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March 23, 2005

Vijay Singh


JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, Vijay, for joining us for a few minutes here in the media center at THE PLAYERS Championship. So far you've had a terrific Florida Swing, three Top 5s. I know you've had some disappointing finishes, but you're here on your home turf and you should be very confident about the week ahead.

VIJAY SINGH: Yeah, I am, if I would get to play a whole practice round. I've only played 15 holes so far, and I don't think I've hit more than 20 balls on the range at the moment. There was a rain delay yesterday all the time, and it hopefully doesn't rain today so I can get prepared properly.

Q. Have you ever had a period where you're playing week after week and there is so much rain? You've played all over the world. Have you been through this before?

VIJAY SINGH: Not really. This has been incredible. Every week there's some sort of delay, if not a delay it's a wash-out on the Pro-Am. Honda was the same thing last week, Doral, so I don't know, you just kind of get used to it, I guess.

Q. I guess somebody who's won 25 times on the Tour and a few more worldwide is not going to get that upset about losing two tournaments the way you've lost the last two. Is that how you get that out of your mind and go on to the next one and not get too down about the last couple of weeks?

VIJAY SINGH: I mean, it still plays in my mind. I mean, it's nothing that you just kind of forget about a week later. It's disappointing. I mean, the way I lost Honda, missing that short of a putt in the playoff, you get into a situation like that and then you give it away, and the same situation last week. Yeah, it was a good shot, yeah, it was straight to the flag, but it was the wrong club. Whatever happens, it was a mis-hit or mis-club, whatever you call it. It's disappointing.

You get in a position, I mean, people play all year to get into that position once, and I've done it two weeks in a row. Yeah, it's disappointing, but you kind of look ahead and get positives out of it that you did play well. This is a big week and everybody wants to win this tournament, especially me.

Q. If you play golf long enough, are disappointments like that going to happen, maybe not two weeks in a row, but are you going to have -- I mean, you've had your share where you've done it to somebody else, haven't you, beaten somebody elsewhere they've made a mistake? If you play this game long enough things like that are going to happen.

VIJAY SINGH: Yeah, but you never remember the good, you always remember the bad (laughter). Guys that lost to me, I'm sure they remember those ones. It's easier to forget, put it that way. Hopefully you don't get too used to it because it's a disappointing thing to lose tournaments like that. But you just have to get ahead and look ahead all the time, and that's what I'm doing.

Q. Can you quantify how important being No. 1 in the world is to you? Ernie was in here yesterday talking about the fact that he'd just take it for one week. He was kind of joking, but obviously he really would like to have a piece of it. Can you just talk about what it means to you? Obviously you've had it for a bit.

VIJAY SINGH: You know, it's a great -- I guess it's an achievement you might say in a career to be No. 1 at some point. But right now, my goal is to go out there and win golf tournaments. I really do not worry about No. 1 position, if it's going to be overtaken or not. You know, the World Ranking is such that it does not favor guys that play a lot of events, 40 tournaments minimum, and a few guys up there only play 40 events and don't get beyond 40 events in that divide.

I've always been over 60, and I'm not going to stop doing that, so my main goal over here is to go out there and win golf tournaments and not worry about the ranking. If I'm No. 1, it's a great privilege to be No. 1, but it's not my ultimate goal, to go out there and just worry about No. 1 position. My goal is to go out there and try to win golf tournaments and see how many I can win.

Q. Is there anything about the setup of this course that explains your kind of mixed results here over the years, maybe not pounding the driver as much as you do in most places because of the rough or the shapes of the holes, or are there just too many distractions this week and parties on Mondays, any explanation for sort of your mixed results here?

VIJAY SINGH: I don't know, I haven't figured that one out yet. I've had just disappointing starts at tournaments. Two years ago, I made an 8 on No. 4 and ended up starting over, and last year I had double on No. 10. I'm always kind of falling backwards right off the getgo and always trying to get to position.

You know, maybe my driving wasn't as good in the previous years that I haven't got into contention, but I just feel like when you look at this golf course, it's suited for long hitters, and if you hit the ball straight, it's right there in front of you.

But I just for some reason have not played well enough over here. I'm playing really well right now and I'm driving the ball extremely well, so if I can drive the ball like I did last week over here, I think I have a good chance of being in contention.

Q. Is the 17th hole a good hole or a bad hole and could you explain your opinion?

VIJAY SINGH: I think it's a great hole. I mean, it's not a difficult hole if you go out there on Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday and just play it. You know, come tournament day, for some reason that green just shrinks. It only seems six foot square near the hole, and the rest of it feels like it's all water.

I've played it so many times and I've gone out there and just hit balls on 17, and I've never had a problem. I'll play that hole without hitting a ball in the water, and last year during the tournament I hit two in the water.

I think it's just atmosphere and I think we just get nervous on the 17th hole, simple as that.

Q. Just to piggyback, on this course and on the TPC courses in general, it's the 25th year in the stadium course. Can you speak to the layouts and how this vision here has changed golf a little bit as far as how golf courses are constructed these days?

