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May 12, 2004

Vijay Singh


TODD BUDNICK: We welcome defending champion of the EDS Byron Nelson Championship, Vijay Singh. Off to another good start this year, ranked No. 1 on the Money List for 10 of the 19 weeks so far this year, 8 Top 10s in 13 events. Let's talk about the great start first.

VIJAY SINGH: Well, I feel good about my game, that's one thing. I've been playing well. I've been injury-free, which is a big thing nowadays. As much as we work out and practice and things like that, if you get injured, that's where the problems start. That's a big plus. I've been injury-free, working hard with my physical side of my game and on my body and also my game.

My game has been really good. I haven't slowed down practicing, just doing the right things. That's where I guess the scoring comes in.

Q. You're defending champion. Talk about coming into this event as defending champion for the first time.

VIJAY SINGH: I like this golf course. I think it favors straighter hitters and you've got to be ball strikers to play well this week. I was a little disappointed I didn't get to play the other side yesterday, I only played eight holes and the rain came. You know, I'm looking forward to playing this week. Hopefully I keep producing as well as I've been doing and see what happens at the end of the week.

Q. Considering your success in Monday finishes in rain-plagued events, is there anything that you think -- is that a coincidence or is there anything you think might give you an advantage when courses are wet?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, I won 18 times and only four of them were on Mondays, so figure that one out.

Q. That's a good percentage. Why do you think that is, though?

VIJAY SINGH: I don't know. I think I'll go talk to the weather man out there. It's coincidence, I play well on Mondays or I've played well on Mondays. Most of the time I've been -- except for one week, I think every other time I've been leading going into Monday.

Any time you're leading going into a rain delay or something, I think the guys that are in the lead have more focus, and they keep their focus no matter where -- how long the delay is, but if you're not in the lead, it's very easy to get frustrated and lose your focus. You don't play as well, put it this way. When you're leading most of the time, you're thinking about the lead, you're thinking about how you're going to finish, and I think that's why guys that are in the lead going into the rain delay on Mondays, most of the guys that are leading always wins the tournament.

Q. I think what I was really getting at was not Monday but just in wet conditions, obviously that helps all good ball strikers because you can get it close so often, but you also have the power, as well.

VIJAY SINGH: Well, I don't think that's a factor. I think if you go -- obviously when you play on Monday, the golf course is wet and playing long, so the longer hitters, higher ball flights have an advantage, but you still have to play well and produce the scores that -- I remember playing in Memorial, that's a long golf course when I won over there, but you need to fly the ball a long ways. That was an advantage. But then I guess New Orleans it wasn't playing that long, so, I mean, it really didn't matter there. I just so happened to play really well the last nine holes.

Q. What's your routine leading up to a major? When do you really start to prepare for a major?

VIJAY SINGH: I don't know. I tend to -- I used to think a lot about it, really work myself a month before and try to practice things that I would need for a major event. But most golf courses right now are set up pretty tough, pretty much like a major event, and Westchester is a good example. Going to the U.S. Open, tough golf course, small greens, very much like the Shinnecock greens. So that's a good warmup to go out and play a major.

Besides that, I would probably go up and play the golf course once or twice before the tournament week and just kind of think the shots that I need to do, the shots that I would use more times out there, you know, chip from difficult spots where you think if you miss the green you'll have more of those shots, things like that, and obviously on putts.

Q. How do you see -- I mean, obviously every week there have been competitive fields. This one looks to be another good one for the Top 5 players. How do you see the field?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, this is the first week I think we've got all four top guys out here. Last week without Ernie, I think Davis Love was out there, too. It's exciting, exciting to know that before -- I mean, everybody is capable of winning out here, but the four top ranked players are in the field.

I tend to focus a little bit more, I tend to pay more attention on what I'm doing, and I'll be looking out to see how they are doing, as well. It's going to be -- it's an exciting event. It's more or less like playing a major event where all the top guys are in the field and I think everybody is looking forward to playing this week together in one tournament. It hasn't happened before for a while, and I think The Masters was the first time that we played this year, all the guys together.

Q. You talked earlier this week about wanting to be No. 1 in golf. When you say something like that, does that put more pressure on you from just going out and playing golf, or does that kind of inspire you even more that you said something like that?

