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March 23, 2004

Vijay Singh


JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you for joining us for a few minutes. This is a fun week for you, being able to play right close to home, very comfortable with the situation. Why don't you talk about being close to home and playing a course that you're very, very familiar with.

VIJAY SINGH: Well, the last time I played here, I played well here, I almost won. But the last two years haven't been a very good tournament for me. So this year I came in with the attitude that I have nothing to lose. Two years in a row I missed the cut.

And I think I've put too much pressure on myself. I've known everybody out here, I've come here every time, I've seen all my friends, and I know where to hit the balls, which way it breaks. I think I took everything for granted and put too much pressure on myself.

But this year I'm going to take it as it comes. I'm going to go out there and enjoy myself and the attitude is I can't do any worse than last year.

Q. How has your preparation schedule for the majors evolved over the years? Are you one of the guys that likes to play before, likes to take a week off and practice before or play it by ear, depending on what events are immediately before?

VIJAY SINGH: Yeah, pretty much, depending on what golf courses you play before. That's why I never go and play Loch Lomond, which is ahead of the British Open, because it's a totally different setup, it's not a links course. Before the Masters, I played once in Atlanta, the greens are much -- are as fast as Augusta. I played there a few times -- once, but a few times I played tournaments that's always been before the U.S. Open or the PGA, because the setup is similar.

But apart from that, I don't do anything different. I look at the golf course. I try to practice in places where it's similar conditions, and this week, here -- last week was very similar golf course, in one sense, that the greens are firm, small greens, and hard and fast greens. But apart from that, I don't do anything different. I practice the same way and try and treat the majors the same as any other golf tournament. It's hard to do that, but we try to keep it as similar as possible.

Q. Before your career is over, how important is it for you to have been No. 1 in the world?

VIJAY SINGH: I guess it's very important. I mean for myself, nobody else but for myself. I'd like to hit the top spot, if I can. It's not a easy task to do that. To stay in the top ten, for instance, you've got to maintain your playing -- I'm not going to say -- your standard of play should be all the time the same. If you're going to play two bad weeks in a row, you're going to fall off. It's difficult to do that.

The amount of tournaments I play, my average doesn't do me any favors. But I'm going to try. I think this year I've got a very good chance to do that. I'm playing well. I feel like I'm playing well. And the big events are just starting. I feel if I can maintain my play and win a couple of them, I think I can hit the spot playing fine golf.

Q. What all have you got in store for these guys? How many guys are coming over to your house, a big soiree? Did you get the weight room all finished off so you can show off all your new toys?

VIJAY SINGH: We had a good time, it was last night. We had a few bottles of water (laughter), a few mixed drinks, a few beers, a few wines. We had a good time, a lot of good food, just a get-together. I've done it -- this is, gosh, I've been doing it the last six or seven years. It started off with the Presidents Cup teammates, and then went to a few friends, and now the whole group is coming over. It was a good day, a good evening.

Q. How many of the whole group, how many people came over?

VIJAY SINGH: A hundred, maybe.

Q. After last year's Masters, you kept saying next year, next year. Is that something you've been looking forward to, getting back there?

VIJAY SINGH: For the Masters, you mean?

Q. Yes.

VIJAY SINGH: This is probably the first year where I feel like I have a very good chance of winning one of the majors again. I'm playing well, I'm striking the ball well, I feel physically very strong and my mental is very good, too. So all in all you still have to go out there and perform. So I just hope that I go out there and get into contention, get into the middle of things and start to play.

And the same as here. This is my main goal right now is to play well in this tournament. This, I consider, is the first major and the next is the Masters after this. But right now my focus is right here. This is important to me and probably to a lot of golfers that are playing this week.

Q. It goes without saying that you would be happy to win any major, but the two that you haven't won, do you have kind of an extra feeling that you would like to complete the Grand Slam? Is that something you want to do?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, yeah, I mean everybody would love to. That's why you only have a handful of guys that have won all four. It's probably the hardest thing to do. You put more pressure on yourself. Even if you just had one to go, it's just a difficult task to fulfill, I think.

But if I can, that would be one of the goals, one of the major goals that I would love to do is win the British Open or the U.S. Open. And they're the hardest tournaments to win.

