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PGA TOUR MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 9, 2008
LAURA HILL: I'd like to welcome all the media. Thank you for joining us on today's call with Vijay Singh. Of course we appreciate Vijay's participation during his week off, and as you know Vijay has all but locked up the FedExCup thanks to his incredible performances throughout the PGA TOUR Playoffs to the FedExCup, including two wins earlier.
Before we open up the lines for questions, we have a special guest with us. PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem is joining us for a few minutes. Commissioner, I know you can't stay for the entire call, but you do have a few comments you'd like to make to kick things off.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I would. Thank you, Laura. Thanks very much. First of all, let me congratulate Vijay for phenomenal play here during the year, and particularly the last few weeks, and having all but locked up the Cup, and in the process probably kicking off a new round of what-are-we-going-to-do-next-in-the-points-system. That's probably a good problem to have.
I am delighted to kick this off, and I want to leave the stage to Vijay, so I'll hop off here in a minute. But let me thank all the media for joining us in our dark week, spending a few minutes to have an opportunity to ask your questions of Vijay.
I think looking back over the past six weeks, looking at Vijay, not just winning but winning three times, not just winning three times but winning in each case over terrific fields, about as good a field as we can present, first at the Bridgestone Invitational World Golf Championships at Firestone, holding off Stuart Appleby and Lee Westwood, both of whom played terrific, and winning on that terrific venue was particularly exciting. But then moving on to Barclays and sinking a 26-foot putt on top of Sergio Garcia's to extend the playoff and then winning on the next hole was a great start to the playoffs, where Vijay started to move into the lead. And then at the Deutsche Bank Championships in Boston, Vijay shot seven shots better than anyone else in the Top 10 going into the final round and wins by five. You know, two back-to-back performances, an incredible playoff run on top of a solid regular season. It will make him, barring any weird circumstances, the landslide winner of the FedExCup.
I think recognizing the history of PGA TOUR golf and the priority we place and the special emphasis we place in our system on winning, to win twice in succession against these great fields, it was very, very appropriate that Vijay come out the winner in Atlanta.
You know, I can't end without just saying that to those of us who live here in Ponte Vedra who have an opportunity during the course of the year to watch Vijay's work ethic, it's very easy in this case, any time Vijay wins a tournament, to say that he is truly deserving of it because we see how hard he works. But to see him come back from some adversity the last year and a half, some illness and to work even harder to get to this point and then to play as hard as he did on top of it is very special indeed. And Vijay, on behalf of everybody involved in the FedExCup, the PGA TOUR during the course of the year, congratulations, and we look forward to watching your march to victory in Atlanta.
With that, Laura, I'll sign off and leave this to Vijay and the media.
LAURA HILL: We'll open the lines for Q & A.
Q. Vijay, last December you did one of these conference calls and you talked about the swing changes that you were going through at that time. Do you think the last month or so has validated what you were working on and what you were trying to accomplish, and was there ever a time earlier this year when you had any doubts about those changes?
VIJAY SINGH: No. I mean, it's not easy changing a golf swing, especially when you've played for 20, 25 years doing one thing, and all of a sudden you decided that you're going to change. The change was great.
I mean, I began the season with great feelings. I did play well; I didn't win, but I played decently well. At the AT&T I had a chance to win and Doral I had a chance to win, so I was playing quite well, even at Bay Hill.
Just when you're not winning, that's when everything kind of gets a little shaky in your head. I mean, then you start questioning if you've made the right choice or no. But my ball-striking always was good on the range, and I was working a lot on my putting and all, but the issue turned out to be more than just a mechanical issue, it was more mental than anything else on the greens, and it kind of floored all the way down to my short game and all the way up to my long game.
I think the change was the best thing I've done, and all I needed to do was start playing well, performing well and start winning. Winning was a key element there, and once I felt like that I could win with it, then obviously I needed to fix another little issue, and that was my putting. I kind of overcame that with some pretty good attitude change.
If you watch me on the putting green now and you watched me during March, April, May, there's a big change, big difference in how I approach the green and how I actually go ahead and make a stroke, so that's been the new factor.
