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BAY HILL INVITATIONAL PRESENTED BY COOPER TIRES


March 23, 2003


Tiger Woods


ORLANDO, FLORIDA

JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Thank you, Tiger, and congratulations on your fourth consecutive Bay Hill Invitational victory.

I know it was a tough day out there for you and you battled hard. Why don't you just give us a couple of comments on your day and then we'll go into some questions.

TIGER WOODS: Well, the night was long and the day was probably even longer.

It was just a tough day. We had rain. I wasn't feeling my best. It just made for a very difficult and long round of golf. So all that being said, very, very happy the way I played today and managed my game. I didn't miss a whole lot of fairways and I hit a bunch of greens which I needed to do.

Q. What did you have for dinner last night?

TIGER WOODS: Pasta. Had it, and about a half hour later I started feeling pretty bad after that.

Q. Who cooked?

TIGER WOODS: Elin.

Q. You often talk about how difficult the game is and you use the metaphor of being a fighter. What is the biggest obstacle you've had to overcome to get to this point and having fought through an illness today, what's the biggest obstacle you've had to overcome to date?

TIGER WOODS: I think it's just trying to learn how to become better. I think that's the biggest obstacle we all face; how can we get that a little bit better.

You know, I've always wanted to become a better player at the end of the year than I was at the beginning of the year. If I keep doing that for the rest of my life, I'll have a pretty good career. So far to date, I've been able to do that.

Q. Was not playing ever an option?

TIGER WOODS: If I wasn't in contention, I wouldn't have gone, there's no way. I thought about going to the hospital last night but, like I told Elin last night, the problem is, it's so easy to check in to a hospital, but getting out is the hard part, you know.

So I didn't want to get to a point whereテつ -- I wanted to get on IV drip, get my fluid levels up in case today was hot and humid. But the problem was I didn't know if they were going to let me go, so I decided not do that. I got very lucky it rained today, instead of being hot and humid, as dehydrated as I was from throwing up and the other thing that was going on, too, add both of those together and I lost a lot of fluid.

Q. Did Casey say you had a similar thing in college once? What happened there?

TIGER WOODS: It was just we had ribs then. It was the death march, who was actually going to play the next day. Casey could not go, he had to go to the hospital and not play. At the time we were in the western regionals and it was 4-4 now. If I pull out we would have been disqualified and we were the No. 1 ranked team in the country so I decided to go. I kept throwing up, I would blackout. Coach would come over here and slap my face, "Wake up, Boy. Wake up, Boy, it's okay." So I got through that day and we went on to get to Nationals.

Q. People look in the books years from now and see that you won by 11 strokes, how much harder was this than it looked, given all of the circumstances?

TIGER WOODS: It was a joke. I mean, just every single tee shot hurt because my abs were obviously sore from last night and I continued on while I was playing today. And nothing came up. I was just dry-heaving today. Got everything out last night. So from that standpoint, every time you squeezed your abs on any kind of tee shot, especially on driver, I wasn't looking forward to hitting drivers. So, that's why when I warmed up, I didn't really warm up a whole lot.

Q. Were you surprised that the whole round got in and was there any point you were hoping it would get called off and you could come back tomorrow?

TIGER WOODS: I was hoping it would get called off about we started. I heard the thunder this morning and I said, "Oh, perfect."

They called up and said, "Oh, you guys are on time"; great. So I decided to come on over. We went off, only eight minutes late on the first tee.

Q. You talked yesterday about how much better you feel since the knee surgery and you have won three of your first four this year, do you think that your game might be good enough this year to approach doing what you did in 2000?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I feel just as good as I did in 2000, excluding today. But from a golf standpoint, my swing feelsテつ -- like I'm able to make the same type of move that I did in 2000 without having to alter my golf swing. Each and every day last year I had to alter it somehow to get around the day. Now I'm able to step up there and make the proper swing, get the proper arc and not be able to worry about the consequences of it.

Q. You've won this event now four straight times. When you stop and think about that a second, what are you thinking about?

TIGER WOODS: To be honest with you, I'm not really thinking about that a whole lot right now.

Q. When you do have a chanceテつ --

TIGER WOODS: You know, when I have a chanceテつ -- right now I'm just thinking about when I can get out of here and go to the bathroom. (Laughter.)

Q. As far as being home this week, I know that's always nice, but considering what happened to you last night, how much more of a benefit was that just being at home?

TIGER WOODS: It helped a lot because I couldn't stayテつ -- I didn't stay in the bedroom last night because there's no way, it was just too hard.

