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April 4, 2006

Tiger Woods


BILLY PAYNE: Ladies and gentlemen, it's my pleasure to welcome and introduce our defending champion, Tiger Woods. One of only three players to have won at least four Masters titles, most recently, of course, last year with a great sudden death victory. Winner of 48 tour victories, 2005 was yet another great year for Tiger, including his 10th major title at the British Open. This week proudly Marks Tiger's 12th Masters appearance.

Tiger, welcome back to Augusta and please share a few remarks with us.

TIGER WOODS: Okay. Well, it's great to be back. Golf course again, is in perfect shape. Looking forward to the week and maybe finally a dry week. So I think all of us as players and competitors are very curious to see how it's going to play.

Again, really looking forward to being here and playing.

BILLY PAYNE: Thank you, sir. Questions.

Q. I know this is a non golf related question, but curious about your dog and why you got a border collie and what it's like to be Tiger Woods' dog. Does the dog get filets at night for dinner?

TIGER WOODS: No, definitely not, definitely not. (Laughter).

As everyone probably knows, I'm a pretty active guy. Taking my little buddy out there on runs are awfully fun. So unfortunately, his pace is a little bit faster than mine, so I've had to learn how to pick it up. I'm looking some pretty good times now, which is pretty exciting.

Q. Does he chase after balls?

TIGER WOODS: Oh, yeah, he just runs all the time. He's a working dog. That's what border collies are. He just loves to run all day. Sometimes it can be a bit annoying, but most of the time it's pretty cool.

Q. As you go around the course after the changes have been made, what spots do you say, wow, this really is different?

TIGER WOODS: Well, every one they have changed. (Laughter).

4, I've never hit lumber.

4, I've never hit lumber into 4, that's different. Yesterday I hit 3 wood. My buddy, O'Meara, hit driver. That's a tough hole now. Like it wasn't an easy hole before; now it's even harder.

7 is totally different. That's one of the it's one of the narrowest holes on the golf course, if not the narrowest. At that length, the trees they have added on both sides makes it very interesting.

No. 11 is extremely long. By shifting the fairway over to the left, it adds to the length and now it's a little bit of a dog leg.

Q. Do you agree with the changes and why or why not?

TIGER WOODS: Not necessarily. I didn't think you need to mess with 4. I thought 4 was one of the cool holes as it was. It was pretty tough, and you know, I thought it was fine just the way it was. I thought 7 was a great risk/reward hole where you could hit driver, you could hit fairway wood or even iron off the tee, depending on what you feel like you could do. You can try and drive it on the upslope where you had an advantage to be able to spin the golf ball. But then again, it narrows up way down there. It's the narrowest tee shot down there if you decide to hit driver down there. Now you're hitting driver, where usually we're hitting 3 woods or 2 iron. Playing totally different now.

Q. Is this the last you'll see of it, change wise?

TIGER WOODS: We keep saying that. I don't think that's going to be the case. (Laughter).

Q. Chris DiMarco was in here saying it would still be the guy that putts the best that wins this weekend. Do you still agree with that?

TIGER WOODS: You have to putt. You can have the golf course soft, hard, fast, whatever it may be. You have to be able to make putts.

Not only that, you're going to have to make those big, important, par putts. Because now with the added length and as fast as this golf course is starting to get, you're going to have some putts or some chips that are going to run out and you're going to have those 8 , 9 , 10 footers in there for par, and you've got to make those putts.

Q. If it stays dry like this, what's your guess on what the winning score would be?

TIGER WOODS: Well, if you get to double digits, you're looking pretty damn good.

Q. The last couple of times at the Champions Dinner you served steak and sushi. Why the change this year?

TIGER WOODS: Being from So Cal, that's basically what we eat. Decided to give it one of those So Cal flavors there.

Q. How much of a factor will the narrowness of the trees be?

TIGER WOODS: It's a big factor because they have made a concerted effort to make driving part of the game. Here I always thought that you could get some angles to some of the pins and now those angles have been taken away from you. It doesn't make any sense to try to put yourself in those positions now, because if you did, you would be either in the trees or in that new second cut. So it's totally different.

