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March 23, 2004

Tiger Woods


JOAN vT ALEXANDER: We'd like to welcome PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem. He is here to join us for a few minutes to make a presentation to Tiger Woods.

COMMISSIONER TIMOTHY W. FINCHEM: Good morning, everybody. Before Tiger does his interview, we wanted to convey to him two awards he won last year, one was the Byron Nelson Award for the lowest scoring average on the PGA TOUR, and the other is the Jack Nicklaus Trophy for Player of the Year. Congratulations, Tiger.

TIGER WOODS: Thanks, Tim.

COMMISSIONER TIMOTHY W. FINCHEM: Let me make a couple of comments about last year. I know Tiger might not have enjoyed the fact that it was a little closer for Player of the Year than in other years, but it was great theater for the PGA TOUR. But the interesting thing was that Tiger won five times, but he played at a level that allowed him to have the second lowest scoring average in his career in the seven years, and the third all time, which it was always interesting to me when Tiger doesn't win for a week or two or a month that the comment comes out, what's the matter with Tiger, and that happened last year.

It's amazing because Byron Nelson set the lowest scoring average record 50 years ago and it lasted until Tiger came along, and Tiger now holds the first and third lowest scoring averages in the history of the PGA TOUR, and one of them was last year. Five wins, his fifth Player of the Year in a row, and sixth out of seven years, a tremendous accomplishment.

And I would like to add that beyond his competitive record last year that -- and over the last five years the way he has communicated what he is doing with fans around the world, the way he has conducted himself out here and represented this sport to people and the way he has stimulated interest in the sport frankly I think is more incredible than what he has done inside the ropes. It is just phenomenal, his impact on the sport for everybody involved with the sport, Tiger. Thanks for what you have done, and are doing.

TIGER WOODS: Thank you very much.

JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Thank you, Tiger, for joining us for a few minutes in the media center. You've had a lot of success here in Ponte Vedra, and you started here with a victory on the West Coast. Talk about the week ahead and what you expect. And maybe a little bit on the golf course, because you had an opportunity to play today.

TIGER WOODS: I'm excited about this week. This is obviously probably the best field we have assembled all year. This is a big week for all of us. And one that we're really excited about as players. The golf course is playing a little bit softer than I thought it would. They watered the greens last night trying to protect them a little bit. They knew the cold front was coming through.

Obviously they're softer today, but that won't be the case Thursday and through the tournament. It's going to be quite a test, especially if the wind blows. It made for a very interesting 18 holes today with the wind blowing this hard and being as cold as it was. Maybe I should have gone on the range and hit a few balls and warmed up (laughter).

Q. I'm actually here from Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and they're celebrating their 50th anniversary, and I wondered if you had any memory about how you were treated there.

TIGER WOODS: That was my first amateur tournament. That was a very big tournament for me. It's obviously one of the biggest tournaments in amateur golf. And I'll never forget the first day I was paired up with Jay Segal and Alan Doyle, and I will never forget looking at how Alan Doyle was lined up. I thought for sure he was going to hit it straight left in the trees somewhere. I couldn't believe where he was lined up. And I was thinking this guy has won the tournament before. Obviously he knows a line I don't know. He loops it under and hits it down the middle with a little draw. And I thought it will be interesting. He ended up winning the tournament that week. I came back the following year and had a fantastic time.

Q. You walked the course with your father and I don't know if it was a sports psychologist, but it was a heavy day of thinking. Can you look back on how that's changed with your days playing golf that day and when you're out now today?

TIGER WOODS: It was different then. I was new to the game of golf. That was the first jump I ever had from kids my age to now playing adults. And it was a very big learning experience for me. I wanted to soak up as much knowledge as I possibly could from the event, from the players, veterans of amateur golf. I was very wet behind the ears, I didn't know anything about amateur golf. That was a very neat experience for me.

Q. What makes this a hard course?

TIGER WOODS: You have to be precise here. Now with the rough being as high as it has been over the last few years, you have to drive the ball well, but coming into the greens, you have to be very precise where you're putting it. It's amazing when you're playing well on this golf course and hitting your irons well, it's amazing how easy it seems, because all the holes

seem -- the ball seems to funnel into the holes. When you're playing poorly, every single shot repels, because you're missing the slope by maybe a yard or two, and that's all it takes. It's similar to Augusta in that nature. All it takes is one or two feet from either side of the slope and you've got a 10-footer versus a 30-footer up and over a knob.

