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June 15, 1999

Tiger Woods


LES UNGER: Glad to be back with Tiger Woods, who just came off practicing a bit. And the microphone is live. How do you like Pinehurst.

TIGER WOODS: Well, I like it a lot. The golf course is playing a little more friendly than I thought it would. I thought the rough would be higher, the fairways be narrower. But when I played here Monday on Memorial, I figured the golf course wasn't going to be as severe as I thought it was going to be. I think the USGA recognized a fact they made a mistake yesterday, with the fairways being narrow.

LES UNGER: I read that there's a new Tiger, that you're -- maybe "conservative" maybe isn't the right word, but somewhat more conservative, and obviously you're having good results.

TIGER WOODS: I'm learning how to play the game. I'm only 23, and I have a long way to go. I recognize that. I know that. But I've come a long way, as well. And I've learned by watching other players play. I've learned from my own mistakes, but I think most importantly of all is I've learned, and I'm not afraid to go out on the golf course and apply what I've learned. I think what you're seeing now is a player who has learned from my mistakes or other players, and I'm applying it on the golf course.

LES UNGER: We'll take some questions.

Q. Tiger, have you played long enough to develop a favorite architect, and where does Donald Ross stand?

TIGER WOODS: He ranks right up there. I've always loved traditional golf courses. To me, it's the ultimate. I don't know why. I think it's because it's not artificial. Most of the golf courses they had to work with and the equipment they used, they had to go ahead and use natural terrain to their advantage. And nowadays, you can build -- I remember at Arizona State, it's a flat piece of desert that they made hills and mounds and valleys, where you can't even see. That's what they can do now with our modern equipment. And Donald Ross ranks right up there as one of my favorites.

Q. Tiger, you've been out here a couple of days now. What kind of shots, clubs, bumps, lobs have you been using to sort of get around the greens? And have you found one that you might rely on more than the other?

TIGER WOODS: You know, I think it's a feel thing. And I think it all has to do with the lie you have. Because I don't know if you've been on the golf course and looked at it, the grain coming off the greens and where it ends and how much it swirls in the bottom of the slopes. So with that in mind, anytime I'm going against the grain, I'm probably not going to chip it, because higher risk of stubbing it, really. Putting it, using a 3-wood, something of that nature, and running along the ground. When I go downgrain, I can use it to my advantage. I don't have to worry about stubbing it. The way I hold my hands, I hold them pretty low when I chip, which means the grain is left-to-right; I have a chance of catching the nozzle or heel of the club in the grain and duffing it. So again, when the grain is running from right to left, because I hold my hands low, I can use a chip shot motion; so it all depends on what the lie is, and that dictates everything.

Q. Tiger, the bottom of your shoes, are you wearing soft spikes and spikes? What's on the bottom?

TIGER WOODS: It's a Nike design where it's a traction control. Where I do have spikes, yes, but they also have a neat little design -- I went out to Nike, and they did a whole research on my swing and how the forces of my weight change in my shoe. And they built a shoe where it will stabilize my momentum, really, and my weight transfer. If it works with me at my speed, I think it can work with most people. I think that's the whole idea.

Q. Tiger, this is not a course a whole lot of the field is playing in a competitive situation. How much more important are the practice rounds? How much more emphasis is put on them? What extra things do you do to get yourself used to this course when you go out on Thursday?

TIGER WOODS: You try and play as many holes as possible, but you don't want to go ahead and burn yourself out by Thursday. What I've found to work best is just go ahead and play the golf course, but chip and putt a little bit and get a feel for the short game. This golf course from tee-to-green is very simple; it's around the green where it becomes complicated. And because of that, I think you need to spend extra time chipping and putting, not only on the golf course, but on the practice green, as well, to try to get a feel of the shots you're going to have to use on the golf course.

Q. Tiger, you played here as a Junior at Pinehurst No. 7 years ago. You got a lot of attention then, but clearly not like anything today. Can you talk about the difference in the feeling when you were a Junior here and the evolution of Tiger mania over the years?

TIGER WOODS: I think I played had here in '92, I was 16. And boy, it's changed a lot since then. I guess one thing is that I think I got a little more in my pocket now (laughter.) But that's changed a little bit. I think a lot has changed. My life has changed from the fact that when I go out in public, people recognize me. Before I was a golfer, I was a Junior golfer and nobody knew me. I think people in the local area in the golfing public may have known or heard of me, but not to the extent that it is now. And that's just from the endorsements. That's from the playing -- the way I came on the scene; how I came on the scene. A lot has changed since then, but one thing that has remained the same is I love to play.

Q. Tiger, with what looks to be the wider landing areas off the tee, and the rough not as high an Open response, does it feel like a U.S. Open? And secondly, could you talk about your strategy on the rough? Assuming you can get a 6-iron to the green, is that still the smart shot?

