March 25, 2003
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA
MODERATOR: Tiger played nine holes of his practice round today. Tiger, if we could start off, maybe we could talk about the nine holes you played today and the golf course. The golf course is in great shape. The rough is certainly up, fairways are wet, and obviously the greens are a little bit slower because they haven't rolled them yet, but they'll be up to speed by Thursday.
Q. Tiger, Saturday at Bay Hill you said your knee wasn't 100 percent with the conditions you played on on Sunday. What's going to happen when everything is 100 percent for you?
TIGER WOODS: I'll feel a lot better.
Q. What's going to happen with the golf course?
TIGER WOODS: I'd like to find out. I'd like to be able to be healthy again and find out.
Q. How are you feeling?
TIGER WOODS: Still not quite there yet. It's lingering a little bit.
TIGER WOODS: A strange day? Yeah, it is, because I've done it before but not quite in rain like that. Last time I did it was in heat, so it was just a long time.
Q. What made you decide to not just take it easy today?
TIGER WOODS: That's why I'm playing nine holes, just take it real easy. That's one of the reasons I came up last night, to make sure I didn't have to drive up early in the morning. We had that player meeting and it was just too much all crammed in together, so I spread it out a little bit.
Q. What's your take on the significance of this event? Is the majors more important than regular Tour events? Where are you in the debate on the morning of the PLAYERS?
TIGER WOODS: I think it's probably the highest tournament in the world next to the majors. I don't think it ranks up there in the majors' category now.
Q. What are the differences?
TIGER WOODS: History.
Q. Do you prepare for this tournament like you do for the majors?
TIGER WOODS: No, I don't. I play the week before, which is Bay Hill, and generally I don't play the week before a major except for the Buick Open in Flint. That's the only time I ever play before a major. The first three I don't normally play.
TIGER WOODS: I think it's one step below, but it's the highest tournament in the world besides the major.
Q. Do you ever lack confidence on the golf course, Tiger?
TIGER WOODS: I've been there. I've certainly been there.
Q. That said, you're coming in here with three wins. Do you feel better about your chances coming in here with that as if you didn't win at all or is it pretty much the same?
TIGER WOODS: I think you've got to feel a little bit better. I'm out there trying to crack an egg. I'm shooting a halfway decent score. I am pleased with the way I'm playing and I need to get to feeling a little bit stronger and better and I should be all right.
Q. How do you think the process should go as to whether this should become a major?
TIGER WOODS: I don't know. You'd have to ask the R&A and the USGA probably for that, probably the PGA of America, as well.
Q. How are the greens with all the rain we've had?
TIGER WOODS: Soft. They're a little on the slow side right now, but they haven't rolled them yet. They'll probably roll them tonight and they'll pick up at least another foot on them.
TIGER WOODS: If there's no wind like this, of course, the guys will always go low if there's no wind, but if the wind picks up it'll be a completely different story.
Q. Do you see how things might change or can they possibly change in 50 years' time?
TIGER WOODS: What do you mean?
Q. Do you think this will ever be one of the four?
TIGER WOODS: No, I don't think so.
Q. Will this always be the fifth?
TIGER WOODS: Yes, I'd have to say so because there's so much history behind the others.
TIGER WOODS: Well, if that's the case then that's the case, but we're going to see how it plays out. They....
Q. Is it their decision or a public decision or the media's decision?
TIGER WOODS: I think it's the governing bodies. They're the ones who make up the rules for us to play. I think it's up to them.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I think so. I think you'd probably want to give a little bit more space than where it's at now. Tim has tried to move it into different parts of the year, but it just seems to fit right here.
TIGER WOODS: If you make this a major you've got to move it back and move the Florida swing. It's just a convenient little stretch where you move right up the coast and head north. You'd have to move everything around and it would be interesting to see what happens.
Q. You'd surely invalidate history completely if you have five majors?
TIGER WOODS: What do you mean?
Q. Well, Jack only had a chance at four.
TIGER WOODS: Well, he's won this one three times. It might be retroactive, I guess, because he's won this one three times, so you might say he had 21. It all depends -- if you add in the two amateurs you might say those are majors, too. It all depends on what you guys think of, how you guys want to classify it.
