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February 11, 2004

Tiger Woods


THE MODERATOR: World number one, Tiger Woods, thanks for joining us. If we could start with some opening comments about coming back to defend your Buick Invitational title.

TIGER WOODS: I'm excited to be here. I'm excited to see some great weather here. Obviously, last year wasn't the best of weather, but the results were good. This week is going to be a lot of fun playing on a golf course that is hard and fast - at least the fairways are. The greens are still a little bit soft. Fairways are very quick. It's playing short.

I've noticed that yesterday's practice round, even today's ProAm, that the ball will run on the fairway, which hasn't always been the case here. Usually the ball tends to back up. Here it's actually running out. It's going to be a little bit more of a challenge to try to hit fairways this week.

THE MODERATOR: Five straight top fives here, two wins. What is it about the course you like? I know you grew up playing golf here.

TIGER WOODS: I think it's that right there. I played here in junior golf since I was a little boy. You know, I've always felt very comfortable playing down here in San Diego, specifically here at Torrey Pines.

I just think the golf course just sets up well to my eye. It's one of those things where I get over just about every tee shot here and I feel very comfortable. I like the way the course is routed, the shape of the greens. Especially after the redesign, I think the golf course is even stronger and even better than it was before.

THE MODERATOR: We'll take some questions.

Q. Is there anything that you need to have more in shape after taking a month off, any part of your game?

TIGER WOODS: I think it's just getting into the competitive flow. You know, you can play a lot, which I did. I played a lot at home. But it's also getting into the competitive spirit, that flow of judging your distances when you got a little more adrenaline in your system, you know, and having to make crucial shots, crucial putts.

These are things you do at home, but it's not quite the same. You definitely don't concentrate as much. And certainly not the same type of effort level. You know, if you hit a bad shot at home, no big deal, pick up and go to the next hole. Here we have to try to play our foul balls and move on.

Q. How do you assess what's gone on in the four weeks since you've been gone?

TIGER WOODS: I think it's a continuation of last year. Same guys playing well. Nothing's changed.

Q. You just played with a gentleman who did a bid of lot of money on eBay to play a round with you. Obviously, that money is going to the Buick charities.


Q. He has the biggest smile on his face. What is it like for you playing with the amateurs?

TIGER WOODS: I think he has the biggest smile on his face because he made an eagle. I mean, David hit some, let's just say, interesting golf shots today. He holed out on the 15th hole, which is pretty exciting. You know, he had his son caddying for him, which is pretty neat.

It was just a fun experience, I think. You know, one that hopefully I provided a fun environment for him to play in, to feel comfortable in, and enjoy. That's the whole idea. That's why we're out there as pros, is to provide an environment for them to enjoy and learn, learn something from us hopefully, if they ask, ask questions. I don't ever try to push any information on them. I just want -- if they ask, I'd be more than happy to answer questions about the game of golf, their swing.

But more than anything, it's just to make them feel comfortable, not worry about work or anything like that, just enjoy each other's company and have fun.

Q. You talked before Michelle played in the Sony Open that you thought she should play your tournaments. Were you shocked when she only missed the cut by one?

TIGER WOODS: You know, I was surprised that she was able to play as consistently as she did. Was I shocked the way she putted? No. I think more than anything, it's the way her entire game was consistent. She didn't drive the ball all over the place. She drove it pretty solid. She hit good iron shots and she putted consistently.

From that aspect, I was surprised. Usually when you're pretty nervous, one part of your game is going to be affected. But it seemed like she had control over every part of her game.

Q. On that note, do you think she could continue to do it and succeed? Was that almost you'd say a fluke that she played that well?

TIGER WOODS: I think she played well. She learned a lot, I'm sure. I think the most important thing for her is to take that learning experience and go back and develop. And what I mean by "develop" is go back down a few levels and compete and win. I think that's very important.

Look at the guys who have had a lot of success out here on tour. You know, Phil, myself, Justin, each one of us really played well, especially Phil. We dominated at each level. He dominated San Diego golf, then he dominated AGA golf, then college, then he turned pro and he was ready.

And he learned how to win. I think there's something to that, learning how to win, and building that confidence because you win different ways. I've done it. I've won hitting the ball great; I've won hitting the ball poorly. And there's all different ways to win. And it builds a lot of confidence that you can win, and you can succeed. And I think that's what she needs to do.

But, you know, she might be different. She might be different. She might go out there and skip a whole bunch of different levels. We had to do it. You know, who knows.

Q. I was watching you putt on the practice green yesterday. You looked significantly stronger. Are you significantly stronger? Have you been lifting? Have you gained weight? You look like you have.

TIGER WOODS: That's the appearance, yes, I look like I have gained weight. Actually I've lost weight. I'm trying to gain weight. I'm always trying to gain weight. It's one of my problems. I have a hard time keeping my weight on for now.

I'm sure my metabolism will slow down one day (laughter).

