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January 5, 2005

Vijay Singh


TODD BUDNICK: We'd like to welcome Vijay Singh, nine-time winner on the PGA TOUR last year and 2004 Player of the Year to the Mercedes Championship.

You took up an awful lot of spots from guys who could have been here this year. It was quite a year.

VIJAY SINGH: Thank you.

TODD BUDNICK: First, let's talk a little bit about what got you here this year. That year last year was a tremendous year that we have not seen out there on TOUR for a couple of years.

VIJAY SINGH: I guess all hard work and a lot of wins. Obviously I played really well. I think the key was in the second half of the year, I really putted well. Whenever I'm putting well, I have a chance of winning golf tournaments. I did well in the beginning and then it was a space in the middle where I just could not make it. My game was still pretty good and once I started making putts, confidence took over and I just was always eager to play the next tournament. I couldn't wait to get on the tee and play the next tournament. That's the way the feeling was until the end of the year.

TODD BUDNICK: Does that feeling continue until '05 and what outlook do you have for this upcoming season.

VIJAY SINGH: I've worked really hard, the three weeks that I was at home, I had one or two days that I didn't do anything but I did work pretty hard on my game and my physical side. You know, re-signed with Cleveland for the next three years at the moment and got a new driver. I think that's the new thing this year. So far it's probably going better, and hopefully it's going long and straight, a big plus. But that's the new stuff that I have and it's going good. Hopefully it's going to take me to the next step from here on.

Q. What kind of driver?

VIJAY SINGH: It's the Launcher Composite Cleveland, it's 460. It's going 460 yards, too. (Laughter.)

Q. I don't know if you're a betting man, Vijay, but what would you say the odds are of an encore performance this year?

VIJAY SINGH: I don't know. It's going to be a hard one to top. But I'm looking forward to it. I think if I'm playing like I feel like I can, the way I'm hitting the ball right now, you know, who knows. I'm not going to stop thinking about last year and I'm going to take it to the next, you know, the next level if I can. I think I have a means to do it and I'm keen to see if I can beat last year's performance. I think I can do that. In my heart I think I can do it.

Q. What would be the next level?

VIJAY SINGH: I don't know, just wait and see. (Laughter.) That's something you've got to wait and see.

I don't know, the golf I played towards the end of last year, minus THE TOUR Championship, I think that's the level I want to be week-in and week-out. I don't know if it's possible, but given the equipment right now and how far the ball is going, the physical fitness and the way my game is, why not? I should be able to maintain that.

Q. Did you see the -- you know, the new Golf World where they pick the year's -- there's a quote from your trainer they got supposedly at the Grand Slam that said you're still bothered by the fact that you don't feel you receive the credit you're due. Is that an accurate quote, and, I mean, should we put anything to that?

VIJAY SINGH: I don't know, maybe -- I feel okay with it. There's a lot of people who feel otherwise. I'm pretty happy with the attention I've got so far. I can't be going out there looking for attention. It's something that just has to happen. I'm pretty pleased. There's a lot of people out there, my friends would think that I haven't been given the credit where it's due but it's up to you guys to figure that one out.

Q. Is with you winning nine times and Tiger looks like he's getting back in the groove and Ernie and Phil and Goose, is professional golf better right now than it's been?

VIJAY SINGH: I think so. I think you've seen the era, Nicklaus, Palmer, Player, those guys were at their best, you're seeing the same thing right now. There's not just one guy dominating. There's three, four, five guys that can win the whole Player of the Year, any year coming soon.

So it's hard to say who is going to play well this year. Everybody is geared up. I think everybody is keen to play well. It's not only us five guys. I think, you know, Weir is really pumped up and I think everybody else on the Top-10 or 15 is really looking to play really good golf. It's going to be a great season. I think you're going to see a season where there will be so many -- there won't be too many new faces winning golf tournaments. I think the old guys will come back and be performing hard.

Q. Does anything change for you getting to No. 1, getting to a place where you had a big goal of getting to, is there any change in the approach now that you're No. 1?

VIJAY SINGH: I don't know, I think my confidence is a lot higher. I want to go out there and do well. I think the pressure is on me to keep performing the way I've been doing. I think that's the one I have to deal with myself and not put too much pressure on myself. If I can deal with that, you know, in a good way, I think I'll be the one ahead.

If I let that bother me, then I'm going to lose a little bit there. That's the only thing I've got to worry about right now.

