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January 7, 2004

Vijay Singh


THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Vijay Singh into the interview room. Thanks for coming by and spending a few minutes with us.

Obviously, coming off a fantastic year, No. 1 on the Money List, four victories. Comment a little bit about last year, your goals for this year.

VIJAY SINGH: Oh, it was a great year for me. Playing-wise, it was awesome. I couldn't ask for any more than, you know, winning the Money List. I would have loved to play a little bit better in the majors, obviously, but I didn't.

You know, except for my little hiccup with my rib injury, I thought I was very good physically. I maintained my physical standards and try to do the same this year, see what happens.

THE MODERATOR: You've played the course here. Can you comment on the conditions?

VIJAY SINGH: Played it since Sunday. It's changed every day since. The wind has changed directions. The greens are getting a little more crustier and bumpier. Gaining speed a little bit, but not as much. They were much faster yesterday than today. I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow.

Check the pin placements out there - pretty tough.

THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with questions.

Q. Anything new?

VIJAY SINGH: Anything new? No, still me (laughter).

Q. What do you feel are the differences between this course and Waialae next week?

VIJAY SINGH: This one has got a lot of elevation changes. You're playing 10 degrees up one hole, 12 degrees down the other hole. You have to figure that one out.

The winds are totally different here. The greens may be a little bit nor grainier than by lie. Apart from that, Bermuda rough is the same, the grass pretty much the same. So much big elevation changes that, you know, it's pretty hard -- you got to figure your game out. Waialae is pretty much as flat as a pancake. Figure your yardages out there and hit it.

But Waialae I think is a tougher golf course because you need to drive the ball a lot more straighter. Here the fairways are wider and you have the chance to hit it very hard.

Q. What are your thoughts on the voluntary driver testing in place this week? Do you plan to have your driver tested?

VIJAY SINGH: I've had my tested by the manufacturers that I use. They said it's normal, it's perfect. I think they did it with all the top players. I have no problem with that. I think the testing should be done by the manufacturers and not the players. We use their equipment. You know, if there's something wrong with the equipment, I think it's the manufacturer's fault, not the player's fault. They should make sure the clubs they give us is legal, you know, according to what the specs say.

Q. No. 2 in the world now. Is No. 1 a realistic goal, something that you're targeting?

VIJAY SINGH: Yeah, very much so. I mean, I like to play the play I've been playing. I cannot play any worse and get No. 1, let's put it this way. I need to improve, take a step a little further, and catch Tiger. I mean, he's not going to slow down either. So I have to take care of my own game and improve my own self.

You know, I don't think I can catch him this year. But, you know, maybe in a year or so. His points are so far ahead of me, even if I win a few times this year, it's not going to be easy for me to catch him.

But goal is not for this year, but, you know, in two or three years from now I'd like to do that.

Q. I know you're relatively healthy now, but you're 40 now. Does that enter into your brain, "I'm supposed to start slowing down at 41, 42"?

VIJAY SINGH: Not really. 40 is just a number I think in my mind. I'm physically much stronger now than I was when I was probably 25. You know, I never did any weights. I probably -- my muscles were (inaudible) a little quicker, but not as strong as I am now. I feel I'm a stronger person physically and mentally I've learned a lot through the years. The experience I have now, the physical ability I have, I should be able to, you know, maintain or even progress in my ability.

I'm not slowing down working out. I'm working out the same as I did last year. You know, I feel really good. I feel free from injury, just looking forward to having a good season, not to worry about too many other factors.

Q. You're known for practicing a lot. There's some question for everyone that as you get older, as much practice as you do, maybe you might not be able to do it, even though your mind says yes, your body says no. I don't know if the rib injury had anything to do with that. Do you foresee that being an issue down the road maybe?

VIJAY SINGH: You know, I've practiced a lot in my career. I mean, when I first went to Europe, I was practicing all day every day. As my golf game improved, I slowed down. But remains the fact, I was always on the range. Like yesterday I went out to the range, and there was nobody but me. But I went out after my round of golf and hit probably 45 minutes' worth of balls. But if you see me, I'm the only one there. It makes you feel like, "Hey, I'm always practicing."

You know, I have practiced. I slowed down a little bit because my game has improved. I don't go out there and hit six, eight hours' worth of balls anymore. When I was at home for two weeks, I gauged myself, practiced short game for hour and a half, long game for hour and a half. That's not too much if you really look at it.

