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May 24, 2000

Tiger Woods


LEE PATTERSON: We appreciate everybody's patience. We're going to try, if we can, to be as quick as possible. Tiger has got to get over to the range, but first of all, Tiger, thank you for visiting with us. Maybe just a couple thoughts about last year, winning here, a special tournament and what you've seen on the course so far and we'll open it up for questions

TIGER WOODS: Obviously, last year was quite an experience, to be able to hold off a great champion like Vijay, and to do it with unconventional methods was made even, made it even a little bit more special. This year the changes are different. The golf course is playing a little bit differently than it did last year, with the greens being new, some of the breaks that you're familiar with, not quite as apparent as they used to be. But changes on some of the lay outs, like the par 5, and obviously 16, come to mind. They are definitely playing a little bit differently with the greens and the pond on 5; and some of the changes made on the bunker on 2, with the green being raised. It's going to present quite a bit of challenge this week, some of these changes, because we are not really used to them. We are not used to seeing the balls roll as they are rolling now. Definitely a different roll on them, as I said, but that's the fun of it.

Q. Obviously you've had a remarkable year since you were here last. Did winning here last year, did that have anything to do with getting you going on the streak -- not the streak, but the role that you've been on for the past year?

TIGER WOODS: I think it probably started two weeks prior to that, at the Byron Nelson when -- right before that I figured out something in my golf swing that Butch and I had been working out; and went out the first round and shot 61. And didn't quite do so well on Saturday. But went over to Germany and hit the ball beautifully at Germany and won there and came here with a lot of confidence in my ball-striking ability came out and didn't really hit the ball that well, but did it with a lot of unconventional methods.

Q. I wonder if you could talk a little bit about the respect you've always had for Jack Nicklaus, and if you could, maybe share with us your most memorable encounter with him?

TIGER WOODS: I think Jack is obviously a great champion. That's a given with looking at his record. But I think how gracious he was in defeat, the way he conducted himself on and off the golf course as a true gentleman. I think that's what separates Jack Nicklaus versus the rest of the players. The first time I ever met Jack was at Bel Aire Country Club. He was doing a tournament for FOG, Friends of Golf, and I was like a special invited guest to help him at a clinic and I was supposed to hit a few shots before he got started, and he says, "Okay, go ahead and hit a few shots." I said, "Okay, what do you want me to hit?" And he said, "Well, just hit a few warm-ups." I said, "Well, I'm already loose." He said, "Okay. Just hit a few 5-irons." And I hit a few hooks and slices and hit a few shots; bombed a few drives down there. He said, "Maybe if you keep this up, you might have a future." (Laughter.) And lo and behold, there I am.

Q. What year was that?

TIGER WOODS: I think it was the year I won -- it was my freshman year, I think.

Q. Today you were strolling up the fairway with the Big Three, as it were, looked like the Four Horsemen coming at us, a great shot. I know you've been in their presence before, but was it significant at all that -- all that golf greatness there, as you made your way up the fairway with those three?

TIGER WOODS: The funny thing is my relationship with them has become not necessarily -- I'm not really in awe of them like I used to be, because they have become friends. And when they welcome you into their lives like that, you feel comfortable. You don't really consider what they have done in the game: That's Gary; that's Jack; that's Arnold. But when you stop and think about what they have accomplished, it's kind of mind-boggling, really. But it was nice of them to say the things that they have said with me coming up, and still say. They have always been very gracious to me, very nice, very helpful, and really can't say much more than that. I mean, that's what you want as a young player is for someone who is distinguished in the game to not only -- to not only be nice to you, but to kind of take you under their wing and help you out whatever possible.

Q. Tiger, you got almost the same schedule coming into this tournament that you had last year. How are you playing?

TIGER WOODS: I'm playing all right. Last week I played pretty solid. I drove the ball beautifully, putted beautifully, but my iron game was not as sharp as I would like to have it. Butch saw some things that we were able to work on the range after the Thursday clinic. I'm hitting a little bit better than I was in Germany. I just need to continue that and put it in play in a tournament.

