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February 22, 2005

Tiger Woods


CHRIS REIMER: We welcome two time WGC Accenture Match Play championship winner Tiger Woods. Talk about returning here to LaCosta.

TIGER WOODS: Well, I'm excited to come back and play match play again. This is obviously something that we used to do a lot as amateurs and we don't do as much as pros. It's exciting to have the opportunity again. I don't know if we're going to play on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. Whatever day we start, I'll be ready to go.

CHRIS REIMER: Nick Price was just in here and talked about when you have a match up the No. 2 versus No. 63, the lower seed can play without pressure, has nothing to lose. Any more pressure given that you're the No. 2 seed?

TIGER WOODS: I think when you get into a field like this, I mean, anybody can beat anybody in 18 holes. That's been proven in this match play format time and time again over the years. So these are quality players. I'm playing a three time major championship winner. It's going to be a good fight, and it's going to be a lot of fun.

Q. With this being a match play tournament and the weather reports for this week, how exactly have you mentally prepared for this competition?

TIGER WOODS: Well, you just kind of go back and rehash how the golf course has played in the past. We're not going I'm not going to go out and play it today. I don't think it does any good to play plug golf. Just practice, work on the game, work on some things that I need to clean up a couple of things. I have all day to work on that, which is good. And hopefully we'll get this thing started on time. You have to be ready when it's time to go.

The tournaments I've played on the West Coast so far have been very interesting in that regard. We've had fog delays and rain delays up in LA. It's been one of those things where you've had to be ready to go at a moment's notice.

Q. You had a disastrous last hole on Sunday, and then what happened? You missed the green and then you three putted? Can you describe I know you weren't real happy.

TIGER WOODS: No, I wasn't. I had four over par holes last week, all of them caused by four three putts. If I eliminate my three putts, I'm at 10 under par, or 9 under par. So it's frustrating when that happens.

I hit the ball really well, I just got nothing out of it on the greens, and I just struggled with my speed last week. Hopefully this week it will be different.

Q. Just because of the weather, how much have you been able to practice over the last few days?

TIGER WOODS: I got a chance to play on Sunday, what hole did I start on, 5, on the fairway. So it was basically 14 holes, 13 and a half holes.

Q. That's it since then?

TIGER WOODS: That's it.

Q. Are you concerned about that at all?

TIGER WOODS: No. I mean, I'll get a good practice session in today, work on some things, so I'll be ready to go for tomorrow, and hopefully we'll be able to go tomorrow.

Q. When you were growing up, do you have any memories of Nick Price when he was the world's best player?

TIGER WOODS: Oh, yeah. When he was playing at his best is when I was coming out here as an amateur, about 16, 17, 18 and played in a couple of Tour events here and there, and he garnered all the media attention. He had quite a few people following him every round he played. I played in a Western Open when he was playing really well there. I certainly was aware of how good he was playing.

Q. When did you first meet him?

TIGER WOODS: Good question. I really don't know, I honestly don't know, probably some major. I know I played with him the first round of one of the majors, U.S. Open, I think.

Q. Shinnecock?

TIGER WOODS: Shinnecock, yeah.

Q. Is this tournament more a mental grind or a physical grind? Especially with the rain, you guys don't know when you're going to be playing; last year you had to play 36 holes three days in a row. Which one is more, or is it equally?

TIGER WOODS: If we had to play if Wednesday gets canceled like we did last year, we have to go and continue to play. And if you get all the way to the finals, it's a physical grind. Match play is an emotional roller coaster, because of the momentum switches that can happen in one hole, two holes, and it goes the other way and you have to switch back.

It would be interesting to see if guys would play how long their careers would be shortened if they had to play match play every week.

Q. Would yours be extended?

TIGER WOODS: I don't know. It's a grind, man, I tell you what.

Q. What kind of fate is that, given how flukey and fickle it gets out here to have won two in a row? Are you lucky or good?

