April 8, 2003
BILLY PAYNE: Good afternoon. Ladies and gentlemen it is my pleasure to introduce Mr. Tiger Woods, defending Masters champion. Going for an unprecedented three championships in a row. Welcome, Tiger. Ladies and gentlemen, your questions, please.
Q. Tiger, just wondering, with a few years ago you came here with many many questions about the grand slam and things like that and if you remember, you were just inundated with things in the time leading up to that. This year, with this whole Martha Burk thing going on and whatnot it seems like there's been so much deflected attention for you going for three jackets in a row. Is that taking a bit of pressure off of you, do you think maybe a little bit less pressure?
TIGER WOODS: No, I certainly haven't been asked the questions, but I think that we also have a lot more important things going on, too, in our country, in our affairs right now, world affairs. And I think that's more than anything. I think those are the questions I've been asked.
Q. Tiger, when you came on tour there was a national ad campaign: Are you ready for me? And I remember very early on you being asked about it. I think it was the Canadian Open. And you said -- I'll read it so you'll know where I'm coming from. And you said the massage is that there are still clubs practicing denial of membership and play, not just against minorities, but also women and Jews.
So it's just saying a minority finally has a chance to make an impact. My question is, you were passionate about it then. Are you as passionate today.
TIGER WOODS: I am.
Q. Thank you.
TIGER WOODS: Um-hum.
Q. It did not come across that way Tiger. It's not been very evident. Why not?
TIGER WOODS: Probably that's just your opinion.
Q. How much will winning three Masters in a row mean to you and what record do you really want to break from now the next 10 years?
TIGER WOODS: I really would like to win this week. And I think it would be huge to win three Masters. No one's ever done it before. And I've been able to do certain things in golf that no one's ever done before. And if you're ever in that position, you want to take advantage of it because it doesn't happen all the time.
And I was in that position to win the Juniors, to win the Amateurs, and now hopefully I can win three straight Masters.
Q. On the record, what outstanding record is there left for you to do?
TIGER WOODS: I would just like to be healthy. If I can be healthy for the rest of my career I think that I'll have a pretty good one.
Q. Subject of health: Are you now a hundred percent, close to that, your weight and everything else?
TIGER WOODS: I feel pretty good, yeah. I'm just a touch underweight, but not bad at all. I've been able to eat a lot and work out quite a bit and put on some weight this past week.
Q. Is stamina an issue for you?
TIGER WOODS: No.
Q. Probably not?
TIGER WOODS: No. Not at all.
Q. If the conditions stay like this, does that give you or any other player any kind of edge?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah. I think it certainly favors someone who is hitting the ball high and long and straight. This week you've got to keep the ball in the fairway. But you've got to get it out there. These fairways are playing really soft right now and they're picking up mud too, so you've got to get some luck and hopefully not pick up too much mud on most of your tee shots.
Most of the high bombs that I hit out there today picked up mud. So you want to -- it's a Catch-22. You want to keep it so you run over the mud but then again you're not going to hit it quite as far either.
Q. And what about the greens?
TIGER WOODS: The greens right now are a little bit soft, a little bit receptive, but they've still got some speed to them. Downhill putts are still pretty quick. A little dicey at times. And if we get the forecast, they're calling for on the weekend, they will definitely pick up another foot.
Q. When you see the rain coming down during a tournament week, do you lick your chops because you know you won last year in the slop, and all three of your wins this year there's been mud and rain at some point either prefacing or during or --
TIGER WOODS: You know, it's rained every single event I've played in this year. Maybe I shouldn't play, huh?
Q. That's what they're saying.
TIGER WOODS: No, I do like playing in tough conditions. It doesn't mean you always play well, but I enjoy that challenge. I certainly do. It's not something that's going to -- I don't get bummed out, put it that way, when the conditions are tough. You've got to go out there and suck it up and play the best you can and sometimes they're brutal and you've got to deal with them. Other times you can get through it.
Like last year it rained quite a bit in the second round and you just had to gut it out. Every one had to deal with it. And you know that, so just go ahead and just play.
Q. Anything in particular you worked on last week coming out of the Players, other than gaining weight and getting your strength back?
TIGER WOODS: Just trying to make sure I can shape the ball both ways. I hit quite a few drivers because I knew what the forecast was going to be. There weren't going to be as many 3-woods this year, if it's this wet. You've got to go ahead and drive your pill out there.
Q. How do you feel last week? Did everything go the way you thought it was going to?
TIGER WOODS: Say again.
