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March 4, 2002

Tiger Woods

JAMES CRAMER: Good afternoon, everyone. This is James Cramer with the PGA TOUR, and I'd like to thank you all for calling into today's PLAYERS Championship teleconference, especially that Tiger Woods is joining us from New York. We only have a brief period of time, so I'd ask that you focus on The PLAYERS Championship in your questions, please. I'd like to now ask Tiger to get us started by commenting on his victory in last year's PLAYERS Championship and also his thoughts heading into this year's event. Then we'll take questions from the media. Tiger?

TIGER WOODS: Well, last year was a fun little battle that Jerry Kelly and Vijay and I had. Jerry played well for a few days, and then Vijay made a great run the last few holes, especially with that toe-in on 16 for eagle. But I was very fortunate to hit a few good shots coming in and hold them off. But it was an exciting win, a tournament that I've always wanted to win. Obviously, it's our tournament, the players' tournament. I'm very proud to be associated with all the great past champions of that event. I'm looking forward to getting back there and defending my title.

JAMES CRAMER: Very good. If the AT&T operator could now provide us with the first question, please.

Q. Tiger, good playing yesterday.

TIGER WOODS: Thank you.

Q. Last year's players, given the circumstances where, as you pointed out, you had to catch Jerry and then you had to hold off Vijay and Jerry, having to finish off on Monday, where does this rank among victories in your career, where it's really a tough test for you?

TIGER WOODS: Well, it's a tough test because, one, we had such a long delay in the time, and then the golf course, as you all know, is not exactly easy (laughing). To come back out on a Monday, I played nine holes on Monday. To try and get your body and mind geared up for nine holes to win such a big championship was hard, because usually you get to build into a rhythm of a round. But now you just have nine holes, and you need to get it done. I felt it was important to get off to a good, quick start. And I was able to do that by birdieing 10. I felt like I was on my way to a good, positive start. It was a tough little victory, because, obviously, Vijay making that run on the last few holes made it a lot more interesting than I would liked to have had it. But, nonetheless, it's also very gratifying to hold off such a great player like Vijay.

Q. Two quick questions. You mentioned the importance and semi-prestige of winning this tournament. Only four past champions of this event have not won a Major. Just a coincidence, or what?

TIGER WOODS: Hmm... Only you would come up with stats like that (laughing). I think that just goes to show you the caliber of the golf course we have to play. And learning how to play a golf course such as that, it also goes to show you that it is in a class of - I suppose people call it the fifth Major. I think that's one of the reasons why - it takes that kind of mentality and that kind of player and perseverance to win at TPC. It's just a very difficult test.

Q. Your performance has increased every year you've played it. Is that a function of just the state of your game that week, or has it taken you time to kind of find the routing on the course, if you will, to learn your way around it?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think my game has improved. But also understanding the golf course and learning how to play it, because every pin - it's not like playing Augusta. There's a lot of different pins where you have to put the ball in certain spots in order to make par or better. If you don't, you're probably going to make bogey or worse. It just takes a little while to learn how to play the golf course. Unfortunately, as my dad says, I'm a slow learner. Takes me a few years.

Q. You hit 2-iron on 18 last year, did you not, in the final round?

TIGER WOODS: I did, yeah.

Q. And the year before against Hal, I think you hit 2-iron.


Q. Is that pretty much the only shot you've got, depending on -- I mean, for the most part. I understand weather comes into play.

TIGER WOODS: Right. Well, the problem is if I hit 3-wood, I have a chance of running it through the fairway straight ahead. If I just hit a straight shot, I'll either be blocked out by the dead tree at the very end of the fairway that overhangs, or I'll hit it in the rough and I'll have no shot. But 2-iron -- unless I shape my 3-wood down the water line. But I'd much rather just lay it back and have a clear shot.

Q. And you never mention the word "driver"?

TIGER WOODS: No, it doesn't even come into play unless the wind's howling in your face.

Q. I noticed yesterday, I thought you drove the ball really well. Are you set now with the driver? Are you going to continue using the one you're using now?

TIGER WOODS: Yes, I am. Yes.

Q. You haven't talked much about your game. It seems like in a short period of time you've really made some advances, getting back closer to where you've been. Would you discuss that with us?

TIGER WOODS: I think it hasn't been a short -- it may seem like it in the public eye, it was just all of a sudden I started playing well. But it's one of those gradual things where it takes a little time to put pieces back, back together. I feel very pleased at the progress I'm making in my game. It's taken a little while to have those things come together, and especially under the intense heat of competition. You need to be able to hit shots you've been working on and hit them down the stretch in the tournament. Some of the shots I hit, like on 18 yesterday, for example, hit a wonderful drive off the tee. And then hit just a little 7-iron, held it back up against the wind. That's a shot that, you know, obviously it takes the right technique. But also I need to trust that. And no better time to try it than the 18th hole with a chance to win.

