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June 15, 2005

Vijay Singh


RAND JERRIS: It's a pleasure to welcome Vijay Singh to the interview room. He's playing in his 12th United States Open here at Pinehurst. You finished 3rd here in 1999, and could you start us off with some general recollections or memories from six years ago.

VIJAY SINGH: Well, I don't remember it being this tough, that's one thing I know. I know that when we played on Sunday, it rained in the morning, and the greens were very receptive, and we could actually play our shots. Honestly speaking, I think this is the hardest U.S. golf course I've played from tee to green and around the greens. It's going to be one hell of a test.

I don't really remember that many holes, playing here in '99, but I do remember one thing that this is the rough this year is a lot more harder than it was last time I played here.

RAND JERRIS: Tell us about how you're feeling, the state of your game, your confidence level coming into the Championship this week.

VIJAY SINGH: I'm feeling good. I did miss the cut in Memorial. I've been driving the ball beautifully, my iron shots have been good, and I'm actually playing really good. I'm just not scoring as good as I wanted to, but hopefully it's going to happen this week. I'm very confident. I'm healthy, except for one or two body parts, but besides that I feel good. I'm looking forward to this week.

Q. Just further along the lines of the difficulty you were talking about, a lot of the guys the last couple of days seem surprised by the rough; not necessarily the length, but everything seems to be sitting way down. Could you talk about that a bit?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, I think they've got a different strain of Bermuda this year. The common Bermuda, you can have high rough, but the ball you can actually play out of it. But this new Bermuda, I don't know what the name of it is, but the ball just sits right down and it's much finer but much thicker. You can get the best of lies, and you can only move it 150 yards, max. I could not carry the ball more than 100 yards in the rough when it's sitting down.

You have to hit the fairways, which is one hard part of it, and two, you have to be able to learn to play out of the roughs. And then you've got to hit the ball on the green. It's probably the hardest greens to hit the ball and stop it where you want it to stop. So I don't really want it to rain, but this week I want it to rain (laughter).

Q. In '99 of the majors that you had a real good chance of winning on Sunday, was '99 the one, maybe along with '96, was that the one you looked at as the one that got away, the one you probably should have closed up?

VIJAY SINGH: That and one or two Open Championships I had a chance in, The British Open. The one that Daly won, I was right in there. In '99 I don't think I was in the lead at no time except the last two or three holes, and I made a bogey and got out of the lead. But it's tough to say that's the one I should have won. It's 18 holes, so you have to play out.

And then The Open the U.S. Opens or in any major, the finishing holes are the hardest holes to play. Like over here, 16 and 18 are really, really tough holes; to hit the fairways are very hard. And then again, you have to hit the ball on the green.

I like my chances here, but I have to play well. It's not going to be out there where you go around and play half your best and then get away with it. You've got to do everything well this week.

Q. What's the concern among the players, especially if it doesn't rain; you could have a repeat of last year, and the course could get away from the USGA?

VIJAY SINGH: I spoke to Tom Meeks yesterday and the day before, and I had a few words with him. But he said he likes the golf course just the way it is right now, and I told him it's great, I like it the way it is. If you just left it the way it is, that's the way it should be played. It's tough, it's hard, it's going to get firmer. They're watering the greens in between right now, also. I'm a little concerned if it doesn't rain we all thought it was going to rain this week. If it doesn't rain, you can't stop the ball on the greens. I've been hitting wedges and it's not spinning back. It's taking one big hop and stopping.

If it gets any firmer I don't think the greens are going to get as fast as Shinnecock, but it's going to get as firm, and the roll offs are a lot harder than Shinnecock was. I think it's a tougher setup than Shinnecock.

Q. Kind of a two part question. First of all, I'm wondering, do you think the degree of difficulty plays is that to your advantage, if it plays exceptionally hard? And I'm also wondering what you've learned over the years about handling what the USGA is going to throw to you over the week, what have you learned about handling that mentally?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, yeah, you can say it's going to play it's in my favor, the tougher it gets, the better at least for the better players. But at the same time you've got to get the whole package and everything. I'm pretty consistent in all departments of my game, but I've got to be on for the whole four days.

Around the greens you don't really know what to do. We're still trying to figure out what we're going to do, depending on the lies, depending on where the pins are. And the key this week will be approach shots to the green. I think it's never been that important to hit the green than this week. You've got to hit the greens. No matter where you are on the greens, it's better to be on the green and 50 feet away than off the green 15 feet away.

