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February 1, 2006

Tiger Woods


GORDON SIMPSON: Welcome back, Tiger, to the Dubai Desert Classic. Ernie's picked this title up three times; so you've a bit of catching up to do?.

TIGER WOODS: Great to be back. Looking forward to it. The golf course is in good shape again. The greens are smooth again, too. So, it should be a bunch of fun. The weather is perfect and just really looking forward to feeing it up tomorrow.

GORDON SIMPSON: You came out of the blocks really fast this year, one for one at the moment.

TIGER WOODS: It was a fantastic way to start for the year, to take that much time off, to come back and I didn't really play well the first day but after that I played pretty good. So it was great to put the pieces together so quickly in the beginning of the year.

GORDON SIMPSON: Good idea to take a bit of R&R.

TIGER WOODS: It was nice. I was physically a little beat and mentally tired at the end of the year, so it was nice to get away and just have fun with the family and friends and put the sticks away.

Q. You've not won on your last two visits, are you hoping this will be your year?

TIGER WOODS: Hopefully. Hopefully I can put the pieces together this week. The golf course is in perfect shape, so it's going to take some pretty good scoring.

Q. Who do you see as your main challengers?

TIGER WOODS: Everyone playing, pretty simple.

Q. At this time last year, the buildup to the Masters everyone in the media was talking about the Big Four, Big Five, but with the World Rankings just now, that's no longer the case; you've reopened the gap. Do you feel you're back on top and playing with the same confidence that you had a couple of years ago?

TIGER WOODS: I feel like the pieces that I've been working on have certainly fallen more into place, and because of that and the success that I've had, certainly does breed confidence. But I still have a long way to go, a lot of work to do and still need to iron a few things out and prepare for the big events in year.

But still, very excited about last year. And to be able to hit to hit the two shots I did at Augusta in the playoff, I think that's what gave me just a huge amount of confidence going through the rest of the year. I didn't play well on 16, 17, 18 but when I really needed it the most, it was there, and that was huge for me.

Q. Does it give you satisfaction to reopen that lead?

TIGER WOODS: It gives me satisfaction to win two out of the four; and I was only four shots out of giving myself another chance, another opportunity to be in a playoff. So from that standpoint, that's a pretty darned good year.

Q. You kind of touched on this, but just how much confidence does it give to you win a tournament, as you say, after taking such a break and how emboldening is that for the rest of the season?

TIGER WOODS: I think it's great because I well, I did something that I had never done, which is taken that much time off without touching I club; I needed it. But then again, it was nice to come back for one thing, and I came back to a golf course that I had had success on. I love playing Torrey (Pines).

After the first day, after changing shafts in my driver and doing that, after going back to my old shaft, I really hit the ball well the rest of the week. I didn't make a lot of putts but I hit the ball better. It's nice to get off to a good ball striking start for the year because usually that's kind of the barometer. Usually your putting you need to work on quite a bit to get a good feeling, but to hit quality shots like I did on Sunday, that's all right.

Q. That's ominous for the rest, isn't it; is that something you play off and emboldens you?

TIGER WOODS: I think it's a good start, and as I say, I have a lot of work to do. It's nice starting off the year with the checklist not as long to get ready for Augusta than it was last year. Last year I had to make some major changes prior to Augusta to be ready, and this year it is more just fine tuning, which is great.

Q. You said you put your sticks away for all this time, but did you do any sort of mental work, sort of thinking your way around Augusta or that kind of thing?

TIGER WOODS: I made sure I didn't do that. I didn't think about the golf course. I did think about my golf swing, trying to make sure that I am doing the right things. But as far as thinking any golf course, I made sure I didn't do that. I just wanted to shout down, and if I did have some thoughts about my golf swing, I made sure it was brief.

Q. Next year the World Golf Championships events will be played only in America, which has caused some disappointment to players over here, do you think it's the responsibility of players to take your lead and travel around the world?

TIGER WOODS: I think that's part of our responsibility is playing around the world. Golf is a global sport now. That wasn't the case, there have been World Golf Championships and more players around the world playing better. Look, at the World Rankings, you know, it's from every part of the globe. I think that's indicative to how our game has changed, and I think that it's our responsibility to play around the world and to grow the game as much as we can.

Q. Looking ahead, can I ask you on your thoughts on the first major at Augusta and the course changes that have been made there and whether it plays even more into your hands?

TIGER WOODS: They do now. I have a new 5 wood, so No. 4, being 240 yards, I can hit 5 wood now. I think Augusta has changed quite a bit. No. 7 used to be a great, short little hole, narrow little fairways where you laid up and you hit driver down there and put you on the upslope. Now you need driver just to maybe get on the side. A good drive may be 5 iron, 6 iron to the green. Downhill, sidehill lie to that green, that's not easy. So obviously the changes are going to be difficult.

