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March 8, 2000

Vijay Singh


NELSON LUIS: Let's go ahead and get started. We have got Vijay Singh, obviously the winner from last year's Honda Classic. Ranked Top-20 in the money list each of the last five years. This year obviously getting off to another good start, two top 10s. Talk a little bit about your thoughts coming back here to defend your Honda Classic Championship.

VIJAY SINGH: Yeah, I mean, I played last week in Doral. It is good to be back in some warm climate again, no rain. Bermuda fairways and the greens are different. I love playing in Florida because I live in Jacksonville; it is nice to be home. It is just feels like I am more comfortable here than the West Coast and enjoy playing here.

Q. There is some players who think this course -- they call it a boring layout. But I am assuming after your great finishes the last two years you don't necessarily consider it boring; you have had a good time here; have you?

VIJAY SINGH: The golf course is, if you ask anybody outside over here, may not be in one of the top-tens, but the conditions are very difficult when you play. Although the golf course is, like you said, maybe a little boring, but with the wind blowing from different directions every day and pretty strong, it can be a very good test of golf like it showed last day last year, so you need to hit some decent shots coming in if the wind blows. That is what makes the golf course so different than the rest. No wind, you will be shooting the lights out, but when the wind blows, it becomes a good test of golf. Like last week, four days the wind didn't blow and the guys shot very, very low scoring. I think if I go out there in the morning and play this golf course without any wind, I'd say just another golf course. With strange winds, cross bunkers come into play, it is hard to hole on the greens. Like I played yesterday, the greens are really firmer here than last week and firmer than actually anywhere I have played this year. It is going to be a pretty good test of golf if the wind blows like it did last year.

Q. How much does the excitement of the course play into your decision, or a player's decision in general about whether they are going to come and play an event, you know, would that really be a big factor? Will somebody say this course is boring; I am not coming; that alone, will that keep --

VIJAY SINGH: Plays a very important role, yes. If you look at the field over here it is not as strong as what other tournaments are, but then again, also the scheduling, coming off the West Coast like last week and the World Championship, that also deters guys from coming over here. This golf course, like you said, it is not one of the Top-10 of a lot of players, so that also makes the decision if they are going to come and play here. The golf course is not bad. I quite enjoy playing it. I have played it every year it has been over here and I think I will be coming here every time too because I love Florida and I love playing over here.

Q. If somebody had success year after year they are going to keep coming back?

VIJAY SINGH: That is true. Even if I hadn't won, I probably would have come here . I love playing this Florida swing.

Q. Talk about your preparation as the Tour moves up Florida towards The Masters?

VIJAY SINGH: I have got the next two weeks after this and then I have big tournament. I think for me the biggest tournament before The Masters is TPC, that is for a lot of players out here. TPC is very important tournament for all the pros. Big venue, big money, good exemption, five-year exemption if you win there. I like playing TPC and that is probably one of my favorite tournaments on the Tour. That is the biggest tournament, I think before The Masters. After TPC I get a week off; then play The Masters. I am really gearing it up towards the TPC more than The Masters right now.

Q. Are you more selective these days with the tournaments that you enter than you would have been, say, five years ago because of the World Golf Championship events and higher profiled of some of the majors and the TPC?

VIJAY SINGH: Maybe next few years I will do that, but right now my schedule has been the same as the last year and the year before. I have played the same amount of tournaments last year and I have done the same this year. I enjoy playing. I have played 30, 31 tournaments a year and that is a lot of tournaments a lot of people say, but I love playing. What do you do when you go home? You are going to have two days rest and go play again. I'd rather be out here playing. I enjoy playing. Just part of me to go out there and play golf tournaments. With the scheduling part, I have cut-down a lot of tournaments after the British Open, or after the PGA really. I cut down my tournaments over here but before that, I played as many as I can.

Q. What is your opinion on how they have set up the stadium course for THE PLAYERS Championship last four five years?

VIJAY SINGH: I think weather dictates a lot out there. If it gets rainy you cannot really do anything about it. The golf course is going to be playing really soft and you are going to shoot a lot of low scores. And the windy conditions, if the wind blows TPC has got a tough test of golf, plus the greens are going to be firm and fast, like last year, a lot of players really complained about Saturday's round or Friday afternoon that the course got impossible. That really dictates what the weather is going to do. They had the wrong information with the weather. I spoke to the superintendent; he was pretty disappointed about the comments he had heard because he did the best he could to get the golf course the way it was supposed to be. I thought it was okay but a lot of players would argue with me about that. 17th hole is more balls in the water than any other year, but I told the guys, I said, you put the pin up front on 17, how many guys are going to hit it over the back. Probably never get anybody hitting over the back. Club selection is very important there. I think they set up the golf course according to the conditions they have for the last -- right now the golf course is set up really, really perfect, I think. If you go out and play there right now you can say you could probably have a tournament right away. You never know what is going to happen come tournament days, wind could start blowing, starts raining, then the conditions change.