Q. I realize some of this is weather related, but why do we see winning scores at 15, 16, 18?

TIGER WOODS: I think the greens have been softer. Augusta doesn't like to water the greens at all. We know that. The only water they usually get is from nature. Here they tend to make this golf course a little more lush around the greens, rough up, and the greens are a little softer. The only year it got out of control was the year David won. I think I shot a 150 on the weekend and picked up a few spots on the leaderboard. That's the only year I've seen it where the greens were repelling golf shots, even good ones.

Q. How do you approach the first round, being not too aggressive?

TIGER WOODS: This golf course is just a strategic golf course; you hit it from point A to point B. That's how it's designed to be played. It was designed to receive proper golf shots and repel shots that are marginal. You have to be very smart around this golf course in where you're going to miss the golf ball. If you miss it on the short side, a lot of times a good shot from the short side is 15, 20 feet. And more likely you're not going to get up-and-down.

You have to be very smart and careful where you're placing the golf ball. It becomes a lot more tricky when you have the wind swirling through the trees. It's one thing if it just blows, that's no big deal. When it starts swirling in the trees, and coming in different directions, it becomes difficult.

Q. There's been a lot said and written the last three weeks about no Euros in the Top 10 for the first time since the world rankings have been coming out, and it's been five years since they won a major. Do you have any thoughts in that, in them coming over and playing different courses, any theories?

TIGER WOODS: I think it's a cycle. You're now having the next group of young players come up from Europe, whether it's the Justin Roses or Paul Caseys are coming up to replace the older Veterans who are -- not saying they're not good anymore, but I think if you were to ask a lot of your top players, the Sandy Lyles, the Ian Woosnams and Nick Faldos, Seve, Colin, Bernhard, that generation of players is now being replaced by the next generation of players, and I think it's a little gap before these other guys start getting up there. Paddy is playing well, I'm sure he'll get back up in there.

Q. The Byron Nelson Trophy there that you won, last night the Hall of Fame opened the Byron Nelson exhibit, and a few of us stopped off there, and very gracious, what's your relationship with Byron Nelson and your memories? Do you have any stories about Byron?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I think the first time I ever met

Mr. Nelson was at the Fog Tournament in LA. I was invited up there, I was in high school at the time, and I was supposed to hit a few golf balls to warm up Nicklaus. I was like the opening act, a comedy act before the main act came out. So I hit a few shots, and as I was leaving, Mr. Nelson just wanted to say a few words to me. And we ended up talking for 30, 40 minutes. And he didn't have to do that. He just stopped -- he came out of his way to just kind of talk to me about my future, life -- life pertaining to golf, if that's my future, if that's the direction I wanted to go to. He was -- it was just such a neat experience for me, because obviously he's one of the measuring sticks out here of how you're supposed to perform and act as a gentleman. He did it both ways.

For him to kind of take time out of his life to talk to this little old kid, here, it was a experience that I'll never forget.

Q. You're coming off one of your lowest finishes in five years. How do you feel about your game right now, and how do you feel about your criticisms that you're becoming too nice a guy to become dominant, to quote a local paper?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I saw that, too (laughter). I just don't understand it. That was the first time I finished out of the Top 10 this year. Going into that week no other player can say that. I don't see how that was. I'm trying my best. Every player has their hot streaks, has their lows. Last week was one of those times I didn't play well. That happens. And it just happened to be at a golf course that I've had some success at, and hence I think it was blown up because of that, because of those past successes I've had.

There wasn't any mention in the paper back home that Ernie missed the cut. I thought that was big news, being from Orlando, lives in Orlando, Lake Nona there. And I made the cut. I got a pension point (laughter). I thought that was good.

I had one of those weeks I just didn't play well. I played great the first day and I just did not play well the next three days. I played sporadically on a golf course where you can't do that.