Q. Can you tell us about Saturday afternoon? Were you storming the court there at the very end?

TIGER WOODS: It was pretty cool. When he made the shot, I was actually right in line with him when he released the shot, and I was already starting to move onto the court. When that ball went in, I went nuts, and I took off to go jump on the pile. And I caught myself right around halfcourt and said, "Better stop." By then the whole six-man club came running past me. They went by. I said, "You know what, thank God I stopped."

But it was one of those moments where I just lost control. I was going to go hop on the pile. You know, I'm not as young as I used to be.

Q. More fun than winning a tournament?

TIGER WOODS: It's a different kind of fun. You know, it's totally different. Rooting for your former school like that, it's just -- no matter what sport it is, you take great pride because you went there. You have a lot in common with those kids.

Q. Do you think you were more nervous for them or when you're standing up there trying to hit a big shot?

TIGER WOODS: More nervous for them, by far. I'm always more nervous when I'm either watching my friends out here competing or in other sports. When I'm actually out there in control, I have control over my own destiny. There's a sense of calming when it comes to that. You feel a lot more calm. When you have no control over the outcome is when you're usually more nervous.

Q. With the course playing hard and fast, would you expect more the field to kind of be able to get into this thing? What would you expect of the scores this week from what you've seen so far?

TIGER WOODS: You know, I thought -- when I first played the south course yesterday, I thought this scores would be pretty low. After playing the north course today, it's still going to be that way, the scores are going to be low. Even if you miss the fairway, there's really not that much rough. On north course, the greens are still pretty soft. You can be pretty aggressive and fire that ball in there and not really worry about this thing bouncing over the greens.

On the south course, it's a little bit more firm, but you can still spin the ball. But the rough just isn't as deep as it was last year. Last year was brutal. You hit a ball in the rough and you had a hard time getting to the green. This year that's not the case.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: It always is. Always that way. Any time you have faster fairways and soft greens, golf course plays short. Greens are soft and receptive, you can be aggressive.

Q. Having played Royal Melbourne, can you comment on Ernie's round of 60 there? Secondly, besides your round at home in '97, what is the closest you've felt to shooting a 59, maybe not score-wise, but a day you thought you could have pulled it off?

TIGER WOODS: As far as Ernie's playing down there, I mean, that's incredible. That golf course is not easy. I saw a little bit of the highlights. I saw the greens were somewhat receptive. Generally Royal Melbourne is fast, it's hard, every ball is repelling, not receiving anything.

But you look at every shot he hit in there, he didn't make a putt over 10 feet in that round of 60. Every shot was in flag-length length. He was stuffing it hole after hole after hole. The greens are always perfect there. Down there in the belt there, that's probably the best greens in the world.

He just didn't -- didn't look like he was working very hard to shoot 60. The closest I've ever come to I guess shooting 59 was I think I shot 61 twice. I shot 61 at the Byron Nelson, Cottonwood course, and I shot a 61 at home. But I had to birdie out to shoot those 61s. It wasn't close to shooting a 59, though.

Q. The changes that were made to your home course, is that a better place for you to prepare now? Did you have any input at all in the changes?

TIGER WOODS: None of us had any input. None of the pros. Steve went ahead and just redid the golf course. Tried to make it -- he explained it by saying that he didn't want us to go to other golf courses to get ready for tournaments. He wants us to stay at home and get ready for tournaments at home by making a championship golf course.

He's definitely done it. He's made it very difficult. It's a fun golf course for us to prepare and get ready. The only thing I felt kind of bad about is the membership. It's great for us as tour pros, but it's just brutal for the amateurs who are hitting lumber into every hole. You know, you got these big-faced bunkers in the front. We're used to that by playing out here on tour greens, but they're not quite used to it.

There's a certain learning curve that's going to have to happen for the membership.

Q. I think given your Target Challenge, the thing in December, you don't really have an off-season as it were. Do you consider between Mercedes and Buick sort of your off-season? Do you do things differently in that month than you would for other tournaments?

TIGER WOODS: I try to make it that way. After my tournament, I took three weeks off before I played Mercedes, then took four more weeks off here. So that's basically my off-season.

It feels nice. You should have a break where you can basically just shut down and not worry about golf because once we start back, I mean, we basically play for the next 10 months.

It's nice to have a break in there and basically shut down. I know other guys are able to shut down prior to that, after THE TOUR Championship. With my schedule, The Presidents Cup, my tournament, I wasn't able to do that.

So this year I took advantage of it more so than I have in the past. Basically I learned a lot from last year after having my knee surgery, how good it felt to take that break. Even though last year was forced, this one was voluntary.

Q. You've had three or four serious challengers, I don't know about rivals, over the last five years. Where does Vijay rank among those?

TIGER WOODS: He's definitely up there. I think, you know, first one was probably Duval, then obviously Phil, Ernie, and Vij. It's been pretty close with all four of those guys. They've each taken their run. Everybody has their run. Hopefully the run lasts a long time, but everyone has their own little run where we all play well.

You know, David had his for probably, what, 15 months, 18 months. Phil has played well in spurts. Ernie's been the same way ever since about 2000 on. He's really played well. Vijay started picking it up over the last year and a half, two years.

