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July 10, 2012

Tom Lehman


JOE GOODE:テつ Good afternoon, everybody.テつ My name is Joe Goode and I'm the Managing Director of Communications for the USGA.テつ I'm pleased to welcome 2011 Champions Tour Player of the Year, Tom Lehman, to the media center today.テつ He's playing in his fourth U.S. Senior Open Championship.テつ His 15 career professional victories include the 1996 Open Championship.テつ He's the only golfer in history to have been awarded the Player of the Year honor on all three PGA Tours.テつ Tom, you're coming off your second straight win at the Regions, solid performance at the Senior Players Championship, and I'm told that right now you have 12 consecutive sub‑70 rounds in a row and a chance this week to tie the Champions Tour record of 13.テつ Talk about your momentum coming into this championship.
TOM LEHMAN:テつ Okay.テつ That's the kiss of death right there.テつ (Laughs).テつ So if I shoot 59, does that break the streak.
JOE GOODE:テつ Ties.テつ Right.
TOM LEHMAN:テつ Or is it sub 70?テつ Well, little chance of that happening.テつ So what was the question?テつ I forget.
JOE GOODE:テつ Your big mo coming into the event.
TOM LEHMAN:テつ You know what, I've been playing well.テつ Ever since, gosh, I don't know, the beginning of May, my game kind of kicked into gear.テつ I played well at Houston, finished second.テつ Top 5 or Top 4 or whatever it might have been in Iowa winning the Regions Tradition and second, THE PLAYERS.テつ Yeah, so the last four or five or six tournaments have been very, very solid.
So I feel like I'm kind of hitting on all cylinders.テつ My swing feels pretty good.テつ I've been putting well, thinking well, and excited to be here.
JOE GOODE:テつ Do you prepare differently for a U.S. Open?
TOM LEHMAN:テつ No, I wouldn't say prepare differently.テつ I think there's little more anticipation, though, of actually playing.テつ It's a typical U.S. Open setup here as well, in terms of you can't really get away with too many loose shots.テつ You're going to get punished for some way ward play out there.テつ So you get here and you get on the course and you realize, ah‑ha, yes, this is a U.S. Open.テつ And there's no gimmicks.テつ You gotta play solid golf, put it in the fairway, put it on the green and putt well.
JOE GOODE:テつ Why don't we open up to questions.

Q.テつ Tom, I talked with Steve Jones this morning just talking about 16 years ago at Oakland Hills, what happened 20 miles down the road and just his memories of it.テつ Coming to this area do you have any memories or thoughts of that as well?
TOM LEHMAN:テつ Well, I certainly sure enjoy playing that golf course, the U.S. Open in '96.テつ The PGA Championship, was it 2008?テつ Yeah.テつ So yeah, I mean the ‑‑ it's a fun place to come and play golf.テつ I mean Michigan in general, the Midwest, you know, you get great crowds.
But I do have good feelings about being here.テつ I do feel comfortable, and I do have very positive memories of playing golf here.テつ So you know, all those things actually are important, I think, when you come back to play an event like this, you know, feeling good about where you're at and having kind of good experiences.

Q.テつ Tom, what was it about the U.S. Open that brought out the best of your game?
TOM LEHMAN:テつ You know, I think it plays to my strengths.テつ I think any time you play a golf course where par was a good score, it really fits my personality.テつ I think it's persevering and not giving up.テつ I think it fits the way that I play.テつ I've always been the kind of person who can put the ball in play and I hit a lot of greens.
I may not always be the straightest iron player or the most accurate driver, but I can generally kind of keep it in play, keep it on the greens.テつ So my whole career was built on hitting it 15 feet from the hole or 20 feet or 30 feet with a 3‑iron, something where I could put the ball on the green.
So any time, you know, par was acceptable, that really kind of played into my strength.テつ So you know, U.S. Opens typically do that.テつ Looking at U.S. Open, they generally try to get even par as a winning score, and it's not easy to do, but I find of feel like I had a better chance of shooting even par on a U.S. Open golf course than 25‑under on another kind of golf course.

