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May 26, 1998

Tiger Woods


WES SEELEY: We're joined by Tiger Woods, winner in Atlanta most recently, and start with - I know you haven't played this course yet, but have you been practicing? Was it a hard week of practice or what is the state of your game as you arrive.

TIGER WOODS: Well, it was a hard couple of days. I really worked on my game. I'm very pleased at some of the things I've changed in my swing and some of the things that are just evolving in my game. I'm looking forward to playing, looking forward to seeing this golf course whether it's actually dry or not.

Q. The expectations, are they unbelievable to you what people say, like you didn't win for ten months like that's a big deal? Do you know what I mean? What is your reaction to that?

TIGER WOODS: It's not a long time. I did win in Thailand, beating Ernie Els in a playoff, and playing against Faldo, Olazabal and Westwood down the stretch.

Q. That's not bad?

TIGER WOODS: That's not bad. I didn't win here for 10 months, but I was right there; had a couple seconds, a few thirds. A lot of times I was just right there, but I wasn't able to get over the hump and win. Either one, because I didn't play well and I made mistakes or one that other players actually made birdies down the stretch and beat me. But, in '97, I got a lot of lucky breaks go my way and even in '96. Davis Love hit the ball in the bunker and made bogey in the playoff, Lehman hit the ball in the water at the Mercedes, so there's a lot of things that happen, you get a few breaks and you win. This year I was right there in contention, at the L.A. Open at a playoff, and Billy makes birdie-birdie to get into playoff and birdies the first playoff hole. These are things you can't do anything about. They outplay you sometimes or you just mess up. You need breaks.

Q. The expectation is people believe you should win every time. I know you're going to feel you're going to win every time you step out, but the expectation is Tiger is playing, he's going to win?

TIGER WOODS: I think it's a good thing, that's what people think of my game. It's not like saying, well, it would be a great week if he could make the cut. I think if my game ever got to that, it wouldn't be a good thing. But if they expect me to win every week, that means I'm right there a lot and I have a chance to win.

Q. You're ideas about this course, obviously for some ungodly reason it is dry this week and premium on scoring on the par 5s would seem to play into your game?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I don't know if the fairways are going to be running enough where you can get there. Last year, it was almost impossible to get there on 7. On 11, no one ever went for it except J D, he hit a driver down there. But, if it's running, some of these par 5s are reachable now. I haven't been out there to see. If it is running, the par 5s, you have to birdie in order to keep pace because I think the scores would be low if it is dry.

Q. How about the rest of the course, in general, does it play to your game?

TIGER WOODS: I like this golf course. You have to shape it both ways. The fairways are ample wide. The greens are very quick here. You have to be careful coming into the greens. They're very severe. You can't shortside yourself. If you shortside yourself, the best you can do is about 10 feet and try to make up a par.

Q. How would you sum up last year's experience here for you?

TIGER WOODS: Oh, God, it was one of the longest rounds I've ever played. It took me three days to finish my round. But I played here in the U.S. Amateur, got lost in the second round. But, I like this golf course, especially if it's not a sloshfest.

Q. The second year for you on the Tour, the phenomena of Tigermania, have you felt or sensed that it's changed at all and if it hasn't, do you wish it were? How are the crowds and the galleries?

TIGER WOODS: I think it's died down a lot from last year at the Byron Nelson. Last year at the Byron Nelson, it was unbelievable. It really was. I was there on the putting green early, hit some putts. I got there too early. I got there two groups too early, so the group -- two groups ahead of me was going off the tee and there was one group in ahead of me and the fairways were absolutely lined on No. 1 deep and then on 2 deep. I was thinking: Good, players ahead of me, maybe they'll go, and they didn't go until I played,. And, then I looked down the No. 1 fairway after I was on the green and no one was on the fairway, yet it hasn't been like that since. It really hasn't, and I'm not against it.

Q. I was going to say; is that a good thing? Talk to me a little about what that -- the pros or cons of that.

TIGER WOODS: I think the -- I think there's only an upside to that. They were so aggressive last year, I would come home with pen marks all over me on my shirts, my hat, a couple times I got cut under the eyes with pens -- stray pens. People are so aggressive. They want autographs. They want pictures. They want to touch me that it adds up. If you get that day after day, every time you go to a tournament week after week, it gets very difficult - the cumulative effect of it.

