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July 15, 2003

Tiger Woods


STEWART McDOUGALL: Welcome, ladies and gentlemen to Tiger Woods. Tiger, you've now played the course the past two mornings. Can you give us your thoughts on how the course is playing, how you see your own chances going into this week.

TIGER WOODS: Well, the golf course certainly has changed since I played on Sunday. Actually they've watered the golf course, and it's gotten softer every day, so it's a little different than what we're normally used to. I think with the hot weather they're trying to protect the course, so they don't lose it. The golf course is in great shape, but it certainly puts a demand on trying to get the right bounce, that's for sure. These fairways are very difficult to try and hit, especially with all the mounding in them. And anytime the wind blows it makes it even more difficult.

Q. The rolling sand dunes are going to be a test for a healthy pair of knees. Are you a hundred percent fit now?

TIGER WOODS: I feel pretty good, yeah.

Q. At St. Andrews you were obviously successful with avoiding the bunkers. I'm curious how much a part of your game plan is going to try avoiding these bunkers. It's more difficult here?

TIGER WOODS: Certainly, because all the mounding in the fairways. You get a bad hop and it ends up in either the rough or the bunker. So with that being said it's going to be as well -- Mark and I talked about this today. It comes down to getting the right bounce, and a guy getting a little bit of luck on this golf course. And I think everyone who has won here can attest to that. You have to get the right bounces.

Q. If you were ever to get into designing golf courses, what elements, if any, of links golf would you include?

TIGER WOODS: I think more than anything to allow you to run the ball up on the greens, I think that's something that has certainly changed with the modern designs. You don't have that opportunity if you drive the ball in the rough or put the ball in a position where the wind is howling and you have a long way to go. You can run a ball up the gut onto the green. And nowadays you better carry that ball up there, not only carry it, but you have to hit the precise number. Here, in most links courses, numbers are usually thrown out the window. You may have 145, going one direction, may hit 5-iron, very next hole may hit a sand wedge. It makes it a lot more fun, because you get to play creative golf shots. That's why we love to play links golf, because it brings something to the game that has changed and has gone away from.

Q. Last year you were here, you were chasing the Grand Slam and now you're not. Can you talk about the year that's gone, you had a knee surgery, you haven't gotten your breaks in any of the majors. Has it been one of the toughest mental years, given the injury and the status from last year to this year?

TIGER WOODS: Maybe starting out the year, I would say yes, but not of late, no. Starting out after coming back and trying to feel confident in my leg, yeah, there's always doubt, anytime you go under the knife. I went under the knife in '94 and came back and it was the same thing, you have to try to get over that mental hurdle. And I got off to a pretty good start this year, winning three of the first four after the surgery. So it was the right thing to do.

Q. Talk about your anxiety in getting back on the major track?

TIGER WOODS: I just would like to play more consistently. If I do that I'll give myself a chance to win. You're not going to win every one, but certainly at least you can give yourself a chance coming back down on Sunday. That's one of the things I haven't been able to do. The first two days at Augusta I played well in spurts, and I hit a couple of stray shots here or there, when there was a tee shot or iron shot into the green, make a bogey and get it going again. It finally came together on Saturday. And that's the way I was playing going into the event, which was certainly frustrating. That's why I played on Olympia Fields, the same thing, I played well in spurts. It's starting to come together, the things I'm working on started to come together. And finally at the Western Open it came together and I played well. I'd like to play consistently like that for the entire event, just like I did in Chicago.

Q. When you talk about the length factor, how does it compare to the other lengths in this rotation?

TIGER WOODS: I think everyone will probably say this is probably the most severe fairways we're going to play, as far as the bounces go. Not too often you hit the ball down the middle and you end up in the bunker or the rough because of the bounces. And that's just the way it is. You understand you're hitting good shots, you're going to get bad bounces, hit marginal shots and get great bounces.

Q. Last time it was played here, there was a who's who of who was playing great on the leaderboard on Sunday. Is there anything about this course that lends itself to that and would you be surprised to see something like that happen this year?

TIGER WOODS: I think this golf course certainly awards quality golf shots. You can't go out here and play poorly and contend. You have to play solidly for all 72 holes. And you've got to be very patient. I think if you look at the guys on top of that board in '93, we had Pavin, Langer, Faldo, Norman, all were playing well at the time but also very patient players.

Q. Because of the element of luck that you talked about, did you change your mental or physical approach to how you play this course in particular?

TIGER WOODS: You know you're going to hit a good shot and get a bad hop. Also you can have a marginal shot and get a great hop. As long as you make quality swings, go ahead -- after that, whatever happens, happens. But as long as you feel like you made quality swings everything should be right.

