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May 14, 2004

Tiger Woods


TODD BUDNICK: We welcome Tiger Woods after a 3-under 67 today, Tiger through 36 holes, 8-under and the clubhouse leader. Your best first two rounds here in eight appearances, yet your driving accuracy is just below 50 percent and your greens in reg is just above 50 percent. How do you sit atop the leaderboard like that?

TIGER WOODS: Made a few putts (laughter). Yeah, I hit some bad shots today, but I also put myself in position where I had angles, and that's the whole idea, so when you do miss it, you miss it in the correct spot. I did that yesterday except for one shot, and today I did that most of the day.

TODD BUDNICK: I think you just had 45 putts for the first two days.

TIGER WOODS: Well, that helps, but it's also leaving yourself where you can get up-and-down. I think that's the difference why I'm starting to score a little bit better is I'm putting the ball in the correct spots.

TODD BUDNICK: Heading into the weekend you're in a great spot and you seem to play well here, particularly on Sundays. Talk about the weekend coming up.

TIGER WOODS: I'm looking forward to it. I don't know what kind of weather we have coming in, but I've put myself there with a chance, and we've got 36 more holes, a long way to go, and hopefully I can continue playing well.

TODD BUDNICK: I heard you mention weather conditions made it a little bit tougher out there today.

TIGER WOODS: A lot tougher. I've never played Cottonwood that way but I've played TPC that way. It was interesting trying to get your lines and your bearings off the tees because I've never seen the wind come from that direction before. Some of your numbers that you had to put the ball, you're focused more on that rather than just picking a club out and hitting it because you already know where it's going to go. Today was a little bit different.

Q. What do you find more satisfying or enjoyable, when your putting is really on is when your ball striking is really on? When you have one or the other and not both --

TIGER WOODS: Ball striking certainly makes it a lot easier, but boy, you have to putt well out here in order to win and contend on the PGA TOUR. You know that. That's the way it is, especially as low as the scores go each and every week. I think the golf course played -- either course played easy yesterday, and we had 69 guys under par yesterday. I mean, it's just hard to believe that -- you have to putt well, but hitting the ball well sure makes it a lot easier.

Q. Are you putting appreciably better or is it just a matter of you giving yourself better looks at putts?

TIGER WOODS: I've putted well all year except for one week. Augusta is the only week I putted poorly. I didn't have any three-putts there, which is good, but I didn't make any putts, either. So consequently I wasn't in contention there. I'm putting myself in better spots to make putts and also make them, as well.

Q. You were in this same position a week ago at Wachovia, second round lead. What's different as you feel it now as opposed to last week in your opinion?

TIGER WOODS: Nothing really. You just go out there and you play one shot at a time and try and put the ball in the best position you possibly can on that hole. That's all I'm trying to do, and the things that I've been working on are starting to get a little bit better. You can see it reflects in my score, where I'm putting the golf ball around the golf course.

Q. Was it mainly crosswinds you were dealing with today? You talked about you've never seen it coming from that direction. Were they going in different directions or what?

TIGER WOODS: I played the practice round Tuesday here on Cottonwood and I hit 3-wood, wedge on the first hole. Today I hit driver and a 4-iron and I didn't even get there (laughter).

No. 3, I hit driver and a wedge to the middle of the green. Today I hit driver, 3-wood and I had a wedge then. It's playing a little bit different today.

Q. In light of that, 3-under on today, is that --

TIGER WOODS: Hey, I would have taken anything under par today. Even par or under par would have been a good score. With the wind blowing as hard as it was and as cool as it was, the ball just was not flying. We were hitting 6-irons from 150 out there, and that's just kind of indicative that the temperature is just not warm enough for the ball to fly.

TODD BUDNICK: Let's go through your birdies and your bogey.

TIGER WOODS: 2, I hit a pitching wedge to about 20 feet, made it.

3, I hit a driver out to the right, 3-wood short, and hit a wedge to about 15 feet and missed it.

9, I hit a 7-iron to about a foot.

12, I hit a 6-iron to about 12 feet left of the hole and made it.

16, I hit a driver in the left rough, 6-iron in the left gallery and gave myself an angle up the green and hit a nice little flop shot up there to about two, three feet.

Q. Would you talk about a few years ago when you were playing your best golf, one of the edges you had was a big distance advantage, and for a variety of reasons a lot of guys have caught up to you in that area with technology. How has that changed the dynamics of how you play, your approach to the game, and how often do you find yourself not being the last guy to hit into the green? How much more often are you hitting first or second?

