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April 3, 2001

Vijay Singh


P. DAN YATES: Well, good morning again. I'm still Dan Yates, and we are lucky to have Vijay with us here this morning. You all know what he has done, defending champion. Vijay, if you will just make a few remarks before they have a go at you, please.

VIJAY SINGH: I'm happy to be up here. It's the first time before a tournament I'm speaking. I'm looking forward to this week. Familiar faces, familiar surroundings, and, you know, been waiting for this for the whole year, so I'm ready to go.

Q. Last week, Jack Nicklaus told me that you were, right now, playing better than anybody in the world except for Tiger, and he said that he thinks over the past few years, your swing has developed into the best swing in the world, including Tiger. When you hear comments like that and realize where your career is at this point, any feelings about that?

VIJAY SINGH: That's nice to know. That's the first time I've heard -- obviously, Jack has been -- still in touch with the game. He must have been watching. I played a few practice rounds with him, as well. Always a pleasure to have comments from big champions like Jack. I'm swinging the club really good. I feel comfortable with myself. I think I'm -- at this moment, my golf game is probably the best it has ever been. That's not only the swing part, but my putting has been the best, I think for a long, long time. My short game is getting better, and I've worked a lot. I've worked on little bits and pieces, not the whole swing anymore. So I'm trying define my golf swing to where I don't have to beat balls for six to eight hours. Just work on little bits and pieces. But coming from Jack, that's nice to know.

Q. As we come in here, most of the attention is focused obviously on one guy, and that's not the defending champion. Does that disturb you in any way?

VIJAY SINGH: Actually, it's good in a way that the attention is somewhere else than the defending champion. You, you know, Tiger has played great for the last two or three years, and so it should be. He has won the last three majors and he is coming here as the favorite. So, it doesn't bother me at all each week when he plays, all of the attention is on him anyways. So it is fine by me. Maybe some other players may not like it, but it suits me fine. It just gives me more time to myself, and concentrate on what I'm doing. Let the pressure be on somebody else.

Q. Like Tiger, you yourself have two wins this year, overseas, and stellar play at the TPC. Have you ever felt more confident going into a major tournament?

VIJAY SINGH: Yeah, you know, I've been looking forward to this week for a while. I've more or less geared myself up all year for consistent play coming up to the Masters, which I have done. It was unfortunate two weeks ago, what happened, but I played well. Things like that, that's golf. But there's a little pressure over here on me, trying to play well. I've been playing well and I just want to play well again here. But I've got to feed off the pressure that I'm feeling. It's good to know that I have a little bit -- a little excited, a little pressure coming in here, but I've got to feed off that. I've got to take that to my advantage and not be nervous about it. But I'm looking good about this week. I'm feeling good. My head is clear. I'm more happier this year than I was last year, so put it this way.

Q. Is it good or bad to see a guy like David come back after a couple of weeks missing?


Q. David Duval, yeah.

VIJAY SINGH: Yeah, he's been great for golf. The last two years, he's been one of the premiere players out here, and it's a shame that he did not play the TPC at his home course. But it is not to have the strongest field of any major, and we look forward to seeing him play. He's just going to be another competitor for me. He's out there, and it's always nice to have tough guys playing for the major prize.

Q. Is there any change to the course since you played as a champion this year and having played this today or this past week?

VIJAY SINGH: They did subtle changes to a few greens. There's a little -- I think on the fifth hole, it looks like they putt a little bit more flat spot on the left side, but hardly noticeable. What they do here is so precise that you can walk over the thing twice and not even notice it. They widened a little bit of the ninth and 10th fairways you don't run out of it. But apart from that, the golf course is in great condition. Every year you come here it, just gets better and better.

Q. With the success that you've had here, what are one or two of the unique characteristics to the greens here that make them uniquely challenging?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, I was speaking to my caddy. He's a new caddy this week for me. He's the first time caddying here. He says, "Well, this is not that big of a deal off the tees." I said, "Well, that's where you are wrong. It looks pretty wide but you have to put it in the precise spot to approach the greens where the pins are." So you can hit it anywhere, but to get close to the pins, you've got to have a certain angle to the hole. I think the premiere thing on this golf course is you've got to -- got to attack the pins on the correct side of the fairways and leave yourself opportunities to putt from the correct side of the pins, too. You can have a 6- or 8-footer, which would be impossible to 2-putt, and you may have a 15-, 20-footer that you can make. So it is very important to put your ball on the correct side of the pins. And every hole is the same way, every single hole. You miss the green on the wrong side, you are going to have a lot of trouble getting up-and-down.