Q. When do you start mentally preparing for the Masters and what do you think about your record at Augusta National?

VIJAY SINGH: My record is really terrible. I think it is the worst out of the majors, but I have a different attitude going to the Masters now. I think the golf course, the little changes they have done to the golf course is really good. I think I can play well there. I have always left a very negative view, if I play The Masters -- this year I am going with a very positive attitude. I think I am going to go there and play well and hopefully win. That is the attitude I think I should have going to the Masters instead of really disappointed when I arrive there with the greens and how fast and how hard the greens get. I am going to try to enjoy it more than the previous years.

Q. Is the greens basically the thing that has been holding you back there?

VIJAY SINGH: I think so. I think if you have -- if you are not comfortable on the greens then you are never going to be able to play that golf course. And previous years I have been over there and I have a difficult putt and just almost throw in the towel. But in the last year I did pretty decent, I thought, and this year I am going to do better than that because I am putting much better than I have ever done and that is a good attitude to have when you go into The Masters because my ball-striking, I will hit a lot of greens, but yet come out there shooting over pars.

Q. What happened over the weekend at Doral last week? I know you had 65, 67, or something like that the first two days?

VIJAY SINGH: I started off pretty good on the weekend. I birdied 1 and 3; got to 14 and if you look at it, if I left -- if I don't make a bogey or par -- bogey or birdie, I would have been 14, still fine, I would have finished in the Top-10. I just hit a bad shot on No. 4 and just everything just went downhill. I tried -- I started forcing to make birdies. When you try to do that, you are going to make mistakes. I think it was a good learning thing for me that you got to still have patience, you know, going to the weekend, if you make a double in the early part of the round, the tournament is not over. I try to force it. I tried to catch the leader. He was making birdies and I was making bogeys. Just kept getting wider and wider; all of a sudden, you know, 8, 9 shots behind him, ten shots behind him. I just -- and on Sunday I started off badly and just played bad.

Q. What has been the history of your victories on Sunday, have you -- how many of them have been like last year where you came from behind?

VIJAY SINGH: Last year was only one.

Q. So you played with the lead in the other victories?

VIJAY SINGH: Yeah, when I am in the lead or close to it I normally play pretty good. That means I am playing well. Very few times that I come off 5, 6 back to win. This is the only one that I can think of.

Q. Given the conditions that we had Sunday here, was that the best final round you have shot in a victory?

VIJAY SINGH: I probably did that, yeah, but you got to realize that I never one time thought that I was going to win the golf tournament because going through the turn, although I was up there, the leader was still five shots ahead of me. He, fortunately for me, he played bad on the back nine and I won the golf tournament. If he had played a little half decent, he would have won the golf tournament, but he was -- my good playing and his bad playing kind of caused me to win. I did play well, I never made a mistake coming back, coming on the back nine, so that -- with the windy conditions that helped a lot and making the birdie on the 15th hole, I think, that was the key for the tournament right there. Hitting a driver to a par 3 I have never done that for a long, long time. Putting it on green and making the putt was a big turnaround.

Q. Why do you think -- there have been so many examples like that and Tiger a couple of weeks ago and Jim last week, guys making these comebacks from 5, 6 shots down, with nine holes to play, been happening a lot lately?

VIJAY SINGH: You see the collapse of the leaders. If you look at Woods playing, Mickelson in San Diego, Mickelson, although he was the leader by a lot, he crumbled; then he picked himself up. And then at the end was very comfortable in the golf tournament. Last week, Furyk, although he played a great back nine, played 30 on the back nine, but if the leader had not made a bogey, he would have won by two shots. Really depends on how good a guy behind plays and how the leader plays. If the leader just holds his head and plays consistent with 6-, 7-shot lead, you cannot lose. It is almost impossible to, so.... That is why things happen. I mean, you get intimidated a lot when you see a guy making birdies up there and that really dictates how you are going to play. You get into a very negative view, a very conservative play and that is where the mistakes come. You keep aggression going; you are going to make -- you are going to hit good shots. Once you get thinking about your shots, mistakes are going to happen. I know that. If you stand over your shot, stand there and hit without thinking about it, just thinking of the target then you are going to hit a good shot. But if you start thinking about a lot of other factors involved - if I make bogey here, he is going to probably make a birdie and two-shot swing - that is when you make mistakes. That is what happened to Franklin last week.

Q. A lot of these examples you are talking about you got Tiger, you last year, do you think some of these guys who haven't won make a mistake or two and all of a sudden look up at the leaderboard they see Vijay Singh or Tiger Woods or Jim Furyk close; do you think that was on their mind?

