An Interview With: CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN
September 18, 2006
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: It's raining again. Every time we show up, it starts to rain. It's temporary.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Tom, thanks as always for coming to join us. We met earlier in the day some of us at the airport just after your arrival. Now you're here at The K Club, you must be very excited to finally be getting this week started.
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, it's great to be back. Some of us were here yesterday. Excited to be back once again. The little trip we took earlier in the month I think was really beneficial, and I think everybody is comfortable with the surroundings and comfortable with the golf course and comfortable with the hotel and a bit like a home coming again, so it's great to be here.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Ian Woosnam is on his way here. He was held up a bit in traffic and he will join us as soon as possible. So we'll start with just questions for Tom.
Q. From this morning, you were delayed because of the amount of luggage you had, can you give us an idea of anything particularly large or heavy or unusual you brought over with you on the plane this week?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: They couldn't get my couch on, so I was disappointed about that. My TV and the remote control had to stay home as well. The microwave they had to throw over board. The kitchen sink stayed. The luggage did make it, though.
It was massive, massive amounts of luggage and don't ask me if that's typical or not typical, I have no idea. All I know is the airline personnel when they saw the bags piling in, their eyebrows got more and more furrowed as the evening wore on. Q. Should we be pointing the finger of suspicion at the wives and all their clothes?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: Actually, I'd say our wives have done pretty well this time. I think, I don't know, there seemed to be a lot of extras for some reason. Don't ask me what the issues are entirely, but, you know, we were able to all fit it on there. It's like fitting a big puzzle and the plane took off and we flew here safely and here we are. Q. Could you possibly say that X had ten cases and somebody else only had one?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: Well, I have about 15 personally. So if I'm going to point the finger anywhere, I'll point it at myself. You know, there's a lot of things we brought that are basically making a one-way trip, so to speak. So that kind of tells you a little bit about what's going on.
Q. Just wondering if you have enough room for the Ryder Cup to go back with you, and are you increasingly confident to take it back? Is there room for the Ryder Cup?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: I would say that there would be. If push came to shove, we would be fine.
Q. Given what we talked about earlier about the roots of a lot of your team members, just curious, there's been six or seven or eight guys who have said that the Nationwide Tour is the second best tour in golf. Having come from there yourself, what are your thoughts when you hear that?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: What are my thoughts when I hear that? I never really thought about it that much. I do know that there's nine guys on our team, ten including myself, I believe, whose career really began and got started on the Nationwide Tour. Back when I played, it was the Hogan Tour and became the Nike Tour and the Nationwide Tour, and so a lot of great players have come from that tour.
It is a tremendous tour, no doubt about it. It's a stepping stone, it's definitely a stepping stone tour and it's becoming more international in flavour, as well. I think it's safe to say it's the second best tour in the world, is a major overstatement. There have been a lot of great players that have come out of there. I think they play great golf in Europe and in South Africa and Australia, the United States. All over the world, there's great golf being played. So I think that whoever says that was probably a little bit over-exuberant. Q. Amongst the items you're saying are making a one-way trip, are they gifts for the people here or what?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: Tortillas. (Laughter).
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: See, the look on your face? I love it. Like, what the heck are you talking about, tortillas, what are they?
We live in Arizona, it's the land of the Mexican food. And when we were here over the last few years, it was very difficult to find good chips and salsa. I mean, good, authentic chips and salsa. So rather than try to find it, we decided we're going to bring our own corn tortillas, and you can make your own chips and salsa. Swear to God, three bags, this is the truth, my wife ordered these tortillas, corn tortillas, and I packed it into my golf travel bag, all right, and I tried to move it and I couldn't even get it off the ground. I couldn't even move it an inch. And I started looking, these little bags of tortillas, this tall, this big of round, weighing 5 1/2 pounds each, and I must have loaded 200 in my golf bag. So I figure that golf bag weighed about 500 pounds. No wonder they couldn't move it.
A one-way trip, absolutely, because we're going to eat those babies.
Q. Did you bring the salsa, too?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: No, we brought the ingredients to make the salsa. One-way trip.
