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October 4, 2003

Tiger Woods


TODD BUDNICK: Tiger, thank you for joining us after a 1-under, 69, today. A couple birdies, a couple bogeys, not exactly probably what you wanted out of the round today.

TIGER WOODS: No, but I got off to a great start. I was 3-under early, and I just made two mistakes today that I just don't normally make, three-putted 8 and then made bogey with a sand wedge in my hand on 11. Got it right back, birdied 12 and 13 and lost it again at 16. It was kind of frustrating, but I got in the clubhouse and still have the lead.

Q. You and Vijay get to go neck and neck for this money thing tomorrow. It will go a long ways for who gets the upper hand in addition to the other assorted trophies at stake?

TIGER WOODS: A lot of things are obviously up for grabs tomorrow. We'll just take care of business, play one shot at a time. Whatever the outcome is, the outcome is, but we've just got to play.

Q. When do you say to yourself that this driver is the one I've been looking for or have you already?

TIGER WOODS: I have. I'm very pleased with it. I'm hitting some shots that I haven't hit in a while, and it's nice to be able to step up there and have the confidence to go ahead and shape the ball again, hit some shots.

Q. When you saw some of the scores -- if you did see some of the scores, did that have any effect on your thoughts?

TIGER WOODS: I knew guys were going to go low. The greens were so much softer today. They must have just soaked these greens last night. Sergio and I both hit great shots into, what, 12, the par 5, and my ball spinned back down the hill. It wasn't even a thought yesterday. I just tried to hold the ball on the green.

Today you had to worry about your wedges spinning back too much into the wind. They might have just overreacted, I think. Consequently I think you saw the scores. A lot of guys were shooting 2 and 3-under par. When I saw that, I knew that I was going to have to make some birdies today. I was able to make some birdies, but unfortunately I made some bogeys, too.

Q. Talk about what was going through your mind as you walked off 16 and how important the last two holes were.

TIGER WOODS: I figured if I could just go ahead and basically keep the momentum going -- I made a big putt there. I said, all right, keep that positive feeling back and let's get to back to where it was. That was my mind set. It didn't happen, but that's what I was trying to do.

Q. The third shot on 16, did a gust of wind come up?

TIGER WOODS: I just must have misjudged the wind because I hit the ball right where I was looking with the swing I wanted to make. You could see the ball just kind of get held up into the wind and it got buried in the bunker there.

Q. What was the position off the tee?

TIGER WOODS: Someone had already been there, and when they raked it, they raked a little clump -- a mound of sand, and my ball rolled right in front of it so the mound of sand was behind my ball. I had no chance of -- if I had a good lie, I could have got it to the green, but I had no lie so I had to try to play a sand wedge out and put it in the fairway.

Q. Do you feel like today the way the conditions were on the course that this was an opportunity lost?

TIGER WOODS: To a certain extent because I got it to 10-under par twice. I worked pretty hard to get there, and if I would have kept myself there, I would have basically maintained the same type of lead that I had yesterday.

Q. Would you like to play tests like this every time out or would it wear you out frankly?

TIGER WOODS: I love it, I absolutely love it. There are certain -- it brings out just a lot more preciseness into your game. You have to be precise. You can't -- you may hit a shot say 145 yards. You may land the ball 140 yards, but if you land it -- you hit the wrong shot and you hit it too thin and that ball is out of here. You have to go ahead and play the correct shot, and that's what makes it fun playing greens this hard and fast is you have to be very precise. On top of that you've got to be a little bit conservative, too, which is nice. You don't have to go out there and shoot 66 every single day on a par 72 just to have a chance at winning the tournament.

Q. What kind of reaction do you think there would be on Tour if every stop they tried to get the greens rolling as hard as they could and they brought the fairways in and they grew the rough up?

TIGER WOODS: I think it would be a lot more fun. I enjoy it.

Q. What do you think the reaction of your peers across the board would be?

TIGER WOODS: I don't know, but I wish we did more of it because they're -- how much fun is it to watch like Riviera this year, the guys have to play golf shots, and 9- under par was in a playoff versus going out there and shooting 12-under par at the Bob Hope and you're down the road, you miss the cut. That to me is just not fun.

Q. Would you play more often if there were more tournaments like that?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, without a doubt.

Q. Unlike most conditions where the weather has a play in what the course is going to be like, today's conditions were with the superintendent putting more water on the greens, what would you like to see tomorrow in your position?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I want to see them like they were yesterday, nice and hard and fast. They are fast, but they're not -- you're not afraid of putts. Yesterday they had that kind of a -- you know how Augusta gets. They get a little bit on the shiny, blue side. They get that sheen to them. Today they didn't have that. Even downhill putts you knew you could be somewhat aggressive. Uphill putts you could go ahead and rap without worrying about it.

Yesterday you had to be very careful of a ball running out past the hole. Today you didn't have that problem.

