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February 29, 2004

Tiger Woods


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: We'd like to welcome the winner of the Accenture Match Play Championship, Tiger Woods, defending your title from last year. 40th career victory and now you have a 20-3 record in this event. Pretty amazing. If you could go through your round today. Great match with Davis.

TIGER WOODS: It was a great day. Davis played beautifully in the morning, didn't make a whole lot of putts this morning. I was struggling a little bit with my golf swing this morning, but I putted beautifully and just kept myself in the match. It looked like I was going to go down pretty good in the morning.

Davis got on a little run there, towards the end, birdied 16 and 17, and I got one back at 18, and I think that was big for momentum, just to kind of slice it in half and start off the afternoon. He made a quick bogey there on the second hole. Basically, we were all square, so it was basically like starting off a whole new match. It was great to play 16 holes and see what happens.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: You've won four of the last World Golf Championships. Maybe a couple comments about how well you've played in these events.

TIGER WOODS: Any time you play against the best players, these, the majors, Players Championship, is basically when we all get together. We all have our respective tours around the world, and it's nice to have more than just basically five tournaments a year where we all get together. Now we have a few more tournaments, which is great, and it provides more excitement, and I don't see how you can not get up for these things because it is such a great event with the best players in the year.

Q. Keyhole for you, it seemed like, was 7, coming out of a familiar place onto the green. You looked somewhat relieved I think when that ball hit the ground. Can you just talk about the shot you had and what you were thinking when you saw it land?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I had a wedge out and I had 158 to the hole, and when I hit it, I thought for sure it was over the green because I had to jump on it to get it up over that tree, and I caught a heater coming out of there. You could see this thing just knuckling out there and the wind had no effect on it. It just played that this thing would just hit soft somehow. It did, it hit soft. If it hits like a normal shot should have, that ball should have been in the back rough.

Q. Did you get a sense, having taken the lead, having not led the entire day, that that would be bigger than ordinarily?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I saw that Davis was starting to struggle a little bit with his driving this afternoon, hit a couple loose shots here and there, and I felt if I could put enough pressure on him -- let's get the tee, on top of that let's force him to make those mistakes, keep putting the ball in play, put that ball tight and make him really work for these wins on holes.

Q. What's more satisfying, winning this event last year when you struck the ball beautifully, for the most part, or this year when you were swinging --

TIGER WOODS: It's a lot easier like I did it last year. This week especially -- I won't say this week, because two days ago I really hit the ball well all day. Yesterday was all right. It was in spurts. But today I did not drive the ball well. I was struggling with my swing.

My iron game was kind of erratic, and I was just trying to at least put the ball in play. I went to try to hit some low fades out there and I'd either pull it or hit it even further right. My natural safety shot couldn't get the ball in play. Then my iron game, I was trying to put the ball on the fat side and I'd miss on the short side.

The only thing I could really rely on was my short game and my putter. I had been putting beautifully the last three days and holing some putts. I knew that it was going to come down to that. If I could somehow just keep making putts on him and at least get him a little bit frustrated that I'm out of the hole, looks like I should be out of the hole, and all of a sudden I'm halving the hole. It takes a toll.

Q. What did you do to change your drive and straighten things out in the afternoon?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I basically found that my line was a little bit off. You know, my right arm was a little high. I kept trying to basically lower my right arm at address, but that didn't do any good. My hips were a little bit open, my shoulders a little bit open, so just getting everything lined up first, just go back to basics, get your posture right, grip right, and let's just hit a few shots and let's see what happens. Let's get everything lined up, and who cares where the ball goes on the range. Let's get comfortable first. I started seeing some results. I could actually put the club in the right position on the way down. All of a sudden my speed came back in the right spot and my speed wasn't too early. I started coming back at the ball again, which was great.

Q. How many balls did you hit on the range in that stretch?

TIGER WOODS: Maybe 30 balls or so.

Q. How long did it take for you to figure out it was alignment?

TIGER WOODS: Maybe about three or four balls.

Q. In the morning match on 8 when you made that birdie, it seemed like your tempo got a little better, you started driving the ball a little bit better?

TIGER WOODS: It has nothing to do with tempo. Put it this way: If I'm uncomfortable it's going to look like I swing faster because my speed is early and it looks like I'm bailing out of the shot, but I'm trying to give myself some room to get the club down in front of me so I can go ahead and hit the shot. But if I feel trapped at all, if I feel narrow on the way down you're going to see me pop out of it. It looks like I'm swinging hard but I'm actually swinging slower.

Actually, I've been on the launch monitor and I've shown that my speed definitely slows down, but it looks like I'm speeding up. The body speeds up because I'm trying to get the club in front of me, for the life of me, but I just can't because I don't feel comfortable. I feel too narrow and I react with my hands and body.

