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April 3, 2001
MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, we are delighted to have with us today Mr. Tiger Woods, proudly the 1997 Masters Champion, where he set 20 tournament records, including the 72-hole low score, the largest victory margin ever, and, of course, was the youngest winner of the Masters. Tiger, as we all know, has captured all four of the major World Golf Championships, and has 26 PGA TOUR credits -- TOUR championships, and victories to his credit. Tiger, we delighted to have you today.
TIGER WOODS: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Ladies and Gentlemen, questions, please.
Q. How much effort do you put into developing different types of iron shots for different courses and what sort of shots are you developing practicing for Augusta?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think obviously every golf tournament is just a little bit different. This golf course is different in the fact that you are going to have to be very conscious of your trajectory control coming to the greens. Probably not so -- the case has probably been made a little bit easier with the rain, but, obviously, with the practice round yesterday and today, before the rains came, the greens were pretty firm. You had to make sure you came in with the right trajectory and the right spin to hit the slopes, because if you are wrong on both of those occasions, you are going to get into some spots where it's just going to be extremely difficult to make par.
Q. How long have you been practicing specifically for Augusta?
TIGER WOODS: Probably since the beginning of the year.
Q. When you look back at last year's first round, what happened on 10 and 12 obviously, how many times have you replayed those holes in your head?
TIGER WOODS: I guess probably the only times I replay it is when people ask me. That's about it.
Q. A lot was made about your so-called slump this year, which consisted of finishing 13th at worst. But was there a lesson a little bit in the beginning of the year for you in that you cannot just turn it off and turn it on again as quickly as you might think you could?
TIGER WOODS: What do you mean by that?
Q. Just turn on your game and just not play for a while and just come out and slaughter the field?
TIGER WOODS: My problem is I think I played too much at the end of last year. I played eight consecutive weeks, traveled more than 27,000 miles on four different continents and that put a toll on my body. When I came out, I didn't feel as if I was appreciative enough. I didn't take enough of a break. I came out and I wasn't, unfortunately, as energetic as I should have been. That's not saying I wasn't trying. I was really trying, trying to play. But when your energy level is not quite what it should be, sometimes it is a little more difficult. I think that is one of the lessons I've learned, but the problem is, I had a lot of defending to do at the end of last year. It was kind of a catch-22 situation. But, I learned, and probably will make changes in the future toward that scheduling.
Q. Is your energy level back now?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah. Yeah. Totally.
Q. I know you've addressed this the last couple of weeks, but can you just talk about the dynamics of the Grand Slam, and before you went into this streak that you are in now, did you consider a Grand Slam all in your year any I know you've said, I think -- that you would consider it a Grand Slam if you won this week. Can you talk about what your feeling is on that and whether you think it should all be in one year?
TIGER WOODS: Obviously I'm got going to deny this, it is probably the hardest -- it is the harder way to accomplish a Grand Slam is in one year. There's no doubt about that. But I think if you can put all four trophies on your coffee table, I think you can make a pretty good case for that, too.
Q. Since 1997 since you have won here, do you feel overdue here, and what exactly --
TIGER WOODS: Nice question. (Laughs).
Q. Jack predicted that you would win 10, and in that case it would take you many years --
TIGER WOODS: That's just one of those things I tried and it just didn't work out. I've been in contention. I just can't won, and that's just part of playing a championship, especially majors. I think the key is to keep putting yourself there. You know, if I can keep putting myself there for the next, you know, whatever it is, 15, 20, 30 years, whatever it is, I'll win my share. And I will lose my share, too.
Q. Is it the putting or is it course changes or what exactly has been different since '97?
TIGER WOODS: Probably haven't hit it quite as good. Haven't quite made as many putts; hence, I didn't shoot 18-under par.
Q. You talked a minute ago about greens and locations of the greens and your putting. Obviously, you could hit the greens, have good iron play without putting well, but can you putt well without good iron play?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah. You can putt well, but it's going to make things a lot more difficult if you're not hitting the golf ball in the right spots. The year that I won, I had had -- I drove the ball beautifully, but I had really hit my irons into spots where I had uphill putts. I think that's one of the keys to this golf course is put yourself in those situations where you can be aggressive with your putts. It's not too hard to make 10- and 12-footers if you have them uphill all day, versus, 10- and 12-footers coming straight down the slopes. It's going to be extremely difficult this week, and I think with -- well, I think with the conditions being a little bit softer, it will make things a little bit easier, but I think you are also going to have to watch out for - if it stays this wet, you're play coming into the greens is going to be a little bit more difficult if you drive the ball in the rough.