VIJAY SINGH: Right, that is the intimidating factor coming into the last few holes. If a guy finishes -- Furyk was playing with him. That is even worse if Furyk is making a lot of birdies. Furyk made a birdie on 13 and that is a big -- that is like a 2-shot swing on the whole field. Then he birdied, I think, every other hole after that. You start doing that and playing with a guy who is leading, he is going to -- bound to make mistakes. He is going to get a little -- he is going to think about it -- every time he takes a shot he is going to think about what he is going to do. That is not very good.

Q. When did you start working with Dave Pelz and how has he helped you with your short game and putting?

VIJAY SINGH: Dave and me, we worked, I think three years ago, four years ago I went up to Colorado where he has got a place and he has worked on my mind more than anything else. It is how you think, how you have to approach the shots because technique-wise I think I am pretty sound. It is just good to talk to Dave and see what his views are and what mistakes, you know, comes from what. I saw him on Monday last week and he helped me a lot. It is good to be able to talk to somebody on a specific part of your game because if that is the part that I am having problems with, it just gives you that much more confidence, what you need to do when the circumstances are really tense. He helped me a lot. A few shots last week, I would just be 30 yards over the bunker and you just kind of think back on what he was telling you, and I just stood over the shot and executed it pretty good.

Q. Do you think you have become a better putter since you have been with him?

VIJAY SINGH: He walked around nine holes with me on Tuesday and he saw a few things that I was doing -- wasn't bad, but it wasn't correct either. So a little tweaking here and there and that gives you a lot of confidence when you stand over a putt and you know, hey, this is what I need to do and not this is what I don't have to do. It goes a long ways, little things like that.

Q. Sounds like even though you practice a lot, you have all these practice habits that you are still learning a lot about your game?

VIJAY SINGH: You learn every time. Everyday you go out there you are going to learn something. Yesterday I went out there and Rick Smith was walking around with Gary Nicklaus and I walked off and on with Rick Smith for a while too. All he is going to tell you is one little point in the golf swing where you say, wow, that is that what I am doing wrong. Is that what I am supposed to do. Little pointers like that, they help -- they can make you win in the same week, so....

Q. On the 17th hole at TPC, is that a very unique hole for you guys on Tour and if so, what is special about that?

VIJAY SINGH: If I had gone out there and played on a practice day, I can probably hit 100 balls and not miss a green (laughs), but in tournament case you get a little wind from the left -- only a 9-iron and little wedge-all you see is that little piece of green in the middle of the water. You know if you miss it you are going to hit another one from where you are, so I mean, it is just intimidating. You don't really think about it, but in the back of your mind if you just miss-hit it, you are going to hit it in the water, that is probably what so unique about that hole.

Q. Is it one of the most intimidating that you all play?

VIJAY SINGH: I think it is when you start shooting for the flags. That hole last year everyday I hit it right in the middle of the green and I was -- I had no fear of going in the water except when the pin was up front, you know, you are only hitting a wedge where you can go for the flag more. But if you look at all consistent players, veteran players, you may call it, they will hit in the middle of the green. If you hit in the middle of the green you are only going to have a 20-footer, longest putt you are going to have. That is the thought I think everybody should have.

Q. Is it more intimidating than 12 at Augusta?

VIJAY SINGH: I think so. Augusta you can blow it over the green. There you cannot do that. You have to pick the right club at TPC too. If the wind blows then it is probably one of the hardest par 3s that you can play. I have hit 5-irons into that green. It is only 130, 135 yards to the middle of the green so you can see the wind blows, you just miss-hit it or if you hit it too low, it goes right through the wind and you are going to have another drop (laughs).

Q. Do you want the wind to blow this week and make it more severe and if so, why?

VIJAY SINGH: I think the golf course I think you will see a lot of -- the golf course is designed to have wind, put it this way. If you have no wind on the golf course it will be a very low scoring tournament. I like a little bit of wind. I don't like a hurricane to blow, but 10, 15 mile an hour wind is sufficient for a golf course like this. If the blows like that I think you are going to have the better players performing better in conditions like that.

Q. Is it frustrating when people like Augusta National, PGA TOUR, when you guys get to a course or a tournament where you shoot a lot of low scores and all of a sudden everybody is - well, we have got to make this tougher; anything necessarily wrong with you guys, your guys skills resulting in a lot of low scores?

VIJAY SINGH: No, I mean, like I didn't think Doral played that easy last week. For example. The winning score was 23-under, that is a record, I didn't think the course played that easy. The guys must be playing well to be able to shoot that low scores. They went overboard with widening the fairways and given more room; plus with no wind I think the guys nowadays are playing a lot better than they did four, five years ago. Players are more fit; playing more; exercise more; practice more; equipment and golf balls they can do things with it. Now I remember when a few guys out there that couldn't hit the ball with any spin. Now you can change the ball and get all the spin you want. That makes a lot of difference. I have spoke to Azinger, the ball he is using now he can spin the ball without any problem. He can hit it high, and low, equipment has a lot to do with it too. It is going to get better and better.

NELSON LUIS: Thank you very much for your time. Good luck out there this week.

End of FastScripts….

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