Q. Do you have to have a different mindset when you are standing over an 8-footer, 10-footer or 15-footer on these greens here, as opposed to every other Tour stop?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, you are always worried about -- not worried. You are always concerned where your next putt is going to come from; if there is going to be one. But you can't just go up there and say, "Well, I'm just going to have a good run at it," because next thing you know you have another 10-footer coming back. So it is always the back of your mind: Pace. I think pace on these greens are more important than anything else. I think if you get the pace right, putting is a lot easier.

Q. You came in on Sunday and played. Does that -- is Sunday a good day to come in and get quality practice time out there?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, except for this last one; it was blowing 100, I think that day. So it was nice to play out there, with no people around, but conditions were just horrendous. It's always nice. Last year was the first time I came on Sunday, and I had a peaceful round of golf this year. We came; it was the same, we could not putt on the greens; it was so blowy. But it is always nice to come out here and not see anybody and relax and just play a nice round of golf. You can take more time and see more spots on the greens. I spent probably five hours on the golf course just alone. So that tells you how much more relaxed I was out there.

Q. The risk/reward factor on the back nine, is there any other place that you play on that's got that much of a potential either way, and the back nine at The Players Club, Stadium Course getting that way?

VIJAY SINGH: Certainly different. It's so much more pressure out here when you are hitting shots to the greens. Going into the back nine, especially on Sunday you don't want to make a mistake. 13 and 15 are the only two holes where you can really say that is a risk/reward. (15) you can lay up and go for bogey or make an eagle. It's either way. 13 is the same thing; you hit a good drive you've got to go for it, or you've got a chance to lay up. You lay up you can make a comfortable par or birdie. It really depends on the situation, how you are dealing with it. I think off the tee is most important. Get it out there where you -- like 13, you can turn it around the corner and say, "Well, I'm going to take a risk and go ahead and sling one around the corner and have a short iron in." But then again, standing there looking at all of the trouble on the left side, you don't want to do that. So, give and take. Also, approaching the greens, going into the 14th hole or the 15th, even the 17th, if the pin is up on the top, what are you going to do are? Are you going to go for it or lay it back short of the pin? Those are little factors that -- if you go for the green on 17, at the pin, what happens if you miss it? You're going to make a bogey straightaway, unless your incredible short game is going to get you out of it. So it is a give-and-take thing. Depends on the situation. If I'm ahead, I'll take a risk. If I'm ahead, I'll probably play it safe.

Q. What are your thoughts on the Champions Dinner, what does it mean to you and who are you get to go cook Thai food in Augusta Georgia?

VIJAY SINGH: People from Thailand. (Laughs). It's a great couple that's doing it for me. They own a great restaurant in Atlanta, and good friends of mine. I think I've looked forward to this thing for the whole year that we've planned it. I think guys are going to have a great dinner tonight.

Q. Talking about the back nine, the risk reward, is there a shot back there that's more critical?

VIJAY SINGH: I think, too, on 11 and 12 are the more key shots than the rest of them. 11, you want to put it on the green anywhere and get out of there with a par, or if you make a good putt. And 12, as well. It's not a difficult shot when you are playing there the first three practice rounds. Stand there and hit one ball in the water and you hit another one, drop another one, hit it over the green, doesn't really matter. But I think in the tournament when you stand there and start thinking about it a little bit, it seems like a 200-yard shot instead of just a 150-yard shot. But I think the 11th hole are key shots. I think if you get through there, 13 has got a lot of trouble, but it's a par 5. You can get away with making bogey the worst. 15 is the same thing. 11 and 12, you can make a number out there. I think they are the two key holes on the golf course.

Q. What's your theory about this course favoring more of the international type of players and that type of game, more of bump-and-run, imagination-around-the-green type of game? Do you agree with that?

VIJAY SINGH: I don't quite agree with that. It really depends on how the guy is playing.

