this seemed to me that whenever we get to a situation like that where I was frustrated, I do something well, I play well, make some money or win a tournament or just do something that would lift my spirits and keep me going.

Q. You said the other day that you think your best golf is ahead, that your curve is still going that way. It doesn't sound like you plan to rest on the laurels of money title or Vardon Trophy or Player-of-the-Year thing?

TOM LEHMAN: No. Money is nice, but in all honesty it means virtually nothing to me in terms of how you measure yourself as a person or as a golfer. What matters so me is winning, having the respect of your peers, having people think that you're a decent human being, those things are important. So the money has never been my motivation to play. I think as long as it stays that way where it's not my motivation, I think I'll continue to improve. You can fall into the trap of big appearance fees to go to Japan or Australia or Europe or whatever and start chasing that for the cash and pretty soon your game goes south. So I think I'm better off staying right here in the USA, working on my game, continuing to improve and achieving my goals by staying home.

Q. Tom, can you talk about how much your life has changed since the Hogan tournament?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, that was kind of the beginning that year. And I think from that point on it's just been a step up, each year something has happened that's allowed me to get a little better. And so it seems like there's a long ways between the two years, but yet I think they don't seem that far apart to me. They seem like things aren't that significantly different. I've just kept on improving; sometimes in a big way, sometimes in a little way, so things that don't really seem to have changed that much

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