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January 23, 2005

Tiger Woods


Q. Welcome Tiger Woods to the interview area. Tiger, after a long day and a long week, but a great week for you, just talk about the returning to the winner's circle again.

TIGER WOODS: It feels great, especially today, as long as it was. The start I kind of got off to this morning, it wasn't very good, but I hung in there. I just felt like I just needed to stay around. This golf course is so difficult, anything can happen. And I wasn't feeling all that comfortable with my swing today. But I kind of just grinded around. Worked on my short game, it was beautiful today, and I made a lot of par putts, which I needed to do, especially there on 15. That was a big putt.

Q. Talk about the playing with Tom Lehman.

TIGER WOODS: Like I said out there, I think that Tom probably outplayed me today. He hit it wonderful all day. We played 31 holes, or he played 32 holes. But he hit it beautifully all day. It just came down basically to surviving and making a couple of putts, and I happened to make a couple bombs on him and hung around.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: 18, I hit a perfect drive down there. Tom laid up. I had 240 to the hole. I was just trying to hit a 2 iron and tried to put it on the right edge of the green somewhere. And trying, if anything, hit it hard and hit the flag high or be on. That's what I was trying to do. And I absolutely whiffed it. Luckily, I hit it bad enough. I also hit it good enough where I hit it where I was trying to put it, so it worked out okay.

Q. You were aiming to the right side of the green?

TIGER WOODS: I was aiming to the middle to cut it over to the right somewhere. Even if I hit it into the gallery it doesn't matter, as long as I don't hit it in the water.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: It's either trying to hit up the right side or just blow it into the gallery, in the grandstand. One of those two things I was trying to do.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: It's only 240. I hit a 4 iron over there on 16 that went about 237 to the back edge. I figured two more yards I could do that. I didn't do a very good job.

Q. When you went into the back nine, did you have any sort of number in mind?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I felt if I shot a 32 I would win the tournament, but obviously I don't know what I shot on the back nine 35. Obviously I didn't do it. But I also snuck it out. Luke made a couple mistakes ahead of us and it came down to Tom and I. Tom made that one crucial mistake there on 17, which hurt his chances.

It basically came down to, for me, I wasn't hitting it all that great, but I was just trying to survive with my short game. Got up and down just about every time, except on 11 there, but other than that I felt my short game carried me.

Q. What does it say about the state of your game (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: I didn't hit it my best. There's no doubt about that. I felt good enough where my mechanics were sound enough now that I could place my misses. That's the difference, is I can place my misses. All of a sudden I started driving better with my driver this afternoon, but my iron game was sporadic. I would hit 2 or 3 good shots right in a row and then hit a terrible golf shot.

I always missed in the correct spot. I never short sided myself. And I think that's the difference, I was able to miss the ball in the proper spots again and give myself the best chance to get up and down or to make birdies.

Q. Is it safe to say it was a different kind of round and a different kind of struggle than last year?

TIGER WOODS: There's no doubt about it. Now I know what to do, what to fix and how to fix it out there. To come down the stretch like that, and I finally hit some really good drives all of a sudden on the back nine when I really needed to.

The only really bad shots I hit were with my 2 iron, which is usually my staple. I had a hard time getting that thing in play. So I'd step up there and hit driver and feel totally confident I could put it in the fairway and I was able to do it. That's huge.

Q. (Inaudible) does winning in that manner mean anything to you?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I hit it great at Mercedes and lost. I didn't hit it good here and won. It comes down to making putts. I hit it close enough this week. I had some opportunities to make putts and I did. I think the whole key to the way I played this week is I missed the ball in the correct spots again. That's the key, is that I always had the correct angle. I never short sided myself all week.

Q. You talk about trusting your swing. (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: 17 was the perfect number for me, 170 to the hole and it was a normal 7 iron. I was just trying to aim it up the gap in the middle and hit a nice bleeder up there. It was a number that I felt comfortable that I could carry the bunker with no problem, I could carry to the hole, and it came off just the way I wanted to. I went up there and unfortunately I missed the putt. That would have sealed the deal there, but I didn't make it. I almost had the shot.

Q. 18?

TIGER WOODS: 18 I was hitting a low cut out there and put it in play and at least give myself a chance to go for it in two. If Tom were to put the ball in play, could he get there in two, because they did put the tee box up today. I felt if I put my ball in play I would outdrive Tom, so I could react if he knocked the ball on the green in two.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: It's all different, each and every day is different. Each and every shot is different. It depends what I'm trying to do. Like the other day, I was drawing everything, couldn't cut it. Hell with the cut, just drew everything. Today I couldn't draw anything, I hit my cut.

You've got to feel what's giving it to you. Some days, like the first day, for the life of me, I could not hit the ball low. I was hitting everything straight up in the air. I went with it and it went okay. And today everything was on the deck. You have to play it by ear.