Q. The practice last week. Doing the shots and stuff. Did it go the way you thought it was going to?
TIGER WOODS: I am very pleased. To be able to practice at home and in peace and work on things I needed to work on. It felt pretty good to go out there and hit balls and take some time off and take time off and hit more balls and really work on the game and be focused about it. I think that's the biggest thing. Plus we had our golf course in perfect shape, too.
Q. Would you categorize, please, your play in each of the Masters that you've won so far.
TIGER WOODS: In what way? What do you mean?
Q. Well, when you look back on them, how do you think in your words you played? Can you put each victory into perspective?
TIGER WOODS: I drove it great in '97. And I made everything. I didn't hit my irons particularly as good as I did in 2001, but I didn't have to. I had wedges into most of the holes. I was driving it so good. I think last year was probably the best iron play I've had of the three. And again I putted well. I think that's -- any player who plays here has to putt. And over the last two they have put more of a premium on driving. And in '97 you just teed it up and let it rip. So it didn't really matter.
Q. Any of those three come anywhere near Pebble Beach in 2000?
TIGER WOODS: As far as complete game, no. No.
Q. When is the very first time you played here?
TIGER WOODS: I played here in '95 on Monday. It was my -- Sunday.
Q. The very first time you ever saw the course?
TIGER WOODS: First time I ever saw it I played nine holes.
Q. Were you at all intimidated by what you saw and was there ever a point since then that you felt like you knew your way around, so to speak?
TIGER WOODS: I never felt intimidated because at the time I could really drive it a long way. And there was absolutely no rough out here. So for me, my biggest weakness was driving at the time. I could hit it for miles, but I didn't know where it was going. And here it lent itself to that. And the only thing that I found that would be hard for me at the time was my distance control. I wasn't very good at it and I knew then that if I could bomb it down there as far as I can, get it to the green, closer, I can get it I figured I could shake a sand wedge on the green.
Q. What feeling do you have -- today was the first time you played since, I suspect, since you left last year, isn't it?
TIGER WOODS: Right.
Q. What feelings do you have standing on the first tee looking out at the course?
TIGER WOODS: A place that I feel very familiar with. It's not a golf course where I feel like I'm learning something each and every time I play it, or I have to go out there and learn something. I feel as if I have a pretty good understanding of how to play each and every hole.
Q. You always talk about how when you're in a situation to win you say, oh, I've done it before, and that fuels your belief. Now you've done it three times here. When you arrive at a situation like this week, and you play a practice round, how much of it can you compare and contrast the feeling of being a three-time champion and a one-time champion and a two-time champion, how it's grown each year?
TIGER WOODS: It gives you that added confidence, knowing that you've done it different ways. I've played certain shots into certain pins really well. And other times not so well. And you live -- when you're out there you relive those moments.
Like for instance, today we were back there on number 6 chipping from the back right pin. And I said, well, this is a pretty easy chip because I holed it last year. So you have those memories. And you say if I hit the ball in this position I know how to play this shot.
Today on 17 I missed -- I was actually chipping some balls from the front right and to the pin just over the bunker. And that's a shot I had two years ago. So there's a -- those are certain things that you know. I know how to handle this situation. I think that's the biggest thing.
Q. Do you feel this week an obligation to speak out about the social issues around the sport or an obligation not to speak out about the social issues surrounding this whole thing?
TIGER WOODS: You know, I've already answered that. And I've answered that many times prior to this event and right now I'm just trying to get myself ready to play on Thursday.
Q. Because of the changes on number 5, what sort of changes will you have to make to play with the reconfiguration with that hole compared to last year?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I hadn't seen it until today. And it's pretty apparent that Hootie, I guess, had some kind of connections with the military because he dropped a couple bunker busting bombs out there.
(Laughter.) You go in there, you don't see anything. All you see is blue sky -- or actually gray sky. You don't see anything into there. So it's one of those things where you've got to go out there and today I absolutely ripped a drive down there and I was short of the bunker. I couldn't get there.
Q. Was it -- I think it was last Sunday of last year that you pulled your shot on 5?
TIGER WOODS: I hit a little snipe over there, yeah.
TIGER WOODS: I guess it would be the front of the first one is where I ended up playing my second shot from. It's certainly a lot different over there because he took some of those trees and moved them more to the right side, and I think that's one of the trees that I hit. So it makes you -- forces you to play more out to the right and even if it place downwind, I'm sure you're going see some of the guys some of the longer hitters hit a 3-wood and actually lay back to be short of the bunkers to stay out of them.
