April 12, 2002
BILLY MORRIS: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We are delighted to have Vijay Singh with us. Vijay had a very fine 65 today and is now leading the tournament at 9-under at the end of the second round.
Vijay, why don't you give us a few general comments and then we'll move to questions.
VIJAY SINGH: Well, it's the end of my second round; it's not over yet. I played really good today. I was kind of a little worried about the weather when I started off. I went out to the driving range and was waiting for the call to come that it was going to be delayed, but surprisingly, there was none. You know, it was really wet when we started out, but turned out to be really good.
I'm not a very good wet weather player, when it's raining, but I was really glad to see the rain quit. And I hit the ball really good, really solid all day, and putted nicely. So that's why the score shows.
Q. You say you are not a very good wet weather player?
VIJAY SINGH: No, I don't really like playing in wet weather.
Q. Wasn't there wet weather the last time you won here?
VIJAY SINGH: It wasn't wet, though. It was cold. (Laughs).
Q. As I understand, you were not all together displeased with how you played at THE PLAYERS Championship, even though you missed the cut. So have you been, counting Houston, do you feel like you've been peaking for this and peaking at the right time?
VIJAY SINGH: I don't know if I was peaking. It really depends on how your scoring comes around. And Houston was a great example for it. I didn't make too many mistakes there. Last week, I made a lot of mistakes, just like at THE PLAYERS, I played well, but a lot of big scores on one or two holes. This week, I just haven't made too many mistakes so far. Hopefully I'm going to keep it down as much as I can. I'm trying to play a lot more conservatively hitting to the greens when I'm not in position to take the flag. So, you know, play to the flat part of the greens and take my 2-putt and get out of there. So if I can maintain that, think about where I'm going to place the ball on the greens, I think I should be all right.
Q. Two years ago, your son, rather famously told you, "Papa, trust your swing", has he given you any new swing thoughts for this week?
VIJAY SINGH: No. He's telling me, "If I walk around 18 holes, what are you going to do for me?" (Laughter.)
So, so far, he has not helped me out or anything like that, but he's a good kid and I was glad to see him out there today, even though the weather wasn't great. Hopefully, he'll be out there the next two days.
Q. How is this course playing different for you this time around, as opposed to a year ago?
VIJAY SINGH: Well, it's a lot longer now, obviously. The holes that I used to use 3-woods requires driver, and I love hitting my driver, but I never could turn my ball over right-to-left. But I've got a driver now that I can do that, and I'm hitting right-to-lefts a little bit better.
You know, I like hitting long irons to the greens, middle to long irons to the greens. It's no different than last year, but it's just playing longer, and it's playing so much -- so wet right now. You need to get all the long part of your game in shape, otherwise, you're just going to have a tough day.
18, for instance, thank God they moved the tees forward today, otherwise, we would be hitting 3-irons or maybe even woods into the green.
Q. Do you find that you get a different reception from the fans here than you did two years ago? Are they more enthusiastic?
VIJAY SINGH: I guess so. Last year was a great reception. But this year, I guess when you're name goes up there, they all get excited. It doesn't matter who it is. If they see your name up on the leaderboard they get excited, and they have been great all week.
Q. Did the wet grounds affect you in any way today? Any problems in particular?
VIJAY SINGH: Not really. There's places out there that it's casual all over, so you can't really take -- you have to play from a little casual water, but towards the end of the day it got a little drier. The golf course drains really well and the sun came out, so it didn't bother me that much.
Q. When you came a few weeks ago to check it out, I understand you played very well, you shot 63 and I wonder if that helped your mindset?
VIJAY SINGH: A little bit. You know, you shoot a low number like that on a practice day and you say, "Wow, that wasn't that difficult."
But, you've got to remember that that was a practice day; it wasn't the tournament conditions. The greens were not as fast, and it was much easier to play with nothing around you.
Yeah, I was happy. It kind of eased my mind a little. You know exactly what clubs -- some of the clubs you can hit on those holes.
Q. Has too much been made of all the changes and how it would affect the players?
VIJAY SINGH: I don't think so. It's a long golf course now. Most of the holes that have been lengthened are playing a lot longer than they seem. It's all uphill, and you add five yards to an uphill hole, you play it like ten yards longer. Some of them have gone back 10, 15, 25 yards. It plays a lot longer for the shorter hitters. I don't think it made -- the seventh, everybody is using driver; nobody used to use driver there. I think it's a fair comment to be made about it.