Q. 3 iron (inaudible) what was the first thing that hit your mind?

TIGER WOODS: 2 iron. As soon as I made contact, it was thin and hollow. I was hoping I would slice it over in the gallery somewhere. It kind of straightened out. Hmmm, just don't straighten out, or the wind would blow it over a bit more. But it ended up okay.

Q. 31 holes today (inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: I was tired. Normally I'm not that tired when I finish. After this morning's round, I was tired then. I'm tired now. Losing that much weight for me, I just don't have the stamina. But I walked slower this afternoon. The play, since we're playing threesomes it helped even more because I knew play would be a little bit slower. So I took my time and just tried to keep myself fed and try to eat as much as I possibly could to keep my energy.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: No, I felt it kind of hurt, because I was right in a nice little rhythm, just made a nice bomb on 6. I piped it on in 6. And come on, let's go, let's keep this thing rolling. I could have hit, but I couldn't see where I was going. I couldn't see an outline of a fairway. I couldn't see a bunker on the left side. We couldn't see trees on the right. So I lost my aim. We kind of played the four corners right there and it worked out okay.

Q. You won other places besides on Tour recently. Does it seem a long time (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: It's hard to believe it's been that long to win on our Tour, but it feels great. To have won the big win for me was in Japan. To finally put all the pieces together and go over there and play that well and win, that solidified everything. And I felt just continue what you're doing, and I've played well ever since.

Q. What time did you get here this morning?

TIGER WOODS: I'm staying right here. I got up this morning at 4:50.

Q. How crazy was it with the fog in and out (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: How about just the week? You had to be so patient. I just kept saying to myself, everyone has got to deal with it. It's not like you got a bad draw, because we're all about the same time. Everybody has got to deal with it. Stand on the tee, wait, sorry, fog is coming in. Get back off. That kind of thing. I took advantage of it one time where I could go home and just take a nap, basically recharge.

Q. Did you ever feel it was unfair today?

TIGER WOODS: No. Each and every group has an opportunity to call an official and stop it if they can't see. We couldn't see on 7. And from what I hear, 14 was impossible. The funny part is you could hear Mark Russell on the radio saying the Bob Hope starts on Wednesday. Get these guys playing. That part was pretty funny.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: Yes, nobody likes a Monday finish. I've had my share of Monday finishes. The only time you're probably excited about a Monday finish is the U.S. Open.

Q. At what point, did you realize that you and Luke were in the lead (inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I didn't know that Luke had made a mistake until 17. I was walking up to the green. I didn't see a leaderboard. It must not have been updated. I knew he was only one back. He was on 14 at the time. I didn't see a leaderboard for like two holes, so I never saw what he did. I assumed that he made that putt there on 17 for birdie, because they cheered pretty hard. And then I looked at the board and he was 13 now. From then on I knew it was just Tom and I. I could just focus on Tom.

Q. Did you see or hear what happened to Charles Howell?

TIGER WOODS: No, what happened?

Q. (Inaudible) it shot out in the water.

TIGER WOODS: Are you serious? With a wedge? Wow.

Q. He chipped in for bogey?

TIGER WOODS: He chipped in for bogey, too? Wow. That's very interesting.

Q. (Inaudible) Ryder Cup captain. Did you ever talk to him about that (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: Not at all. I guess we had an opportunity to talk about it this morning, but neither one of us were in the mood. We both were focusing on what we needed to do for today. Out there being uncomfortable, no. We were out there as competitors and he's trying to beat my brains in and I'm trying to beat his in.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: I mean, he's the Ryder Cup captain. They asked me my opinion about how did I feel about Mark not being picked. And Mark is my buddy. I felt Tom would be a great captain and is going to be a great captain, but I thought it was Mark's shot, especially in Ireland. It was his heritage. It's just like it would be a perfect fit to have Woosie in Wales, Celtic Manor. There are certain, I thought, in my opinion, certain people for certain venues.

Q. What's the next (inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: I'm going to take three to four weeks off here.

Q. Nissan?

TIGER WOODS: I might play Nissan. We'll see how it goes. I need to get my weight back up and get healthy. I feel like I'm a little emaciated and I just need to get better.

Q. How excited are you for this year?

TIGER WOODS: It's been a nice start. If I had played halfway decent at Mercedes, I felt I could have won that tournament. A bunch of guys probably feel the same way. At least a third place finish and a first place finish is a pretty good start.

Q. As last year wore on (inaudible) how close are you now?

TIGER WOODS: This week, I didn't play particularly well, but I have to say that I missed the ball in correct spots again. This is not a game of perfects, it's a game of misses. For me to go out there and miss the ball in the proper spots virtually every time, give myself the best angles, and just never short sided myself I felt the entire week. That's very exciting.