You know, I practice as much as I need to practice. If I feel like my need is there, you know, if I'm working on something, I'll practice maybe three, four, five hours if I have to. But if I'm swinging the club well, I don't need to go out there and start hitting bad shots. If I'm hitting good, I will be happy with that.

But I'm always tinkering with some part of my golf game, you know, my swing. As long as I'm doing that, I'm always trying to work on it, it's even a better goal.

Right now I feel comfortable and, now one or two things I need to work on, I'm still doing that. Apart from that, I don't think I'm going to go out there and practice eight hours anymore. I don't need to. Not because I don't have to. I feel like my golf swing has improved so much that I don't need to go and find it on the range anymore. I just need to figure little bits and pieces out.

Q. When was the last time you did the eight-hour thing?

VIJAY SINGH: That's been a few years ago. I don't know. I mean, I would do it maybe two weeks from now if my golf game goes. It really depends on how I'm playing. If I start playing badly, you know, I will go out on the range and try to figure it out.

But I don't know. I mean, I can't really tell you.

Q. At home do you have kind of a set thing where you drop the kids off at school, go practice? Any rhyme or reason to your home workouts?

VIJAY SINGH: TPC is probably the best practice facility you can ever find. You can go into the short game area and get lost in there for hours and not really figure it out. So I've been doing a lot of that. I've been putting a lot. Chat a lot with other guys. You spend a whole day there, not necessarily hit balls for the whole day. You probably chip and putt for three or four hours.

Q. As well as you played last year, is there something in your mind that you'd like to do better this year?

VIJAY SINGH: I'd like to play the majors a lot better. I had a lot of chances last year to play well. You know, I was in the lead in the US Open. I was in the lead in the Masters, on the 12th hole of the last day. I had a chance to win the British. I was playing well in the PGA, as well. I never got to finish, except for the British, which I almost finished that one off. I'd like to finish those things off more.

Q. One aspect within your game that you could do better, whether it's putting or short game or chipping. Is there one thing?

VIJAY SINGH: I think putting is always my problem. Not a problem. I'm not a bad putter. I'm just not a great putter. Great putters win a lot more tournaments.

I feel like if I can improve my putting part of the game, you know, I've always been able to hit the ball pretty decent. I'm driving the ball really good right now. My iron shots are not too bad. If I can make a lot more putts, and not saying every other putt I make, but my share of putts, I should be okay.

You can see, if I'm putting well, I'm right up there winning golf tournaments. I need to get a little bit more consistent with my putter.

Q. Is that the biggest leap in improvement in your game over the last three or four years? Last year you putted better than you ever have, right?

VIJAY SINGH: Yeah. I think two years ago was my best putting season. I think I finished fourth or fifth in the stats for putting. Last year wasn't as good. Well, I don't know what I finished last year. I think it was 37th or something like that.

If I can get it down to consistently around 15th, 10th, that's my goal right now.

Q. I heard you have been testing a conventional putter. Are you close to maybe putting that into play?

VIJAY SINGH: The last two weeks I've been putting with a conventional putter. I feel very comfortable with it. I don't know if I have enough nerve to take it out there and try it out (smiling).

But I'm going to give myself probably three, four weeks and see how it's going. I'm not putting poorly. I just need to make more putts.

Q. Do you like opening the season on this course? Do you think with all the rain we've had, this week is going to be a long-hitter's week?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, it's not wet out there anymore. The balls are releasing. You're not getting any mud on the ball. It's a different golf course than I played on Sunday.

I think by the end of the week, but tomorrow, maybe on Friday, the course will be back to where it was last year. It's a great week to start. You can't ask for a better opportunity to win a golf tournament. Only 30 players out there. Half of them are very rusty (laughter). You got great accommodation, they look after you great here. I'm just happy to be here, you know, ready to go tomorrow.

Q. When you went to the belly putter, what did that allow you to do that you hadn't been doing? How long did it take you to make that change?

VIJAY SINGH: It was very uncomfortable for probably the first three, four months. The belly putter allows you not to worry about your stroke. Once you put it into your belly and takes it back, it goes back whichever way it needs to.

The first few weeks when I tried it out, it felt like I was going all over the place. When you actually look at it, it was going its natural way. It opens up and closes as you hit the putt. That's what we all achieve to do in a normal, conventional way. It releases. The loft stays the same when you hit the putt with a belly putter. The center of the axis stays right where the ball is. It just allows you to hit a lot more solid putts.

