2001 US Open - Tom Lehman News Conference Transcript
Q. Tom, there's been a lot of discussion about 18, and particularly the green. I assume you played the hole today. Has it changed at all? Has the condition changed at all?
TOM LEHMAN: Actually, I'm playing as soon as I leave here. So I haven't played it yet today. I know the USGA basically has a handle on it. They're not going to let it get away. I think they're doing all the right things and it shouldn't be a problem, I wouldn't think.
Q. This course through the years has had a history of wire-to-wire winners, is it -- is that coincidence, is it something about the course, the kind of player it demands or what?
TOM LEHMAN: You know, I've heard that over and over again for the last couple of months, and I can't really be certain why that is. But my opinion is that it's a golf course that -- it's a great golf course, first of all. It's very difficult and it kind of keeps you a little bit off balance. Just in the way the holes turn, a lot of doglegs and subtle ways about the course. The greens are difficult. I've found it's been difficult to get into a good flow out here. And so, therefore, the players that are playing really well can really -- it can get away from the players who aren't. You play very well or you play poorly; there's not a lot of guys who will go through the weeks saying, 'I played average.' It seems to really kind of separate good from bad, quite significantly, and there are the guys that are on their game can really get out and stay out ahead.
Q. Tom, you've mentioned that it was five years ago since you won so handily here. How has your game changed since then, and if at all, and how is the course set up differently now than it was then? Of course, a different time of year and conditions were different. How different is it?
TOM LEHMAN: The course is definitely different. The course is more like it was in '95 at THE TOUR Championship when Billy Mayfair won. It's kind of firm and that way -- and the greens are quicker that way. And the wind is blowing like it was that year, and even par won that year. It's playing quite different than it did in '94 and the PGA and quite different than it did in '96, as well. The rough is cut differently. The fairways are narrow. There's spots where I played my first practice round where I thought it was going to be perfect and it was in the rough by ten yards. It's a bit different in that way, too. The added length won't be a factor, I don't think. But the par-3 -- a couple of par-3s are a little more difficult. No. 8 and No. 13, I guess it would be, or the 14th. But it's basically the same course, just very firm, very fast, and par will be a good score.
Q. What about your game?
TOM LEHMAN: My game is very similar. I feel like I'm playing the best I've played in a long time. I feel like I'm in the best shape I've been in in a long time. And my swing is probably as repeatable as it's been in a long time. My putting stroke feels solid. I played well last week. I've actually played fairly well most of the year, just trying to reduce the amount of mistakes that I make mentally.
Q. Tom, a lot of talk about the golf ball doesn't move as much as it used to and you don't shape the ball as much. Do you feel you still have the right-to-left ball that you can hit off the tee on these doglegs and motor into them?
TOM LEHMAN: I can still work it. Once a right-to-left guy, always a right-to-left guy. But it doesn't turn as much. In a way, a course like this is somewhat easier to play, when you can really work the ball a lot, working it around the corners. And the straighter the ball flies, it makes the line a little more precise. Maybe not quite as easy to hit some of the fairways. The new technology has its benefits, but also there's some things that aren't so good about it, and working the ball definitely is one of them.
Q. Tom, having played in the last group on Sunday four times at the U.S. Open and not winning, are those negative memories you have to contend with or are there positives there that motivate you?
TOM LEHMAN: I think they're all good memories. I don't lose any sleep over it, that's for certain. But I was talking yesterday about that, and really, two years when I was playing extremely well, '96 and '97, Congressional and Oakland Hills. There was really only one shot I wish I could take over again in those two years. You can't cry over spilt milk; I'm not doing that. The chance to play in the last group Sunday, is something I would cherish and relish and look forward to again.
Q. Tom, I wanted to ask you a little bit about the reward. You said: 'This is what I do in my life, I don't need to be rewarded being myself.' How did you feel when you were there, did you enjoy it?
