Tom Lehman: Wisdom From the Champions Tour

Tom Lehman won the Charles Schwab Cup and Championship in a cakewalk. Played on the Cochise course at the Desert Mountain Club in Scottsdale, Arizona, Lehman cruised around in 5-under 65 which included just one bogey. In fact, as he pointed out in the Media Center after the round, he had only three bogeys in the entire week.

With rounds of 68, 63, 62, and 65, he bested Jay Haas by six shots. He was paired with Fred Couples who had a tough day with a 3-over, 73 and fell to T4, nine shots behind. It was pretty impressive. 

Q: Any special pressure when you play, you played in your hometown before in the Phoenix Open and playing here?

Yes, there is a little bit of pressure. You know, especially when you play well, and you get in the lead, or near the lead, you feel like you don’t want to let your friends down and let the people who come out to cheer you on, you don’t want to make them go home empty handed. So there can be a bit of pressure that way.

But, once again, I proved to myself, just another time, those are all of the kind of thoughts you have to push out of your mind. You have to really focus just on the one thing right in front of you and not worry about the what ifs and what will people think and what if I make a bogey. What if I hit it in the bush. All of the what ifs that crawl into your head, you have to eliminate them. And today I did that really well, I pushed all of that aside and just played the game and I was very, very pleased with the outcome.

So I decided to press a little deeper into his answer:

Q. You talked earlier about blocking out all of the extraneous thoughts about family and friends, and what people would think. Can you say some more about how you actually do that? It’s one thing to say, “I want to black out all of these thoughts and get back to what’s in front of me.” How do you stop the thoughts about pink elephants?

I think sometimes there are different ways to do it. Some days versus other days. There is a song that I like it’s called, the Voice of Truth, and without getting too deep in it, what it talks about in the song is how you get all of these voices coming at you. And in golf, it’s all stuff like, hey, you’re going to chunk it. You’re going to snap it out of bounds. You are going to shoot 80. You are going to throw it away. You are going to embarrass yourself.

But the song, “The Voice of Truth,” says, but through all of the voices comes the voice of truth. So to me the voice of truth is looking at what you have done in the past. That’s the best I way I can explain it.

So I look at the time past and when I’ve been under pressure and playing in pressure situations, there have been very, very, few rounds which I am embarrassed about. Almost entirely I have been able to play under pressure and play reasonably well, if not very well, and especially on the Champions Tour.

So to me, that’s the thing, there is no need [to have those thoughts]. I haven’t chunked a shot into the bush with a 3-wood in 40 years. I haven’t duck hooked a ball out of bounds in 40 years, or whatever it might be, so why should I believe I’m going to do it today.

So once you kind of give yourself that pep talk, it’s like, okay, this is who you are, this is the way you play the game and then you can just go do it. That’s the whole lead up to the round for me, just kind of give myself a pep talk to understand, you know, this is who you are as a golfer, now go play like that.

And then there was this exchange about something I noted in his putting routine:

Q. I followed you today and your putting was better than good, it was amazing. You made so many putts that you needed to make, except for the one on 10.

Yes.

Q. What I noticed particularly is that there was a meter to your putting routine. You took your practice strokes, you got yourself settled into the ball and then there was this sort of getting ready to pull the trigger. Can you talk about that, what’s going through your mind from the time you are settled over the ball until when you actually pull the trigger because it was like a metronome?

That’s it. That’s what I get in and out of. I don’t think I’m like that at all. But there are times when you really see the line, and because you really see the line you immediately buy into it and you commit to it. I think that’s probably the biggest thing of all. The rest is easier then. The label, all I ever try to do is roll that label straight. Whether I played the ball out or straight, or inside or something, I just simply try to roll that label, make it go straight.

When I get into that kind of rhythm, you know, which I think is totally controlled by seeing the line really well, then I putt well. I find there are times when I just don’t see the line and all of that rhythm is just shot. I’m just fighting myself and misreading and misreading, misreading and then you start doubting, and those strokes go south when you start doubting. You know how it goes.

I don’t know why it is that I, at times, I see the line so well whether it’s a focus thing or what. I mean, except from the first day, the last three days I was spot on with the line. I missed very few.

Well, there we are; not a bad haul. You would expect a nugget from one of these interviews and hope to get a couple more. So when you get two, it’s time for them to hit the highlight reel.

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2 Responses to Tom Lehman: Wisdom From the Champions Tour

  1. Guy Ruthmansdorfer says:

    Bill
    I have to say you really did a great job with all the articles from the Charles Schwab cup. Seems like you had some great access to a few legends of golf. What would you say you took away with you from the tournament? Anything that just stuck out at you that makes theses golfers so good that could help the rest of us? I understand the tournament is back in two years. Hopefully I know someone that will let me crash at their place. 🙂

  2. Bill Rand says:

    Thank you, Guy. The single thing that stuck out to me was how little noticeable difference there is between PGA Tour players and the Champions Tour players. In addition to following them on the course, I spent quite some time walking up and down the range watching guys practicing. You stand there for any kind of time and it doesn’t look like a guy like Jay Haas has lost a beat or any of his flexibility. True, these were the 30 best guys, but still. If the average golfer should work on any one thing, it should be that, flexibility. It’s never too soon to start because you can’t believe how fast it goes once it starts. Bill