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June 15, 1996

Tom Lehman


LES UNGER: Tom Lehman at 2-under and now the 8th player to have shot 65 at Oakland Hills, the course record. If you don't mind giving us an overview of your round today and we have to ask you to take us through some of the birds and others.

TOM LEHMAN: Okay. Well, obviously, you know, you think about shooting 65 out here and it is almost beyond your wildest dreams to shoot 65 at Oakland Hills. But it was one of those days for me that, I hit a lot of really good shots. I drove the ball in the fairway, hit a lot of greens. I hit it really close a few times, which really helped. You know, but as the round went on and the crowd got behind me, they were pulling for me, and I made some really good saves, kept my momentum going, and it was easy to be focused on every shot along the way and 65 is the result, and I couldn't be happier.

LES UNGER: Could you take us through your birdies, please, bogeys and saves.

TOM LEHMAN: Birdied the second hole. Hit 4-wood on the green about 20 feet right back of the hole and 2-putted. The next hole hit a 5-iron about maybe a foot, and tap in for birdie there. The fourth, hit a great drive, 9-iron to the green and caught it in and knocked it over; made bogey. Then 6th hole, hit a good 4-wood and a wedge maybe 20 feet below the hole, made that putt for birdie. The following hole, a good 3-wood and a good 7-iron about maybe four inches, almost holed it, and tapped in for birdie there. I think the key to the round for me was the save I made on the 9th. I hit a good 3-iron, but I came up just short of the edge of the rough, chipped it up about maybe eight feet long and then left of the hole and had a little sliding downhill left-to-right breaker, and it probably broke about a foot. It just put it right in the middle of the hole to save par. 11: I hit a good 3-wood again, 9-iron maybe about six feet, made that putt. The last birdie would be 16. Again, I hit 3-wood, 8-iron, 30 feet. And then made the 30-footer for birdie.

LES UNGER: Questions, please. And wait for the mic, so everybody can hear your question.

Q. Saves.

TOM LEHMAN: Saves? Let me see. Obviously that save on 9 was big. Number 10: I hit a poor drive and missed the -- I don't know, but I had a pretty easy chip, got up-and-down there. The next save would be on -- well, I consider 17 to be a save. I had a 50-foot putt or a 60-foot putt and left it ten feet short and then made that. Then again on 18, I hit probably my best drive of the week there and it ended up going through the fairway into a bad lie in the first cut and to the bunker and from there to the bunker to about eight feet and then made that putt.

Q. How many times have you used your driver this week, Tom?

TOM LEHMAN: You know, I used it, you know, quite a few times. I think maybe half the time probably is about right. Today I hit more 3-woods than I have in the previous days. I think the course is starting to play a little bit shorter. But you know, maybe out of 14 driving holes, I probably hit seven drivers.

Q. Last night you worked with Jim Fleck on a few things. Could you tell us what you changed in the swing from the first two rounds?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, we have been working together since 1990, and I think last night I just realized that balls -- I had played so poorly yesterday that Jim told me that I was getting a little bit top heavy; that I was kind of leaning on the ball a little bit; wasn't using my legs and my feet to get any rhythm in the swing, and so I just tried to kind of get the feet and my legs, you know, controlling the swing again; get a little more rhythm going and stay behind the ball and go and hit it. That is basically what we have worked on ever since I started seeing him, ever since I started seeing him, you know, six years ago.

Q. How does this round compare to your third round at Shinnecock last year, the 67, and what is it about you and Saturdays recently at the U.S. Open?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, you know, I wish I could do that on Sunday. We will find out tomorrow. But I think last year's 67 may have been a little bit better than today's score just because I thought the course was playing, you know, impossibly difficult with the wind blowing and how hard the greens were and everything. Make no mistake, this was a superior round also, but the fairways are receptive and the greens are receptive. And if you can just put it in the right place on the greens, you can shoot a decent score.

Q. This is not the sort of the course you'd like to play everyday. How about after shooting 65, do you think it is a little bit more entertaining?

TOM LEHMAN: It is entertaining. It is not often you can get putts that break 20 feet. It is like Augusta there that way, you know, the creativity around the greens is, you know, kind of almost mind staggering what you to have do to get it close to the hole sometimes. But on the flip-side, there are so many different pin positions that it would never be boring playing out here. You can change the course you, know, so much by where you put the pin. And you know, on a daily basis, I think it would be interesting to kind of, you know, see where you can find some flat spots to put the pins.