Q. Tiger, just wondering, 17 at The PLAYERS, has it gotten any easier to play over the years?

TIGER WOODS: (Laughing) no, no. It does not get any easier.

Q. Is there anything that experience can do there to help you?

TIGER WOODS: It helps you from a standpoint of being committed to a shot and understanding how to play that hole. The only time when it's really out the door experience is when that wind's howling down there in that corner, when it starts swirling. I mean, you hit 7-irons and 9-iron depending on what wind gust you get. It gets very tricky to pull a club down there. You just have to step up there, be committed, and hit a shot. That's what the hole was designed to do. If you hit a poor shot, you're not going to get any kind of result. So you better step up there and hit a good shot.

Q. Just wondering, as an addendum to Cliff's question, is 17, even though it's a totally different configuration, a different place, but in terms of being committed to the shot and the trickiness of the wind, are there any similarities to 12 at Augusta in terms of the way you have to be committed?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, they're almost identical in that sense, where you have to be committed to a shot. But at least you know at 12 at Augusta if you miss it short, you got a bunker there; if you miss it long, you got a bunker; or you can put it in the back left corner and still get up-and-down. There really isn't a whole lot of places to miss at 17 on TPC (laughing).

Q. Just one more in terms of The PLAYERS Championship. You and Hal had that great duel, then obviously last year was a great finish. It seems like at The PLAYERS it almost always turns out to be great theater in terms of the golf. Do you attribute that to the course, to the caliber of obviously all the top players being there? Is it a combination of both?

TIGER WOODS: I think it's a combination of both. The fact that you get all the top players there, assembled there for the first time all year - well, it used to be the first time all year, now you got the Match Play - to have all the top players like that there, generally you're going to find that you're going to have some guys coming down the stretch that are really playing well, or some of the top names. Generally, those guys have won Majors, and they know how to play and handle the pressure down the stretch. I think the theater that you find there at 16 and 17 of par 5, which you can make 3 on 16, then you can make anything on 17, and anything can happen again on 18, there's so much drama that can happen the last three holes because of the water, that it usually does happen that way.

Q. I'm wondering, do you ever see video of the live rounds on TV? For instance, you know, last year when you rolled in that snake on 17 and you did the fist pump and the "Yeah, baby," and all that. And, if you do see those videos, and you see yourself doing that stuff, do you laugh, do you get pumped up all over again? What's your own reaction to yourself?

TIGER WOODS: "Thank God that putt hit the hole," (laughing). Even though that putt went in. If it didn't hit the hole, it probably would have been off the green. Because I don't think people really remember. I was playing right behind Fred Funk. Fred just four-putted that hole. Then I was playing with Mickelson. Mickelson would hit it kind of on the slope but to the right of the hole. He hit a good-looking putt, but it ran by it about 6 or 8 feet, missed a come-backer. My putt was going down a little bit harder than his, so mine probably would have went off the green or close to it. But somehow it caught the edge and dropped, and I think that's what they show on the PGA TOUR highlights a lot.

Q. You had a similar reaction when you ran in a putt from the fringe I think same green, last US Am? Pretty good cartwheels on that, too.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, that was my first US Am, '94. Yeah, it was similar to that. Not quite the same drama. Obviously, the putt I made there against Tripp was on the 35th hole. I managed to finally take the lead. Then the putt I made on THE PLAYERS Championship was actually on Saturday. So I had one more round to play - actually, one more round, two more days.

Q. Tiger, I know it's difficult to compare courses, but when you think about the courses that you guys play over, you know, a period of time of a few years, where does the TPC rank in difficulty?

TIGER WOODS: If it's hard and fast, which it was - I believe it was '99 when Duval won.

Q. Yeah, I think so.

TIGER WOODS: '99 or '98, somewhere around there. The year that he won, it was brutally hard and fast. The greens were almost blue. Well, that year I shot I believe it was like 150 on the weekend. I moved up two places. That doesn't really happen, even in a major championship that doesn't happen. The golf course, if it's hard and fast, it's the toughest we'll play all year without a doubt. But if it's soft, it is pretty receptive because you can use a lot of slopes to your advantage and back the ball up on all those greens.

JAMES CRAMER: Tiger, I'd like to thank you for your time. We look forward to seeing you in two weeks as you defend your title at The PLAYERS Championship.

TIGER WOODS: All right. Thanks, James.

JAMES CRAMER: Thank you.

End of FastScripts...

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