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April 9, 2002

Tiger Woods


BILLY PAYNE: Okay, ladies and gentlemen, we are delighted to have our defending champion, Mr. Tiger Woods with us. As you know, the winner of 30 PGA TOUR events, as well as the winner of the 1997 Masters tournament, where he established 20 tournament records.

Tiger, we are delighted to have you. And ladies and gentlemen, please, your questions.

Q. What do you think is the best hole out there now, and why?

TIGER WOODS: You know, you really can't say that one is better than the other because they are all so different. I mean, they are so unique in their own way. So I can't say there's one -- with the hole changes now, they are certainly playing a lot differently than they have in the past.

Q. Those 20 records you set, how many are safe?

TIGER WOODS: I don't know which ones I set.

Q. 72-hole score?

TIGER WOODS: 72-hole record, you're going to have to play really well in order to have that happen.

When I played -- well, '97, the greens were not that hard, not like they are right now. But we are going to get some rain, so that's going to change. But, yeah, they were holding and receptive, so you could be a little more aggressive.

Q. Could you just talk about the 18th hole, it looks like it's gone from being a birdie possibility and a spot where you could pick up shots to one brute of a finishing hole where I guess it's going to be just hanging on.

TIGER WOODS: It all depends on the wind. It's playing really short today. I hit 3-wood in the bunker there. It was whipping downwind. But if it's playing in your face, that's a different story. With the north wind, this golf course plays a lot different than this one we got right now.

Q. Everybody keeps talking about how power is going to be such a factor this week. Do you agree with that?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it helps to have distance off the tee, but you've got to be accurate. With the fairways now a little bit more narrower than they were last year, they even narrowed up a couple of fairways and placed some more trees here and there that that, you know, that you just can't see that they placed them there, but they put a couple new ones in here and there.

You know, the golf course definitely favors a guy that hits the ball further, but you have to hit the ball straight, too. You can't just bomb it away with the intent that any drive you can make birdie or par from like you used to in the past.

Q. Is recovery a bigger deal now?

TIGER WOODS: I think placing the golf ball becomes more of a premium again, in the greens, but more importantly off the tee. You have to hit the ball on the fairway in order to control the ball on the greens.

Q. With the changes, how is your strategy and game plan going to be different on certain holes? Is it going to be different on just the changed holes?

TIGER WOODS: It really isn't different. I hit the same clubs off every tee so far. It hasn't changed one bit.

Q. What's your mindset coming into this tournament compared to last year when it was on the hype and expectation of completing the Grand Slam? This year it seems to be a little different situation, how does that affect your approach?

TIGER WOODS: Well, it's a lot easier this year because I didn't have to answer the questions at every tournament site of the year leading up into the event. You know, I understood it, but it became a little bit on the annoying side. Just because it's the same question again and again, week after week. Granted, a lot of local guys just hadn't seen you, so they wanted to get the sound bite. And this year is different, there's no doubt about it.

But the talk this year is not going after four in a row, but it's the course changes.

Q. Do you feel less pressure this year than you did last year?

TIGER WOODS: To be honest with you, the mindset that I had last year was I treated this thing like I do any other tournament. I prepared for it and I just went out there and played. I put -- going for four in a row, I just wanted to win the golf tournament. If I won the golf tournament, then that would accomplish four in a row. I learned my lesson at the British Open the previous year. I said, I have a chance to complete the Slam at St. Andrews, but I said you know what that's irrelevant. Let's just go out and win this golf tournament and that takes care of it.

Q. If you successfully defend, who will put the green jacket on you? You would be the third man to do that.

TIGER WOODS: I don't know. That's a good question. You've got to ask these guys.

BILLY PAYNE: I don't know the answer to that.

TIGER WOODS: (Laughs). I don't really know what Nick did in '89 and '90.

BILLY PAYNE: We'll know immediately following this.

Q. This is the year the front nine is going to be shown more extensively on TV than in the past. Are there any interesting spots on the front that viewers will see for the first time and that will be entertaining?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, how hard it is.

The greens are so severe on the front nine. You've got 1. 1 is tough to start your day out, depending if the pin is on the left-hand side.

2 is a weird shape of a green, a couple little necks.

3, that left side pin. People don't see and can't appreciate how narrow that left side is over there because now it's actually domed, so any ball that's flag-high, it's outta here.

4, being so many different pins.