TIGER WOODS: Both. Certainly both. I have played matches where I've beat my opponent, and there are matches when I stole one. Last year with John Rollins in the first round I shouldn't have been going on. He outplayed me, but I happened to sneak a couple of holes in the end and sneak out the match. Sometimes that's what it takes. Sometimes you need to have someone make a mistake and give you a match, because you're not going to play well each and every single match, and I certainly haven't.

I've been in the finals three times in this event, and I can't say I've played well in every single match. I've had my share where I haven't played well but just well enough.

Q. Where do you finish last year if it's stroke play, T25?

TIGER WOODS: Probably not that high.

Q. Two years ago?

TIGER WOODS: Two years ago I played really well. I played I don't know how many holes, 50, 60 holes without a bogey.

Q. 108 without a bogey.

TIGER WOODS: That was a different story.

Q. After this event last year is when you decided to make some changes; isn't that right?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I was kind of thinking about it prior to the event, and certainly the way I played, the performance that I laid on this tournament, I needed to change a few things, there's no doubt about it.

Q. A year later you feel good about how much of a different swing you have, and the feelings you have about that swing?

TIGER WOODS: It took me a long time to get a hold of the concepts and things I needed to change, because it is a different philosophy. Any time you make a change like that, it's going to take a long time. It certainly took most of last year. But toward the end of the year I put it together, and it was very exciting. The beginning of this year I've done pretty good.

Q. How much different are the changes you made and applying them than the ones you did after winning The Masters in '97?

TIGER WOODS: The changes that I worked with Butch on, I was already working with Butch prior to that, prior to those changes. Granted, they were more major, but I was still working with the same coach. Now I've completely changed coaches and changed philosophies, so it's been more of a mental challenge because it is a different philosophy. And I think that's been some of the harder things to try to overcome.

Q. What is the change in philosophy?

TIGER WOODS: It's just the positions of the swing and how he believes the club should be released. It's different.

Q. Some people have written about if you're back. I don't know if you've gone anywhere, you've had a lot of events, so I assume you've been to more events. Are you battle tested with this swing, that you feel comfortable with it in any situation?

TIGER WOODS: Uh huh, because I've proven that I can win down the stretch and I've won three times, so it's pretty exciting.

Q. You would had a great amateur record match play, the three Juniors and three U.S. Amateurs. As a kid, did you have to learn to play match play?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, yeah. I remember playing, my first was Southern Cal Junior Match Play over in El Dorado, and I got to the quarters. It was the first time I ever played anything like that, and I was 13 years old. I hadn't a clue. I didn't like the fact that I beat the guy, aggregate, and lost the match. I couldn't understand that concept. And my dad had to sit me down and explain the whole deal; it's not about what you shoot, it's taking each hole as an individual match. You have to win more matches than he does.

Q. It's been said that stroke play is a better test of golf; match play is a better test of character. Do you put anything into that?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, definitely, because you don't really get a test until in a stroke play event, probably down the stretch on Sunday down the back nine. That's when everything tends to happen. But here it's the first hole. It begins right at the very first hole. You can shoot 4 or 5 under par and you're going home. Sometimes that can be disheartening. You go out and play well, but it's not good enough to beat your opponent, but you could beat everyone else in the field that particular day.

You have to understand you just have to suck it up and hit some shots sometimes. And other times you can play conservative, but more than anything you have to be at each and every hole mentally and treat every hole and every shot like it's the whole match.

Q. You play well here, obviously, but do you think that maybe they ought to consider taking this to a place that's more above sea level?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, they've there's been talk about that, yeah, moving it, and try and find a place that we can get some better weather. Whether that's Florida or Arizona, I don't know where they're going to go. But the hard part is Florida is a saturated market, with all the senior events there right now and then all of our events. Also all of the special events, it's kind of hard where are you going to go in Florida?

Q. They have good weather in Australia.

TIGER WOODS: That's true.

Q. Along those lines, this is in the sixth or seventh year now. Do you get any sense that because most of them are in America, and a lot of international players are taking up membership here, that this can flow into the PGA TOUR landscape, some of these events?

TIGER WOODS: What do you mean?