Q. Last year's British Open was a particularly frustrating thing for you. You were very close, and you could have won.

VIJAY SINGH: Yeah, you could say that. And then again Bjorn was in a worse situation than I was. But I'm looking forward to this year. I've played Troon, I've played the U.S. Open golf course at Shinnecock. But you have to go out there and try to win it. It's the hardest thing to try to do.

Q. How many times, approximately, would you come down here to practice, could you possibly estimate how many balls you hit?

VIJAY SINGH: I have no idea. This would be easier to say, if I take a week off, I wouldn't come here every day. I probably spend three or four hours a day here. If I'm working on something, maybe four or five hours. Normally I'd come for four hours, maybe, not just to hit balls, but if you go out to the back of the range, you could spend the whole day there and not get tired. The facility is unbelievable.

Q. When you say that this year you feel it's your best chance of winning more major championships, is that in part because you feel that everything is coming in place as far as your own game is concerned, but is it also in part because you see -- is it because you see a leveling of -- amongst your challengers?

VIJAY SINGH: I don't know, I think the level of play is actually -- is higher now than it's ever been. You look at the scores that they're shooting, it's incredible. Last week, Bay Hill, in the windy conditions, and the scores were still pretty low.

So I just feel -- I feel great. I feel good about my game. I feel good about my health. I'm able to play and compete every week out there. And if I have a bad week, it's a little bit here, a little bit there, and it could turn the whole thing around.

Last week I had a bad week with the driver, but I still thought I could have still competed against the top guys last week. And I just feel I'm playing good. I'm looking forward to the majors again, and I'm ready for the tournaments. I'm ready for this week, and hopefully in two weeks' time I'm ready, as well.

Q. When you're playing well, you're a match for anyone?

VIJAY SINGH: I think when I'm playing well. If I play the way I know how and I want to when I start, going in, I can win the golf tournament every week.

Q. Do you have any quibble with the World Ranking System?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, the only thing is that it doesn't favor the guy that plays a lot. I just think they should never add the points as you play. At the end of the day whoever plays the most and the best is going to have the most points, and that's how they should rank it.

Unless they come up with another system, I think the system they have now is what we have to go by. And they've got to have some sort of a system. I think the one they have now is okay. It doesn't favor everybody, but I think everybody is quite happy with it.

Q. The 17th hole is always a story here. Where do you stand on it, fear hole, non-fear hole? Do you like it?

VIJAY SINGH: Hitting it in the water is fearful. When I come over here, I take the cut out to 18 or the cut out to 14 or whatever, but I've never actually stood on the 17th hole when I'm practicing and seen anything else but the green. The water is not there. And when we play over here the green is very receptive; you hit a 2-iron in and it's going to stop. It's nice and soft.

But during the tournament, you just have to -- it's so firm when it doesn't rain. Like right now, if you hit a 7-iron to the wrong part of the green, it's going to take one hop and go in the water. We never play in windy conditions like this. If it's windy, we just don't go out. We just say wait for another day. We can't do that now. And -- but standing over there, it's a totally different -- the green just shrinks in the tournament. It's the pressure to put it in the middle of the green.

When you play in the practice, you -- when you're one shot behind coming in the last day at the hole, you see the pin, you don't see the green, that way you hit a better shot. So it's got a lot to do with the mind, and it's just a very intimidating hole to play.

Q. When you say you're comfortable with your game, how much does that have to do with your putting? Do you feel good about your putting? Do you have a green in your house?

VIJAY SINGH: Yeah, it's not a -- it's one of those synthetic greens, you know, but it rolls perfect. I got it redone. The first one was too fast, and now it's putting really good. I haven't putted too much. I just came back from the West Coast and all that. But, you know, putting has a lot to do with it. I have to feel comfortable with the way I putt, which I am right now.

The game, the game is good. It's the whole package. I feel I'm a little better now than I was last year.

Q. How big is the green and where is it located?

VIJAY SINGH: It's in the backside of my house. I think it's 2,000 square feet.

Q. Rolls and breaks?

VIJAY SINGH: A little, not much. But it's fast. Right now if I go out and putt, it would be rolling at 12, 13.

