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July 7, 2004

Vijay Singh


JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, Vijay, for joining us for a few minutes here in the media center at the John Deere Classic, defending champion here, very familiar with the course and good memories. Why don't you just talk about the week ahead. I know you haven't had a chance to play the course yet. Today will be your first day.

VIJAY SINGH: Obviously I have very great memories from last year. Any time you win a golf tournament for the first time on a course you haven't played, you leave with a very positive attitude. I like the golf course. I enjoyed it. I was looking forward to coming back, but then I realized the dates were a little bit different than what it was last year.

But I committed myself, and a lot of guys questioned my decision coming over here with the British Open next week, and if there's a rain delay, which very often happens over here, it could mean some problems.

But I'm here, I'm here to play. I'm looking forward to defending it, and if I can, I will win it. This is a new week for me, and it's all positive and I'm ready to go.

Q. This year the gap between you and No. 1 has really shrunk, has really dwindled. Do you feel like this year is your best opportunity to take over the No. 1 spot?

VIJAY SINGH: I don't know. The way I've been playing the last three or four weeks, I have to do a little better than that. I had a great start to the season, obviously the gap has closed, but I need to start winning. There's no better week to start than right here (laughter).

You know, I haven't played well. I played well last week, I played well at the U.S. Open, and I just need some momentum to start turning my way. That's what I'm looking for.

I think if I start scoring the way I'm capable of, who knows what's going to happen.

Q. Nick Price said he just likes to play the week before the British Open, not necessarily play there. Do you think there's a big difference between playing this tournament the week before and getting there a week early?

VIJAY SINGH: It's really strange because the week before a tournament is pretty good to play sometimes when you're not in competitive mode. I don't know that Nick plays that many tournaments nowadays. For him it's probably good that he plays a week before.

I would have done the same thing, but it's a shame that we have to go across the pond for the tournament over there. I have never played the week before the British Open. That's the reason why, because I have to fly all the way across, and I haven't done real good in the Open except for last year, so maybe this is a good change.

You need to have that competitive feel back, and that's probably why a lot of guys play the week before. The field is going to Loch Lomond to play over there, in Scotland. Similar to the course there, it's a links course. I like to be in contention here and then going to the British Open so you have that aggressive field and competitive field going. I think it's good for me.

I play always before the U.S. Open, always before the PGA and always before The Masters. So it doesn't really matter to me. It's just the traveling, that you have to go across and change time, which is the thing.

Q. This course last year was the first time playing. What do you think about it? It's a young course, a good course. The word has gotten out through the grapevine it's a pretty good course. You might have heard a thing or two before you came here last year. Did it meet your expectations, and what are your thoughts with the development?

VIJAY SINGH: I think it's a good golf course. It's a shame that it rained so much last year. We didn't get the true feel of it. There's a lot of doglegs, the ball can run out. You need to hit shots. This golf course plays pretty good, hard and fast. It plays a little shorter, but at the same time it brings a lot of trouble into play.

But the players like this golf course. There's a lot of positives about this golf tournament and the course.

You know, I choose my schedule according to the golf course, and I think 60 or 70 players do the same, and this is one of the golf courses that we choose to play.

That's always a good thing to know, that you're coming to a tournament where the golf course is in good shape and a top one to play.

Q. Had you heard good things about this course from other players prior to coming?

VIJAY SINGH: Yeah, I watched it on TV quite a few times when they played in previous years, and there's a lot of good that's said about the golf course while I was watching it. There's a lot of positives by the players, as well. D.A. always said great things about the golf course, and he's a good guy to listen to.

Q. Vijay, how important is it for you to defend titles?

VIJAY SINGH: I mean, I feel like it's an obligation to the tournament, if you win the golf tournament to come back next year and defend it. I've always defended my tournaments. I think it's the respect you show to the tournament itself. That's the way I've always said. Maybe this week is not the right week to defend it, but I feel still I'm obligated to come here and defend my title.

I've always thought that, and I think it's important to me.

Q. Do you take a different mindset into a tournament as a defending champion? You've had great success over the last couple years winning tournaments, but defending them has been a little different story.

VIJAY SINGH: Yeah, sometimes you put too much pressure on yourself. I don't know, obviously your attitude should be a lot better than the rest of them because you've won it the year before. I feel I have a lot of confidence playing this golf tournament and this golf course. The only time I've played it, I've won it, so you're always looking forward to playing well, so there's no downside to it. I think that's the good thing about defending on a golf course in a tournament that you've won for the first time.