TOM LEHMAN: I enjoyed it. It was an honor to be given that award, especially learning more about who Coach Hank Iba was and what he was all about. What I said was it seems a little bit unreal to award people for just being the way you're supposed to be. And we're all supposed to be kindhearted and should be generous and have some concern towards our neighbor, so why should you pat someone on the back for doing what they're supposed to do. That was my point. In a way it was kind of -- I was very humbled by it, really.
Q. Tom, it's been a pretty busy week already for you, with the award Monday night. You and the guys ready to start tomorrow?
TOM LEHMAN: No question. Normally most players don't show up to a tournament until probably Tuesday. You play a couple of practice rounds. So having three days to be here and prepare is more than you normally use. And therefore, I didn't even play on Monday. I putted and chipped and hit some balls, but two days of practice rounds is all most guys need.
Q. Tom, Lee Westwood this morning said that we won't find out how good Tiger Woods really is until he goes through a slump. He said he's never been through a slump, and we have to wait until he goes through one to find out how good he is as a player. Can you comment on that, please?
TOM LEHMAN: That's assuming he will go into a slump. I'll never make that assumption. Slumps are caused by really two things: Lack of enthusiasm or a flaw in your swing, neither of which he has. I wouldn't be looking forward to slumps anytime soon.
Q. You talked about being in the best shape of your life. I've heard a lot of golfers say that this week. Is that directly attributed to Tiger, do you think, and his work ethic, or to try to keep up with him?
TOM LEHMAN: I think I said best shape in a long time. I know when I was 18 I could run circles around myself at 42. But it's mostly related to the fact that my wife gets sick and tired looking at me being overweight. So it has nothing to do with Tiger. It has everything to do with making my wife happy. So, therefore, I've been working out.
Q. Tom, as a follow-up to all of this talk you always get about Tiger, is it good for golf that he has won four majors in a row going for his fifth or would it be good for golf this week if somebody else wins the major and steps up to his challenge?
TOM LEHMAN: I think it would be great for golf if I won this week. That's all I'm going to say about that. It would be great for me.
Q. A clarification. The shots you would take over, was that at Congressional at 16?
TOM LEHMAN: 16, definitely. But 17 -- so maybe two shots. That bogey at 16; I hit the wrong club on 16, and so really kind of forced the issue on 17. So if I could take any one shot over again, it would be the shot on 16.
Q. The other thing is, we came here this week and everyone is talking about Tiger Woods. Now after three days, everyone is talking about the golf course. I wonder if the players have changed in their discussions, as well, this week?
TOM LEHMAN: Have what now?
Q. If the players have changed, too, if they came here talking about Tiger, but now are talking about the golf course, because the golf course has become center now?
TOM LEHMAN: I think most players have yet to see Southern Hills at its fiery best, which it was in 1995, but only 30 guys got to play that week. '94, it was middle of August, it was soft. '96 it wasn't all that -- it wasn't that much easier -- or tougher, I should say. And so most players haven't seen Southern Hills as it is right now. Therefore, the talk now is the golf course, because the golf course is just a phenomenal golf course. Any thought of what somebody else is doing is just pretty much sinking your own ship. You can't waste your time worrying about one guy. There's too much to worry about, maintaining your own game and your own emotions, or else the course will eat you up. Bottom line is if you can go out there and tame this golf course and beat this golf course, I don't care who it is you're playing against, you're going to have a good chance winning.
Q. Tom, considering the way you've described this golf course, Tiger said a couple of weeks ago at Memorial that the reason he plays so well there is because it's always wet and he can just pretty much do whatever he wants to off the tee. How do you see this golf course setting up for his game? Is there any golf course that's difficult for him or does he just have all the shots to play on any golf course, no matter how it's set up?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, how it's set up for him, you'll have to ask him. I have no idea what he thinks about it. But from my perspective, I don't really see any course that he couldn't play. I think he's proven that over and over again. A course like Memorial plays more into his strengths. But how do you talk about somebody's strengths when they have no weaknesses, so what do you say? I don't think there's any course that doesn't favor the best player in the world.
