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BAY HILL INVITATIONAL PRESENTED BY COOPER TIRES


March 22, 2003


Tiger Woods


ORLANDO, FLORIDA

JOE CHEMYCZ: We welcome Tiger Woods, 29 holes today. 12 birdies one bogey over that stretch.

Talk about the day.

TIGER WOODS: It was a long day. Got up early this morning and got off to the greatest start you could possibly get off to on this golf course, birdied 17 and 18 early this morning. Just really drove the ball well all day and kept the ball in play.

Times did I miss the fairway, generally they were in the first cut, so I really wasn't in all that much trouble today. Just put the ball on the green and kept myself out of danger of making bogey.

JOE CHEMYCZ: This afternoon, a 66.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, the 66, I didn't really do anything special. If you look at the round, I chipped in once, but I played the par 5s well. I played them 4-under par, a chip-in and made only one other birdie.

I always knew the key to this golf course was the par 5s. Especially when it's this hot, the ball is flying. With my length, I should be able to get to every par 5, and with that in mind I should be able to walk off with four.

Q. What time did you get up today and get to the course, your usual routine?

TIGER WOODS: I got up about 4:30. Got here probably about 6:00.

Q. You got a little history, last year's Masters, U.S. Open, you played a lot of holes in one day, all of the Amateurs that you won; are you in that much better shape than everybody else or do you enjoy playing that much holes in one day?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it certainly helps to be in decent shape so that you don't feel too fatigued. Everyone is going to get fatigued if you play that many holes. It's just a matter of whether or not you can still keep firing at them. My body feels pretty good.

Q. Did you expect more of a fight today out of Ernie Els?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I thought Ernie got off to a great start, made birdie on the first. But you could tell he was struggling with his swing a little bit. He never really hit the ball as clean, as crisp, as he normally does. He was really fighting it a little bit. Couldn't quite get the ball started out there with the correct shape that he was looking at. He double-crossed a couple of times. When you double-cross any golf shot, it stings your confidence.

Q. How did the greens evolve today? They seemed pretty hard at the end. Were they still soft from the rain this morning?

TIGER WOODS: They are softer. I wouldn't say they are soft. A couple of holes, if you land the ball into the hole, into the bank on a shot into the wind, more than likely it will probably spin back. But downwind, it's going to take a pretty good spring.

You had to understand where to land the golf ball. You really had to try and put it there, because if you didn't, you missed on the wrong side of the slope. You can easily hop into the back bunker, the rough, and make five in a heartbeat.

Q. Did you sense the gallery was a little more revved up than usual because it was you and Ernie together for the first time?

TIGER WOODS: I think so. I think that, and taking back a couple with this heat added to it.

Q. You've said that over the last three years, you've plodded, you've hit it great, you've made everything, where does this week fall in so far?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I've driven it really well this week. On this golf course, if you drive it well you're going to have some pretty good opportunities. I think that's what I've done this week. I've really been able to get the ball in play, not only in play, but on the correct sides of the fairway so I can get the good angle at some of these flags.

Q. This is your second Sunday in six weeks with Brad Faxon in the group. Do we need to look at that rivalry there, too?

TIGER WOODS: (Laughter.) I don't know what Fax did, but whatever he did, he did pretty good. I always enjoy playing with Fax. He's going to be a lot of fun. Tomorrow, I know he wants to play better than he did the last time we played on Sunday in contention.

Q. Did you notice any electricity in the galleryテつ --

TIGER WOODS: I already answered that, Dougie. (Laughter.)

There was. It's no doubt about it. As I said earlier, you add the heat and a couple drinks, you know, you're going to get some people who are excited.

Q. Just because of the heat and drinks?

TIGER WOODS: I think if you add everything in there together, because you definitely heard some yelling out there today.

Q. Can you talk about the chip-in. It seemed like that was a big one for you, and Ernie immediately swooped into the water and an eight-shot margin on him, I know it's not just him, but he was sort of the guy we had all eyeballed.

TIGER WOODS: You know, the chip-in wasテつ -- I wasn't trying to chip it in, honestly. I was just trying to get the correct pace, just get the ball up there and if it goes in, it goes in. But more than anything, because of the lie I had, it was sitting down and could shoot it out of there. I really focused on getting the pace right and it came out perfect. Just happened to go in the hole which was a bonus. The next hole, that's when I said -- Ernie, he's been hitting some nice little cuts out there and all of a sudden he hits a pull-hook.

Any time you do that, any player can attest it will hurt your confidence when you double-cross the ball.

Q. Did you already answer how you played today?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah. (Laughter.)

Q. You're on the verge of being three-for-four since coming back from knee surgery. I guess you are more than happy with your recuperation, but are you totally 100 percent there with your knee?