I've just enjoyed putting with it. It's been very consistent. My distance has been very consistent. I have not been fighting any really bad putting rounds. It's been very average. I've enjoyed putting with it. Like I say, I need to make a little more putts with it. Weeks go by that I don't make any putts, then I'll make, you know, one or two days everything. I just need to be a little more consistent.

Q. Is that why you go back to the conventional putter?

VIJAY SINGH: I think I've been more streakier with the conventional putter. I'd go three, four weeks, putt really well, then not putt again for probably a month. I have more better days with the conventional putter, but I've been more consistent with the belly putter. I cannot figure which is better, though (smiling).

Q. Some of us don't know you that well, except here on the golf course. I saw you play on television with your son at the father-son. I don't think I've ever seen you more animated or more happy in that particular setting than any setting I've seen you on the PGA TOUR. Is that true? Can you talk about that?

VIJAY SINGH: You know, that was the biggest thrill I've ever had in my whole career, is playing with my son. I won a major, I won a lot of golf tournaments, but just to play with him for the first time, that was his first ever tournament. To play with me, I think it was a thrill for him. But I think it was more of a thrill for me to play with him.

I just enjoyed it. I've never really been able to do anything with him besides staying at home, bringing him out on the golf course. But to do something special like playing golf with him was something that I never thought I was going to do until last year. You know, I was enjoying myself. I enjoy myself every time. I don't know why you guys think I'm so serious (smiling). I think I'm a pretty easy-going guy. I'm very serious when I play golf, but then everybody is. You're very serious when you're doing your job. I take my job very seriously. Outside my job, I'm a little bit easy-going. Outside my job, you guys don't follow me around. That's another part of the story.

Q. Probably prefer it that way?

VIJAY SINGH: I prefer it very much that way, yes (laughter).

Q. I think you said to Bob, it was your most gratifying year, 2003, but you also said it hurt your son reading negative things about you. How did you balance the negative with the positive last year? What is your attitude coming into this year as far as your perception of your image?

VIJAY SINGH: There was a lot of negative written about me. I can take care of that when I read it, but when my son reads it, and then he asks questions about it, it's very hard to explain to a 13-year-old guy, boy, what's going on. He just looks at always it in a very negative way. That was hard for me to deal with for the first month or so, but after that it was fine.

I must give myself a lot of credit that I focused really hard on my own game and not what I read out there. What I read just kept going on for a few months after the incident happened. But I focused on my own game. I worked myself to a point where I said, "There's nothing else going to come between me and my goal." That was it.

I had a lot of support. My team was great. My trainer, Joey, my wife, my caddie. Everything worked out fine. I think you need a good team behind you to have a successful year, and I did.

And for the coming season, I feel great. I'm playing really good. I don't see myself going backwards much. I'm going to work as hard or even harder on trying to achieve the goals that I've set and see if I can do that.

Q. Does it bother you that you aren't more loved by the general public or people out there in golf?

VIJAY SINGH: I think one day if you come out and just walk with me, figure out how many guys love me, how many don't, then you can write that story down, you know.

I think I'm enjoying myself. I think there's a lot of people out there that follows me and enjoys the way I play and my company. I don't have any hecklers out there. I think my career on the PGA TOUR has been great, except for a little piece of time last year. But, you know, I've enjoyed my time here. The whole public has been great. I've enjoyed every bit of it.

Q. I know you seem to be highly picked at ProAm parties. Do you write them notes afterwards? Tom Kite on an airplane used to write a note and mail it. I hear you do a similar type of thing.

VIJAY SINGH: No, I don't. I have a great time with my ProAm team, although I've always kept the addresses in my locker every week to write them a note.

I don't think you really need to do that if you have a great time with your team. I enjoy my team. I enjoy ProAms. Ever since I started professional golf, I've enjoyed ProAms. It's a great way to play a serious practice round and at the same time meet four great people. Today I met four great guys out there. You form a relationship that way. I've always done that. It worked for me.

Q. Davis was in here yesterday talking about his son, his relationship, how his son is basically forcing him to come out on the golf course when he's at home, and asking him maybe some tough questions about his game at times when he's not really putting forth some of the effort he thinks he should. Do you see that happening with yourself and your son?

VIJAY SINGH: It's the other way around with me. I have to drag him out on the golf course, you know (smiling).

But, you know, he was a great player for his age until he hit six, then he totally quit. I mean, he did not play golf until 11 years old. I think he was the best five -, six-year-old I've ever seen. I think he just decided to do something else. I never forced him to do anything else until maybe when he turned 11, 12, he started to get back the itch to play.

