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April 6, 2004

Vijay Singh


RONALD TOWNSEND: Good morning and welcome to the 68th Masters. We welcome Vijay Singh. Vijay, as you know, has played in ten Masters Tournaments and was the winner here in 2000, led the PGA TOUR in earnings in 2003, No. 2 on the world ranking, and Vijay has won 16 PGA titles. We would invite your questions.

Q. You've played the course. Your impressions, maybe talk a little about the changes at 11, just kind of an overview?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, I think it's a great change. I think it makes the golf hole a little bit more harder. It used to be just tee it up and try to fade it under the right side and get that bounce. But now, pretty straightforward hole. You don't even have to draw it. You just hit a straight shot off the tee.

You know, the distance won't be any different, the iron shots to the green. I think the approach shots will be the same but the angle will be a little bit more intimidating, have to go over the water a little bit more. Most of the guys that play over there, kind of favors the right half of the green, anyways.

It's a good change. I think it's going to be a little harder for the longer hitter who is used to bailing out to the right. Now you just have to make sure you hit a pretty straight drive.

Q. The weather forecast is calling for little or no rain, and the course will obviously play harder and faster. Will you just talk about how different this tournament might be from the last couple of years?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, the greens are really firming up. I mean, they were firm and fast yesterday, but the fairways were rolling. So, you know, there's an equalizer there. Last year was so wet that the greens were holding. It's like the first hole, you'll be hitting, gosh, 5 irons I was hitting 5 , 6 irons and yesterday I hit an 8 iron. That's a big difference there.

The greens are firm, but you're hitting shorter irons.

You know, the greens are getting fast, though. They are rolling as fast as I've ever seen them, and putting will be a key factor this week. Whoever putts the best, I guess, is going to have a good chance. You've got to get to the correct side of the holes, which is always a premium here. I'd rather have a 20 footer uphill than a 6 , 8 footer downhill. So I guess you've got to plan yourself that way, and I guess most of the guys will be doing that.

Q. Of all the traditions and customs that make this week different, what's your favorite one?

VIJAY SINGH: I guess driving up the Magnolia Lane. We came the other day and just it was a good sight. I had not come back in a year. The last time I played here was last year, and just driving up there, you know, it's a great feeling, you get the chills going again, you feel fired up. I guess that's one of the biggest.

And playing the golf course. This is, to me, the hardest test of golf we play. It requires the whole package. You can't come here with one part of the game missing. You're just not going to function. This golf course, it's exciting me to come over here and play the tournament.

Q. This is Arnold Palmer's 50th Masters. Can you imagine playing 40 more of these?

VIJAY SINGH: No (Laughter). I'd be 80 (Laughter), 81 (Laughter).

No, I played with Arnold a few years ago with Jack, and I thought that was the biggest thrill of my whole golfing career, to play with Jack and Arnold over here.

It's a shame in one way, not to see him tee it up next year, but it's an honor to have him again just in the same field.

Q. Do you feel you're coming in with the whole package this week?

VIJAY SINGH: Yeah, I had a good practice session last week. I played well at TPC but my putting wasn't up to standard. I worked a little bit on it and got one or two tips last week. I feel like I'm putting a lot better this week, and my whole game is good.

For some reason when I come into the gates, my game just lifts another level. Hopefully I just maintain that for the whole week.

Q. You spoke about the greens and you spoke about the fairways and the problems presented. How does this relate in terms of a strategy for playing this golf course?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, we played with DiMarco and Jonathan Kaye yesterday, and he says, well, you know, do you hit a 3 wood off the tee on 3 or a driver? I says, hey, you've got to play it safe off the tee on 3 because you have a lot of chances of hitting driver all day. That's the key right there.

It used to be you could drive the ball wherever you wanted to, but now driving is almost as important as a putter on this golf course. You miss a drive, for instance on 5, if you hit into the bunker, you're going to make a bogey, unless you get up and down from 60, 70 yards. It's the same as 7 now. You can't just hit a 2 iron down there and have a wedge in, you've got to split the fairways and it's so much longer.

I think you've got to think your way around, and once you get the ball on the fairway, you've got to try to figure out where you're going to place it on the green, as well. You cannot just fire at the flags over here, you're going to get yourself in a lot of trouble.

Q. Since it seems like they pick a different hole to make harder every year, does that make 13 and 15 on the back nine gotta have birdies on the weekend, even more emphasis on those two holes, which have sort of been the scoring holes?

VIJAY SINGH: Yeah, very much so. You can't find a birdie opportunity out there. If you do bogey one of the holes starting out the back nine, you're always looking forward to coming into 13 or 15, and 16. 16, the pin placement, if you get the right slope, you have a good chance of making a birdie there.

Then you go to 17, used to be a comfortable drive up there. Now, you know, you've got to hit it straight off the tee. I think that's one of the narrowest fairways out there, and you've got to try to carry that tree on the left side.

Then you've got to deal with 18. I mean, yesterday I hit a really good drive and 6 iron in there with a little run, and the pin was up front. If the pin was back, I would have been hitting a 5 iron, and a lot of guys were hitting long irons to that green.

