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March 21, 2001

Vijay Singh


LEE PATTERSON: Well, thank you. We appreciate you coming to visit us, Vijay. Maybe just a couple of thoughts about THE PLAYERS Championship. I know even being in your own backyard, it's a special tournament to you, as well. Maybe just a couple of thoughts about that, and then we'll open it up for questions.

VIJAY SINGH: Yeah, we all look forward to this week, especially when we play here the whole year and practice here and look at the golf course, go around and try to get points that we missed out the year before. But, yeah, this is a special event for I think all of the professionals. We think of this as a major. I think it's a major, in my mind. I take it seriously, and, you know, there are four other majors, but you know, when we play here, our mind is right here, right now. We look forward to this particular week. I've looked forward to this since I left here last year. A little disappointed, but I'm ready for it, and the golf course is in great shape. The weather is not up to par right now, but I think it's going to get better.

Q. You and I guess David and Jim Furyk and Len Mattiace all live out here. Is there an advantage living out here, being able to practice all of the time?

VIJAY SINGH: We play the golf course more than the other guys, but we don't play the golf course the way it's set up this week. When we play, there is no rough and the greens are not as fast. So we get a shock when we come here and play the golf course and it's hard and fast. It's totally a new golf course, and it's almost a disadvantage to us, because we are not used to those conditions. But the greens, we are familiar with the breaks and we get a little added pressure from the home fans and all that. I don't know, I think it's pretty even out there.

Q. With your performance at Doral and last week, and the way you played overseas, do you feel like you are on the verge of something pretty big pretty soon?

VIJAY SINGH: I've been playing very well. I've set my mind up this year to be a little bit more consistent now with last year, to make sure I don't -- I don't have one good finish and then be at the back of the pack the other week after. I've tried to make my game and my swing so that it is more consistent and it's playable every week. I want to contend every week and not just be part of the pack. You know, I've been playing well, and I'm just waiting for that one good round to get me right up to the leaderboard early on, and not always be catching up. Doral, I was way back, and last week, as well. So I'm looking for an early good round where I can get right up there and stay there. So, hopefully this week, and in two week's time.

Q. Being so familiar with the course, can you tell us what is different about this week and whether or not you think that it will play extremely difficult, moderately difficult?

VIJAY SINGH: They did lengthen the golf course I think three years ago, but we have never played the length that it normally should be playing: Wet and long. So this week, I think we are going to get the test of that. Like 5, that's been lengthened. 13, 12, 15, 14, those holes have been lengthened a little bit. 7, as well. But we have never played those conditions where they are supposed to be playing at. But this week, the 7th hole, normal conditions, if it's dry and hard and fast, you'd probably be hitting driver, 7-iron, 8-iron. But if it's like today, wet and cold, you'll probably be hitting wood on the green. A lot of the guys will be surprised the way the golf course is playing this year. And the rough is really long. This is probably one of the hardest roughs we will have all year. The guys are already talking about it.

Q. Are they talking about it?

VIJAY SINGH: It's long, and it's really, really thick, especially around the greens. If you do miss it, it's going to be hard to get up-and-down. The greens are not very good. People talk about greens. I think TPC greens are one of the smallest out there on TOUR. So it is going to be hard out there if you do miss a green.

Q. Going back to what you were saying about consistency from week to week, I think you said you set your mind up to be a little more consistent. Could you elaborate on that and what you've done to stay dialed in over a longer period of time, instead of the up-and-downs?

VIJAY SINGH: It's more focused, I guess. I've always tried to play one shot at a time, which is very hard to do. I've thought about playing one hole at a time. If you have a bad hole, forget it, go up to the next hole and play that. Like last week I had two double-bogeys on the last day, but I totally forgot about those holes and just went on and played the next hole. I think that way you forget about the hole and go ahead and play your normal game for the next shot in. I think it's always very hard to focus on one shot at a time, because you can't forget that quickly if you had messed up the shot before. That's one of the reasons why I am more focused these days. And I have a new caddy, and he keeps talking about what we've discussed about what we need to do, and he's a player and he understands the game, as well.