Q. I have a follow-up. They say that the iron play is going to be the key out here to scoring well, because you are going to have plenty of room to drive the ball, and what are your thoughts?

TIGER WOODS: The fairways being as soft as they are, driving is no longer the premium on this golf course. You just need to obviously get the ball in play, with the fairways being soft and wet the ball is going to plug out there. Just rip a driver or 3-wood and let it plug. That's when you have to be precise with your iron game. Go ahead and leave yourself an uphill putt. The greens have become more severe than they used to be; that's going to present quite a challenge of keeping the ball in the right location. So go ahead and give yourself an uphill putt where you can be aggressive.

Q. The next two majors are on venues that you play on and enjoy, both courses. Can you talk about how you are preparing for both? Can you break down those courses, where are the keys?

TIGER WOODS: U.S. Open is going to be obviously very different than how we played it during the AT&T. It's going to be fast, firm. The greens are going to break hard. The rough is going to be up. The fairways are narrow. That's a lot different than what we've played it. But I played there in the Cal-State Amateur. When I played there, it was very fast. And I remember hitting the ball down to the bottom of the hill on 9, which you never do during the AT&T. There are a few holes that play very difficult when it is fast. Like 10 is very difficult to keep the ball in play the slope of that fairway. Even 9, some of the greens present quite a challenge. Even a simple little shot like a 4 becomes even more difficult, because of the fact the greens are firm, you don't want to get the ball to the hole even though you have a wedge in your hand. And the changes obviously at No. 5, the par 3, being completely different than we are used to playing. That green is severe. There are some things that you're going to have to be very careful of. Hit the ball in the air soft, put the ball in the right location, go ahead and give yourself that uphill putt and be aggressive. The British Open, well, hit it low. Hit it low, wide stance, and hopefully, you won't get blown over.

Q. Earlier I was talking to a colleague, we were talking about just pressure that different athletes are under, and he made the comment that Tiger, "he's immune to it," based on the way you've handled it and played. Can you just comment about that, particularly compare the pressure you were on when you first joined the TOUR to now?

TIGER WOODS: Well, when I first joined the TOUR, or tried to become a full-playing member of the TOUR, it was a little more difficult than it is now, because obviously, I didn't have a place to play yet. I had seven exemptions, and I had to go ahead and try to make the Top-125; I was able to do that and I was able to go to the TOUR Championship that year, but that was a lot different than it is now. Now, my place out here is secure. I know I'm going to play out here next year, and possibly the year after that, which is kind of nice. Knowing the fact that, you know, every shot obviously means a lot, but at least you have a place to play. When I first came out here, that was completely different. Obviously, I had the media hype and all the distractions, which I do now, but not to the level that I did then. Just because I was new and what I had done in the U.S. Amateur, winning three consecutive, and then turning pro and just everybody was kind of all jazzed.

Q. Where do you place No. 7 at Pebble amongst unusual par 3s?


Q. What's the lowest iron you've ever hit in there?

TIGER WOODS: You mean longest club?

Q. Smallest number.

TIGER WOODS: I've hit a 60-degree sand wedge all the way up to -- when I played last year with Mark, Mark hit a 4-iron and I ripped a 5-iron.

Q. Where did it go?

TIGER WOODS: Where did it go? It was on the green about 20 feet.

Q. Have you ever played Pebble with anything but a Titleist?

TIGER WOODS: I think played Tour Edition back when I was about 12.

Q. What are you going to use this week?

TIGER WOODS: Nike ball.

Q. Is still kind of a test stage here?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I'm just testing it out. Make sure I get a feel of the golf ball. The only way to do that is go ahead and test it in competition.

Q. Is it essentially the same ball you used last week?

TIGER WOODS: Same ball. Nothing has changed.