Q. Do you also like courses where there's good things and maybe some bad things, Vijay shot a 64, he missed three short putts but then there's also some double bogeys out there, so is that balance kind of what you like?

TIGER WOODS: I think it's fun to watch -- not watch, but I think it's fun to play a golf course where if you go out and shoot a round in the 60s, you get rewarded and you get to move up the board. If you shoot a round like Vijay did, you jump a lot of places.

That's how the U.S. Open is. I think that's why a lot of the guys love to play U.S. Opens because you go out there and shoot a par 70 in the U.S. Open, you shoot a 65, you leapfrog over 30, 40 guys. That's what makes it fun.

Q. How long is the new driver and is it any different from your previous driver length?

TIGER WOODS: Long as in what kind of long? Length of the shaft? Just under 43 and a half.

Q. Basically you kept the same length?


Q. Is it too early or has Nike been getting calls from people in the club when they can get their hands on their own copy yet?

TIGER WOODS: I haven't really talked to anyone this week.

Q. What was going on on 8 over that par putt?

TIGER WOODS: Just one of those -- it was a yellow jacket, one of those bugs that kept flying on my ball and wouldn't leave it alone.

Q. Was it a distraction?

TIGER WOODS: It was because I kept getting focused on the putt and then it would land on the ball. Then I'd refocus, it would land on the ball. It must have done it -- four, five, six times, whatever it was. As I was over the putt, I thought what did I read this putt as? I hit it too hard. I remember what my read was but then I hit it too hard.

Q. Since you had two days with one type of course and a little different course today, will there be any thoughts in your mind about what kind of course we'll get tomorrow?

TIGER WOODS: We'll see. I saw the guys out there watering No. 3, so there you have it. I can understand why they put a little more water on the greens because most of the pins were up front today. There were a lot of pins that were 15 or less on the greens. It would have been very difficult to try and get a ball close. Tomorrow most of them are back in the corners again, so hopefully they'll be firm.

Q. Can you swing any harder than you did off the tee on 7?


Q. Par 2 doesn't take much to get your juices flowing, but given with Vijay the horse races you're in, having him right there eyeball to eyeball has got to be, I assume --

TIGER WOODS: It's going to be a lot of fun. You know, there are probably four guys that have a chance of winning right down to K. J., realistic chances, and then if someone plays a great game at 2 or 1, they can get back in it.

With what this golf course is, you've got to get off to a great start because there's birdie holes early. Within the first five holes there's two or three legitimate birdie holes where you should walk away at least under par, and that kind of sets the tone for the rest of the day.

With the wind blowing like it was on 7, you can drive that green easily.

Q. Is this an example of how you don't have to go 7,500 yards to have a true test?

TIGER WOODS: Sure. All you have to do is make the greens harder each and every week. They don't have to make the rough up to your knees. If you make the greens harder, the guys can't be as aggressive because most of the pins are still 3 and 4 from the side. You can't get the ball close. You have to put the ball 15 or 20 feet left or right of the hole and try to make putts that way. There's more of a penalty for missing the ball on the short side when the greens are firm. Miss it on the short side here with the pin 3 or 4, you're not going to get that ball up-and-down most chances.

Q. All year you've been talking about how close you've been. Was there one moment the last month in the practice session where you felt like you had your old swing back?

TIGER WOODS: No, I felt like it was just a continuation. I kept making progress. I kept trying to work on the same things I was working on this summer. This summer they were here for one round or two and then they'd be gone the next, or I'd have it for a stretch of four or five, nine holes, whatever it was, then I'd lose it for a few holes. If I could just keep it consistent, keep it going, and today I hit just a lot of good, solid shots. I actually probably hit the ball the best today and scored the worst, but that's just because I made some -- I had two mistakes I normally don't make with a bogey with a sand wedge and a three-putt, and then I made a double with a sand wedge in my hand.

Q. Because of the finish, does it feel like a two-stroke lead like other two-stroke leads you've had?

TIGER WOODS: I was happy to have a two-shot lead because I saw that Vijay got back to 7. He must have birdied 17 or something like that, 16 or 17, and then must have bogeyed 18. It was a pleasant surprise to see that I was going to be two ahead because if I missed that putt on 16 for double bogey there, all of a sudden I'm tied for the lead, and instead I have a two-shot lead now.

Q. Is there such a thing as momentum carrying over or does everything start fresh tomorrow?

TIGER WOODS: You try and keep the momentum going if you're playing well, and consequently, if you're not playing well, then you always try and say it's a new day. Golfers are the biggest rationalists ever.

Q. Are you playing well?

TIGER WOODS: I'm playing well, yes.

TODD BUDNICK: Run us through your score card.

TIGER WOODS: Birdied 3, hit 7-iron up there to about 15 feet, made that.

Birdied 6, I hit a 7-iron again to the right of the hole about 30 feet, made that.

7, I drove it in the green side bunker, blasted out to about a foot and a half, made that.

Three-putted 8 from about 35 feet.