Q.テつ Tom, just as an Open champion, I'm assuming you're going to be going over to Lytham after this.テつ How important is it to play this event before you go over as opposed to a lot of the past years you're coming back from say two weeks over playing an Open and then the Senior Open and then having to come and play the U. S. Senior Open?
TOM LEHMAN:テつ Yeah.テつ Well, to me it's all the same, three majors in a row three weeks in a row, so whether this one is the first one or the last one, it doesn't certainly make a difference to me personally.

Q.テつ When you look at that 18th green and you putted, is there anything that it reminds you of or any other course anywhere?
TOM LEHMAN:テつ No.テつ I think that's a unique green in the world of golf right there.テつ It's hard to describe actually.テつ I'm not sure how you would describe that green.テつ But it certainly doesn't fit the remainder of the golf course.テつ Very much unique in its own style.
You know, it's going to be a challenging hole just for that reason.テつ You get in the wrong spot and it's going to be trouble.

Q.テつ A couple of guys said it was like there were elephants buried in it?
TOM LEHMAN:テつ Yeah.テつ Elephants or Feherty calls them rhinoceroses.テつ I mean there's something in there.テつ Volkswagen Bugs, maybe a few General Motors cars and Buicks.テつ Something is in there.テつ I don't know.
But you know, you really have to do your homework to understand if they put the pin in this spot, where is it that I can actually make a par from and where is it that I can't.テつ And I think these few days preparing are going to be important, especially learning that green.

Q.テつ Was there a transition period for you to the Champions Tour?テつ This is your fourth year.テつ You're having another great year after last year.テつ Was there some kind of transition for you and what was that?
TOM LEHMAN:テつ Yeah.テつ Well, I think the transition for a lot of guys, and it was the same for me, is just having the ability to play both tours gives you ‑‑ you can have a lot of fun, and you can actually play very well, like when I think about my first year out here, I thought I played very well.テつ But I think I might have played only seven or eight events and played 16 out there.
So you didn't play enough on either tour to really make a difference and be in any kind of consideration for the Schwab Cup or the FedExCup or whatever.テつ I think that's the transition is finally getting to the point where you pick one tour or the other and you go for it.
I think there's probably a number of guys out here who if you had to be honest, probably could say they could still be competitive on the PGA TOUR, but which direction are you going to go?テつ You know, you end up playing five or six or seven out here, the bigger ones, that limits you to only about 16 or something like that on the other tour.テつ That's the conundrum you get into is I can feel good about the way I play, but I'm not going to win the Schwab Cup.テつ I'm not going to win the Player of the Year.テつ I'm not going to be in the FedExCup finals.テつ There's all kinds of things you're missing out on by not committing one way or the other.テつ I think that's where I got to is just committing one way or the other.

Q.テつ And as a followup, what made you make that ‑‑
TOM LEHMAN:テつ You know what, quite frankly, for me it had a lot to do with, you know, the stage of life that we're in at home with some of my kids, you know, boys in high school and sports and the ability to be home more to be a part of what they're doing more versus the PGA TOUR which would require a much bigger time commitment away from home.
So I look at competition as competition, and I love to prepare and I love to compete and whether I'm competing out here or competing on the PGA TOUR, I love both of them.テつ But the idea of being able to compete and work on my game and do what I love to do in a way that lets me be a part of the things that I want to be a part of at home more often, that was the turning point for me.テつ That kind of tipped it in the Champions Tour favor.

Q.テつ Just quickly, how long did you spend on the 18th green putting?テつ How long were you out there working on there?
TOM LEHMAN:テつ You know, today maybe about ten minutes, but I spent an afternoon out here about a month ago, and I spent probably half an hour on that green, you know, before the PGA championship we played over in Benton Harbor.テつ I went all 18 holes that day and I got to 18 and I kind of was dumbfounded, you know, kind of sat there looking around for a while.
And there's some great pins.テつ There's some good spots for pins.テつ So it's not like the green is just, you know, impossible.テつ It's impossible if you don't know and put yourself in the wrong spot.テつ So it just takes some time spent preparing.