Q. Pebble a few weeks ago, Nissan and Doral, and Honda. You're seeing a lot of these players here.

TIGER WOODS: Right. There is a point to that. I didn't really think of it like that, yeah, yeah, these World Golf Championships are supposed to stand out. Mainly I think because of the unique formats, but also of the congregations of the best players. But the Amex, that's been moved around. This tournament hasn't really moved around.

Q. Do you think it should? Do you think it should go to Europe?

TIGER WOODS: The problem is that what most guys face is it is one match. You could be there for one day.

Q. They face it now.

TIGER WOODS: But a lot of guys are playing on Tour now, so that's the difference. So most of the guys in this event are playing our Tour full time.

Q. How difficult is it to change swing philosophy when you're winning as opposed to when you're struggling? Not you in particular but golfers in general.

TIGER WOODS: It's always difficult. Sometimes you just feel like you need to head into a different direction in order to get better. We've seen guys do it before in the past; Faldo made that drastic change back in his day and had wonderful success, and you've seen other guys do it. But learning to do different things with the golf swing, the plane and release and all those things are new to me. That's been the hard part, because everything was so new. But now that I've got a better understanding of it, I feel like I've got a better grasp of what to do on the golf course at all times.

Q. This is Cliff Brown's last tournament covering golf; he's going to football. I was just wondering, were you involved in talks with the New York Times to move that along?

TIGER WOODS: Bobby, you're a beauty (laughter). All I can say is Cliff's been great. He's been great out here, but thank God he's gone (laughter).

Q. What would you think would be a great match play venue for this? Are there some courses you have in mind that stand out as a perfect place for this type of event?

TIGER WOODS: I'm always going to say a links course. That's just how I think every golf course should be played. But that's just me.

Q. As committed as you were to changing your swing, was there a point last year where you thought, man, I shouldn't have done this, I should have just stayed with what I had? Because obviously what you had was better than most.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, but it's also one of those things don't forget, I had experience in doing this before. To win a match by 12 shots, what are you doing changing your golf shots for? I got a bunch of criticism in '98 and early '99 of why I did that. But the fruits of my labor came on later.

This is very similar. I've been down that road before. Once you make a commitment to something, you stick to it. And I think it's been yeah, did I have some trying times of not hitting the ball well? Yeah. But that's just part of that process. You have to go through those bumps, and I went through them last year but still was able to finish in the top 10, be in contention somehow. I don't know how I did it sometimes. But I was in contention some events. So that was actually a positive in that regard to go through and not play well but still be in contention to win.

Q. Is it harder to retrain the body at 28 to do new things than it was at 22? Is there any difference?

TIGER WOODS: Uh uh. I haven't faced anything like that, no.

Q. Did many people know you were changing your swing or did they just think you were a flash in the pan?

TIGER WOODS: Good question. I really don't know. Guys guys who travel and watched, they were asking why would you be doing something like this. But you could see the process evolve and I think that yet I had a nice amateur career, and I had a nice start to my pro career, but I didn't think that was going to be the swing that would take me for the next 20 or 30 years.

Q. Monty and Fred Couples are two guys that come to mind whose swing has repeated beautifully for their career. Have you ever reached that stage with any of your swings?

TIGER WOODS: Not when I was tinkering with something. I'm always trying to find different ways to get better. I'm not afraid to make changes.

Q. Can you reach a stage with whatever swing it is from week to week or month to month, that it is in a rhythm?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, you get into a rhythm or a groove, but each and every day you're still working on something. Golf is fluid like that. There are going to be changes. From shot to shot, from day to day, your body feels a little different. Temperature might be different, or whatever it may be. You don't go out and hit week after week after week after week and play the same way. There's going to be a little bit of a change in your body and you have to try to adapt for that, and that's just part of playing golf. It is fluid.

Q. Why is it so difficult in golf to maintain optimum performance? Seems like people streak, play well for five tournaments. You put together that long run where it was 27 of 52 that you won. How do you maintain? How much of that is just feeding off of momentum?

