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September 29, 2004

Tiger Woods


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Two time defending champion Tiger Woods, welcome back to the American Express Championship. Maybe just start with some opening comments about coming back to Ireland to play.

TIGER WOODS: Well, it's great. The golf course is playing much softer than it was two years ago. I would say probably even more soft with the rain coming up. The greens are still pretty good. I've only played seven holes, so I haven't seen a lot of the golf course, but of the holes I did see today, the golf course is in wonderful shape again.

Q. Obviously you have very fond memories of this course because of what happened two years ago.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, no doubt about that. I got a chance to play it, I guess in early 2002 when we were over here in the summer fishing, and then later that year we came back and played the tournament here. The golf course was in incredible shape. Obviously it's not as perfect, because obviously conditions aren't as good this year as they were in 2002, but still, guys -- we'll probably see some pretty good numbers again this year because the greens are smooth.

Q. Generally in this event you've got such a good record.

TIGER WOODS: I've played well in the American Express Championship. I've done pretty good in different countries, too, so that's been one of the real big positives about this championship.

Q. I understand, maybe I'm wrong, you might have wrecked your back on the 10th tee yesterday, the first hole you were playing. Is it a bothersome injury?

TIGER WOODS: Actually it's been hurting for about a week now. I got it sleeping kind of awkwardly when I flew home from New York after opening my -- launching my new game. I was in New York for a day and really tired and just fell asleep on the plane. Just a couple rib heads aren't gliding properly and it's spasmed up and hasn't been the same since.

Q. How is it affecting your game?

TIGER WOODS: I'm hitting it much straighter but it's not going as far, so I guess that's a positive. I think even Fergie could even outdrive me.

Q. Really, is it that bad (laughter)?

TIGER WOODS: No, it is certainly stiff, there's no doubt about that.

Q. Is there any doubt you're going to play tomorrow?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, there is a little bit. Hopefully it'll be -- I could have played all 18 today, but it would have been very tough, and hopefully tomorrow it will be a little bit easier to play 18 holes.

Q. Will you make a decision in the morning?

TIGER WOODS: Warmup session probably will determine it, just like I did today. I warmed up after I loosened up in the trailer and I went out and hit a few balls. It was sore, but I could manage that. Then I just quit after 7. I didn't want to push it any further. Maybe I'll get some more treatment on it.

Q. If it was today, could you have played the tournament?

TIGER WOODS: Oh, yeah.

Q. Where exactly is it?

TIGER WOODS: Between my shoulder blades.

Q. Where?

TIGER WOODS: Left side between the shoulder blades.

Q. Is this the first injury that you've had in your career?

TIGER WOODS: No, I've had my knee that was giving me problems for about a year. That I could play through. I mean, that was just something -- yeah, it hurt a lot, but I could play through that. This one you just can't swing a golf club. I've never had back pain in my life, so this is all new to me. I guess this is what happens when you get older.

Q. Didn't you wrench your back in Houston a couple years ago?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I did, but I was able to play through that. This one is a little bit different.

Q. Where is it affecting your swing? Start to finish?

TIGER WOODS: More as my shoulder blade contracts, so it's right at impact and beyond impact.

Q. Sorry to belabor the point. If you had to put a percentage on your chances of playing, are you 50/50 or better?

TIGER WOODS: If I'm able to go, I'll go. If I can't, then I won't. I've never been one to pull out of tournaments and quit just because I'm physically sore. I've played through obviously my knee pain for quite a long time, and if I can go, I'll go. There's no doubt about that. But if I can't, if I can't actually swing a golf club, then it's pretty tough to play.

Q. Are you getting any work done on it?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, quite a bit.

Q. Physio guys here?


Q. Is it a case that you can play through the pain but it's a danger that it may be an injury which will get worse as a result if you play this week? In other words, if it's just pain that you can play through, will you play?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, always. I told you, I've played through a lot of different injuries. I mean, it's no big deal if you can play. I mean, I can handle the pain. Whether I will be able to swing a golf club, is a different story. That's a whole another question.

Q. Will it take the driver out of your hands or do you see this in any case as a driver course?

TIGER WOODS: No, I can hit driver. It's got the biggest head on it, so that's a good thing.

