March 26, 2003
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA
JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Thank you, David, for joining us for a few minutes here in the Media Center at THE PLAYERS Championship. You had an opportunity to play yesterday and see the course. Talk a little bit about the conditions and maybe your play over the last couple weeks.
DAVID TOMS: All right. Conditions here, I'm sure you've heard, it's pretty soft, at least it was yesterday when I played yesterday morning early.
It's playing long compared to what I remember it being last year. The greens don't seem to be as receptive as I would think because of the conditions. The fairways are soft but the greens still seem to be pretty firm. They don't seem to be as fast. I don't know if they have more grass on them this year or not, but I'm sure they're trying to get them as fast as possible.
As far as my golf is concerned, I haven't played in a couple weeks, literally haven't -- I think I played two rounds of golf until I got here; went snow skiing so I'm sore all over, but I am getting better each day and the golf club is starting to feel more like a club than a sledge hammer. Who knows? I don't have any expectations. I haven't really played my best golf the last six weeks or so, but one week can turn that around pretty quick. That's just the way golf is. I feel confident. I actually had played a good tournament here last year until the final round, had a chance to win until the last -- actually until the last day. I didn't have much success on this golf course early in my career but I've become a more patient golfer and I think that's what you need to do here and really learn to pick your spots because the golf course can be very difficult if you're too aggressive, so I'm learning to play it better and I feel comfortable out there.
Q. Before and during and after your Match Play final, you were talking about playing with Tiger and how it is a thrill to watch the great golfers play even though you're obviously a very excellent golfer. Are you amazed at all that he takes a couple weeks off and then comes back again? Did you learn anything in that day watching him?
DAVID TOMS: As far as what he did last week, I didn't see a shot hit the whole week. I was in the mountains skiing and my little boy had me all over the mountain. I literally didn't see a shot. I didn't see a highlight. I made a phone call on Sunday. I was actually going over to play a golf course in Louisiana. I got back home Saturday made, made a phone call to a friend who said Tiger was leading by nine so I wasn't even going to turn it on.
As far as what he does, it never ceases to amaze me. It seems like he does whatever he has to do to get it done. He won by 11 shots, I don't know, I guess the golf course got pretty soft so he was using his length to an advantage there. I know in the past those greens on that golf course were extremely firm. I haven't played the last two years, but before that they were very firm. He's able to hit the ball straight up in the air in a long way. He can stop it. There's no pin that he can't get to. I think it's a great golf course for him.
As far as him taking off two weeks, when he takes off, who knows what he does. He's a pretty private guy. I don't know if he's playing golf every day, if he's not touching a club, I don't know, but he's obviously talented enough to be able to pick and choose where he wants to play and doesn't have to play every week to get rhythm going in his golf game, and he beats everybody. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I don't know. I know it's good that he brings a lot of people into the game that love to watch him that might not otherwise turn on the television. But is it good that he beats everybody? Is it good for our Tour? I don't know. I think some way we need to bring it all back to where more players have a chance to win, maybe set up the golf courses a little bit different so it brings everybody into the mix. Now I think some of the courses we play, obviously there are a handful of guys that are going to have a better chance than others, and I think we can make it to where everybody has a chance when the week starts.
Q. Could you continue with that?
DAVID TOMS: Could I continue with that? Does a course have to be 7,300 yards long? Does a course have to have bunkers where certain guys can carry them and hit the ball 50, 60 yards past the other guys and the other guys can't? If you look at the Rider Cup, the way the Belfry was set up. I played with Phil Mickelson four rounds and I don't think he hit five drivers in four rounds. I think that some weeks they could do that. I think some weeks they could take the power away from some players and bring us all together, and I think you would maybe in the end see not a changing of the guard but you would see more guys winning.
I think we have a big emphasis on power, I believe that, and if you go up and down the range you see guys basically trying to tee it up on a pencil. They're getting tees so long -- if you can hit it 310 yards even in the rough, you can play. This golf course here, I think that anybody could do well here. I think this is an example of what I'm talking about. You have a lot of variety here, you have some short holes, some long holes, and I don't think it plays into any particular player's hands at all.
Q. Along that theme, last year we had a pretty diverse leader board and we end up with a guy who was ranked 200th in the world winning this thing. Would you like to see the Tour play more courses like this? Do you think it would even out things more or would it hammer you guys good to play a lot like this every week?