11, hit a great 3-wood off the tee, had a nice little 60-degree sand wedge in there, and not only did I hit it right of my target, I also hit it fat. Fat and right is not good.

Then I hit a pitch shot that was poor, hit a good putt from about 15 feet, just missed it.

Then I birdied 12, hit a driver and a 6-iron in there, it rolled back off the green. I hit a sand wedge, pitched it up there to about a foot.

Then on 13, I hit a pitching wedge to about 12 feet. Sergio gave me the line on that putt. He putted right before me and I saw what it did. It broke more than both of us thought. I took that into account and made it.

Then on 16, I hit a driver off the tee, left bunker. I hit a sand wedge out and a sand wedge into the front bunker. Hit another sand wedge long, and then two-putted from about 40 feet.

Q. What's the yardage to the front on 7?

TIGER WOODS: To the front on 7? I don't know what it is. I know it's 275 to carry that bunker out there, the fairway bunker, which you could hit that over with a 2-iron today because it was downwind, which means I can line down with a driver hit that right at the green.

Q. Did you hit it right?

TIGER WOODS: Well, it would have been right in the middle of the green, but the green side bunker was there.

Q. You said you hit two sand wedges that were uncharacteristic. I know about the one, but 16 as you went through it, which one of the ones that you hit was the one that would have been uncharacteristic in your mind?

TIGER WOODS: Well, you have 115 yards and bury it in the front bunker. In my book that's not good.

Q. The sheer fact that you get a little extra distance out of this driver, is it allowing you to play more aggressively in some spots?

TIGER WOODS: I wouldn't say more aggressively, but it's nice to be able to shape shots again. When you're able to shape it out there, it's amazing how your swing frees up a little bit. When it frees up, then all of a sudden you're not putting the steering wheel on it and you don't have the hands at 10 and 2 and you can let it go. It goes further, but also I think because I know I can shape it better, I will go ahead and let it go instead of trying to steer the ball in play.

Q. Or trust that your swing is responsible for the distance?

TIGER WOODS: It's a combination of both, but I think without the driver being better, I don't think I would be letting it go as much.

Q. Usually ball and club are a big deal on what they can do. Obviously your clubs you couldn't find exactly what worked with the ball. Now what you have it seems to work well. Would you be reluctant to change balls now with this club head?

TIGER WOODS: Well, generally if you change golf balls, more than likely you're going to have to change drivers. A lot of the drivers have become bigger and deeper, guys have gone to different golf balls to compensate for that. You try and achieve your optimum launch conditions. Basically you can now, instead of making your golf swing adjust to a golf ball and a club, you can make a swing and they can go ahead and design a ball for you and a club for you, a driver off the tee, and you maximize everything. I think that's one of the reasons why you see the guys hitting it so much further across the board is because now everybody has got better launch characteristics than they ever used to.

Q. But in your case because it seemed to be so hard to find a driver that you felt comfortable with, would you be reluctant to make any changes now with a ball?

TIGER WOODS: If I found a better ball, yes, but it's all based on "but".

Q. I talked with Mike Kelly I guess on Thursday, and he said to me that --

TIGER WOODS: Did you understand him?

Q. He said I don't think we're through with what we're doing with Tiger's golf game. He sees this as a work in progress.

TIGER WOODS: Without a doubt.

Q. Do you anticipate making other changes?

TIGER WOODS: I'm just like any golfer. I'm always going to try and find something a little better. There's nothing wrong with trying something. It doesn't mean you're going to put it in play. They may build something that -- I've always been a big believer, the best time to try new equipment is when you're playing well because then you know. If you're playing poorly and hitting shots all over the place, how can you really tell if that club is better for you or not, but if you're swinging the club properly, you have a baseline to go from. Try a new club on the range or in front of those guys with obviously a launch monitor and stuff.

Q. The 54-hole thing, it's 29 out of 31 now, that's counting the very first one when you were right out of the chute. Is that a major pride, stubbornness, skill, tenacity? You tell me.

TIGER WOODS: And luck. It's not easy going out there with a lead, but -- everyone is coming after you. But the great thing is, as I said, you always have those shots to play with. If I shoot the same score they do, then obviously I win. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out.

Q. When did you first practice with the driver and how soon did you know it would be in the bag?

TIGER WOODS: I went down to Fort Worth with it about two and a half weeks ago, I believe, and tested it there. I found a few of them that were all right, and then this one kind of stood out a little bit more than the other ones, but I've had that before until I go home and start playing with it. It's one thing to hit balls in front of a launch monitor that can tell you what you're doing, but to go out on the golf course and hit shots at home and try and take some money from your boys, it's amazing how you start hitting shots you would normally hit out here. You start squeezing the ball a little bit or playing the ball, hitting high sweeps out there, and I was able to do those things.

Q. How many rounds at home did you play?

TIGER WOODS: Quite a bit. I played just about every day.

TODD BUDNICK: Thank you, Tiger.

End of FastScripts.

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