Q. Was the putting all confidence or was it just a matter of seeing a few go in and then it just fed off itself there?
VIJAY SINGH: Just believing that stroking a putt is simpler than what I made it out to be. I mean, for years and years I've been a very decent putter, a good putter for that matter. But I never really used that to my advantage. I just kind of took it for granted. And when things started going bad, the negatives were very strong, a very strong thing. It kind of plays in your mind and it's like a disease; it just takes over. But adding the change, it's just believing that even if you see putts go in -- I had a problem from short range. I would stand over a putt and I would feel like I was going to miss it before I hit it. That's not a way of putting. Just keep talking to yourself that you're the greatest, you're the best, you've made millions of these putts before and just go ahead and hit it, not worrying about whether you're going to miss the hole or make the putt. So that's the biggest thing.
Now even last week I didn't make a lot of putts. I putted the way I felt comfortable with, and I didn't feel shaky at all. I just had a bad week. I can buy that, than standing over a putt and really not making a stroke like I'm supposed to make.
Q. I noticed you've been using a training aid with kind of a listening device. I believe it's called Sonic Golf. Can you talk about how that device works, how you got started with it and what essentially it does for maybe the swing changes you've made or just your swing in general?
VIJAY SINGH: Well, that was developed by Dr. Grober. He's a professor of physics at Yale University. Freddie Funk introduced me to one of those gadgets in Ponte Vedra, and it's really used for rhythm. I mean, you put it on and there's no sound to it. The device goes on the back of a club, and it needs a special grip, so the device comes off and on. You can put it in different clubs as long as you have the right grip, and there's a wireless sensor that you have in your pocket and your headset kind of gets -- you hook your headset to it.
When you're swinging the club, if you keep the club still with the device in it, it doesn't make a sound. But if you actually swing it there's a rhythm to it, and it's according to your rhythm. If a fast swinger would have that, he would listen to a fast rhythm. All it does is listen to your own rhythm, and that way you can figure out the top of the backswing and the start of the backswing and the top of the backswing and obviously through the ball. It's like a symphony. It really just hums to your rhythm. The more you do it, the more consistent you get with the same humming sound, and it just helps you with your rhythm, and that's the only way I can describe it. It's the best device I've ever used.
I've been using it since the U.S. Open, and I think it's one of the best training aids. When it does come out on the market for any golfer or pro, amateur or even beginners -- it's one of the best things I've ever used.
It's called Sonic Golf, and you can actually go on line and type in www.SonicGolf.com and get all the information you want.
Q. The first time you heard the sound of your swing, did it sound the way you wanted it to sound? You talked about it being like a symphony. I can imagine a lot of average golfers, their swings wouldn't sound like a symphony, but to even hear your swing is kind of hard to describe.
VIJAY SINGH: Well, you can actually hear it. It goes like, zing, zing, like that. If you do it really fast, it's a really fast sound. It really doesn't really matter who swings it. It's just -- if you swung it, you'd have a different -- same sound with a different timing on it. It really is something that you have to listen to it to figure out how your swing works. It's working incredible. Every golfer that actually tried it out, you know, always wants to know where they can get one.
Q. Tim when he was on the line mentioned sort of jokingly about kicking around more chatter about what to do with the points system. I'm curious your perspective about the points system. You're obviously happy, I'm sure, that you have wrapped it up, but again, it doesn't allow for a chance of drama in Atlanta. What's best for the TOUR do you think going forward and how to tweak the points system?
VIJAY SINGH: Well, I really don't -- I cannot come up with -- there's so many scenarios out there that you ask anybody, they all come up with their own idea. I'm sure the TOUR is going to modify it in such a way that they're going to have a playoff system in the last tournament. No matter what kind of system you have, if a guy goes out and wins two or three tournaments -- I won two -- for instance, if I had won last week it would be all over. No matter who or what kind of a system you have, a person wins two or three times, it's all over. There's no way around it unless you have a match play where the last tournament is a match play system where you can knock guys out and it's a true playoff.