It's very hard to judge your speed coming out of the Bermuda coming onto the green and to the hole. I've been hitting my irons, too, as well. So I'm looking forward to hitting more fairways and focusing on the middle of the greens this week than any other week.

And the other question was what was the question, again?

Q. What have you learned about handling what the USGA is going to give you through the week mentally and just kind of the frustrations you have to deal with and how you cope with that.

VIJAY SINGH: You know the pin placements are going to be on the edges. Over here the middle of the green could be on the edge. So I just hope that they learn that it's not going to rain, it's going to get really fast. So we're just going to make sure that wherever they put the pins is where you're going to be aiming. You can have some impossible pin placements here, and we know they're going to do that. We know I've read something about what Phil said and I don't think they're going to go to that extreme. They've learned from last year. From what I've heard, what I've talked to the guys, I don't think they're going to make it as nowhere near as impossible as last year's Sunday round.

But I we know it's going to be hard. Every player knows and expects it to be hard. The rough itself is going to be really impossible to play. That's out there already. I don't think they can make the greens any faster they can, but I don't think they will. We just have to deal with that.

Q. Apart from yourself, there are a number of players from the Asia Pacific region, Maruyama from Japan, Choi from Korea; none have done terribly well the last few years. I'm wondering what your opinion is of the quality of golf coming out of the Australasia nation, as it pertains to the U.S. Open?

VIJAY SINGH: One thing for sure, the weather is on our side. We're always humid. Guys coming from the Asian Pacific, we're kind of used to playing in weather like this.

On the other hand, I don't know; I think the toughness of the golf course gets the better of us. We just we don't have that much patience to hang in there and try making pars and just keep going that way. I've learned to do that. A lot of other guys, they come over here, they expect to play where they fire at the flags, and all of a sudden they get 3 , 4 , 5 over and they lose their patience. Once you get over par, you've got to maintain your patience. You cannot get it back.

In a U.S. Open golf course you cannot get back the shots immediately. You've got to keep your patience and get it back, and I think that's what's lacking. You cannot attack the golf course like you do on a regular golf course. And over here, especially, I don't think the winning score this week will be under par. I think the best it's going to be will be even par, unless it rains. You just have to have a lot of patience, and that's what's lacking in most players out here.

Q. It seems like a lot of what will happen to the golf course will depend on if it rains or doesn't rain. Wouldn't you think it would make more sense to kind of err on the side of caution, rather than let maybe water as needed and if it ends up raining more, you just end up with a softer golf course; is that such a bad thing?

VIJAY SINGH: I don't think so. That's why we got away with it; last time we played on Sunday in the morning. The golf course played difficult, but it was very fair. Right now if you go out there, if you're not careful you can make bogeys on every hole with the good shots. Off the tee it's a very demanding golf course, and then you have to hit your approaches to the green which is even more demanding.

They are watering it, Tom Meeks said they're going to try to leave it as it is right now, but that never happens. I agree with you, they should keep watering it and not let nature take its course. But they have the means to maintain whatever it is right now. But this is U.S. Open, so we just have to deal with it.

Q. I just want to go back to what you were saying that they learned from last year. In your opinion what should they have learned from last year? How would you describe that Sunday at Shinnecock?

VIJAY SINGH: I think it was impossible, really. With Retief playing so well, and Phil as well, and then making those putts, some of the putts I was even surprised it went in. You have to do those things at U.S. Opens. I just think they should not lose the golf course like they did last year. They have they said they weren't aware it was going to blow. We all were aware. I'm not a weather expert, but I knew it was going to get dry and fast.

I think they made a mistake, and I'm sure they learned from it. I learned from Tom I told Tom Meeks, "If you lose the golf course, you'd better hide, but there's going to be no place to hide, because we're going to find you" (laughter). I just hope they make it fair for everybody. I just want to know if they ever go out and play the golf course on Sunday to find out how difficult it is. None of those guys are ever going to break 100, if they try, if they set it up like at the did at the U.S. Open last year. I don't think anybody enjoyed playing out there, except obviously Retief and Phil.

The golf course is in great shape right now; the setup is perfect. If they just left it like this I hope they're listening it would be fine.

Q. Tiger was sort of bragging yesterday about having all four major championships on his mantle. What would it mean to you to win the two that you have and then be able to say that?