Q. Is that a very good test, because of the course and the conditions?

TIGER WOODS: It was a good test in the wind, but the greens were a little --.

Q. West Coast-ish?

TIGER WOODS: Probably not what I would have wanted to test the golf ball on.

Q. When do you suppose you will make a decision?

TIGER WOODS: I don't know. I'll tell you. You'll be the first one to know. (Laughs).

Q. At this level, it's a very, very thin line between success and failure. How long does it take to adjust from a different golf ball?

TIGER WOODS: If you're playing well, probably not that long. But if you're struggling and searching for your game, on top of changing to a new golf ball, new equipment, then obviously it's going to be quite a challenge. When a golf ball performs very similar to the golf ball you had in the past, then it's not really that much of a change. If I went from obviously a Titleist to, let's say -- I went to a Pinnacle Gold or something to that extreme, then obviously the feel is going to be completely different; take you a lot longer. But since I am playing well -- something I've always believed in is if you're going to go to try something out, try it when you're playing well because then you will actually know what's going on. If you're struggling and can't find your game, it's not a good time to switch equipment.

Q. Kind of a follow-up to a previous question. Describe what it means to play in this tournament: A, you're the defending champ; B, it's Jack's tournament; and C, he's the honoree special year for this tournament?

TIGER WOODS: It is a special year, with what Jack has meant to the game and what he has meant to this tournament, to have him as an honoree into the new millennium and what he has accomplished in the past, that's ideal. It's an ideal concept, and being able to -- the Captain's Club was able to honor Jack, which they should. I felt he should have been honored a long time ago, but obviously the timing wasn't obviously as pristine as it is now.

Q. You played in Germany last week, are you feeling tired at all from the long trip?

TIGER WOODS: I'm sleepy right now, talking to you. What time it is now, a quarter to 5:00? It's almost quarter to 11:00 my time. So my body clock is not quite there yet. Luckily, we have some good games tonight where I can watch and get adjusted to the time again.

Q. Much has been made about you learning to throttle back a little bit with the driver and work on your distance control with your irons. I know you and Butch have worked on that. Is that a process more of swing mechanics or maturation or maybe both?

TIGER WOODS: I think a lot of it is swing mechanics, but the maturation period, I think -- more or less physically. If you're stronger it's easier to pull back. One of the things that we believe in is the stronger you are, the easier you can play, which is if you're a very weak person, obviously, you try very hard to hit the ball out there. The stronger you are, the more you can throttle back. You've noticed, I've throttled back, hit the ball not quite as far. When I first came out in '96, I averaged over 300 yards, and every year I've dropped and I'm getting shorter as I'm getting older, which is not looking good for the future. But I'm still hitting more fairways now. I'm driving the ball not only in the fairway, but to the right side or the left side. If the pin is right, I'm hitting it left and vice-versa. This is control that's coming with mechanics, and a lot of it is strength, to be able to put the mechanics in play. If I wasn't as strong as I am now, there's no way that I could swing it the way that I am able to swing now.

Q. Nobody has been able to repeat winning the Memorial, and I don't think since you've turned pro, I don't think you've successfully defended. With as much as you've done, is that a mini-goal to give yourself to repeat in a tournament or not?

TIGER WOODS: No. To be honest with you, I could care less.

Q. What's your goal this week?

TIGER WOODS: To win. Not necessarily in the context of defending. I've always believed once you're at a tournament site, then the tournament -- your reign is over. The tournament is up for grabs and it's a whole new ball game. You're a champion of the tournament for 51 weeks, and when the week comes around, then the tournament is up for grabs for anyone in the field.

Q. You've said you are here to win. Do you sense that across the TOUR, that everybody that you're out there with shows up to win?

TIGER WOODS: Do I sense that?

Q. That everybody in the locker room is there to win or --?


Q. Are there guys who are looking to cash in?


Q. Does that bother you?

TIGER WOODS: No. I like it. (Laughter.)