Q. Is Melissa cooking?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: She's going to be involved with it. My wife is the kind of person who went into the kitchen in Japan during thanks giving to help the cooks make Rice Krispie treats. They had no idea how to make those and she taught them how. My wife is great, she's trying to create an atmosphere, down home and chips and salsa is something that everybody likes, so we're having the real deal.
Q. Something totally different. There's a note in the spectator guide that autographs will not be given all week, and the Europeans seemed to ignore that in Detroit two years ago, just went on a charm offensive. Any plans for that?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: We'll be ignoring that one, as well.
Q. You look like you're wearing Irish tweed.
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: You like it?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: Thank you.
Q. Is it Irish tweed?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: I don't know what it is.
Q. Is it a coincidence that it looks like Irish tweed?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: To me it's a -- it's just a nice kind of older, traditional, Great Gatsby-type look. It's earth tones and it is a tweed. It has some depth to it and has some history to it, tradition, what I like.
Q. It may be going a bit too far but was it made by Brooks Brothers or Irish Brothers?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: No, it was made by Ralph LAUREN polo.
Q. Is there a deer stalker --
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: I did have a deer stalker, but it didn't match the jacket obviously.
Q. Tom, just on golf for a moment. (Laughter)
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: No, this is really good, this direction.
Q. Wentworth last week, the Europeans played very well, your two players checked out early and some players from the team didn't seem to great at the Lumber 84. Does this sort of reinforce your position as underdog and form is not going to come into it very much at all come Friday?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: Form, I've always contended that the best player is always play best in the biggest events. I know from personal experience, I've played in the B.C. Open the week before the Ryder Cup and missed the cut by about ten shots and went out and had a great Ryder Cup, played really well. So most guys are probably in that way, they don't really -- it's so easy to look beyond what you're doing last week to this week. And so I don't put a great deal of significance in the fact that a guy may not have played his best, because I know that when the pressure is on, the excitement is high and the best players do raise the level of their game. Q. What are your plans for the practise rounds right now? And secondly, how would you compare the importance of these practise rounds with, say, the practise rounds at a major?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: I would say that these practise rounds need to be a little more fun, they need to be a little bit quicker, and with a capital Q.
I think we already have quite a bit of stuff kind of put together, you know, so that the practise rounds, I don't want guys out there just hitting a bunch of balls and hitting a zillion chips and not really accomplishing anything.
My idea of a practise round is going to be we're going to play 18 holes and make it count, and then if guys need more practise on the golf course they are tree to go out afterward but I think it's important that we play the course and make it count.
Q. What are you hoping for to come out of these practise rounds, and what are you looking for?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: I'm looking for -- to build, to let the team's, whatever you want to call it, start on Tuesday and grow and grow so that it's peaking on Friday.
Q. Do you know the four players you're going to put out Friday morning yet?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: The four teams, do I know them? I do.
Q. And how long ago did you decide those?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: I would say within the last couple weeks.
Q. Do you know Friday afternoon yet, Saturday morning?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: Partially. Partially, yeah.
Q. How much of the next few days is going to have a bearing on Friday afternoon or any changes you might make on Thursday, you know, things that you see, or are you really set in your mind on Thursday/Friday -- you know what I meant.
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: No, I'm totally confused. Today is Monday.
Q. Hey, I just got off a plane. Okay. You said you're set with your first group. How much are the practise rounds going to make a difference in either that or the next set of pairings that you're making?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: You know, I think the way I've done it is I basically have -- I've put together what I consider to be like five or six or seven really solid groups. And then, play the 'What If Game'. What if Player A is hurt, what is that going to do with the rest when Player B is hurt or if Player C is hurt. So I try to have an alternate pairing for everything or two or three, in fact.
You find with some players, I'm sure Woosie will be the same way with his team, there are some players you can pair with most everybody on the team, it could be anybody on the team. You just find the different options. That's what I've done is just try to figure out what I would do with the guys that I would consider to be really, really strong teams and really locked in almost, if I couldn't pair those guys together for some reason, what would happen to the rest. It's a big juggling act.
I think we are very prepared quite frankly what we would do if something like that happened, if somebody wasn't playing well, if somebody got hurt, if somebody got sick, I think we're ready.