Q. How long have you had him?

VIJAY SINGH: It's going up to about seven months now. And he's a local boy, so that's another good advantage that I have. (Laughs).

Q. When you prepare for a tournament, naturally we all know your practice habits, but you are so meticulous when you play in a tournament, but mentally, somehow do some thoughts of a couple weeks down the road as defending champion of the Masters and how well you always play here, how do you keep that out of your mind? What's the concentration factor like?

VIJAY SINGH: You try to focus on one tournament at a time. If you start thinking about the tournaments ahead of you, then you're getting ahead of yourself. This week and last week, especially, last week was a great week for me to focus on this week. But I said, "You can't do that. You have to focus on the tournament you're playing." That's how I think all of the top guys are doing it, or have been doing it for years. You know, focus on the present and not on the future. I think that's one reason why I think the top guys are able to play more consistently because that's what they focus on is right now and not ahead of themselves.

Q. You've got a former player for you, and Jesper has Lance working for him. Does Paul give you an insight in doing his job, as a former player, that's different from another caddy? And do you think this might be a trend? Do you think that players might be asking guys who have played their way off the Tour to consider caddying?

VIJAY SINGH: I hope not, otherwise other guys are going to get good caddies like me. (Laughs). No, I think that's the point. Why I've had -- you have to have good rapport with your caddy. You're able to understand him and he's able to understand you. It's a great advantage to have somebody who understands the game as much as you do. And if you have a shot around the greens and you're not really sure how you are going to play it, what are you going to do from here, he's just going to give you a little bit of added information where it's going to be good for you. But there have been other guys that have been caddying for players that has played the Tour before. But it's difficult, very difficult, especially for my caddy. He was on TOUR three years ago, and, you know I keep asking him, "Do you miss it? Do you miss playing? Do you miss doing what I'm doing?" But at the moment, he's so focused on what I'm doing right now that he says, "No, but if I do, I'll let you know." I have a great caddy out there and I just hope he stays with me for a long time.

Q. Vijay, when you come to a tournament of this magnitude, either here or a major, are there particular players or types of players that you like to be paired with, either from a comfort level or from a competitive type thing, certain types of guys that maybe bring out the best of you?

VIJAY SINGH: Yes and no. I'm playing with Ernie Els. I have not played with him all year, except at the Mercedes tournament in Kapalua. I get along well with him, and also Mark. But you kind of want somebody who is really intense. You want somebody is not going it talk to you too much so you can focus on your own game. I don't like too much conversation out there on the golf course, anyway because it takes away your -- your real focus on what you are doing. But, I don't really mind who I play with. There's a few guys that I don't want to play with, but if I get paired with them, you know, it's tough. But there's not one particular guy or person.

Q. Do you say at the outset, if you sense that somebody is very chatty, do you actually say to them: "If you don't mind, I'd rather not talk or how do you deal with it?"

VIJAY SINGH: You kind of answer back in one or two words. (Laughter.) And when you do that a few times, they get the message, so, you know. (Laughter.)

Q. "You're away."

VIJAY SINGH: Kind of like that. Yeah, you have to talk to your playing partners, where you're going to tee or something. That's fine. But during real competition while you're walking down the fairway and you're focusing on what you're doing, I don't think you need too much conversation. You and your caddy and that's it.

Q. It's interesting, the different level of success that the European Tour players have had here, versus at Augusta, but not nearly as much as here? What would you attribute that to?

VIJAY SINGH: I think the golf course itself. I think the golf course is set up more like a -- you know, it's tough. It's got long roughs. It's hard and fast greens and Augusta is hard and fast. It's not as open. It's not as wide open as Augusta is. I think the field in the past has been much stronger than at Augusta, as well. I think in all, this is a much tougher golf course in that respect than Augusta is, but Augusta is changing, as well. That's why the winners are changing.

Q. Would you say -- so does it have to do with style of play, what the players are used to, or the actual course and the setup?

