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November 6, 2004

Tiger Woods


TODD BUDNICK: First off, we'd like to congratulate the 54-hole total leader Tiger Woods for being one of this week's Crestor Charity Challenge winners. For his efforts $50,000 will be donated on behalf of Crestor and the TOUR Championship to the Children's Health Care Industry of Atlanta and $25,000 will be donated to the health care charity of your choice.

TIGER WOODS: Thank you.

TODD BUDNICK: Congratulations.

Tiger, a 65 today following your 64 yesterday, your best back-to-back rounds since the 2000 Bell Canadian. Talk a little bit about today.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I didn't exactly get off to the greatest of starts, three-putting the first hole right out of the gate wasn't very good. I hung in there and kept patient. I hit the ball in there with decent opportunities throughout the entire front nine, didn't make anything until the 8th hole. Then I made a nice one there on 8, and from there I just kind of got things going. I made a nice little putt there on 9, made two bombs on 10 and 11, and next thing you know, I'm tied for the lead.

TODD BUDNICK: Speaking of tied for the lead, it's the first time since last year at the Amex in Atlanta, as well. It's nice to see you on top there. Talk about being in that spot for the first time in the year.

TIGER WOODS: It's great. I have the opportunity to play with one of my good friends out there tomorrow, which will be a lot of fun. What it boils down to is just execution. You've got to hit the ball well and make some putts because as good as these greens are, they sure are true, so you've got to make some putts.

Q. You talked about the checklist thing and the got-to-do and connecting the dots. How much of today just looked like natural flow and kind of just going with it. It looks like it's getting more effortless for you?

TIGER WOODS: Without a doubt, yeah. That's the whole idea of making a change is that you need to try and get it where you don't have to think about it. Obviously when I hit certain shots there are key thoughts or key feelings that I have, which I've always played that way, that's just me. That will never change.

But I don't have to run through a long laundry list to hit one golf shot. It's just a basic golf shot off a tee.

Q. How do you feel about your game and your position right now compared to say Wachovia and Dallas?

TIGER WOODS: Well, Wachovia and Dallas I was not hitting the ball consistently well. I was putting great, but I had a two-way miss going, especially at Wachovia I had a two-way miss. I hung in there as best I possibly could, but I'm controlling my ball a lot better now.

That's basically when I started the changes, so obviously you can see it wasn't anywhere near what it is now because I just started.

Q. You just started what you're doing now kind of in that May time frame?

TIGER WOODS: Actually a little before then, so it's taken well over a half a year to get to where I'm at now.

Q. Your record with a 54-hole lead would seem to indicate that you got there by playing good and it carries over until Sunday. Do you feel that way this week?

TIGER WOODS: Yes, no doubt about that.

Q. What part of your game were you happiest with today, Tiger?

TIGER WOODS: I think just overall ball flight, able to control my trajectory on each and every golf shot. We had a couple shots into the wind where I had to hit something softer and flatter, and I was able to not just beat a low one in there but just hit a flat ball. That's nice to be able to hit shots like that and control your ball flight. I was able to do that today. Consequently I had a lot of uphill putts for birdie.

Q. You've been virtually unbeatable when you've been in this position, 54-hole lead. Do you have the same confidence level having gone through the swing change this year and not having won this year at a stroke-play event?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it feels good. You know, hey, I've been able to do it at home and hit shots time and time again at home, and now it's finally starting to come out here in tournament play. As I said, Amex was a big tournament for me. To feel as bad as I did and shouldn't have played and somehow finish 9th with the game it goes to show you how much better my game is.

Q. You talked about the fact that after the 1st hole you really couldn't get anything going until I think 8, but you didn't get frustrated. Is it something that you may have gotten frustrated earlier in the year with the way your game was, that you had these chances and couldn't do anything but you didn't get frustrated and turned it around?

TIGER WOODS: No, it's the golf course. It's not like these guys are going to shoot 8, 9-under every day. If I did this at the Bob Hope, it wouldn't be very good, 1-over through 7 holes. I'd probably be eight back of my playing partner.

Out here on this golf course, geez, you've got to just keep making pars. You know the birdies are going to come if you position your golf ball, but guys aren't going to be making a lot of birdies. We've played three days and we're only 9-under par. An average of three a day, that's not going that low.