VIJAY SINGH: I don't really think about it when I'm playing a tournament. You always think about it afterwards, you always think about it after the tournament. During a tournament it doesn't really cross my mind. But I don't think it puts any more pressure. I think it inspires me to know that that's your goal. That is my goal, that at some point I want to be that first ranked player, but there's a lot of factors involved. I have to play well. Other people don't have to play, as well, and I've got to win.

Playing well is one thing, but winning, that's the only way I can get to the top, and winning on this Tour is no easy task. I think it's one of the hardest things to do is win out here. I was fortunate enough to win three times, and hopefully I can win a few others. If I can think positively and win a few more, that's my goal right now.

Q. I think at the end of last year you said it might take you five years or something like that to get to No. 1 and now you're very close, just out over 2 points. Are you surprised you've narrowed the gap that much?

VIJAY SINGH: I don't think I said five years. I said maybe one or two years. No, I mean, it just really depends on how you play. I've played well, I've played well for a long time now, and I guess if you keep playing consistently well, you will narrow the gap no matter how good the other guys are playing. No, I'm not surprised at all. I'm a little disappointed in the way that the gap is still two and a half points, three points every time.

It seems like Top 10 doesn't matter anymore unless you win. I finished Top 10 last week and I lost one or two points. I think you've got to win to narrow the gap. I just have to go out there and focus and play my game and let other things happen.

Q. You look at the system that closely, the actual World Ranking system and understand it, or do you just go out and play and try and rank up as many Top 10 points as you can and let the numbers play out the way they play out?

VIJAY SINGH: After last week I hadn't looked at ranking until just walking in here, so it doesn't really bother me. I don't go home and get on the computer and look where I stand. No, I don't do that. I know people tell me these things when I come to the tournament where I stand. I just go out there and play. I'm focusing on this week now and hopefully I can defend it successfully. If I don't, I'll have a week off next week.

Q. Is there any chance you'll come back to Colonial next week?

VIJAY SINGH: No, I've got a week off. I've got a few other things to do at home, so it's not in my schedule.

Q. Do you look at it more in general becoming No. 1 in the world or do you look at it more of chasing down Tiger and passing him as No. 1 in the world?

VIJAY SINGH: No, it really doesn't matter who's in front of me. I just generally want to be No. 1 at some point, and if I don't, I'll be disappointed, but hey, I gave it my shot. I guess No. 2 is better than 3 (laughter). You know, I'm doing the best I can. It's not easy to get up there. I think the system favors players that don't play as much, and I play a lot of golf. I just have to play a lot of golf and play a lot of good golf, and if I can do that, I think I will hit my mark.

Q. Looking ahead a little bit, what are your recollections of Shinnecock and how did the atmosphere there compare to the atmosphere in Bethpage two years ago?

VIJAY SINGH: I think Shinnecock is a totally different golf course. I think it's one of the best golf courses in the world I've played. I've played many a times after the tournament. I was a member there and I've gone and played quite a lot of times. It just excites you to go and play Shinnecock. Every hole is different, it's tough, you know it's going to be a hard week. It's a totally different golf course.

Bethpage was an inland golf course and you had to hit it a long ways. I think everybody is excited at the same time, a little fearful of how tough the golf course is going to play.

I've spoken to the USGA guys and they said the fairways are 25 yards wide, and if the wind blows it's going to be almost impossible. I know even par out there could be winning the golf tournament. Thinking of all those things, I think it's going to be a tough, grueling week. We are all kind of gearing up for it, and that's the excitement right there.

Q. When I say atmosphere, there's a lot of talk about Bethpage, the crowd and sort of --

VIJAY SINGH: Well, they have the same kind of crowd going to Shinnecock. It's just New York fans are a little loud you could say. That's how they are. They enjoy being involved in the tournament and they're part of the tournament. I don't mind it. I think that it's good as long as they cheer after you hit the shots. They get a little bit too involved at times, but that's New York.

Q. Do you think a European has their best chance to win in a while at Shinnecock being that the course is built more links-like?

