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March 18, 2004

Tiger Woods


TODD BUDNICK: You're back in a familiar spot in this tournament where you want to be.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I played well today. It looks like most of the guys are going pretty well today. 6 under par is up there, a couple 6 under pars right now.

The greens are smooth. They are a little bit slow. They are more grainy than they have been in the past, which I think it's just because we have such a wonderful overseed this year. The greens are more thatchy and have some more grain. You have to be careful on the greens, some of the putts that run away from you that are downgrain can get away from you; and vice versa, the grain uphill, you've got to beat it.

So today was a day to try and post a good number with some of the accessible pins that they have today.

Q. The grain on the greens, is that what happened on 17?

TIGER WOODS: No. I pulled that ball. The second putt I pulled. First putt, I thought I hit it pretty good. Just kept coming over the knob and kind of rolled off. The second putt wasn't any different.

Q. Make a lot of money on the par 5s out here, don't you?

TIGER WOODS: You have to. If you have the length, if you get the ball into play, I think the guys who have the length are going to have a chance to get home in two, whether or not it's with a wood or with an iron, you have that chance to knock it on. If you hit the ball in play, it makes the par 5s so much easier here.

Q. Hate to bring it up, but early in the round you pulled the ball in the water. What happened?

TIGER WOODS: Actually, I drug it with my hands. I was trying to release it a little earlier and get that ball up in the air and ride it with that wind, and I just basically drove my hands through impact which shut the face down. If I would have gone ahead and just trusted it and let it go like I did on the first hole, because I tried to hit the same exact shot on the first tee like I did on the third tee and I just didn't hit it, a bad shot.

And then from there, I had a chance to make 4. I hit it a little too hard. But the next tee I think was important to get the ball in play. Just said, you didn't do it on last hole, just trust it and let it go and I ripped it right down the middle.

Q. You said you've won so many different ways when you've won here. How were you playing today? What was your style?

TIGER WOODS: I just played well. If you were out there, you would see that I really hit some good shots today. I drove it well and controlled my irons going to the greens. I hit some really good golf shots today.

Q. You seem like you've been driving the ball pretty well for a good stretch here. Can you just talk about maybe your feelings about that, as opposed to last year at times where it didn't seem like you were driving well?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I didn't drive it well last year. I did early in the year when I first came back but I wasn't driving it very far. A lot of that is I was so hesitant with my knee, I didn't I was trying to overcome that and let it go, but I kept steering.

Last year I was kind of fighting a little bit. But this year, I really drove it well at L.A. then I got to The Match Play and I cracked my driver. I caved it in; so I had a back up driver that I didn't really like all that well. It was aim left, swing hard because it kept cutting. It was frustrating. I got a driver that I hit well like I did at Dubai; I played well there, and continued it basically to here.

Q. There's a lot been made that this would be your fifth straight win here, but you've done so many things all over the world that maybe in relation to all of your worldwide things, can you put this in perspective for us, a fifth win? What does Bay Hill mean to you as a fifth victory?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I haven't won it yet. (Laughter.) A long way to go. Hopefully I have that chance this year. I've set myself up so far. I have three more rounds to go, a long way to go.

I think it would be great. It would be one heck of an accomplishment to be able to do something no one's ever done. The sport has been played professionally for over 100 years, we have all the records, 100 years plus. It doesn't happen very often you get to do something no one has ever done before, and I've done it a few times so far in my career. Hopefully this week will be that again.

Q. Do you remember the last time you played with Watson or where that would have been and how long ago?

TIGER WOODS: The last time the last time he remember being paired with him was '98 at Olympic. I played the first two rounds with him. It was him the "W" pairing; Westwood, Woods and Watson. You know, USGA always has these little funny little pairs.

Q. None of them came home with a W.

TIGER WOODS: He didn't play hit the ball well, but his short game was so good that week, the first few days I played with him.

It hasn't changed. His short game is phenomenal. He's hitting it longer I think now, than he did then.

Q. He kept up with you most of the day.

TIGER WOODS: The way he hits it, I spin the ball more than he does. He hits the ball with very little spin. Look at his short irons; he doesn't spin the ball very much. He never has, he's never played that way. He's always believed in having very little spin on his golf shots.

Hit golf shots are very flat with a lot of run to them, so get them on the right fairways like they are here, he can run that ball out there pretty far.

Q. You've changed a lot of standards out here personally and for other people. When you see guys like Darren now looking like a running back, do you take pride in saying, you know, "that's really something that I'm proud, if I brought that, I'm proud"?