DAVID TOMS: I think this is a great course for this tournament. I don't know that we would want to play this every week. I think it's pretty stressful. There are a lot of shots out there where you can get a bad bounce when you hit a good shot. I think they're softening up this course a little bit over the years so you don't have as much as that, but I think this is a great venue for this tournament. It gives it the major championship feel, but I do think the average Tour courses that we play, they could get it to where the whole field has a chance.
I don't know exactly what I would do, but I know that moving forward something needs to be done.
Q. David, could you talk a little bit more about the ski trip? How long were you there? How much did you ski and how does a guy from Louisiana get hooked on skiing and how long have you been doing it?
DAVID TOMS: Well, first of all, I haven't been in about nine years. It snowed two years ago just after Christmas in Shreveport so I thinks every winter it's supposed to snow, and living where I live we don't get much snow. He wanted to see it and we decided we were going up there. We were going to leave on a Tuesday morning. They had so much snow we couldn't get into the mountain region. We left early Wednesday morning, got there in time to go to ski school for my boy and stayed until Saturday. Went to Beaver Creek, Colorado, had a great time, can't wait to go back. I think Stuart Cink has been twice this year to the same place. I think he wanted to us go with us, too, but he was committed to play Bay Hill so he didn't. It's a trip that we'll take -- if we can we'll take it every year, we had that much fun.
We were talking about this on the way home. It's actually the first vacation that I've had with my wife and my son where I haven't had to play golf. They've come to tournaments over in Hawaii or we go to Disney every year where they're having a big time or having fun and dad has got to work. It was my five-year-old that realized that. He said: "Dad, this is the first time we've had a vacation where you didn't have to play golf," which is true. It's sad, but we're gone all the time on the road; you get home and you don't want to have to pack up to go someplace just for fun. I think it's something we're going to try to do every year.
Q. Did you go skiing for the first time in college?
DAVID TOMS: I went for the first time as a teenager in California. My father was living out there. The next time was I think the second year that my wife and I were married, so they've been kind of spread out, but it was fun. I had a great time, and like I said, we don't get to snow very often. It was a beautiful spot.
Q. David, can you talk about the finishing holes, 16, 17, 18, your opinion of them, particularly 17 and how they affect the tournament?
DAVID TOMS: I think it's a great finish. 16 you can make up a shot or two there, kind of a risk-reward second shot. Anything can happen there.
17, to be honest with you, I'd like to see them not give you a bailout but give you a little more room if you're trying to protect a lead there. It's a fairly good-sized green, but it's just the fact if you don't hit a good shot there -- it's fortunate if you lead the tournament from start to finish and then there's one shot that can cost you everything.
18 is a great hole. It's one of the best holes we play all year. It's a tough tee shot depending on what the wind is doing. If it's a left-to-right-wind it's an extremely difficult tee shot, and then the second shot trying to get anywhere close. I think for a guy that's trying to win the tournament, it's a great finish, but it's difficult. I mean, you're going to have to battle your insides coming down the stretch, that's for sure.
Q. What's your weirdest experience on 17?
DAVID TOMS: Weirdest experience on 17? I haven't had a lot of weird experiences that I can remember over the years. That's a good thing, you know. I've had some good shots there. I don't know that I've ever hit any great shots. I'm always aiming for the middle of the green and trying to get it somewhere on the surface. I've never had a situation where I've had to go for the pin to try to make a birdie there. It seems like I've always been to where, hey, I'm going to shoot to the middle of the green and take the best that I can.
Q. Did you get to Augusta early enough last year to play before the rains hit? I'm wondering, if you did, what you think that course will play like if it's dry because if it is dry, it'll almost be like playing the third different golf course in three years.
DAVID TOMS: I did get there early. I played it when it was dry. I thought it was good. I thought the changes were good, and I thought that a lot of guys would have a chance, and then once it rained it was a totally different golf course. I know it's been wet there. There's a gentleman staying at the house where I am staying this week who's from Augusta who said they're having a lot of rain, they're having to cut the fairways with handmowers last week. Who knows what we're going to have. I know if it's soft it's going to be awfully long and difficult.
Q. David, in addressing your issues about the golf course setups- I know that there was some controversy early this year on the west coast about them tucking pins a little bit more - can you maybe talk about that a little bit? Have you seen it week in, week out? It didn't seem like it happened at the Match Play.
