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July 21, 2009

Don Padgett

Vijay Singh

LAURA HILL: This is Laura Hill from the PGA TOUR communications department. We are joined today by our defending champion, Vijay Singh, as well as Executive Director of the Bridgestone Invitational, Don Padgett. Don has a few comments to begin.
DON PADGETT III: Preparations for the event are going well, August 4-9. Our field is shaping up nicely. We have 76 of the best players in the world currently qualified and we will be adding a handful more here in the coming two weeks. We look forward to another exciting event here at Firestone Country Club.
Speaking of best players in the world, today we are pleased to be joined by one of the game's greatest, last year's Bridgestone Invitational winner Vijay Singh won his 32nd PGA TOUR event, making him the winningest international player in PGA TOUR history. He got by Lee Westwood, Stuart Appleby and Phil Mickelson to become the oldest players and first in his 40s to win a World Golf Championships event. And Vijay's momentum as the Bridgestone Invitational carried him into the PGA TOUR FedExCup Playoffs, where he won the first two events and captured the 2009 FedExCup.
So far he has posted three Top-10 finishes, including a tie for 7th at the AT&T National. He is currently 59th in the FedExCup points and No. 2 on the International Presidents Cup Team standings, where he is a lock to make his eighth appearance this fall.
Vijay, we appreciate you taking the time to speak with us today, and if you would make a few comments about your title defense at the Bridgestone Invitational before we take questions.
VIJAY SINGH: I'm looking forward to it again. It's one of my favorite golf course, Firestone. I've played there so many times and I remember the first time when I even heard about Firestone was when Olazábal shot that incredible number, 61, I think.
It was a great win for me. I love the golf course. I think it brings the best out of my game, and I think everybody that plays it, every golfer that plays that golf course knows how difficult it is, and I'm just looking forward to getting back there.

Q. I know the FedExCup has gone through yet another change in the process with the points. Are you thinking about that yet? Have you thought about it, and what do you think this might mean to the FedExCup this year?
VIJAY SINGH: Well, we don't really think about it as such, until there's changes and they present it to all of the players. There was a little bit of talk when they did bring it up. But right now, we know what the rule is, what the situation is going to be, so we don't really talk about it until the FedExCup actually starts.
I think it's a great format. It's a little unfair to somebody that plays well the first three events and not win it. You know, for instance, I hope I go out and win every tournament. But if a player would do that, win the first three events, and then play the last one and not win that and somebody else can overtake him, that's kind of a little unfair, but that's the way the system works. It worked for me last year, and it shows that you have to play well in the last event.

Q. I covered your victory at Firestone last year, and that sort of turned you around and you were a much different player from then. Can you discuss that with us a little bit?
VIJAY SINGH: Well, I mean, last year, when I was struggling most of the year, I was close, but the swing just never felt good until I played the Bridgestone, and everything just fell in place. It kind of propelled me to a different mind-set for the rest of the year. It started off at Barclays.
I love Bridgestone. I love Firestone. That's one of my favorite golf courses, and I've had chances to win before. I lost in a playoff I think one time, and I just never really finished it off, and it was great winning it last year. It gave me a lot of confidence going through the rest of the year. That's kind of how I feel right now. I felt with my knee surgery, it took a lot out of me and a took a lot out of my golf game. It took time to feel more and more back to where I was and now I feel much stronger than I felt going into the surgery; I've worked really hard and the golf swing is feeling good. I have two weeks off and I'm going to practice like hell before getting to Bridgestone, and hopefully I can do what I did last year.

Q. When was that knee surgery?
VIJAY SINGH: Beginning of the year. It was middle of January.

Q. Just curious watching what Tom Watson did last weekend, not to say you are as old as him, but I would think it would be somewhat inspirational for anyone over 40.
VIJAY SINGH: Yeah, definitely. I mean, you know, just coming home and people are still talking about Tom Watson, I've had more questions about his age and makes us old guys look great. I said, happening on a sec, I'm not that old.
But it does. It does give me a lot more inspiration. It would have been great if he had won, but what he did is just incredible. It shows how good of a player here is, and really, that age doesn't really matter. If you're healthy and you're fit and your golf game is good, you can play for as long as you want to play, and that gives me a lot more confidence.
Just like when Tom won the TPC at the age of 48, 47, that shows, really, that you are healthy and that if you can play with the boys, why not. That's the kind of feeling that I have, and I think that I can last out here as long as my mind says go ahead and do it.

Q. What part of what he did was the most stunning, just to be there for the four straight days?
VIJAY SINGH: Well, not only be there, but actually contend. Really, he was the leader going into the -- he was the leader playing the last hole. All he had to do was get up-and-down from the back of the green, and unfortunately he hit a great shot and just hit it over the green. He was that close from winning the British Open.
I mean, I don't think anybody has ever -- except for Greg Norman last year at the British, nobody has ever contended like he did. At the age of 59 and almost winning, that made everybody kind of open their eyes and say, wow, that's incredible, even if he didn't win, it's still an unbelievable phenomenal performance by a great golfer.