TIGER WOODS: No. I'm not proud of that. I think golf is a sport; you have to treat it as such. I don't see how you cannot train for it.

I think all of us in here probably admit, it would be stupid to go out there and think that we could play football without training for it and building ourselves up. Golf is the same way. I think if you treat it as a sport, you will train as such.

A lot of the golfers haven't played sports growing up. If you look a lot of younger kids they have playing sports growing up, so they have that mentality. So they have not changed.

I think if you've come from a sports background playing other sports where you have been trained or you have been working in the gym, you had to do your sprints, you had to run, it's no different.

Q. Last two majors have been won by guys people would not expect to win. How hard is it for a guy like that would to the win Masters, someone who is not a big name?

TIGER WOODS: Well, Augusta is a tournament that you have to have played there a few years to have gotten the knowledge of where to miss the golf ball, how to strategize off the tee, the angles you need to go to the greens. I think the last first time winner was Fuzzy, '79. So it's been a long time.

Q. So when you see guys who are obviously training more than they would have, do you think that takes away from your advantage, or does that mean you're going to have to work harder or do you have an advantage?

TIGER WOODS: Hey, you've always got to work hard. If you take pride in what you do, you will work at it whether you guys as writers take pride in your work, I take pride in what I do. In order for me to do what I do at a high level, I have to put myself in that gym. I have to go out and hit a whole bunch of golf balls. I've got to work on my short game and my putting. You've got to do these things. You can't expect to go out there and play well if you don't.

Q. But there was a time, I am told, 30 years ago, when people didn't view golf that way.

TIGER WOODS: Well, look at it this way. Think about if they did, how well they could have played and how healthy they would have been later in life, too.

It's also overall lifestyle. If you're more fit, you feel better and you have less injuries. Guys are more flexible. They are stronger at a later age, hitting the ball further.

Look how many guys on the Senior Tour now are working out. Imagine if they had done that 20, 30 years ago how much longer they would be now.

Q. On the subject of fitness, I'm curious how this Ft. Bragg thing came about and what you do you want to get out of it?

TIGER WOODS: I just want to have fun with it. If I was never introduced to golf, I would be doing something like that. Hopefully something in the special ops arena. For me, it would be a lot of fun. It's a physical and mental challenge of it all. And also to get to experience something that very few people can experience.

I'm lucky enough where my father has connections being a former green beret and he was there at Ft. Bragg for numerous years. So he knew the commanding general there of the base and what a possible scenario would be if I could do something like this.

They do things like this for politicians who may come in for a day, or a news anchorman may come in and want to show or portray what it's like at that base. So they have done things like this in the past. Only difference is I'm a golfer instead of a politician or a newsman.

Q. Four days?

TIGER WOODS: I think it's five, I believe.

Q. And you're going to go live in the barracks?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, live with the guys have fun with it.

Q. How long has this been on your radar?

TIGER WOODS: Ever since I was a little boy.

Don't forget, I grew up with my dad, who went to two tours of 'Nam, and did all of these crazy things being in special ops. So it intrigues you as a kid hearing all of these stories. So you always wanted to like any kid you always want to be like your dad or experience some of the things he experienced.

And to me, I think it would be fun. It's a fun challenge. We'll see what happens.

Q. Over the years you've learned to hit so many different types of shots and off speed shots, you seem to hit more of those. Is it more challenging to hit an off speed shot with control instead of ripping it and controlling the ball?

TIGER WOODS: I think it's always hard to let it go and control it. The harder you hit it, the less control you have.

Everybody has their own optimal speed to go at the shots. Some may be harder than others, naturally. I've always found that if I had, under pressure, I would always revert back to letting it go. But the more shots you have, the more you have in your arsenal, the more you can rely on down the stretch when you have shots.

Sometimes it may be like over at La Costa where I had to hit 7 irons from 135, 140 to spin the ball on some of the greens. If I go ahead and rip the perfect number with a wedge, it's 50 feet off the green.

So, I guess my point is that you have to be able to hit all of the different shots. But under pressure, you're going to find it, you're going to feel what's best that particular day. Sometimes it's all out. Sometimes I feel like trap hooking them all day because that's what I've got. Do you know the stretch sometimes that's what I'll hit. Sometimes it's a low cut and that's all I've got there. It's a feel thing. It's experience.