VIJAY SINGH: Pete Dye did a great job here, it's a totally stadium-designed golf course, of all the TPC golf courses. It's totally great viewing. You don't need bleachers all around the golf course to watch golf. You just go around the mounds, and it's a great arena to watch golf. I hope they build more golf courses like this. Obviously they're going to do a facelift to the golf course after next year's tournament, but it's one heck of a golf course. The greens are smaller over here. Right now on most golf courses the greens are really huge. You have really long golf courses but big greens. This is a difficult golf course because the greens are so small, and every green out there is really tiny except for one or two. So it's challenging not only off the tee but the --

Q. How about for the players, as far as how the players have approached the game? TPCs are sprouting up every year, and in San Antonio, for instance, that tournament will go to a TPC course. Does it change the way the players have approached the game at all?

VIJAY SINGH: It's bigger and more difficult. It's longer golf courses. All the new TPC golf courses are all 7300 yards or 7400 yards. It's matching the distance we hit the balls nowadays. It's kind of compatible to how far we hit it. I think that's where all the guys are finding it that you get a chance to use more drivers now off the tees. It's just more challenging now on the TPC golf courses. I just hope they go back and redesign the golf courses that we've been playing for years and make it to what we like, which is longer and tougher.

Q. The Tiger-Phil golf match-up at Doral got a lot of fans pumped up for this year. How exciting is that, the Big 3 playing at the top of their game? Are you more excited about some of the tension that might be coming this year?

VIJAY SINGH: There's a lot said about that. I mean, I think it's great to have Nicklaus and Watson in '77 at Troon -- was it Troon? Turnberry. It's one of those things that I guess golf just wants to watch, two guys going at it at their best, and two top guys actually. More of those things happen, it's going to be incredible TV and for everybody to watch. I just feel like I don't have to worry about that happening. I'd rather go out there and play somebody who's not playing as well (laughter). It's easier for me. You know, I just think it's good. I think it's great, and we are all playing well right now. Everybody on the Top 10, top 15 are playing really good golf.

I think the whole golfing scene has taken a step forward. I think every player out there has improved, has taken a step forward, and they want to all play well, and I think it's just going to be a great year.

Q. I'm curious, what was more satisfying to you, the process of building up to being the No. 1 player in the year or actually being up on the mountain top there and being able to look down and say, okay, I'm No. 1.

VIJAY SINGH: I guess being up there is better than trying to get up there. It's easier work to stay up there. All you do is play better golf and you're going to remain up there. But it's been hard work. Been a long process, ten years of trying to get up to the top, and if you look back, it was a great journey to get up there, but I think once you're up there, all you need to do is play good golf, and that's all you've got to worry about.

But I'm relishing the fact that I'm up there and guys are chasing me. My main objective now is not to remain there but just to win golf tournaments. It's taking away the focus of trying to get up to the No. 1 spot. I'm just trying to focus on winning golf tournaments and playing golf tournaments every week.

Q. At what point did you feel like that was an attainable thing for you?

VIJAY SINGH: I mean, two years ago I started playing well, and to be fair, I always thought I was one of the best players in the world two, three years ago, and I thought any given day if I'm playing good, I can beat anybody. I mean, if you think that way you already think that you're already on top, and that's what I thought all the time. The ranking just did not show that until I started winning -- I guess you've got to win nine, ten events to get up there. I guess that's the goal right now.

Q. Are the bunkers playing noticeably different because of the fact that they rebuilt them and had to put new sand in a few months ago? Is that going to be a factor at any point this week?

VIJAY SINGH: I think it's going to be a big factor. I think TPC has had a little loophole there. It's a tough golf course layout, but missing into the trap was an easy escape. You've got holes like 7 out here, 5, 7, even 4 on the right side, which is a difficult driving hole, but if you do spray it and you spray towards the bunkers you'll almost have a better lie in the bunkers than on the fairways. The new sand, I was in there a couple times yesterday, and the ball sits a little lower than what you want it to be, and it takes a good shot to get out. If it rains, it's going to be firm anyway, so it takes away the softness.

I think it's going to be a lot harder. I'm sure they're going to fluff it up again before the tournament starts, and I think it's going to be a lot more challenging this year than it's been in the past.

Q. You were talking earlier about designing golf courses. I recall last year you had announced that you were designing one in Fiji. Can you tell us how that's going, and would you like to do more golf courses?

VIJAY SINGH: I haven't started that yet. I'm now supposed to leave in February, but I've delayed it until May. But I'm looking forward to that, and I have a few more opportunities to look into it. They're all going to be at the end of the year when the season comes to a close. I'm really keen. I think golf course designing needs a new hand in it, you've got Nicklauses and Normans and Pete Dyes. I think a new name would change the character of golf courses. I'm lucky I have the opportunity to do some of that.

