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March 22, 2006

Vijay Singh


JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, Vijay, for joining us for a few minutes here in the media center at THE PLAYERS Championship. I know it's great to be close to home and be a part of this event. Can you just make a couple comments about just the home course advantage?

VIJAY SINGH: I think since the last year I've played one round of golf over here. The conditions are totally different. And I think it's an advantage not to play and then playing every week when you're at home, different conditions, soft greens, you just don't get the you know the golf course, but you wouldn't really know the way it plays in the golf tournament.

In previous years I've played a lot more rounds. I went out there yesterday, and I said, wow, this just feels back to a TOUR event like it did in Bay Hill because you're used to the conditions and feel the conditions the way they are, instead of getting used to something else and then coming to the tournament and finding the golf course totally not the same.

Q. From watching some of your play at Doral and Bay Hill, it looks like you're hitting the ball pretty good. It's coming down to whether you're making your putts or not. Is that a fair assessment?

VIJAY SINGH: Actually it's been the other way around. I've been making a lot of putts but I haven't been playing as good.

Last week I found a few things in my golf swing, and it's all down to rhythm. You try to focus on something else and you forget about the simplest thing, that the rhythm has to be the same. I worked really hard last week and worked really hard this week, as well, and I'm making putts now. I'm feeling a lot more at ease on the greens, a lot more comfortable on the greens. I think I had a great putting week last week, as well. I don't know what I finished, but it was pretty good.

I'm feeling good about my game. Hopefully I can take it out there and just play now and not think about what's wrong with my golf swing.

Q. Was putting more of an issue on the West Coast?

VIJAY SINGH: It was, yeah. I started finding good things about my putting at the Match Play. I made a lot of putts the first two matches and then I didn't do as good as I thought I would, but the feel was there and the putting style came around. I putted well at Doral, not great. I putted well last week, for me anyway, and hopefully it goes on this week.

Q. I'm doing a story on playoffs, and I'm thinking back to when you won the PGA a couple years ago. You kind of limped off the course at the end, and then in the playoff you looked like a different guy. Could you talk about the mindset of playoffs and sudden death, as opposed to the stroke play component and how in your instance you had a chance to start fresh?

VIJAY SINGH: Yeah, anybody would have limped off the golf course the way I played the last day. Shooting 76 in the final round is not what you want to do. Then you've got a second life. They've given you another chance.

It's two different feels when you go into a playoff. If you make a birdie or doing something good to get into a playoff or you do something bad and get into a playoff, so your mindset kind of dictates how you played the last few holes.

In the playoff, although I didn't play very well, I was given a chance because Justin (Leonard) bogeyed the last hole. Then I had a breather, and then I said, okay, let's take this opportunity. When you lose, you make bogeys coming into the last few holes and then go into a playoff, you're kind of really down on yourself. You don't want to do that, you want to pick yourself up.

Q. I'm curious, this time a year ago there was sort of a neck and neck race for No. 1 player in the world and it's fluctuating back and forth, and you were playing the best golf of your life, and you're obviously No. 2 in the world now. Is there a frustration level for you that you aren't quite where you were a year ago, or do you still look at it and go, hey, I'm No. 2 in the world, still playing pretty well?

VIJAY SINGH: It's always nice to be there and playing at your best. It's not because I'm not playing good, I'm just not playing the way I did last year and the year before.

My level of play has dropped, not out of neglect or anything. It's just that's the way it goes. I mean, golf is a weird game.

But I've got to take the lows with the highs, and right now I'm not up there. So I'm picking my game back up again, trying to go back and doing things that I did good.

The disappointment part is I'm not competing every week like I did two years ago or last year, so I'm trying to get back to that feel again. I saw a little glimpse last week, and I'm feeling really early on I'm feeling really good about the way I'm hitting the ball. I've been doing good on the driving range but not taking it on the golf course. If I can just do more of that on the golf course, probably I'll get back to where I was.

It is kind of disappointing being up there and not feeling the same excitement that you feel, the same adrenaline that you felt a year ago. But hopefully I can get it back this week.

Q. Speaking of the majors, what are the main obstacles a player has to overcome in a major, and looking back to the win at Sahalee, is there a learning curve as far as how to win a major?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, you just have to for some reason, good players always peak at the majors. They know how to peak at the majors. They don't get ahead of themselves. A lot of times guys go up to the majors and really get too excited because the tournament starts, and when you do tee off, you kind of feel it. You're too excited, you feel a lull then. But better players, they pace themselves and get to when they tee off on Thursday, they feel like they're ready to go. That's when they perform the best.