Q.テつ Just another thing is on the 9th hole they're talking about possibly moving the tees up forward there, and possibly making it drivable.テつ You're one of the longer hitters on the tour.テつ Would you take a poke at it if they moved them up?
TOM LEHMAN:テつ I think I would.テつ Tomorrow is going to be an important day to get out there and go to the front of the tee and hit it and find out what your line is, but it's a very difficult green, and I think if you get comfortable with the line and hit a decent tee shot, I'd rather be chipping to some of those pins than hitting a full 9‑iron.テつ So if they move forward, I think you need to be ready for it, but I think I'll take ‑‑ you know, the down side is because the green is so severe, if you get out of position, you know, you're probably giving away a chance to make a birdie and then maybe even a tough chance to make a par.テつ So there's always a bit of risk when you do that.

Q.テつ Going back to those Opens in the 90s where you had 54‑hole lead, what did you learn about yourself after those three years?
TOM LEHMAN:テつ You know, a few things.テつ I think you learn, I think the pros and the cons, the strengths and the weaknesses.テつ And the thing that I probably learned the most was that I had the ability to handle pressure.テつ You know, I think I had the lead three times.テつ I think I shot 71, 72 and 73 with the lead on Sunday.テつ And you know, as you all know, watching the U.S. Open how many guys do you see who have the lead and they shoot 78 or 80 or 76.テつ You see it a lot.テつ And so I proved to myself that I had the ability to deal with the pressure and that my game was good enough and that I was mentally strong enough.
It also, I think your weaknesses tend to show up, and to me it's always been that I'm ‑‑ I've always been a very good lag putter.テつ I've always been a very good short putter.テつ I don't maybe make as many 15 to 20‑footers as I maybe need to be able to make.テつ So you kind of go in search of that secret to make more of those 20‑footers.
You know, I'd say I'm a good putter, you know, at times a really good putter, but I think to win U.S. Opens you need to be consistently a great putter.

Q.テつ I guess I couldn't let you go without asking about returning to Lytham.テつ What have you heard about the changes and have you been back at all since '01?
TOM LEHMAN:テつ '01 was the last time.テつ Watson told me he was there a couple of months ago and they added some length, which you know, that tends to be a little bit of a ‑‑ you know, you say, hey, the second and third hole are both 480.テつ Well, 480 on a links course could be a 1‑iron and a wedge, depending on the wind or it could be a driver and 3‑wood.
So I don't get too concerned about length on links courses simply because the ball tends to want to roll.テつ Now, with all the rain they've had there, they're probably not going to be as fast and furious as it has been in the past.

Q.テつ Yeah, it's tons of rain.テつ It's just really been wet there.テつ And just is it fun, I know you play the whole ROTA, but is it fun just to go to Lytham where you won?
TOM LEHMAN:テつ Yeah, it is fun.テつ I'm taking my wife and my kids this year, so they've never been there before.テつ I've already made reservations at the Italian restaurant we went to about every night back in '96.テつ They remember me and I remember them.テつ So we're looking forward to that.
I've always believed that there's no magic about going to a place that you won before.テつ It was a great year in '96.テつ I missed the cut in 2001.テつ So I like the golf course, but you have to play the game, you have to hit the shots.

Q.テつ Tom, is there at all a part of you in there that still feels like there's that U.S. Open title in there that you have to maybe try to get to maybe fill a little void in your career, with the close calls and everything?
TOM LEHMAN:テつ Yeah, there were some close calls.テつ I think the tournament, the U.S. Open at Oakland Hills is one where I didn't win, but I played so well, and the same thing at Congressional.テつ So there's always that side that you go what if, and I wish I could have.テつ You know, but then that's ignoring the fact that ‑‑ like I don't think I could have played better than I played at Oakland Hills, and things just didn't go my way.テつ There was a few things that happened during the course of my round on Sunday where I hit great shots that ended up ‑‑ well, in one position costing me a shot, made a bogey on a par 5 after I hit an amazing driver off the fairway.テつ But anyway, to make a long story short, I really feel quite good about the way I performed, and you have to execute the shots and if you don't get the result, then you have to be able to accept it.テつ But I do feel quite frankly, to be honest, there's some of these U.S. Opens, Marion, for example, next year is not an overly long golf course.テつ I know they've changed it some, but there's still some venues that I feel guys like myself can compete at.テつ And with a great driving week and a good putting week, I still feel like I can be competitive.テつ So the hope is not gone.
JOE GOODE:テつ Tom, thanks for being with us this week, and good luck.
TOM LEHMAN:テつ All right.テつ Thank you.

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