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March 20, 2002

Vijay Singh


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: We'd like to welcome Vijay Singh to the media center.

Vijay, thanks for coming in. You're back at your home course this week. It's probably good to be back after being on the road for a while.

VIJAY SINGH: Yeah, I was home the week before last at Bay Hill, so I played a lot of rounds of golf here. And during the year, I think this is the most I've ever played this golf course than in previous years. So I'm pretty familiar, but not too familiar with the conditions we have now. It's getting hard and fast.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: How much different is it this week than it is the rest of the year?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, actually the balls are stopping today better than I've ever seen them for the tournament. So it's almost the same as when you play, but I think the tournament starts tomorrow. It's going to be much firmer and much faster.

Q. Obviously, you want to win every time you tee it up, but do you have a concrete goal of winning a career Grand Slam, do you think, after you have two of them?

VIJAY SINGH: I guess it's always nice to be able to do that. It's in the back of my mind, after winning two of the toughest tournaments in the world to then win the British Open and the U.S. Open. Sure, I'd love to finish with those before I finish playing.

Q. You made a great improvement in your putting statistically last season, but are weren't able to come away with a win.

VIJAY SINGH: I don't think it was so much me putting well. I just didn't hit the ball as good as I wanted to last year. I had putted better than I had ever done, and to finish fourth in the rankings, I'd like to do that this year because I'm hitting the ball somewhat better than I did last year. But obviously, some years, you go on and play well and not putt well, and some years, you do that. That's where you find -- or I found myself winning a lot of tournaments in previous years because I've had great weeks of putting. But my ball-striking last year was nowhere as good as I wanted it.

Q. Does it gnaw at you a little bit? You had so many Top-10 finishes, and so many opportunities to win?

VIJAY SINGH: Finishing Top-10 is nice, but winning is even better. It got to me a little bit at the beginning of the year, but I just made a goal for the rest of the year just to go out and just enjoy myself and play, and not worry about winning too much, and if it does happen, well, good.

Q. What have you been working on in your game lately?

VIJAY SINGH: I'm playing pretty good right now. I'm quite happy with the way I'm hitting the ball and just working on timing. Nothing big, nothing major. I think I did all of my hard work at the beginning of the year so I'm just going to go out and see if it works out.

Q. Can you talk about 17 and the drama it creates and what kind of nerves are going through your body on Saturday and Sunday when you are dealing with it?

VIJAY SINGH: Last year, I had played 17 really well. I think I played it 1-under. But it's not a difficult hole if you just go out there and play it in the practice rounds. The greens are always receptive, and you're just picking a target and hitting it, because with 9-iron away, if the wind is down, or 8- or 7-iron if the wind is into (you). Today it was just a 9-iron. You don't even think about the water there. But if you look at the flag and where they put it and you start focussing on the flag itself, then it's going to be a very difficult hole.

I think my goal for 17 is just take it like 17: Just over the tee, to the middle of the green and hit a good shot there. Unless you are coming down two or three back on Sunday, then you look at the pin right by the middle of the green and hit a solid shot, it should not be too much of a bother. Q. What did you think of the hole the first time you saw it, way back when?

VIJAY SINGH: I wasn't that good of a player then, so I was worrying about getting the ball on green rather than getting closer to the flag. It's always a hard hole when the winds are blowing. I've played in so many conditions, when it's left-to-right, into. You going in with a little 7-iron, it's not an easy shot to hit. If you miss-hit it, it's going to be in the water.

Q. Do you like the concept of an absolute no-mistake hole and the position of it in the round ? If you had a bad one, you've got one hole left, especially like on a Sunday?

VIJAY SINGH: You've only got -- I think it's very fair because it's only a 9-iron or a wedge, in good conditions, calm conditions. If it's a 6-iron or 5-iron, it's a different story. But we should be able to hit the green with a wedge or 9-iron and if we don't, we just hit a poor shot.

So there's no real disadvantage as to what part of the round it is. I think you just have to figure out where you're going to land the ball and hit it. And if you do make a mistake and hit a bad shot, that's the nature of the game right there.

16, you can call the same thing. You're going in with a wood to the green, you just miss it right -- I think it's a harder second shot on 17, the tee shot.

Q. Can you think of another hole, in another venue that you played where one of the holes kind of looms over you mentally the way 17 does here?

VIJAY SINGH: 17, you're used to thinking, "Well, I've got to go through 17." Now, being my home course and I've played it so many times, I don't really think about it that way. I just go up, look at the flag and look at wherever I need to pitch it.

But there's other golf courses where you think about that. 12 at Augusta, you think about that. That worries me more when I turn my round there, "I've got to go through 12," and if you pick the right club or not. 17 is right in front of you. You don't have to deal with different wind conditions. Just know where the wind is blowing and you just hit it.

Q. Have you gone to Augusta to see the changes there?

VIJAY SINGH: Yes, I have.

