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June 11, 1996

Tiger Woods


LES UNGER: Tiger, first we would like to congratulate late you on your recent NCAA victory, and if I am correct, you are about to participate in your fifth Major. Must feel pretty good.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it is my fifth Major - never thought of it that way.

LES UNGER: Can you compare your state of preparedness? State of nervousness? Any insight on heading into this Open, which is your second, versus the others?

TIGER WOODS: Only thing I can say, there is a big difference between this year's Open versus last year's. I remember last year. I had to take three finals on, what was that, I think Thursday; pack up everything on a Friday; leave for the Open like Saturday and then try and somehow play. And during that week, I never got any sleep. While I was taking my finals, I stayed up for 46 hours in a row. Slept for three hours and stayed up for another 20, so I didn't get a whole lot of sleep that week. Somehow had to try and get ready for the Open and I never could.

LES UNGER: You just mentioned that you had a chance for a practice round yesterday. What is your evaluation of this course?

TIGER WOODS: The rough is long. It is not short out there. I guess from only playing it one time, it is a golf course where if you drive the ball in the fairway, you are going to be rewarded.

Q. Just your thoughts Thursday pairing with Corey and John?

TIGER WOODS: I think it is going to be a lot of fun. I know John. I just saw him on the putting green again and he is excited to play. I am sure Corey is just going to go out there and grind away just like he always does. I think we are going to have a lot of fun out there.

LES UNGER: Will you guys let Corey hit from the whites?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, he may hit it shorter, but he might beat us all.

Q. How far has your game come from last year's Open? How far has it come from last year's U.S. Open and how far behind these guys, do you think you are, or are you close?

TIGER WOODS: How far have I come? My quality -- how far has it progressed since last year's Open?

Q. Yes.

TIGER WOODS: A lot, I think. My scoring average was better this year in college than it was. I have won nine times this year out of 13 events. I have really improved. I shot some low numbers. I shot 61 this year in competition. I never could do that last year because my game wasn't there. My swings just didn't allow it. Didn't lend itself to that. And I have definitely improved my putting, so, you know, with all those things combined, I have definitely matured as a player and I think I've matured as a person because of college and that has definitely helped.

Q. When were the finals over this year? What were the subjects?

TIGER WOODS: I only took two classes this year, this quarter, rather, because what I did in the fall and in the winter quarter, I lowered up in units. I took 17/16, so I was three ahead. Then I could take 12 this quarter and be right on schedule. And I took an accounting class and then an African Lit class.

Q. You won another NCAA this year, but you didn't finish on your standings. What is the mindset coming in here? Are you ready? Do you feel good you are playing well?

TIGER WOODS: I am playing very well. That day was just kind of a weird day, in general. I woke up and felt kind of weird and went to the range and didn't have it. I couldn't find a swing that could work. I hit the ball both ways. I could have hit left or right. I didn't know which one was coming. It is not a good feeling out there on the golf course, but it showed. I think that round was very important, for one thing, is that it showed myself that I could reach deep down inside myself and somehow pull it out, which I did coming down at the end and I am pretty proud of myself for doing that.

Q. Now that this is your fifth Major, do you feel more relaxed to understand what it is in a Major and know how to handle yourself; feel more at ease to get ready and start playing?

TIGER WOODS: Definitely. I felt a lot more at ease at this year's Masters. It is my second time around. This year's Open -- it is my second U.S. Open. I feel more relaxed. I know what to expect from the play of the golf course; how it is going to be playing and also from myself, how I have to react and how I am going to react when the gun blows.

Q. What types of things do you learn from, you know, some of the pros out here besides just how to play the game, just their approach to the game and everything that goes on?

TIGER WOODS: I have learned a lot from these guys. They have talked to me a lot. And I know Greg has shared a lot with me, so has Arnold as well as Jack. Also all the other players I have had lunch with and they have definitely shared some things - little tidbits of knowledge, you could say. It has been very helpful.

Q. Tiger, you mentioned playing with some of these players. The first few times around it has got to be really exciting to be able to meet these players like Jack Nicklaus, et cetera. Is that magic still there? Is it some sort of nervous energy that you may still have when you come across these players now?

TIGER WOODS: I wouldn't say nervous energy. I would have to say more like -- more on a player/player basis versus seeing someone for the first time that you have looked up to and grew up watching. Now I have been out here, played against them, played with them. Now it is more of just like a player-to-player relationship.

