March 24, 1999
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA
TIGER WOODS: The golf course is 18 holes out there. I have been pretty proud of myself this week. I haven't whiffed one, hit every one on the club face. Honestly, the golf course is in great shape. The fairways are fast and firm. We haven't had any rain here, and the greens are getting pretty dry and very firm. I did notice that they did put a little water on them last night and they were watering the greens a little bit today. I don't know how much more water we will get on them, but probably not much.
LEE PATTERSON: Any questions?
Q. A couple of years ago you didn't play especially well here. You weren't bad, but you weren't playing as well as you'd like. You went on to win the Masters. Is this tournament any kind of indication to you in preparation for The Masters?
TIGER WOODS: Not at all. This tournament has, I mean, really no bearing on how you are going to play two weeks into now. And it is like that for anybody, though. Vijay misses a cut at Doral; wins at Honda. Who would have ever thought that? Or Tom Lehman finishing near the bottom at Honda; almost winning at Bay Hill. It really doesn't matter. The great thing is once your week is done, it is done, and there is always another opportunity. You need to get yourself focused.
Q. In that regard, does that mean that it is impossible for a player to prepare himself to peak at a specific period of time?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it is possible. Depends on how you practice, when you practice, what you are going to work on. And you try and get not only your body ready but your mind to be clear, to be focused, and for everything to come together for one week. That is what you try and do. I have been successful at doing it at the amateur level as well as the junior golf level by winning some of the major tournaments, the USGA events. I did it well in 1997 at The Masters. But it is very difficult to get your mind and body ready four times a year. Although only one I have seen do it is Nicklaus, and he did a pretty good job of it.
Q. You have played this tournament a couple years now. What do you take from those experiences?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think the two years I have played here, the golf course has played completely different than it is playing this year. I haven't seen it this fast since the amateur. When we played here in August in 1994, we were playing on Bermuda grass. It wasn't overseeded like it is now. And it was really quick. It was really running. I remember being able to hit 2-iron off of 18 hitting 7-, 8-iron into the green because it was so fast. The greens were unbelievably hard. But it is weird to see it with over-seed being this fast. That is only because of the dry conditions. I am going to try and use my experience from 1994 more as a barometer of how to play this golf course than I would the last two years.
Q. Can you draw any comparisons to what you will see at Augusta --
TIGER WOODS: No.
Q. And the contour?
TIGER WOODS: No, you can't. No. The contours here are a different type. There is contours, yes. There is a lot of mounding, but there are sections in each one. And it is more difficult here to feed the ball into some of the hole locations than it is at Augusta. Here, if you miss it just a little bit, it is going to be repelled and down into some pretty thick rough. At Augusta, you miss the green, it is gets repelled; you still got a putt at it or a little bump-and-run.
Q. Is it tougher here around the greens when you miss?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, because there is 4-, 5-inch rough out there. And with the greens this hard and fast, if you line the ball on a downslope, I mean, right in the middle of the green, it could, with a middle iron, could scoot to the back down a bowl and then up the other side into some deep rough, or if not up, against it. You really got a tough shot.
Q. Where do you rank this tournament as far as prestige compared to the majors?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it is not the same level as the majors. That is just because the majors are the majors. I think that is where they need to be. But out of, I think, the rest of the tournaments in the world, this is probably the elite. It is not too often where you get the best players in the world coming together besides the majors. And this tournament, everyone always tries to get here to play this one. And if you look at -- just go right down the champions, who won this tournament, it is just some of the best players that ever played the game.
Q. Just a follow-up on that a little bit. You talked about how hard it was to prepare to get focused for each of the four majors. How do you look at this week? You just talked about great field, good competition, good golf course. But how do you, in particular, approach this?
TIGER WOODS: I came here to win. I have practiced and worked very hard over the last couple of weeks. But if I don't win here, I think I would rather get a title in a couple of weeks.
Q. It is hard with all the World Golf Championships and this and majors. Do you find yourself suddenly having to try and --
TIGER WOODS: It is difficult. But you have to understand what your priorities are. For me, my priorities are obviously to win the big ones. And the big ones are the majors historically. And that is how someone will be remembered. -. If you win ten PLAYERS Championships or you win six Masters, I mean who is -- which one do you want? I think any player would rather say The Masters. So I think because of that, you can draw comparisons on the great ones who have ever played the game from the Hogans, the Nicklauses, Watsons, Nelsons, whomever. I think even with the new World Golf Championships, guys do want to win them because it is big money, but I think they would rather win a major championship.
Q. You are used to having the spotlight on you, but a lot of the spotlight this week is on David Duval. He is from here. Is it kind of nice having the spotlight on somebody else for a change? How do you feel?