TIGER WOODS: It was playing completely different when I was an amateur here. I think it was about 1,000 degrees, and it was Bermuda then, it's completely gone, and we're playing off Bermuda greens that were extremely grainy and hard and fast, so it was a completely different golf course. They've cleaned out so much between 1 and 2. You could never see No. 2 when I played here in '94, so they've changed it a lot since then.
Q. Is this the most difficult and challenging?
TIGER WOODS: By far. This is the toughest golf course we'll play all year, especially if the wind blows. If the wind doesn't blow you can use the slopes to your advantage and get the ball pretty close and shoot some pretty good numbers, but if the wind blows here it's hard to tell where it's coming from. That's the hard part because it swirls with all the water around here it just starts doing some weird things.
Q. Someone said this could be tougher because of the size and strength of the field. Is there any merit to that?
TIGER WOODS: I think because of the way the finishing holes are, 16, 17, 18. It also is pretty intense holes given what can happen and what has happened. You know, I had that great battle with Hal down the stretch, I mean, anything could have happened, an eagle on 16 to draw within one and anything could have happened on the last two holes. That's the trauma of it all, and what Craig did last year. Anything can happen, and I think that's -- no matter how big a lead you have, it just seems like it's not quite big enough going into the last few holes.
Q. Do you feel it --
TIGER WOODS: Feel?
Q. What you might feel at the PGA or a major?
TIGER WOODS: I think the only time you think of that is probably at Augusta. Everyone as a kid has always heard that the tournament doesn't start until the back nine on Sunday. Last year it did for me. That's when I shot a 40, but anything could have happened, though. That's what people don't realize is if I go out there and I soup a couple balls in the water there and all of a sudden Constantino gets it going and makes a few eagles -- if I shoot a 40 or 41 on the back nine and someone shoots a 31, all of a sudden I lose the tournament. It can happen in a heartbeat. It can happen at Augusta and it can happen here at this golf course, too, is that the last few holes, there's so much water, so much drama. If the wind is blowing then it's very interesting.
Q. Could it still happen that way at Augusta given the way that it's so much tougher on the back nine?
TIGER WOODS: It's harder to make eagle on 13 for sure.
Q. Is it harder to make good numbers? It seems like on 13 you could easily make a 7 or a 6.
TIGER WOODS: You're probably going to lay up more times than you're going to go for it after a marginal drive on 13. Before you said a marginal drive, now you're in a boarder line area, should I or should I not go for it. Now it's almost an auto-layup with the tees so far back there now, and on 15 those speed bumps over on the right, you could kind of sling it off those bumps. That's been taken out and they've grown rough over there. Now the best tee shot is a cut or a draw. That takes away a few yards. I think it's a lot more fun because you could make three or seven. Now it's probably not to the point where you're not going to make as many sevens as you were in the past because you're going to be forced to lay up. I don't hit driver there because it doesn't hit me. Still a perfect 3 wood, if I flare it over to the right like I've done in the past, I used to be able to get there. Now I'll probably just lay up.
TIGER WOODS: It's a pretty easy hole when you're out here on Tuesday morning, no wind, nothing. You can hit as many balls as you want. It becomes a lot different in the tournament when the pin is tucked and the wind is blowing a little bit. I've been on that tee and I've hit as low as a pitching wedge and I've hit as much as a Chip 5 iron, so it's a very interesting hole when the wind blows.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it was, but I think that will all change if we get any afternoon wind and especially when they roll the greens which will help firm them up.
Q. Do you know how scary it sounds when you say your knee is not 100 percent, you play with food poisoning and you still take a 5-shot lead into an 11-shot lead? How good is your game going to be?
TIGER WOODS: I don't know. I would like to feel healthy again, I'll tell you that. I'd like to not be going through what I'm going through right now.
Q. Well, knee aside where is your game right now compared to when you were on the verge of maybe that great stretch in 2000 and the end of '99?