Q. So how is a 65 for you here?
VIJAY SINGH: For me, it's really great. (Laughter.) I like it. I played well. I wasn't really thinking about shooting a number out there. I just went out, and my wife asked me last night, "What would be a good number for you"?
I said, "68 would be a great number for me." And I thought about it after I finished and I said, "That's a good score I shot out there."
30 on the back nine, I wasn't even aware of it, until I was filling in my score card and saw I only shot 1-under on the front side, so it came in quickly.
Q. Having the lead going into Saturday, do you have more confidence knowing that you've already done it here once before?
VIJAY SINGH: Not only that, I think the way I'm playing, the last few weeks, that's going to give me a lot more confidence than knowing that I won over here. The conditions are totally different. The golf course is different. I just feel like I'm playing a lot better now than I did two years ago, and even last year, so I'm hitting the ball a lot better. I think I'm a much better player now than I was two years ago, and that itself should carry me through, if I'm playing the same way.
Q. When you got up this morning and you saw how the weather was, did you anticipate there might be a delay, and because you're not such a good wet player when you knew you had to go play, how did you keep those bad thoughts away during your early round?
VIJAY SINGH: My caddy said, "Don't worry, I've got about nine towels in the bag."
When I got out here this morning it was raining pretty good. When I got to the driving range, every one of us hitting balls were waiting for calls for a rain delay and it didn't come. You just have to go out there and say, hey, you've got to play this golf course like everybody else. Everybody is going to face the same weather and you've got to have your mindset, and that's what I did.
Q. Can you talk about the changes with the putter that you've made? How many different changes and when did you settle on the putter you're using now?
VIJAY SINGH: I'm using the putter about a year and a half the way I'm doing. It's a long belly putter. Just put it in my belly and I hit it. It's very similar to a regular putter that I use, it's just lengthened and anchored in my belly. To me it's the easiest way to putt. I'm surprised not many other players have gone to it. It's the easiest way to stroke the ball and release the putter head. I like it and I've been using it forever. I don't think I will ever go back to any other way of putting.
Q. Have you used a different belly putter or is it pretty much the same one?
VIJAY SINGH: Pretty much the same one I've been using for about two years, year and a half.
Q. On the board you really leapt ahead of the field with the eagle on 15. Did that kick start you for the finals holes? What happened on that hole? How did you go about it?
VIJAY SINGH: I had a good front -- Thomas Bjorn started with five straight birdies and he was making a lot of birdies out there. He birdied 13, we both birdied 13. And then he birdied 14 and we were joking and I said, "Well, lets birdie the rest of the holes here."
You know he didn't birdie 15, but we both hit pretty good drives there. And I had a 7-iron in and hit it about 15, 25 feet past the pin, and I really was just trying to get close to the hole. I wasn't comfortable with the read, or the pace of it, and I just hit and it went in. I was more surprised than my caddie to see it go in. It was a good sight to see it go in.
Then I birdied 17 and 18.
Q. When you saw Bjorn birdie the first five, did that change your mindset to think there were a lot of birdies out there, to do anything differently?
VIJAY SINGH: Not really. It kind of carries you along a little bit, he's hitting so many good shots and just he was playing quite well, too.
And I had a lot of chances out there, but I didn't make them. It's good to play with somebody who is making so many birdies, and it just carries you through.
Q. How far did you have on 15? How long was that shot in?
VIJAY SINGH: I think I had 190 to the pin.
Q. Beyond putting, what else -- where else have you improved as a player, do you feel, when you say you're better than two years ago?
VIJAY SINGH: I think my whole golf swing is a little bit better. I'm in better position on the top of my backswing that allows me to release the club a little better, and I'm driving the ball pretty good, now, so that's a great help here.
Q. Even though you had some really good tournaments from your last win here through Houston without getting any wins, how frustrating was that, and how much does it help having won in Houston, coming in here?
VIJAY SINGH: It eases a lot of anxiety in my mind. Any time you don't win for that long -- and I won last year, but it wasn't over here.
Q. Wrong Masters.
VIJAY SINGH: Yeah. You know, it plays in your mind a lot. It did play in my mind. This year, it started off the same way. I was in position to win and I didn't. So I had to have a talk with myself and say, listen just go out and play your game and if the win comes, it will be great.
Houston was a good week for that. I played really good, I started well and it just kind of eased a lot of the pressure in my mind that, hey, I can win if I just go ahead and play. I did that a lot at TPC. Everybody was saying, "You're playing so well, it's your week." But, you know, you try too hard you go ahead and miss and that throws you back and makes you realize that that's not the way to approach a golf tournament.