TIGER WOODS: I wish it was more on him than -- (laughs) -- no, I like all of you, but I'd rather be eating. But no, it has been nice for David. I mean, he is one of my friends out here. And it has been nice that he has actually played some great golf, which is great for him, but has also been a big lift on me, because it has taken some of the media requests that I have had to do historically and then put it on him. And now he has got a little taste of it. It is very difficult to do, to balance all of it. When you are out here working, you are trying to get ready for a tournament. And it is difficult to be pulled and tugged and try and find enough energy to play in a tournament. That is a very difficult balance to obtain. He is struggling with that balance. He has taken more time off than normally just because of that.
Q. With your tremendous skill and ability level it is very difficult for any of us to imagine there would be a shot that will make you nervous. But is there a shot or two or three out here that really makes your palms sweaty?
TIGER WOODS: Oh, gosh. Any tee shot out here, any iron shot. I think for any -- not only professional golfers, but any player in general will get, and does get very nervous when you have to deal with water, because you hit in the water, you can't go play out of the it. Hit it in the bunker, yes, you can go play out of it. They are both hazards, but I think you would see guys more nervous when there is water involved, especially when there is no bailout area either. Some of the holes that Pete Dye has designed historically, the last couple of holes have water on them, and got railroad ties and makes it very challenging because it puts an obstacle that is very apparent right in front of you, where if, you know, you miss it there, it is over. I mean, you can't go play it from there. That is what makes it very tricky. So you fight this internal struggle inside you and stay -- try and stay committed to a shot. Meanwhile, you know, just don't pull it, or just don't push it, you know. These thoughts are going through your head. It is nice to overcome those. When you do overcome it, you feel very proud of yourself and you try -- that is what you try and do. Doesn't always happen. But that is at least what we all attempt to do.
Q. Because you are not going to be at the BellSouth, what is your pre-Augusta schedule?
TIGER WOODS: I am going to go home and work on my game and hopefully get it to where it will be right into shape and be clicking on all cylinders, be ready to go.
Q. You mentioned Duval having to deal with more of the pressure that you have had to deal with over a number of years. Still kind of new to him. How do you think he is dealing with it?
TIGER WOODS: He is doing a great job. David is a very relaxed individual. He just -- he is just David. He has handled it. He has done a great job, and it has been nice to see.
Q. What impresses you the most about how he deals with it?
TIGER WOODS: He deals with it in a different way than I do. He is more subdued; and, granted, the questions aren't, you know, not as many. But still he does a great job. You look at the answers that he gives and they are perfect.
Q. Yet, Tiger, in regards to, I know it is mostly our fault that we keep linking you and David Duval together as rivals, but I am curious, in this day and age, do you honestly think that there is no such thing as a two-man rivalry anymore in golf?
TIGER WOODS: You know, I would have to say it is very difficult to get to that situation where there is two guys who are far and away better than anybody else. There is so many good young players out here on PGA TOUR, as well as some veterans that are great players. And I don't see how you can say David Duval and I are the two best, because anybody who plays golf here out here on Tour knows that they can win any given week. It has been shown. It is hard nowadays with the equipment and the talent of players and the technology, just to get two guys battling it out every time they tee it up and say that these are the two guys -- even back when the -- the rivalry with Watson and Nicklaus, they really didn't go head-to-head as many times as people might think. They won tournaments, yes, they did. But they really didn't battle it out down the stretch in as many tournaments as you might think. Just on a handful of events.
Q. But they did in the majors?
TIGER WOODS: They did.
Q. Those three or four times in the --
TIGER WOODS: Only three or four times; whereas Palmer and Nicklaus, they did it for about eight, ten years in a row almost every major.
Q. Not just you, but you or Duval or Ernie, Phil, whatever, have never gone toe-to-toe on the back 9 in any major?
TIGER WOODS: No, we haven't.
Q. Are you amazed that hasn't happened yet, and do you think it is bound to?
TIGER WOODS: It is bound to. It is bound. I am sure we are all to get going at the same time, and it will be great. It will be a nice challenge to battle against guys who are that good.
Q. Wouldn't that be good for golf if it were you and David, David, Ernie, if it happened?
TIGER WOODS: Whether it is good for golf, I don't know. But I would like to come out on top. It would be nice for you guys to write something about.
Q. Would you welcome that?
TIGER WOODS: I welcome a challenge. That is why we play out here. I know that is why I play - is to challenge myself and to hopefully come out on top against the best players. And to know that I have beaten the best, that makes it even sweeter.
Q. Is there an aspect of your game you are sort of focusing in on trying to work on more perhaps than other parts of your game right now?