Q. Have you played with Daly before, and if so, where? And then also, who are you playing the practice rounds with this week?

TIGER WOODS: Okay, I played with Daly for the first time when I was thirteen years old in the Big Eye at Texarkana, Arkansas. That was my first nationwide tournament that year and the third round Tour players would come in and get to play with the players on, I guess it was a Monday or something like that. And I got to play with him and he hit it just as long then as he does now. Let us see. I also played with John at the Honda Classic in the, I think the Wednesday Pro Am, so that was, ooh, about three years ago. That was the year of the storm of the century that hit the Honda that year. Let us see. What else have I played? I played with him at a practice round at Bayhill with Fuzzy and Jesper Parnevik. I guess this year I am playing practice rounds with Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus and I think, Woody Austin. And tomorrow I am playing with Davis and Jack. That is it.

Q. Very few get to where you are and where you have been let alone at your age, but at any age in this business of golf. Of course it must be one of your dreams to win a Major some day. Have you reached a point yet where, in your mind, it is not a dream about you are saying to yourself "I will be winning Majors," if so, how close are you to thinking that way?

TIGER WOODS: Put it this way, if I didn't feel that I could win, I wouldn't come to a tournament. It is that simple. I don't go to a tournament to play for second or finish top 10 or make the cut or anything like that. I go to win. I give it my all to try and win. There is no point even going to a tournament if you don't try and win. That is the way I have always been -- that is the way my father has always taught me and that is something I believe in. I wouldn't be here if I didn't think I could.

Q. How many times will you use your driver and will you have to kind of avoid trying to show people that you are longer than John? I mean, you will be playing in the Open so it will be fun, but will you have to be managing your game more, do you think?

TIGER WOODS: No, I got my own game plan and he has got his. Out here, I am not going to hit a whole lot of drivers, basically because the fairway narrows the further you hit it. Kind of a disadvantage to hit it a long ways, in a sense, unless you can blow it over the bunkers, but you got to carry it on the average probably about 280 to do that out here. That is kind of tough to do, time in and time out. So basically my game plan is just try and keep the ball in play, whatever it is - if I have to hit 5-iron off the tee I will. As long as I am playing from the fairway, it is a big advantage because this rough is so high, players can't get to the green from the rough. Last year at Shinnecock, it was different. Missed the fairway you could actually hit to the green.

LES UNGER: Any other questions?

Q. If you could just comment on if you and John are both hitting drivers and playing -- the differences in the way you strike the ball with the driver, if there are any?

TIGER WOODS: There is enormous difference. One, you know, because of John's long swing, it lends itself to a higher launch angle which means he is going to carry the ball a lot further than I do. He can carry it past me on the fly at any given time with his driver. But on a firm fairway, I hit a lower ball flight and I could turn over a little bit. If my ball hits hot, it will roll; it all depends on the conditions. Like here, he will probably outdrive me all day. It is because it is soft. At Augusta it is a different story because it is so far and so hard, it is like hitting on this table here, these fairways, so I am able to -- I was able to run it past him.

Q. You went out and played by yourself yesterday morning and spent a lot of time on the greens. What were you doing and what was going through your mind? What did you learn?

TIGER WOODS: I just learned -- I do that all the time, just try and understand how these greens break and there is actually a little bit of grain I didn't know about out here, you know, no one has ever mentioned. I picked that up yesterday. I looked at some of the pin locations - where I thought they could put them. Typical USGA pins, you know, they will be very difficult, but I am sure they will be pretty fair. That is about it. That is about all I learned.

Q. Are these as tough or tougher than The Masters?

TIGER WOODS: These are, by far, a lot easier than The Masters, yes because they are so soft. I am sure if they had them typical U.S. Open extremely firm and very fast, these things could be very dangerous, but at Augusta, it is like lying on this table right here. Everything repels here, this week. Yesterday I had a tough time keeping the ball on the green. I was spinning the ball off the green. You don't hear that very often at a U.S. Open.

Q. How, if not, impossible, how difficult would it be for an amateur to win this event?

TIGER WOODS: It is extremely hard. One is that most amateurs, if they do qualify are usually younger, such as Trip, Trip Kuehne and myself. I think of the other one who is from the University of Auburn. So we are all younger players, we are less experienceed than these guys and it is not our job either.

LES UNGER: Everybody happy? Thank you.

End of FastScripts....

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