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June 16, 2004

Vijay Singh


RAND JERRIS: It's a pleasure to welcome Vijay Singh to the interview area. Vijay is playing in his 11th U.S. Open championship this week. Vijay, maybe you could get us started with some general comments about the golf course and what you think might be the critical holes this week.

VIJAY SINGH: The golf course is in great shape. I played here many a times last year, not in these conditions, but the greens are much faster and I think the setup is really great. There's a few holes out there -- I think the 7th hole will be a factor, depending on how you play the shot. You can't stop the ball on the green. Pretty much all the holes you just have to play smart. Good shots may not be rewarded all the time, so you just have to take that and go on with it. It's in great shape, and I think this week the ball-striking will be important.

RAND JERVIS: You've had some success in the Open in the past, four Top 10 finishes. Is there anything you go about doing differently in preparing for a championship of this nature.

VIJAY SINGH: Not really. You have to be very patient out there, I think. You have to keep the ball in play and just don't let bad shots bother you so much. It's going to be a grueling week, going to be a hot week. The less mistakes you make, the better it is. That's the way I look at it, anyway, especially this week. You just have to go out there and buckle down and just play, and that's the way you've got to play a U.S. Open.

Q. Vijay, the opportunities you've had in contending in major championships since you won at Augusta in 2000, has there been something in common that's kind of kept you from closing one out on the weekend that's happened to you when you've had the opportunity?

VIJAY SINGH: I had a great chance last year at the U.S. Open. I was in contention or leading. But just making the least amount of mistakes, don't let the pressure get to you. I think I've been playing -- this year I've been playing better golf than I did last year. I'm dealing with pressure a little bit better this year than I did last year, and I think it's giving me a chance coming down the stretch. I think I can deal with it better this year.

It really depends on how your golf game is. If you're playing well, if you're feeling good about your golf game, you're going to deal with the weekend better than in previous years I've been doing it.

I feel like I'm looking forward to this week, looking forward to the weekends now, and I just want a chance to be right in there come Sunday.

Q. You talked briefly about that 7th hole. Could you maybe expand a little bit on it and just talk about how challenging it really is?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, you've got to hit -- even a perfect shot won't get you in the right spot there. You've got to be pretty much -- you hit a good shot and be lucky, as well, to stay on the green. You've got to be on the correct side of the pin there every day, no matter where the pin is. You've got to be on the bottom left side of the hole.

It's a long iron in. With the winds here yesterday we hit 4-iron to a green like that. I'd be very happy making two, three pars there and a bogey. I mean, if I make four pars there I'll be really tickled about it. It's going to be one of the toughest holes -- it's not a tough hole as such, but just to stop the ball on the greens and just hitting on the correct side, it's just a hard hole.

In my book that's going to be the hardest hole on the golf course.

Q. Vijay, David Duval is coming in literally today, hasn't played tournament golf in six months, hasn't had one practice round before the Open. Is that enough preparation for a player to have any success out here? Could you ever imagine yourself preparing for an Open that way?

VIJAY SINGH: If it was I'd probably show up tomorrow morning (laughter). I don't know what David has been doing, but I think he's been practicing in Denver. I hadn't seen him back home. I don't know what's his story. I can't comment on that.

Hopefully he plays well this week.

Q. Mine is kind of a follow-up to that. You're known as one of the hardest-working guys out here. What's the longest layoff you've ever taken? I wonder if you could put some perspective on what it's like to come back after a long layoff.

VIJAY SINGH: I had a break last year. I had been out really for five weeks. During that five weeks I was chipping and putting for three weeks of the time, so I was still in the game.

You know, it's really tough. It's tough to come back after a layoff and it's tough to come back when you're not playing well. David had been not playing very well for a while, and to come back and start off at a tournament like this, a U.S. Open, and on a golf course like this, I don't know, he must be out there somewhere.

It's hard for me to explain -- I would have thought he'd come back last week and just feel himself back into the groove of things, but I guess he must have been practicing for a while. I've been told that he's been practicing, so he may be more ready than we think.

Q. You're often referred to as the most consistent player on the Tour. How do you manage to be so consistent and how consistent are you in leading your life off the course?

VIJAY SINGH: I think so. I think your whole life should be consistent. My life, I'm very happy with what I've been doing on and off the golf course. I have a great family. I'm happy with what I've been doing.

To be consistent, I guess you just have to do the right things at the right time and do it consistently all the time. I have not laid off from golf -- if I miss a day of golf, I try to make up the next day and see what I've missed.

Ivan Lendl was one of the best tennis player. He said if he missed one day it took him two days to come back. I kind of have the same philosophy. I feel like if I miss a day it's going to be harder to come back two days later. I'll hit balls when I can, swing a golf club every day just to make sure my swing is still there. I don't want to lose my golf swing. That's my biggest fear. It's twice as hard to find it back than when you have it.

Q. I was wondering, do you feel like the art of shaping shots both ways has sort of been lost in today's power game, and also whether this course brings back an emphasis on that?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, I mean, yes and no. I mean, it's -- the balls are going so much further now that you really don't need to shape it. This golf course when I played in 1995, it was a lot longer than what it is now. I mean, for instance, on the 9th hole yesterday I had 100 yards to the pin. I remember, okay, the wind was in a different direction, but I was hitting 4-irons and 5-irons on 9 and I was hitting a sand wedge. If you're hitting it so much further you don't really need to shape the ball. You can carry all the rough and all the bunkers that are out there.

The iron shots right now to the greens, the balls are stopping as good as they've been doing for years, and we have the right trajectory and the right shot and you can stop the ball on any surface. So you don't really need to shape the ball anymore, even on this golf course. You just have to play the wind if it's out there or just hit a straight ball and you'll be fine.