VIJAY SINGH: Also, the setup of the golf course is a lot harder this week. It's a lot more -- it's one of the hardest setups we've had for years. Every year, it's been the same. You know, hard and fast, and I don't think the European players really like hard and fast -- well, they do play on links golf courses, but once a year, and they don't run on greens much out there. Once or twice you find that they have unusually fast and hard greens, but playing here in the past, every year it's been really firm. But if you notice if it's wet, the European players have done well. Monty has played well in the past and a few other guys. So watch out this week.

Q. We have seen some really, really good scoring out of a lot of good players this year. With the rains that came down earlier this week, do you think that that could facilitate some lower scoring than we've seen in the last couple of years or do you think the other condition to set up the high rough could mitigate scoring chances?

VIJAY SINGH: I this it is going to be an equalizer this week. It is the length of the golf course. It's going to take away guys hitting short irons to the greens. Again, the greens are so soft, and, you know, when it is wet like this, the fairway actually widens because you don't run out. So that's going to bring in a lot of long hitters; that are going to be hitting longer drives out there and still have short irons in. So, I think it's -- the guys are playing so well nowadays. They can hit 4-woods and 3-irons as good as they hit wedges. If it is not cold, I would say it is going to be a low-scoring tournament for the first two days, and the weekend is obviously going to be tougher. But the first two days, I'm looking to see guys getting up to 12- or 13-, 14-under.

Q. Is there a feeling among the foreign-born players that until you win a tournament in the United States that your golf resume is not complete? And also, what is the biggest adjustment once you make the PGA TOUR your full-time home?

VIJAY SINGH: I was a little different because I won the first year I came out here, and I played in Europe for a long time before coming over here. So, I had already a tour that I was playing at. There's a few guys that are coming off the Australasian Tour and coming through here through the qualifying school. It's hard now to come straight in and try to make a game, because it's tough out there. You know, there's a lot of good players, and I guess they have to just feel comfortable, get together with their friends and they have to make themselves more comfortable in the arena they are in. If they feel very foreign, they are going to have a hard time adjusting to it. But nowadays, the guys are just so -- so good, even the young guys coming out, they don't have any fear. So it's more or less, you know, 'let's just go and play.' That's the attitude that they have been having. That's why you have so much success from the younger guys, too. I think, to my knowledge, they don't really -- it doesn't really affect most young guys anymore. I mean, you never see a guy that's 30 coming on TOUR. It's always young like 25, 26 or even less than that. They don't care and they just come out and play, and if they don't do well, they just go out and try again. It really doesn't matter to them anymore. One tour is as good as the other.

Q. Can you talk about your putting? Statistically, I think you are in the top five or six on TOUR and that has not been the case in the past. And does that make you even more dangerous at Augusta in two weeks if you are putting that much better?

VIJAY SINGH: I really think the way that I am putting right now is the best that I have ever putted. Each week, I get better and better. You know, I'm lining up my putts better and I'm feeling more comfortable. At the start, you know, I was so fortunate to go to it, because I was putting so bad the last year at Memorial, that I've fiddled around with my putting, changed. And I'm glad I did it. I've always been a good putter; I've never been a great putter, but I think that I am becoming a very good putter now. I've had a lot of confidence with my putting, but I just wasn't finding the hole or reading the greens as good as I thought I was. Looking back at all of the top guys, all of the good putters, it's not how good they stroke the ball; how they read the greens, as well. If you have the best stroke and the best speed and you don't read the greens well, you are not going to make a putt. So I think with my eyes changing; I had an operation on my eyes; and changing my style of putting, lining up the ball differently, I think they are all a combination of me putting well. So, I'm really looking forward to this week and the rest of the year.

Q. What has it meant to you going around on the PGA TOUR being introduced as the Masters champion? Has that made it an extra special past 12 months for you?

VIJAY SINGH: I think so. People keep asking me that question. I have never noticed until -- as much as last week, last two days at Bay Hill when they introduce me as the Masters champion. It's a great feeling. It's a feeling that you have one edge over the rest of the guys that you are playing with, or your playing partner. So I try to look over and see what their expressions are, but, you know, it's hard to catch that. (Laughter.) It's a good feeling. I've enjoyed it, and hopefully I'm going to enjoy it again next year.

LEE PATTERSON: Thank you, Vijay. We appreciate it.

End of FastScripts....

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