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March 16, 2004

Tiger Woods


TODD BUDNICK: We welcome four-time defending champion Tiger Woods to the Bay Hill Invitational Presented by MasterCard.

To start, first we want to present Tiger with his sixth consecutive Mark H. McCormack Award, given to the player who holds the No. 1 with position on the World Golf Ranking for the greatest number of weeks each calendar year.

Tiger, this is your 310th week at No. 1. How about a few comments on your sixth consecutive award.

TIGER WOODS: Well, it's one of those things where every player wants to be ranked as No. 1, and I've been fortunate enough to be ranked No. 1 all of last year. It's a great award.

TODD BUDNICK: Coming to this week, it's a big week for you, a chance to make history again. You're tied with three other players who have won the same event four consecutive times. Talk about the feelings with that opportunity.

TIGER WOODS: Well, I've done it different ways, too, that's the weird thing about it. I've done it with great ball-striking, I've done it with great putting, not playing well, managing my game well, last year I wasn't feeling well. So I've done it different ways. This golf course is such that it does set up well for anybody who basically drives the ball long now, especially the greens being re-designed and firmer. Maybe not right now, but apparently they are pretty firm after the re-design.

If you can drive the ball down there and keep it in play, it just makes it so much easier going to the greens with shorter clubs. And if you look at most of the guys who have had a chance on the four years that I've won, most of the guys are longer hitters. So I think it does set up well for the longer hitters.

Q. Talk about the re-design, there was a fair amount of criticism and last year they softened; do you feel the course is softened even more?

TIGER WOODS: It's definitely softened, no doubt about that, especially after this rain. I think it's -- I don't know, it's just one of those things where this golf course, if the rough is up, and the greens are firm, it's brutal to play. But it's so hard to get the ball close, even from the fairways, let alone from the rough, you have no chance.

When the golf course is has softened up because of this rain, last year on Sunday, we actually were able to back the ball up again and this wasn't the case for two years. You get sand wedge and you're hoping the next bounce touches the green again after it's landed on the front edge. It's just one of those things where I think the golf course the first year it was re-designed, the greens were over the top.

I forgot who I played with but on 17, we were playing the back tee downwind and you land the ball short of the flag, back right pin, and the next time it touched, it lands in the water, landed short of the flag, flew over the green and landed in the water. I saw this and played my shot in the left bunker. I was aiming in the left bunker, put it in the left bunker, blasted out and made my putt for par because you couldn't get it close. Last year it was much softer and obviously now with the rain this year, it's going to be a heck of a lot softer.

Q. Why do you think you've won here four times in a row and how much do you buy into the theory of horses for courses?

TIGER WOODS: It does set up well to my eye. And it's become better for the longer hitters when the greens were hard. When the greens are hard like that, if you hit the ball in play down the fairway, you get wedges and 9-irons -- someone has got 7-iron, 8-iron that's a big difference, especially when the ball is releasing with a wedge from 15, 20 feet. I think that's one of the reasons why I won those years the prior year, probably just played well.

Q. What do you think on the horses for courses theory, do you buy into that?

TIGER WOODS: I think to a certain extent because if you look at it. I'm sure Davis will say this, that the golf course sets up well to his eye. You hear that a lot. Freddie, you'll hear Riviera with Freddie, the whole golf course just sets up to his eye.

I think that's why this golf course, why I've had success on it. It does set up well to my eye. I don't feel uncomfortable on a lot of the shots. I'm very comfortable here. On top of that, I've won here five times, going back to my junior days. It just breeds confidence. The more you win, the more it breeds confidence.

Q. Along that same train of thought, does softer greens broaden the field in terms of guys having a better chance to win this week?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it does, definitely. The fairways are soft, backed up with 3-woods today. That's never been the case.

The rough wasn't that high. It was thick but it wasn't high, and now it's only going to get thicker and longer.

Any time you get softer greens, the field does expand. You'll see more guys have a chance to win with it a little bit softer.