Q. I know recently you mentioned that you talked to Michael Jordan, people like that. Is it still impossible to deal with --

TIGER WOODS: Even M J says that golf is so much harder than basketball as far as dealing with fans, because of what he does. He drives his car into the arena underground, fans don't get a chance to touch him. He goes to the locker room. He runs out. He's on the court, no autograph sessions. He plays the game; comes off the court; goes in the locker room; that's it, and leaves. Nothing. Here, on the golf course, your accessibility is so much greater that it becomes sometimes more difficult because this is kind of funny is that it would be kind of wild, I'm walking down the fairway and you hear a fan yell: Can I have your autograph, or come take a picture with me. Would you say that to M J on a fast break? It just wouldn't work. But, that's the difference in golf. The accessibility is great. That's what made this game so wonderful, that the fans and the players are so close to one another.

Q. Careerwise, what are your goals for 1998 and do you feel as if you've met them?

TIGER WOODS: As far as playing golf, yeah, I think I've accomplished most of my goals. I just haven't put it all together at the same time where I did last year a few times. But as far as my goals for the rest of the year, I don't give up those things. I think those are very private, and I'd like to keep it that way.

Q. Your foundation is based here in central Ohio, what do you hope to accomplish with that?

TIGER WOODS: Very simple: Make golf accessible. Anybody can play the game. I mean, that would be the ideal situation. Any kid can play basketball anywhere. Any kid can pick up a mitt and glove and play catch. Anybody can run and be part of track. So that's what I want in golf. Golf is denied to so many people just because of either -- most of it is financial, but some of it is either sexual or even racial. So, it would be great if kids could play the game if they want to, just have that chance, and because I was denied the chance a lot when I was growing up, and I don't know want kids to have to endure that. I want them to -- if they want to play golf, they can go play golf.

Q. Tiger, Notah Begay shot 59 a few weeks ago, Jay Sigal put up a 62 on Saturday, shot 27 on the front. John Huston sent a new 72-hole scoring record at Hawaii. You shot a 59 in a practice round prior to The Masters last year. Where is the evolution of scoring going? Are we going to see a 58 or 57 sometime before 2000, say, you're a student of the game, what do you think --

TIGER WOODS: As far as 18 holes, it's so difficult because there are so many variables that can go on. You get hot, but it's hard to keep it going in golf for some reason. Nine holes, when you shoot something low, it's hard to keep it going. I don't know why, it just is. I can't explain it to anyone else. I think it's a mental deal, but there are so many different variables in this game that it's hard to dominate and just really get it going even for one round, four rounds, it's virtually impossible to shoot something in the low 60s every time you tee it up, unless par is 70, then it's a little more realistic.

Q. When you won the Bell South, you looked relieved. Was that because of the way you had to grind to win that tournament or the length?

TIGER WOODS: No, I did not play well that last round. I hit the ball some places where I should have made doubles. I got a lucky break on nine, the ball should have been in the creek, but I stayed up and made bogey there. Made par on 11 when I should have made at least double, so, you know, scrambling like that and not really having your game, but getting everything out of it, getting up-and-down, making clutch par putts, victories like that are more satisfying than just playing well all the way through.

Q. How do you think you've matured in the past year, not necessarily your golf game, but the rest of it that goes with it?

TIGER WOODS: I think I've grown up a lot, being able to handle situations a little bit better this year. Last year was my first go-around and being 21, I was -- it was a little difficult, because technically I should have been a junior in college, and when I look at that in hindsight, I'm thinking: I should have been a junior at college in Stanford; I wouldn't have to deal with any of this stuff. I could have hung out with my friends; played a little golf here and there. I wouldn't trade that for the world. But, because of that, I've learned a lot. I've applied what I've learned this year. I think overall, that's why things are going much smoother in my life this year.

Q. We've kind of touched on some of the negatives, the large crowds and whatnot. What's the one thing right now that you enjoy most about playing golf right now that's a big positive for you?

