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June 14, 2002

Tiger Woods


RAND JERRIS: Tiger, thanks for coming in after your round today. Some pretty difficult weather conditions out there today. Maybe you can start us off, talk about how important mentally and emotionally it is to finish with a birdie on 18.

TIGER WOODS: It's always great to finish up on a birdie. As I said the other day, no matter how you play during the round, for some reason you feel a little bit better after you make a birdie on the last. And today, I did it again. I did it yesterday, and I did it again today.

RAND JERRIS: What's the key to keeping your composure mentally in weather conditions like this?

TIGER WOODS: Well, you know that everyone has to deal with it. You go out and you just play. You plod along. It's going to be a tough day, it's going to be a wet day, and it's going to be a long and slow one. And you just go out there and just plod along, that's all you can do and try and do the best you can, and stay out of trouble.

Today, the golf course is playing so long and so difficult that some of the clubs you hit, you've got to be committed to it because it's playing so long.

Q. Earlier this year you talked about your experience, and one of the things you said about your experience, you said when you're in tough situations, you know how to deal with them because you've been there before. In major championship play, it seems that people say: Take your medicine, but bogey seems like an alien thing, even to you; how do you fight that especially like a day like today?

TIGER WOODS: I stay out of trouble. And when you do put yourself in a place where it doesn't look like you're going to make par, just go ahead and get your bogey, just don't make anything worse than bogey.

Today, for instance, on No. 8, I buried it in the left bunker and had no shot at making par, and I said I'm just going to grind it out so I don't make double. Go ahead and make your bogey, and let's get out of here. And that's what I've tried to do and try and bury those par putts.

Those par putts are key. You're going to have to make them. No matter what you do you're going to have to somehow make those par putts to stay in the tournament.

Q. This venue is so much different from some of the places where you've won majors. It's hard to think of three golf courses that would be more different than St. Andrews, Augusta and this one. Can you talk a little bit about your ability to adapt your game to courses like this, particularly in conditions like today's?

TIGER WOODS: This golf course is -- even though it's new, we've never played it in a tournament format.

It's very fair and there's really no tricks to it. I think that's one of the reasons why a lot of the players like it. And also, I think you can learn a lot in the practice round, because there really aren't any tricks. The only difficult thing is trying to read the greens. They're so tricky. The putts, they're just hard to read.

But this golf course, they did a wonderful job redesigning it, and so no matter what your golfing experience is, it takes a couple of practice rounds to really learn it.

Q. Could I ask you, with the situation on the course the way it is, with the weather conditions, how confident are you that you are in a very good position right now? I know you don't know what the rest of the golfers are going to do, but based on what normal expectations would be, how comfortable are you in the position you're in right now. And secondly, can you talk about how important it is to enter round three, at least near the top?

TIGER WOODS: I've always -- not always, but I'm very pleased with the way I'm striking the golf ball this week. And more importantly, I'm really controlling my pace on the greens and making some key putts.

I think anytime you can be near the lead going into the weekend, you're going to be happy. I'm pleased and ecstatic that I'm at the top right now. But there's a long way to go, 36 more holes to go; we're only at the halfway point right now. I've still got to go out there and play hard on the weekend.

Q. Can you talk about the second shot on 17; it almost went in, but what is your thought process looking at that second shot?

TIGER WOODS: The lie was not very good. It's one of those shots where I figured even if I landed short of the green, it's still going to tumble down there. The key was to get it with enough height so that I can land it with decent softness. It came out absolutely perfect. Stevie got so fired up, I thought he was going to run me over. The shot looked like it was going to go in, but it just missed on the low side.

Q. We've seen you putt like this before in major championships. We've seen you jump out to big leads. What do you say to those of us who think in this tournament, that you'd have to completely fall apart to lose this?

TIGER WOODS: I've still got to play 36 more holes. It's not like we're having the awards presentation today. You've still got to go out and play. I've been there before, and I'm going to go out there and do my best to win this championship.

Q. With the rain today, did the course play tougher today than yesterday?

TIGER WOODS: Oh, yeah.

Q. How much, can you just talk about that?

TIGER WOODS: It played so long. The shots you had to hit -- today, the rain was really coming down hardest on 7; and I absolutely killed a drive, and just ripped a 3-iron to get there, and just got it on the green. In the beginning of the week when it was hot and humid, it was just a 3-wood and a 7- or 6-iron in there. So the conditions have certainly changed.

Q. How many times did you go at the flag?

TIGER WOODS: Not very often. The pins are tucked today in some corners. You play away from them, and go ahead and try to make a putt.

Q. Just address that fast start. You came out smoking; almost made it look too easily. And secondly, the Ken Griffey, Junior hat on backward, was a matter of necessity?

TIGER WOODS: The start was ideal. You couldn't ask for a better start. Even though it wasn't pretty on the first hole, I still made birdie, but I hit good shots from there on out.

The hat on backwards, that's just -- the water is dripping off the bill of your hat. And Clarkey (Darren) had the same problem. He tossed his hat -- or his visor, rather. But it's so wet out there. All the guys are going to be dealing with that unless they have a Gortex hat on.

Q. At Augusta you talked about mud balls. Is this course so wet now that that's not an issue? And if it does become an issue, what kind of different problems does this length and a mud ball present, as compared to Augusta?

TIGER WOODS: I never got one today. I think you're right; it's so wet out there, it's hard to catch one. The ball is going to hit and splatter, and you're not going to catch a mud ball.

But this is a little bit different. You don't have to be as precise coming into the greens as you do at Augusta, but again, you have longer clubs, too. That presents a different problem.

Q. They're talking about a lot of rain this afternoon and some more tomorrow. What is that going to do to this course? Can it take that kind of rain, and how is it going to change the way you approach the course?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I don't know how much more rain this golf course can take. On 8, it was already starting to pool up on the bottom front, right part of the green. There was already a puddle of water on the green when we were playing.