VIJAY SINGH: I don't know. The last European to win The Open Championship was Paul Lawrie, right, isn't it?

Q. I mean U.S. Open.

VIJAY SINGH: I know, British Open, so that's always played on a links course, and that's been happening very rarely. What makes you think that they're going to come and win in Shinnecock? Just because it's a links golf course doesn't mean a European player is going to win. It's who plays the best golf.

I don't think they play that many links courses anyway. Some of them are members of a links course maybe, but Shinnecock is a totally different golf course. They're going to have rough, and at normal links courses they don't have that much rough. Greens are going to be rolling at 12 or 13, you know, and at the British Open the greens are rolling at 9. Those are the factors that are involved. I don't see any advantages on the European side. It's whoever goes out there and plays the best golf is going to win the golf tournament.

Q. You're talking about how grueling that week at Shinnecock figures to be, especially if the wind comes up, and I wonder, are you looking for -- are you excited about that challenge? Do you have any sort of sense of dread? How do you approach all that?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, I feel excited. I feel I can play well. I'm playing well right now, and if my game stays at this standard, I think I have a very good chance of contending for the title.

But then again, the wind is another factor. Wind can really mess people's swing up. I'm going to go out there. I've got four or five weeks to prepare for it, and I think driving will be a key factor out there. You try to tend to practice on things that you need out there, but it just -- arriving there at Shinnecock and feeling yourself into the thick of things and just playing. I don't think you have to really go out there and put too much pressure on yourself.

On a really tough golf course you have to try to enjoy more than we are doing. I think we put too much pressure on ourselves to perform well and we get disappointed when we don't. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesdays, if you are not swinging as good as you'd like to, you shouldn't feel disappointed because you're not swinging well. I felt that way at The Masters this year. I wasn't swinging as good as I wanted to, but I felt like when the tournament started I could focus enough to play well.

You know, I'm excited, I'm playing well and I do well on tough golf courses, so I'll go out there and perform like I'm supposed to.

Q. Because of the level you've been playing at, do you look at it as the tougher the better for you?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, at the moment, yes. I feel like the tougher the golf course, the better I'm going to perform. It's the least mistakes you make, the better you're going to be up there in the field. I'm not making so many mistakes right now. It'll favor the guys that -- guys did not play their best and score well, it's not how good your good shots are, it's how bad your bad shots are, and if your bad shots are not that bad, I think you're going to do well on that golf course.

Q. Most of the best players in the world are past their peak at your age, at 41. Why are you different? Why are you hitting your peak and playing your best golf at 41?

VIJAY SINGH: I think only my age says 41. Really I'm like 30 right now (laughter). Physically I'm 25. I started winning golf tournaments over here past the age of 30, so that's when I started to play really good golf. Physically I started working out when I was 35. My body started to change pretty late in my career, and I've started feeling stronger two, three years ago and I feel like I've got more strength now, so in that factor, the age doesn't really matter. I just felt physically stronger with all the experience I'm having or I've had, and physically I feel somewhat stronger. I think it kind of molds together and that's probably why I'm producing good numbers.

Q. Relentless has been a word used to describe this run you're on since the end of 2002. What are you proudest of since that Tour Championship through this week?

VIJAY SINGH: I think consistency, how consistent I've been, how I have not backed off what I've been doing. There's a lot of mishaps that happen along the way that did not deter me from what I've been focused on. Just determination, I think, just going out there and letting my golf do all the talking. That's the way I am. That's the way I'd like to be when I finish, and just don't give up, just keep on going, and each week is a different week.

You know, my weeks off are two days off, five days of grueling work, and work again. I've been doing that forever and I think it's in my routine and I've never changed it for years, like the last four or five years. It seems like when I have a week off, I do more physical workout than I do on the road, and when I come out here, I do a lot of workouts but it's not as hard and I just keep on going. It's part of my routine, and it just kind of goes along with my golf game. The amount of practice I do, it just kind of goes hand in hand, and that's probably why I've just kept going. I'm really -- I'm excited. I'm excited every tournament I go to, not like this is another long week, I'm just looking forward to play. That's probably what keeps me going.

TODD BUDNICK: Thank you very much, Vijay.

End of FastScripts.

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