I mean, you can bump-and-run shots up there, but it really is depending on how the guy is playing. When you had those few years where all of the top guys or the international players, they were the best players in the world at that time. Faldo was winning a lot of tournament, Seve was on top of the world, Lyle, Woosie. I think how the guys are playing at that particular moment, you know, I don't think this favors the Europeans or the Americans. I think it favors the best players in the world.

Q. Is there a part of you that feels unlucky or cursed or just -- I don't know what the right word would be. Here you are, you've brought your game to the point where you feel like you are playing the best golf of your life, and then there's a guy who has brought his game to where he is playing the best golf anyone has seen in 50 years. Is there a bad timing feeling?

VIJAY SINGH: No, I think it's great timing. I like the way I'm playing. I'm not really caring about who brings whose game over here. I'm going out there and do my best, and if my best is not good enough, so be it. I'm going to go out there, play the golf course, play the way I feel I should play to win the golf tournament, and that's the best I can do. I'm not going to go and start worrying about who else is coming out and doing what. I'm going to tee up on Thursday and go out there and try to play the best golf that I know how to play and don't worry about who is doing what.

Q. Since your eye surgery, have you been reading any breaks this week that you have never been able to see before?

VIJAY SINGH: You see a lot more thing out there. You see subtle breaks that -- I walked on the first green and I said, "Wow, I didn't know that there was a little slope on the right side of the green there." Little things like that. Nothing major, but you start noticing more on the greens, little bit more subtle breaks.

Q. We know you practice a lot, but I'm curious as to how much practice time you put in putting with the toe of the putter, like on 16 last week?

VIJAY SINGH: You know, we do fool around now and then about how -- situations like that. But I did putt on that green -- I think it was on a Tuesday, right against the collar like that. That second shot was the only one that was on. I was trying to get it close as possible. There was more luck there in what happened. So, we do realize how to play -- we do understand the consequences of playing a shot like that. You've got to be very precise and you've got to hit the ball a certain way, and we are all aware of it. It just came out perfectly at that time.

Q. Back to 12. How many different clubs have you used on 12, and how often when you get to the tee how changed your -- you sit there and going back and forth trying to decide which club?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, the very first tee, when I first came here, you hear so much about 12. So when you get on the tee, you kind of little worry about where the troubles are instead of looking really where the flag is. I think in the past few years when I've come here now, I just get the yardage. We have a spot on the green where we go for, and we get a yardage to that one particular spot, pick a club and go ahead and make a swing. If you start worrying about where the ball is going to finish or if it is going to be enough club -- we all calculate that before we pick the club out. Once I get the club out, I'm ready to go. I don't really stand on the tee and ponder if it is up or too long or not.

Q. You talked about fooling around a moment ago, one of the things the guys like to do the first few days is skipping it across the green. Do you enjoy doing those kind of things?

VIJAY SINGH: You only skip it on 16, isn't it? I did it yesterday; I got it on the green. It is more for the crowd. They enjoy seeing that. I think there's nothing wrong with that. I think it's a practice round, and it could get a little boring just seeing guys hit it on the green. I think it's exciting. I think it's fine.

Q. Are you aware of the historic challenge that faces you and the fact that I think only two men have successfully defended their Masters title?

VIJAY SINGH: I'm aware of that. (Smiles). I've been thinking about it for a while, and I'd like to put that jacket on myself again. I look forward to this week for a long time, and I know the history behind it. You know, winning once is great; doing it twice would be unbelievable. I'm going to give it my best shot. I'm going to -- I'm not going to lay down this week.

Q. How different is it coming back as a champion, and how do you feel and how would you summarize that feeling, coming here as the champ?

VIJAY SINGH: You know, it's the excitement of it. People have been great. The fans have been unbelievable. You walk on the tee and they all, you know, are just all over you. It's just the excitement of everything around me that makes me more excited. Like I said, it puts that added pressure on the player. You've got to take it positively. I think pressure is good, if you know how to handle it, and I want to take it to my advantage. You know, I want to feed off that pressure and feel like it is for me and not going to put me down in any way. So, I want to take all of this pressure that's coming towards me as positive feed. I think I'm doing all right right now.

Q. The tournaments this year where you've got a lot of Top-10s, a lot of Top-5s. Is there something that's been in -- kind of in common that's prevented you from winning more so far this year?