Q. You and Retief each made four in a row. Would you talk about that stretch?

TIGER WOODS: Well, mine weren't the prettiest four in a row. His were nice (laughter). He hit it in there on 7 to about six feet, hit it in there about three feet on 8, had a six-footer or ten-footer on 9 and then he had another three-footer on 10. He ought to make four in a row when you hit them that close. Mine were a little more adventurous than that.

Q. As much as you've been around Retief was there anything in you that you just needed to stay with him?

TIGER WOODS: Every time I've played with him, I seem to hit at least two golf balls kick-in range, and he did it right in that run. He hit three balls in there. Steve and I were talking about that, you've just got to keep pace, somehow keep making the putts and try and keep with him. At the time Jay was I think it was two back of us, and it looked like Goose was playing so well through those middle holes that it looked like he could keep running away with it, and I had to kind of keep pace with him.

Q. The 64-65 statistically is the best in four years. Did it feel like the best golf you've played this year? Secondly, you're playing against a 50-year-old man tomorrow. Is he a good a friend as you have out here among your brethren?

TIGER WOODS: The second part, yes, and the first part of your question, well, it is misleading because it is par 70. So it's somewhat misleading.

Q. It's a good golf course, too.

TIGER WOODS: Overall I'm very happy with the way I played. To make one bogey around here in 36 holes is pretty good, and that was just a three-putt.

Q. How much would winning tomorrow kind of make up for some of the frustrations of not doing it earlier?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think I've made steady progress throughout this entire end of the year. If you go back and look at my finishes, they haven't been all that bad. It's pretty nice to be able to continue that trend. I'm not sure, but I think in my last three stroke play tournaments I've played in, my worst finish was 9th. I had a couple 2nd and a 9th. You can see the progress I've made.

This is just merely a continuation of it.

Q. Where do you rank this tournament?

TIGER WOODS: It's certainly one of the biggest ones you ever want to win. It's the 30 hottest players of the year basically. You come in here, and each and every TOUR Championship that I've been part of, these are the hottest guys of the whole year, and you know that they're playing the best. It's always going to be tougher to win this tournament than most just because of that.

Q. Talk about playing with Jay tomorrow and how he's been able to -- the only one that's up there with you.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah. Well, he's playing -- I haven't seen him hit any golf shots obviously, but I heard a couple roars back there so you know he's holing putts. The way he putts on these greens he's going to make his share. I think it's fantastic to see someone like Jay who's never really gotten the credit for how good a player he's been his entire career. His resurgence basically is just from making a few more putts. It just gives you so much more confidence.

Q. I know you like to be respectful of the competition, but do you expect to win tomorrow?

TIGER WOODS: I'm going to give it my best. Hey, tomorrow I've just got to go out there and play because obviously Jay and I are tied, but we can't afford to come back. If we come back, these guys at 5, there are four of them. So they play a great round of golf, they'll pass us by, so we'll keep going forward.

Q. The level of winning when you're in front. Does that give you extra confidence?


Q. Is there any part of you that's sorry to see the official season end this week the way you're starting to play?

TIGER WOODS: No, I'm going to keep playing. I've got Korea, Japan, the Skins and my tournament, so I'm still busy. This is just a start for the end of the year before I get ready for next year.

Q. You said earlier you felt a little uneasy over a couple of shots today. As your swing change progresses and continues to develop, are you going to feel more confident over your shots and your ability to control them?

TIGER WOODS: There's always certain holes or certain shots that you just don't feel comfortable with. Maybe it's water or bunkers or out of bounds or whatever it might be. Some holes just don't fit your eye. To step up there and just blister one right down the middle of the fairway felt really good.

TODD BUDNICK: Let's go through the round. The bogey on 1.

TIGER WOODS: Drove it in the right rough, hit a nice 8-iron to the middle of the green, ran it by about 15 feet and missed it.

3, I hit a driver, and I had 90 yards and I hit a pitching wedge up there to about eight inches.

8, I hit a 3-wood and a little 9-iron in there to about ten feet past the hole and made it.