He started going to school, he's in seventh grade, he's doing his PE as golf. He's taking golf as PE. He leaves school at 2:30 and gets to the TPC every day from Monday to Friday and hits balls for an hour. That's where he got into the father and son. But after that tournament, he has not gone to the golf course yet. Once he starts school again, I think he'll get back that feel.

He's keen, but he's not that keen right now. I'm not going to push him, although I'd love him to play golf. I think he's got a great potential to be a good player. I think he swings the club better at his age now than I did when I was his age. We'll have to see.

Q. He hit a wall at six.

VIJAY SINGH: He was playing golf, we got pictures of him when he was three, four, five, videos of him hitting balls. He was unbelievable. I thought, "I got a winner here." Then I don't know what happened.

Q. When your son asked you those questions about the negative articles, what did you end up telling him?

VIJAY SINGH: You try to explain the best you can. You know, I leave that to my wife a lot of times. You just have to explain, you know, honestly what's going on, let him feel what's going on.

It's pretty hard to explain to a 13-year-old what's happening. But I did the best I can. I think he understood.

Q. Is there anybody out here you think works harder than you? When is the last time you took a day off, if ever?

VIJAY SINGH: After the Williams Challenge, I didn't play golf for three or four days.

Q. Didn't touch a club?

VIJAY SINGH: Swing it in the house, but nothing really. Not hitting balls, you know. I guess everybody does that.

Working hard? I like to work on my game. I have a concept that every time I go and swing a club or touch a club, it's going to take me twice as long to get back to what I feel. I need to play golf. I need to feel what I'm doing. That's the way I've always been. I met Ivan Lendl one time, when he was at his peak, he said no matter where he was, he'd always practice for an hour. It worked pretty good for him. He was a great tennis player.

I'm kind of pretty much like that. I need to be in touch with the game. So when I get back to it, I haven't lost the feel. I don't like to get to a tournament and try to find it. I know a lot of guys out there are doing that this week. I like to get to a tournament and be ready to play, do all my work outside, and when I come here I'm ready to go. That's the way I've been.

Q. Hogan was that way, I believe. Have you read up on him? He felt it would take him twice as long if he took time off.

VIJAY SINGH: I think it's all in the mind about that. I remember a few years ago I took a cruise with my wife, went to Alaska. That's the year I won the major, the first one I won in '78. I came back, the first tournament was Buick. I didn't play as bad as I thought I would do. The week after I won. That was the first time I ever took a week off. You can't swing a club on a cruise liner.

I've never done it since. I don't know. I just feel like I need to practice, need to hit balls, need to do something with golf, otherwise...

Q. Stay sharp?

VIJAY SINGH: Yeah. But maybe it's all in the mind, so...

Q. You were talking about the fans earlier. When you get in contention, how would you describe your fan base, your supporters? Are they vocal? Are they polite? Do you feed off that? The size of the crowd, regardless of the size of the crowd, you're going to play your game or do you feed off that at all?

VIJAY SINGH: I don't think the crowd really comes into play when you're playing inside the ropes. I think your game and your caddie, you and your caddie, are the only guys you deal with. I don't feel the crowd out there. I know there's a lot of crowd out there. I'm not nasty or anything to them. I just play my own game. I focus on my own thing.

When I'm playing a practice round, it's fine. But when I'm there in the tournament, I don't worry about the crowd at all. As long as they're quiet when I hit the ball, that's all I'm cared about.

Q. Could you talk about the major venues this year, and the fact Michelle Wie is playing next week at Sony, not a male/female thing, but more a youngster playing against all those men?

VIJAY SINGH: I mean, this year's majors, it favors a lot of guys that play good in links courses. You got actually three links courses almost that we're going to play. It will favor more the European players, guys that deal with links courses better.

I've not played Whispering Straits (sic). I love Shinnecock, played a lot of rounds there recently. I'm very in tune with that. Augusta is always Augusta.

But I think you'll see experienced players coming up again. Won't be too many first-time winners this year. Links courses, although Ben Curtis won in Birkdale last year, I think the courses are much harder this year than it was last year. You'll see experience and better players winning this year.

You know, I don't know, I wish her all the best. You know, if it was my son, I think I'd teach him how to win. You know what I mean? You put young kids out there to learn how to win golf tournaments. For Michelle, she's going out there, and she's not winning. It's always a negative when you don't win. You need to win golf tournaments. She's not going to do that playing, you know, against the men. So that's my opinion.

THE MODERATOR: Vijay, thanks for coming by.

VIJAY SINGH: Thank you.

End of FastScripts.

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