5 is just as moundy as 14.

And 6 you have that little shelf on the right and they have two pins up there. Sometimes you think there isn't enough room up there for two players and a caddie.

Q. Because of your win in '97, it brought so many new fans in to the game, and because of that, you are almost synonymous with this tournament now. Is there a special kinship in your feelings this week?

TIGER WOODS: It is. I think it's just special for anyone to play here, not only myself. What I've done in the past, you know, this golf course just felt really nice. It felt real comfortable when I got here and I played. First time when I came here in '95, it was just so neat for an amateur such as myself at the time, to stay in the Crow's Nest.

One of the great stories I keep telling everybody is that I remember trying to come downstairs and I lost -- I got lost my first night there up in the Crow's Nest trying to find my way down to the front desk. And I walked into the Champion's Locker Room and had not been in there before and didn't know if I was allowed in there, at 9:30 at night. And I was in there, looking at all of those lockers, and here I am, lo and behold, lockered up with Jackie Burke. So it's really cool.

Q. You were talking about what clubs you hit off the tees. What are you hitting into greens now, specifically like 1 and 18, are they much more difficult holes now?

TIGER WOODS: Let's see,1, I hit a little 8-iron in there today.

18 is blowing straight downwind.

Q. If it's not?

TIGER WOODS: If it's not, it's probably going to be between 5-iron to 7-iron, somewhere in there.

Q. What do you usually hit into 1?

TIGER WOODS: If it's just still and calm, on days like -- days where it's calm on 1 now, I would hit 8-iron. Before it would be either a wedge or a sand wedge.

And 18, probably between 8-iron through sand wedge, depending on if I cut it enough.

Q. What about 14?

TIGER WOODS: 14 was between like an 8-iron and a sand wedge. Now it's between 6-iron and about 9-iron. Depends on how much I turn it.

Q. Still 3-wood off the tee?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, for me it is.

Q. We asked David this morning what it's like, what the feeling was like on the back nine Sunday in terms of what's going through your head. He described it as an equal feeling between being sick and ecstacy, and he said if you said anything different, you would be lying. (Laughter.)

TIGER WOODS: (Smiles).

Q. Could you tell us what it was like here last year for you, as opposed to '97 when you had the big cushion?

TIGER WOODS: Oh, last year was -- it was -- you always heard about the roars at Augusta, but you could hear them up there in front of you. I knew David was making his run. There's not a leaderboard on every hole, so you have to wait a couple to see what's going on.

For instance, like on 17, I hit my tee shot down the left-hand side and I was blocked out by the tree and I hit over on the right side and kind of rolled off the green. Well, I heard the huge roar when I was walking up to my ball that David had stuffed it on 18, or else they would not have clapped that loud.

When I didn't hear anything after my chip and I was waiting for my putt when Phil was putting, I didn't hear anything and you know he missed it. It's just neat to hear the roars and the quietness, because you know what they are and you know who they are.

When I played here with Davis in '98, right behind -- actually right in front of Jack when he was making his run, we were backing off shot after shot because he's holing out on like 3, chipping in, fans are high-fiving each other, going nuts.

It's a really neat experience, but, yeah, David is right. You do feel that way. (Laughter.)

Q. Regarding 18 again, last year you go into it with a one-shot lead and you attacked it very aggressively. Is a one-shot lead a lot more perilous on that hole now?

TIGER WOODS: Well, if you had a one-shot lead, now it's a little bit harder to protect, there's no doubt about it. But if you're in the clubhouse and you're one back, you've got a little bit better feeling that you might get into a playoff than you did before.

Q. At the TPC, which was your last tournament, you didn't break 70, which for a lot of people wouldn't matter, I guess for you, and you weren't really pleased with your last round; you got it going right at the end. You've taken a two-week gap and you attended, I guess, your friend's wedding. Do you feel like in those two weeks you were able to get it going again?

TIGER WOODS: I felt like I was playing well at TPC, but I just -- I was just missing the mounds just a little bit, either side, instead of having 10- or 15-footers, I had these 40-footers coming up over these elephant burial grounds. It was just one of those weeks where I was just a little bit off, enough off, but I felt good.

I just tried to stick with that, stick with what I was working on, because I knew I was close. I played well at Bay Hill. I played well at TPC, but I was just a little bit off at TPC. Just keep working on the same things and I felt like the practice sessions I had at home were very, very positive.