TIGER WOODS: Not really. I am trying to touch on everything right now just make sure everything is finetuned and really refined is probably the word I looking for, make sure that my golf swing is refined to where I need it; my putting stroke all my mechanics are good; my short game; make sure my touch and as well as my mechanics are good. Yeah, that is what I am working on. I have touched on everything over the past few weeks.
Q. Do you have to fine-tune anything in particular for this golf tournament, differently from others?
TIGER WOODS: Well, this golf course, you have to drive the ball well, but more importantly, you really have to shape your iron shots well into these greens. You have got to use the slopes to your advantage and the guys who are playing well obviously can. That is similar to what we have to deal with at Augusta, you have to shape your iron shots; make sure they are landing on the correct parts of the slopes so you can take advantage of a slope. Here the targets are a little bit smaller, but still, nonetheless, you have got to shape your shots.
Q. You say there is too much going on to create a rivalry these days. But do you feel you and Duval are dominant players on Tour?
TIGER WOODS: Us being dominant -- I don't see -- I mean, it will be hard to say that right now. I think if I was playing as well as I had in 1996, 1997, the first half of 1997, when I won a few tournaments in there, and then David did the same thing at the same time, then we evidently had won the most tournaments, it would be kind of neat to go head-to-head that way. But as far as dominant, no. You know, we are pretty consistent players; whether we are dominant, I don't know about that.
Q. Mark O'Meara said his game has been helped by watching you when you guys go out and play a little bit. What has he done to help you out? Have you looked at him and likened to some things he does?
TIGER WOODS: Like one, I love the way he shallows out his plane in his golf swing. He has got a very shallow arc through the ball and that is something I have always worked on but I have really started to take a closer look at how he shallows out. That is one reason why he controls his distances so well is because of his arc and his plane, how he can plane it off through the ball. That is something I have worked on. I have gotten a lot better at it and consequently I am shaping my shots better and I am shooting lower scores more consistent scores. That is one thing that -- has definitely helped me with. I think more importantly, just by watching how he attacks the golf course; how he positions his ball around the golf course, he never really puts himself in that much danger.
Q. Do you feel like the rough - that what you have seen here on this course this year is too penalizing and could you compare it to a US Open type rough?
TIGER WOODS: No, no where near a US Open rough, no. U.S. Open roughs, you know, obviously they are about six inches in height. They say they are 4 to 5 inches, but obviously the USGA is not playing (laughter). Here I think -- the blades here are thin enough where you can get through it. But in the morning I have hit a few balls in the rough; tried to play it out with the moisture in the grass, it is very difficult. By the end of the day, there are -- get the ball to the green, but can't stop it; at least you can get it there where you have a chance to get up-and-down.
Q. Are you suggesting that it is maybe not as penalizing as some players seem to be inferring?
TIGER WOODS: Oh, it is penalizing because of the greens' speed and severity of the greens. If you miss a ball in the rough, you got some of the pin locations which they will put out there, yeah, it is very difficult to get close because you got to be able to control your spin as well as your trajectory to get the ball close.
Q. Tiger, I know you have a good relationship with the Kuehne family. Just was wondering if you have talked with Hank about playing there, playing at The Masters, as an amateur. Have you given him any advice and how do you feel like his game would work at Augusta?
TIGER WOODS: Well, obviously hits it further than anybody else out here on Tour. Now it is a matter of him controlling his tee shots and positioning them on the right sides of the fairways to attack some of these pins. The fairways are enormous at Augusta. Granted we do have some rough this year, but still you got to position your shots on the correct sides of the fairway or else you can't get close to the hole. That is something that he will learn by playing practice rounds there as well as picking player's brains throughout these practice rounds. He will be fine. He will be fine. I think Tripper will be on his back and Tripper has played there a number of times, and he has got a little local knowledge where he can help Hank out.
Q. Mark was talking about the trip to the mall. Tigermania and all, the girl at McDonalds freaked out. Talk about that; is it still crazy?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it depends where you go. It all depends. I have gone out in Southern California, granted, they are used to seeing Hollywood stars out so it is no big deal. In Orlando, it is a little different, little different atmosphere, they are not used to seeing people who are on TV, it is not a normal site. Someone -- when they do see someone who has been on TV of course they are going to react in a different way. That is what I find, the smaller cities I go to, people will react with more enthusiasm, and lose it just a little bit more. Whereas, I think the greatest city in the world is New York because they don't care about anybody.
Q. Can you talk about it or recall the amateur dinner at Augusta in 1996 and just what you felt like sitting through there and how you feel coming out of it? I have heard it described as a big pep talk?