There's no real system out there that -- I think that is solid. You cannot really find -- I don't know what you guys have been talking about. I'm sure every media guy that talks has come up with their own system. But on that note, I'd just like to thank the TOUR. I'd like to thank the PGA TOUR for creating this system, creating this playoff, and FedEx for sponsoring it. Tim with his staff did an unbelievable job. My sponsors, Stanford Finance, they've been spoiling me for a few years now; Cleveland Golf; Titleist; Singha, I mean, these are the guys that I need to thank a lot for getting me through all these years.
You know, there's one thing I want to say to the press. I'm sure all of you guys are listening. It was a very unfair comment that Doug Ferguson put on the USA Today that I more or less did not speak to the media. I had not wrapped it up. When I left the golf course on Sunday, Jimmy Furyk was in the lead, and if he had won, it was wide open. There's no way to celebrate something that I have not won, so I think that was a very unfair comment that USA put out there, and I think that was very unfair to even do that.
On that note, I'd just like to say to whoever is listening, Doug if he's there, this is the second time you've created this, and that's not right.
But again, on the other thing, I don't know what system you guys have come up with, but I'm sure the Commissioner is going to come up with some kind of system.
Q. Just sort of a follow-up to the last question. You've already touched on this, but I'm just wondering if you feel a bit strange sitting here talking about the FedExCup that you've essentially wrapped up without even having hit a shot at East Lake. Is it a strange feeling a little bit knowing that you've won the thing and you can win it by simply competing and not contending at the TOUR Championship?
VIJAY SINGH: Well, I mean, yes and no. It's an exciting thing to know that you really have won a FedExCup that everybody has been talking about from the beginning of the year, and even that I've been thinking about it from the beginning of the year in my own way. That's just pretty much why I didn't play as good last week was I was trying to figure out, hey, who's going to win and what would it take for me not to really do anything in Atlanta to win the Cup.
Instead of going out there and actually focusing on the tournament, which I was doing most of the time, psychologically in the back of your head, you're still thinking about who's going to win, or if you don't win, who else is going to win that is going to make it a little bit more harder for me to go out there and play.
But it's a great feeling to know that I'm going to go out there in Atlanta and all I need to do is tee it up and play and you've already won the FedExCup.
My point, I want to make a point that I'm going to go out there and try to win the tournament. I love Atlanta. I love East Lake. I've had great success there. I know they've changed the golf course a little bit, but I'm going to be practicing next week and getting ready for the tournament. I want to go out there and win it and make a point that I can win three out of four weeks.
But it's a great feeling. I'll tell you, I'd rather be in this position than going down to Atlanta and knowing that I have to win to win the Cup. This is a dream for every player out there to be in my position, and I'm glad it's me.
Q. Greetings from Mexico. In recent weeks your putting game has been a key. Rafael Alarcon told me that both together you spent a lot of time on the putting green, and as you know Rafael is a former putting award champion. My question is if you ever took any advice from him since those days.
VIJAY SINGH: I mean, he was on TOUR, as well, so we kind of helped each other. We always talked about the mechanics of the stroke and which part of your hand goes where, your elbow, your shoulders and your stance, and even now when we're on the putting green, I talk to other players about it.
We always are exchanging ideas from one to the other. I've known Rafael for a long, long time. I know he's helping Lorena Ochoa and I think he's doing a great job with that. I would just like to say well done to him, as well. Yeah, I mean, he's been a good friend, and he's a good coach, I know that.
Q. The tournament director of the Viking Classic, Randy Watkins, told us a couple weeks ago he was still recruiting you since you won't be playing in the Ryder Cup. Is there any chance you'll be coming to Jackson next week?
VIJAY SINGH: No, I'd love to do that but I won't be around. I need to practice for Atlanta, and maybe my schedule will change next year, but this year I don't think it's going to be possible.
Q. What are your thoughts on East Lake? You mentioned you liked the golf course. You've played well there. What is it you like about it, and what do you think about it fits your game well?