Q. Just 7 and 11?

TIGER WOODS: Well, 9, 1, 2. You name it, there's a bunch of holes like that; 17, 18.

Q. I'm wondering, does a dry golf course bring more guys into the mix because the ball runs out and distance isn't much of an element, and two, is it a harder golf course dry?

TIGER WOODS: It's always much more difficult when it's dry, because the greens are not receptive when it gets baked out. That's the biggest thing, is a marginal shot when the greens are soft can still stay in the area where you can make a putt or get a guaranteed 2 putt.

Now, a marginal shot when it's fast like this, it can run and run down shelves and tiers and in the hollows where more than likely you're going to struggle to make pars and probably most times make bogey.

I think that's where people say, yeah, if it's soft, the bombers have a great advantage, but then again, when it gets hard and fast, you have to hit precision irons. You can't marginally hit iron shots in there.

Q. At Bay Hill and THE PLAYERS, how much do you think your performance was affected by what was happening in your life and specifically with your dad and how much do you think it was down to your golf swing not working and your putting not working? And secondly, how is your sort of view of that?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I've been dealing with it for years, so nothing's changed. It is what it is and you just deal with it. Everyone who has had a family member or lived that long, you're going to deal with it sometime. Unfortunately it's our time right now.

But as far as that being a distraction, no, I had plenty of time to focus on each and every shot. I just hit poor shots and I putted terrible. You add that all in together and I didn't finish very well in the tournament.

Q. Staying on the subject of your dad, how is he doing right now and last year, after you won, you got really emotional because he wasn't here, could you kind of talk about how important that was and how special that was?

TIGER WOODS: Well, it was important for us as a family, because for dad my dad couldn't make it out to the golf course, but at least he was able to travel. That's no longer the case. Hey, if anyone can fight and grind it out, it would be him. He's as tough as they come. It's always been a very emotional week for us as a family because my first year here as a professional, my dad, actually he was dead, and then somehow they revived him and they had complications in his surgery. He wasn't supposed to come here anyways but somehow came and gave me a putting lesson and I putted great.

This has been a very special week for us as a family.

Q. Are you aware or were you aware what Mickelson was doing this past week, and how much does that matter coming into this golf tournament?

TIGER WOODS: It certainly gives him a shot of confidence, there's no doubt about that. Any time you get a win before Augusta, you're going to feel pretty good. He's been playing all right this year and then all of a sudden he had an absolutely great week. I'm sure he's feeling very good about his game and this is a nice time to feel good about your game, rolling into this week.

Q. I'm sorry, Tiger, just getting back to your dad, just the update on what his status is this week and how he's doing?

TIGER WOODS: He's fighting.

Q. You've successfully defended twice this year; does that give you extra confidence coming into this week?

TIGER WOODS: Any time you get wins in prior to Augusta, you're going to feel pretty good. I'm pretty excited at the start I've had this year and to get off on a positive start to win three times around the world is awfully nice. As I said, it's always nice to get a win under your belt headed into Augusta.

Q. Did you bring anything of your dad's this week to have some part of him with you and do you still have that ball marker he gave you?

TIGER WOODS: I still have it, yeah.

Q. Do you carry it with you?

TIGER WOODS: No, I don't carry it with me on the course, just in case I lose it. I've been known to lose things every now and then. I don't carry it with me when I'm playing, no. But he's always with me.

Q. Over the years we've heard players make swing changes and sometimes they backfire because they are trying to get to another level and it doesn't quite work. How have you been able to channel those things into getting to another level without that happening to you?

TIGER WOODS: Well, having a game plan. You know it's not going to happen overnight and you have to have a belief in what you're doing it's going to be right in the end, and you have to have stepping stones.

Sometimes the people watching me, whether it's media or fans or whomever who are out there, they may not see the stepping stones and the building blocks. But if you hit one good shot today, it's more than you hit yesterday and if you hit two today, that's heading the right direction, and don't have any setbacks along the way.

As I've done this a couple times since I've turned pro, I think that's the whole key is I kept building and building and building and believing in what I was doing. So it's more of a long term project.

Q. Going back to your dad's situation, the fact that you're here now, does that mean that you're here for the week or is there going to be a surprise trip going home before Thursday's round, any travel back and forth?