Q. Will it take it out of your hands because you kind of like to hold back a little bit?

TIGER WOODS: No, it's actually been a benefit. As short as I'm hitting it right now, I'd better hit driver.

Q. (Inaudible).

TIGER WOODS: I've got Disney and the Tour Championship.

Q. How much shorter are you hitting it?

TIGER WOODS: You weren't in here earlier, were you?

Q. I don't know how far Doug is hitting it.

Are you in pain now as you're sitting there?

TIGER WOODS: No, it's just swinging.

Q. There was a story in the Sunday newspapers here that you and Elin are probably getting married next week down at Desmond's place. Is that true?

TIGER WOODS: All I can say is I'm getting married in the future. I've narrowed it down to that. I think you guys would be the last people I'd ever tell. I'm just throwing that out there for you.

Q. Fair enough. Thanks a lot.

But you will tell us?

TIGER WOODS: I told you, in the future.

Q. What's left for you the rest of the year? I know what the schedule is, but what are you trying to accomplish the rest of the year since you're at a stage where things that you normally pursue are not there anymore?

TIGER WOODS: I've got two big events. I've got this one and the Tour Championship. Those are big events, and I'd like to be able to win those events.

Q. What would that do for you?

TIGER WOODS: It would give me three wins for the year, and I think that would be a very good year.

Q. Is there a point that it all builds towards next year?

TIGER WOODS: The things I've been working on are building now, so that's -- I'm laying a foundation for that, which has been nice, and I'd like to see some Ws, because I've had positive results and I was right there at Deutsche Bank, I was right there at Firestone, so I've been close, now I just need to get the Ws.

Q. Do you understand the computing of the adjusted scoring average?

TIGER WOODS: I don't understand how they do that.

Q. Are you close or do you know if you are? By numbers it doesn't look that bad. I think Vijay is probably .1 or something like that. Is that something you're looking at?

TIGER WOODS: I really don't know how they do that. All I know is that I just need to eliminate just a couple mistakes per round, a simple up-and-down or a missed fairway here or missing on the correct side or missing the green on the correct side, just simple things. That's just a matter of cleaning up a round of golf. From there, I think the work I've done has laid the foundation for that, and now I'm able to position the golf balls around the golf course. I had two straight 2nd place finishes, which is a very positive sign.

Q. That seems like an area throughout the year that's hurt you a little bit, not being able to clean up rounds.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it has.

Q. When did that become a problem this year?

TIGER WOODS: I don't know. I have no idea. Like the Byron Nelson and Wachovia, I was one shot out of a playoff back-to-back weeks, and on both instances I didn't get up-and-down from the simplest little chip shots on the back nine, a simple chip and run with an 8-iron or a pitching wedge. Just simple shots you think you can hole, I'd make bogey, and it ended up costing me a tournament. It's a fine line between finishing in the top 5 and winning a championship. It's not that much, and it's little things like that that end up costing me wins.

Q. Can you tell us how disappointed and upset you are at losing your No. 1 ranking in the world, and if you see this week as the ideal opportunity of addressing that?

TIGER WOODS: I'm not that disappointed, because in order to win or actually earn the No. 1 ranking, you have to win. Who's won more the last two years? Obviously it's Vijay. When I add that five-year run where I won five-plus tournaments per year for five straight years, yeah, I was going to be No. 1 in the world because I was winning a lot. That's how you earn No. 1 and that's how you stay there.

Q. Relevant to this week, do you view it as the ideal opportunity to narrow the gap, so to speak, because Vijay isn't here?

TIGER WOODS: I just would like to be able to play.

Q. I think you once said that if you win a major championship in a year it's a success for a season.

TIGER WOODS: It's a great year.

Q. If you win a World Championship event in a year, is that a successful season?

TIGER WOODS: Yes, it is.

Q. So you've had a successful season?

TIGER WOODS: I have, but I haven't had a great year, now.

Q. Padraig was saying that he thinks it's inevitable that you will get the world No. 1 position back. Do you just hope to get it back or do you think that it's inevitable?

TIGER WOODS: Hopefully it'll be inevitable (laughter).

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Tiger, thank you.

End of FastScripts.

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