Q. Was there a time you would have reacted differently, more mad?

TIGER WOODS: It's one of those things if you get mad, you get criticized for being mad, losing your cool and blowing you guys off, and walking off and being too hotheaded, too -- then all of a sudden I take the other approach -- I didn't have to stop and talk to you guys. I was 46th place, I had no business talking to you guys when you should have been talking to the leaders. I did that, and I said honestly how I felt. I felt like I was making progress, but I just didn't do it enough times. And I got criticized for saying that, and I think that's what's frustrating, because I tried my best. And I just did not perform at a high level for all four days. And it happens.

Unfortunately it happened last week. Hopefully it won't happen again, but I guarantee it will. It's part of playing sports. I'm trying, and I will always try.

Q. Is it getting more difficult to be the dominant player.

TIGER WOODS: More difficult? In what way?

Q. Well, a lot of people thought at one point in your career, it might not have been an accurate assessment, that you were so much better than other players, that if you went out and played your best, it was your golf tournament, and I'm wondering maybe now if the other players are better, if equipment and conditioning and all of the things that you have led the way in have now made it more difficult for you to be the dominant player?

TIGER WOODS: I think a lot of it goes into that answer. You answered most of it right there (laughter). Yeah, the guys are in better shape. The guys are working out. Technology has helped. They're hitting it further. Golf ball, shafts, driver heads are bigger. Faces are becoming faster. If you look back in '97 -- or even '96, how about '96. I beat Davis Love in a playoff in Vegas. He was using a persimmon driver. That wasn't that long ago.

The average driver was 43 and a half, and now I'm sure it's closer to 44 and a half or 45, most of the guys are playing. So they've added some length to their drivers. So hence they're going to hit it further. And I think you're seeing it on the driving stats. We've made huge jumps from '97 on.

Q. Is this good?

TIGER WOODS: Is it good? I think it's the nature of the beast. It's the nature of golf. When we went from -- the evolution of the golf ball, we went from a feathery, then they started making the gutta percha golf ball, I actually hit one at St. Andrews. The wow ball, and now we're at the solid piece of construction. The evolution has changed. It's part of going from wooden shafts from steel to graphite. I think it's just we've all seen it throughout our lives. You've seen it longer than I have, that golf has certainly changed a lot.

Q. A couple of players have said it, and I think Johnny Miller said it on air last Sunday, that you were better and more consistent when you were working with Butch. What do you think of those comments and do you give any consideration to maybe getting another set of eyes?

TIGER WOODS: I'm working on my game. As you guys probably already know, Butch and I really didn't work a lot the last two or three years. It wasn't a whole lot we were working on. Our biggest task was basically from '97 through '98 when I changed my swing from cross-line kind of shot, stronger grip, to where it's at now. That was the biggest jump I've made. And after that it was basically kind of maintenance here and there. I've been doing that the last two years a lot on my own, and obviously with Butch's help every now and then. But it wasn't a whole lot of work.

The past year or so I haven't really played my best, but I've been battling through -- two years ago was a heck of a task coming back and playing through the knee stuff. Last year I wasn't allowed to practice as much. This year I've been practicing a heck of a lot more because I don't have to worry about it anymore. I'm starting to see some progress because of it.

Q. I think most people look at results of players or in your case how you're playing leading up into Augusta to try to judge whether you're peaked for Augusta. How do you gauge whether you're peaked for Augusta?

TIGER WOODS: Quality of shots. Going out there and hitting golf shots where -- you guys as golfers will know this. When you make a golf swing you don't feel like the ball was really there, and you look up and it's right where it needs to be. That's a cool feeling. You can do that more repeatedly, examine more frequently heading into a major championship you're looking pretty good. I'm starting to see some signs where that's coming back. I'm starting to hit shots like that.

Q. (Inaudible.)

TIGER WOODS: I need some work, and I've been working on it. It's a matter of solidifying things I've done, and it's getting out and trusting it and hitting the right golf shots at the right time. That's the hardest thing is taking Ranger Rick on to the golf course, hitting those golf shots. You can hit 700 golf shots in a day and be hitting them great. It's hitting a golf shot over the water, and hitting it right over the water, right spin, right trajectory, that's different.

Q. You're sitting next to those trophies, still winning tournaments, trophies, Players of the Year. If you could pick one thing, what is what's the difference now and then?