Q. Do you feel like this golf course can help in preparation for the British Open?

VIJAY SINGH: I think so. You know, maybe not the terrain, not the layout of the golf course, but the shot-making, the competition. If you're in contention, I think it helps a lot. It gives you that edge that you're going maybe with playing well the week before. That's very important. You can always work on a few things that you need to work on, not necessarily hitting low shots, but I'll be trying to do something next week, keep the ball flying lower and things like that, and no better way to start practicing that than in a competition like that.

Q. As you're making the decision to come here, and you said you heard some people questioning your decision, was there ever a point when you started to waver and said maybe I shouldn't do this?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, I've had a pretty tight schedule all the way to here. I played last week in -- yesterday in Montreal, The Skins Game, and the week before I was in Chicago, and before that, I played, as well. It was so tight, you question whether you're getting tired before a major, but I don't feel that. I feel pretty fresh.

It can get to you. You won't realize if you're tired until it hits you, so you've got to realize that before you get tired, and right now I'm okay. I'm going to be very worried how I stand for the next few weeks.

Q. Last year you were talking about how you had elevated your game. You were already a top player in the last half of the '90s, very solid, but then you seemed to really take off. You talked about getting in a wave with your swing. What took you to that next level, conditioning, practice, confidence, or what played into that?

VIJAY SINGH: I think everything is a factor, and the main factor is that you're very comfortable with your golf swing. I've worked very hard to get my golf swing to where it is now. Even if I don't play two, three days, I can still feel like I can go out there and still swing and feel the same way as I did when I played well, and that's the feel that we are looking forward to.

I think all in all, everything, the practice I put in, the physical workouts that I've been having and the success I've been having, it's all put together in a package.

Q. When you get to that level, do you have to know when to stop working to not mess it up? Can you tinker too much?

VIJAY SINGH: Depends on what you're tinkering with. If you start looking for something that is not there, then you're going to have a problem. You can always improve. The hardest thing is to stay up there. It's very easy to keep climbing to the place where you want to go, but staying up there I think is harder than getting up there.

My goal is to -- when you reach a point you try to maintain that and go even further, but to do that, you've got to work on things that took you there and not work on things that are new. You've got to work on the ideas that actually are good for your own game and not to listen to too many people. That's a big factor. You've got to still be focused on what's to come.

Q. Are you worried about fatigue coming here with your schedule, going to the British, and you know coming back as defending champion you have more commitments like this like with the media? Did you worry about that at all?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, it's crossed my mind last week on Sunday in Chicago, but once you start getting to the golf tournament you've got to totally refocus yourself and not think about how tired you're going to get or how tiring it is or taxing it is because if you get those thoughts in your mind, then you're obviously not focused on what you're supposed to be doing. I'm here, I'm doing this press conference, I'm practicing and I'm going to play my Pro-Am and tomorrow I'll start the tournament. My focus is what I've done for years, when I get to a golf tournament I'm there, and my week starts right there.

If I get tired by the end of the week, that's a different story. But I've got to be really positive and focus on what I'm going to do this week.

Q. What's been the difference the last couple weeks? Last time you were in contention I think was at the Buick.

VIJAY SINGH: Well, I'm not making the putts that I was doing the beginning of the year, but I found something out last week that I'm still trying out. I hope it works on the greens. It's feeling good again and I'm excited. I'm playing as good as I've done all year, and I'm driving the ball -- the only bad driving week I had was the U.S. Open and that's because you try to hit into this little strip of short grass with a driver. I played really well last week. The first two rounds I had 33 and 34 putts and I was still right up there.

If I can just bring that down to around 30 or 29, I think I should be in contention. I'm playing well. I'm not worried about the way I'm striking the ball. I just need to score a little bit better, take advantage of my good shots and make more putts.

Q. What is it about the -- is there anything special about the British Open that separates it from the other majors in your view besides the geographical nature? What do you think about that tournament? What kind of feeling does it give you?

VIJAY SINGH: It's a different kind of golf course. You don't know what you're going to expect. You may be in great weather in the morning and it's storming and 50 degrees out in the afternoon. Conditions change by the hour, and you just have to be prepared to accept the conditions you're going to play in. The terrain is different, the shots are different. The ground is so much firmer than we ever play on. You've got to see a shot before you hit it because there's no real landmark that you can actually align yourself with. It's a totally different terrain. The whole background is different, the crowd is different, the air is different, the food is different. It's a whole different ballgame at the same time it's a major.