Q. You've worked so hard on your swing over the years, compared where you got to in the last five. Is that what you did to get your putting; do you work so hard on your putting or is it more a question of putts started to fall and you've got the confidence and you've just started not worrying about missing something?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, I've got a putting green at home which I put in two years ago. That helped me. Any little time I have at home I'm out at the putting green. It's not really practicing. It's just going out there and spending more and more time with the putter. You know, on TOUR when you finish at the range and get out on the putting green, you only have half an hour to work on your putts.

I think most of the guys that are the great putters work a lot more off the golf course at home. I'm just beginning to do that and I'm seeing the results. That was one part of my game that was lacking, and I think now I think it's one of my stronger points that I feel like I'm enjoying standing over putts and thinking that I'm going to make the putt.

So that part of it has improved. You know, hopefully this keeps on happening.

Q. Sometimes it becomes difficult for players understanding that if you hit a series of great shots but they have a hard time visualizing a series of great putts?


Q. Is that what happened to you this fall, that every time you saw a putt you could see it fall?

VIJAY SINGH: You see the line I think. Once you start making the putts, you see the line and your pace on the line is somehow improved. I feel like now if I get the right line, I'm going to make the putt.

That is a great feeling to have and once you read the putt the right way, you can make the putt. I found that's the way I'm thinking.

Q. How has being No. 1 impacted you as far as all of the attention that you've received and the demands on your time? Are you comfortable with the balance that you have to do in that situation?

VIJAY SINGH: I think it's a lot more time taken away from me but I guess that's the way -- you just have to deal with it. It goes with the territory. I would rather not have that much attention but at the same time be No. 1, but it just doesn't go that way. (Laughter.) But you just have to deal with it the best you can.

It's something that, you know, it does not really bother me. Although I'd like to have more free time, it really does not bother me. I can deal with it.

Q. Did you, in wanting to be No. 1 and watching these other guys over the years, did you know what it would entail? Did you realize as a guy who likes to spend more time on the practice tee than in the press rooms, did you sort of not or misunderstand what it require to be No. 1?

VIJAY SINGH: I pretty much knew it was going to take a lot of time. But it's not so much, just, you know, having time to go to the practice tee and things. Even off the golf course, there's a lot of -- a lot more attention. You can't really go out and have a drink peacefully anymore. I was telling my caddie, Joey, trainer, caddie, whatever you want to call him this week, you just don't have the privacy that you really want. But that's the way it is. You've got to stay in your room and have room service or go out and deal with it.

I think Jack and Arnold and those guys dealt with it, and I guess you just keep smiling and keep signing and keep going. (Laughter.) That's the way to do it.

Q. People notice that you're a hard worker and deserve the success you have, putting the time and energy into your game. Is there really that much more work to do for you or is it just maintenance and staying loose and ready to go?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, I mean physically I think I've got to work much harder to maintain the level of intensity that is required. Right now I think I'm working out a lot harder and I'm enjoying it. It's hard work but I'm enjoying it.

But golf-wise, you know, end of the season is when I really start to do a lot of drills and I get back to the things that I need to do, you know, the basic stuff that I need, but golf-swing-wise, my swing is on plane. I don't really tinker with it too much. I just maintain what I have.

Q. You've mentioned how many good players are out there; do you specify a single player such as Ernie or Tiger as a bigger threat to No. 1 or do you look at everybody as the big threat?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, obviously the guys that are closest to me are the biggest threat, you know, Tiger, Ernie, I don't know how far Phil is, but Retief has been playing great, as well.

I'm not worried about them. I'm more concerned about what I'm going to do and if I go out there and take care of business the way I can, you know, then I don't have to look back. Once you start looking back, then you know you've dealt your own game. I'm really confident with my game and I'm looking forward to starting tomorrow. I'm ready to go.

Q. How important is this tournament specifically to maybe launching a big year, for someone last year, you were second last year on your way to your big year and in 2000 Tiger won here on his way to his big year; how important can this tournament be to getting that big year going?

VIJAY SINGH: I think it's pretty important. For me or for anybody winning this golf tournament, it could be like you can go out there and relax and play very aggressively. This is a great opportunity, there's only 31 players. Besides this, THE TOUR Championship is the only one that has this small of a field. I would really like to go out there and step my ground and say, "Well, I haven't gone away, I'm still here." So that's the way I have to think, and that's the way I feel that I need to do it. I think it's really important to have a good start, yeah.

Q. You and I came in on the same flight the other night and when I left the airport, you were still watching the baggage carousel. Was there an issue with your clubs coming in? And the other one is, if you suddenly were to start getting national TV commercial offers and things, are you willing to put the time and effort needed to sort of cultivate yourself as a personality to become a spokesman like a Phil Mickelson doing Ford commercials and making the rounds on the Letterman show and becoming an outgoing personality out there?