Q. What was the debate with your caddy on the last hole? What was he arguing for? What did you want to do and did you -- did anybody -- did you do what anybody wanted you to do?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, you know, it is was the best drive I hit all week, and, you know, it kind of hit in the fairway and bounced left into the first cut, which I didn't think I could reach. That is like 285 off the tee and it ended up going in the low spot in the first cut where it was kind of sitting down and kind of hairy. Our first thing was just kind of let us just mush it up there somewhere at the pin and just kind of chase it and find it. And then I started thinking, well, maybe we ought to play it up the middle and kind of leave it short; we have a good chip at it, and that was -- the decision was to try to hit it up the middle and leave it just in the front edge of the green where I can hopefully 2-putt or get it up-and-down. I pushed it in the bunker, so nobody won.

Q. (inaudible)

TOM LEHMAN: He was just trying to help me think clearly. So our first thought was this, then we kind of moved from that idea to the next idea. We kind of decided together what the best thing would be, and that is why I think he is such a great caddy is because he just tries to help me decide, you know, to make the best play.

Q. Last year you played in the last group on Sunday and had a tough day, obviously. Can you talk about that experience and how that would help you tomorrow?

TOM LEHMAN: Yeah. You know, it was a tough day last year, and I didn't play my best, but you know, again, it was a very windy day, and you know, 74 was definitely not an embarrassment, you know. If you shot par out there, it was a heck of a score. But I definitely made some mistakes. I think I got a little impatient, a little bit ahead of myself at times and made some bogeys that I shouldn't have made.

Q. How do these holes, these finishing holes, rank as among the most difficult that you have played? Is there another course anywhere else that finishes as difficult as this does?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, these are very difficult. I think 18, especially, as everybody knows, is just a bear. You know, it just so demanding, and you know, I think that 18 at Oak Hill where the Ryder Cup is equally as difficult. It is another tough one. And I really think that is what you want. You want to have a last hole where you put the driver in the guy's hands; you make him hit a driver; you make him hit it straight; you make him hit it long; you make him hit a great approach and a great putt. That is all you can ask for on an 18th hole and this one definitely has it.

Q. Are there any advantages or disadvantages to finishing this early on a Saturday, not having to be part of the last couple of groups?

TOM LEHMAN: Not really. I think -- no. There is really no advantage, you know, because you are going to have a late tee time tomorrow. So there is plenty of time to do what you to have do and get rest and whatever.

Q. An easy one and a long one. What club did you hit to 18, and how likely do you think it is tomorrow for somebody to do what you did today to come from an earlier tee time and post a number that is going to look pretty good at the end?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I hit a 6-iron, first of all, on 18, and this just pushed it. But you know, the thing about this golf course is that you can make some birdies but it is just so hard to hang on to a good round. I think as you have seen throughout the week, just from watching, you know, Tiger Woods, Jeff Maggert yesterday from what I saw, guys can get good rounds going and it is so tough to hang on to it. It is tough not to give them back. And you know, so think I can get it going - whether you can finish it off or not is another story.

Q. To use an old phrase, did you feel like you brought The Monster to its knees today?

TOM LEHMAN: No. You know, I have a lot of respect for this golf course, and it is playing -- it is a very, very, very difficult golf course. But the conditions are such that it is probably as easy as an impossible course could ever play. You know, even on the most calm, benign, placid day it is still a tough golf course. Every once in a while it might give up a little bit, but it can also jump up and grab you.

Q. How meaningful is sharing a course record from your perspective?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, a lot of great players have played here and no one has beat 65 and that you know, on one day, obviously you have played a super round and on that last hole having a par-putt for 65, I knew it was to tie the course record and even more than where it was putting me in the tournament, I wanted to make it for that reason. It is nice to be able to say: "I hold the course record at Oakland Hills."

Q. Your caddie said that this may be your favorite tournament. Why is that?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I just like the atmosphere. I like the attention that the media gives it. I like the way they set up the golf courses. I like the fact that par is rewarded. I like the fact that you have to have a lot of patience; that it is kind of a survival test. You know, it is not a sprint, it is a marathon, so I like that.

Q. Some of the guys yesterday said they thought par might win this tournament. Considering what you did today, what do you think it is going to take to win tomorrow?