Q. Not many years ago, when Jack Nicklaus was the best player in the world, if he would win a major and maybe three other tournaments in a year, we would say, "Another great year for Jack." And the expectations have changed with you. Maybe it was last year, but what do you think is the blame or the credit or who is the blame or the credit for the expectations, maybe getting a little bit out of hand? Was it us? Was it you?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I know that answer. (Laughter.) Don't look at me. (Laughter.) You know, I think a little bit is probably both. I think it's probably the best way to answer that. I have, the last couple years have played pretty good. I think it's -- I've said this before, I think when you are playing well, I think the media kind of blows that out of proportion a little bit, makes you seem like you are playing too good. And when you are not playing good they make you feel -- or I should say, sound like you are playing terrible. So, it is kind of a -- I guess it's both. I've had my successes over the past couple years, and obviously, you guys have used your words to your advantage. (Smiles)
Q. Going back to the Slam issue for a moment, you say if you win here it, it would be a Slam, and I know it is a delightful problem to have. Men like Arnie and Jack and Gary Player all say: No, it's not a Slam; you have to do it in a calendar year, the year 2001. Are those guys just wrong?
TIGER WOODS: I'm not saying they are wrong. Everyone is entitled to their opinion.
Q. Is it unusual for you to have different -- you generally are very respectful of the games' elders and here is a situation where you are disagreeing with them.
TIGER WOODS: Disagreeing and being respectful. There's no denying I've always been respectful of them and I always will. But everyone is entitled to their own opinion and their own views upon life, and obviously, my views are slightly different than theirs, which in no means will ever have any kind of disrespect connotation to it.
Q. At your peak last year, at your very best, where are you in relation to that?
TIGER WOODS: It comes in spurts. I'll play four, five, nine, 12 holes like I did last year, and I'll have kind of those off-holes. It's just not quite there, but it's good enough. I played really well at times last year, and a couple times just happened to be in majors. But am I close to that? Yeah, I am pretty close, and hopefully, everything will come together.
Q. What do you need to get you back there?
TIGER WOODS: I think a lot of it is just timing. Just getting the good feel going with your golf swing and putting stroke and short game. It's just, you know, we practice very hard. It's the ebb and flow of the game of golf. That's one of the reasons why we love to play is that challenge of it. You know what you need to do, and sometimes it's just tough going doing it.
Q. Would you bet on yourself at 5:4?
TIGER WOODS: Would I bet on myself? I believe in myself.
Q. The expectations are so high this week, and the sense of history, do you ever feel the burden of those expectations and the history you could possibly make?
TIGER WOODS: Do I feel the burden of it? No. To be honest with you, it is a special tournament, and we are here at the Masters, and that is very special. But, you know what, I guarantee you, come Sunday night, win or lose, life is going to go on. The sun will come up on Monday. It's just, you know, people obviously are excited about what could transpire, and so am. I'm eager to get out there and have some fun and play and compete. But it's not -- what I've learned from playing out here, it's not life or death. I enjoy competing and it is fun. Take it as that.
Q. Can you ever be too pumped up going into a week like this?
TIGER WOODS: Can I? I have before in the past, back in junior golf, and I've learned how to control that. Now, it's just a tournament. I'm prepared for it, and hopefully, I can play well.
Q. There's obviously a lot more hype, more scrutiny on you this year than there has been, but it seems as though you thrive under these circumstances, say as you did at St. Andrews and Valhalla? Why is that?
TIGER WOODS: I don't know, maybe it is just timing, that I've played well at the right time. I don't really know it if I feel as if I thrive on it. I enjoy -- you know me, I enjoy getting out there and competing and playing. The bigger the tournament, obviously, the more excited all of us are about playing in those events. I think that's one of the reasons why I've been able to play as well as I have in those events. I've been obviously playing well, but I'm also kind of excited and more focused.
Q. Are you aware of it? Are you aware of all of the eyeballs on you?
TIGER WOODS: Well, there's a lot of cameras out there, a lot of pictures. Looks like lightening is going off. Pretty freak storm. Here I think it is probably one of the easier events from the standpoint of dealing with the attention. Obviously, Augusta has its rules when it comes to the media on the golf course and people inside the ropes, and I think that makes things so much easier for us as players. It's just a lot more quiet out there to play, and I think that's one of the reasons why you've seen such special events in the past, is just because the guys are allowed to go out there and play.
Q. Do you play the Par 3 contest? Have you ever played it and are you going to?
TIGER WOODS: I play it every year.