Q. Are the fairways a lot narrower to the right of the bunker?
TIGER WOODS: Yes, it is. It's much narrower. And if you get a left-to-right wind blowing pretty hard there that's a tough tee shot. It used to be one of the tougher holes in the golf course as it was. And just because of the green. Now it's one of the toughest out there.
Q. How would you compare and contrast the difficulty of winning three in a row at the Masters compared to three Amateurs? And what would be tougher?
TIGER WOODS: By far, the three Masters, because of the competition. In the Amateur I just had to play one opponent at a time. And granted, anything could happen, but in Amateur golf if you play well, more than likely you're going to win your match. You play well out here, there's no guarantee you're going to win the tournament. Someone can just flat out play you because these guys are that much better.
Q. You started off by saying there were more important things. Do you sense in your little time here for a couple days a different feeling around the course and the people kind of the same or what?
TIGER WOODS: The people are the same. I didn't sense anything different out here. Today.
Q. With all the changes they made before last year, are we not going to see again what they intended, what they were hoping for, because of the weather?
TIGER WOODS: I think you're right. I think that we have been -- what is it? Since 2000, when actually well -- yes, since 2000 when they were kind of fast on the weekend. After that storm blew threw and the greens picked up speed. It really hasn't played its true potential.
As far as difficulty, it's difficult in a different way. Now it's just long and brutal. But I think that this golf course is just a beast when you get those greens hard and fast. You hit 7-irons in there and they're not holding at all. That's when this golf course becomes brutal.
Q. You said that in the days leading up to this tournament that because of the controversy it's become more than just a golf tournament, more than the first Major of the year. Now that you're here, do you still feel the same way?
TIGER WOODS: I haven't -- I'll be honest with you, I haven't really been reading any of the papers or reading anything about this event or watching it on TV. I've been glued to what's been going on overseas. So that's been before that. The last couple weeks I had seen a lot on it. And that's why I made that comment. But of late, I've kind turned my attention to what's going on overseas.
Q. Just about every player we have talked to has said that the player with the strongest mind is going to win the tournament, except in fact, obviously, who is going to be playing well. Would you agree with that? Do you think you've got the strongest mind?
TIGER WOODS: I feel I can handle a lot. My feelings are that if you're playing halfway decent, you just have to think your way around this golf course. You have to miss the golf ball in the correct spots. And if you don't, you're going to make bogey. But if you miss it in the correct spots, there's a chance you can make par. And I think that's where experience comes in. And I think that's why you see a lot of the players who win here aren't the -- haven't played here for the first time, because it take a few years to actually understand this golf course.
Q. Can you compare Masters crowds to the other Majors, other tour events in terms of how they follow you and the knowledge of the game?
TIGER WOODS: Certainly this one and probably The Open Championship you probably have the most knowledgeable fans. When we play in The Open Championship they're very knowledgeable about the game. They appreciate a good shot and they know what a good shot is. Sometimes a shot that ends up 30 feet is a heck of a golf shot and they know that.
And the same thing here with these fans. They know when you hit a good shot and what it is. Just because the ball doesn't get airborne doesn't mean you should cheer.
Q. Is your ability to put these things out of your mind, outside issues, the mark of a champion, do you think, or is that something that you were -- you would have done naturally?
TIGER WOODS: Good question. When I've competed, even when I was a little boy, I've always been one who was very intense when I played. So I've always had that. My biggest thing as a kid was to learn how to relax on the golf course. Because I used to get too into it. And I used to get tired by the time I got to 13, 14, because I was so focused on what I was doing. And I've learned how to be more relaxed on a golf course in breaking it up. You can't be focused for five straight hours. You can't do it. And I've learned to break it up. So I've always had that ability.
Q. In your own mind, Tiger, do you categorize women not being allowed to join a golf club as prejudice against a minority?
TIGER WOODS: That's a good question. Never looked at it that way.
Q. Do you have any gut instinct on the matter?
TIGER WOODS: Oh, every one here knows my opinion. Should they become members or should they be members? Yes. But you know, I'm -- I don't really have a vote in how they run this golf course, and this club.
Q. Given your personal opinion on the membership policy here, if were you a full member rather than an honorary member, how much more do you feel you could have done or would have done to inspire change in that policy?
TIGER WOODS: I think that you would have a lot more say so. But I think even Jack and Arnold, being members, I don't think they have as much say around here as people think.
Q. Just regarding the three jackets in a row, three Masters in a row possibility, if that were to take place come Sunday night, where would you rank that amongst all of the great things you've done, the Tiger Slam, the Grand Slam, the Amateurs, everything like that. Where would that fall?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it would probably fall right behind the Slam.
