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November 5, 2004

Tiger Woods


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Tiger Woods, thank you for joining us, great round today, 6-under 64. You hit 16 greens and gave yourself a lot of opportunities for birdie, and that's what you did. Maybe start with some opening comments.

TIGER WOODS: I hit the ball a little bit better today. Yesterday, as I said, out there I made some silly mistakes. I short-sided myself a few times. It's pretty hard to get the ball up-and-down out of this Bermuda rough. Consequently I made a few mistakes and made a few bogeys.

Today I just tried not to short-side myself, and I didn't do that. I made a couple nice putts out there for birdies to keep the momentum going and also stuffed a couple.

Q. You reiterated this a little bit the other day, but could you kind of expound about the one step back to take two steps forward thing, the parallels from '98, '99, when you were sort of tweaking? I think the layman would look and say "He's won five tournaments every year for five years in a row. What needed fixing?"

TIGER WOODS: I felt like I could get better. People thought it was asinine for me to change my swing after I won The Masters by 12 shots, and then I come back and win the Byron Nelson and then the Western. Why would you want to change that? Well, I thought I could become better. I went through a spell there where I didn't win for almost two years. I won one tournament, which was San Diego, I think, so one tournament in two years, then all of a sudden it kicked in. I went on a nice run for five years, and I figured I had something better within me, so I decided to make a change, and here I am.

Q. I'm sure some people say if you were to win this week you're sending a message. What would it mean to you to win this week at the end of the year?

TIGER WOODS: Hey, I'm just trying to get myself ready for the end of the year. I've got to go to Korea, Japan, then Skins, then Target. I'm a little bit busy, so this is just the beginning of basically six weeks of playing golf. Then I'll shut it down for a little bit and get ready for next season.

Q. When you decided to change your swing, I mean, you did it to get better obviously. Did you do it also as sort of a secondary reason because you saw guys like Singh and Els coming, because it was going to be a lot harder to win U.S. Opens by 15, or did you do it strictly for personal and singular reasons?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it's just the latter, it's just for me. If I play my best, I'm pretty tough to beat. I would like to play my best more frequently, and that's the whole idea. That's why you make changes. I thought that I could become more consistent and play at a higher level more often. That's the reason why I made the change back in '97. That's why I made the change over the past year.

Q. When you're thinking about that, whether to make a change, how do you assess whether the risk is worth the reward?

TIGER WOODS: You just do it. You just do it. You have to be honest with yourself and you have to understand that there are risks to getting better. I've always taken risks to try and become a better golfer, and that's one of the things that's got me as far as I have. Yeah, sometimes it's not pretty in the beginning because I've definitely had my spells back when I was a little kid, making changes, and I've gone just straight in the tank, but I've come out a better player at the end.

Trust me, I've been down this road before, so it's nothing new. I'm starting to see some of the fruits now, which is great.

Q. With respect to the dry spell, is it possible to reverse yourself if you decide you've gone down the right way? Is it a little scary if there are some fruits right away?


Q. Can you back up if you decide you've gone the wrong way?

TIGER WOODS: I don't know. Why would you want to?

Q. If it hasn't worked can you go back to where you were.

TIGER WOODS: I don't want to do that because I want to become better. Would you want to write like you did when you first started out?

Q. Well, if it wasn't working, if you decided it wasn't working, could you back up?

TIGER WOODS: Why would you want to? I mean, if you feel like you can become better, why would you want to go back?

Q. Could you go out there on the range and do your old swing and hit 20 balls?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah. I can go back to the swing that I had in '96.

Q. That's the answer to the question.

TIGER WOODS: I can hit any shot you want me to hit. I can go back to '96 and have the Harley grip and shut top and hit an 8-iron 190. I can do that. That's still in there.

Q. 16, your tee shot on 16, then you kind of went off in the woods and then hit the 8-iron. Your tee shot afterwards, what did you think of it?

TIGER WOODS: I was just not trusting it. It's a tough tee shot. I mean, there's no place to miss it really. You've got to hit one pretty good to get over the bunkers first of all, and then if you pull it left you're probably going to have an unplayable right. If it goes right you're going to have a tough shot trying to make par. I hit a little squeezer out there, kind of a little peel, and I just peeled it too much and off shot it to the right.

