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April 5, 2005

Vijay Singh


RONALD TOWNSEND: Good morning, welcome to the 69th Masters and welcome to Vijay Singh. Vijay is the winner of the 2000 Masters by three strokes, finished in the top seven in the last three consecutive years and in 2004 one of the best seasons ever on the PGA TOUR, winning nine victories, including his second PGA Championship. He has a total of 25 PGA titles, and we would invite your questions.

Q. How confident are you that you can win this tournament again?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, I mean, I'm content with my game. It really depends on how I go out there and play and manage my game around. I played yesterday. The golf is in great shape. The greens are as fast as I've ever putted on them. I just hope that the rain doesn't come and mess that up.

The golf course is playing just perfect. If the conditions stay the same, I have a very, very good chance.

Q. How tough is it when the rains interfere with your round?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, it's not tough on me. It just makes the golf course a lot more receptive to wayward shots. Especially approaching the greens right now, if you don't hit it precisely where you want to land the ball, it's going to roll off the green. For instance, 15, I hit a 5-iron as high as anyone can hit it, and it still hit middle of the green and went to the back of the green. If you're hitting in with a longer iron, then it's almost impossible to stop it on the green. So things like that, it's going to be a big factor.

Q. Would you like to see the Sunday pins where they were last year? It's kind of more conducive to the old-fashioned Augusta Sunday back nine shootout with the birdies and stuff or would you like to see them a little more tough?

VIJAY SINGH: It really depends on the conditions. If conditions stay firm like it is right now, those Sunday greens are probably one of the toughest pins to get close to. But if it's wet and the balls are stopping on the greens, you can make birdies on those holes. They have Sunday pins but they are very difficult if the conditions are firm. They're easier when it's wet, so last year you saw a lot of birdies because the pins were tucked away, but they were all feeding into the hole, so if it's firm, you can't do that.

Q. Just about exactly half of the field is international players. Just ten years ago, only a quarter of the field was, and ten years before that, 13 international players in the whole field. Can you imagine it being like it used to be, just all Americans?

VIJAY SINGH: No, this is a major. I think they opened up the field to the World Rankings, as well. It's 50 best players in the world playing here. I think that the U.S. is not the only tour out there. There's great players from Europe and I know a few years ago, there was only Europeans winning over here; it was Faldo, Ballesteros, Woosnam, Lyle, Langer, so they have been incredibly great international victories over here.

I think it's very, very fair. It's a major event, so we should have the best players in the world. It's very, very hard to imagine that, you know, 10, 20 years ago, there may have been only one or two European players playing over here. That tells you how the world of golf is getting stronger.

Q. Some of the great traditions are champions here have a lot of duties to fulfill and it makes it a fun week in some ways. Does it make it a little more difficult to repeat because you've got to come here and you've got dinners to host and all these kind of things?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, there's only one dinner which is tonight (Laughter). We all have to eat sooner or later, right (Laughter)?

So, I just -- no, it's fun. I think it's great to go to. Everybody is looking forward to the Champions' Dinner.

Yeah, it is a little, it may be a little bit more nerve-wracking to be standing on the tee and announced as defending champion and you've got to go out there and play well, but a lot of guys ride on that, they love that thrill, and I do. I'm sure Phil will, especially after winning last week, or yesterday, so I don't think it's a problem for defending this tournament. I think guys love it.

Q. How much do you enjoy the current scenario that we have at the top of the world game, the Big Four or the Big Five, however you want to term it? Obviously being at the pinnacle of that right now must be a great feeling, but just the general feeling of what it's like to be in that scenario?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, I think you guys are enjoying it more than anybody else, because it's a lot to write about, and I think everybody watching TV enjoys that or loves when there's four or five guys up there playing well. But you've got to all play well in the same tournament -- for instance, THE PLAYERS Championship, none of us played well.

I think it's really great for golf right now that every one of us are playing well. I'm enjoying it. I'd like to go out there and play my best against whoever is leading at their best. So, I think it's a thrill for us to be in this situation and I'm just fortunate that I'm part of this big scenario that's going on.

Q. Does it feel like it's something that is very special? I mean, you've played golf for a long time.

VIJAY SINGH: Well, they compare us to Nicklaus, Palmer and Player, those eras, Hogan and Snead, Byron Nelson. It's part of history, and you know, you can -- when I'm through with my career, I'm going to look back and say, hey, I was part of this little chapter of my life of golf, for instance, but I'm enjoying that because I'm on top of all that. It's a great moment in my life, anyway.

Q. Aside from Ernie's length, why do you think he's played so well here the last four or five years?

VIJAY SINGH: Who is that? Ernie?

Q. Ernie. And do you think it's a matter of time before he kicks one in?

VIJAY SINGH: He was very close last year and the year before. He's just an all-around great player. He's probably one of the best putters in the world. In crunch time, he can make putts that you never think he's going to make. His short game is second to none. I think he's very underrated chipper of the ball. I think if you watch him, he can really -- he's got such soft hands, it's incredible. And he drives the ball straight. His all-around game is one of the best out there, and that's why he's been on top of the world for so long.