TIGER WOODS: Competing. I just love to tee it up and play. I guess the ideal situation would be just tee it up every week and just play golf. If I don't have to deal with everything that comes around it, then that would be great too. But I guess I just love to play golf, whether it's with my buddies or playing in a tournament, I just love to compete. I love to go out there and just play. Like last night, I went out after the game and played, it was about 7:30, eight o'clock, I went out and played a quick nine by myself. That's what it's all about, is just enjoying playing the game.

Q. You're telling us that you have a lot better focus on things this year, that you don't have many distractions. People who are fans of golf tell us or ask us what's wrong with Tiger Woods. We say: Well, we don't know there's anything wrong with them. What do you mean? Well, he hasn't won this tournament or that tournament. What's your reaction to that? Are people expecting too much?

TIGER WOODS: I think they've never played out here before, and they really don't know how difficult it is to win out here on Tour. I mean, it's not easy. Having one victory is sometimes a career for some people, and it's one of those deals where I've won seven times now here in the states, and I've -- man, that's not a small amount. It's just -- it's very difficult to win out here on Tour. Unless they've been out here and experienced it, it's like saying Michael's off tonight, he scored 20 points. Scoring 20 points isn't exactly easy, but it's just what people come to expect, I guess.

Q. Because of your quick success, I would say?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I've played well, but you can't play well all the time.

Q. But, statistically, if I may continue, statistically, you're playing better this year than you played last year?

TIGER WOODS: Oh, I know. It's just sometimes, as I said, you just need the breaks to win. Either sometimes you can play well and win. Other times you just need to get a few breaks and, you know, hopefully squeeze one out that way. But, overall, this year, my scoring average, it's the lowest one on the Tour, and I'm second in all around, so I'm not playing too bad.

Q. What's the latest on the Tiger Woods' Foundation? Update us on that. And, any connection with central Ohio coming up?

TIGER WOODS: Well, right now, we're in the midst of doing something we've never done before. We're doing the TigerJam. TigerJam, one on June 8th at the Universal Amphitheater in L.A. Something I never thought would happen. We have Hootie and the Blowfish playing the first set. Then Jay Leno comes on does a quick monolog. Then Baby Face comes on, he's bringing his whole entire band and playing with a small set. After that, Joel Walsh and Glen Frye from the Eagles are coming on. And then, by the end of the night, the Eagles will be reunited for one night and you'll have all the Eagles playing all their songs. So, it will be a pretty good night.

Q. Bringing it to Ohio any time soon?

TIGER WOODS: I don't know. This is our first go-around. I don't know how it will turn out. Hopefully it will turn out great. Hopefully we will raise a lot of money for junior golf. That's the whole idea. I'm nervous and anxious about it because I've never done a concert before.

Q. David Duval was talking about how difficult the U.S. Open is set up year to year. Is there something you learned about the setup of the U.S. Open last year, the rough and how difficult it can be for the best players in the world?

TIGER WOODS: It's very difficult. It's very penalizing as it should be. Last year I was hitting my irons pretty good and I was putting all right. I wasn't driving very well. I was having to flip it out and hopefully it went straight. So, consequently, I backed off and hit 2-irons and hit the ball in play. When I was able to do that, I left myself 2-irons and 5-irons into the greens. That's really no way to score at the U.S. Open, especially at Congressional because the greens are elevated and very difficult to get to. This year, hopefully, I'll be swinging better and I know Olympic pretty good. We used to play there every Monday, either that or S F Golf Club. We played in spring where it's sort of dry, but not completely dried out yet. It will be different to see this golf course running and really quick.

Q. The rough at the Open, can it be humbling even for the best players in the world?

TIGER WOODS: Oh, no doubt about it, yeah.

Q. When you're out on the golf course, can you give us a little idea what life is like for you and going out into public and how have you been able to adjust to that and how difficult was it for you?

TIGER WOODS: It was more difficult last year, because it was my first go-around. I've never thought my life would be -- I never thought my life would change that quick. So, because of that, yeah, it was pretty difficult. But, as I've kind of gotten used to it and learned how to deal with it and accepted it, accept these changes, then it's not so bad.