VIJAY SINGH: I think one or two bad swings at the wrong time. I think the first two rounds have been the key. I mean, if I can get the first two rounds away, I'm in contention to win the golf tournament. I think I did that in Pebble. I did that in TPC, as well. But if I'm way back, if I'm eight, nine shots off the lead going into the third day, then it's always a catch-up. So I'm not in a position to win; I'm in a position to finish well. When I played those two European Tour events, I was up there in the lead or one or two shots off. So that's a chance for me to win golf tournaments that way, instead of catching up and hoping the leaders don't do very well. Same thing, I've got to go out here and be in contention after two days and not be five or six shots off. That's the key to winning golf tournaments is being in contention after two days and not trying to catch up.

Q. In your opinion, what separates the Top-10 golfers in the world from the rest of the field?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, just how they -- first of all, how they are playing at that moment. If you are playing well; but the mistakes, how you deal with your mistakes. The top guys tend to forget about the hole before and then keep going, and how bad their mistakes are, how bad their bad shots are. They can get out of trouble without too much of a trouble, you know what I mean. They won't -- very few times you see a top guy dropping a shot and dropping three or four more after that. They will come back and rebound. I think rebounding is one of the keys to playing well; is what do you do after you make a mistake. And make key shots at the right time. Make big shots when you need to. I think those are the key points for top guys.

Q. Knowing that you were the only guy to win a major last year other than Tiger, is there even --

VIJAY SINGH: Really? (Laughter.)

Q. Obviously, this week is hugely important to you, no matter what, but given that you can prevent him from achieving history, is that even more glory or excitement added to this week?

VIJAY SINGH: I think there's a lot of talk about him winning all four, but, there again, I'm not here to stop Tiger from winning a golf tournament. I am here to win myself. And my whole focus, you know, is on me, not on anybody else. I'm not going to try to prevent him from winning his fourth in a row. I'm not going to try to stop Ernie from winning a major or Masters or anybody else. What I'm going to do is what I know best, playing my game and concentrate on winning this tournament myself and that's it. I'm not going to be forced to play against other players out here or put added pressure on that I need to do well to stop Tiger from winning this tournament. That's not my goal this week.

Q. Just as an observer, though, do you notice how other guys are playing into this tournament, who is doing well?

VIJAY SINGH: You know, this is an unusual week, but there's always -- there's guys that didn't play well in the past have come out and won this golf tournament. Jose did that two years ago. Faldo is playing well again and he knows this golf course. So you don't really -- I don't think a guy needs to be playing really good to come over here, because when they come over here, the excitement lifts their game to a level to where they know how to play. And there's 20, 30 guys out there that's capable of winning this tournament out here, maybe more. But Langer is playing well; he's won here. I think all the experienced guys have got a good chance this week, because if you look at the last few weeks, everybody seems to be playing a little bit better. Just coming over here feeling that they can win, if they have won here before, the past champions, I think they all have a very good shot at it.

Q. What did you do last week? How do you prepare?

VIJAY SINGH: The weather wasn't the best in Jacksonville. But I hit a few balls and putted quite a few times. They have got the greens to almost the same speed as here at Jacksonville. So I spent a lot of time on the greens, trying to get the pace and all that, and feeling around with my golf game, trying to get set for this week, what we need to do.

Q. Did you watch the video from last year or anything of that sort?

VIJAY SINGH: No. I didn't do that. I should have, really. (Laughter.) I think I'm going to watch it enough; they have been playing it all over the place here.

Q. What's the best thing about being Masters champion?

VIJAY SINGH: Being the Masters champion, I guess. Coming over here as a defending champion, I think it's unbelievable. The feeling is really good. You're on top of the world, you feel like. The attention you get and all that, it's a great, great feeling. It's wonderful.

Q. Much has been made about Tiger winning four in a row and is it a Grand Slam or not a Grand Slam because it is not in the same calendar year. For the sake of history, in your opinion, should it be regarded as a Grand Slam?

VIJAY SINGH: He'll be holding all four titles if he wins here. But a Grand Slam happens in one year, so , not in two.

P. DAN YATES: Anything else? Well, thank you very much, Vijay. We look forward to seeing you.

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