TIGER WOODS: It is a huge pep talk. Every amateur who is basically alive and can be at the tournaments there, they get you all fired up and in fact -- the fact that no amateur has ever won, blah, blah, blah, they just start talking and talking, and then I didn't really -- well, I enjoyed that, but it wasn't my biggest thing. I'd want to listen to the guys stories, so I am asking some of the old vets their stories or some of the officials who -- with the green coats, I am asking them, tell me some stories, and that is a great thing about it because you can compare something what someone did in 1940 as well as 1980 because it is the same golf course. Yeah, I remember seeing Bobby Jones -- this guy saw Bobby Jones hit a golf shot. Really? What was his swing like. He told me stories how Bobby would play this hole; how this amateur played it later on. It is just -- it is really neat from that perspective to listen to these guys tell some pretty historic events.
Q. Did you think could you win in 1996?
TIGER WOODS: No doubt about it.
Q. Is that realistic looking back? Was that realistic to think that way?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I won in 1997.
Q. You were so much older in 1997.
TIGER WOODS: Oh, yeah, real old. (laughs).
Q. Could you talk quickly on this class of amateurs, this year is probably one of the deepest deepest secretaries in probably 15 years of Kuchar, Kuehne and Sergio. It is unrealistic for them to --
TIGER WOODS: They. No, they can win. There is no doubt about it. If they have the attitude, but you need to have the attitude as well as you need to get some luck out there. You need things to go your way and at Augusta a lot of it is luck. You are going to hit some shots in there that are borderline, going to catch the slope, and feed down to the hole; you are going to make about a 10-footer for birdie when you should be chipping for hopefully getting a par and probably make bogey. These are the things that you need to have happen. When I won in 1997 I had a lot of those breaks - shots I knew were kind of borderline, please catch the slope, it caught the slope, roll down there; I'd make a putt. Those are things that need to happen in order to win and these guys, they are good enough. They got the talent. They are young, they are brash and they will be just fine. I am telling someone they are young. (laughter).
Q. David talked a little bit yesterday about some obligations. He feels like he has to take his game to cities that haven't seen him. Do you feel like that is part of your obligation to this game?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I try to. I try and play as many new tournaments as possible, but then again, I can't get into too much of that because if I do, I will burn myself out and I am not only any good to the people in that city but I am no good to myself. You've got to balance it out; make sure you do visit new cities; play new golf courses, and get some excitement stirred up. And travel around the world, I like -- I'd rather play more abroad than play new tournaments in the states because I am more curious of seeing more different -- basically different cultures because I was raised in two different cultures, and I am always curious to see how people in different countries live. Yeah, that is what I try and do, but you can get burned out here. You can't burn the candle at both ends in trying to play too much.
Q. Do you have any kind of five-year plan, try and touch as many --
TIGER WOODS: I don't. I make it up year to year based upon where the majors and now the World Golf Championships fit, and just make sure you are always ready and full of enthusiasm when the big ones come up.
Q. You mentioned getting breaks at Augusta; playing things off the slope. In addition to the rough this year, if you did hit an errant tee shot, do you still feel you come out with the breaks if you are on the second cut?
TIGER WOODS: Depends how it comes out. I know the rough is, what, 1 3/8; fairway is 3/8 so just an inch, but then again, an inch makes a lot of difference in how the ball is going to come out. You have got to judge it; make sure you line the ball properly. I think you are going to see more guys land the ball a little shorter if they are in the rough and try and kill it in some slopes. Certain holes that are going to be particularly difficult, if you miss the fairway like 5, most guys hit anywhere between 3-iron and 6-iron to that green. You miss the fairway there, with that huge embankment of mound in the front, you can't land the ball up on top and expect it to stop. You are going to have to try and roll it up and sometimes it doesn't always roll up.
Q. Speaking of those obligations, have you caught much flak from not defending Atlanta?
TIGER WOODS: No, I haven't. I let out a press release last year and they understand. Obviously the people who are running the tournament are disappointed, but then again what I tried to explain to the tournament director and other people who are involved in the tournament is that I won the tournament, yes, but I also committed to a tournament that was three weeks after The Masters. Historically I have always taken that week off. I just needed sometime to get ready. It is sad that I am not going back and I am kind of bummed out that I am not because I like that golf course. But I can't burn myself out and expect to play well at The Masters.
Q. Have you and Duval ever talked about this whole idea at this stage in both your careers; now the majors are becoming the priorities for both of you?
TIGER WOODS: I think both of us understand that is what we want and ultimately that is where you need to be is to win a lot of major championships; that you'd rather win like what Mark did last year. Obviously David won four times, but what would you rather have, four wins or two majors? That is what we want to do, and both of our games are shaping up into that, and it is just a matter of time before David wins a major.
LEE PATTERSON: Thank you. We appreciate your time.
TIGER WOODS: You got it, Lee.
End of FastScripts....