DAVID TOMS: Right. To me it's not the issue of the pins. I think it's the issue of what clubs you're having to hit to those pins and how -- it's very difficult to get to a pin that's 3 on the green with a 4 iron, not nearly as difficult to get it with a 7 iron. I'm not saying that that's not a golf course that's challenging -- how difficult it is not a good thing once a month. I think as long as we can have variety, I think that a short, accurate hitter once a month should say I have the same chance of winning the golf tournament as a guy that hits it 350 all over the place. I think if we could have a little bit -- over the last few years it seems that power is becoming more of a part of the game and that you have to have that in order to win.
Q. I think when the controversy sort of bubbled was at Los Angeles, and a guy like Mike Weir won. There's still room for a ball striker, isn't there?
DAVID TOMS: Absolutely, but Riviera, it's an old-style golf course, even though they've added length on three, four holes, it's not a long golf course. I think it's more of a shot-maker's course and the pins that you're talking about there, guys hadn't seen that before. I wasn't there on the weekend, but I know they had some close pins, really close to the edge, but it still is the type of golf course where I don't think -- there were a few holes where they were long, but if you could get away with those holes, make par, hit it on the green and move on, it really wasn't an issue.
Q. David, is it possible that Tiger is getting better? It's hard to believe that he can get any better than he already is, and can you also talk about his consistency? Guys out here have peaks and valleys and he never seems to go into those valleys?
DAVID TOMS: I think, number one, he understands his golf swing now. From what I read in the paper he feels comfortable with that, and he can change it -- not change it but he can correct his mistakes easier during a round of golf and from week to week. He never gets off and he keeps a handle on it maybe better than other players. Plus, his mental game, if you watch him, he's so focused, I think that's why he plays great all the time. I don't know that he -- when I've played with him I've never seen him hit a shot where I didn't think he was prepared for the shot he was about to hit. If you play with other guys, sometimes there's indecision, you can just see it. There's indecision whether it's what club they're pulling or what kind of swing they want to put on, if they want to hit a fade, hit a draw, how they want to approach the hole, but to me, it might be maybe inside of him maybe he has some indecision, but to me I can't see it in him when he's over a shot. It seems like he has a plan, this is what I'm going to do, I'm ready to hit this shot and move on, no matter what the conditions are. I think he probably does that better than most players.
Plus he thinks he's supposed to win. He wins all the time. I mean, there's one thing -- just like for me last year, I'd get close at times, I never could pull it off. Then you start questioning whether or not you can do it. For him he does it all the time, so it's like second nature to him. That's what he expects and I think that makes it easier, I really do.
Q. It was sort of a similar question. It was easy while Tiger was out injured, Mike Weir won a couple times, some other guys played well. To think that somebody was actually gaining ground on Tiger, now that he's back do you think you guys have gained ground on Tiger or has he gotten better and pulled away or is the gap still there, and if so, why?
DAVID TOMS: Do you think there will ever come a day where we're not asked these questions about Tiger? Probably not.
I think that obviously Mike has played great this year. You can just tell walking around that he's confident, he feels good about his game. I don't know if Tiger had been playing those tournaments or -- he played in LA, -- Mike is a great player, and Ernie has been playing great golf all over the world. Are guys getting closer to Tiger? I don't know. He won by 11 last week, but I wasn't there. (Laughter) Maybe I would have gotten closer to him, I don't know. Who's to say? Is he getting better? Will this game ever come back to the rest of us or do we need to get closer to him? I don't know the answer. I think that guys are working hard. If you go out on the range or you go in the fitness van or you go in the locker room, guys are busting their tail trying to get better. Maybe looking at what he does or how he prepares and trying to do the same, who knows.
Is it harder to win when he's in the field? Most definitely because he's usually there. And when he gets a lead, what is it, 28, 29 for 31 now when he has the lead going into the last day? That's what I'm reading in the papers. That's incredible, it really is. I mean, the best in history. Maybe he is getting better so obviously we need to try to keep up.
Q. Were you annoyed that he got a lot more ink for having food poisoning than you did out at La Costa?
DAVID TOMS: I don't wish that on anybody, that's a tough thing. He's allergic to garlic, I know that. Maybe we should throw some garlic in there.
Q. He might be a vampire.
DAVID TOMS: Maybe. I know he has some special powers. That's tough. It's a tough thing.
Q. You know, you're right about one thing, David. Tiger hits these stretches of playing really well and you get questions about Tiger playing well. It was like that in 2000, wasn't it?