TIGER WOODS: It was about the same. I feel like I'm shaping the ball well again, and for me that's awfully fun when I can arc off my path the way I can time and time again and hit the shots, especially in the wind and shelling that ball out. That to me is fun like what I was doing at La Costa. I was hitting 140-yard 6 irons, you know, I had a couple in there from 110, little 8 irons: I hit it with no divot, with no spin and hitting the ball a perfect distance in the air. To be able to do that again, that's awfully fun.
Q. Can you explain why you have no weaknesses in your game but I know you hold yourself to a higher standard. Is there anything you are working on or anything you'd like to see get a little better?
TIGER WOODS: I think just overall consistency. You know, the bad days when you're not playing that great, to not have it go off the charts, to have it where you can still shoot around under par or even par to keep yourself in the tournament. I think that's the key to making tournaments because you're not going to play well each and every tournament. It's that one round where you don't really have it where you still keep yourself in the ball game, and I need to work on that. You still play with it and keep the ball in play and still shoot a good number, and I think that's what all the great champions throughout history have been able to do.
Q. The shots that you say you couldn't hit because of your knee, does it put pressure on the front of it or the side of it?
TIGER WOODS: It's just coming through the ball and keeping the club path from the inside, that's hard to do when your knee is unstable, plus it's going to hurt every time, so the easiest way to do it is to try and back out of it and try and relieve yourself of that pressure and that pain.
TIGER WOODS: It depends on how I was feeling that particular day, what that swing was giving me, what could I take that day, could I handle that pain for that shot and would I sacrifice it or not. Each and every shot I had to make a decision on that. That's not fun playing that way.
Q. Were you looking for 20, 25 feet last year and you find yourself now looking at the flag?
TIGER WOODS: No, I wasn't able to make the path. It's hard to explain, Doug, it really is. I could show you a lot easier on the golf course than it is to explain it.
Q. Have you changed your Augusta routine at all just to make sure that the increased outside attractions won't bother you?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, definitely. I think Hootie is helping all the players with parachutes and stuff like that to get in, and I think it'll be great for us.
Q. You're absolutely not cracking a smile?
TIGER WOODS: Is that the only way to get in? You've just got to sky dive in there.
TIGER WOODS: I'm surprised I found the flow for the game that quickly because I wasn't able to practice as much as I wanted to. I told you guys that. I wasn't able to get the reps in because I had a stringent ball cap for a long time, and that's frustrating for me when I'm used to being able to hit as many balls as I wanted to, to not be able to do that, and only hit certain clubs for the longest time. Until two weeks before the tournament I was just hitting 7-irons. How are you going to get ready for a tournament that way? It showed coming out because I didn't really play well the first couple days, but I found the groove of playing again, and once I got back into the swing of things, I was able to pick it up and remember how to do it.
Q. Tiger, because of the routine you had early in the season before you came back, is your short game and putting further along this early in the season than maybe in past year.
TIGER WOODS: I'd have to say my short game is, yes. The putting is about the same, but definitely the short game I've been able to work on it a lot more, I've had to. I had to get out of the house and do something.
Q. It's something you had to do for a while.
TIGER WOODS: It's something I had to do. You can only sit on the couch for so long. I spent a lot of my time chipping and hitting different shots and trying to pick up things that I had forgotten, shots that I had forgotten how to play. You start remembering these things you used to do as kids, and I'm starting to apply those things.
Q. Is this going to be a week of a very bland diet for you?
TIGER WOODS: It's been that way for a while now. I would just like to have the symptoms go away.
Q. What's your go-to shot?
TIGER WOODS: What my go-to shot?
Q. When it comes down to crunch time, is there a shot that you know you can hit in the fairway?
TIGER WOODS: Probably something low in there, depends on how I'm feeling that day. Sometimes it's a low blade or sometimes I'll shape it from right to left and get it in play that way. It depends what my swing is giving me that day. It'll be low, it won't be up in the air.
Q. Does this week matter for the Masters?
TIGER WOODS: I think it does. I think it's always good to leave here on a positive note and playing well, especially if you're taking a week off, to feel as if you don't have a whole lot to work on when you go home.
TIGER WOODS: I don't know. Good question.
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