Q. You can hit a longer approach shot?

TIGER WOODS: You're not going to be afraid that if you come in there with long irons you'll have absolutely no chance of stopping. The first year you did, you have no chance of stopping the ball on the green. This year, that's different.

Q. If you would change something about this golf course, seems strange asking a guy who has won it four times running, but what would you do?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think the first thing I would change would be No. 17, the right part of the green, not have it -- front right part of the green slopes away from you, and most days, that pin is back there on a Sunday and the tee is all the way back. So you're coming in with 2-, 3-iron, 4-iron maybe. Downwind, it's probably a 4-iron. When it slopes away from you, you have no chance of stopping the ball on the green. Now with this rain, obviously that's changed now. It's no less negated, but before it really didn't. If you threw a 3-iron in there, you know it's going to be over the green automatically. I didn't think that was fair with the length of club.

Now if we play the front tee down on the bottom in front of the cart path, where we have 7- or 8-iron in there, that's perfectly fair, but not with the length of the hole.

Q. Craig Parry's shot at Doral, there was a little conversation about these kind of finishes to the tournament. We had one out here about ten years ago. Shaun Micheel said if his shot went in at the PGA, it would have been considered lucky instead of being considered a great shot, and other players have said that. Is there any explanation as to why some think six inches can make a difference between a lucky shot and a great shot?

TIGER WOODS: Hey, I think it's a great shot that he hit it in that close. Now, it's luck if it goes in. Once you hit the ball up in the air and it lands on the green, you it could land on a ball mark, kick the wrong way, hit a check, hit and release, hit a sandy spot; you don't know. But those guys hit great golf shots. Shaun Micheel hit a great golf shot; even if it would have gone in, I still would consider that a great shot in. It would have been luck if it holed out, because it's uphill, you probably don't think that ball would roll out, but he had a great golf shot whether it goes in or not.

Q. And why do you think that it seems to be these kind of shots occur in situations like Craig Parry, Shaun Micheel, Robert Gamez, and it has not happened quite as frequently with Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods or an Arnold Palmer, on the last hole; do you think you guys are so far ahead it doesn't matter, or are you aiming at that point in the tournament, you're aiming for a safe spot rather than tap-in?

TIGER WOODS: There are times when I fire at the flag and I haven't hit the flag. (Laughter.) There are times when I've played safe and I've hit good shots in there and I've had birdie opportunities and made one.

But no, generally, on the last hole, it's usually tucked away where you shouldn't be firing at the flag. Some days, guys just feel confident. I'm sure if you ask Craig Parry, I'm sure he was aiming probably six, eight, ten feet right of the flag and maybe trying to hit a little draw and if it doesn't draw, fine. If I hit a good solid shot, fine, it stays out to the right. Generally what we try and think, sometimes the shot comes off, sometimes it doesn't.

Q. Back to your comfort level here. How much of that is related to the fact that you're home and you don't have to deal with the other logistics?

TIGER WOODS: It is nice, there's no doubt about that, being able to go home and, like I always said every year, have your own remote, you know. You don't have to worry about anything. Sit back on your own couch, your own remote.

It just makes things so much easier, it really does. I play, whether it's here or Disney, to be able to come home. It makes things so much more comfortable because most of our lives when we play the Tour, it's away from home. College, it's the same way. We never had home matches. Most courses had half their season at home, but I actually had two tournaments at home it makes things a lot easier.

Q. Of all the things you've achieved, where would you rank winning the same event four years in a row and what would it mean to win it the fifth time?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it's -- where would I rank it? Definitely up there but obviously it can't rank anywhere near the majors.

Q. The cut streak, as well.

TIGER WOODS: The cut streak, I think a lot of it's luck. I've had some skill where I've had to make some birdies but also I've had some great breaks, too. There are some times where I probably should have missed a cut or two.

But I've had some great breaks and great things happen. I'm fortunate enough to make a few on the number that I probably should have missed.