I understand they are trying to make the golf course difficult. But we've never played, since they made the big changes in '02, with it dry; it's rained every year. And we played practice rounds with them, just unbelievably fast, hard and from the first day, pouring rain. It will be interesting to see if we ever get a year where it's bone dry, it's fast, it's windy and over par could win there pretty easily.

Q. Can you be specific about exactly how long you took off, how long you went without touching a club?

TIGER WOODS: 24 days I didn't touch a club, 24 days. Usually I don't normally touch a club. I may play a round, but I didn't do that at all. I stayed away from the game and I hung out with my family. Elin and I went up to Mark's place in the mountains, went skiing there and had a good time there. Otherwise, just hung around.

Q. You're best player in the world by a long way, but you said you've still got plenty you're working on. Can you reach that, or is that sort of striving for perfection which can't be reached?

TIGER WOODS: Well, golf is fluid. It's always evolving, changing; you're never there. That's the beauty of it. That's the beauty of waking up tomorrow, trying to become a better player, and I think that's I mean, I enjoy that. I enjoy that challenge. You may hit one good shot; can you do two. Well, you can do two; can you do three. You ask any player who ever played the game, he may hit one good shot, but the next one is a little off and you have to try and correct it for the next shot. That's how golf is. And I think that's the fun of it and that's why athletes from other sports, athletes fall in love with it because of how challenging it is.

Q. We seem to be getting mixed messages from the United States players about the Ryder Cup and whether it's become more enjoyable to play in the Presidents Cup, whether you want a competitive Ryder Cup, whether you're slightly shying away from the nature of what the Ryder Cup has become, can you sort of clarify your view on that?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think the Ryder Cup has gotten back to where it should be. If you would have asked the players how it was at Kiawah and how it was at The Belfry and subsequent Ryder Cups, it wasn't that's not how it was meant to be played.

But I think since Curtis and Sam got together and really tried to do things correctly at The Belfry, it's been actually I think where it should be, the spirit it's played, how it's meant to be played. I think it got a little bit sidetracked a little bit. But after what happened with 9/11, Curtis and Sam really got back and tried to make it a great event and they did. They brought it back to where it's supposed to be.

Q. Without sounding obvious, what's the U.S. got to do to win back the Ryder Cup?

TIGER WOODS: Make more putts. It's very simple.

Q. What about building as a team?

TIGER WOODS: I just think make more putts. You know, we didn't play well, Oakland Hills, we didn't play the 18th hole very well. We lost just about either tied or lost every time I think; you have to go look at the stats, but I think that's what it was.

At the Presidents Cup last year, we putted great as a team; hence, we won. When it comes right down to it, match play is all about putting, anyways, whoever can make the most putts to get momentum on their side. We haven't done that. We haven't made enough putts.

Q. Just following on with the Ryder Cup thing, did you ever or would you ever get to the point where you think, no, this is becoming too much of a bother for me, this is not something I really want to play?

TIGER WOODS: Not yet. I've enjoyed it.

Q. It was just that after the Presidents Cup, you did give the impression that this is where the Ryder Cup should be.

TIGER WOODS: The reason why I said that is because of how it was in the past. When I first came out, I played in '97, Valderrama, that was not a good atmosphere. And even how it was in the States at Brookline, that's not how the event was supposed to be play.

But like I said, what Curtis and Sam did in getting together and really trying to showcase the event and try to make it the way it's supposed to be played, really turned things around.

Q. A little off the beaten track, there's a 16 year old Irish amateur (Rory McIlroy) playing this week, he's 5'8" tall, hits the ball 300 yards, and he has the career achievements of some players, if not pinned on his wall in the back of his mind, in the same way that you did with Jack Nicklaus. How aware are you of the millions of kids out there that are actually gunning for you in the way that you in the best possible sense gunned for Jack Nicklaus, and how aware or proud of you of advances that are being made in junior golf at the moment?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I'm excited that kids are playing the game and think it's a cool sport to play. Because when I came up, that was not the case. Golf was for kids that were affluent, kids that were fat and out of shape and they were not for athletes. But now the perception has changed and golf is an athletic sport.

It's an athletic endeavor now. You've got to be fit, you've got to be strong and you've got to be an athlete. And I think that's something I think is great to see about the game of golf, that you think it would be crazy to go out there and never work out and play rugby, ever, to ever work out, and people do that in golf. And I don't think that's the way you should be preparing.

And now to see kids with their swings and workout programs and nutrition; it's very neat. They are healthy.

Q. Just looking ahead to the other majors this year, I know you've already won at Medinah, but what about Winged Foot, and have you played Royal Liverpool before?

TIGER WOODS: Never been, never seen it, never seen a photo of it, don't have a clue.

Q. Winged Foot?

TIGER WOODS: Winged Foot we played there in '97, my first PGA. Davis played great that week and blew us all out of the water. I've played there probably four or five times since then, but obviously not in the condition we're going to have it in at the U.S. Open.