TIGER WOODS: I hope not.

Q. I don't mean sorrowful

TIGER WOODS: No, as I said, I hope not.

Q. What specific spots on this course do you think about your father more than other spots or in a practice round?

TIGER WOODS: No, when you're out there playing, you're out there playing. When you're away from the course, obviously things are a little bit different. But when you're at the course you're playing, you're grinding. Today I'm preparing. I have enough on my mind out there trying to place my shots and what angles I need to have or where I need to be for certain pins and stuff like that, just trying to get a feel for the course. So I've got enough on my head right now.

Q. Does your dad still see something on TV and call and say, "What did you do that for"?

TIGER WOODS: No, he hasn't said that in a while (laughter). It was nice when I flew back home during TPC and as I said earlier, he said, "What the hell are you doing here?" It was nice to have him say that, because the things he's been dealing with, it's nice for him to be that feisty. It's good, a good sign.

Q. At Pinehurst last summer you remarked about how quiet it is at a U.S. Open with guys trying to grind out and make pars; are you concerned that the magic might be lost here on Sunday afternoon?

TIGER WOODS: More than likely, it will probably not be for eagles, it will probably be for birdies and pars.

I think the way the golf course is set up now, it takes that away a little bit.

Q. Do you speak with your dad often while you're here or is that something you do?

TIGER WOODS: I do every day.

Q. You just check in with him; will he watch you on TV and have comments?

TIGER WOODS: If I'm on TV more than likely he'll watch. So hopefully I can get on TV and he'll watch (laughter).

Q. With regard to that do you really believe, I think you addressed it a little bit at TPC, the therapy that it is for him to see you on there, and is it kind of a therapy to some degree do you think?

TIGER WOODS: Well, it's something for him to look forward to and hopefully I'm playing well where it gets him a little fired up that I've got a chance to win the tournament.

Q. Do you feel you're even a better player than in 2000 for example?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, without a doubt.

Q. Some players are saying that the course changes have played right into your hands, there's only a dozen or so players who can win here this week; would you agree with that?

TIGER WOODS: I certainly agree that it's narrowed up the field a little bit. Seeing some of the guys at their length, they have what they have to hit into some of the holes, they are having a hard time holding greens. So some of the shorter hitters are definitely going to struggle.

Q. David Duval is a great buddy of yours, are you secretly pulling for him? I know you want to win but are you pulling for him deep down and what's the progress on his game?

TIGER WOODS: Without a doubt. It's always nice to see David with some signs of good play. I played with him last year in Japan, on Saturday, he played all right, but it's nice to see him hitting good golf shots again and posting some low numbers and something positive. You don't ever wish that on anybody, what he's gone through. For him to keep grinding it out and trying to improve, it's nice to see, especially when he gets rewarded by having some good rounds.

Q. I know it's been 20 years since Jack won, I don't know what firsthand recollections you would have at that age, 20 years ago. And the changes here, is it going to make it impossible for that feat to ever be duplicated?

TIGER WOODS: Well, it won't be as well, it's never easy to shoot 65, but it's even more difficult now. You know, some of the holes that you can hit marginal tee shots and still have great angles into the flags, that's been taken away now.

It will be, if you see 65 nowadays, you've really earned it, because you're really going to have to hit some great golf shots and you're going to have to make some putts, but more importantly, hit some good golf shots.

Q. The third hole is one that has not been lengthened and a couple of years ago, you tried to go for it on Sunday. Do you think that's a hole they should never touch and would you be surprised if they changed that?

TIGER WOODS: Would I be surprised? No. (Laughter).

I think it's a great short hole because of the option it gives you. The pin, if it's on the right side you have an option of driving it down there where you can pitch up the hill but that's not an easy pitch shot, either. That's one of the most difficult pitch shots you could possibly have.

It is a risk/reward hole. If you play it conservatively or along the bunkers, you've still got one of the more precise iron shots you've got to hit on the whole golf course. If you look at that pin on the left, it doesn't look like it's even on the green. It's an amazing little short hole, and especially right there on that hole, the wind tends to swirl around that fourth tee and on the third green, and you have to figure out how to get it the right distance. If you don't hit it the right distance, you're more than likely going to make bogey.