VIJAY SINGH: Well, I mean, you need to drive the ball well. They have small greens at East Lake. Bermuda rough, so you don't need to miss the fairway by much to get really bad lies. You have to bring your whole golf game there, the driving, the putting, the iron play has to be very accurate, and you have to move the ball both ways from the tee box. It's just a tough golf course. I mean, you cannot play badly at East Lake and get away with it; you have to play good golf.
That's why in previous years you've seen great winners over there. That's what I like about it. It's a good golf course. I know they've changed the greens to Bermuda now and that's going to be different. It's going to play really firm, so I think it's going to play even harder now. I know the 7th hole, they moved that back, and 17 is along the water. So I can't wait to go and see those two holes.
I just think it's a great old golf course, old style, and the bunkers are placed really well off the tees, as well. It's a good, challenging golf course.
Q. Will you arrive a couple days early or come in Monday or Tuesday of tournament week?
VIJAY SINGH: I'm going to come in as usual on Monday night probably and play Tuesday and Wednesday.
Q. Could you reflect a little bit on where this year will rank for you? Obviously you've had years with more wins, but you haven't had a time when you've gone as long as you did between wins. So maybe what has the way that you've ended this year meant to you?
VIJAY SINGH: I mean, it means a lot. I've had a great team. I really had a great team of guys working with me. On my physical side, my trainer, Jeffrey Frank, he's just done incredible work with me physically, no matter how bad I was. I had a lot of injuries this year, and he pulled me through those things, so Jeffrey, got to put heads up for Jeffrey, he did a great job. My caddie, Chad, was standing along with me when I was practicing at home. So those guys really worked hard.
Just to come up with how I played the last three events or three out of the last five events, I was very positive in my attitude. They were very positive. They showed great signs but never materialized. It was a sad tournament -- a sad half of the year for me, even the later half, missing the cut at the PGA, missing the cut at the British, and those were the grueling part, coming back home on the weekends and not being out there and watching golf on TV. I hate doing that, especially when I'm not there.
Coming up with three wins in five events and knowing that I can do it and actually fixing the most important part of my whole game was the putting part, you know, fixing the attitude change, whatever you may call it, the sick feeling that I had over the short putts or whatever you may call those. We may call it anxiety or whatever it was.
But to be able to overcome that and win tournaments, those are the most satisfying things that I look back and say, wow, if I hadn't fixed that part of it, maybe who knows, this could have been the end of it. But to believe in it and go out there and do it and come out ahead, I think that was probably the most satisfying part of the whole postseason.
Q. Just curious about your thoughts on next week, on the Ryder Cup. You play with these guys obviously week in and week out. How do you expect that to unfold?
VIJAY SINGH: I think it's going to be a great match. I think both sides have got some new players. Azinger and Faldo, you know, they've been booth partners before on ABC, and I think they have a good rivalry going with the team captains this time. They're friendly, you know; they like each other. I think it's going to be a great match. I think whoever wins has to play really good golf.
I don't know who the favorite this time is. I think it'll be the home crowd. I think the Americans have got a great side. They're younger than, I think, before, and I think they're all ready to play. I think the Americans are going to bring the Cup back.
Q. Why do you think Europe has dominated as it has the last several years?
VIJAY SINGH: I don't know, I think they want it more. I think they talk -- I mean, the Ryder Cup is -- it doesn't start in the U.S. until they pick the players. When it's about to be picked they all get excited. Two weeks, three weeks before the final picking everybody gets excited here in America. But in Europe it's a thing from the beginning of the year. They already plan for it, they're all thinking about it, the players are talking about it. They get together, and they love to win.
They love to beat the Americans. They are more into beating Americans than the Americans are into beating them. So I think that has to change. They have to have an attitude before they get to the tournament itself, and I think the Europeans have that attitude before they arrive there. The Americans have that attitude when they arrive there.
It's a tough week for them, but I think it's going to be -- I think it's going to be great matches. I think both sides are a good team. Obviously the Americans will miss Woods, but they're going to do without him, and we'll just have to wait and see.
LAURA HILL: I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all the media for participating. We appreciate you calling in. Enjoy the next two weeks away from the TOUR, and we'll see you in Atlanta for the TOUR Championship.
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