You know, you've got to take advantage of par 5s, no question. It's a premium here that you've got to make birdies on par 5s. At least if you make 50 percent of birdies each day on par 5s, then you're doing good.

Q. You seem to have acquired a status to us, which forgive me if you've had this status for a long time, but it seems you've acquired a status of sage and friend and guide to lots of other players; do you like that? Is that something that flatters you, and do you feel that the impression that I have and probably some of my colleagues have of you in that way is right?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, I have not changed any bit. I think my play may have got more attention from you guys in that way; you are looking at me a little bit more closely than you have done in the past.

If you come around and walk around with me one day, you'll probably see the true side of me, instead of seeing me out on the driving range or the golf course occasionally. When I'm in contention, I'll come into the press room. Every time a golfer comes to the press room, he's still really focused on what he's doing. He's either leading the golf tournament or something like that.

Now, you know, I come into the press room, like today, for instance. It's only Tuesday. I've never done that in the past. So I'm more relaxed and you'll probably see the calmer side of me.

Q. Do you like coming here, the interview?

VIJAY SINGH: It has its moments, I guess (Laughter).

Q. Is it getting easier?

VIJAY SINGH: I guess so. I don't mind talking. I enjoy I guess when you come to a big tournament like this, it's very stressful. You have a plan, you have a schedule, and it takes time to come over here. Like today, I mean, I have to play my round, do my practice and go back home, change and then come back for the dinner. It's a stressful week in that way, and majors are always stressful because you're always focusing on what you're doing. You don't prepare just for that week. It's a month long preparation to get to the tournament.

So I think it's just a lot more than just it seems like, to come and play.

Q. I'm from a Swedish newspaper, and I'm wondering if you could take a minute and talk about your relationship to Sweden and Emmaboda Golf Club?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, my coach is from there. He's Farid, I call him Freddie. We've been friends for, gosh, 15 years, and he's become my I can say my coach, for the last ten years. He's been coming to every Masters. And that's the relationship I have with Emmaboda; they give me membership some six or seven years ago, maybe more than that.

I love Sweden. It's a nice place to go and visit in the summertime. I've been there in one winter and that was the last one (Laughter). It's a great place to go and play golf, but, you know, that's my relationship.

Q. You've been back a couple of times?

VIJAY SINGH: I played every year when I was in Europe when I played the European Tour. I haven't played there in a while now. One of these days I'll go back.

Q. Are you more relaxed because of the standard of play you've reached or just because you're older?

VIJAY SINGH: Maybe both. I think I'm more relaxed because I don't have a need to go to the driving range, say I missed an hour or something. My game is to a point where I just have to warm up, go work on a few bits and pieces and go out and play.

I'm comfortable with how I'm playing. I know how to fix my problems. Probably that's why I'm a little bit more less tense about my game. I'm always pretty tense about my game. Obviously I'm 40 odd years old now (laughing).

Q. You talked at Pebble Beach about your goal of being the No. 1 player in the world. Is that something, do you just focus on what you do, or do you watch, say, Tiger or the other guys that are up there, or do you just focus on your own results?

VIJAY SINGH: I tend to watch a lot of golf. It doesn't matter who is playing. End of the week, you kind of look at the stats and look where you stand. But I really focus on what I am doing, what I need to do to improve my ranking if I am playing.

On the whole, you do pay attention to what's going on. It's not a specific thing that you look at, but the whole thing.

Q. Golfweek has their own ratings. I don't know if you've seen those, but it's on a 52 week scale, and you moved to No. 1 in that ranking last week. Is that a good feeling, I guess assuming you were aware of it, after all of the hard work and all of the strong play and all of those extra tournaments you added last year to get to that spot where you won the money and all that?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, I was notified yesterday about it (Laughter).

It's good to know that, you know, there's another ranking out there. But I really follow the Sony World Ranking, and in that I am No. 2 and that's the way the whole world looks at it. It's nice to know that somebody else but the World Ranking is the World Ranking and that's the Sony.

Q. Could you explain two things: One, how are you physically able at your age to carry on working as hard as you are when it is obviously something that is demanding on the body, if not in the way that other sports are; and secondly, this drivenness, if there is such a word, that you clearly have, does it come from your parents, your father or mother? Where does it come from? Why do you work so hard? How are you physically able to work as hard at 41 as you are?

VIJAY SINGH: I was in the gym at six in the morning. I have a trainer and we have a schedule that we keep. It doesn't matter how tight I am or how busy I am during the week.

I keep my schedule. I have a very hard training session every day. You know, we worked out yesterday. I came from home and we worked out in the morning yesterday. I was in the gym at 7:00 in the morning. Today was 6:00. It just goes on. I feel stronger now than I've ever been, and I enjoy working out. It's not something that I dread going out there every morning. That keeps me fit. I do enough cardio to keep my endurance up.

I feel I'm more stronger now. I don't feel tired when I finish my practice rounds or my practice sessions. I feel physically quite, you know, fit, and I go and do another workout in the evenings if I have enough energy. If you do that I've been doing that for over two years now, and that hard, and if you do it for a long enough time, you feel your endurance and your physical fitness just lifts to another level.