Q. Are you preparing with two drivers?

TIGER WOODS: No. (Laughter) Well, one driver was in two pieces but (laughter) but that's about it, yeah.

Q. Do you have an opinion on that?

TIGER WOODS: If it works, it works and then use it. Obviously, what did he shoot, 27? 28? It works. I wouldn't change anything.

Q. Have you ever been in a situation like Chris was in last year where you beat everybody else in the tournament by seven shots and don't win, do you remember anything like that, and if so, how did it make you feel?

TIGER WOODS: I'm sure it's probably happened but I can't remember off the top of my head. Sorry.

Q. How much aspirations do you have toward golf architecture and if so, what sort of what would be the characteristics of the course you would design?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I certainly would love to get into course design. That's something that I'm looking forward to in the future.

I think some of the greats golf courses in the world are right down there in Melbourne, that sand belt. I absolutely love the face of the bunkers and the shape of the greens. I think that's how the game should be played. I just enjoy that type of golf to me. I don't enjoy elephant burial grounds out there.

Q. How long would your course be?

TIGER WOODS: Depends, actually what the people there want it. It's up to them and my job and my responsibility is to provide a product that suits their needs.

Q. Have you had a chance to meet the Amateur champion, Edoardo Molinari?

TIGER WOODS: I did, I met him this morning.

Q. Have you seen him play?

TIGER WOODS: I just saw a few holes last year in the final and that was about it.

Q. Any take on it?

TIGER WOODS: He played well (smiling).

Q. In calm conditions, what would you hit on 4 and do you have a

TIGER WOODS: The new tee?

Q. In calm conditions with the new tee.

TIGER WOODS: It's between 3 iron and 5 wood for me.

Q. So you've got the 5 wood in the bag?

TIGER WOODS: Oh, yeah, I've got my little senior club in there (laughter).

Q. Some of us questioned the second club on the first in normal conditions?

TIGER WOODS: I've hit 7 iron in there, 8 iron.

Q. And the 7th?

TIGER WOODS: 7 iron every time I've played it.

Q. From the tee?


Q. From the tee, though.

TIGER WOODS: I've played downwind the last two days, so I've played 3 wood and run it down there. I can hit driver, I can hit 9 iron in there, downwind.

Q. When you reached the 16th green the last two days, any flashbacks to your chip and any fans exhorting you?

TIGER WOODS: I'm not going over there. I didn't want to be over there in the first place. I'm not going to go over there chip a shot from over there, unless you put it over there again. Hopefully that won't happen.

Q. Were any fans encouraging you to try it?

TIGER WOODS: A couple here and there. I basically said what I just said. I wasn't aiming over there.

Q. Players used to shape shots before and now they carry two drivers. What do you think of the technology?

TIGER WOODS: The faces have become faster and the balls have become less spiny and all that means is that you can't shape the ball anymore because you need spin to shape shots. With that, it's hard to maneuver the golf ball. You have to change your plane a lot to make the ball move either way. It's totally different because the ball used to go out there and if you hit a draw, you used to go out there and fall left, now it draws early and it straightens out. So it's certainly changed.

Guys, even some of the more powerful players, have put in 5 woods or 7 woods because it's hard to get the ball in the air with a 2 iron or 1 iron. A 1 iron is obsolete now and 2 iron is kind of headed that way.

Q. What about No. 11, you haven't said anything about that.

TIGER WOODS: Yes, it's a tough hole now. It's 505 yards.

Q. Par 5.

TIGER WOODS: It's a short par 5, yeah. As I said, what makes it longer is because now the fairway is being shifted over to the left, which makes it a dog leg and just adds a little bit of extra length. If they would have kept it straight ahead, then it would have played a little bit shorter. But now moving the fairway to the left, it makes it a little bit harder.

Q. Last year coming into the tournament how has your mindset or outlook different coming into the tournament this year, as opposed to last year?

TIGER WOODS: Well, the last time, I had not tested my swing since I changed it under Hank down the stretch in a major championship yet. I finally had to see what I could do with it. It worked, which gave me a lot of confidence for the rest of the majors and I played pretty well in all three majors after that.