TIGER WOODS: You certainly have momentum, you have a bunch of confidence going into those stretches, but still there's so many variables in golf. A simple one that you can't control, you can't control Mother Nature and you can't control your tee times. You get the bad end of the draw and are playing well, but you got the bad end of the draw, something that simple. But then there are days that you don't have it, but you have to somehow figure out the way.

Even where I was going through that stretch where I was playing good golf of five or six years, there were days I hit it God awful, but I somehow managed to get it around in 70, 71, 72, somewhere in there. And there are days when I hit it great and I was able to go low. There are days where you have to somehow manage the score. And I think that's the heart of playing golf is that that's the heart of winning. Even when you're playing well, there are days or stretches for nine holes and all of a sudden you lose your game, and you go oh, my God, how am I going to go.

Q. It's different than football or basketball, I'm guessing, because it's more technical.

TIGER WOODS: It's more of an interacting sport. Here the ball is laughing at you, sitting right there in front of you; it's not moving. It's just, try and hit me where you think you can.

Q. Plus you can't play D?

TIGER WOODS: Very true.

Q. Do you think these would have been good changes to make back in '97 or has it been an evolution to get to this point?

TIGER WOODS: I think it would have been nice to have gone through these changes, but I don't think I would have been as well rounded a player as I am now without having to have gone through what I've gone through. I think learning different shots with Butch and different philosophies has made me a better player overall than if I would have just done this with Hank from the very getgo because I've got so many different ways of playing the game when things aren't going right. I can hit so many different golf shots.

Q. Talk about the difference in motivation to becoming No. 1 for the first time as to trying to get back to being No. 1.

TIGER WOODS: Well, the first time I got there it was exciting because I've never been there before, and it was something I really wanted to have happen, especially when I broke the record for being the youngest to ever do it. That's kind of a cool thing. And this time around I've learned from that experience, what does it take to get there in the first place. It takes winning. That's how I got there in the first place, you have to win. You can't just go out there and finish top 10 every week; you have to pull in W's to get to be No. 1 in the world. I did that in late '96, early '97, then back again in '99. So what it comes down to is putting up the W's.

Q. What are the chances that in five years' time or six years' time you might think I've got to go through another bit of changes? Do you think that won't happen? Are you hoping it won't happen or are you fearing it will?

TIGER WOODS: No, I'm hoping it won't happen. You never know. I didn't figure if you asked me this question six years ago, would I have changed my coach and my swing and my philosophy of the game of golf, would I have done that, and I would have said no. But five, six, seven years from now, I don't know.

Q. Do you think that what you know now might help you if you have to make them in five or six years?

TIGER WOODS: No doubt about that. I've gone through two distinct swing changes in my professional career, not to mention the changes I made with Butch in my amateur career. So, yeah, if I have to make a decision like that sometime down the road, hopefully I won't, but at least I have a background so I can understand where to go.

Q. Do you strictly play the course or strictly play the player? Or you can't get in that mindset, you have to play the course?

TIGER WOODS: No, you have to play both. You have to play what the golf course is giving you, as well as what the opponent you can dictate to them, if you're off the tee first or hitting into the green first, you can dictate what he's going to do, or there are times when you play off of him. Sometimes he might put it in the trees, and you know he's got no shot from there, so you might be more conservative off the tee. Or he dumps it in a bunker, and you don't drive at the green, you have a chance to two putt and hope that will win the hole.

There are so many different scenarios that have to go on, and I think you have to understand it from playing so many matches. And I've played so many matches in amateur golf and then a little bit here in professional golf, but you rely upon all those experiences to get you through a match.

Q. Adam Scott talked last year that he was surprised at your demeanor, that you gave him the stare and didn't talk very much. Do you change your demeanor depending on who you're playing? Tomorrow you're playing a veteran, and that type of thing.

TIGER WOODS: No, I get in my little world. I've always done that. We can be friends afterwards, that's fine. When I played my good buddy Mark O'Meara in the finals at Wentworth, I didn't say a word to him. And he's like one of my big brothers, you know. So that's the way it is. I'm a competitor and I get in my own little world, and I'm here to beat you, that's it. And we can go out to dinner and have drinks afterwards, but this is my time to compete.

End of FastScripts.

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