Q. Given the circumstances the last couple of years, do you feel mentally and physically in better shape than you were coming in the last than you did in 2001 and 2002?
TIGER WOODS: Yes. Definitely.
Q. You were the favorite then. How much more of a favorite does that make you?
TIGER WOODS: I guess I'm still the favorite, I guess.
Q. But in your mind, do you feel that your game is -- you've said you're playing as well as you did in 2000 or even maybe even better. Does that give you even a different mindset than you had the last couple years?
TIGER WOODS: No. You just got to go out there and plot your way along. Just because I feel comfortable about my game doesn't guarantee that I'm going to play well. I've still got to go out there and be focused on executing golf shots in the proper spot. You can hit a good golf shot here and end up 50 feet away because it catches the wrong side of a slope. You still have to play well and be smart on your decision-making on this golf course. Even if you're playing great.
Q. The amazing part of that 12-shot win in '97, I think, is that you shot 40 on the front nine. And do you remember what you were thinking when you came off that nine like, here I am?
TIGER WOODS: Oh, yes, I do.
(Laughter.) Yeah I was pretty hot. I was definitely pretty hot. I hit a 2-iron down there on 10 and I remember I made the swing that I was making in the practice rounds and in my warm-up. And I said, all right, here's the deal. Just make the same swing that you did on this tee shot all the way through the entire back nine. And if I can somehow get it close to par, or if not back to par, I'll be right where I need to be. I can still win the tournament. And then things just got going. I chipped in on 12, which was a lot of luck. And from there I hit some good shots and I made everything.
Q. Do you feel like your ability to block out distractions is better than it was maybe when you first turned pro and do you feel that's something you are going to rely on this week?
TIGER WOODS: I think it's about the same. As far as blocking out things. As I said earlier, I've become better at being more relaxed on a golf course so I don't feel tired through the middle part of the round. I don't have lapses of energy. I can keep it going for all 18 holes. And I think that's the biggest thing. And I feel so much more in control of my emotions because of that.
Q. In the other Majors there are examples of players who have won three or four in a row, a long time ago. And then there are also many more examples of guys winning two in a row than there have been here.
TIGER WOODS: Right.
Q. Why do you think it's been so difficult or more difficult here than at other Majors to put together a streak like two or three or even four in a row?
TIGER WOODS: I think it's just the greens. These greens are so difficult because you can hit good shots in there and just end up with some bad spots. And some Majors you can actually go out there and kind of marginally hit some shots.
For instance, a U.S. Open, if you're not hitting your irons all that great you can aim for the middle of the green and on most U.S. Open courses put the ball in the middle and you've got a putt. Here you put the ball in the middle and you might have some kind of big old slope that you've got to deal with. And I think that's the biggest thing. You have to be so precise when you play here that you've got to be on.
Q. In general terms, do you think there should be an expectation on professional athletes of your stature to speak out on social or political issues or not?
TIGER WOODS: I think it's up to them. It's up to each individual. Certain athletes have their causes, whether it's whatever it may be, and they're very outspoken on that and others aren't. And that's their prerogative. We don't ask every single person to be outspoken on every single issue. And sometimes just because a person is in the lime light, they all of a sudden have -- people have had this need for them to have a voice and an opinion and a "where you stand" on certain issues. And some people just choose not to.
Q. We often hear of other players on the tour wilting under your pressure on Sunday. Do you ever feel that when you're out there?
TIGER WOODS: No. I wish I did. But I -- you know these guys can flat out play. And I think that the key for me is just to keep plugging along, keep doing what I do. And if I can go ahead and keep applying the pressure, keep hitting good quality shots, make a few putts here and there, that might make someone make a mistake. And sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn't.
Q. The same list of challengers come here, and you being one of them, but there's some question, Ernie, with his wrist, Phil has a long layoff, didn't play very well last week, who are you looking to challenge you and be at the top of the leaderboard come Sunday?
TIGER WOODS: You know, it doesn't really matter. Because if you start thinking that way you're not going to do any bit of good to yourself. And I got to go out there and play my game, at least give myself a chance to win this tournament. And whoever is there on the back nine on Sunday is there. And that's the way I've looked at every tournament. You can't pick out a couple guys and say these are the guys I need to beat. Because they may not be there. I need to get there myself.
BILLY PAYNE: Okay. Tiger, thank you very much, sir. And good luck.
TIGER WOODS: You got it.
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