TIGER WOODS: Well, with the wider landing areas, it provides an opportunity for you to use a longer club, whether that's a driver or 3-wood, not necessarily an iron off the tee. And in most U.S. Opens, you see guys using 4-woods, 1-irons, to try to keep the ball in play. This week, the fairways are a little softer. You can hit it out there and know if the ball lands in the fairway it's going to stay, as of right now. But I think if you get the ball in the rough and you have a hot lie, I think you've got to always be conservative and put the ball short, and make sure if it does come out hot, it's not going to zip over the green. Every hole here over the green is not good, and that's the way it's been designed. Short is fine; you can get up-and-down from short of the green. Over the green, you can get up-and-down, but your chances are definitely reduced. And since you do know that, go ahead and play accordingly. If you hit the ball in the rough, make sure you play short. If it comes out hot, great. If not, fine, I'm chipping straight up the hill or putting or bumping-and-running or whatever it is.

Q. Tiger, I know Jack Nicklaus has come back recently. I was just wondering what the golfers feel if an event is bigger if he's here, and what you feel an Open is going to be like when he doesn't play anymore?

TIGER WOODS: I played in Arnold Palmer's last British Open at St. Andrews. That was my first British Open. I never played before then. But to feel the loss of a name like that, a legend, a living legend like that, that can still play competitively, the tournament took on a whole new light. And when Jack eventually hangs it up and doesn't play in major championships, again, I've had a chance to play with him in practice rounds. I played right in front, Davis and I, last year in The Masters, when he was making his roar, his charge. It was just vintage Nicklaus. And not to have that anymore I think will put a new twist on the tournament. It won't be as big as it normally is.

Q. Tiger, would you elaborate on the use of the metal, wood club around the green? You mentioned the 3-wood and what that club allows you to accomplish on the short shots.

TIGER WOODS: I'm sorry?

Q. Tiger, would you elaborate on the use of the 3-wood around the greens and what that club allows you to do that other clubs may not?

TIGER WOODS: One, you see the difference between a putter and a 3-wood. My putter has got 4 degrees of loft, versus my 3-wood, which has 15. Because my 3-wood has more loft, it enables me to put the ball on top of the grass faster and running, especially when I've got grain to deal with. And here you do. You have grain to contend with. And I think the biggest thing is that when you have to hit a putt up the hill that hard and try and judge the pace, you take it back further than you normally do, you're not used to that motion. You don't get a chance to do that very often, unless you play on links courses in Europe. But over in the States, we don't get a chance to do that often. But a 3-wood motion, you can hit it easier; it has more mass, longer shaft. It won't kick. And you don't have to hit the ball as hard; so hence the loft, the longer club, the more mass, all equates to having not to have to hit the ball as hard, and it gets up the hill easier.

LES UNGER: When you're using a 3-wood to putt, do you spend a great deal of time practicing that on particular courses?

TIGER WOODS: I normally don't. I rarely ever touch it. But this week, I'm using it a little bit more, because I'm going to use it a little bit more. I rarely ever practice the shot, really. I don't know why.

Q. How do these greens compare to Augusta National and the areas around the greens?

TIGER WOODS: Augusta is different in the fact that they have quadrants to hit to. But then again, their quadrants are smaller, and on top of that, their slopes are steeper on the greens. Here, the greens aren't that severe, once you get on the putting surface. Once you start rolling off the sides on the false edges, then the golf course becomes very severe, and I think that's the difference. Instead of having all the slopes be right there on the putting surface, they're on the edges. Because they're on the periphery like that, you can hit good shots that happen to hit the slope on the wrong side, and you're 20 yards away from the hole.

Q. Tiger, can you pinpoint one or two things that have made the difference between last year at this time when you were playing well but not winning, and the last month when you have won?

TIGER WOODS: I kept telling everybody that I'm making some changes in my game. And it's going to take some time. And I didn't like the way I played in '97, even though I won some tournaments. I didn't really like it, because of the fact that it wasn't consistent. Anybody can win when they're hot; that's not that hard. But it's hard to win when you're off. And you saw at the Memorial on Sunday, I wasn't playing that well, but I managed my game well. I used my short game to my advantage, and I went ahead and beat Vijay. These are changes that I've made over time. And it was a matter of time before it started clicking. It wasn't going to happen overnight. I knew that. They're not as severe as you think, not like Faldo's changes where he went from a reverse C-swing to a guy who covers the ball, and completely reconstructs his golf game. I'm not that severe. But I did make some changes to my swing, playing, my grip, the way I released the club, and a lot of it had to do that I wasn't as happy with the way I was playing. I wasn't as consistent as I wanted to be. A player may not win every week, but they want to have a chance to win Sunday on the back nine every single time they tee up. You know you can win your share, but it's a matter of getting there. And getting there means you have to be more consistent.