They had to squeegee the tee box over on 14. I mean, it's getting pretty wet, and it's only going to continue to get worse. I'm sure the USGA has done fantastic job putting squeegees on every green or tee box where it's necessary. But I don't see this golf course taking much more water.

Q. For a lot of the fans here, this is the first time they've ever come to any golf tournament. Given your movie star status and the weather, is that thing disconcerting, where the fans are trying to vie for your attention while you're playing? I'm curious about how your reaction to the fans has been so far.

TIGER WOODS: They aren't quiet, I'll tell you that. If I don't have a hearing problem, I might have one by the end of the week (laughter.) You come off these tee boxes and they scream right in your ear, yeah. And eventually you just -- you don't hear it anymore, because it's so loud.

Stevie and I were talking about this today again; that it's pretty impressive that they can yell that loud (laughter.) I know I can't, but that's impressive, the fact that you can hear them four or five holes away.

Q. Has that ever happened on any other tournament or is this the first?

TIGER WOODS: Westchester.

Q. Growing up in southern California, how do you learn to play in bad weather like this? Do you ever purposely go out to prepare and play, practice in bad weather?

TIGER WOODS: I used to do that all the time.

Q. And preparation so you can hit shots: Coming into an Open, do you hit more practice shots out of the rough like this? So if you could address those two points.

TIGER WOODS: Growing up in southern Cal, obviously we didn't get a whole lot of this, but when we did, I used to love to go out and play in it. That's something I loved to do was play in bad weather, because we didn't get hardly any of it. Only bad years we were probably El Nino years, or Santa Anas (wind) coming in from the desert. Those are the only two bad weather conditions we ever had.

The only hard part was trying to convince my mom that I could go out and play without catching a cold. That was not easy. I had to do a lot of convincing and a lot of BS-ing.

The rough, you hit a few shots out of the rough, but you try not to because you don't want to go in there. You just want to get a good mental frame of mind of putting the ball in the fairway. But you do hit a few shots out of the rough here and there, just to try to get the feel of it, but that's not go something you want to get accustomed to.

Q. There's been a lot said about you thinking your way around the golf course; there's probably been no one like you that's been able to think their way around the course in a championship. Are there any crutches you use mentally or things that help you get along? Like with the fans, that would be a perfect example, something you do to block this out or mentally keep yourself tough throughout a tournament?

TIGER WOODS: You know it's a long day. And under these conditions, it's probably going to take about six hours or so. Maybe just under six hours. You know you have a long day ahead of you. You've got to save up your energy and apply it to each and every shot and try not to waste any energy. You know that the shots are going to be difficult. You try and get as committed as possible; that's the only thing I try to do. I really focus on each and every shot and give it my best.

And after that, it's over and done with, move on, and do the same thing on the following shot.

Q. I assume most of the tournaments you wait until you get to Sunday and see where you stand and go from there. If you were to have a lead of five or six or more strokes going into Saturday, would you start changing the way you approach the final two rounds?

TIGER WOODS: No, you don't, no. This golf course is set up so that I'm really not going to be able to change anything. Just have to go out and play it the same way, especially now that it's raining, getting longer.

Q. You had a lot of great saves and a lot of strong shots out of the rough, but your chip on 17, was that probably your best shot of the day. Did they squeegee that green before?

TIGER WOODS: I don't know. I don't know if they squeegeed it or not. That shot, it was a little greasy, but I got away with it. I hit a really good one, though. The lie was not very good; it was going into the grain. And as I said I just try -- if I miss it, miss it short and it will tumble down, and it came out absolutely perfect and landed soft and trickled down toward the hole.

Q. Best shot of the day?

TIGER WOODS: Best shot of the day? It was pretty good. Either that one -- I actually hit a few today.

Q. More on the rough; your aggressiveness coming out of that thick rough was a key yesterday. Can you talk about it today? And also your 3-wood, more comfortable with that today?

TIGER WOODS: I don't know if it was necessarily that I was more aggressive out of the rough. I think I just -- I got some good lies out of the rough. I had a couple of bad ones. For instance, on the first one, I didn't draw a very good lie. I only had a pitching wedge in my hand. And I knew I could advance it at least towards the green and get it pretty close, and it came out perfect and got on the green and made birdie. I got some good breaks with some lies today.

And my 3-wood, this is my backup 3-wood I used today. It's my No. 1 backup. It's something I always travel with. I always travel with backups, a few clubs here and there. And this one, I could put it -- it doesn't matter which 3-wood I use. It still feels the same.

Q. Given the conditions out there, do you think that it's going to be difficult for anybody to make up a 4- or 5-shot deficit?

TIGER WOODS: It's going to be difficult, there's no doubt about it. In any U.S. Open, it's always going to be difficult to make up shots because it's not easy to make birdies. You get rewarded for making pars. Sometimes par is a good score. And this golf course is getting that way, where par is a really good score.

Q. If this thing plays 7,214 in dry weather, what do you think the yardage is in weather like this? And in this weather, is this the ultimate grinder's day?

TIGER WOODS: I think so. You've got to adapt your game, hit some different shots. The golf course is getting more wet and the fairways are getting more wet, so you can catch flyers from the fairway, and you've got to play that -- that's another factor you've got to add into it.

This golf course would probably -- it is playing longer, but the thing is, also, it's blowing out there. So now you get it going downwind, you can get there to some of the holes, for instance, 13, some of the longer hitters will be hitting iron in there, if they can keep the ball in play.

So maybe, I don't know, a couple hundred yards longer, maybe a little less than that.

RAND JERRIS: Thanks very much for your time.

End of FastScripts....

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