Q. What do you think of that whole so-called --
TIGER WOODS: I think it's cool. I mean, I love it. I look forward to it every year, getting out there and playing. You know, this year, I've got a fantastic group again. I'm going out there with Marco and Notah and we are just going to hack it around and have some fun.
Q. During practice rounds, do you try to skip it across 16? Do you get caught up in the crowd?
TIGER WOODS: I don't think I'm going to play that shot in the tournament. (Laughter.)
Q. You talked earlier your energy level at the beginning of the year being a little bit down. Have you noticed that the players, this year, 2001, their level is up, and for you, is that a challenge?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I think some of the guys have really played well this year. I'm excited for them. Obviously, one of my buddies, Calcavecchia has played well and it's fun to see him do that, and some of the other guys have played well, as well. So, is that a motivating thing? Kind of hard to say it is, because, obviously, I have my own goals and my own expectations. Every time I enter a tournament, I try to win. So that has not changed. But it is fun to see some of my friends playing well. I think that's probably the biggest kick.
Q. As time goes on and the constant scrutiny and demands placed upon you off the course, does that diminish your love for what you do on the course, and just how do you deal with that?
TIGER WOODS: You know, I think with all of the, I guess, the things that I have to deal with off the golf course, I don't think that -- obviously, it is difficult at times. But, getting out there and competing and playing and challenging yourself to reach another level and hit good golf shots when you absolutely have to; that, to me, is the thrill of it. Obviously, there are responsibilities for being able to do that occasionally. I have to, obviously, deal with more things off the golf course because of that. But, I absolutely enjoy coming out here and competing and playing. I love it. I love to do that. It's just such a big kick for me, as a player. I mean, I love to be able to put myself in contention, coming down the stretch on the back nine and have to execute a golf shot, and your nerves are fluttering a little bit, eyeballs are beaten, palms are sweating, and it's fun to be able to experience that and somehow be able to control it and pull off a shot.
Q. And so you are saying that that never gets old with all of the things that you've done in that last few years, you still get that same charge?
TIGER WOODS: I do. That's why I prepare and play, and then practice at home, to try and get my game good enough so I can experience that more frequently, because it is fun.
Q. As you go for this 4th one now, in a row, what's different about this one is that you've won this championship on this golf course. How much of a factor and how much confidence can you take going back three years and saying, "Well, I know what I did on this golf course?" How much do you bring to this one?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think when -- if I can get myself playing well for, I guess, three days or whatever it is, going to the final round with a chance to win, just to be able to know and feel that I've done this before on this golf course, you know, that is an advantage. I guess that's one of the reasons I didn't think you see so many repeat winners here at this tournament, because you have to understand where to put it so you can give yourself the best chance of making par, or even birdie. That experience is just invaluable, and knowing the fact that you have done it before in the past, it's just something great to rely on. I've said it before, to myself, countless times in tournaments that I've won, "I've done this before." And it's even better when you can say that you've done it before on this golf course. When you can say that to yourself, it does make you feel a little more at ease.
Q. You frequently mention trying to peak four times a year. As you look across a particular year, what does that mean? How do you try to manage pulling that off?
TIGER WOODS: It's just exactly what it means. Trying to get your game peaking at the right time, where you are, I guess, hitting at all cylinders; you're striking the ball well; putting is good; mental approach to the game is good. Everything is just right where it needs to be. Is that easy to do? No. Do we do it? Every once in awhile. But that's the challenge of it all is to try and have your game at the level you want to have it when you want to have it. How do I go about doing that? To be honest with you, I think a lot of it is just by feel and experience. As a method, I go about doing and using, no. I just play and practice and feel what I need to do. Some days, it's -- I need to hit a whole bunch of drivers. Other days, I need to work on my short game. Other days I just need to take a day off and just think about my game. So, you just understand -- I've come to an understanding of what it takes for me to accomplish that, because I've done it before in the past.
Q. Around 90 percent of the time, the ball that spins back, which everyone gets so excited about, it seems to take away from your shot, especially here. There's no question that you can, but do you think of changing your stroke in some way to reduce the amount of backspin you put on the ball?
TIGER WOODS: Not really. Here, as I said earlier, I think it's just a matter of controlling your ball flight and your trajectory and using the slopes to your advantage. There are times when, yeah, you can spin it off the slope and use it to your advantage. Other times where it is a detriment. Each situation you have to play by feel and execute the golf shot the way you know you have to. If you do, you'll be all right.