Q. Tom, if you know that you're playing with Tiger in the final group on a Sunday, is there a different approach, is there more factors you have to deal with?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, there's more factors. The biggest factor is just the crowd. That's the biggest thing. If you talk to most players who play with Tiger, it's always an experience that's enjoyable. It's always nice to play with the guys who are the best players. But dealing with the circus -- the first two rounds of Congressional at the U.S. Open, Tiger and myself and I think Steve Jones played together, and there was -- must have been 120 media guys on the course with us, and there was two people who were full-time in charge of making them go in the right places and doing the right thing, and not talking or shooting when they weren't supposed to be talking or shooting or not moving. You don't deal with that playing with Davis Love or Lee Westwood, like I'm playing with the first two days. There's the circus atmosphere of the crowd when playing with Tiger, which is difficult. Maybe it's even tougher to play right in back of him or right in front of him, because folks are running to get in a spot where they can see. Therefore, you're constantly getting people running up on you or -- and distracting you.
Q. If you were to come in with like 68 tomorrow, would you figure you'd got there multiple birdies and some bogeys or could there be a bogey-free 68 on a golf course like this? And the other half is would you expect that you'd make some long putts on these greens?
TOM LEHMAN: The greens are pure. And if you're rolling it well, you're going to make some putts, period. As far as bogey-free rounds, yeah, you can do that out there. The course is not impossible. If the wind blows real hard, it would be highly unlikely. If the weather is reasonable, the wind is reasonable, I can see a guy playing on this course, a round without bogeys. The birdies are not going to be easy to come by, but you can make them.
Q. Tom, you finished well in Hawaii, and last week in between the finishes weren't as solid. Has your play been inconsistent or you've played well and not scored?
TOM LEHMAN: I've been putting a lot of pressure on myself. Being a Ryder Cup year, wanting to make the team. I've been in great shape on Sunday four times, for sure, when I've shot terrible rounds, 4-over, 3-over, and shot myself in the foot. And what it's been more with me is playing very well and getting nothing out of it. Putting too much pressure on myself, wanting to play well too badly. I feel like my game is really good, just that maybe I haven't been approaching it the right way.
Q. Have you done anything, anything in advance of the Open to try to tweak that?
TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, I've tried to put out of my mind all the stuff you can't control. I can't control what happens with the Ryder Cup team or what somebody else does. I've just tried to kind of refocus on myself, and what I'm doing is playing my shots one at a time. And that old cliche: One hole at a time; it's rather boring, but it's true. You have to stay in the present, and you can't get out of the present or you get in trouble. I try to stay with the tunnel vision thing.
Q. Did that pay off in Memphis?
TOM LEHMAN: In Memphis it helped. I tried to mind my own business. I played real well on Sunday, and I was happy with the way I played.
Q. Tom, I was hoping you could shift gears for a second. You're playing in Tom Watson's event next week in Kansas City. Could you talk about your relationship with him and how important the charity-type events are, because it's something that's also going on in Minnesota?
TOM LEHMAN: Tom is one of the people I've always looked up to in golf as a kid. Especially -- he's like ten years older than I am, so not that much older. When I was in high school and college, he was a star on the Tour and winning major championships. I always admired the way he played the game. He was definitely someone I looked up to as a player very much. The charity thing about it is -- just a lot of players do charitable things: I have a tournament, Brad Faxon, Peter Jacobsen. The list goes on of guys that have tournaments, and Tom has one, also. He played in my event and I'll play in his. It was an honor to be invited.
Q. Tom, everybody is talking about the course and it certainly seems to be a good U.S. Open course. In that sense does it surprise you that it's been 24 years they haven't had an Open here?
TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, I guess it does, yeah. It's definitely one of the best courses in America, and it has been quite a dry spell. So, yes, the answer would be definitely.
Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.
According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.
Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.
Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.
Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.
And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.
Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.
Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:
The Monday morning headline will be …
REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.
RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.
MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.
JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.
Who or what will be the biggest surprise?
HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.
LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.
BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.
COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.
Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?
HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.
LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.
BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.
COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.
What will be the winning score?
HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.
LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.
BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.
COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.
Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty
Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.
Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.
This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):
While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:
Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.
McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.
Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.
“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”
McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.
“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”
He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.