So I think the excitement of a major is always there at the British Open.

Q. How much will last year's success help you out this upcoming weekend?

VIJAY SINGH: Over here? I think I'm excited. Although I haven't played the golf course, I haven't played a practice round here, I still see the golf course in my mind already. I know exactly what I did last year, and I know which holes that I played great in. All those positive feelings that come across my head, they're all good for me, and that's what I've got to go by this week.

Q. What happens if it goes to Monday?

VIJAY SINGH: I'll play Monday (laughter). If it goes to Monday, I just hope I'm up there in contention. That's the key. You know, it's not going to affect me completing the golf tournament. I just hope I'm in contention, otherwise things may change.

Q. After how hard you've worked and all the places you've played, what would it mean to you to be No. 1?

VIJAY SINGH: Obviously it's my goal. It's not easy because all the guys up there are playing well, as well. It means a lot to me. It's something that I've always wanted to be before I finish, obviously getting to the top and staying there for a while. It's not good getting to the top and staying there for a week or so. I want to build myself to a point where I can go up there and stay there. I'm pretty close. It means a lot to me, it means a lot to my game, my hard work. It would be a great accomplishment for where I've come to where I'm going. It's something that I've always wanted to do and to be.

Q. Back to this course, do you find this course to be a well-rounded fair test of golf? Do you think it favors any one type of player or what do you think about the overall nature of this course?

VIJAY SINGH: I think it's a ball striker's golf course. There's a lot of elements you have to deal with, a lot of doglegs, a few greens that are very wide open out there, like the 4th hole.

The golf course is very unique. You're not going to play well if you're not striking the ball well. There's big greens, different parts of the greens where you're got to be on the correct side of the greens. It's a good grounded golf course I would say. It requires good shot-making, good putting and good driving, so whoever plays the best obviously is going to have a chance.

Q. You were talking about tweaking the putting stroke a little bit and that you found something that was working. What did you change?

VIJAY SINGH: That's a very big secret (laughter).

Q. You had talked about the need to get momentum back and momentum before a major championship, which is next week. Can you think back on your career, either of the two majors you've won or other times you've gone and had a good faring in a major where you had good momentum leading up to it?

VIJAY SINGH: The PGA that I won in '98, I hadn't played for two weeks before that for the first time ever. I came out and had a great -- it was Buick in Flint where I didn't win but I had a great tournament. I was playing well, I was feeling good about my game, and leading up to the PGA, that was the big thing. I was hitting my 3-wood incredibly well that week, and when I did go to the PGA I think I used one driver every day, just one shot, and the 3-wood was the key. Those are the kind of things you're looking for.

This week here, if you start putting well or rolling the ball, that's something you can take on, or have a few shots where you have to keep the ball low. Things that you try this week that you do well, you can take away. I think when I won The Masters, as well, I had great finishes before that, as well. It's the momentum -- it's all confidence that you take and all the positive feedback. I just hope I get a lot this week.

Q. Vijay, I don't have the book in front of me but I know you're in your 40s now, but do you feel better than you've ever -- are you feeling physically as fit and as confident with a bounce in your step as much as at any other time in your career? You seem to have more energy and a better attitude than ever.

VIJAY SINGH: I have a lot of coffees in the morning (laughter). No, I work out a lot. I mean, I love working out. I used to dread getting up in the morning at 5:00 o'clock or 4:00 o'clock in the morning and going to the gym when I had an early tee time, but now I'm looking forward to it. Once you get to the stage where you look forward to working out and coming over here with my trainer, who's my caddie this week, and he said what are we going to do afterwards, and I said, "Well, I'm going to be finishing late," and he said, "Even if I have to put handcuffs on you, I'm taking you to the gym," and I said, "That's fine, let's do it." We have a great relationship and he travels on Tour with me, and that's a big motivation for me. He's a very motivated guy and he drags me along, and I just feel great. I feel really energized when I come to the golf tournaments, and it's a lot to do with Joey, as well.

Q. At what point in your career did you start doing that?

VIJAY SINGH: I've been working out for maybe six, seven years, but intensely the last five years.

Q. Who is your trainer?


End of FastScripts.

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