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June 18, 1999

Tiger Woods


LES UNGER: Given that, what's your feeling about the round today.

TIGER WOODS: Well, I hit the ball a lot better today. It was not as sporadic as it was yesterday. I hit a lot of good shots, controlled any trajectory and spin very well. I played the same way I did yesterday mentally, but physically I hit the ball better.

LES UNGER: Would you mind taking us through the round, and skip over the routine pars, please.

TIGER WOODS: No. 4 I made bogey there, hit a driver after the tee, hit a 3-wood in the right bunker. It hit the tree and dropped straight down and buried. And I then tried to blast it out and caught it thin, bladed it over the green, chipped back and 2-putted from about 18 feet. I bogeyed 6. I hit actually a good 5-iron there, just barely on the green, putted by about six or seven feet and missed that one. No. 9 I hit a good 6-iron in there, just short of the hole, about 30 feet short of the hole and got that one. 10 I hit a driver, 2-iron just short of the bunker right of the green, used my 3-wood from about 50 feet. I hit it up there to about 8 inches and made that. 14 I had driver off the tee. Had a sand wedge and hit it a little fat, left it short about a good 50 feet, again. Hit that putt, again short and missed about a 10-footer there. That's it.

Q. With the course obviously getting to be Pinehurst No. 2, you still have to be pleased with your position right now with two days for you left to go?

TIGER WOODS: I'm very pleased just to be under par. I'm very pleased. I know how difficult it is out there, and everyone else does, as well. But you have to hang in there. You have to keep grinding it out and making the pars, but the guys will come back. It's difficult to shoot under par. There will be a couple of round under par, but it will be difficult to do.

LES UNGER: Do you think this course is going to get more difficult as the day goes on.

TIGER WOODS: As the day goes on I think it is, if the wind stays up because it's going to enhance the dryness of the greens, the drying out process, and we'll see what happens.

Q. Tiger, any specific holes where the pins were more questionable, as you said, than others?

TIGER WOODS: I think 5 was. You go out there and look at 5, you're going to see something that's kind of borderline.

Q. Tiger, in terms of your mental situation today, yesterday you say you didn't feel as comfortable as you did today. Talk about your mental process as you came out to get ready for today?

TIGER WOODS: I worked on the range with Butch yesterday for a while. We hit very comfortably. I felt good about my swing, got back in good position again. Went back out there and hit the same way as I did on the range. To be able to carry what you worked out on the range out on the golf course in play, definitely builds confidence.

Q. Tiger, what will be the key for you for the next two rounds?

TIGER WOODS: Just a lot of fairways and a lot of greens. And just trying to make pars. Right now the golf course is just drying out. It's getting faster and harder.

Q. Tiger, you hit a nice shot in on 16, and had a chance at birdie there, and on 18 you were lying in a pretty nice spot on the fairway. Do you feel like you left a little bit out there, even though you feel you played well?

TIGER WOODS: Not really, no. Because this golf course right now, even though you have good opportunities, I mean I've played, what, two rounds now in competition. I felt like I only hit one or two putts for birdies you can actually take a run at. You don't see that very often. You can say that at Augusta all the time, but not very many tournaments you can say that. These greens are very severe. Most of the pins are in places where if you hit it too hard, it will go up and over and possibly into a bunker, so you have to be careful.

Q. On No. 8 I think you hit it right, the second shot seemed to be a pretty good come back for you, and after that a couple of birdies. Could you walk us through that shot at 8?

TIGER WOODS: I set up a great tee shot, in the trees, yeah. And I hit a flame out to the right. But I had a great opening and a little window I could fit a ball through there pretty easily. It's only about three feet. It was plenty wide from the distance I had to work with. And just tried to hit a nice drawing 8-iron in there. I don't know what the hole was. I had 146 to the right bowl in the green. And that's where I wanted to put it, right there in that bowl. I hit it pin-high to the bowl, and I was happy, and 2-putted and walked out of there very happy.

Q. Tiger, could you tell me how far you had for your second shot at 14, and is that one of the questionable pins?

TIGER WOODS: It's not easy there. That pin is not as questionable as some other ones. That's at the top of the ridge, but at least there's some flat area to putt to. It's a little tilted but not as severe as 5 or maybe one or two others. But 7 is pretty severe, as well. It's just one of those things, you just have to understand that you've got to put the ball in the center of the greens and walk away with par. I tried to do that on 14, hit a great drive, hit a sand wedge 115 yards, and hit it fat and came up well short, and it's one of those points where you look at if I hit too hard, I'm chipping back up the hill; make it short short, but not ridiculously short.

Q. How many times did you hit driver today, and what's it like to be able to hit driver in a U.S. Open?

TIGER WOODS: How many times did I hit driver? I don't know, but I hit a lot. I was swinging well. And most of these fairways -- right now most of the wind conditions are across, so you can use it and bank it up into the wind, which I did most of the day. So it was a little easier to keep the ball in the fairway. But I hit driver on most par-4s and par-5s.