So I stayed on the couch which was the closest from the couch to the bathroom, as any point in the house. So I made my runs nice and short. It was a very long night.

Q. How important was it that since you had a big lead, you didn't have to come out here and grind and you could sort of do a maintenance mode?

TIGER WOODS: You know, especially when I saw that Fax wasn't swinging all that well early in the day, he was having to have a hard time making birdies. When I saw that, I just knew if I could just keep making a lot of pars, hit a lot of fairways, a lot of greens, put a whole bunch of pressure on these guys, I knew I would make my share of birdies; and if I did that, then they would have to play some kind of special round to catch me.

Q. The only way they were going to be able to catch you, if it was going to happen, was if you stumbled a little bit but you made some good pars off and on 2 and 3.

TIGER WOODS: I made three big putts in a row, 2, 3 and 4. On 2, I flared 1-over to the right. I lagged it down there and I needed to make that putt just so that Fax didn't peck up any shots on that hole. I did that.

The next hole, he missed a short one, and if I could make it, it would actually gain a stroke when it looks like a might lose a stroke. And on the very next hole I could pick up two and virtually put the tournament away. That's what I was able to do.

Q. Are you feeling your worst right around the third hole or so?

TIGER WOODS: You meaning during the round? I think I actually felt worse before I teed off. But it's just like college, boot and rally, you know.

Q. Did you get better at any time during the round?

TIGER WOODS: No.

Q. Why do you play so well here? Do you think you really have that much of an advantage on the height and length factor, why?

TIGER WOODS: I think a lot of these holes set up well to my eye. A like the way they look off some of these tee shots, most of the tee shots. Some of the targets out there, which are trees, or maybe a crane in the distance or whatever it is, it just fits my eye. Not every golf course fits your eye and this is one golf course that certainly does.

Q. Can you give an example of some holes?

TIGER WOODS: For instance, No.テつ 9. There's a little tree out in the distance that I aim at every year. There's a tree on No. 3 that I aim at every year, and then you can go hole after hole after hole and find the same thing.

Q. As the son of a military guy, has it been tough to concentrate with what's been going on this week?

TIGER WOODS: Not when you're playing, no. But obviously off the golf course, we normally go from the 18th green and go straight at that time range and go practice, and I bet most of the guys this week didn't do that. They all came inside and took a look at what's going on with our guys overseas.

It was certainly a different week because of that. I think guys out here on TOUR really, we respect what all of them are doing overseas and certainly we give them our greatest support we possibly can.

Q. You mentioned a few weeks ago some of the problems with the knee last year and how much it hurt during the round, I wonder if you could compare what you felt today was the worst of what you felt last year?

TIGER WOODS: This is a different type of pain, obviously. I think the way I was feeling didn't alter my golf swing. It was I was going to pay a price forテつ -- after tee shots, especially with driver and 3-wood, I was going to pay a price for it; it was going to hurt a lot.

I was still able to make my normal golf swing, whereas last year, I know I really could not make my normal golf swing.

Q. Not to get too many gory details, but did you throw up a number of times last night? Have you eaten anything since the pasta last night?

TIGER WOODS: Haven't had a bite. I haven't been able to keep anything down.

Q. Just fluids since?

TIGER WOODS: Fluids. They didn't really stay down but I've had them, yeah.

Q. And then last night did you throw up a number of times?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, probably 20, 30 times before I got here.

Q. Given how you said this has happened to you before, do you think you'll be able to bounce back to give yourself the normal preparation time for a big tournament like you normally do next week?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I think so. I think I'm going it take the next couple of days off and not really do a whole lot and just try and get healthy again.

I know the golf course. I know TPC, know how to play it. It's just a matter of getting a feel for the speed of the greens and the fairways and that doesn't take too long. I think as soft as it is up there, from what I've been told, we're going to be possibly playing lift, clean and place, you never know. It's pretty soft up there. That just means the rough will be up, as always, real thick and lush and just got to keep the ball in play.

Q. When you talk about your constant quest to get better as a player, where do you see the most room for improvement?

TIGER WOODS: Just an overall package, just every little bit, trying to become more consistent on a daily basis.

That doesn't necessarily mean shooting lower scores. It means becoming more consistent on those bad days, those days where you're not quite comfortable off the tees, and I feel comfortable with irons or on the greens or whatever it may be that you're still able to shoot something that keeps you in the tournament where you have a chance to win.

Q. You hit, what, maybe 20, 25 balls this morning?

TIGER WOODS: If that.

Q. A couple putts?

TIGER WOODS: That's it, yeah. I had to make a run.