9, hit a driver down the right, thought it was good but ended up through the fairway. Laid up there with a 9-iron, hit another soft 9-iron into the green and made about a 12-footer there.

10, I hit driver off the tee in the left bunker there, hit an 8-iron past the hole about 30 feet and made it.

11, I hit a 6-iron past the hole to the right about 20 feet and made it down the hill.

15, I hit a driver and a 7-iron pin high left to about 20 feet and just two-putted.

Q. The lay-up on 9 with the 9-iron, was there any concern that that might --

TIGER WOODS: I hit that as hard as I could to try and get over. Obviously it was not a good lie. For some reason -- let me put it this way: If the grass was wet, I would have had to have laid up, but it was dry out there, so I gave it a shot.

Q. The ball is in the air and you're thinking --

TIGER WOODS: Just quit falling out of the sky like that (laughter). It knuckled down, and I didn't like that.

Q. Considering how the sky seems to fall if a month or two passes without you winning, can you relate to what it's like being in Jay's shoes in position to win for the first time in 11 years?

TIGER WOODS: No (laughter). Honestly I can't, sorry. It's no disrespect to Jay at all, trust me. I haven't done that, so I don't know. All I know is it would be awfully frustrating to have to go through that, and he's been in a position to win tournaments. That's what makes it even more frustrating is he's been there and just hasn't gotten over the hump.

Q. Which year was more either frustrating or challenging for you, '98 or this one?

TIGER WOODS: Probably this one because I've never been asked more questions about my game because I was still new back in '97 and '98. What I did at Augusta was just one week, and then I had that run there for about five years, and now this year has happened, and I've been questioned on it each and every round I've ever played this year. What's wrong with you, shoot 66, what's wrong with you? It's been a lot more frustrating that way because I've had to answer all those questions.

Q. Have you managed to render the fairways hit statistic meaningless here?

TIGER WOODS: Just the way it is here.

Q. That just doesn't matter?

TIGER WOODS: Actually I've gone on-line, looked at the stats from all the long hitters on TOUR. None of us are very good. We're all over 100 in ranking. None of us hit the ball -- when you hit the ball that far, especially nowadays, you look at the average drives sometimes out here, it's going 330 or 320, you're not going to hit a whole lot of fairways. As long as you miss the ball in the correct spots, it's fine.

Yesterday I thought I drove it a lot better than I did today because I hit four balls in the first cut and that doesn't count as a fairway hit. From that standpoint it is misleading. Today I didn't drive it as well as I did yesterday, but I still got it around.

Q. I imagine playing with Jay is going to be kind of like playing with Mark in a way or similar. How have you been in that kind of atmosphere in the past? Does it always bring out the best or do you have to fight with your tendency to maybe relax a little bit because it's an easy relationship?

TIGER WOODS: No, the times I've played with Mark I've usually played well, except for the third round at Muirfield. I didn't play too well that day (laughter). Other than that, I've shot some pretty good numbers with Mark. Yeah, you're great friends and everything, but we're competitors now. We'll be great friends after we're done, but I want to win the tournament just as bad as he does.

Q. Irrespective of what happens tomorrow because of the way your game is progressing, would you consider this to be a positive tournament for you?

TIGER WOODS: There's no doubt about that. This entire second half of the season has been very positive, and hopefully it'll continue when I go overseas next week.

Q. Could you speak about the lie that you had with the second shot on 17 between the bunkers? How difficult was that shot?

TIGER WOODS: To be honest with you, it was just like being in the fairway. I got so lucky there, a lie on the lip, bounced out, but I got a patch where there was really no grass. It was bare. It was like being in the fairway. I hit a nice soft 7-iron, hit it left of the hole and it came out perfect. If I was a foot either way I'm in some deep stuff where I can't control my ball, but I hit this little patch, which was great.

Q. How important was that to your confidence in finishing the round because you got a lucky break there?

TIGER WOODS: It was very lucky because I didn't hit a very good tee shot there. Having the ability to control the ball in there, that was huge, to that back pin. Hitting that shot right there, I tried to envision the way I hit the shot over on 16. It was the same type of shot, and I hit a nice little softy in there.

End of FastScripts.

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