Q. Was there a time when you didn't have confidence

TIGER WOODS: I'd try. I'd try anything. Ask Butch that. He knows it better than anybody. If you give me something the only way to find out whether it works or not is to try to down the stretch. If it doesn't work down the stretch, then junk it and try something else because obviously it doesn't work.

So, what's the use in practicing hitting all of those shots hours upon hours if you don't use it down the stretch when you have a chance to win.

Q. You talked about the mental game, and going to Ft. Bragg, they play a mental game' what's your gut feeling about the mental toughness?

TIGER WOODS: Well, it's a mental toughness, but here there's no physical challenge in golf. We walk around for four and a half hours. That's not tough.

Their mental toughness I think is more what I would equate to how I used to train in cross country because it's more physical. These guys run miles upon miles carrying 40 pound sack and two quarts of water and flannel and rifles. That's tough. That's tough work.

So your body saying no, but your mind will carry a lot longer than you think. I don't think they are going to put me through the ringer as what they would do, but, hopefully it will be close. I want to have a challenge. It's fun to have that.

Q. The mental aspect, describe your comfort level on this course. Is it a point in this course where it's almost where you have don't have butterflies or does it still present a new challenge for you each year each round?

TIGER WOODS: It does present a challenge, always, every golf course does. I know where to miss the golf ball here. I know where to put it. Just a matter of putting it there. I think over the years, this golf course has evolved a lot from the first time I played it as a junior. 16, had that little neck over there as a par 5 over there and just a little bitty neck on the left hand side that was like 15 deep. Then you had that big, basically two different greens on 16 a few years ago, and then you're changing it again to what if looks like now.

The golf course has changed a lot. Tee shots haven't changed. They are all the same from the time I played it. I didn't play No. 1 as a par 5 or 16 as a par 4. I didn't play that early.

So I've played it the same routing, just different greens.

Q. Aircraft airier, Ft. Bragg, do you have anything else in mind some day that you would like to do, like space shuttle?

TIGER WOODS: (Laughter.) I think anybody would want to do that.

Q. 20 million.

TIGER WOODS: Exactly. You have to put in a little cash, don't you.

The aircraft carrier thing was we wanted to Mark and I were talking about we wanted to do something for the troops. I was supposed to go with Mark back in Heidelberg when I first went to Heidelberg, but I wasn't feeling well so I didn't go. He went and did a little clip for the troops in Heidelberg.

I knew I would do that again if I had an opportunity, and this was the perfect opportunity, after all of our troops, what they have done throughout this war. It's just a little way for us to say thank you. I know we were not allowed on the boat very long, because obviously civilians have to be off the boat at a particular time, and we had a Pro Am that morning.

But we wanted to stay longer and have a great time with the troops. It would have been great if we could have spent overnight with them. But we had for the short time we had, we had an absolute blast. Seeing what they do, they put their lives on the line every day. You get an appreciation for kids they are kids; average age on that boat was 19. And then performing just unbelievable tasks, bringing in jets that are going to scream in there 150 miles an hour to a complete stop in a second and a half. That's a pretty big responsibility.

It's pretty amazing to see what they are doing there.

Q. Did you get a little feeling of, "I get too much credit these guys don't get enough"?

TIGER WOODS: I get way too much credit. Anybody can hit a draw or hit a fade or hit a golf ball, but not everyone can do what they do. They put their lives on the line. They just went through a war.

As much as we athletes say, "it's a fight out there, it's a battle," it's not, compared to what they do. They really do put their lives on the line.

TODD BUDNICK: Let's go through your card, Tiger.

TIGER WOODS: 1, hit a 3 wood and 8 iron to about six feet. Made it.

Hit in the water on 3 with a 3 wood. Hit an 8 iron up there to about 15 feet and missed it.

4, I hit a driver and 2 iron to hold the green, actually on the back fringe and I 2 putted about 35 feet.

6, I hit a driver and a 3 iron in the right bunker. Blasted up to about a foot.

9, I hit a driver and a 6 iron to about six feet right of the hole.

12, I hit a driver and 2 iron well left of the green in the bunker. I hit a pitch shot probably from about 50 yards or so. I hit it to about eight inches.

13, I hit a 2 iron and a 9 iron to about eight feet left of the hole and made that.

16, I hit a driver and a 4 iron pin high about 25 feet right of the hole and 2 putted.

17, I hit a 6 iron left just on the fringe and 3 putted from about, oh, 45 feet or so.

TODD BUDNICK: Thank you, Tiger.

End of FastScripts.

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