Four in a row here, I think it's just playing well, getting right breaks at the right time. The year I played against Phil, what was it, two years ago, three years ago, he certainly played better than I did on Sunday. But I caught that tee shot on 16, if you remember, I almost out hit it out-of-bounds left, probably should have been out-of-bounds; and then I get a perfect lie in the rough which I shouldn't have got, hit it on the green and make birdie. Hit it in the lake on 18 and make birdie. That's luck. I had lucky breaks. In order to have succeed for a long period of time period of time, you're going to have to have those.

Q. Where would this stack up to the Amateurs?

TIGER WOODS: I still think the three U.S. Juniors were better than the three Amateurs because -- or even the four TOUR events just because there's an age limit. You have to win it by 15, 16, 17. Plus there's a big difference between someone who is 14, 15, and 17, physically mental.

Q. You say you put the three Juniors ahead of the four straight majors?

TIGER WOODS: I said the three Amateurs and the four tournaments here.

Q. So Bay Hill fits somewhere behind the four majors and the two sets of Amateurs?


Q. Being a TOUR player and married is not always easy; as you look ahead what do you think your major challenges for you would be?

TIGER WOODS: Being married, nothing changed. I've lived with Elin for over two years now. Nothing's changed if you're married or not.

I think the biggest change is when you have kids. Everyone who has had children can say that. That's a big change in your life. That will be the biggest challenge for me. One good thing I've got going for me is I don't sleep much. I'll be up all night anyway, so nothing really changes there.

Q. How much do you sleep?

TIGER WOODS: Three to five hours.

Q. That's it?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah. College really groomed me for that.

Q. At every level you've played, you've had victory streaks, have you ever thought about why you, and what you can do that enables you to have those streaks?

TIGER WOODS: I really don't know why. Maybe I just look forward to the event. Maybe I've played well or the golf course sets up well for me. There are a lot of different factors there and I can't really say it's just one thing or the other.

Q. You say nothing has really changed, getting married won't change anything, but how has being in a relationship and just your life and your comfort and living around you changed? Do you feel more comfortable?

TIGER WOODS: Oh, without a doubt. Being with the right person makes things better. It makes life better, much easier, and you look toward to doing things. So I think from that aspect, I've been very lucky, very lucky.

Q. After going winless in the majors last year, first time since '98, how have you prepared and look forward to playing Augusta the next couple of week?

TIGER WOODS: I haven't prepared any differently. I'm looking forward to it, no doubt about that. Everyone is. I'm certainly excited about getting there and looking at the changes that they have made to the golf course and seeing how it's going to play different this year, as opposed to last year.

I'm curious to see if it's actually going to be dry because we have yet to play Augusta since they have lengthened the golf course and changed the different tee angles and stuff, added trees. We have not played it dry since Ollie won in '99. We haven't played it dry since then. It's been wet every year.

If it gets dry and long (laughing) it's going to be one heck of a test. I'm looking forward to seeing how it turns out.

Q. An autograph policy question. The great picture of you putting the green jacket on Mike Weir last year which ran on every paper in Canada, Mike has been requested not to sign those, apparently the request came down from IMG. His IMG guy said it had something to do with your contract with Upper Deck. Do you know anything about this?


Q. What is your policy?

TIGER WOODS: I've never heard of it, first of all.

Q. What is your policy on signing; you know a lot of it's going into the shops.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, a lot of them are being sold.

I have my deal obviously with Upper Deck that I do every year. But there are times when, yeah, I'll make exemptions to you or friends or whomever when I do stuff or auctions and charities or stuff or whatever, mementos people want to give to their children or grandchildren. Stuff like that, I'll do or I'll sign stuff out here.

It's just part of our game. Our accessibility is what drives us as a business in golf with our fan base. We have such a tremendous fan base because they get basically two feet from us, three feet from us on a tee box. We can't say that about football. Certainly can't say that about NASCAR. (Laughter.)