Q. I was wondering if you could give us your insight on David Duval. Since the end of last year, he's probably been, to some people, the best player on this Tour.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, he's played great. David's had a lot of second-place finishes and a lot of top-five, top-tens in his career. And it was just a matter of time before he was going to break through. And, once he broke through, he gained the confidence to win and kept on winning.

Q. Was there any rivalry that was asked of him between not just you and he, but the other 20-something golfers on the Tour? Not me, personally. I just wonder what your thought is.

TIGER WOODS: Honestly I don't think there is a rivalry out there right now. I think it's the span of people winning. I won when I was 20, and you've got Tom Watson winning age 48. I mean, that's a huge span of players, and I think because of that, I don't see a rivalry yet. Maybe if David, Phil, Ernie, Justin, myself and a few other players can keep winning for the next 10 or 15 years, maybe that might happen. There might be a legitimate rivalry between all of us. As of right now, things are still too young, a little too early for anybody to call it a legitimate rivalry like Palmer/Nicklaus or Nicklaus/Watson did. That happened over years, and you can't say because one or two years that there's a rivalry out there.

Q. What would you be doing if you weren't playing golf right now? Is there something else?

TIGER WOODS: I would be in school.

Q. I mean careerwise.

TIGER WOODS: Oh, careerwise, something in business. I really do like business and that kind of world, so I would definitely do something within that.

Q. One of the other things we talked to David about was his approach to the first round which you basically have 48 hours before you're out there. What kind of approach do you take going into the first round of a tournament?

TIGER WOODS: Well, the first round of the tournament is merely to set you up for the rest of the tournament. It's not to -- personally, I don't take a lot of chances unless I'm playing well. It's one of those things, get on the green, make your pars, make a birdie here and there if you can, but you try not to blow yourself out of the tournament. The first round a lot of people can shoot 75s and 77s and they're out of the tournament. That's not the idea. The idea is to stay right around par and maybe get something in the 60s if you really play well. From there that sets you up for the rest of the tournament.

Q. A lot of the players talk about the grind of golf and they like to get away and go fishing. Are you going to do any of that before or after the U.S. Open and what do you like about fishing?

TIGER WOODS: It's just relaxing. It's just one of those deals. I don't think if you were a professional fisherman, I don't think there's anything more relaxing you could do. But being a golfer, at least I'm walking, so at least sitting there on a boat, that's a little more relaxing than what we do. But I just enjoy being in nature and not hearing anything, not bringing a cell phone, not hearing anything, just kind of relaxing and getting away from everything.

Q. In view of the things you've outlined to us to have to happen for any person to win a golf tournament, if you look back on your start, does it seem even more amazing to you now than when it was taking place?


Q. Do you have an explanation for that?

TIGER WOODS: Huh-uh. I guess the only explanation I could possibly give is that when you're playing well, it just feeds off of one another. You know, if you're driving the ball well and putting well, everything seems to gel, you keep it going. At that time I was playing week after week after week after week. And if you can keep it going, it's amazing what can happen. You can go for weeks at a time. That's exactly what I did. Plus the incentive of knowing that I had to play well to not have to go to Q-school was definitely a big thing on my mind.

Q. Your dad is in town for a book tour. Are you going to meet up with him?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, he's coming in tomorrow and he will be staying with me. And, yeah, it will be cool. I can't -- you know, honestly I have to tell you a story about my dad. I didn't realize how good a Ping-Pong player my pop was. I thought he was so old. The old man has some skills. We have a Ping-Pong table and we'll be playing.

Q. I asked you about if you were going to play, I mean, do some fishing before or after the U.S. Open.

TIGER WOODS: I was fishing last week with Mark O', and we caught a few out there. The bay fish are really running right now.

Q. What kind of fish?

TIGER WOODS: The bay fish. We were killing them there actually. Every time you're throwing it out, you're getting something so it's pretty cool.

Q. Have you ever fished at Lake Lagunita?

TIGER WOODS: No, everything is dead there.

WES SEELEY: Okay folks? All right.

End of FastScripts....

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