Q. Tiger, what will you work on this afternoon to prepare yourself for the weekend?

TIGER WOODS: I'm trying to get more width on the golf swing at the top so I don't get the club stuck behind me. I'm very good at that shot. I've hit enough of those in my life. I try not to that, but I still do once in a while. I did a couple, I mentioned on 8, the little flame out. I laid the club behind me and hit it straight right. Butch and I will go work on that this afternoon and try to get the club down in front of me.

Q. Looking to Sunday, the last four holes there's two par-3's. Does that make it easier, harder? Does it make any difference?

TIGER WOODS: Well, not if you look at 15. 15 is not easy. Today it definitely was not playing easy, the wind is in your face right-to-left. It's gusty, and I ripped a 5-iron there today and didn't get there. Lee hit just a perfect 4-iron, and he barely got there. It's playing long. And 17 is probably the easier of the par-3s on this golf course, because at least you have some room to hit to.

Q. Tiger, there's a lot of things involved in open championships, including being in here, and you seem very relaxed in this environment as compared to maybe a couple of years ago. Have you evolved in this environment as much as you have on the golf course?

TIGER WOODS: There's no doubt about it. I was not as experienced as people might think. When I turned pro I was only 20, and I was put into a situation where -- Arnold Palmer told me he never had to go through that, and there's only been a few people, John Daly and Greg Norman in this modern era that had to deal with all this every day. To do that at such a young age was definitely an eye-opening situation. It took me a little while to get adjusted to life on Tour, and that's new to me. I'm still getting adjusted to that. There are things that my life is just starting to evolve and I'm starting to gel and it feels good. Basically all it is is I'm growing up. When you're put into a situation as fast as I did and had to learn, of course, you make mistakes, but I learned from them.

Q. Is there anything different about your attitude or your approach to this U.S. Open as opposed to the others that you played in?

TIGER WOODS: I won't say my attitude is that much different, because my thought process is still the same, trying to make pars, just that my execution is a lot better. I didn't have the shots that I did now back then. Even last year at Olympic, I did not have the shots that I have now. And to be able to go around this golf course and even though not swing as well as I'd like yesterday, I was able to still keep it in play, make pars, make birdies and just hang in there. There's no way I could have done that last year.

Q. Tiger, if it gets as firm and fast as it's expected to over the weekend, do you think over par might win this year, and do you like these kind of conditions? Are these your favorite conditions to play in where you've got to make par --

TIGER WOODS: I love these conditions, because it brings out the imagination. So many U.S. Opens, if you miss a fairway, get the sand wedge, hack it back out, try to make par from a hundred yards, if you miss a green, bring out the lob wedge, hack it out, and try to make a putt for par. If you miss some greens or miss some fairways this year, you can run the ball up, but if you run it too far, you're going to put yourself in positions where it's very difficult. I think you're seeing more 6s and double bogeys here this year than you would in most cases, because guys, as I've said in here before, have the confusion factor. You have a sand wedge or you have a pitching wedge, you have a 7-iron now, I can hit a 3-wood, too, I can actually putt it. So you have to be committed to one of those shots you choose.

Q. Would you like conditions where you're 1 under, and it could be that 2 over wins, that the lead actually moves a different direction?

TIGER WOODS: It's a nice thing to do. If you go out and make 36 straight pars, you're looking all right. And not too many tournaments nowadays on Tour you can do that, make 36 straight pars, and you're probably about 18 back.

Q. Tiger, you mentioned the fifth hole is the pin that's very questionable. You mentioned 7. Can you be more specific, is there anything else or just those two?

TIGER WOODS: Just go out there and look at them. They're right on a knob. If you take a look at them, you'll say that pin really shouldn't be there.

Q. So those two and the rest we can just look for ourselves or you don't want to be more specific?

TIGER WOODS: If you just go out there and take a look, you'll see the slopes.

Q. The second part of the question, do you think that IMG or the people that handled you or brought you out could have been better prepared? Were they maybe naive, too, in helping you, as you met all of us and all the conditions of Tiger Mania?

TIGER WOODS: No, because no one's ever seen that. No one's ever seen the intensity that it was at. I think the last person before me to ever go through it was John Daly. His was intense, but not as intense as it was for me. And it's like every single day and every week when I first turned pro, and I really, it's an experience that you have to go through on your own and learn how to handle it and get to know the people in the media. I've gotten to know some of the guys and the women as well in the media, and it's been a lot easier to deal with on a first-name basis, rather than just another face in the crowd. It's easier to talk to people that way.

Q. Following up, I think the implication is that so many tournaments people are way under par, the Open, of course, right around par wins it. Do you think that eliminates people, because of the psychological factor, I'm not making birdies, whereas many of the golfers accept pars or bogeys?