TIGER WOODS: No, I'm not, but it's getting there. It's going to be a while before I get to 100%.

But it's nice to play without pain. I mean, I can't tell you, describe to you, what I had to go through last year and not have to do that this year and on top of that, be able to now make the golf swings that I know I can make instead of trying to create some kind of swing to get through the day.

I can start making my own golf swing again and it's a lot of fun to be able to do that again.

Q. You no longer have to work around the injury, but what do you have to watch out for still?

TIGER WOODS: It's just a matter of getting the motion, the strength back up. That's going to take time.

Q. Did you ever meet Sarazen, one of the guys with the four-in-a-row thing?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I've had dinner with him a few times. Sat down at the Champions locker room up at Augusta, and just rapped with him, which is pretty neat. All the storiesテつ, he goes back to the 1930s telling stories of what he used to hit here, what he did there. It was before my dad was even born.

Q. Did you ever play with him?

TIGER WOODS: I've never played with him, no.

Q. Do you remember how many holes you played Saturday at Augusta last year?

TIGER WOODS: I started on 11 fairway. So that puts it at 26 and a half.

Q. Do those long days not seem to bother you?

TIGER WOODS: I think that's when it helps to be in decent shape. You're going to get tired, yeah, but it's a matter of beingテつ -- understanding that you're fatigued, but your body is stilling firing, you can still hit golf shots. Just because you're tired doesn't mean that you are going to hit bad golf shots. I think that's where what I've been doing off the golf course really helps.

Q. Is there a strategy or course management change, depending on the size of your lead?

TIGER WOODS: It does at times. But you've still got to go out there and make birdies, because, obviously, if he goes out and shoots another 8-under par round, I've still got to shoot under par in order to win the tournament.

So it's just a matter of putting myself in position to make birdies, and if I make a few putts, great. But to play the par 5s the way I've been playing them, I think is the key.

Q. You said the crowd seemed a little more amped. Were you a little bit more amped, being in the group with Ernie?

TIGER WOODS: You know, you would think I would be, but I wasn't, just because I knew that I had to just take care of business today and set myself up for tomorrow. That's what I tried to do. That's what he was trying to do. You know, you put all that have stuff aside and you focus on what you need to do and get yourself in position. And if we both were in position tomorrow, then I think we would both take a look at each other and figure out what we need to do to go ahead and win the tournament.

Q. You mentionedテつ -- not to put words in your mouthテつ -- how did you hit it on the driving range this morning and are you surprised the way it turned out? I know the answer to the question but I want to hearテつ --

TIGER WOODS: Just one of those mornings. One of those warm-up sessions, and any player out here can attest to it, we've all been through it where you hit it awful on the range and you go out on the golf course and you hit it well.

I think we all struggle with, any golfer, are our expectation level sometimes. When you lower your expectation level, usually you free yourself up and free your mind up to hit shots. Since I was not hitting very good on the range, I just wasn't as precise on what I tried to do on the golf course and I got into a rhythm. Started hitting shots and getting my confidence up and once I was able to do that, then I can be a little bit more aggressive.

Q. Gary Player once said that when it came to Jack Nicklaus, that he didn't think he was any less strong than Jack was, mentally and physically. Do you think the guys out here already start behind from you that perspective as to how they view themselves?

TIGER WOODS: In what way, from a physical standpoint?

Q. Mental toughness, because Gary was one of the toughest players around.

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it's interesting. If you're hitting the ball well, people think you're mentally tough because you're playing well. But I think where you see a person, what they have, what kind of mettle they have is when they are not hitting the ball well and whether or not they can still win a golf tournament and still put themselves in contention to win tournaments.

I think that's where Gary was excellent at; Jack was. A lot of the great champions, that's what they were able to do is not when you're hitting well, those off-days, to still keep yourself in the tournament. Or even if you have a lead and you have an off-day, build the lead even though you're not playing well.

Q. Is physical fitness a factor --

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, he is. All you have to do is just ask him, he'll tell you. (Laughter.)

Q. Club on 2?

TIGER WOODS: I hit 8-iron on 2 to about two feet.

4, I hit a driver and a 5-iron out of the right rough just short of the green and pitched up there to about three feet and made it.

5, I hit a 3-iron off the tee. Hit pitching wedge and chipped in with a pitching wedge from about 40 feet.

6, I hit a driver and 3-wood just right of the green and pitched it up there to about six feet of the hole and made it.

12, hit a driver, 3-wood left of the green. Hit a pretty good flop-shot up there to about a foot.

16, I hit a driver and a 5-iron to about 12 feet right behind the hole.

Q. How much sleep did you get last night with the hospital and getting out of here late, get be up at 4:30?

TIGER WOODS: Not enough.

Q. About what, five hours?

TIGER WOODS: About, yeah.

End of FastScripts....

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