There are other sports, sometimes you might get interaction with Shaq coming over the top of you, but that's about it. When we talk to our fans out there on tee boxes or walk on the fairway, we acknowledge them, where most sports, that doesn't happen.

Q. When we talk about the majors, is it possible to overemphasize their importance to a player's career, or is it one of those things where you can't emphasize it enough when you determine how great a player is?

TIGER WOODS: It puts a cap on your career, no doubt about it. Or it can be a springboard into your career. For me, it was a springboard because I won my first full year on TOUR. I won '97 at Masters. For a great professional, let's say like Mark O'Meara who won at age 41, it put a great cap on his career. It can be both.

Certainly, if you can have one major or a few majors on your resume, it sure looks good.

Q. Chipper told the Braves broadcast crew that he shot 63 the other day, wondering at which course did you play and what's the State of your game right now heading into this week?

TIGER WOODS: What course did I play?

Q. A Watson and Palmer course out there.

TIGER WOODS: I don't know. We played 36 -- we kept going. When you play with Chipper and Smoltzy, if there's light, we'll play. (Laughter.) So we kept going and going and going. We had actually an emergency nine, we played nine holes in an hour and ten minutes or something, the four of us -- and that's pretty good with four.

Q. When did Annika jump in?

TIGER WOODS: Annika played the first 18. She shot something in the 60s.

Q. Beat Smoltz?

TIGER WOODS: Oh, yeah, oh, yeah. Trust me.

Q. Do you ever get a chance to prepare here? Do you ever play as casual rounds? Do you do anything outside of tournament week at Bay Hill?

TIGER WOODS: Last time I played was Sunday of the tournament last year.

Q. Does this rain today interrupt your preparation for this week?

TIGER WOODS: That's why I'm lucky we have tomorrow, so I can take a look at the golf course one more time.

The golf course is not like this year round. Usually you don't have the rough and on top of that; it's not overseeded with rye greens. Usually it's just bermuda and very grainy here, so I don't come over and play. Over at Isleworth we can ride our carts in shorts and people just kind of leave us alone.

Q. You talked about the four in a row at this tournament and how it's important to you and it's important on the list of accomplishments you've had. Even more important based on tournament host?

TIGER WOODS: I guess, yes. Having Arnold there and the Champions Dinner, and you can ramble on with him, give him some grief, you don't get to do that very often at other tournaments. Any time you have the King of our sport hosting an event and you have to win it a few times, I think it makes it more special that you can see him and talk to him and hang out with him because that's -- and he's still plays the event.

You don't find that in any other sport. We were talking last year at the Champions Dinner last year, I'm finding out how he's swinging, what is he working on, new technologies he's been experimenting with, how it's going to help him play this year. That's kind of cool to be able to rap with somebody like that.

I think that's what makes it special to win here because you have that opportunity.

Q. You talked about the accessibility to you guys earlier, and earlier in your career it made you a little jumpy; have you gotten more comfortable with that?

TIGER WOODS: More comfortable, yes. There are times when I do feel a bit uneasy at times. If you've ever walked with me through the ropes when the ropes are basically collapsing and all of those fans kind of come in with pins and books and papers and magazines and stuff, that's when it gets a little hairy. Because I've been cut a few times on my face with stray pins or books.

One time at Phoenix, I got cut right under the eye with a pin. If that was a little bit higher, I probably would have been in trouble. So times like that, it does get a little bit uncomfortable. But overall, it's great to have fans where they are.

Q. You can relate to what Mike Weir is going to go through at Augusta as defending champion, what type of pressure is he going to feel that week?

TIGER WOODS: Hey, he's just going to out there and play, that's what I did. I went out and played my game and not worried about anything else. You're defending champion for 51 weeks. Once that tournament week rolls along, it's up for grabs and along we go.