Q. (Inaudible) a house in Rancho Santa Fe?

TIGER WOODS: Plus I have my junior titles here. It's pretty cool. I feel like it's an extension of being up in Orange County, Southern California, it's all the same. I came down here and played in the San Diego Junior Golf Association a bunch of times. I played here Junior World here every year from age 6 through 17, always loved to come down here.

My dad probably would have moved down here if he didn't settle in Orange County. He always said that's his one big regret is that we should have moved down here to San Diego.

Q. (Inaudible)? What does that say about the state of your game, not now but always?

TIGER WOODS: It's not a bad thing. I think it's a great thing. Most of my victories are from ahead, which means I've played well to have won as many times as I have and not trailed many times. That's not bad.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: A lot of times it's not, but you've just got to hang in there, just somehow gut it out when your stuff isn't there. I felt there were a couple of times when I hit it great but didn't make any putts. Like I said earlier, you have to make putts.

Q. We talked early in the week about the big four. Is it different in your mind (inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: What's that?

Q. Is it difficult or more difficult to be on Tour now with all those guys?

TIGER WOODS: You guys always hear about the big four. What about Goose? It's funny. It's funny to me. Every one always says Phil. He just mentioned Phil. There's no doubt about it. It is tougher to win out here now than when I first played in '96 and '97, and it's going to get tougher each and every year. The field is getting deeper. We have more guys playing well at the same time, but we don't always play the same events.

But when you see the scores we shoot out here, it's pretty low. 15 under par, 16 under par this week, on this golf course. Normally we would think single digits would do good out here. Guys are going lower and lower and you just have to respond.

Q. You shot 13 under (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: I did a lot of damage on the North course. What it boils down to is you have to drive the ball out there and try to get it in play. But these par 4s, they didn't set the pins up all that difficult this year. We never used that back pin over there on 5, back right pin. There are a couple of pins we didn't use that we normally use. We were all kind of surprised out there.

We were talking about it today, Peter and I. Some of these pins just aren't tucked. Maybe they were afraid the weather was going to come in and blow and everybody was going to shoot like they did last year, shoot 75s in the final round. Consequently, because the pins weren't tucked as tight, guys went lower. We saw Charles Howell shoot 64 today. It plays a big part.

Q. Different vibe from the fans at all (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: I've always felt that way here, even when I've gone head to head with Phil. I had at least a small portion of the gallery cheering for me. But it's been that way ever since I first played here. Maybe they feel, being a suggest Cal boy, I'm one of them. I didn't feel anything different today that I hadn't felt before in the past.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: God, yes. I look at the flight of the ball. That's the huge difference.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: I'm not out here struggling trying to break 90.

Q. Along the same long, a year ago (Inaudible)? How much more confidence do you have now than last year?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I had a bunch of things I needed to work on and try to solidify, and each and every day was a task to try to figure out what I needed to work on that particular day. But as the year progressed, the checklist got shorter and shorter. And consequently, results started improving towards the end of the year.

Q. On 18 (Inaudible) did you have a preference there?

TIGER WOODS: We didn't step it off, but I was away, and he asked me initially whether or not I wanted him to go or not. Of course I wanted him to go, because then I could react to my putt, either try to make it or have something that kind of crashed in front of the lip. But then he I could hear Andy say something, I don't know what he said, but Tom changed his mind and he said, "You're away." That's fine.

Q. What were you trying to do?

TIGER WOODS: Die it over the front lip. That's all I was trying to do. I remember Riley's putt kind of snuck a little left at the end from last year, and I said make sure don't go so high to the left. Keep it half in half out, and it broke to the right, and then probably about three feet from the hole it broke back to the left and went in.

Q. (Inaudible) do you prefer the earlier start or the start like in February?

TIGER WOODS: Either one. I'll be here either way.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: It was more than a little bit, more than I would have liked. Somehow I found the bottom.

Q. Quickly just go over birdies and bogeys real quick starting with the birdie on two.

TIGER WOODS: 2, I hit a driver down there and just kind of drove it through the fairway, hit a great sand wedge from 66 yards and made about a 6 footer.

Par 5, I hit a driver down there right in the middle of the fairway, had a 5 iron in my hand and just flared it to the right, kind of flubbed my chip, which was nice, and then I made about a 25 footer there for birdie.

8, I hit a 7 iron up there pin high about 15 feet right of the hole and made it.

11, I tried to hit a punch 5 iron up there but lost it to the right in the right bunker. Hit a terrible bunker shot and had about a 10 footer there and just missed it.

13, hit a driver and a 5 iron to about 25 feet and 2 putted.

18, you already know about.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: Probably had about a 15, 18 footer, something like that.

Q. Tiger, thank you. Congratulations on a great week.

End of FastScripts.

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