Q. Your second shot from there?

TIGER WOODS: I had 203 to the hole and I hit an 8-iron just past pin high. Yeah, I still have it in me (laughter).

Q. 64 today is one of your better rounds of the year but not your best round. You've been in situations where you've had good rounds and then haven't been able to follow it up. Where are you in relation to these changes, where do you feel you are in relation to these changes, have you made the turn; where are you?

TIGER WOODS: I feel the things I've been working on are starting to solidify. I don't know if I said this the other day, Tuesday, or not, but I feel like the checklist is becoming shorter and shorter. It's not as long. I don't have to work on as many things when I go out to the range. I don't have to stand out there beating balls for hour upon hour trying to find something. They're just quick fixes and I can go about my business.

Q. Did the time off help?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it did. I got to shoot some pretty good fish. I got some great lobster and did some pretty good free diving, as well.

Q. When you hit one of these shots, does that mean that you're getting a swing coming from nowhere from the past, like '97 or another year in your career?

TIGER WOODS: No, I think it's just a fault that I've had in my game. Just like anybody has their faults. I'm no exception to that.

Q. The challenge of becoming better than you were in 2000, easier or harder than becoming better than you were in '97?

TIGER WOODS: Oh, certainly harder, there's no doubt about that. If you look at my game back in '96 and '97 when you first came out here, you could see the holes in my game. I really wasn't very good at hitting the ball pin high. If I had 153, I couldn't hit it 153 time and time again. I may hit it short or long of that. The whole idea is to hit the number you've got to hit. That's controlling your tread, controlling your speed. I didn't really have that understanding, that feel for it. Obviously the jump that I made from then to when my next swing change kicked in was a bigger jump than it is now. Now it's just refining.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: If we could touch on your round. Started out first birdie on No. 3.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I hit a driver and I hit a little pitching wedge in there 90 yards, a little soft wedge in there to about eight feet, made that.

5, I hit a driver, pulled it a little bit left, hit a 6-iron from underneath the trees to about 20 feet, made it.

Then par 5, No. 9, hit a driver, 4-iron, came out of the rough short, but I hit a little sand wedge in there to about 15 feet below the hole and made it.

14, I hit a driver and a little 9-iron in there to about six, seven feet behind the hole.

Then the par 5, hit a driver and hit an 8-iron just short of the green, chipped it up there to about a foot, made it.

Then the 8-iron from 203 on 16.

Q. To follow up on Cliff's question, your answer was more towards you personally. How much more difficult is it with the depth of the TOUR now from '97 to 2000 and 2000 to now?

TIGER WOODS: Hey, the guys have gotten better. They're working out, they're bigger, they're stronger. Equipment has become more refined. Your misses aren't quite as bad. Look how much harder it is to curve the golf ball now. It is really hard to curve the golf ball. Maybe not for some of you guys (laughter).

The golf balls now, they launch higher with less spin. Any time you have less spin the ball is not going to curve as much. Look how much further some of the guys are hitting it now. I was talking to Jay Haas about this the other day, and he's driving it further now than he was when he was in his early 20s when he used to really go at it. That's just scary to think about, but that's the way it's been. Equipment has been a big factor. All these guys have made a dedication to getting to the gym. Look at Darren Clarke, he's a slight transformation. Vijay works very hard. A lot of the guys have personal trainers now, which back in '97 that wasn't the case.

Q. So that would make a difference obviously?

TIGER WOODS: Any time you're in better shape it's a lot easier to play your sport. If you would go out there and you'd play football, I think you'd be crazy not to work out.

Q. But for you to continue to progress, the fact that the fields are stronger is going to make it more difficult?

TIGER WOODS: I can still progress. You can still win, just the margin is going to be smaller now because of the depth of the field. Look at cuts. There weren't too many cuts back when I first came out on TOUR that were 4-under par. You could probably get two or three a year. You have 70 guys shooting 4-under par or better a week? That's pretty impressive.

Q. How different is Hank's teaching method than anything you've ever had before? Did that take a while to click in?

TIGER WOODS: It did because it's a different philosophy. It's just like going from -- it would be the same way going from any coach because they have -- they may say the same thing but may say it differently, or they may have something totally different they may offer you, but I felt it was the things that he had to say were very intriguing and I really enjoyed the conversations I had before I started working with him. It was pretty nice to see that things are starting to turn around now.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Tiger Woods, thank you.

End of FastScripts.

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