Q. What did you think?

VIJAY SINGH: Very good. Very nice, very tough, very long, and it's going to be a really good test of golf when we get out there.

Q. How are the changes? How will they affect the decisions that you might make on that course?

VIJAY SINGH: We're going to some of the toughest greens of the world with longer irons, and that's the biggest difference right there. You take 1, for instance, if you're hitting wedge, you're probably hitting 7-iron. 7 would be the same thing. 9 would be the same thing. So it's all -- you're going in with middle-to-long irons instead of middle-to-short irons, so that's the big difference right there and on those greens. It's very difficult.

Q. Does it favor a particular type of player?

VIJAY SINGH: You've got to think of all your tee shots more than ever now. It used to be just tee it up and hit it as far as you can, and now it's -- you know, you put a lot of premium to your tee shots, you've got to hit the fairways. It favors the guys who are going to putt well and obviously hit it straight and long.

Q. What did you shoot?

VIJAY SINGH: I shot a wedge and number. (Laughs).

Q. Some players have said because you played so well in front of Hootie Johnson they might set the greens up a little more difficult this year?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, I don't think -- I think I was more at ease because of the amount of players that went up and played the length of the golf course, he was a little bit apprehensive about how it's going to turn out. After coming around with me, and he saw what I shot, and the clubs that I was hitting, he was very pleased with the changes.

I think it was actually for the better that I did that, because they are going to set the golf course the way they have to set it.

Q. Have they lessened the run, really -- inaudible -- how much are there slingshots that will run forever?

VIJAY SINGH: There was only one hole I was worried about, which was 11, I think they moved some earth around there, so you are not going to get that. But they moved the fairways more left as well, so you can't really aim it right.

10th hole, they changed the total an of the hole, walking on the left side, instead of hitting a 3-wood, you've got to hit it driver now to get it down.

Q. How do you feel about 18 as a finishing hole compared to the way it was before?

VIJAY SINGH: I hit a driver, 3-iron. So that should tell you. (Laughs).

But granted, there was no roll. They had a lot of rain. So, if I'm hitting 3-iron, I don't know about the rest of the guys.

Q. When you had the Champions Dinner last year, you had to pay for that, didn't you?


Q. Did you know that going in?

VIJAY SINGH: Yeah. I wouldn't mind doing it again. (Laughter.)

Q. You said you played this course this year more than ever before. About how many times do you think you've played it?

VIJAY SINGH: I must have played it, the hole probably 10,11 times. Just not including this week.

Q. Which holes do you not use, other than the par 3s, not use driver out here?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, 18 you don't need a driver. I hit 3-wood the last three days with not much run. 16 would be another one, if it's downwind. 12, you're probably going to hit 3-wood. 10, as well. If you start the first side, 1, you don't really need the driver. And if the ground gets a little firmer, two 2 is always a 3-wood. 4, probably you don't need a driver, and 6.

Q. Tiger was in here earlier today, and essentially made the point, we're talking about playing down the stretch in a tournament, holding or chasing a lead and clutch shots and said he doesn't really make bad decisions, just bad swings. Can you talk to that at all, not about him, but about your own game; when you make a mistake or hit good shots, are they just good swings or are they good decisions, which one is it weighted more toward?

VIJAY SINGH: Hitting good shots or bad shots?

Q. Let's go bad ones.

VIJAY SINGH: I think it has more to do with swing, I would say. Because you always -- your body is charged up.

Down the stretch, a guy who has better rhythm is going to play well. Your rhythm gets out of hand and takes a golf swing; that's what happens most of the time. Your mind is very color and more focused than ever, whether you come out of shots and get quick, yank it, do things like that. When you are really swinging well and not really thinking about the golf swing -- and that also depends if you're working on something. If you're working on a golf swing the whole week and playing well and at the same time working on a golf swing, then you make mistakes.

Because you have a caddy as well; so you always make the right decisions. The swing is all yours. Q. Can you think of any tournaments that you felt like you've lost, was yours to win and you didn't win, that is attributed to a bad decision rather than a bad swing?

VIJAY SINGH: I don't know, there have been so many. (Laughs).

It would be more bad clubbing -- I don't know if you call that a decision or not. Because once we pick up a club from the bag, that's the decision you're going to go with and you've got to trust it and hit it and if it comes out 15 yards short or goes over the green, what do you call that? You have to might a good swing on it but it's bad clubbing. There's a lot of factors involved in a decision like that. Last week at Bay Hill, the first ten holes, I picked six wrong clubs and that wasn't -- I wanted to do that; it just happened. A little breeze back, a little into, and just said we'll go with this one. Although, with the pins being high, you don't want to pitch the ball pin-high last week. So those were all missed clubbing, I would put it under. It wasn't bad decisions. It was just bad clubbing.