So I think it's a fun time in golf right now because there are a lot of different challengers out there, and it's a lot of fun.

Q. Given the amount of time he practices and the amount of tournaments he plays, would you suspect his run might go for quite a while because of the rhythm that would enable him to get into?

TIGER WOODS: You know, I'll be honest with you, I don't know, because I've never done that, so I don't know how practicing every day, you know, for as many hours as he does, and playing just about every single week. I don't see how you can stay mentally fresh. For me, I can't.

I've learned what works best for me. I play a limited schedule so when I am ready -- when I do play, I am ready to play. I'm mentally fresh. I could not do what Vijay does, hit that many golf balls after every tournament round, play as many tournaments as he does.

For him, he's able to maintain that high for a long period of time. For me if I did that, I would break down because I would start losing my focus. I can't stand out there on the range and hit balls after a tournament round for three hours, not only once, but day after day after day.

Q. Talk about Phil. Do you think he's come back to where he was a couple years ago, challenging you?

TIGER WOODS: I think he's -- you know, last year he had a lot of different distractions. It was very hard for him to focus. We can all appreciate that. This year, you know, he's able to have more peace of mind, hence he's able to go out there and be more focused.

I think his game is a little more sound than it was, because last year he wasn't able to practice as much. This year the off-season, he took it more seriously and got more a tentative to some details in his golf swing. He had a better mindset starting out the year.

I think there's a lot to be said by having a clear mind. He may not have the best mechanics in the world. You can go out there, and if you have a clear mind, it's amazing how much better you can play. Your mechanics may be sound, but if your mind is not clear, I bet you you struggle more often than not.

Q. A lot was made of your second shot on 15 here a year ago in the final round, your situation. Could you recreate that for us, what your thinking was, your technique? Do troubleshots like that get your attention more nowadays since you don't find yourself in those predicaments as many times as you might have six or seven years ago?

TIGER WOODS: As far as the shot, the shot was -- yeah, it was a difficult shot, but not like they made it out on TV. I've seen the highlights. I've seen what Faraday was saying, Lanny. It was just a -- my normal ball flight would have kept that ball below the tree in front of me. It was the other two trees that were maybe 40, 50 yards in front of me that I had to worry about. I had to stay to the right of one and stay to the left of the next one and have just a touch of a draw to it if I wanted to hit the ball on the green. If I would have hit it straight, I probably would have missed it in the right bunker.

The thing I kept telling myself is, "Make sure you hit the ball solidly so if you do miss it, you miss it over the green, so you have an easy pitch over the entire green to work with, don't miss it over that right bunker."

I stepped up and hit it so flush. I expected that ball to hit and bound over the green, but it hit soft for some reason. So maybe a spot the grounds crew might have watered a little bit or whatever it may be. The putt was pretty sweet because that basically sealed the deal. If I made that putt, it was pretty much over.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: Well, yeah, last year (laughter). You had a lot of guys last year play well. You had Ernie, you had Davis, Kenny Perry, Vijay and myself. I understand what you're trying to say, but I'm also pointing out the fact there's been other guys playing well over the past, you know, year and a half, two years.

Am I excited to get back out here? Yes, I'm excited to play and compete. You know, right now I'm just like anybody else. You know, I took my off-season, I took my break, and now I have to try and basically get my game ready for Augusta. That's what you always think about.

Q. Your thoughts on Vijay, 12 straight Top 10s, how difficult that might be over the arc of time? This is the second year in a row you sort of started a lap down to the leaders, so to speak. I'm wondering if in your cross-country days you were any good at running from behind?

TIGER WOODS: Yes and no. It's one of those things where I understand, because of the break I took, it's just the way it's going to be. Guys are going to get off to a good start. Somebody has to win tournaments. I didn't play in the tournaments, so I'm always going to be behind.

But, you know, it's just one of those things where I know with my break, I was going to be behind. It's just a matter of getting ready in my little break to be fresh and ready and make my run. I'm playing quite a bit from here through Augusta. Be ready for that.

Q. Vijay, the 12 straight Top 10s.

TIGER WOODS: That's pretty impressive, isn't it? With the field as deep as they are, it's pretty impressive, the fact that he's able to play at that high a level for that many times. On top of that, don't forget he plays just about every week. So that makes it even more impressive, in my book, the fact he's able to do that and keep it going.

You know, as I said earlier, I think it would be tough for me to play that many tournaments in a row without losing a little bit because, you know, I don't see how you can stay fresh mentally for that long. Maybe because I focus so much when I'm out there playing, I put so much effort into it. I did that back in 2000, one time, the way the tournaments fell, starting at The Presidents Cup, I played nine straight tournaments, all the way through Argentina with David, the World Cup. I tell you what, I was fried by the end of it.

Had the pom-poms out there in Argentina rooting David on. He was playing well (laughter).

THE MODERATOR: Tiger Woods, thank you very much.

TIGER WOODS: You got it.

End of FastScripts.

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