Q. When you go to Royal Liverpool - what different approach do you have to take, never having seen it?

TIGER WOODS: I think just playing practice rounds and really trying to get a feel for it and really getting the numbers and get a feel for how the ground is playing that week; what kind of shots am I going to use; what kind of club am I going to need. And that's just in practice rounds and really thinking about what kind of and really try to find your lines. And hopefully we get different winds in the practice rounds where we can try and find different lines off the tees.

Q. Following you were saying about younger players, I know you were a bit staggered by Bubba Watson and what he can achieve. Now you're 30, and I say this with the greatest respect, are you feeling old when you see these youngsters coming up?

TIGER WOODS: Not yet. I can still move the ball a little bit. There will come a point in time where I won't be able to do that anymore and guys will be pounding it by me all the time.

That's like I said earlier to some of the guys here. They asked me about how the game has changed. Well, I'm 6 foot, and if you look at the Top 5 players in the world, Goosen and I are the same height but generally of the top players, I'm short at 6 foot. If you look at Palmer and Player and Nicklaus's generation, I'm 6 foot, I'd be tall.

The game has become bigger. The guys are all 6 3 and above. Bubba is 6'3 1/2". He's a big guy. Hence, you have the leverage, you have the physical advantages to hit the ball further, and that's where the game is going. Again every course has gotten bigger and faster and golf is no exception.

Q. Does that concern you, or I think that's something you touched on at Buick, one thing you worked on is still shaping shots, which is slightly different to just blasting it down the fairway. Are there enough players with your short of approach?

TIGER WOODS: I was part of the generation I was right on the cusp. I grew up with Persimmon, and so you had to shape shots. I see some of the kids that have never even hit a Persimmon wood, let alone know what the ball can do.

So I was right on the cusp when the game started to change and became graphite and hit the ball further and hence it became bigger. So I'm always doing something with every shot. It's not just a standard golf shot. It's being moved some way, whether it's slightly lower, slightly higher, slightly left, I am always doing something and that's the way I've always played. Some guys may not believe in that, but he certainly do.

Q. We're getting pretty excited in Europe about Henrik Stenson, what do you know about him?

TIGER WOODS: I played with him at the AMEX Championship, and he hits the ball long, great touch around the green, can putt. Certainly has a bright future.

Q. Sunday at the Ryder Cup and he was the one against you, there's been thinking that Woosie might be looking to put him against you, what would you feel about that?

TIGER WOODS: That's fine. (Laughter).

Q. You wouldn't worry at all, he hits the ball a mile, that's someone you would want to play against?

TIGER WOODS: You figure if I go out there and I make birdie or eagle on every hole, I'm looking pretty good. (Laughter).

Q. This new generation of players, wonder if you have any view on the rolling back of the golf ball?

TIGER WOODS: If they do, they had better make it across the board for everybody. I don't see a professional ball versus amateur ball. I don't think that would be right.

I've talked to a bunch of people about rolling the ball back, but you know, I think that even if you roll the ball back, the guys who are long are still going to hit the ball long compared to the other guys.

So only thing you're doing is just bringing the scores back a little bit. But the guys that hit the ball long are still going to have an advantage.

Q. You didn't actually say what your opinion would you support rolling the ball back? And secondly, rolling the ball back, wouldn't that protect the great golf courses of the world?

TIGER WOODS: It would protect the great golf courses. If that happened, we'd all be under the same rules, and as I said, the guys who hit the ball long still have an advantage.

Q. I'm coming from the same country as your wife and Henrik Stenson, when will you visit Sweden next time and are you planning to play golf there in the future?

TIGER WOODS: I will certainly be there in the future. (Laughter).

Q. Outside of golf, how important has your work in charity become to you, and you obviously have a very busy schedule travel around the world and how active of a role do you allow yourself to play in the Tiger Woods Foundation and what do you do day to day with your foundation?

TIGER WOODS: Well, my foundation is everything to me, what we're doing with kids. Golf has given me a platform. And I enjoy competing, but ultimately, I could care less what I do on the golf course compared to what our foundation is doing. That is far more important than hitting any draw, fade or making any kind of putt.

Q. Do you consider it a favorite part of your life that you enjoy doing?

TIGER WOODS: Without a doubt. It's the highlight of my life to go in there and try and help kids and give them a future and give them an opportunity to become better people and citizens and become leaders. That's what we're doing. That's why I'm opening up my Learning Center next week, and very exciting. President Clinton is coming and it's going to be a great event. And our Start Something program now has 3.2 million kids involved in a leadership program, mentoring program, so that's a whole new beginning.

GORDON SIMPSON: Let's see if you can go one better than here in 2001. Thanks for coming in and good luck.

End of FastScripts.

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