Q. Were you actually in the wedding or just attending?

TIGER WOODS: Just attending.

Q. Tell us about this red meat bet with Jerry, and how all that came up and what did you eat in the meantime and why would you need to lose weight?

TIGER WOODS: I didn't want to lose weight. It was an attempt to let Jerry drop some lbs. So I volunteered myself.

Q. So you took one for the team, basically?

TIGER WOODS: I did, yeah. I did. I felt -- I still feel good. The bet is over, but I felt good during the -- during the bet. There were a lot of times of temptation, there's no doubt about it. Especially after a bad round.

Q. You seem like you're, aside from being who you are as a player, you're a fan of the game. With regard to John Daly, do you have an appreciation, he's obviously such a popular figure on TOUR, but an appreciation for him being back here and just trying to get things back to where it was for him?

TIGER WOODS: I think his story of coming back the way he has and devoting himself to the game, I think it's a great story, and it's great to see, because he is such a talent. Out here on the PGA TOUR, we certainly appreciate and certainly know that. I think all of the golf fans thoroughly enjoy seeing John back and playing well.

Q. He said he would love to come down the back nine with you. He feels that on Sunday that's what all of the fans would want to see.

TIGER WOODS: Me, too. I'd like to be in that position, as well. (Laughs).

Q. Mr. Palmer has hinted that this may be his final Masters. If he does hang up his cleats, your emotions of him not playing here; and secondly, is he part of the Masters as much as anyone?

TIGER WOODS: It's weird not having him or Jack playing here. Jack's not playing this year. Arnold thinking about hanging it up forever, that's just -- those two are the ones that really put the Masters, really, on the map, along with Gary, when they won just about every year for like ten straight years.

It's tough for all of us golf fans, but Arnold is certainly the King, and sometimes, you've just got to hang it up.

Q. Did the enormity of the accomplishment last year, did you ever really let it sink in, and if so when, and was it bigger than maybe you had even seen leading up to all of this?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it's definitely -- I definitely appreciate it more than I did immediately after I won. Because after I had won, it just -- I felt like I won the Masters, didn't feel like I won four in a row. I focused so hard on just winning this one tournament. When the tournament was over, it was like, oh, "Wow, I just won the Masters." But your mind does not go back and say, "Oh, I won three previous to that."

Certainly as time has gone on, and over the last year, looking back over the tapes and just watching it, I certainly appreciate it a heck of a lot more than, as I said, right after I won. I was too close to the situation in order to appreciate it at the time.

Q. Do you think these changes were necessary?

TIGER WOODS: I don't think they were as necessary right now, but I understand where they are coming from. The guys are getting longer and they don't want to see the winning score being -- I won with 16-, 18-under and they don't want to see it that low. They would much rather see it in single digits.

Q. What's the big deal if it's 16 or 18 or 15 as long as the guys who are playing the best that week win?

TIGER WOODS: I think the people here just want to see that. The Committee wants to see that. They don't want to see us hitting wedges to a lot of these par 4s where they used to hit 5-irons and 6-irons and 7-irons.

Q. Do you get a sense they could care less more about what the score is than what kind of club is in your hand?

TIGER WOODS: I think so.

But also, one thing I've continued to say, is that, granted, they have changed the golf course and put us back to where the players used to play from. But, you know, there's a differences now, too. The greens are a lot faster and a lot firmer. Now there's a first cut. Those two things didn't exist. The golf course used to play with wide open fairways and very little trees out there, and you just go ahead and wheel on and put it up on the green and try and get around. Now it's different.

Q. Is this a fair test?

TIGER WOODS: This is certainly a fair test, yes.

Q. A lot has been made about your chart of Jack Nicklaus's accomplishments when you were younger. How aware were you of Bobby Jones and his accomplishments when you were growing up, and have you read much in subsequent years about Bobby Jones?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I have read quite a bit about Bobby Jones after I started participating in the game, started understanding the game of golf.

Jack, at the time, was just on his -- outside of his prime year is when I started playing the game. At the time it was him and Watson and Trevino. Those guys were the big names in golf when I was growing up. Obviously, what he had done, everyone kept talking about it, and that's one of the things I looked up to and looked up to him and looked up to other players, but he was the best player that I knew of then, and now that I'm starting to appreciate the game a little bit more, he's the greatest player of all time.

