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June 14, 2005

Tiger Woods


RAND JERRIS: It is a pleasure to welcome Tiger Woods to the interview area this afternoon. Tiger is the winner of eight USGA national championships, including the 2000 and 2002 U.S. Opens.

Tiger, you finished 3rd here at Pinehurst back in 1999. If you could start us off with some general comments about how your game may have changed in the intervening years and how that might affect your approach to the golf course this week.

TIGER WOODS: I'm certainly longer than I was back then, thanks to technology. They've lengthened a few holes out there, but still, with the added yardage of our technology now, we're driving in the same spot, so it doesn't really matter.

The golf course is playing a little bit more difficult this year with the rough. It seems like it's higher, thicker, the ball seems to be settling down in the bottom every single time. You're not going to get a ball where you can have it sit up where you can put the ball on the green quite comfortably. Putting the ball in play is going to be at a premium trying to call the balls into the greens. The areas around the greens are nowhere as good as they were in '99, a little bit more the ball is bouncing a little bit more, it's not rolling as smooth. But everyone has got to deal with it.

Q. With the backdrop of the USGA here, you've been playing in USGA events for a long time and had a lot of success. Can you give us one memory of anything from any of the Juniors, the '91, '92 or '93, anything stick out when you think back on those three championships that you won?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah. I mean, the first every one of my amateurs, whether it's a Junior or the Men's Amateur, and every single final match I was down. So all six matches I was down, and somehow came around and ended up winning the match. So that's kind of a cool stat, that I was able to somehow turn that around into a victory.

But playing that many matches, anything can happen and has happened. I've had some good times at Bay Hill, first time I really dealt with humidity. Now I'm living in that area. It's been a pretty cool ride, playing all amateur events. I'll tell you what, though, when you're a junior, that was the event to play in, the U.S. Junior, and when you get old enough to play in the Men's Amateur, that's the biggest event, that's what you always want to play in and hopefully win.

I was fortunate to have won it six times.

Q. Could you articulate in your own words what makes this course so different, so much fun and corollary to that what your shot options are in your mind when you get around the greens, how tough this course is say from 30 yards and in?

TIGER WOODS: Well, it's different this year than it was in '99 around the greens. As I said, the grass isn't as filled in. It's not as manicured, not as perfect, so the ball is bouncing a bit, and it seems like you're not getting quite as good a lie. A putter may not always work, so I think you're going to see quite a few guys use utility woods or maybe like a 4 iron or something like that and kind of run it along the ground.

One of the things that I've kind of looked at this year which was kind of interesting was the sod lines. The sod lines are coming into effect. So if you hit a bump and run, you land it in that little area where it's been sodded, it bounces differently each and every time. So one time it might hit soft in a sandy spot, another time might get up on the green and go over. Unfortunately it's going to require a little bit of luck this week and see what kind of bounces you get. But then again, premium is always on ball striking at a USGA, and more so here. You have to hit the ball well, put the ball on the green and have it stay on the green.

I mean, that's going to be the key. I think the guy who hits the most greens is probably going to have either be the winner or be right there with a chance on the back nine.

Q. You talked about the ball going straight down in the rough. Can you talk about your confidence level off the tee and how difficult or how have you found getting out of the rough so far?

TIGER WOODS: I feel very good. I've hit the ball quite well this week, practice sessions last week were really positive. I played pretty good at Memorial, so coming in here I'm feeling pretty good.

The rough here, I mean, I played here last Monday, and it was like, "what rough?" You hit 9 iron on the green and have it stop, no big deal. Now you're hoping to advance a 9 iron or wedge down the fairway so you can get it up and down. It's grown quite a bit in a week. It'll be interesting to see what happens.

I don't know if the tournament committee is going to cut it down or level it out any more than it is now or if they're going to let it continue to grow as the week continues. But in either case, getting the ball to the green is not an easy task.

Q. 13 months ago you and your father took a trip to Fort Bragg where he served. Will you reflect on the meaning and value of that trip to North Carolina and the fun you had and do you keep in touch with any of your sky diving buddies you made that week?

TIGER WOODS: No, unfortunately I don't. It was a trip of a lifetime for me, to see my father's group every time the group no longer exists in the Green Berets, so to see the group there, to see some of the guys my dad served with in Nam, that was pretty cool, them telling stories about my dad and how difficult he used to be. I would say, "Yeah, I can relate to that" (Laughter). It's pretty cool to hear stories of my dad in combat and what they did, and those are things from a perspective that I never got. I only got my dad's perspective and he didn't disclose a lot. He didn't tell a lot of military stories. The only stories he told were snakes and stuff like that. He never really told me a lot of the combat situations they were put into. Some of these guys were telling me some pretty hairy situations they were in, and my dad leading the unit, which was pretty cool to hear those stories.