I'm stronger and fitter now than I've ever been in my life. That's saying a lot at 41.

Q. A lot of people say the gap between Tiger and the rest of the world, the rest of the Tour, has closed; do you agree with that idea? And has he lost his ability to intimidate the rest of the Tour over the last year or so?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, I think it's still very intimidating when he's up there just because he's been up there for so long.

But I think the standard of play has just lifted a little bit. You look at the scorings this year, it's incredible how guys are scoring so much better and there's so many different guys that are doing the same thing.

You know, Tiger is Tiger. I don't know if he's not playing well now or he just is waiting for the majors, I have no idea. I just speak for the rest of the guys; I think our play has gone a step higher, and that's closed the gap, if there was one.

And it's not the top guys that are doing it. Mickelson has taken another level up this year, and obviously I'm playing quite decent. The rest of the guys are doing the same thing. It's not the guys on the top that are playing well; it's the whole field is improved. That's why, I guess, you see so many different winners.

Q. Along those same lines, and you also said you tend to watch a lot of golf, of what you've seen this year, if you had to pick favorites, who do you like this week? Obviously yourself.

VIJAY SINGH: I don't know, I played with Adam Scott the first two days in Bay Hill, and, you know, he's hitting the ball incredibly well. Sure enough, he won two weeks ago. He's one guy that stands out in my mind.

Gosh, anybody that's going to play well here nobody picked Mike Weir last year and he played great golf. It's a tough course. I mean, whoever plays well here obviously is going to win. I don't know, I'm favoring the longer hitters this year. Whoever is long and straight has got a good chance.

Q. You talked about how fast the greens are going to be. Do you do anything specific to get ready to putt here that maybe you don't do when you get ready for other tournaments?

VIJAY SINGH: We were lucky last week; after the TPC, we told the superintendent keep the greens rolling fast. So we putted for the whole week on greens that were as fast or even faster than it was here or it is here. So I'm quite comfortable with the speed. But we didn't have that much undulation on them, and the greens are huge here.

You just have to deal with it the best you can. I prepared. I thought I prepared the best I can this year than I've done any year or any years in the past. Again, it boils down to how nervous you get on the greens and what kind of putts you have. You can prepare the best you can and have a 6 footer downhill and you just have to move the ball a foot.

That's pretty much what we do. We just try to, like Woosie, when he won a few years ago, he used to putt on top of a pool table, they say, to get the speed going. Guys do different things.

Q. In your ten years here, what do you think has been the most significant area of change in the golf course?

VIJAY SINGH: I think the length. It's just gone so much longer. That's the biggest thing that you hear guys talking about is the length of the golf course. They don't talk about how much trees have grown or 15 and 17 used to be a big open field and now there's two different fairways. You actually cannot even see 17's fairway from 15. That's another big change there.

Standing on the fifth hole, now you see those two huge bunkers that are so pronounced. You know you have to hit it right off the tee there, otherwise you're going to have a lay up. Those are the big changes.

But the length is pretty much the biggest out here. Every hole has gone, you know, at least 20 yards longer than when I played it the first time. It seems like every time you stand on the first tee, you say, gosh, the bunkers are getting further and further away from you (Laughter).

Q. With all of the work you do on the range, do you change a lot of things, minor, or do you just groove your swing? How do you go about that when you're working on the range?

VIJAY SINGH: I've been working on the same thing for the last five, six years; good setup, good position on the top, using my hips. There are about five or six different things. And working with it for so long, I think it's just come down to a point that I am doing all of those things correctly now, and probably that's why you see my golf game has improved, as well.

When I try something, it takes it doesn't take a month or so to get used to it. It takes a year or so to really get comfortable and not think about it. It probably would be only one or two things right now that I'm kind of working on or tinkering with, but the rest of my game is on the path. I've just worked on the same thing over and over again, and I guess it's grooved into my swing now.

Q. Padraig Harrington has been compared to you in terms of his application in practice. Do you take that as a compliment, and do you have any views on Harrington as a player?

VIJAY SINGH: He does work hard. Every time you go on the driving range or putting green, he's there. You've got to give the guy credit. He works as hard as anybody out there, but it's good that, you know, they compare me to Harrington, or my work ethic, everybody is aware of it, how hard I work. I guess it's a good feeling to know that, you know, you stand out there, that everybody looks up and says, hey, this guy works as hard as everybody else out there, even though I don't do it as much now.

But Harrington is a good player. I played with him on Saturday at TPC. His ball striking has improved. His pace of play has improved, as well, which is a big thing (Laughter). But it's good. It's all for the better. He's become a much better player now than he was a few years ago.

Q. Both on and off the course, would you say you're enjoying the best time of your life now?

VIJAY SINGH: I think so. I'm enjoying my game and I look forward to going out there and playing. You know, I know I can go out there and win every time I tee up if I play the way I know how.

Off the golf course, I'm pretty relaxed. I have a great family, great friends that, you know, I deal with. It's the first time my dad's ever here, so it's good to see him out here at the Masters. I'm just having a great time.

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

End of FastScripts.

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