Q. You said you started preparing for Augusta in January when did you start preparing for the U.S. Open?

TIGER WOODS: Monday after the Masters.

Q. You took three weeks off --

TIGER WOODS: I was mentally getting ready.

Q. What did you do?

TIGER WOODS: Obviously, you've got to shape your shots correctly. You've got to be able to position your golf ball on the correct side of the fairways, the correct height coming to the greens. You know you're going to be putting on surfaces that are pretty fast and hard. These are things that -- and chipping out of rough that you don't have on Augusta. So you've got to get your mind mentally prepared to try and put yourself in the right places around that golf course. And since I've played there enough times, I know where to put the golf ball, and you start kind of imagining where they will put the pins. Certain winds conditions, the wind always blows off the ocean, or which direction and how you are going to play, and just get yourself mentally prepared for it. And as you start getting closer to the tournament, you start getting physically ready.

Q. Are we going to see the knock-down driver soon?

TIGER WOODS: Probably when I go overseas. A good place to put it in play would be at St. Andrews would be nice.

Q. A number of the big names are having big years in 2000. A couple of the guys, Lehman, Sutton told me they have you to thank for it because you raised the bar, and they really feel like the big name players have responded. Just get a thought from you on that?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think sometimes players need to have other players play well in order for them to take a look at how they are playing. And sometimes when you play out here for a number of years you get satisfied with just kind of playing all right, getting the job done, finishing Top-10s and doing all right, having a chance to win here or there and not really win, but you kind of get into that lull. No, I've always been a big believer of you have your own goals, you have your own expectations. Go live for those.

Q. In your opinion, what enables one athlete to handle the pressure and succeed and you win and another not? Can you speak to yourself personally as well?

TIGER WOODS: I think a lot of it is your -- your belief in your own abilities. When you are out there playing and you are -- this is a sport, it's an individual sport. You're out there all alone, and when you're out there all alone coming down the stretch you have no one to bail you out, no one to lean on. The only one you have to lean on is yourself. And when you're out there coming down the stretch in a tournament, you have to execute the golf shot as best you can. I personally believe in my own abilities. I've seen myself do it time and time again. Not necessarily in tournaments, but let's say when I'm out practicing or I'm out on the golf course by myself, I'll throw a few balls down and shape the shot the way I want to. If I can do it here, I can definitely do it in a tournament. You take that belief into a tournament and you're able to kind of build on it. The earlier you can do it in your career, the easier it is to repeat it.

Q. What was it like to win this tournament, the tournament that Jack created?

TIGER WOODS: You know, it was pretty neat, because obviously, coming down the stretch with Vijay, it kind of felt -- I kind of felt Vijay was playing similar to how Jack would play, in the fairway, 1-putt, 2-putt. I'm over here in the jungles or the rough or the bunker the trees, slashing it out, on top of roots; and the gallery, saying hello to the same people I've seen every hole because I'm in there seeing them. It was fun to be that creative, to use your imagination in a way that way and come out on top, doing it a different way. Especially when I saw the -- what Jack had said on -- over on 14, I had that little chip down there down the hill: "He'd be lucky to walk away with 5." Well, how about 4? It was nice to do that, hear him say that, how big a surprise it was. But to see him on the 18th green as I was coming off, to have him congratulate me personally right there on the green, that's when it kind of sunk in that I won his tournament.

Q. We were not able to get your thoughts on the outstanding awards you received when you were talking about it. What are your thoughts on receiving that award and what it means?

TIGER WOODS: Well, to receive an award of that significance, it kind of blows your mind away, to have your peers from all sports, all over the world choose you as a player who had the best year. That's something very special. As an athlete, that's what you strive for is to have your peers respect your abilities in your sport. And to have -- to be the recipient of that award, it's so humbling, to have all the people who are up for the award and who were nominated to edge them out, it's very special.

End of FastScripts…

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