That's why Nicklaus did it so well, Tiger is doing it great, and a lot of great guys are doing the same thing. But they all did the same thing; they prepared well and they didn't over practice Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and when they teed off they were ready to go.

Q. Have you made up your mind about playing New Orleans, and secondly, with the fact that it's moving back to English Turn in '04, is that enough to entice you to come back?

VIJAY SINGH: I won there the last time they had the tournament, so I have a good feel for the golf course. I played a lot of New Orleans Opens at the English Turn. I have not made up my mind. The schedule is still under it's still in my schedule to play there, but I haven't really 100 percent committed yet.

Q. We've been asking a lot of guys in the last couple weeks about where they were and what they remember about the 1986 Masters, and you may have an interesting story about that, whether you saw it or not, and what were your memories of that?

VIJAY SINGH: I think I was in Europe at that time. I remember watching it. Seve was right in there; Norman; I think Kite was right in there, as well, if I'm not mistaken. Just the excitement of Nicklaus making all those putts coming down the stretch, I still remember it. His yellow shirt and checkered pants, I still remember that (laughter). It's a memory that you don't forget. I mean, it's part of history and it's still very fresh in everybody's minds.

Q. Do you remember exactly where you were, where you watched it exactly?

VIJAY SINGH: I was sitting in front of a TV (laughter). I was at home in London.

Q. Do you have any theories as to why you and the other top players have not been as consistent at this event as you have in the other four majors?

VIJAY SINGH: This is not power golf over here. You don't take on the golf course like you do on other major events. The golf course is very short. I mean, it's under 7,000 yards, and it plays very much like Harbour Town, into the trees, out of the trees, small greens, and the roughs are very thick.

So you tend to they tend to take away the advantage of a longer hitter here. You don't stand up on the tees and just bomb your drives. The other day we were going around the golf course with an architect, and turned up to No. 2, and I said this is only a 530 yard par 5. When we got to No. 16, it was only 507 yard par 5s, and those are the par 4s now that we play.

You can tell, I mean, on 16 anybody can reach the green in 2, and you use a wood to get up there. So the advantage of a longer hitter going out there and hitting a 300 yard drive and reaching the green with a long iron is totally gone for this golf course.

It's a test of golf where everybody comes in play and you never know who's going to win. Whoever drives the ball straight and hits a lot of greens this week is going to have a good chance.

Q. You've always played so much more than the other top players, so many more events. Next year's schedule, if we look ahead, it's a pretty good bet that 10 or 11 weeks from say the British Open through the Canadian through the WGC, the PGA and then into the playoff, how much can fans expect to see the top players play in that stretch of ten weeks?

VIJAY SINGH: Probably not going to play that many in the beginning of the year or leading up to those events and then pace themselves for the big events to come.

I would probably keep my schedule until after THE TOUR Championship next year and then probably drop off a little bit. I like playing like we do at home, just go out there and practice. You might as well be out on the golf course and be competitive. For me, it's not going to change.

I don't know what's going to happen with Tiger and Phil. Ernie said he's going to play. There's a lot of young guys out there that the fans and TV and the whole world is looking out for, J. B. Holmes and Villegas and all these guys coming up. Not only the top players, but the rest of the guys are there, as well. The field is going to be pretty strong. I don't think too many guys are going to back off.

Q. This tournament speaks for itself, you know, just your preparation and coming into it. But with this followed by The Masters, is this kind of does this signal maybe a change in attitude for the players, a new segment of the season at all coming into this event, this thinking towards this tournament and then the majors?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, that's what we always thought, although the TOUR did not like that, that this was just a warmup to The Masters. Everybody you talked to over here says this is a great warmup, a great test of golf before we got to the Masters, and that's what the Commissioner did not like. Change of dates maybe, yeah, that's one of the reasons why they changed the dates. But I think the golf course will play better, as well, when they do change it. The conditions will be different, bermudagrass on the golf course is going to play a lot harder.

I think it's a great time to change, as well. They're going to re do the golf course, re do the clubhouse, so I think the setting just is perfect for a big change.

Q. Is it as much a warmup as it is maybe just the first of the big events?

VIJAY SINGH: Yeah, you could say that. It's a great way to say, yeah, it's a great big event, but the other events are not small, either. Bay Hill is a big event, as well. If you say that, then you're taking away from the other golf tournaments. The match play is a big event. It's just that the timing was just not right. I think it's going to do good to the tournament itself to move it to May.