Q. Tiger, you said a couple of weeks ago that you were striking it when you were in Germany. And as you said, you had to get yourself out of trouble. Where are you right now? Where do you think you'll be on Thursday?

TIGER WOODS: Hopefully, it will be like Germany, I hope. But my game is definitely a little better than it was at Memorial, which I've been doing a little work, and I saw some things that we didn't like. My mom was able to tape my rounds at Germany and at Memorial. She FedEx'd them to me, and we analyzed both swings and saw a big difference. Well, in Butch's eyes, to the trained eye. But we made those changes, and they're starting to come together. And I'm glad I've got a couple more days.

Q. Can you explain it easily, what was out of whack?

TIGER WOODS: Posture, swing plane, the way I was coming down. My arms were lagging a little behind, right elbow. That's the basic stuff.

Q. Tiger, did you rent a house here for three weeks? And also, have you moved all your own furniture in?

TIGER WOODS: What? No. No, I'm staying with Mark O'Meara and his family. And no, not for three weeks, no. I'm just here for this week.

Q. Tiger, could you analyze your play in recent U.S. Opens, and what do you think you've done to maybe take yourself out of contention, and how that might be different this week?

TIGER WOODS: Well, the previous U.S. Opens, I wasn't as good a player as I needed to be. I wasn't hitting the ball as good. That's just plain and simple. In U.S. Opens, if you hit the ball poorly, you're not going to be around. And fortunately enough for me, I was able to chip and putt and get it around good enough where I was making cuts, but I wasn't in contention. That's also one of the reasons I changed my game to become more consistent, to shape the shots correctly. When I do miss it, it's not two fairways over like it used to be. And I know some of the guys here have seen me in college; seen the way I used to hit the ball. TR saw me in San Diego in Junior World, and it's changed now.

Q. You talked a lot last year about being tired and the demands on you, with Tiger mania. And I wonder if you've gotten more comfortable with it now?

TIGER WOODS: I have become more comfortable with it, over the past, I'd say, about a year and a half I've become more adjusted to it. I understand a little bit more about it. Plus, with David Duval playing as well as he has, he's taken a lot of that spotlight away from me, and trust me, I'm not mad at that. Heck, keep it. But now that I've won a couple of tournaments in a row, the fans are a little more eager than they were last year, and Tiger mania is not as high as it was after The Masters, but definitely not as high as the Byron Nelson in '97. I think that's when it reached its crescendo. I don't think it will ever be as high as that.

Q. Are you going to handle it differently?

TIGER WOODS: I'll just be myself.

Q. The same question I asked David: Much has been made about the fact that you guys haven't had a head-to-head competition. When that happens here or whenever it is, major or just another tournament, will you look at him as just another guy you have to beat, or will it be: Okay, here's the confrontation we've all been waiting for?

TIGER WOODS: I don't think it's the latter. Just because when you're in that mindset and you're in the heat of the moment, I don't care who you are. You're not going to say this guy, I have to beat because of such and such. This guy is just a person that I have to beat, period, no matter what the situation is. Even though Mark O'Meara is one of my best friends, we went head-to-head at Pebble Beach and at the World Matchplay in England. He's my best friend, but I wanted to take him down just as bad as he wanted to take me down. It's not going to change the fact that it's David Duval and Tiger Woods locking heads. It's the fact that he's an opponent and I have to beat him.

Q. He said about the same thing, except that afterwards if he beat you, he'd maybe gloat more than just the average guy. What do you remember about the tournament you played in '92? You had a Junior tournament. How did you do, and what specifics do you remember, if any?

TIGER WOODS: I won the tournament. I don't know how many shots I won by, but I know that I really played well that week, for me. I hit the ball long, I was hitting it straight, I was making a lot of putts. And usually those things add up to some good things; add up to a victory then.

Q. Tiger, more on your rivalry with David Duval. To this point, you've downplayed it. Would you agree that you seem to bring out the best in one another?

TIGER WOODS: I don't know if you can really say that, because we haven't really gone head-to-head. I think Memorial a couple of weeks ago was the closest it's ever been, where he made a charge early making the eagle on 7, and getting within a couple of -- three or four shots. If he would have kept going with that, kept making a few more birdies, it would have been Vijay, myself and David all going head-to-head. And I think that would have been something else. But we haven't had a chance to go head-to-head, either he's played great and I haven't played so good, or it's vice-versa. We haven't done it together in the same tournament. It will happen one day, the odds are in our favor, it will happen.

End of FastScripts…

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