Q. In an ideal world, would you say that it would be un-wise or unfair of a player not to play before Sunday?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: I don't think it's the optimal way of doing it. I don't think it would be the preferable way of doing it.
With that said, it is a team event. It is a team event. I've played football as a kid. Our high school football team won the state championship when I was a sophomore and I was on the team but never played a down. At the time it was frustrating, but, you know what, 20 years later, 25 years later, I have a ring that said I was a state champion and I was part of the team and looking back I know I was part of the team. I busted my butt in practise, gave it all I had every day and just so happened I was young and we had great older players ahead of me.
The concept of a team thing like the Ryder Cup, let me give you a what if. What would you do if you put four teams out every day that kept on winning? Would you split up a winning team in that scenario? What happens to the rest of the guys.
At the end of the day, a team event, and you do whatever it takes to win. I would not prefer to not play somebody, and I don't think it would be the wisest come singles time to not play everybody. But what do you do if something like that happens? I think that's a conversation that you have as a team. We're here to win and if things are going great, then we all just, you know, take one for the team.
Q. Mark James come to mind?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: You know, I wasn't a part of what was going on inside that team. I have no idea what they were thinking. I'm just telling you what I think is that in a perfect world, everybody plays. But there may be situations where that can't happen.
Q. A hypothetical question, if you could have one European player on your team, who would you have and why?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: Who would I want on my team? That's a great question. Yeah, I'm not sure I could answer that, other than saying that I have a great amount of respect for the entire team. I look at their team from top to bottom and it's very strong and they are very talented. There isn't one guy on the team who if I were captain that I would not be afraid to play. They are tremendous players.
Whether I would pick one for my team, I'm not even going to go there, but I do have a great amount of respect for the talent that they all have.
Q. In the final round at the Lumber, it was decided not to have lift, clean and place and play mud balls. Given the situation this week and the forecast on Friday, where would you stand in terms of playing mud ball or in terms of lift, clean and place in Ryder Cup?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, I'm not even sure that's something I get to help decide or not. I think that it would be, I think in the spirit of the sport. I mean, actually, there's two ways of looking at it. One is, you know, luck is part of the game. If it's hit and miss with a ball, the ball gets mud or not, maybe that's part of the, you know, rub of the green and you just kind of take it as it comes because it's probably going to affect each team equally.
Flipside of the coin is, do you want to see a bunch of mud balls squirting and going dead sideways. I don't think everybody wants to see that. It would be more fun to watch the guys have their chance to hit good shots. The idea of lift, clean and place definitely would be beneficial in that scenario. As long as the rub of the green affects everybody equally, it's probably not a big deal.
Q. About your pairings, it's almost established practise on the United States Team in recent Ryder Cups that you play all 12 players on the opening day. Is that practise now over from your point of view, have you changed that practise?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: Well, that's a good question. You know, I would be -- probably not going to get into that. I think in my perfect world, everybody plays sometime in the first two days. I'm not saying how many times or whatever but that would be what I would choose to do. I would try to have everybody play, everybody contribute, and that would be my preference.
Q. The second question is, everyone is delighted to see Darren Clarke here in his circumstances because of what this occasion will mean and do for him. Do you think his presence here will have an effect on the overall spirit in which the match will be played? Put it in a context for us.
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think it will absolutely -- his presence will, I think is a significant asset, it will be a great contribution to the success of this Ryder Cup. I think having him here means a great deal, probably to him personally, and to his teammates, as well as to the U.S. Team and all of the fans.
I think having him as a part of it makes this Ryder Cup significantly better. I think just seeing him, in fact, I haven't seen him for a while, just seeing him, everybody, you feel -- when it comes right down to it, we're all human beings, and whether or not we're playing in the Ryder Cup or not, you see a man who has had a circumstance and a tragedy like he's had to go through with he and his kids, and you have an incredible amount of empathy for him.
In terms of perspective, absolutely. I think it will just make this Ryder Cup that much better.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Okay, Tom, that seems like a nice place to end. Once again, thank you very much for your time and good luck this week.
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