TIGER WOODS: We saw Kenny Perry string them together where he won two out of four events, but he was finishing in the top five in every single event -- you string together events, and I happened to string together events and won on top of that. And there were times when I didn't play well through a little stretch where I didn't play well for three or four tournaments in a row, got it back, and went on another burst.

A lot of it is just confidence. Winning breeds winning, there's no substitute for that. And I remember what I was asked Saturday about Stuart Appleby, going to the final round. They said he's played so well over the past four or five months, and that's exactly it. Winning breeds winning. You win once, you feel like you can win twice; you win twice, and you feel like you can win three times. It's a snowball effect, and that's exactly what happened.

Q. A lot of people say that when you have windy conditions, it affects your swing, it makes it harder to come back. Is it going to affect you in your preparation for not only this week, but also for Augusta?

TIGER WOODS: No. I live in Florida, it always blows here. That's one of the reasons why I moved here. Southern California is like playing in a dome. It never blows. Coming out here, every springtime it always howls. That's part of living in Florida. So the answer is no.

Q. First of all, how far can that gutta percha ball go when you hit it?

TIGER WOODS: You know No. 10 at St. Andrews? I drove it over the green with my ball, I hit driver, 5-iron with the gutta percha ball.

Q. I wanted to ask, every time there is a episode with a spectator like with Davis at Match Play, golfers come under criticism saying how come they can't handle the spectator noise like other athletes can. What's your response when you hear people criticize golfers like that?

TIGER WOODS: I don't think we'd have a problem with it if it was loud all the time. I grew up on a military base, planes flying in, especially with Desert Storm all the first year. Guns going off, that's just part of -- it was just normal, because it was always noisy. All of a sudden you hit quiet, dead silence, and you can hear a gnat flying over it's so quiet. And anything will disturb your concentration, and that's where it becomes difficult. If it was loud all the time, I don't think any of us would complain about it because it's consistently loud.

Q. When you talk about not trusting your swing, what causes you not to trust it, why can't you do that?

TIGER WOODS: Conditions, trying to hit a shot the proper distance over the water to a pin that's three over the water. Those are not easy golf shots. And you're trying to be precise to hit it five feet right of the hole, that's tough. Sometimes it's a lot easier than others. Sometimes you're looking at five feet, sometimes you're looking at 15, 20 feet. It's a lot easier to trust your swing 15, 20 feet, other than being precise.

Q. Playing golf, an individual sport, running cross-country, Fort Bragg, individual decision to test yourself, out here, professionally, no psychologists, you do all your own weight lifting, no swing coach, per se. What do you suppose that says, if anything, about kind of your personality or the way you are?

TIGER WOODS: I'm a lot like my dad. I'm just a lot like him, just very independent, and I don't need any other outside forces to motivate me. That's never been the case. My dad and I had a long talk when I was a kid, and he says, you play golf for you. You don't play golf for me, you don't play golf for mom, you don't play golf for anybody else. What you do in golf is on your own, for you. Until you have a family, that's how it's going to be. And I took a lot of -- I took that into consideration and it's true, because you're out there by yourself, trying to hit golf shots. No one is going to bail you out. No one is going to call a quick 20. You've got to go out and do it on your own.

And I think -- I just enjoyed always trying to push myself to the next level. And I just get a big kick out of that, see what I can physically do, what I'm capable of. When I'm all of a sudden done with my playing career and look back, and I'll say, yeah, that's what I was able to do. I don't think I've gotten there yet. I'll keep working there until hopefully I look back and say I was pretty good at one time.

Q. Outside of golf, can you give us an example of the most you've ever pushed yourself?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, cross-country a lot. Seems like just about every single practice I was puking. I got in pretty good shape. But you can walk away from the team at any time. You can walk away. That's your decision. It was my decision to stick it out, because I knew I was capable of more. And the only way to do that was pushing through it. Whether I go on long runs now or go on a bike ride or lift those weights, you always kind of push that extra little bit because you know that you're capable of more. So that's why I hit more golf balls and do more things, because you never know.