For me, to go there and see what our Armed Services, men and women, do for our country, man, they work their tails off to have for us to have an opportunity to do what we do, to feel safe. Hats off to them because they bust their butts every day just so we can have the lifestyles that we have. I can't thank them enough.

Q. This is your 10th year on Tour. You're still the only African American on Tour. I'm wondering, are you disappointed in that? And what do you think can be done to integrate the Tour and all the other Tours more?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it's am I disappointed? Yeah, I thought there would be more of us out here, but then again, it's a matter of getting enough players you've got to have a base big enough. At the junior level there are some players with some talent. But as you continue to play throughout golf and continue to move up in levels, you know, the process of screening kind of weeds them out. It's hard to make it out here. It's not easy. A lot of these kids don't have the opportunity to practice and play and complete around the country in junior golf events or individual amateur events. I've seen enough of them now in college, so I'm excited about that, getting an education, getting an opportunity to further themselves from that aspect, but I don't see we don't have a big enough base for them to have an opportunity to get out here, when you'd have more players at the ground levels just getting introduced to the game, kids, and hopefully that will facilitate more African American players out here.

Q. Mentioning your dad, in terms of past Opens, do the two of you share a memory from a past Open, and how difficult is it playing on Father's Day weekend without him here?

TIGER WOODS: It's one of those things where he hasn't been to any of my U.S. Open victories. He's just been at home and watched them. It's always special to compete on Father's Day and then to have an opportunity to be lucky enough to win one of these and to be able to share it with him. I've gone home with the trophy and we shed a tear together, and it's a very special time. My dad was the reason why I was introduced to the game of golf, and to share Father's Day with him and call up in the morning and say, "Hey, pop, I'm going out there.," He says, "Just go out there and take care of business like you always do. What's your game plan?" And I tell him what I'm going to do on every hole and we run through it together, just like we always do. That's special, man.

Q. My question to you, sir, is with the high dollar sponsorships, the constant media attention and the high demands from fans, are you still having as much fun as you did, say, when you were 19, 20 years old?

TIGER WOODS: To be honest with you, I'm having more fun now. A love playing. I love competing. I love the thrill of the hunt, getting out there and competing and trying to win a tournament. That's a rush, man. To me, that is as fun as fun gets. I enjoy going home and practicing and preparing just like I always have. I still even to this day emulate whether it's Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer or Lee Trevino late in the evening, okay, Trevino is on the green, Palmer hits his shot on the green, Tiger Woods has a chance to win another one. I still do it, even to this day. It's how I grew up, and you never let those childhood dreams ever go away. That's what got you here.

Q. Do you ever emulate Annika?

TIGER WOODS: If I could hit it that straight, man (laughter).

Q. You obviously won The Masters and twice other times against very strong fields, and yet you get a sense out there that people aren't sure which Tiger is going to show up at a tournaments. Why do you think that is?

TIGER WOODS: I don't know. This entire year, from what people have said and what I've read so far, it's been kind of amazing, looks like I haven't won a tournament this year. If I read some of the stuff, it looks like I have no game left so I might as well quit and retire. I won a major this year, that's pretty good.

I like my chances. I've been playing well. This entire year has been a process of just an evolution of getting better. I'm excited about this opportunity this week.

I know some of the guys doubt whether or not I can win a tournament or not, but I've had that doubt before and it'll always continue.

Q. There's been a lot of time spent the last couple of years talking about rivalry, that golf seems to think is it a reach to think maybe now the best rivalry you have would be with Annika and the friendship that you guys have developed, she likes to needle you? I understand that first thing she did after winning Sunday was massage you with "Now I have nine"?

TIGER WOODS: It wasn't even that, it was just "9 9".

Q. Is there some motivation now there to match a friend?

TIGER WOODS: Always. It's fun. I gave her a bunch of crap for a while because she hadn't won as many majors as I have, as well as Player of the Years and all that kind of stuff. Eventually she just kind of surpassed me on tournament victories. She's got me by, what, 20? I always say you're a little bit older than I am, so give me time.

But still, it's fun to give her the needle every time I get a chance because she gives it right back to me.

Yeah, we have a great friendship and one I certainly treasure because to see what she's doing out there, it's a lot of fun to watch because it's precise golf. Her focus, her determination, her preparation over the winter months, people don't realize how hard she works. We worked on our short games together this fall. You can't believe how hard she works. She didn't get to this level by just hoping she could play well. She went out and worked and took it to another level. It's been great fun to be a spectator of that and to be able to watch it.