And he thinks very well, as well. He's a great thinker and he knows where to miss the ball when he does miss it.

Q. How much do you attribute the current state of the game, so many players playing well, to Tiger's run three, four years ago and the challenge that guys took upon themselves to get better?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, I don't know. I think you can say -- yeah, you can attribute that to a little bit of Tiger's play probably in 2000, 2001. But guys, sooner or later, they catch on, they want to get themselves up there. They want to get fit, they want to work out and do things to improve their golf game. You can go on the driving range right now and see guys -- every guy out there is physically in great shape. You know, you won't find too many guys that just don't work out anymore. Everybody out there works out. That's big for the game.

I think younger kids coming out of college, they know what to do. I'm in the gym every day, as well, and I'm in a generation where we never used to work out. So that tells you that -- I don't know if it was Tiger or whoever it was, but everybody caught onto what they needed to do to improve their golf game. Going out there and hitting balls for hours is not the only way to improve.

Q. How do you see your race between you and Tiger Woods? Is there any fight between both of you?

VIJAY SINGH: I don't think so (Laughter).

Q. And so aren't you afraid that he comes back, or what is it in your mind?

VIJAY SINGH: I don't think I'm afraid of anybody out there. I just think, you know, it's really up to me how I play. If I go out there and start worrying about Tiger or Phil or Ernie, then I'm in the wrong business. I've got to go out there and try to figure out how I'm going to play, how I'm going to manage my game, and how I'm going to beat everybody else in the field, and that's how I think out there.

Q. Back to the question about the better play from a number of players, how much does equipment -- you talk about training and exercise, but I wonder how much you attribute it to new equipment?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, the equipment is not only there for the top guys; the equipment is there for the whole field. Every manufacturer is trying to beat one another, just like we are, you know, trying to beat every other player.

So, I think if you have the talent and given the equipment that we have, or go back to the equipment we've been using 10, 15 years ago, I think the same guys are going to be doing the same thing right there now.

So, equipment, yes, it's proving how we hit the ball further and straighter, but the ability of the players remain the same. If you're the best player in the world, you're going to be the best player in the world no matter what equipment.

Q. Can you tell us about some of the little daily routines and superstitions you have that you do every day just to make yourself comfortable?

VIJAY SINGH: We don't have enough time for that (laughter).

Q. Anything.

VIJAY SINGH: Well, I go to the gym every morning, it doesn't matter what day it is, if I'm playing golf. Mostly Mondays I take off, but like today, I was in the gym at 7:00 and knowing that I have an hour workout before I go out there.

Besides that, I give myself an hour before I tee off on the range, maybe 20 minutes on the putting green. Just the same thing that everybody else does, I've been doing that forever.

Q. Do you have a lucky ball marker or something?

VIJAY SINGH: No, I have coins I like to have. If I'm marking on the heads side and it's going in, I'm going to keep on marking on that head side, you know, unless I miss one and then I'll change it over. So it's little things, like ball numbers, I start off with 1s every day on Thursday and go on up the list. That's about all. There's really not too much.

Q. Those of us who have known you for a long time notice that this time last year, you came in and we had an exceptionally friendly and frank and you seemed very relaxed chat, and we were talking afterwards and we thought that you seemed very content in yourself and with yourself; do you feel even more content with yourself and in yourself a year on?

VIJAY SINGH: I think so. I mean, I'm pretty comfortable with the position I'm in. I should be you, you know.

I don't have any worries. I'm enjoying my game right now. I'm playing -- what can be better? I'm here at the Masters, best player in the world right now and ready to go win another one.

My year has been great last year, I had a great start to the season this year; I can't be any more happier. I think I have a better relationship with you guys, I don't know (laughing).

Q. We all know about your propensity for staying on the range hours and hours. You're over 40; has that started to take any kind of toll on you and is that something that concerns you?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, I don't spend hours on the range anymore. I mean, I have a very good understanding of my golf swing right now, so I know where I'm going, what direction to take.

I do hit a lot of balls when I'm working on something. Like last week, this is the first Masters where I didn't go out there -- I had a week off and I must have -- well, Monday we had a game, we had to finish the tournament, but Tuesday, Wednesday, I did not hit a single ball, and two hours on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. So that's really not hitting too many balls, because I was working towards something and I knew my golf swing was in good shape.

But yes, you know, waking up in the morning is a little bit harder. You need to go out there and warm up and do your routine. I find it very difficult if I don't, you know, it takes me longer to loosen up, things like that.

But apart from that, that's why I need to work out. I need to strengthen the muscles that are weak and to get myself in better shape. I think it's going to get harder on me in the next five, six years if I don't keep up on what I'm doing.

Q. With all due respect, how is this week different? I think last year your dad was here. Any other family members here this year?

VIJAY SINGH: No. It's very strange for players when they come to majors because every friend you have wants to come and watch, every tournament member wants to come and watch. For them it's a holiday; for us it's the biggest event of our lives.