Like I had a great talk with a gentleman at the Champions Dinner last week who was at our table. He was from South Africa, and he was in the Army for two years, a requirement being in South Africa, and he said that he got to this point where he couldn't run anymore, he was crawling on the ground, starting to cry, a grown man crying, because he was pushed to the absolute limit, and the drill instructor said now you've reached one seventh of what you're capable of, and it hit him that he had a lot more left in him, and he picked himself up and he went on. But that says a lot about what you're capable of.

Q. Have you done anything lately that's made you puke?


Q. Continuing on this Fort Bragg experience, I don't know what that would entail, but obviously you don't have any concerns about being injured. What is the mindset of an athlete that's willing to put himself in a situation where he could be injured?

TIGER WOODS: I do it every day. We're reinjuring our bodies every day, every time I hit a golf shot. All of us have arthritis. We have damaged wrists, elbows, necks, low backs. There are hip surgeries out here left and right. Repetitive action happens, that's part of what we do. We try not to, that's why we lift as many weights trying to balance it out, but it does happen.

I think for me this whole Fort Bragg experience is just a lot of fun, it's a challenge. It's an experience not too many people get a chance to experience. And I've been lucky enough to have a father who's experienced all of it and has gone through it and has told me that it's more of a mental challenge than physical. Physically I will be able to handle all of the stuff that they throw at me. Mentally is where it becomes more of a challenge. And I think that's going to be the fun part.

Q. In regards to your cross-country and running, what's the greatest distance you've ever run?

TIGER WOODS: I think 16 miles.

Q. Is that recently?

TIGER WOODS: No, that's part of training. That's back when I was 128 pounds, too, my running weight.

Q. The individualism you talked about earlier, is that the reason why there is no longer a Butch Harmon or anybody else, that you want to do it on your own?

TIGER WOODS: No, no. Everyone needs people around them to help them to succeed. There's no doubt that Butch has helped me a lot. There's no doubt that Jay helped me out with the sports psychology. There's no doubt my dad helped me out a lot. A lot of people helped me out a lot. Just my whole personality, I'm very individualistic. I had a tough time playing other team sports like baseball. If I played baseball I always wanted to be the pitcher, always wanted to be in control of the game. It's that -- that's my type of personality. I couldn't sit out and be in the outfield and sit and react to something; I always wanted to be in control of the situation. That's fun for me.

It's always fun to have -- it's like the last second shot. You want to be in control of that, win or lose, to have that opportunity.

Q. On The Golf Channel last night, Butch said he was a phone call away. Is there any chance of that phone call being made?

TIGER WOODS: Butch and I are still friends. I still talk to him when he's out here, when I'm out here. As far as asking for help on my golf swing, no. But friendship-wise, yes, Butch will always be my friend. And hopefully I will always be his. He has meant a lot to me as a person. Forget about golf. Yeah, we know what he's done for me golf-wise. But as a person growing up, he helped me, took me under his wing, and other young kids, but basically showed me life on Tour, kind of led me in the right direction with guys out on Tour, like Davis, he had a relationship with Davis or helped me play practice rounds with Raymond or Greg, things like that that really helped me as a person, not only as a golfer but as a person, too.

Q. Tiger, outside of the obvious role with Stevie, what other role does he play, except for caddie, for you?

TIGER WOODS: He's one of my best friends, one of my best friends. Stevie and I can talk about anything, anytime. So our relationship has transcended that of a player and caddie. And he's meant a lot to me, and will always mean a lot to me. It's very important for me to have him in my life. He's that close a friend with me.

Q. Some of the things you had when you were an amateur, you had a psychologist on the bag. Does Stevie act like that for you? Does he replace that role to some extent?

TIGER WOODS: I think every caddie has to. We as players, we can get a little mental out there at times. I think that's just the nature of golf. We all do. You're trying to either convince us it's the right club or convince us to get refocused again, blot things out, get committed on our lines, remind us of some of our swing keys, and get us -- basically get a feel of how I'm feeling that day. Some days I'm feeling lethargic and he kicks me in the butt a little bit. Other days I'm pretty wound up, he doesn't say anything. Other days he better not say anything (laughter). And that's just part of being a caddie. You have to be a little part psychologist, part friend. You're basically the jockey and trying to help your horse into the winner's circle.

JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Thank you, Tiger, for joining us.

End of FastScripts.

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