TIGER WOODS: I think when you get conditions as severe as they are in U.S. Opens or any major championship, you start seeing guys who can manage their game well, but on top of that strike the ball well. And usually the guys who are at the top of the world rankings are usually better ball strikers, they're good managers of their game and emotions, so they can handle it. And that's one of the reasons you see the same guys over and over and over again at the top. It's just because their games can handle it. And in U.S. Opens, especially here, right now the conditions are starting to get more difficult, that you're starting to see the guys who can really hit the ball well. But this year is different, the guys who can actually chip the ball well, too, and use their imagination, and that's one of the attributes of Pinehurst.

Q. How about a quick comparison between Augusta and No. 2?

TIGER WOODS: Well, honestly, in my opinion, I think these greens are more severe than Augusta, strictly because they're all domed. At Augusta you have flat surfaces to putt on. Here you really don't. There's not too much -- you can't feed the ball off the slopes here. Most holes you can feed it off the slopes; no big deal at Augusta. Guys are hitting good shots 10 feet way from the hole, and next thing they're 20 yards away, and that doesn't happen at Augusta.

Q. Talk about the different conditions here. I take it from your answer, would you like to see this become part of the so-called rotation of Open courses?

TIGER WOODS: It would be nice, because it would be a break from having a five-inch rough eight feet off the green. It would be a nice break to have that, and to see guys use their short games and use their imagination, because so many U.S. Opens are basically that part of your game is taken away from you. And it's basically you have to hack the ball out and try and make a 10-foot putt for par. And unfortunately I don't think that really tests a person's all-around game. It tests their driving, yes. It tests their mental as well as their putting and hack shot, but it doesn't really test their entire game. And this golf course really does.

Q. Tiger, I know your confidence and ability put you expecting to win this Open. If you were to predict who would finish second behind you, who would that be?

TIGER WOODS: I don't know, but whomever it is, I wouldn't mind finishing first.

Q. Tiger, kind of a follow-up on the previous question. Have you ever seen a U.S. Open course have more of a Jekyll and Hyde personality than this one, and do you think the way it's playing now will help solidify future Open dates?

TIGER WOODS: I think it will. I think the USGA will come back here, hopefully sooner than later. I think it's a wonderful test. As I said, it tests your entire game, and there aren't too many U.S. Opens that I've seen or experienced myself where I can actually say that.

Q. Tiger, Lee had some problems with photographers and a lot of the activity that was going on, people moving around both days. Corey said that yesterday that he let himself get distracted. And I saw today at the 17th you told some photographer to keep it under control. Is that an occupational hazard that you just accept or does all the activity that swirls around the gallery when you're playing, do you get used to it?

TIGER WOODS: You can handle the rustling of feet. You can handle people yelling on other parts of the golf course or even yelling somewhere in the fairway, but a camera, it's foreign to golf. You usually come to a golf course when you play the weekend rounds with your buddies. It's very quiet, an automatic sound like that. And unfortunately they're getting it while we're over the golf ball, and even in swinging. And when that happens, that's wrong.

Q. Do you ever feel sorry for the other guys who are playing with you, maybe not feel sorry, but sympathize with what they've got to go through, because of all the large crowds?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, sometimes I do. I understand it is tough. And it's tough on me. It's tough on the people who are playing with me, but I think it's probably tougher on the group ahead of us, because all the people want to get ahead and watch and see, and usually they're running and talking and yelling. And unfortunately the group ahead of us is probably more affected than we are.

Q. Tiger, as you go into Saturday and Sunday, are you looking at some of what the other players are doing, such as Duval and Mickelson, or are you more concerned about taking care of business for yourself?

TIGER WOODS: To be honest with you, I don't really care what they're doing, because I can't afford to. I need to play my own game and get myself into contention and keep executing my golf shots. As I've always said, you have to stay in the present. You can't worry about anyone else's game. It's not where it's a showdown between two or three players right now. We've got a long way to go. You can focus on that when you have two or three holes left on Sunday.

Q. Tiger, how much of your play this week is your game being in better shape coming into this Open than it was the previous two years?

TIGER WOODS: I'm a lot better than I was back in '96, '7 or '8. My game is better; my swing is better. I'm stronger than I ever have been, a lot of different things have contributed to my good play. But I think more importantly I think it's the revamping of my swing that really feels good, and I wasn't happy or satisfied with '97 because of the fact that I was so inconsistent, so we tore it all apart and built it up. And last year was frustrating, and I know the immediate I can't got on me for not winning, but that's part of the process. That's part of coming back. I wasn't that far away, I was finishing in top tens, but I wasn't getting the W's, because my swing wasn't as good as it is now.

Q. Tiger, what did you hit on the 16, how far away were you, talk about how difficult that hole is?

TIGER WOODS: I had ripped a driver, actually I think it was the only driver I turned over all day. I was basically hitting a slider out there. And I figured I needed to get the ball out there. I turned it over and got it out there and had 206 to the hole, in the wind right-to-left, and I hit a soft 4-iron in there, kind of a low punch, and it landed 207.

LES UNGER: Hope we see you tomorrow.

End of FastScripts….

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