Q. Being No. 1 in the world, a lot of other players want to try to overtake you there, do you feel like there's been more heat and more guys on your back; that it's more competitive than it was maybe a few years ago?

TIGER WOODS: I think, yeah, you have Vijay playing so well last year and moving up in the points. He plays every week. Plus on top of that he's playing so well, too. In order to move up in the World Rankings now, all you have to do is win a couple of times. It's amazing how big the jump is. The old point system, you just tried to beat what you did last year. So there's tremendous jumps. I think it's harder now to stay up there because of the fact that the points will roll over faster and you can have stretches. But there again you also have stretches where you win a lot and play well and move further ahead.

Q. Does it get more difficult year after year to keep staying a streak alive like that?

TIGER WOODS: This streak here?

Q. Well, you win one year and come back and win again, is it like an extra burden to haul all of that?

TIGER WOODS: It is because I get asked more. (Laughter.) I get asked from you guys, friends. People at the grocery store, "good luck on, what number is this?"

"I'm going for five,".

"Oh, good luck." I get asked more often, more frequently. It's just a normal part of when I've won there.

Q. When have you been in a grocery store?

TIGER WOODS: I always go. (Laughter.)

Q. You mentioned a few minutes ago the accessibility to fans, and that's at a golf tournament, do you have an example or two of a situation where it just totally blue you away and somebody recognized you, or maybe you were a little bit surprised that somebody knew who you were, maybe someone far away or somebody approached you and just wouldn't have thought they would have known who you were?

TIGER WOODS: I think it's not necessarily that. I think it's when I'm maybe playing and I may see a fellow athlete that I know who is maybe in that city out there watching me.

At Akron, Ron Harper lives there and all of the sudden out of the blue, I'm reading my putt and I see his head above everybody else. I said, "There's Harpo, what's he doing here? Oh, yeah, he lives here." Things like that definitely provide a little shock value at times.

Q. The first year you won at Augusta you shot 30 on the back nine to get everything turned around. Given the changes there, how difficult is that to do? And with the added difficulty, is any of the magic slipped out of the back nine at Augusta?

TIGER WOODS: How hard is it to shoot 30s? Very hard, considering now that it's hard to reach 13 and 15 with irons and keep the ball on the greens and get them close.

15, if you're a longer hitter, just hit it down that speed slot on the right with the big mounds they used to have and you can have a medium to short iron in your hand to a par 5, that's no longer the case. The hole used to be set up for a draw and now it sets up better for a fade.

If you look at the fairway, now if you go down look at the fairway on 15, go right down the middle of the fairway it puts you in the trees, behind the trees, whereas that was never the case. The middle of the fairway before, they had the trees with the ball over to the right. So they moved the fairway over to the left a little bit more. So it baits you to hit the ball down the right, bring the trees and the rough into play and it becomes a harder second shot.

And 13 with the new length, I used to be able to turn 3-wood around that corner with no problem. Now I can't do that. A 3-wood gets me to the corner. If I want to turn around the corner, I have to hit driver. That certainly makes things a little bit harder.

To see a 30 now, it's much more difficult because you can't make two cheap eagles with irons in your hand. You're going to have to hit some really good golf shots in there with longer irons, if not woods. Before, two good drives leaves you a couple 6-irons or something like that on a par 4 and that's no longer the case.

Q. When you don't have the eagles and the echoes down there, is there anything missing?

TIGER WOODS: Like I told Hootie after they moved the tee back on 13, I said you basically have taken less risk out of the hole. Now you see more guys -- you won't see as many 7s on the hole and you won't see as many 3s. You'll see a lot more 4s and 5s because you don't have that risk of taking the ball around the corner. Basically play it out and if you don't get out there far enough, I'll just lay up and hit a wedge on the green.

You don't see too many guys playing out from the trees anymore trying to knock it on because they planted two new trees out there, two small ones, so that's changed quite a bit.

TODD BUDNICK: Thank you for your time today, Tiger.

End of FastScripts.

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