Q. Talk a little bit, you mentioned about the difference teen this course and the majors where length is more of an issue. There's been a tend now to add even more length, Augusta just added more length for the second time. And some of the players who don't hit it as long as you and some of the players who say what they're doing is eliminating a portion of the field from even having a chance to contend in majors. Can you talk about, A, the lengthening process for Augusta and other courses, and B, is that what's happening?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, I'm hitting the ball a lot further than I did in my 20s. So the golf course is playing the same way you don't want to stand on a golf course, for instance, TPC here, and leading by a shot and taking a 3 iron off the tee on 18. It doesn't suit the game of golf in this era.

I think it's very fair. I think on the whole, instead of just lengthening, saying let's just lengthen the golf course, they should add bunkers where you're used to driving it, add bunkers at 300 yards or 290 yards and catch a lot of guys. If you want to hit a driver, go ahead and hit a driver, but if you miss it, you're going to be punished.

This golf course, they should do the same thing. I mean, it's needed, to lengthen it, but not excessively where it really takes away shorter hitters. But everybody hits the ball long now.

I mean, the shorter hitters are not hitting it short anymore. If you look at the average when Nicklaus was driving at his best, he was under 270. Right now you go and look at the driving stats, 270 is not going to make the top 100, so there you go.

Q. Is there a disproportionate advantage now to being long because some guys say the hour hitters get more out of the equipment, that the mid range hitters are longer but there's a proportionate disadvantage?

VIJAY SINGH: They're not making equipment for the power hitters, they're not making the ball longer for the power hitters, they're making it long for everybody else. I think it's fair. The shorter hitters are picking up five yards. They're not going to love five yards, they're going to pick up the same five yards. Just the ability to go into holes with a shorter irons, an advantage for longer hitters, yeah, we're going in with wedges and sand wedges, then the guys who don't hit as far are going in with 7 and 8 irons.

Q. A couple years ago at Mercedes when you were No. 2 and trailing Tiger by quite a pit, you said it was possible to catch him and you proved that you could do that. I'm wondering what your mindset is now being No. 2 again. Are you trying to catch Tiger, trying to be No. 1, or is it merely just a matter of trying to win golf tournaments?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, it's always in the back of your mind to get up there, and I want to do that. I think I'm capable of doing that. I've stepped up and taken charge of my own physical side, and my golf game, as well. I stepped down in my golf game a little bit, but sure, it is possible. I'm going to try very hard to do that. It's not going to happen in the next two or three weeks, but as far behind as I am, I think I'm ten points behind him, and that's huge. That's ten wins (laughter). He's not going to stop winning, either.

But I just have to step up. It seems to me I was talking to somebody the other day, and it's just, like, top guys have almost conceded. It's like we arrive at the golf tournament and they've conceded if Tiger is playing. That's the feeling that I don't have. I'm more aggressive. I want to go out there and take it on, and if my golf game just gets around like it was, sure, I'll be there. I'm working very hard towards that.

Q. Two quick questions: Have you seen the changes at Augusta?

VIJAY SINGH: No, I have not yet.

Q. Will you go up there before?

VIJAY SINGH: No. I'm going to be arriving there on Monday.

Q. When somebody says "Amen Corner," what comes to your mind?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, you look at 11, 12 and 13, that's what comes to your mind straight away. Amen Corner used to be oh, God, help. But not anymore. I think we're past that. As long as they don't lengthen the 12th hole I think we are fine, and I don't think we're going to do that.

Q. Given the fact that this FedEx Cup thing, you're going to have a lot of events in a row in the summer that the top players are playing, I know there's been a trend towards more players getting into better shape, and you and Tiger and some of the players ahead of that, do you think that those are the type of players that may have an advantage, and will that schedule force players who are not necessarily hitting the gym a lot to rethink that?

VIJAY SINGH: I don't think that. You'd be surprised how many guys work out, really. You really would be surprised. I think everybody works out. They pretend they don't, but they do. They don't work out as hard as me, but it's different. They're all not 43 years old, either.

But they play a lot, as well. Tiger doesn't play a lot and Phil doesn't play a lot, and Ernie plays a lot more than you think. He plays 15 or 16 here, but he plays almost the same amount of events overseas, and Retief does the same thing.

Except for two or three guys, I think the rest of the guys are very, very in tune with how many tournaments they play. They'll play well in excess of 20 events. I don't think there will be a problem. We're very in tune with that.

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