TOM LEHMAN: You know, that really is a hard one. I think if the conditions tomorrow were similar to today, I think going to have to be under par. I think somebody will shoot under par, for sure. I really don't know what the scores are right now. I haven't even looked at the board, but I would have to believe that somebody is going to have a good round.

Q. Your caddie talked about all the work he did yesterday after a disappointing round. What kind of work do you do, if anything, after a great round?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, I am going to go out with Jim after the round today and I think all you try to do is to work on feel. Try to get a good feel. Try to get a good rhythm and for me to practice after the round is to create positive, you know, feelings, positive attitudes, you know, that I can take home tonight. I want to go out on the range. I want to practice and make it count, so I can feel good about my swing; I can feel good about what I am doing and when I go home tonight the last couple of drives that I hit I know are perfect and I can feel good about that.

Q. How far was your 8-iron on 16 and the 3-put, was it straight in or a lot of break?

TOM LEHMAN: I had 150. Really good yardage perfect 8-iron and I just hit it right where I was looking, 30 feet left of the hole. It was slightly downhill and broke about a foot.

Q. Tom, last September at the Ryder Cup you talked about having arrived at that event, it raised your game to a new level. In your mind, arriving here with the 65, and moving up the leader board, depending, of course, on what happens tomorrow, do you move up in your mind to a new level?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, no, I don't think so. I have gotten to the stage in my career that I know I am capable of competing at this level, in this tournament, against these players. And I know that I have the game that can win. There is definitely an intangible that great champions have that allow them to win. And you know, there is very few Jack Nicklauses; very few Tom Watsons and all you can do you go out there and you gut it out and do your best, and you know, I think the guy who is really wants to win; who -- that has that resolve and who doesn't beat himself, is the guy who wins.

Q. Would you discuss your bunker shot on 18 and what type of lie? Did you have to take that stance?

TOM LEHMAN: Well, it was -- the ball was maybe about three feet from the back lip. The lip wasn't really in the way, but when I took a stance, it created, you know, an awkward stance where my right knee was in the way, so I had to keep it out of the bunker, just to make room to swing the club, and you know, it forced me to get the -- my weight left and it kind of forced me to hit a lower shot which was actually a pretty good break because it got the ball running up over that ridge and up near the hole.

Q. Do you feel more ready or prepared to win this tournament at this point than you did after the Saturday round last year at Shinnecock?

TOM LEHMAN: I think that every chance you get to win a tournament; especially a major, you know, creates a new level of maturity, and I feel like I am ready, and but yet I am not -- I am not Joe Namath, I am not going to predict a victory. But I know that I have gone through a lot in the last few years, a lot of pressure situations, The Masters, U.S. Open, Ryder Cup, President Cup, a lot of things that help develop character, develop maturity on the golf course, patience I have and I think I have learned a lot and you just really hope that you can go into Sunday and have your game and just put what you have learned to use.

Q. Stretch that comparison back to the first time you contended at Augusta. Literally, what kind of thoughts came into your mind at that time that you hope would not be present tomorrow?

TOM LEHMAN: I was looking for the nearest bathroom so I could go throw up. (AUDIENCE LAUGHTER) I was so nervous at Augusta. It was pitiful. But I think the more often you are in that situation, the more able you are to deal with your nerves and, you know, I can't think of anything more pressure-packed than the Ryder Cup last year. You know, just being out there -- just, there was so few players and everybody is focused on you and every mistake is magnified and every good thing is glorified and it becomes such a microscope. So dealing with that, I think that more than anything that helped me realize that I can handle pressure.

LES UNGER: Is that okay?

Q. If it is you and Els tomorrow, dealing with two of the broadest sets of shoulders on the Tour, how much does physical strength help you out there? Maybe obviously hitting it out of the rough, but I mean just being a strong player, it is coming in handy obviously?

TOM LEHMAN: I think the one thing that I think helps is that if you can hit 3-woods or 1-irons a long way, it is a big advantage. I played with Davis Love the first couple of rounds and I mean he was hitting his 1-iron out there where a lot of guys use drivers. That is a huge advantage, but when you do get it in the rough, it does require strength. Just a little, you know, a wild swing at it, it does pay to be strong, and, you know, the thing about Ernie is, he does have a lot of strength, but he also has a lot of finesse, and obviously a phenomenal swing and very under control. And if you have that combination of strength and control, that is a pretty big God-given gift.

LES UNGER: Tom, thank you very much.

TOM LEHMAN: Thank you.

End of FastScripts....

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