Q. On the fifth hole there was an incident, and Davis talked about it and said you were sympathetic. He said you go through this sort of thing. I'm just wondering where does this stop, golf etiquette, and is it unfortunate -- he seemed very rattled by it and you basically conceded a putt as if you were trying to be sympathetic. You deal with it a lot more than a lot of other pros. I'm just wondering, can you comment on what goes on out there?

TIGER WOODS: It's unfortunate that we are living in a time where that has changed quite a bit. You know, the past, I'm sure, 15, 20 years, it was never like that. Golf fans were excitable, but they weren't raucous and they didn't have to yell out just because the ball got airborne. We do have our names on the bags. We are pros. We can get the ball in the air.

The incident with Davis was unfortunate because he was playing well this morning, and he got off to kind of a shaky start because he hit a couple bad shots here and there. Obviously he was frustrated, and then this guy yelling out the things he was saying made him even more hot because he had done it prior to that a few times. You can block it out as many times as you can, but after a while you're going to snap. He had every right to do that because this person shouldn't have been saying that, and I told Davis, just go ahead and focus on what you've got to do, bud, take your time on the tee shot. Just gather yourself. And he hit a shot up there. He had a little bit of a putt, but let's just forget about this hole and move on to the next.

Q. 20-3 here, 12 straight. If you go back to the last three U.S. Amateurs and U.S. Juniors, I don't know what your aggregate match play record is, but it must be pretty darn good. Is match play your favorite thing in all of golf? Does this one-on-one stuff bring out the best in all of you?

TIGER WOODS: It's kind of funny, a few years ago when I lost in the first round you guys were saying how bad you are as a professional at Match Play. How come you can't win matches? You've won matches in amateur golf and you can't win them as a pro.

Q. I'm new.

TIGER WOODS: In stroke play, as I said earlier, it takes you basically three days to get to a situation where it's one-on-one, and it's rarely ever in the same group on Sunday afternoon. Usually some guy ahead of you or some guy behind you is the guy you're challenging, or it's very rare that you can separate yourself so only two of you have a chance on the final day. Hey, from the first tee on, it's just eyeball to eyeball, let's go, let's have some fun, let's compete. That, to me, is exciting.

Q. You had said at the beginning of the week when I asked you how you played last year, you said if it was a stroke play tournament you probably would have won by a lot. What do you think you would have done this year?

TIGER WOODS: I wouldn't have won.

Q. Kind of following on what Cliff asked earlier in terms of satisfaction, I know you prefer to win by a lot, you've said that before, but given the fact that you weren't sharp every single day, struggled a little bit this morning off the tee and still won, is that as satisfying, more satisfying than the way you won last year?

TIGER WOODS: It's certainly more difficult to win the way I did today. It basically boils down to what my dad has always told me when it comes to match play. All you have to do is just be better than your opponent that day, that's it. All you have to do is win more holes than you lose. It's as simple as that. You don't have to go out there and shoot great numbers sometimes. Sometimes it's over par that wins, sometimes you really do have to be low. You just have to somehow win more holes than you lose.

So basically, what it boils down to, it was a lot easier last year because I was striking the ball, controlling it. This year I wasn't quite doing that. Today, I did it this afternoon, but I still felt uncomfortable. I hit some good iron shots, but I just made some putts.

Q. Speaking of putts, what did you see as the important putts out there today, the ones that got you out or kept you going?

TIGER WOODS: I think there was a big momentum change on 10 and 11. 10, it looks like I'm probably going to lose the hole and go back down to 2 up. I make that putt, keep my lead at 3. Then the next hole Davis gives me a gift from about three and a half, four feet. So if I lose those two holes, 1 up with basically seven to go, anything can happen, and he's got the mo' on his side. Fortunately, I kept the mo' on my side, and I kept hitting shots from there on in.

Q. What do you typically do between rounds and how often have you had to go do a quick correcting session at the range?

TIGER WOODS: We don't have an opportunity to play 36 very often. I guess the most frustrating thing is we didn't have a chance to eat. I mean, we had just a quick nothing and some fruit and let's get back out there. Basically, I'm trying to tell you I'm starving right now.

Q. Two parts. How often would you hear something like Davis heard today on 5?

TIGER WOODS: I've heard it quite a few times, yes.

Q. Over the course of a year you might hear it a half a dozen times?

TIGER WOODS: You mean per tournament?

Q. When was the last time you had somebody thrown out? It seems to me you have a little different disposition where you don't let the guy see that it's affecting you.