VIJAY SINGH: I'd love to win it. That is one of my goals. My goal was never even to I don't know, my goal was to win one major, and then winning all four majors would be great. I'm pushing towards it. I'm going to focus as hard as I can. It would be a great achievement for me to win all four. Not too many guys have done it.

But if I have a chance of winning it, it's right now. This next one or two years is my best possibility of winning those majors. I'm playing well, I just have to go out there and do it. Talking about it doesn't really work that much. I just have to go out there and play my game and try to win it. It's going to be good. I've got two events, hopefully I can get all four when I'm done.

Q. David Fay has said this week that he wants the course to play tough but fair. What in your opinion makes it too tough or unfair? Secondly, if all the golfers play the same course, like last year, why is there so much complaining or belly aching about the course conditions, if everybody is playing the same course?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, I don't think they did. The guys going off in the morning are going to have a different golf course than the guys going off in the afternoon. The wind conditions are different. Fair and tough, what is fair and what is tough? What is impossible? You have to define all those. Last year was impossible. This golf course can get impossible today. If the wind blows, it's almost impossible to keep the ball on the greens. The landing areas, the approaches are so small that you've got to be very precise. And if the fairways were wide enough, fine. The fairways are so tight, if you miss the fairway you have to lay up to about 80 or 90 yards and have an approach shot almost as difficult again.

I just hope David Fay knows what is fair and what is difficult, you know. It's fine, being on the outside and talking about it. But we are the ones that are playing it. I'm all for having a fair and a tough golf course, but impossible, I don't think I don't think I enjoy playing it. We still have to go out and play the best we can and enjoy what we're doing. Last year I did not enjoy that.

Q. Two questions. One, in the last two rounds of practice, how many greens have you hit and held? Also what in your opinion is the most severe green, something like the left side of No. 5 or something like that?

VIJAY SINGH: The left side of 5? I don't think anyone hits it to the left side of 5 (laughter). I think they're all pretty difficult. I haven't been counting how many greens I've missed. We've had a little bit of matches, but today I have a great match, if all of us turn up. I'm playing with Ernie, Mickie and Retief. And we're going off at 1:10. That's the latest we're going to go out and play the golf course the way it's going to play tomorrow. So if you ask me this question after today, I'll probably figure out which is how many greens I've hit and how many greens I've missed.

But the toughness of holding the ball on the green or which side of the green is harder? I think 6, for instance, if you land the ball anywhere five or six paces on the green, it's coming right off the green. And you've got the same thing on gosh, what is that, 8th hole on the left side, 8th hole long, you go long there and it runs right out. And then you've got 9 on the back left. You cannot hit it anywhere inside of five paces from the pin; it's going over the green and into the rough. Every hole is like that. You can go on hole after hole after hole. I think the 2nd hole is a sleeper. It's one of the hardest holes to hold the ball on the green.

So you've got to be very patient out there and you've got to know where to miss the shots. Hitting 10, 11 greens a round would be incredible over here, I think.

Q. You mean hit or hold?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, hit and hold is the same thing. We are probably hitting almost every green, but holding on the green would be impossible. Leaving the ball on the green, keeping the ball on the green, hitting greens in regulation, I think 12 a round would be leading every day, if it doesn't rain.

Q. Do you get the sense that other leading players share your concern about this golf course already being on the edge right now?

VIJAY SINGH: I didn't say it's on the edge.

Q. Near the edge.

VIJAY SINGH: Yeah, it's playing as tough as it can play. And some of the guys asked me yesterday, "What do you think?" I said I kept saying, "It's a hard, hard golf course. It's a difficult U.S. Open golf course." It's very fair at the moment, but it's very, very difficult. But it could get on the edge very quickly; if they don't watch it, it's going to get over the edge in a heartbeat. So I just think I know every player out there, they may not admit it, but it is, I'm sure they all know this is going to be one of the hardest open golf courses. If it doesn't rain, it's going to be hard to break par here.

Q. After all these years, do you have complete contentment with your putter? Are you and the putter happy with each other?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, I've got to talk to it a lot. It hasn't been listening to me lately. But I'm quite comfortable with it. I'm stroking the ball the way I want to. I think to be a great putter, you have to read the putts the right way and hit at the right pace. I haven't figured out which one is which right now. Once I figure that one out, I think I'll be totally in love with it. I'm working towards it. I'm quite happy with the way I'm putting now, and I'm not too worried about it anyway.

RAND JERRIS: Vijay, thank you for your time this morning. We wish you luck this week.

End of FastScripts.

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