TIGER WOODS: Depends who I'm playing with. Most of the guys, yeah, they have gotten longer. I've gotten a touch longer, but I haven't changed my equipment as much as they have, gone to graphite, lengthened out the clubs a little bit. I'm still stuck with 43 and a half, which is old standard. Now the new standard is closer to 45.

Guys have given up the spin around the greens to get more distance off the tees. Everyone is playing harder golf balls. I haven't done that. So my short game is still aggressive where I can still spin the ball on the greens. I'm long enough where I can get away with it.

I guess the answer to your question is, yeah, guys are longer, some guys are longer than I am now, but I feel like I still have a pretty good advantage around the greens because my ball is softer, and the fact that I could go to longer stuff when I go closer to the Champions Tour, I'm all right (laughter).

Q. Do you think that's made it slightly harder or appreciably more difficult now for you to win a tournament? Do you have to play a little bit better now than you used to to win?

TIGER WOODS: No, you have to play better, period, to win now. Look at how many times in the last two years the cut has been 4-under par or better. I mean, two or three times last year and I think once already this year. It's just unbelievable. Playing Palm Springs I watched there and guys are shooting 12 under par and they're making a cut. The guys are just playing better and technology has certainly helped, but guys' technique has gotten better and their physiques are better.

Q. Do you miss having that edge? There were some majors where you led the week in driving stats by 10, 12, 15 yards and that's not the case anymore.

TIGER WOODS: That's so misleading, though. It's just two holes. I still am long enough where I can still cut corners every now and then, but granted, the golf courses have become longer, too. We're not playing the same golf courses anymore. Augusta has changed obviously quite a bit. U.S. Opens have never been as long as Bethpage. The golf courses are becoming bigger and longer.

Q. When you look at the statistics, besides the Money List, in which ones do you put the most stock? Which do you think are the most reliable and which do you think are a joke, or some other phrase?

TIGER WOODS: I think the one that's really misleading is the putting stat. That's always been misleading. Somebody who hits eight greens and makes four birdies and their putting stats look incredible. You can't go with total putts. Putting stats, period, are misleading. I think the real one that you have to look at is your scoring average. It goes to show you how consistent you are and how many cuts you make if you're always shooting good scores.

Q. What about fairways and GIR?

TIGER WOODS: Fairways and GIR are definitely up there, as well, too. You know, sometimes it's misleading what golf courses you play. If you play small greens versus where the greens are huge, narrow fairways versus big wide soft fairways. Kapalua, it's pretty hard to miss the fairways there.

Q. You managed to miss on No. 1 like three days in a row.

TIGER WOODS: I did, didn't I (laughter). Some of the stats are misleading. The best way is to actually go out there and watch a person play. There's no substitute for that.

Q. You are right at 50 percent in fairways hit this week, 8 out of 14 today. Is that accurate or misleading? How would you look at your fairways hit over the last two weeks?

TIGER WOODS: Last week -- I've hit it better this week than I did last week. Probably about four of those fairways I just ran through the corners and the rest of them I hit poor shots, so yeah, it's not as high as I would like to have it, but there's only probably been -- there haven't been too many occasions where I've missed it on the wrong side, and I think that's the big key. I'm trying to hit the ball on a certain side of the fairway anyways, and then if I hit the ball on that side in the rough, at least I still have the angle, and that's the way I've always played.

Q. Lastly, for a power player, what do you think is a good number on fairways?

TIGER WOODS: For the year?

Q. Yeah, percentage or --

TIGER WOODS: Fairways hit or greens hit?

Q. Fairways.

TIGER WOODS: If you're an aggressive player, if you can get somewhere around 60 percent, you're doing pretty good, because a lot of the fairways narrow up around 300 yards or 290, and for instance, if I hit -- John Cook and I, I think I'm a little bit longer, I think the way we hit the ball yesterday, his ball is in the fairway and mine is in the rough.

Q. How big of a save was that on 15?

TIGER WOODS: 15 was nice. I overdrew my tee shot there and tried to hit a sand wedge up there on the front part of the green, didn't quite get it all, and I tried to hit a nice hard pitch up the hill and I spun it too much and it wasn't quite the shot I wanted to hit, but at least I left myself underneath the hole and I made a good putt.

Q. Is that what you're talking about, leaving it in the spot in those situations, 15 and 16?

TIGER WOODS: The key is to keep putting yourself in spots where you can either save par, make birdie. You're always trying to place the golf ball. You don't just get up there and hit the damn thing. You're always trying to place it around the golf course, and that's how you're supposed to play golf.

TODD BUDNICK: Thank you, Tiger.

End of FastScripts.

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