This year, it's the same, just try to build on what I did last year and then hopefully next year try to build on what I did this year, just trying to keep progressing, keep going forward.

Q. When you see Chris DiMarco, do you look at him as someone who gets the absolute most out of his ability, or someone who has underachieved, having only won three times?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it depends on the golf courses that Chris plays at the length he hits it. Chris has been there in a bunch of tournaments and unfortunately just guys have come up with the goods at the wrong time for him. That's not saying that Chris has played poorly. It's just that he's been there enough times when guys have just played better. That's just the way it goes.

But for him, the length he hits it, he's a wonderful iron player, putts really well, and he just grinds it out and really fights. That's one of the things that we all admire about Chris when he plays is that he gives you everything he's got, every day.

Q. How do you assess the South African challenge? Do you think one is likelier than the other of the two in the top 5?

TIGER WOODS: With Goose and Ernie? I think they are both amazing talents. You look at their careers, major championship winners and won all around the world. Both just wonderful players. They can win at any time.

Q. I'm assuming that even as a 10 year old, you probably watched Jack on Sunday 20 years ago, do you remember anything about that and what do you recall?

TIGER WOODS: The only thing I can remember is that his putter was raised on 17, and I thought that was kind cool, that he basically walked it in. That's the only thing I could remember about that time when I was that age.

Q. Not that this will happen, but if Hootie Johnson were to ask you about the changes, which ones you think were the biggest mistakes, what without him (laughter)?

TIGER WOODS: Is Hootie listening to this? (Laughter) I think Hootie would probably say we're going to have a private conversation. I'm just going to say, leave it at that. I want to be invited back (laughter).

Q. You know, several publications, web sites and everything, have been running contests of whether you take Tiger Woods or the field, and almost in every survey, people say I would rather have Tiger Woods than the rest of the field here at The Masters. Wondering what you think when you see stuff like that, and seems like a pretty good bet to you; what's your opinion about something like that?

TIGER WOODS: I'm never going to not take that bet (smiling). Hey, it's nice that people are very flattering that people think I'm playing that well. That's nice to see. That means I've done some good work on the range and preparation. I've played well and I've won some golf tournaments, which is nice. I think that's reflective of that.

Q. As your dad's condition and changed and worsened over time, did the role of golf change for you whether it was an escape or has it changed at all what it does for you?

TIGER WOODS: No, it's been the same. It's always been family first. You know, our family, golf has always come down the road. It's always been family, then school, then golf. For me, it's awfully tough. It's hard for my mom as well and everyone who knows my father. It's very difficult. So you know, it puts it in perspective really quick when you hit a bad shot out there when you're thinking about situations like that.

Q. How has watching him fight, what is eventually an inevitable outcome changed you, having front row seats to that?

TIGER WOODS: I'm very proud of my dad, very proud of my dad. He's a tremendous fighter, got an unbelievable will, and you know, hopefully he's passed a little bit of that on to me. I think that's kind of how I play, and how I go about my I guess my competitiveness on the golf course, I guess that's how it comes across is it's a will. I got a lot of that from my dad.

Q. What would you name a son?

TIGER WOODS: I don't know. That's a good question. I don't know. Honestly, I couldn't tell you.

Q. Chris DiMarco said that this course could make you look foolish. Do you agree with that, and why?

TIGER WOODS: There's no doubt about it. All it takes is about a foot or a yard here and there, and, you know, a good shot that could be 15 feet is now 50, 60 and you make a bogey here, you lip out a putt that, you know, was a good putt and you thought you made it, hits the top edge, it runs - power-lips and it's eight feet down the hill. That could happen very easily out here.

It doesn't take much, especially if the wind blows and you get a gust of wind on the greens. Yesterday when we were playing in the afternoon, I hit a putt that I thought for sure left short, went past the hole because I got a gust of wind take it and moved up the hill. That's what can happen here. Little things can add up to very big things here, and it doesn't take much. And a foot or a yard here and there, you walk away thinking, you know, I've played pretty good today and got absolutely nothing out of my round.

BILLY PAYNE: Thank you very much, Tiger.

End of FastScripts.

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