Q. How much of the whole thing is that notion of being afraid to be embarrassed? Do you think players are afraid of that train wreck? Is that's a lot of what's going on in the head?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, if you had to stay on the tee and keep hitting it, if you hit the first one in the water on the tee, but now you can go up 80 yards, 60 yards from the hole and hit it. But once again the green is so -- it's not a small green, it's quite a good-sized green. But where we have to land the ball is very small. It's -- gosh, you can almost put a blanket. When it was firm, two or three years ago, you couldn't stop the ball when it landed on top. And the wind conditions, I think it's the fear of hitting in the water, the fear of making a mistake, all that comes in play. If you take it all -- take all the negatives and process it and put it out in a positive way, it's going to be fine, but it doesn't happen that way very much.

Q. After winning the money title last year, is that something you can see yourself winning the next five or six years, especially with the amount of tournaments you've played?

VIJAY SINGH: I still have to play well. I've had a great start this year. I don't know if I'm still leading on the money list, I don't know. Yeah, I play a lot more than quite a lot of guys, but I still have to play well. I can play 30 events and not win, and I'm not going to win the money title. I feel like I can still compete for another 3, 4, 5 years. I don't see myself slowing down.

Q. How much of a home course advantage do you think you have here? Do you think the other players -- they've played this course, they know this course just as much as you do?

VIJAY SINGH: I think it's a lot to do with the way you know where to hit it, where to miss it. A lot of holes out there -- even yesterday I went out and played five or six holes, and I played with Hank who hadn't hit the golf course, and I told him you can hit it this side of the fairway or this side of the fairway. You have a little more advantage that -- if you miss it on this side of the fairway on 14, you're dead, you can't get up from there. On the left side you have a little bunker, but there's water.

Same on 15, you miss it on the right side, it's different on the left side. You can take those and use it positively for you. That's what I mean home court advantage. Still you have to go out and hit the shots and make birdies. But it's not that big of an advantage unless you look at it that way.

Q. You mentioned Hank, Arjun Atwal said you'd given him tips. Did you have anybody give you tips or did you have to take your lumps and learn and why are you so forthcoming with info for the new guys?

VIJAY SINGH: They're all friends of mine. I think if you play with guys and see they're doing something wrong, why not tell them. It's all -- I learned from getting lessons, as well. Hank is a good friend, a lot of the guys out there. I'm a friendly guy, it's simple as that. I have friends, and if I can help, why not?

JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: This is the Arnold Palmer award. We thought we'd take this opportunity at THE PLAYERS Championship to present it to Vijay.

First of all, the Arnold Palmer award is presented each year to the player who is our leading money winner. And because the money list is the basis for eligibility, it is a major indicator of performance at every level, from one to two hundred plus, during the course of the year.

What was delightful about last year, there were several things, but one was the focus that Vijay put into seeking this award, the extra energy, if there's any left after his practice sessions, that he put into going after playing a couple of additional events. And we're delighted to be able to present it to him today.

His accomplishments last year were significant, he won $7 and a half million in prize money. He won a career high four tournaments. He finished in the top ten, 18 times in 27 starts. In fact, part of that was the start of that streak that extended into this year of 7 straight top tens in a row. And to win this award you have to play and you have to be consistent, and that's what Vijay was in 2003.

But beyond his performance, there are three other things that strike me that I think are important about this recognition for Vijay. One is those of us who live around here know about his work ethic, and you hear about it sometimes and people comment about it. It is a significant work ethic. This man works hard every day of the year to compete on this Tour. He puts everything he has into it. So anytime you see that, you've got to be happy when you see success.

The second thing is that Vijay, being a resident of Ponte Vedra, we all know him as a person, we know the kind of gentleman he is, we know the kind of student of the game he is. He is a very special individual.

And then thirdly, what he did by winning this award, winning the money list, he created a real race for Player of the Year honors. And from a PGA TOUR perspective that was terrific, because what it did -- I was just over talking to the tournaments, and it really extended the interest in our season last year by about two months. You all were focused on it, the fans were focused on it into December. And I really think that had a big impact on creating the interest on what has turned out to be a really good start this year.

In your performance you've had a tremendous impact. I'm delighted to see you have this kind of success. And I'm pleased that you're going to take this home and put it in your trophy case. Vijay Singh, congratulations.

VIJAY SINGH: Thanks, Tim, for all those kind words. It's an honor for me to win this. I know I never thought I was going to win the money title in the States, especially at my age. But now since I won it once, hopefully I can do it again next year, the same thing.

End of FastScripts.

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