Q. Jesper has given us all an early scouting report on your personal relationship and that's going great. Wondering if you could add to that and wondering what you plan on doing to thank him for that intro?

TIGER WOODS: I tell you one thing, I'm not going to throw a tournament down the stretch for him. (Laughter.)

Q. Was his report on the mark? Are things going well there?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I'm happy.

Q. Is there anything you could say --


Q. -- that anybody wants to know?

TIGER WOODS: (Smiles).

Q. I understand you're essentially here by yourself this year, no friends and family?

TIGER WOODS: My family is here. They come every year.

Q. Do you feel experience, having experience on this course, is more or less important with the changes now?

TIGER WOODS: Probably less. Just because a lot of the holes that you've seen visually in the past -- for instance this may sound ridiculous, but when I went on the putting green out there, what was it, yesterday, Monday, I was hitting some putts and I kept missing every putt. Because I knew all of the breaks on the putting green. I knew, okay, you threw a ball down here, this ball breaks three or four inches and that's easy.

Now you come here you've got to learn the putting green all over again, certain other greens. 18, for instance is completely new on the back and the front. Every year, they do something a little bit different and you've kind of got to get used to it.

I think visually that's where it's a big change, whereas if you had not seen it in the past that might be to your advantage. So you won't say, "Oh, yeah, we used to play up here; we used to walk up here."

Q. You've been very good at avoiding big-number rounds, even if you're not hitting the ball exactly the way you want to, putting up a 70 when it could have been a 75. Is it going to be harder for you and other players to do that now, if you're not hitting the ball well?

TIGER WOODS: Without a doubt. Without a doubt. Because the golf course is longer, obviously, more penal because you have longer clubs. But also, there's that first cut in there. Because we are hitting longer clubs, such as -- simple difference between 7-iron and 5-iron, out of the first cut, one you could have a chance to stop and the other one you have no chance to stop.

So, yeah, it puts a huge premium on driving the ball, and no matter who wins this tournament, their short game is going to be tested.

Q. Considering how things were last year coming into this, do you feel like guys have kind of maybe closed the gap on you a little bit this year compared to last year?

TIGER WOODS: I really don't know. I really don't know that one. They might have or they might not have, I don't know.

Q. Did you have to recover from exhaustion physically and mentally last year?

TIGER WOODS: Yes, I did. I wasn't physically exhausted, but I sure was mentally tired.

I got pretty sick after the tournament was over, and I felt that coming on Sunday. And a lot of that is due to having allergies and with the pollen out here and also stress what it can do to your immune system, it breaks it down pretty quick.

And obviously, any time in a major championship, you lose weight, a lot of different things happen. Bobby Jones used to lose 10 to 12 pounds per every major, so it does happen.

When I won last year, on Monday I had a 104 temperature, just kind of laying in bed, just trying to recover.

Q. Have the number of risk/reward situations increased, diminished, stayed the same?

TIGER WOODS: I think there's more risk than there is reward.

Q. Caught up in the moment out there, how thin a line can it be between being courageous and just stupid?

TIGER WOODS: Pretty close. It's a very fine line. Especially here at this golf course. I like listening to some of the commentary sometimes -- sometimes. (Laughter.)

And hearing, you know, "He's got such and such a shot; if he pulls it off, it will be a great shot and if he doesn't pull it off" -- they set themselves up for saying that. And the guy pulls it off, "Oh, what a great decision that was."

You're going to hear that a lot out here, because there are going to be some shots that are going to be really different and really funky, and guys are going to have to play.

A good shot used to be in there 10, 12 feet or less. Now sometimes a good shot is going to be 20 or 30 feet. I hope some of the fans, and you guys appreciate that, because that's going to be a lot different than I think what it used to be in the past.

Q. In regard to your historic pursuit of Nicklaus, one rung at a time, going up year after year, he was able to keep his zeal preparing for major championships until his body started giving out on him. Is that something you look at and you can say, "Definitely, I will be able to do that, I'm going to try to do that?" At this age, where are you in that mindset?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I don't care what age you are, I would love to do it. There's no doubt about it. I would love to be able to prepare mentally and physically for every major championship the way I have in the past. Certainly continue to do that until my body breaks down.

Q. So you don't see any diminishing?

TIGER WOODS: I don't, no. I thoroughly enjoy playing these majors because it's the challenge -- the golf course will be a lot more difficult. You know you always have the best players in the world attending.