Q. But you won't change the way you strike the ball?
TIGER WOODS: No.
Q. You mentioned peaking your game, with victories at Bay Hill and TPC, in your words, are you peaking now?
TIGER WOODS: I'm getting there.
Q. When you were having your trouble with your driver at Bay Hill, a couple erratic drivers, when did you start feeling good about it? And do you feel as good as you did last year?
TIGER WOODS: Actually, my driving has actually been pretty good. It's just a couple tournaments, I've kind of hit it -- my bad ones this year have been worse than they were last year, but my good ones have been really good, because I'm working on shaping the ball a little bit more and it's been fun shaping it the way you want to shape it and the trajectory you want it. Bay Hill, once I went to work on Monday trying to fix it, I felt pretty good about it by day's end, after a good, hard day of practice. I hit the ball -- I know what I was doing. It's just a matter of not doing it. When you are out there and you don't really have a clue where the ball is going to go, but you know what it can take to solve it, it's kind of hard to sit up there and trust it when you have to put a ball in play and there's water left, water right, rough, there's out-of-bounds, you see fans, you see trees, you see a whole bunch of different things. It gets kind of tough.
Q. If you win this week, you'll hold all four major titles. Do you really care whether people call it a Grand Slam or not? Is that getting too much attention?
TIGER WOODS: Whether it is or it isn't, it's not something I'm really concerned about. Just like -- I guess the best way to answer that is back in the summer of last year when I had an opportunity to complete the career Grand Slam, people were saying, yeah, if I win the tournament, I would complete the career Grand Slam. Well, yes, that is true, but my goal was to win the tournament, and if I win the tournament, obviously, that's completing the career Grand Slam is a bi-product of that. So that was my mindset and that is my mindset this week. I'm going to go out there just like I do every week and hopefully compete and win the championship. And if I do, then, you know, people say what it is.
Q. Does the terminology matter to you? Does it matter whether you are called the guy who --
TIGER WOODS: Not necessarily. I think it will be neat if the opportunity presents itself to where I can put all four at the same time, at least for however long before I return the U.S. Open trophy.
Q. Being a student of golf history, where would you put what you are trying to accomplish with say, what Bobby Jones did in 1930 or what Ben Hogan did in 1953, given their relative times and places and eras and what you are trying to do now?
TIGER WOODS: You know, that's a tough one to answer, just because it's -- you know, each situation was so uniquely different. Obviously, they were different players in their time and different circumstances. Obviously, what Bobby Jones did in 1930 was just absolutely incredible and what Hogan did in 1953 was incredible. Whether I do it or not, just to be able to say or to have people start saying those kind of things and compare it, that means I've done all right for myself.
Q. If the weather forecast is as projected, which means everything will clear up, will the rain we have today have any effect on the golf course?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it will.
Q. And in what way? Will it last throughout the tournament or just through Thursday?
TIGER WOODS: Well, depends on what kind of wind we get coming through here and what kind of temperatures and what kind of humidity. If it stays humid, obviously, the fairways will still stay soft and the greens will be receptive. If we get cool air coming through here just like we did last year, it dried up things on the weekend and made things pretty interesting.
Q. You've had some great come-from-behind-wins in your career, but mostly in majors that you've won, you've started off well and built from there. How critical do you think it is for you to get off to a solid start Thursday and will that at times maybe change your approach on certain shots, maybe not be as aggressive to just not shoot yourself out early in the tournament?
TIGER WOODS: I think any tournament, it is extremely important to get off to a good, solid start. But, there are certain tournaments where you can actually get away with getting off to a bad start, and that is generally in some of the tougher majors, because you know if you go out there and shoot back-to-back, good, solid rounds in the mid- to high-60s, you'll get right back in the ball game pretty quick. Whereas, in normal Tour events, if you shoot where yourself in the foot with a 75 or so, you'd better come back with some really low numbers to make up for it, because guys are just going so low. In major championships, it's a little bit different than that.
Q. There's going to be a huge worldwide audience for this, your fans all over the world watching. You've enjoyed going to a different country each year and you may go to New Zealand next year. What stage might be that and what did Steve Williams tell you to expect?
TIGER WOODS: Stevie has been in my ear about it and he has definitely told me about his auto racing that he does down there and I would maybe like to possibly catch one of his races. From what I've been told and seen in pictures, it's a beautiful country. I've stopped there in Auckland on my way to Australia to play in a tournament, but I've never stayed. Hopefully I can stay there and then visit.
MODERATOR: Tiger, thank you very much and good luck this week.