Q. Do you feel a little better getting up out of bed the next day? Fewer aches and pains?
VIJAY SINGH: I can jump out of bed, not just get out of it. (Laughing)
LAURA HILL: I did have a question that was e-mailed in. You talk about how you much you do love coming to Firestone. Is there something specific about the course that plays to your game, or just a comfort level with it that makes it so unique to you that you look forward to coming back there year after year? Can you talk a little about that?
VIJAY SINGH: Well, it's an incredible golf course, an old-designed golf course, traditional golf course, and it requires every part of your game, driving, iron play and also putting. Players love that place. The venue is incredible. It's easy to get around. It's one of the golf courses where if you play well, you're going to be rewarded. That shows by the winners that we had in the past, are all top guys. At the beginning of the season, that is my one golf tournament that's on the schedule, that's one thing that I tick off every time and I think most players do the same thing.
LAURA HILL: One last one from an e-mail. With Tiger Woods being out last year because of his knee surgery, is there anything different coming back as defending champion this year, and now he's back in the field. It's interesting at this event, last two defending champions are the two FedExCup defending champions, so obviously like you said, it produces great winners. Does it change anything having him back in the field when you defend this year?
VIJAY SINGH: I don't think so. It brings the competition to a little different level. Obviously he's Tiger Woods and he's an incredible player. So it gives us a lot of motivation to go out there and play well, but I won't be thinking about that.
I'll be ready to go and play and once I arrive there, I'll be ready to win. So I'm feeling good, I think it's coming in at a great time where my game is just coming around, and just the feeling from last year, I'm going to go there with a real high and try to ride on that.

Q. Mr. Padgett told me recently that they had redone the bunkers after last year. Is that generally no big deal anymore? Does that sometimes take an adjustment period?
VIJAY SINGH: Yeah, really we will have three days. I will be arriving on a Monday, and we'll have three days to get used to it. Most players will arrive there on a Tuesday and no Pro-Am. I think we get enough time to figure it out. Really we'll have everything marked out before we play. We'll know exactly where to hit it and where to hit it, and if the bunkers are different, we'll learn how to play out of it. It's really no big deal.

Q. Last year you were really having problems with the short putts. Has that been less of an issue this year?
VIJAY SINGH: I think so. I've developed a little bit more on my putting skills, should I say. I've changed my grip. I'm going to a longer putter, and I've got away from the nervous tick that I had with my short putts, so it's been going really good. I've practiced a lot and I think I've overcome the problem that I had last year. It was incredible, it was really -- I never felt like that, on those short putts last year, than any other time in my career. I worked on that, and I think I've overcome that.

Q. The fact that you have not won yet this year, but you did last year, this was your launching pad, I would think that would be somewhat exciting that you were kind of a late-season finisher last year, so you wouldn't be maybe be as, I don't know, like I said, I'm sure you're not happy with some of your results.
VIJAY SINGH: Well, I'm really disappointed this year, but I came out of February well, and I just started playing a little too soon and it kind of put me back quite a bit. In instead of taking two months off, I took a month and a half off, and going to the range created a lot of bad habits for my golf swing. And it took two or three months to get out of it, because every time you get out of something, you develop something new.
But like I said, it was the first time in a long time that I won so late in the season, and that kind of gives me a lot of confidence going back there. I'm feeling really confident about the golf course. My golf game is coming around. I just can't wait. I have two weeks to practice, and I can't wait to get out there and do it again. So it will be great and I hope it will be the place where it started out.
LAURA HILL: I know Don wants to give a quick tournament update to the media on the phone, but we would like to say thank you and enjoy your two weeks away and we'll see you very shortly in Akron or the Bridgestone Invitational.
DON PADGETT III: Just wanted to take one more minute with the media to give a quick tournament update. As Laura said, in May we launched our First-Ever Tickets For Charity initiative, an amazing opportunity for nonprofits to promote Bridgestone Invitational tickets with 100% of the net proceeds going to charity, and we are happy to report we have over 40 charities participating and basically 75 percent of these proceeds going to the organization that gets the tickets moved out there. And 25 percent goes to the First Tee Chapters of Cleveland, Akron and Canton.
We feel it's a great way to not only better game the charitable partners, but to raise much-needed funds for the programs here in northeast Ohio. Our goal each year is to raise our charitable impact in the community and tickets for charity is another initiative that we plan on doing. We encourage everybody to visit our Web site, BridgestoneInvitational.com and check this out.
We launched our own Facebook page and we want to especially encourage everybody to sign on as a fan, become an official fan of the tournament, post questions, thoughts and view up-to-date information. And we'll also have an Ask Vijay Contest where fans can post their most creative and best questions for Vijay Singh and, we'll have Vijay answer that question and the winner will get a prize pack with tournament tickets, and we look forward to having that out there, as well.
Only two weeks away, best players in the world will be right here at Firestone, we look forward to another great event.
LAURA HILL: Don, thanks for your time and thanks to the media for joining us. We will see you soon at the Firestone Country Club for the Bridgestone Invitational. Thank you.

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