Q. Aside from the sand that's changed here, how will this golf course, given all the weather and the rain that we've had?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, normally I think in the past it's rained in the beginning, but towards the end of the tournament it kind of got firm anyway. This is the first year where you're going to see holes like 5, 7, 14 and 15 are going to play a lot longer than they've ever played. On the 5th hole yesterday guys were hitting 4-irons and 5-irons to the green, and when it dries out you're hitting wedges and 9-irons there, so that's a big difference.

Same as 7. I mean, 7, with the wind blowing back yesterday, I hit a 6-iron onto the green, so if it freshens up into the face there, you're going to be hitting long irons into the greens there, so it's going to play a lot longer. If the greens are soft, we're going to be flying it right there. It's an equalizing factor that if the greens are softer it's going to play longer.

The rough is really long. I think the rough this year has been the most consistent I've ever seen it. You're not going to be hitting it 20, 30 off line and getting great lies. Hitting fairways is going to be very important this week.

Q. When did your party start and how has that changed throughout the years and who all was there on Monday, and did Kenny show up?

VIJAY SINGH: No, Kenny didn't show up (laughter). I mean, it started off with one or two guys, and we went to ten guys, and now the whole field is coming (laughter).

Q. Literally you've got valet parking now it's so big.

VIJAY SINGH: How did you know all that?

Q. One of my editors was trying to drive down A1A and couldn't get through the traffic jam.

VIJAY SINGH: It's just an outing that I like to invite my friends, and the players are all my friends, and my family, and it's great to get together for once. I'm just happy I can do that.

Q. Does anybody else do that at other Tour stops?

VIJAY SINGH: I think one or two guys do it, but not as big as this.

Q. Why do you call everybody "Biggie?"


Q. Kenny told me that you always call him "Biggie," and then a guy this morning told me, "Vijay calls everybody Biggie."

VIJAY SINGH: I don't know, it's a term that I use.

Q. Sort of like "Buddy?"

VIJAY SINGH: Or "Bro" or something like that (laughter).

Q. In a Vijay Singh designed golf course, is there going to be anything different that you maybe would have liked to have seen in golf courses? I mean, are you going to do anything that's kind of like you, or maybe creatively speaking something that you came up with?

VIJAY SINGH: I don't know. I like the old designed golf courses where there's not ten bunkers on the golf course but two bunkers that are on the golf course placed where you're going to hit your drives, and if you go into the bunkers you're going to be penalized. I think bunkers right now is for more show than for play.

You go in the bunkers nowadays, it's better to be in some of the bunkers. I guess all the Tour players would rather be in bunkers than in long rough. I'd like to see bunkers like they have in Oakmont and places like that where you go in and you're going to have trouble getting out. Those are things that are lacking in golf courses nowadays, modern golf courses. They build big bunkers where the machine can go in there and come out, so they don't need manpower to do hand jobs. Those are things I'm going to do, get it back to tradition type golf courses.

You never see golf courses -- a lot of guys build golf courses now for member play, member friendly, and I keep telling guys that you go into the 100 best golf courses in the world, they're all very, very tough golf courses. You don't see a member friendly golf course in the top ten in the world.

Q. How much does this tournament mean to you to win, and what -- do you have any sort of different point of emphasis with yourself this week to try and get a better result?

VIJAY SINGH: This is the first time where I'm going to play two practice rounds. I've just taken a real relaxed attitude this week. I think I put too much pressure on myself this week to go out there and play well. I've played always three practice rounds, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. I did not play at all on Monday, and I'm playing good. I know the golf course.

I'm just going to go out there and start focusing today for tomorrow instead of focusing on Monday, and by the time the tournament comes, I'm so fired up that one little mistake just totally pushes me backwards. I just feel like this is a very important event, and my attitude has changed, don't take it too seriously on Monday but take it seriously from Wednesday and focus on when the tournament starts and not be so much into your head by the time the tournament starts.

That's what I'm doing. This is a big event. I would say in always the players' minds it's a major event, and hopefully one day this is going to be calling me here. I just think it's one of the biggest events on Tour.

Q. You want to win this event and it's big for you. Putting so much pressure on it, and then you have obviously The Masters, too. How do you deal with coming off something big and then right the corner, the biggest event of all?

VIJAY SINGH: You get used to it. Next week I'm going to stay home and prep for The Masters, but I'm not looking forward to the Masters right now, I'm looking forward to tomorrow's event here. Like we all talked about, I mean, this is where the biggest gathering of players are, and it'll be one of the biggest achievements of my career if I can win this thing. So my focus right now is to go out there and play as good as I can and see if I can win it.

Q. Just to follow up, when you said two questions ago, sometime you'd like to see this considered a major, what would it take to make this a major?

VIJAY SINGH: I don't know, just you guys calling it a major, I guess (laughter). It's got everything possible that you can call it a major. The field is strong, the golf course is great, we play the same golf course every year, and it's the biggest price purse in the world, so what else is lacking? Just calling it a major. I guess in our minds, this is the fifth major.

JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you for joining us.

End of FastScripts.

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