Q. I know golf's an individual sport and each one of you has your open things to worry about and not other players, but just asking you because this guy's year is so interesting. Phil Mickelson, when you watch the things he does and the scores he posts, to come off after a layoff and win, then miss cuts by a mile, and then almost win Bay Hill and make strange decisions down the stretch, is he more unusual than anybody in the locker room?

VIJAY SINGH: I don't know what goes in his mind, but he is a very aggressive player. He sometimes takes shots that are not called for, like the one on 16. But he was in a better position to make the decision -- I was on the green and didn't know what the hell he was doing. (Laughter). I was worried about my own game.

But if you look back and say, well that was a bad decision -- but if he had made a good swing and pulls off the shot and ends up the green, it's a good decision.

Depends on his thinking and he's the best guy to ask the question. Whatever I say will contradict whatever he says.

Q. Not specifically that, but his results seem to be more dramatically high or low than anybody out here?

VIJAY SINGH: He's been inconsistent, missed three cuts, come back and then almost win another golf tournament. He's got so much ability that he's able to come out and do things like that. I don't know. I just -- I don't know what to say about that.

Q. So much, obviously, is made of Tiger and how well he's been the last few years, is it possible a lot of players go into a tournament as confident as they may be, but still thinking he's the favorite? What's your mindset? Do you come in thinking that you're the favorite? I know you can only worry about yourself but is there always -- is Tiger always looming in a tournament like this?

VIJAY SINGH: You always wonder what the top guys may be doing, it may be Tiger, it may be Phil.

You look at Ernie right now. Going into Bay Hill, I played with him at first, and you know he was on a run and you kind of know that he was going to play well and not going to mess up as bad, and he was almost in the lead.

I go into a tournament thinking about how I'm playing and not worrying about what everyone is doing. But once you get going -- I like to look at leaderboards. So I'm always, you know, looking at leaderboards. So that's the way I play. I'm not worried about other people's game. I'm also, you know, want to know what they are doing.

Q. Tiger or Ernie --?

VIJAY SINGH: No. I played with Ernie.

Q. Do you feel that he is got things pretty together now?

VIJAY SINGH: But Bay Hill, Tiger, he's won it the last two years and now this is the third time he's won it. So if you go into a tournament playing, winning two years in a row, you're going to have a lot of confidence, that's probably what pulled it off for him is that he's won; he's got so much confidence going on that golf course. From what I heard, he didn't hit it very straight but he managed to come out in front.

Q. One last question about Augusta. The 18th hole, the recent years has not held the players' fear going into as the 72nd hole. Do you think that could change the way the hole finishes off the tournament?

VIJAY SINGH: Most definitely. I mean, you've got to hit a good drive now, otherwise -- I hit a drive on 18 that was probably -- the whole fairway is 30 yards wide. I probably hit it 20 yards from the right rough, or right tree line, or right edge of the fairway, whatever you want to call it. But I had to almost play the ball five, six yards to see the green. It was not a straightforward hole. If to be on the right edge of the fairway, you've almost got to slice the ball around to get the green and you're doing it with a longer club, which is easier, but still a very, very difficult shot.

The tee shot is so demanding now that whoever is playing it has to hit the fairway and has to hit it fairly long to be able to be comfortably having a good look at the green. Otherwise, you'll have to move the ball around. Come Sunday afternoon, with the pin over the top left, that's going to be a tough one to make par at if you need a par to win -- exactly, par to win.

Now you've got 16, 17, which is no gimmee anymore, and 18. Those holes, it's going to play like the Masters should play.

Q. Does it make it more or equally exciting -- the way you're describing the hole than, say, what O'Meara did a few years ago by birdie, par, birdie, birdie?

VIJAY SINGH: It's not going to be birdie, par, birdie, birdie. (Laughter).

15, okay, it's still playing the same. But 18 especially, if you make -- if somebody gave me four pars now, I would say, okay, I won't play that hole; that's 18, because I think it's one of the tougher holes on the golf course.

Q. Do you think we could still see dramatic late movement, not with birdies, but with guys coming back?

VIJAY SINGH: Most definitely. 17 is, I would say, one of the most demanding driving holes there, especially now. It used to be you could bail out left, as well, but those greens have grown a lot over the years. It's no more a regulation par hole -- you could hit a good drive and the green is not an easy green to hit to or putt on.

Q. Is the movement, instead of seeing birdies on those holes, will you see guys making bogeys on these holes?

VIJAY SINGH: Probably bogeys more than birdies. I think that 18, like I say, there will be more bogeys there than pars, I think. So coming down the stretch, I think there will be more mistakes made on those holes.

Q. How difficult is it going to be to block out 14 from last year this week? You played it pretty well today, I believe. Is it something that's easy to block out?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, I went it back to 14 that week. I had a week off after and I probably hit 100 balls on that tee, and I just stood there and just kept on hitting. I wanted to know why the hell it went left. (Laughter.) And I could not hit a ball left even if I tried it was just one of those things. Like I said, coming down the stretch, you make bad swings.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Thanks a lot.

End of FastScripts....

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