Q. How long do you think it will be -- or would you be surprised if you don't win this year, or if the person you put the jacket on this year will be younger than you? And what do you think about the caliber of the players in their early 20s right now?

TIGER WOODS: There's a lot of good, solid young players out here.

Am I young or not? (Laughter.) Average?

Q. Older.

TIGER WOODS: Tour vet, right?

Q. Seasoned.

TIGER WOODS: Seasoned? Am I seasoned yet? I'm not grizzled yet, though. (Laughter.)

But there are a lot of good players out here now who are 25 and under. I think that's great for our game, because it's that new section of players, every generation, and that's a new generation right there. They hit the ball a long ways. They have wonderful talent and their fundamentals are pretty sound. I think that's the wave of the future. These new young players hit the ball a lot further, because they have grown up doing it.

The teachings have changed, instead of getting the ball in play first and learn how to hit it, now it's hit it as far as you can and we'll straighten it out later. A lot of these kids bomb it away now. Charles Howell, he's not heavy, but he hits it a long ways. I think that's just what you're going to see from a lot of the young players coming up behind these guys.

Q. It has been said that before the changes there were four make-up holes on this golf course. How many make-up holes are left after the changes?

TIGER WOODS: There are not a whole lot. Normally I would say the par 5s, you have a good chance of playing them 2- to 3-under par every day. The way it was, the four par 5s, if you played it 2- or 3-under par a day, you felt pretty good about it.

Now, I think that's changed. If you're playing just under par, I think you've done well. I think the mentality certainly changed and the shots that we are going to be hitting on, let's say, 8, off the tee now, we are going to be playing a little further left, which they want to see. As well as 13, we are playing a little further back now, which for our second shots makes that slope a little steeper and hitting a long iron, if not lumber into that green, and that's not what that green was designed for. It's going to be, certainly, a challenge.

Q. You mentioned Charles Howell. He likes to stand out on the golf course; would you ever be caught dead in any pastels on the golf course or away from it?

TIGER WOODS: That's just not part of my persona. (Laughter.)

Q. You talked in the past about watching Masters videos and highlights leading up to the tournament, how much is that preparation and study, and how much is that anticipation and excitement for the most important part of the season?

TIGER WOODS: I used to be able to do it because the golf course never changed that much. In the past three or four years, they have changed it quite a bit. You can't quite look at the holes on TV the way you used to be able to, and pick apart some of the -- your green reads. That doesn't happen anymore, because these are all new golf courses, new holes for us.

For instance this year, there are some new holes and new greens, new breaks and we have to learn them all over again.

Q. Question about David Duval. Why do you think it is that he has not gotten over the hump here and what does it take for a player to do that?

TIGER WOODS: Luck. I'm not joking. You've got to have some luck. You can't afford to make mistakes down the stretch, but you've got to have some luck.

David has put himself in position, and either other players have just beaten him, or he made a couple mistakes here and there. That's just the nature of the game, but the key is to keep putting yourself there. And if he keeps putting himself there, he'll get his green jackets, certainly.

Q. All of this emphasis on distance, could you talk a little more detail about the third hole which sits at 350 and plays as tough as any on the golf course?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, because it's not exactly a small target you're firing at up there. The green runs away from you, and from right-to-left. You've got to -- for a pin anywhere on the right side, for me as a draw player, who likes to work it from right-to-left, it's kind of weird trying to cut a sand wedge in there, but that's what you have to do in order to try and hold the slope. You've got to try and hit a little cut in there.

The one on the left side, when I first played it, I remember in '95, the pin was kind of middle -- middle left. It wasn't all the way over on the left-hand side. It was kind of middle left and I asked my caddy, I said, "That pin is not on the green, is it?" It did not look like it was on the green. I had never seen it. We had not seen it on TV before. First time I played it I swore it was not on the green. And when I had to play it in the tournament, I definitely swore it was not on the green. (Laughter.)

But it's certainly a challenge. You have to hit a precise golf shot. Before, I remember Raymond told me that when the pin is on the far right, just go ahead and fire it in the gallery on the left. (Laughter.) Off the tee, just go ahead and hook it, because there's no rough over there and you have the perfect angle.

All right. (Laughter.) Now the fairway over there is no longer fairway; it's the first cut, and that's certainly changed.

BILLY PAYNE: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you. Tiger, thank you, and good luck.

End of FastScripts....

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