VIJAY SINGH: That really depends -- first of all, my bags did arrive. (Laughter.) It took a while, but it did get there.

Q. Were you worried for a while?

VIJAY SINGH: Oh, it was just -- I don't know, I just don't like losing my golf bag. I've never done it but I got it.

Secondly, yes and no. I mean, I think I present myself pretty well out there. But commercial-wise, that really depends on the sponsorships. If you get a lot of sponsorships and that's what they require of me to do, I will do it. But at the moment, with the contracts I have, I have not been required to do commercials like that. I'm not in a position to go out there looking for commercials and I'm not going to do it if they don't want me to do it. I've done it with Titleist and I've done it with Cleveland. Give it time, who knows. But I don't think it requires that much of my time. I mean, commercials, whatever Phil does, he does it in one day, Tiger does it in one day.

Q. Would you have fun doing that? It's one thing to do it because you've got to do it and it's another thing to do it because, hey, this is fun, it's easy to do and it comes naturally?

VIJAY SINGH: I guess so. I've enjoyed doing commercials. I've enjoyed talking to you guys when I'm in a good mood. (Laughter.) But after a bad round, I don't think anyone is in a good mood. But I enjoy doing it. I think I'm pretty relaxed, I don't know. I have no problem doing commercials and enjoying the company of whoever. I mean, it doesn't have to be media. I think I'm an easygoing guy. But you guys don't think so. (Laughter.) That's something you guys have to change around a little bit.

Q. Sure we do.


Q. Is there a commercial for the TOUR that's supposed to come out soon?

VIJAY SINGH: Yeah, I did that as well. I had a great time doing that, too.

Q. Do you have in your home, during this legendary practicing, do you have a set routine that you go through on a weekly basis, day by day, or do you just work on what you feel needs to be worked on?

VIJAY SINGH: I really think about myself as how I've warmed up. I warm up in the morning. I go and have a session with my trainer in the gym so I'm actually warmed up. I have a good program in the morning for the way I go to the gym and work out really hard. So I'm more warmed up.

But I have like an hour and a half on the chipping area, pitching chipping and all that. That's a given. I always do that before I go and hit balls. Then depending on the weather, it's been very cold in Jacksonville, so you try to hit balls and try to get warmed up that way.

But I go through the whole set of clubs. One day maybe odd numbers and one day maybe even numbers. That's the way I do it, go through the whole set of clubs and then assess myself what I need to do the next day, which club was working and which ones weren't working.

Q. Is there any sort of fixed amount of time?

VIJAY SINGH: Not necessarily, no. It used to -- used to do it all day but now it's probably three or four hours I'm hitting balls and that's plenty.

Q. I know it's hard to maybe assess another player's year, but that Ernie won three times last year and he's very close in the majors and maybe actually came out of the year fairly disappointed when it seemed like it was an awfully good season. Do you have any thoughts on his year and how he played?

VIJAY SINGH: I think he played really great. I mean, you know, especially in the majors, he had a chance to win pretty much all of the majors, he was in contention and going into the lead the last day except for the U.S. Open. But I think he had one of the better years. Besides me he had the next best season.

Q. I guess that's what I was asking, just as a follow-up, you know, when you win nine times like you did, is it even easier to ignore what everybody else is doing because you're just so focused?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, there's so much attention on you, week-in, week-out, all of the attention is on you. So I guess you forget about what's going on around you and you're more concerned about yourself and what's going on, what you're going to do that week.

So you kind of don't think about it. But the end of the year when you go back and look at the stats and see who did what, who finished -- you know, who had the most Top-10s and who had the most Top-5s, then you see all those other guys and they pop up. You know, it's a lot of other guys that played great golf last year.

Q. You've done pretty well over the years on this course without winning, last year second, the seven birdies in a row, how much confidence do you have on this course and is it time for you to get a victory here?

VIJAY SINGH: I hope so. I've played well today. I played well, good practice session today and yesterday, so there's a lot more grass on the golf course this year than I have ever seen it. So I think that's going to help I think on the greens, as well.

We'll just have to wait and see. Hopefully the weather gets a little bit more windier and not so calm like it is today. You just have to have a good start. I think once I get a good start in the first one or two days, we'll just have to see what happens on the weekend.

Q. A fair amount has been made over the last year about Tiger's swing changes. What does your trained expert eye see in the difference of his swing now versus a year or two ago?

VIJAY SINGH: I'm not a swing coach. You've got to ask Butch that. (Laughter.)

Q. That's funny.

VIJAY SINGH: Thank you, guys. (Laughter.)

End of FastScripts.

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