TIGER WOODS: That's the whole idea. If you're a baseball player and you're on the mound, you don't ever want to look up in the stands if somebody is yelling at you because they know they've got you. You just keep your head down, keep moving along. Of course it annoys you at the time, but you don't ever show that it does annoy you; just go ahead and move on and keep playing. If it does distract you, back off. Sometimes you've got to vent, sometimes you've got to go over to the bag, put your club back, start all over again, but the main thing is get refocused. That's the hard part. It throws you off your natural rhythm because you're playing in rhythm. You could see Davis was in his rhythm and that tee kind of threw him off. He hit a fat pull down to the front part of the green, but you could tell it affected his rhythm a little bit.

Q. We've seen you control some majors on the weekend by making four- and five-footers, and I think you made 12 four or longer today. Was this a major performance from you on the greens given the situation?

TIGER WOODS: I didn't quite hit it good enough to control my ball in there where I was going to make birdies all the time, so any time I had an opportunity, I had to cash in, and on top of that, I had a par putt, I had to make it because I knew that I couldn't make a lot of birdies because I wasn't hitting it close enough.

If I had a six, eight, 10-footer for par, I had to make that putt because I knew the way I was feeling, I couldn't ring off four, five, six birdies in a row. I just wasn't hitting it well enough to do that. It just made those putts that I had to make even more important to make.

Q. Kind of a two-part question. Given what you were saying about not letting people see you, fans see you react, did you feel at that stage in the match that you had even more of a maybe psychological edge? Did you feel like that was going to weigh on Davis' mind, based on what you saw? And then the second part, given what you�ve been talking about, you didn�t really feel like your game was in sync this week, because of the standards you set for yourself. Do you find yourself almost walking away bothered by that? I mean, you won the tournament, but you seem to enjoy the blowout wins.

TIGER WOODS: How can you not? Am I bothered? Yes, to a certain extent, because I hit the ball so well two days ago all day, and yesterday I hit it pretty good. I hit a couple squirrely ones here and there, but two days ago I hit the ball really well, hit the ball on the correct side of the fairways, left the ball below the hole. I had a good day ball-striking-wise, and today I came out and I just didn't have it. One of those fortunate but unfortunate things.

If it was 18 holes, the stress would have been over after 18, but I had to continue on for another 18 more holes not feeling comfortable with my game.

Q. Not that you should feel responsible for a fan like this, but a lot of people would say that you've attracted more fans that aren't typical golf fans out here. Have you noticed it and do you think you've had an effect like that, where more non-golf fans are coming out?

TIGER WOODS: Well, there are. I think it all started back when Daly won the PGA at Crooked Stick. I think that's basically when all the fans started flocking to the game that generally hadn't ever thought about coming out to watch golf.

The past few years we've certainly seen an increase in the diversity of our fan base. Hey, they're getting more excited, they're yelling more. It's great because they provide environment that's exciting, but then sometimes they cross the line.

So they have to kind of -- I think it's great when they police themselves at a great tournament such as Augusta. You have true golf fans, and you may have a few that have never been to a golf tournament before and they may yell out, but they police themselves.

Q. 3 up through 9 in the afternoon, what's your focus going into the last nine holes?

TIGER WOODS: Just keep the ball in play and give myself some looks at some birdies because I'm putting well. I just need to somehow keep putting the heat on Davis. I was able to do that.

Q. When you're struggling with your driver as you did early today, do you think it encourages the rest of the golfers?

TIGER WOODS: I don't know, ask them.

Q. Speaking of momentum, how big was 11 in the morning when it looked like you'd go 3 down and instead you win the hole and go 1 down?

TIGER WOODS: That was a big switch right there. That's the epitome of match play. He's standing in the fairway thinking if I put this ball on the green, ho-hum, I should win the hole and go 3 up. All of a sudden I make a 20-footer and he misses a short little four- or five-footer. That is the epitome of match play. Then a couple holes later we're all square.

Q. When you're off for a month, you come back at Torrey, and most of the talk is on what Vijay has done and how he's closed the gap. You leave here with two Top 10s and an impressive victory today. Is there any kind of a statement you think that delivers?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I don't start the year playing each and every week early. I played the Mercedes and I took my little break. I'm trying to have an off season in there. You know, my whole goal is to basically prepare and get ready for The Masters. That's one of the reasons why -- I don't see how you can play that much early in the year without wearing yourself out, for me. I did. I did it before in the past. I remember how I used to do it back in 97, 98, 99. I played too much too early.

Q. Do you think a statement was made?

TIGER WOODS: I don't know about a statement. I'm playing the same way as I did the end of last year. I'm playing solid golf. I've had Top 10s in every tournament I've played in this year, so I'm very positive about that.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Tiger Woods, thank you very much.

End of FastScripts.

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