You've got to distinguish which is more important over here. Of course, I love to see my family come over here and watch me play, but at the same time, you've got to have total focus on what you're doing. That's why you see a new guy coming over in the Masters for the first time and see a whole entourage of people, it kind of takes away the focus of how you actually approach a tournament.

I enjoyed my dad here last year, but at the same time I wanted to play very serious golf. This year I think I'm more comfortable because I've only got my wife and my kid and my coach, so, you know, I can focus on what I'm doing and sure, go out and have dinners, but you've got to be in bed at a certain time and wake up at a certain time. If you have a lot of people, you can't do that. So I think it's better this year.

Q. When you were a kid, you played a lot of teen games; you played cricket and rugby and football. Did you opt for golf because you're a loner or did golf turn you into a loner?

VIJAY SINGH: I don't know, I just always loved golf more than the other sports I played. You know, when I was growing up, golf, we only had one kind of competition a week and that was always on a Saturday. That always conflicted with either soccer or cricket, so I always chose golf, and that way, you know, I kind of stuck to it. My dad was always very keen in golf and he was the captain of the club where we had to always go and play golf. My brothers played golf, so I kind of just followed along with them.

Q. Did you have particular heroes in the other sports?

VIJAY SINGH: I don't know, you know, cricket was one of my favorite things that I always did. Funny enough, I played a lot of field hockey; I don't know if they understand that much over here. There's some similarities with field hockey and golf.

You know, it was always golf. Whatever I did it was always back to golf, and I could not really take my time away from golf to do that, so that's pretty much how it was.

Q. When you become No. 1 at an age where people accept it as a great age of golf, where we have Tiger Woods who everyone thought was going to dominate the game, when you actually emerge from that challenge, win majors and then become No. 1 and work so hard to achieve that, when you achieve that, apart from winning majors and things, do you have any particular goal in mind and how long do you think you'll be able to sustain the sort of Nicklaus quality of just marching on? Do you think about that much?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, you know, once I reached No. 1 last year, I thought, wow, this is it. But a week later, two weeks later, I won. The good thing about that all was I won straight away two other tournaments. It changed the whole outlook. You know, I kind of increased my lead and I said, well, let's see how long I can keep this.

That kind of plays in your mind a little bit and then you kind of get the idea of, hey, let's see how long I can keep it and see if anyone is going to catch me. The more weeks it went on, the more confident I became. I just wanted to hang onto it as long as I could.

Just this year when I -- the focus started to be different, you know. When you want to go out and play a golf tournament, you always start thinking, hey, if I play badly I'm going to lose my No. 1 spot. So that kind of took away the focus of what my principle was to go out there and win golf tournaments.

You know, I changed all that and I said, I need to go out there and play golf to win, and people recognize you're No. 1 by winning golf tournaments. I think it's good to be No. 1, but you've got to know what your directions are, and coming over here, my direction is not to keep the No. 1 spot, but to win a major, win the Masters. That's important.

I love being No. 1, there's no hiding that. I mean, it's the biggest achievement of anyone's career to be the No. 1 player in the world. I'm going to try to win golf tournaments and also try to keep this, so we'll see what happens. If I win tournaments, I think it's just going to help me to keep the spot.

Q. Do you work with a sports psychologist, and if so, can you give an example of how he might have helped you in your quest to be the best you can be?

VIJAY SINGH: Not really. I can't say I've actually worked with anyone. I've worked with Joe Parent, who wrote Zen Golf, two or three years ago, but we kind of discussed -- he probably learned some from me and I learned some from him. So it was kind of a give-and-take thing. It wasn't one particular thing that I would follow what he says.

I read a lot of psychology, sports psychology books, but there's other things that you do to calm a person down and it's not just thinking positive or routine. You know, it's how you breathe and how you walk and how you approach things, it's totally different. I've been reading books on psychology for a long, long time, and especially Eastern philosophy that I love following. That kind of helped my mind, as well.

In talking with Joe Parent, it was like a give-and-take thing. I would throw out things and he would throw me back things.

Q. Do you think the game will ever see a mandatory scaled-back ball, and if so, is this the one place that might have the clout to institute it?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, I don't think they are going to scale back the ball. I think they are just going to limit it to what it is right now. You cannot take something back that is already out there, and if they do, I don't think it's ever going to happen in a tournament like this. Then they have to move the tees forward again.

So it's not -- I don't think it's possible. I think they have already limited the range of the balls, how far it's going to go. Even they have been good on scaling back the drivers, as well. There's testing for every new driver that comes out, so I don't think you'll see guys hitting that much further than they are doing right now. If they do, you know, they must have incredible ability to be able to do that. So it's not going to be from the equipment part, it's going to be the ability of players to be able to hit the ball further.

RONALD TOWNSEND: Thank you all very much. Thank you, Vijay, and good luck this week.

VIJAY SINGH: Thank you.

End of FastScripts.

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