Q. You have to brace yourself for -- mentally, at least that --

TIGER WOODS: Anytime you're playing links courses, that's the way it is playing links golf. You're going to hit shots that just end up in some weird places, just because of the hop. And you have to be very patient because of that.

Q. Is this the only major championship you haven't won more than once. Because of the weather and the links golf, do you think this is the hardest major to win?

TIGER WOODS: No, I think people would say the U.S. Open is. The narrowest fairways, highest rough, and fastest greens we play on all year, that makes for a tough combination.

Q. Could you talk about the green at No. 4, your impressions of that and -- a two parter -- and then you go to No. 5 and the tee shot you have to hit there and the possibility of a blind second shot?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think the green on 4 certainly is interesting. I think it makes playing it as a par-5 is better than playing as a par-4. It's a par-5 green. It's supposed to reward wedge shots in there, not -- if it's blowing you have to hit a 2- or 3-iron in there, as a par-4. So that was a good change. It really puts an emphasis on your light putting, you're going to be either in the bowl on the left or bowl on the right, more than likely. You have to watch your speed coming up over that knob. If you don't hit hard enough, it's going to come back at your feet. If you zip it over the hill, you're not looking good, either.

Then you go off to 5. If you hit a quality tee shot off the left side and put the ball up on top, more than likely you're going to see the flag. But if you play it more conservatively and stay away from the bunker on the left, put it in the right, you're not going to be able to see the flag at all. So it's a difficult second shot, but it puts -- it rewards you for playing aggressively off the tee on the left side, where you have a look at it.

Q. Just to shift gears, there's been a lot of talk about an exhibition match with you and Annika against Mike Weir and Lori Kane for SARS relief. What's your view on the status of this?

TIGER WOODS: It's the first time I've heard about it (laughter.)

Q. One of the guys in Toronto is saying it's getting pretty close to happening, one of the guys from your company.

TIGER WOODS: Really? I don't know.

Q. It's in the papers in Toronto today.

Q. Course knowledge is very important. How do you feel you're getting on with the course? Are you getting to know it?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it's playing differently than what I've seen on videos, a different wind. I remember Greg hitting driver, 4-iron on the last hole. Today I was debating whether to hit 2-iron or 3-iron off that tee. So it's a totally different golf course.

Mark was telling me on -- was it 14? In '83, I believe, or '85, he hit driver, 3-wood, 4-iron on that hole. And today I hit 2-iron, 4-iron on the green. So it's a totally different golf course than what I've seen on tape. But it's been the same for the last three days that I've played it. So we'll see what this wind does, if it will change or not. But certainly it's -- I think it's the easier of the two winds.

Q. Greg Norman was saying he feels the game has become more business-like over the last 10, 15 years, and because of that there are fewer personalities, we don't see as many Seves today. Do you think that's coming?

TIGER WOODS: I think with the demands on the Tour now, and the pressures and the responsibilities of being a professional player, back even 15, 20 years ago, if you went out there and did a few things and said a few things, you could get away with it. Now with the media around the world, globally, if you say one thing, it's transmitted around the world that same day. So I think the demands of the players are certainly a lot different, a lot more difficult than it used to be. There's more attention on our sport than there ever used to be. And because of that players have to be more careful in how they approach the game and what they say and what they do. It is unfortunate, because there's some great characteristics out here, but they have a hard time letting it go around everybody, like they used to, around the players and the caddies in the locker room or their friends, you see these guys go ahead and say the things and have a great time. But when they get on the golf course and you have boom mikes and the cameras on them, you're really not allowed to do that as much.

Q. Have you intentionally held yourself back in recent years because of exactly those things? You show less of yourself than you might?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, you have to. Now, we all know I've been ripped before by you guys. It's one of those things where no matter what you do, you're going to get ripped. If you show too much, you get criticized for that. If you don't show enough, you get criticized for that. I look at it this way, as long as I enjoy what I do and I go out there and have fun, and I've become more comfortable with my responsibilities. A lot of that is just when I first turned pro, I was very uncomfortable with the whole idea of the responsibilities of being a professional golfer at the elite level. I think I've shown more of myself of late, the last few years, than I did when I first turned pro, because obviously I wasn't comfortable at all.

Q. Do you think there's a connection between quirky golf courses and a quirky role of Champions, in the sense of surprising winners that come through the field?

TIGER WOODS: No, I don't think so. I don't think so at all, because if that was to be true, then '99 in Carnoustie, one of the best golf courses in the world, if not the best golf course in the world, the most difficult, I think the winner says it all right there.

Q. On Thursday you go out with Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald, can you tell us, have you played --

TIGER WOODS: What time do I play?