Coming over here, I was -- I didn't have any pressure on me. All the talk was on other guys and I thought, that's great, I'm just going to go out there and play my game. I'm playing well enough to perform well, and just go out there and do it.
Q. Do you think missing the cut at TPC was a blessing in disguise, not that you want to do it again?
VIJAY SINGH: I don't know. My coach was really -- he wasn't disappointed at all. I was disappointed, but I wasn't really, in that sense in, my golf game. I made one big number on one hole that threw away the tournament for me. I was playing well and I'm still playing well. I'm playing pretty much the same golf I did then, that I'm doing now. I'm just scoring a little better.
Q. You said that you liked hitting long irons. Is that because you think that's more of a strength of your game, or is it more that it's more of a fun challenge, as opposed to a driver and a wedge game?
VIJAY SINGH: Well, I've always enjoyed hitting long irons. I practice a lot of long irons. When I do practice I do hit a lot of long irons. So it's a thrill for me to hit long irons. It's not necessarily that I want to hit long irons on every hole, but I'm more comfortable. I'm not scared to hit long irons.
Q. You said that you're playing better than ever right now than you ever have. Do you think that shows that with enough hard work, players in their mid 30s to mid 40s, there's no reason they can't keep up with the young players?
VIJAY SINGH: Definitely. The equipment itself is going to help us a lot and help me a lot. I'm hitting the ball longer now than I did ten years ago. That should say something about it. And if you're physically fit -- I mean, you work out, I work out a lot and it helps my physical condition and it helps my mental, as well. I go out there and I say, hey, I feel as good now as I did, 10, 15 years ago, why shouldn't I play better.
The equipment is so much better. The whole golf game is so much better. You've got more experience. You've learned about the game for that long. And I've improved my golf swing every year. With my condition, I feel like I can play as long as I want to play.
Q. This course is playing wet, long and a little soft. You've played it when it's played hard and fast. Which set of conditions is more difficult to hold the lead?
VIJAY SINGH: Both has their good and bad. When it's wet and long, the greens are softer. But when it's hard and fast, the greens are really fast.
So, it's playing long, but you are able to stop shots onto the green. So I would say it evens out, either one of them. But we would prefer to be able to hit balls onto the green where it stops, so I think this is a little bit easier than when it's hard and fast.
Q. Given the other guys on this leaderboard, how important is it to you to have the kind of separation that you've established going into the weekend?
VIJAY SINGH: I want to separate as much as I can. (Laughs).
I'm sure those guys on the back nine are going to play a little bit better. I expect it to be -- somebody is going to come up in the pack and do something. I'm just not going to worry about them and come out here tomorrow and see if I'm in front or not.
Q. Given the changes in the course and everything, are you surprised that 9-under is leading the tournament at mid-point?
VIJAY SINGH: I'm surprised I'm 9-under, especially going out there 2-under today.
I wasn't really expecting to -- I didn't expect to shoot what I did. I was just going out there to play a solid round of golf.
Yeah, I'm surprised about 9-under, but, hey, I'm thrilled about it, too.
Q. How do you not get ahead of yourself and start thinking about winning again, and the fact that you've won here before, does that make it easier not to get into that kind of mindset?
VIJAY SINGH: Well, it really depends how much you listen to everybody around you. Obviously, I have really good people around me. My wife's the best person to be around with right now, and she is pretty calm. I'm just going to do my whole thing this afternoon, go out and just not think about what I'm going to do tomorrow and Sunday. Just come out here tomorrow and focus on what I'm doing and talk to my caddy; that it's him and me, and that's it. If I can focus on that and not worry about winning the golf tournament I should be okay.
Sooner or later, you have to think about it. Everybody is going to talk about it. It will be all over the news. So you cannot escape it. You have to be realistic about it. But at the same time, you have to focus on what you have to do.
Q. What's your caddy's name?
VIJAY SINGH: Paul. Paul Tesori.
BILLY MORRIS: Do you want to spell that for us?
VIJAY SINGH: T E S O R I.
BILLY MORRIS: Please do your birdies on the card.
VIJAY SINGH: 8, I hit driver, 3-wood to the front of the green. I chipped it to about four feet.
12, I hit a 9-iron to about eight feet.
13, I hit driver, 3-iron just left, putted up to about two feet.
15, I hit driver, 7-iron about 25 foot.
17, driver, 7-iron, about 15 foot.
18, driver, 6-iron about eight-foot.
BILLY MORRIS: Vijay, thank you very much and good luck to you tomorrow.
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