Q. David Toms had food poisoning at The Match Play and he said it helped him stay in the present. He was so weak that he was -- just to get through each shot, and it actually kind of helped him. Did you find that at all?

TIGER WOODS: I didn't have a problem with that, no. I was just hoping it would be over. The sooner it would be over, the better.

Q. Were you at all surprised they went ahead and finished?

TIGER WOODS: I was surprised, yeah. I was surprised we were able to get it in. The only fairway that was unplayable was 16. It had a couple high spots there where you could drop. Every green was puttable. None of the greens got water, that we played, that were unplayable and had to squeegee them out. The golf course held up under some pretty good rain.

Q. Did you see any squeegees?

TIGER WOODS: They squeegeed the 16th fairway in the lay-up area when we were walking down from the tee.

Q. The distance between you and the rest of the Tour actually seems to be growing and I've heard the metaphor a lot and read it a lot about Secretariat winning that race. What is it about how you play golf that you think is different than everybody else, because they are catching up mechanically, and equipment is evening this things out. So I guess I'm asking more of a psychological question; what's different about the way you play the game that's allowing you to keep extending that lead?

TIGER WOODS: Well, one thing, I love to compete. I thoroughly enjoy getting out here and competing. There's no substitute for that.

Q. Against who are you competing though? The course, other players, yourself, history?

TIGER WOODS: All of the above. Myself, on the golf course, trying to getテつ -- when you're not feeling comfortable to suck it up and hit a shot, obviously trying to beat the golf course and trying to beat everyone in the field, too. So a number of things. But I just really enjoy getting out here and trying to mix it up with these boys.

Q. Everybody talked about this rivalry between and you Ernie Els. Do you feel that in the future that the Matt Kuchar, Ty Tryons, Aaron Baddeleys could be the next to possibly challenge you?

TIGER WOODS: Certainly. They just need to gain more experience, keep playing the Tour and keep learning.

We have all been there and gone through the learning curve at an early age. They just need to keep plugging along. They all have an inordinate amount of talent. It's just a matter of getting the experience with that talent.

Q. Your thoughts on playing 44 holes without a bogey; and do you think you'll be chucking everything in your refrigerator between now and the Masters?

TIGER WOODS: As far as playing the 44 holes, that, to me, that says a lot around this golf course, that I was able to do that because that's not easy to do, but that's also how you win golf tournaments. You eliminate mistakes. It was not like I was hitting great. I made some good up-and-downs, some good saves, i.e., today on 2, 3, made two good par putts. That's what you have to do.

As far as chucking everything out, nah.

JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Can we go through your round, your eagle and two birdies.

TIGER WOODS: Eagle 4. Hit a driver and 3-wood to about 12 feet.

No. 7, hit a 7-iron to about six feet right behind the hole.

17, I hit a 5-iron to about 12 feet right of the hole.

Q. When you were sitting on your golf bag on the putting green before you started, were you wondering maybe about your stamina for 18 holes, that you might run out of gas?

TIGER WOODS: That's why you work out as hard, why I work out as hard as I do, is that even when I'm not feeling my best, I know my body will keep firing. I didn't have a problem with my stamina. My legs felt great.

The only thing I had a problem with was when I hit those tee shots, how much it was going to hurt. But other than that, no. I was getting more and more tired as the day was progressing but it wasn't to the point where I was unable to make my normal swing. I still made my normal swing regardless, and that's a pretty good feeling.

Q. Are you considering all that you had to go through physically and all of that, are you particularly proud of this round?

TIGER WOODS: Oh, I'm very proud of this round. In fact, I didn't feel my best and still was able to go out there and make no bogeys, with the lead, and that's always something you want to do.

Q. I know you're not big on sending messages but what do you think the rest of golf must be thinking to see you come back from two months off, win three of your first four tournaments and except for a 3-wood into the parking lot, who knows.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it was that close. I felt going into the stretch that my game was progressing. It was getting back to where it used to be. It was just a matter of getting confidence again to go ahead and make my natural swing and now I'm able to do it again.

Q. What does it all mean that you're winning almost every week?

TIGER WOODS: It means very similar to how I felt in 2000. I'm not in any pain and that's a pretty good feeling to be in. It's been a while since I've been that way.

Q. Do you feel as confident as you did two years ago? Do you feel like you're in the same groove in terms of every putt disappearing from ten feet?

TIGER WOODS: I know my management skills around the golf course are a lot better than they were in 2000, just because of experience. Every year they are going to get better. But as far as pure ball-striking, it's pretty close.

JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Thank you, Tiger, for joining us.

End of FastScripts....

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