Q. Have you played with Luke Donald before, and if so, can you talk a bit about that?

TIGER WOODS: Gosh, I don't know if I actually played with Luke. I've had lunch with him a number of times. I don't know if I've ever played with him. But he's a real nice guy. And I've gotten to know him a little bit since he came out, obviously from Northwestern, and just a really class act.

Q. What time do you go off?

TIGER WOODS: 9:09 and 2:05.

Q. You were at the Western Open and Ernie Els won in Scotland over the weekend. How much do you believe or do you see this being set up as a -- to be a contest between you two? Is that there or is it unfolding in any way?

TIGER WOODS: I think there are more than just the two of us playing the tournament. Anyone who's qualified and earned their right in this event can win the tournament. Hopefully we both can play well, where we both have a chance on Sunday afternoon.

Q. You would understand why people might see that from the outside, though, see the possibility of that developing in this competition?

TIGER WOODS: I can understand that, yes. But there are more than just the two of us playing the event. If you were playing a match play event, just he and I, one-on-one, that's a different story. If we were playing LaCosta, early in the year, that's a completely different story than a stroke-play event.

Q. Could you expand, you were talking about uncomfortable and comfort level. Were you just afraid to say things, do things? At Stanford you made comments and you had attention. But were you just trying to say, hey, I don't want to get in here too fast or insult people?

TIGER WOODS: You have to understand, I was very comfortable in college. I knew the media in the Bay Area, and that was the world I was in. Outside of that I didn't really know anyone. And then all of a sudden I come out and the attention level -- it was turned up a notch. And it was hard to feel comfortable when a lot of the friends that I was with, player-wise, they weren't out on Tour yet. And it took probably three or four years before the guys I played with in college got out on Tour consistently. And now it's pretty cool, a lot of the guys that I grew up playing with are now on Tour. So I turned pro at a pretty young age, where most of the guys were in college. So I didn't really know other players. I didn't know certainly anyone in the media. And that made for an uncomfortable environment.

Q. I remember at the Masters that first time you felt that people picked, and I know the article, I guess it was GQ, but people picked on everything you said, and you said, well, Arnold Palmer didn't have to go through this. Did you feel very defensive?

TIGER WOODS: At the time, yes, because I didn't really understand it all. I had just turned pro and it was a totally different atmosphere than I was accustomed to. I didn't understand the responsibilities I had, certainly. And I did some things right, and I also made my share of mistakes, too. You learn from both. And I certainly am a lot more comfortable now and I accept my responsibilities now and understand them now than I certainly did back then.

Q. How long did it take you to recover from that 81 last year?

TIGER WOODS: That night.

Q. You took it very well at the time. There was no hangover after that Tour?

TIGER WOODS: I shot 65 the next day (laughter.)

Q. I mean it was the highest score you'd ever made?

TIGER WOODS: Not ever made, no. But in a professional event, is what you're trying to say?

Q. Yes. But doesn't that stay in there?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it should. Your great rounds and your bad rounds should always stay in there. You can always learn from both. And that was a tough day for everybody and I wasn't the only one who shot a high number. As I said that day, I didn't hit the ball that well, and the weather just compounded the problem. And I really never got anything going and could never really turn momentum into my favor that day.

Q. I think we're due for some rain, as well.


Q. You talked about stray shots at Augusta. Were they linked to your knee?

TIGER WOODS: No, not at all. I was just making bad swings.

Q. And are you hitting any stray shots this week or do they only happen in competition?

TIGER WOODS: I think you always hit stray shots, unless you don't (laughter.)

Q. As much as you're talking about accepting the responsibilities of being a pro golfer, do you still find when you are at Allworth, or messing around and playing around that you have the enthusiasm of a kid and enjoy hitting shots? I saw you out hitting all kinds of shots. Is the excitement level still there?

TIGER WOODS: That hasn't changed. I think as everyone can attest to, the best thing about being a professional is doing what you love to do and that's getting out there and playing golf. And that to me is the best, getting out there inside the ropes and competing and learning and trying things and creating, that is fun.

Q. If the Scottish Open was played at a links course before the Open, would you play in it, would you consider playing in it?

TIGER WOODS: Certainly I would consider it. No doubt about it. I've played them before. I played in two years when it was at Carnoustie.

Q. When you talk about good shots rolling into trouble, and bad shots rolling into good position, are there characteristics of this course that border on fluky?

TIGER WOODS: You can hit some I guess fluky bounces, bad bounces, good and bad. That's just part of playing this golf course.

Q. What are the most severe fairways in terms of mounds and undulations?

TIGER WOODS: There are a lot of them. You'd have to probably say certainly 8, 9, 18, 17.

End of FastScripts....

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