That's why most guys out there are hitting it long and straighter now. Okay, they have a better ability now, but the balls are going so much straighter, you don't really need to curve it. I used to be a pretty pronounced left to right player, but now it's pretty much straight, not because I've been a straighter hitter, it's just the balls are going so much straighter.

Q. As well as you played the last few years, do you feel like you probably should have won another major or two during that time? As proud as you must be of how you played, is that still a source of frustration to you right now?

VIJAY SINGH: Yeah, I would say. I mean, I had good chances at The Masters the last few years. British Open last year I had a very good chance of pulling it off. You know, it's frustrating at the same time. It's nobody's fault but mine not to win another major. It is frustrating, yes, but did I take the chances that I was given? No, I didn't. You just have to go forward and learn from your mistakes that you've done in the past.

I think if there is a chance that this is the year that I feel like I'm most capable of winning a major because I feel very comfortable in my golf swing, the way I'm playing and my mindset. I'm not worried, I'm not excited, I'm not nervous about going out there and playing tomorrow. I feel -- I'm eager to go and play, and I'm eager to go out there and perform well. I'm playing as good as I've ever played, and I can't do any more than just go out there and try to win the golf tournament.

In the past I may be frustrated, I may be disappointed that I didn't win a major in the last two or three years, but I look forward to this year, and I feel like the next three majors I have a good chance of pulling one or two of them out.

Q. You spoke a minute ago about your fear of losing your swing. Is that a fear you wake up with every morning? Have you ever actually lost it?

VIJAY SINGH: No, I wouldn't say I've lost it. You don't want to lose your golf swing. You don't want to feel like -- you do lose your rhythm, you do lose your timing, but you just don't want to be -- I don't want to wake up one day and say, "How am I supposed to play this game?" There are a lot of guys that have done it in the past and they've never come out of it. I feel like if I just keep on doing what I'm doing, it's not really a fear of losing the golf swing; it's just making sure you maintain what you've got.

With my age right now, I don't have more than five, six years to play at the level I'm doing now. If I can maintain that and just keep on doing what I'm doing, I don't have to fear anything.

Q. When you come to a course like this and play practice rounds and practice on the range, is it difficult to prepare knowing that the wind could be blowing one way one hole and the next day it could be completely different?

VIJAY SINGH: I don't know which way the wind is blowing now, but the first two days has been a really good test. It was strong. Yesterday was as strong as it blew with me playing over here. You just have to deal with it the best that you can. There's no one theory out there, what are you going to do when the wind blows. You just have to play the golf course the way it blows. There's no really one way to prepare for it.

I go on the range, if it's left to right wind on the range yesterday, you don't want to hit too many balls on the range when it's left to right, but you have to hit some. So you just do really the best possible way you need to prepare, have a lot of short game practice.

The greens are totally different than when we played in '95. The surrounding of the greens are different, the balls are running 20, 30 yards off from the sides. So you've got to practice that part of the game, as well.

For instance, the 11th hole, it's so much harder now and the greens have shrunk in a way that if you just miss the edges of the green, it's going to roll 30 yards off. So you need to learn how to play those shots. There's many different factors out there that you need to prepare.

Q. Tiger talks about having to take a week off to be fresh regardless of his ability to hit the golf ball the week before the Open, and given your work ethic, the fact that you're considered one of the hardest if not the hardest working professionals out there, how do you maintain a focus for four days and what's considered to be the most grueling championship that you play? Do you practice differently or what do you think about off the course?

VIJAY SINGH: Last week was a great practice for me. Although I played a golf tournament that was pretty intense, the way the greens were in Westchester, similar, very similar to the greens over here. They were poa greens, they were firm. I don't think I could have found a better way of practicing putting for my game last week. It was a great way to prepare for this week.

Different people have different ways of practicing, and some weeks I like to take weeks off before a major and some weeks I don't. This week it was -- I've always played Westchester before the U.S. Open. I thought they were very similar in conditions that we play in. That's the way I practice. I don't do anything different. I go out there. I played last week in pretty intense conditions. I was next to the last group -- I think last group on Saturday, so you can't have better preparation for a major than what I did last week.

Q. We've had so many first-time major winners in the last year or two. Given the difficulty and nuances of this course, do you think the veterans, the major winners, have the advantage, and if so, why?

VIJAY SINGH: Everybody that enters a golf tournament, probably 90 percent of the guys, are capable of winning a major. Right now if you look at the guys that have not won a major, they're still very capable of winning one because of the way they've been playing.

There's a lot of guys out there that won a lot of tournaments but have not won majors. Take Phil, for instance, he had not won a major but he won 20-some tournaments in the States before he won The Masters. There was a lot of guys out there just like Phil toward the beginning of the year. Take Harrington, for instance; he's playing great golf and he knows links golf courses. A lot of European players find these kind of conditions very familiar. I mean, they are very familiar with these conditions. I don't mind this, as well. I don't think you can really say it's an advantage for the veterans to come out here and win. Maybe experience-wise, but apart from that, everybody plays the same kind of golf. Given a good day, anybody can win.

Q. I wanted to ask about the belly putter. Tiger and Ernie have talked about maybe it should be banned. The USGA guy was in here saying it's not on their agenda, they discuss it often. What's your take on it?

VIJAY SINGH: The way I putted last week maybe I should go back and putt with a normal putter again. I don't think the belly putter helped me at all last week. I go with what the USGA says. It's not on their agenda, it's not banned, it's legal. I'm going to play with it right now. There's nothing more to say about that.

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

End of FastScripts.

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