Q. Has there ever been occasion where you thought, "I've got to work a little harder" because of what she's done?

TIGER WOODS: I don't know if I can work harder than I do. If you could see my day at home and what it consists of, you'd be interested (laughter).

Q. You've talked about the rough. What about shot selections off the tees, drivers, number you're going to be using, and can you go at No. 3?

TIGER WOODS: Well, depends on the wind on No. 3 and the pin location. Let's put it this way, No. 3 the USGA doesn't exactly set up the pins very easy, and on that hole there really isn't an easy pin. Yeah, you can go for the green, but if you place the ball in the wrong spot, you're hoping to make par on a hole that if you hit a 4 iron and a wedge in there, you're licking your chops at making birdie. There's a risk/reward there certainly.

I can't get there unless I have a little bit of help, so I need to have the wind turn the right direction for me to get there. I don't know if that's really the play, just put the ball in the fairway just like you do on every other hole and move on, unless the situation is pretty good and I feel real good. A front pin, you might take a look at it, at taking a drive down there, if it's front right. I think back in '99 one day I believe it was five and five, five on, five from the right, and I took a go at it then in '99 and put it in the front bunker, and I don't know what I made on the hole but I ended up putting it in the front bunker.

What was the rest of your question?

Q. Shot selections off the tees.

TIGER WOODS: Off the tee, yeah, I hit either 2 iron or seems to be driver. I don't hit a whole lot of 3 woods here for some reason. Just the holes don't really shape up that way. They're either 400 yards where it's either a 2 iron and a 9 iron or they're 490 where if you hit 3 wood off the tee, you're leaving yourself a 4 iron or 3 iron into these things and you need to get that ball down there.

Some of the holes, it seems to be either 400 yards or 470 plus. Very rare that you find a hole somewhere in between. The only hole I saw out there was 18, and it's, what, 440?

Q. Can you talk about your feelings about playing with Chris the first two days and just relate your memories about the way he played against you in that final Sunday at The Masters.

TIGER WOODS: The second part to your question is very simple. We had a great match, a great match. It was a lot of fun. We both played at a pretty high level that entire 18 holes. We both hit the ball well, both putted well. He missed a few putts on the front nine, but he hit good putts. It was just a great match to go head to head like that and we separated ourselves so we didn't have to worry about anybody else. It's very rare that you have an opportunity to do that, and that was one of those opportunities.

As far as playing with him this week, those first two days, I don't think he really cares and I don't care. We've got a lot of work ahead of us to take care of our own game and our own stuff. You don't really worry about who you're paired with, you just try to get there on Sunday so you've got a chance at this thing.

Q. Even though you have what we all call the Tiger Slam and whatnot and it is early in this game, one under your belt, is there still a part of you that burns to win all four of them in one year, and obviously you're focused on this tournament this week, but do you ever look ahead? Obviously you've had great success at St. Andrews; do you allow yourself to peek ahead on that a little bit?

TIGER WOODS: No (laughter). I mean, you don't look at it that way. Why would you look at it that way? You're trying to prepare for one tournament at a time, whatever tournament you've entered. Right now it's this week. After that I'll try and win in Chicago. After that I'll try to win in Scotland. That's how you prepare. I don't see how you would ever look ahead like that.

Q. It's not a goal of yours to win all four in one year?

TIGER WOODS: It would be nice to win all four in one year, but I've seen all four on my mantle and no one else can say that.

Q. No one else has seen your mantle.

TIGER WOODS: That's a good point (laughter).

Q. Is there a specific reason that you don't like playing the week before a major, or is it just a matter of personal preference? And then being that last week was at Congressional, was there any thought about maybe playing that one?

TIGER WOODS: Certainly it was a great chance, probably like a 90 percent chance I would have played if it wasn't held at Pinehurst. This U.S. Open is so different around the greens that Congressional is a great U.S. Open venue, but it's not Pinehurst. No place really is, so how can you prepare? We have a few holes at home at Isleworth where the greens are very similar in shape and I did quite a bit of work on those. But I think it's just personal preference because I know if I play a tournament, if you get a rain delay and get rained out, I mean, there goes a whole day of practice. I can always either practice at home if there's rain coming, I can fly to Dallas and practice in Dallas with Hank. If you play a tournament you're locked in and once you're locked in you're trying to win that event, and then it could go to Monday, which Atlanta has before, and there goes your preparation in getting ready for a major championship and being prepared.

Q. You played with Luke Donald on the first two rounds. Is it fair to say he's probably the best choice for a European candidate this week?

TIGER WOODS: The way he plays and the way he plods along, I think he's got the greatest chance, yes.

RAND JERRIS: Tiger, thanks for your time this afternoon, and good luck this week.


End of FastScripts.

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