Q. Three years ago you changed golf ball models right before the Open and you won. You're doing it again. Talk about this new Nike ball and whether you're as confident in this equipment change as you were three years ago.
TIGER WOODS: Well, in 2000 it was completely different technology, so that's a much bigger jump than what I had made a few weeks ago. This new ball is -- the core is faster, and it's interesting enough that actually the outer cover is actually softer. It's a weird blend, I don't know how they do it, it goes further and spins more on the greens. Hey, it works. I'm pleased at the signs it's showing. I know for a fact that this ball is better in the cross winds than my previous ball. And that's been actually one of the more difficult things to get accustomed to, when you have a right-to-left wind, you normally hit the ball -- aim left of the hole, draw it back up against the wind, and then as it's coming down it would fall more back to the right again. This ball actually falls straight down, so you can be more aggressive and go at some of these flags. I started to get a pretty good hold at that at Memorial, and I started doing that a little better on Sunday. As I said, you know what, just trust the ball. And I was able to be more aggressive than I had been in the past.
Q. In recent weeks Butch has been saying that he feels your swing is close to your best. Where do you think your ball-striking matches up now compared to Pebble Beach in 2000?
TIGER WOODS: It's close to that. Not quite -- I don't hit the ball as long as I did then, with my shorter irons, that's for sure, because I don't go at it as hard. Everything else is about the same. My trajectory is maybe a little bit different, my ball flight is a little flatter than it was in 2000. And I think that's just from the overall swing changes that I've made. But as far as the comfort and the confidence, it's very close.
Q. In the last decade or so your 12th place finish as defending champion is the best of any defending champion. Most of the guys have either missed the cut, finished 40th or 60th. Is this because the course has changed so much from year to year?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I think when you go to certain courses they just fit your eye. And all of a sudden the next year it's a completely different golf course. I think one of the biggest things for guys who have won the tournament, it's nice to go to a golf course where no one has ever played it before, so there's no past experience, there's nothing to recall from, positive experiences, because no one has played there. And no one has ever played Bethpage. I think that's always a positive thing to have happen.
Q. You had not played Southern Hills, though, had you?
TIGER WOODS: I played Southern Hills in '96 in a Tour championship, when it was about 30 degrees.
Q. Expectations are always so high for you, people expect you to win every time you step on the course. What is your definition of a slump for you, and have you -- do you feel you've ever been in a real slump?
TIGER WOODS: No.
Q. Can you --
TIGER WOODS: Elaborate more than that?
TIGER WOODS: I don't think I've ever been in a slump, no. I think my overall career has been pretty good. Ever since I came out of the womb and I've started playing golf, I've had a pretty good career (laughter).
Q. For most of us mortals, a 496 par-4 is a little extreme. Can you talk about how difficult that is for a player of your caliber, and what kind of clubs you'll hit into there?
TIGER WOODS: It's tough today because it's a left-to-right wind. If you go back on that tee box, you'll see the tree on the left overhangs the left side of the fairway. So you have to turn the ball. And for me, I can probably on a good drive carry that bunker on the right-hand side, so even if I miss it I can carry the bunker, but I've still got to turn it. And I've hit driver, 4-iron, driver, 5-iron the times I've played it. So the key is to get the ball in play. From there at least you have a chance -- that's one of the good things about the hole. It may be long, but you have a chance to run the ball up. And granted, it has water, probably about 50, 60 yards short of the green, but it's downhill on the other side of it, so you can squirt one up and run it up the gap.
Q. Extending what you said about Olympia, what do you project for a winning score? We've seen some experts say six under par, eight under par. Can you tell us what you think?
TIGER WOODS: You know, honestly it all depends on the wind. If there's no wind, yeah, you'll see those scores. But if the wind blows, over par can very easily win this tournament.
Q. Padraig said earlier today that U.S. Open setups tend to be less imaginative, and sometimes the golf has to be a little less imaginative, as well. Do you enjoy that as much as you do another major championship challenge?
TIGER WOODS: It's a different type of challenge. I think that's what you have to understand, it's completely different. I think the best way I've ever heard it described is you've got to plod your way along. If you hit your ball in the rough, knock it out, wedge it on, try to make a putt. And that's what you find at U.S. Opens more than any other major is that you drive the ball in the rough, you're going to have a lot of wedges into the greens, and you've got to make pars that way instead of trying to get creative and hit some funky shot up there. Every player says it's probably boring golf, but any tournament you play in, if you hit it straight, hit the ball on the green, make putts, you're going to be successful. And I think this golf tournament in itself is probably the epitome of that. You really have to hit the ball well.
Q. There's been plenty of talk on technology and the effect on clubs and balls, and you addressed the new ball you'll be playing this week, but not a lot of similar advances in course conditioning, maintenance practices, things like that. From a player's perspective, how much do you notice things like course conditioning and maintenance practices, and how much of those kind of things changed since you started playing in Opens?
TIGER WOODS: Not a whole lot has changed since the time I've been on Tour, but from the time I've grown up playing golf, I played some courses that looked like cow pastures. You talk to a lot of the older players, and you'll hear them say if you drive the ball in the fairway, you can get a bad lie. But you'll hear guys moan and complain about getting any kind of bad lie in the fairway. So that's completely different; the agronomy is so much better now.
It used to be kind of marginal on shots that were in the rough, that you can get a good lie, you can get a spotty lie. Now it's all uniform, they oversee it to make the stuff four inches, you can't find anything lower than that. And I think that's it's made a significant impact so that you can get perfect lies on the fairway, and if you miss the fairway you're punished uniformly. And the greens are so much faster than they ever used to be.
I get a kick out of some of the older players saying at Augusta how hard and how fast they used to play. We've got them now running about 14. And out here, I was talking to Tom Meeks yesterday, and on the first green I asked him, what are these things running, they seem a little on the slow side. And he said 12. It's hard to believe that 12 seems a little slow to us, but we've played majors when they're running close to 14. And it never used to be like that in the past.
Q. Two part question, to go back to one previously asked, what is your definition of a slump?
TIGER WOODS: I guess when you completely lose your game.
Q. Secondly, assuming you haven't lost it yet, if the media exaggerates your exploits, do we tend to make you up greater than you really are or worse than you're actually playing?
TIGER WOODS: Both. There's no doubt about it, honestly, I think I've had some success, but I think sometimes all of you can be a bit dramatic in your writing styles, very flowery at times. I've hit some good shots, but they haven't been that good. And then I've hit some bad shots, and they haven't been that bad. So, yeah, it's somewhere in between.
RAND JERRIS: Tiger, thanks very much for your time. We wish you lots of luck this week.
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