DAVID TOMS: Yes.
Q. I'm curious, do you guys think about it or is it just us? Do you guy talk about it?
DAVID TOMS: Yeah, guys talk about it because it's pretty amazing what he can do. I really don't get tired of the questions just because he does so much for golf, does so much for us as players. I mean, our purses continue to go up since he's been in the game, since he's been around. We're all benefitting from it. Sure, I think it hurts -- doesn't hurt our confidence but it's kind of like he's beating up on us all the time, but at the same time he only plays, what, 18 tournaments out of 48, so there are 30 other opportunities. There's plenty to go around for everybody. Is it a bad thing or a good thing? It's hard to answer that question just because he does so much for us and for golf in general that I don't think it's a bad thing for him to win and be successful. I don't know that it's good that he wins so much and by so many strokes like what happened last week.
Q. When you figured out your schedule at the start of any season, have you ever even for some late season event take into consideration whether you think Tiger might or might not play, has it ever been on the list like Tiger is played that week or not?
DAVID TOMS: Not at all. I don't call him up to see where he's playing or anything like that.
Q. Well, you pretty much know where he's playing.
DAVID TOMS: Sometimes. I'm hoping he'll play New Orleans sometime. Those guys are trying to get me to get him to play. I'm like, hey, I don't have any influence over the guy. I kind of know where he's played in the past, and I make my schedule, number one, if I like going there, if I've played there well in the past, if my family wants to go to a particular event, how it fits in the schedule. You know, really purse level doesn't influence my decision at all just because -- it can be a $10 million tournament, and if I don't feel comfortable how I'm going to play on that golf course or I feel I'm not going to be competitive, I wouldn't go there. Tiger's schedule doesn't affect mine whatsoever.
Q. David, you mentioned that this is a tournament that a lot of players can win. Does that change with the softness of the conditions that we have this week?
DAVID TOMS: Maybe a little bit. You know, I know yesterday morning the course was playing long. Maybe it does. But still, this golf course, it's tough. If it gets to be windy, you've really got to manage your game. I think anybody can win here. Like you said, the softness of the conditions, if we do get some rain, it might change, obviously could affect the outcome.
Q. The issue of the length of the course and the setup, is that the sort of thing that the players can go to the Tour and bring that up as an issue? Do they look at you like you're nuts if you do or do you guys have any say in that?
DAVID TOMS: I think we have a lot of say. It's interesting, last night I got some information from the Tour because I had asked for it about course setup. You know, I might actually be in the minority of -- I'm not necessarily complaining. I think they do a good job of setting up the golf courses for what they're working with. My opinion is that we need a little bit more variety. What's wrong with playing the ladies' tees one week? Is that a bad thing? It gives everybody a chance. Not saying we want to play the ladies' tees but you know what I'm getting at. If we're going to play a 7,400 yard course. If our average is 7,000 yards long, say that is the average and we play one that's 73, the next week let's play one that's 67. Looking at the information I got last night by the surveys that are done at the end of the year, the player surveys, most of the guys rate the course setup as excellent to very good to good. Very few -- a very small percentage would say it was poor, so it was interesting that most guys agreed with what's going on now. Maybe I am in the minority by saying that we need a little bit more variety. Most guys obviously feel very comfortable the way things are going.
Q. I didn't stick around late last night. Was there anything else that came out of that meeting that struck you as interesting or earth shattering coming down the pipeline that we should know about, especially vis-a-vis that particular issue?
DAVID TOMS: Not really, no big issues. I don't know if guys were kind of ready to go to dinner but in the Q and A part of it there wasn't much going on. Vic Ghanzi got up and spoke about the economy and what was going on in the world, just talking about that we continue to move forward, our purses continue to go up, we continue to replace sponsors in a bad environment, and I think that says a lot for our Tour, our commissioner, and he attributed it to the fact that we have a great brand. He said the Hirsch Corporation that he is the CEO of has done very well the last year and a half to two years continued to do better because their radio station -- their TV stations, their magazines, their newspaper, everything that they have is either number one or two in that particular market, so they have great brands and those brands continue to do well. He said that's the same thing with the PGA TOUR, we have a great brand and we continue to move forward in a tough environment. The reason is because of our integrity, our character and what we're all about and I'm proud to be part of it.
JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Thank you, David, for doing this.
End of FastScripts....