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January 31, 2007
DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
SCOTT CROCKETT: Tiger, many thanks for coming in to join us as always. It's always a pleasure to welcome you to Dubai especially as defending champion, and after last week at the Buick another fantastic performance. Just start us off with thoughts returning as defending champion.
TIGER WOODS: It's great to be back. This has always been just a fantastic event, fantastic field. Again this year, they have the golf course in perfect shape. It's going to be I'm sure some pretty low scores out there considering how good the greens are. Really looking forward to getting out there and competing tomorrow.
SCOTT CROCKETT: And your own self, you traveled over from America. Is the jet lag okay, are you ready to go?
TIGER WOODS: I need some food, I'm really hungry. Other than that, I feel great. Usually takes me a day or two to get over it, and I'll be all right.
SCOTT CROCKETT: How did you enjoy today and how did you find the course?
TIGER WOODS: Basically just go out there and entertain the guys that's what you do. Just try to take a look at the golf course, the golf course is in fantastic shape. The greens are perfect. So I foresee some of the guys shooting pretty good scores this week.
Q. Tiger, it's another fantastic start to a year for you, and 12 months ago you went through something similar, how much stock do you put on yourself to getting off to a flyer, if you like?
TIGER WOODS: It's always great to win early in the year, especially prior to Augusta. It's always nice to get a W under the belt and always gives you some good, positive feelings headed towards April. So off to the ideal start so far.
Q. Is that something you genuinely sort of work on mentally when you have taken your break; you sort of identify getting off to the hot start?
TIGER WOODS: No doubt about it. You always want to come out and play well in the first event. Generally playing in the Mercedes Championship, it's a limited field; it's a little bit easier. But last few years I've played in Buick, full-field event, that's a little harder. But still good to get off to a good positive start, which usually means a pretty good West Coast swing, and then head into Florida and up towards Augusta.
Q. Some players would see early-season tournaments as almost playing themselves into the season, sounds from what you're saying that when you enter a tournament, you're ready to try and win it regardless of when it is in the year.
TIGER WOODS: That's what you're supposed to do. (Smiling).
Q. I saw that you're designing a course, you're involved in designing a course here in Dubai. I was wondering during this visit whether off course, if you have things planned, if you have any other business opportunities here or off-the-course things, just some impressions about the Dubai and how it's changed and perhaps how the course might be a little different after they have torn it apart and put it back together this year.
TIGER WOODS: Well, as far as the golf course, yeah, I'll probably go out to the site and do another visit out there and take a look and go over a few things. I've got a couple meetings here and there but real light.
As far as this golf course, it's changed, to the golf course, but just the skyline has changed quite a bit. I first played here in 2000 I think and I believe there was two towers where we tee off and that was kind of the driving window and there was a Hard Rock Cafe and that was it. It's changed a little bit since then. It looks like a New York skyline now. It's pretty impressive what they have done in such a short span of time.
Q. You say that you're looking forward to Augusta; how often do you think of Jack Nicklaus's major record?
TIGER WOODS: His is the benchmark in our sport, winning 18 is something that hopefully if you're lucky enough or over a lifetime in your career to have played, that you can come close, tie, or even surpass if you're lucky enough.
Took him a long time, and figure it's going to take yourself a long time as well if you're lucky enough to get there.
Q. Last year, you termed the 18th hole a very foggy hole and it seems they have made some changes and pushed the tee back about 15 yards. Did you play off the new tee, and what do you think of the hole now?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, we played off the new tee. Still an interesting tee shot. The fairway still runs away from you, so if you get it going downwind, it becomes pretty difficult to try and hit that fairway. Everyone's got to deal with it, everyone's got to play it and you know that going into it, and you've just got to try to do the best you possibly can.
Obviously it's a hole that's going to be very key to win the golf tournament. You have to play the hole well to win the golf tournament. You've just got to go ahead and commit to a shot and execute.
Q. Everyone else who has been in here has talked about you and the problems of trying to overtake you in this tournament. How much do you think about your opposition, or do you just concentrate totally on yourself?
TIGER WOODS: I worry about myself first. I see where I stack up going into Sunday and then you start looking around at what's going on. But there's 72 holes, and I have a lot of things I need to take care of before I start thinking about anybody else.
Q. Congratulations on your impending fatherhood.
TIGER WOODS: Thank you.
Q. If you do have a boy, who would he play for in the Ryder Cup?
TIGER WOODS: Born in the States.
Q. Is that a unanimous decision?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, born in the States.
Q. A year ago, I remember asking you in Shanghai about Arjun Atwal, and a few months back, you played another of the top Indians, Jeev Milkha Singh in the first three rounds. Can you give us some impresses, you've now played with all of the top Indian players, something that you've heard from them and your impressions on Indian golf and the way it's going?
TIGER WOODS: I think it's progressed dramatically to see how well they have played and just the quality of play. I think it's fantastic that they are playing that well and playing well at the same time as well. So it's fantastic for all of Indian golf.
Q. Do you think that we should have a world tour?
TIGER WOODS: A world tour? I guess we kind of do and kind of don't. We all have our little areas which we play and support, but then again all of the players play all around the world as well.
Q. And what's your thought on the new format of the PGA TOUR with the end of the year swing?
TIGER WOODS: It will be interesting to see what happens. You're asking a lot for the guys to play, especially for the Americans to play, and also the international guys, because we are playing seven out of nine, basically, with the Presidents Cup after The TOUR Championship. So we'll see how the guys' bodies hold up towards the end of the year. Usually that's a time when guys start not playing as much after a long season and then it starts ramping up.
So it will be very interesting to see because no one knows. We've never done this before.
Q. Did they ask for your advice at all? Did they have a player input?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, they asked, and you give your opinions.
Q. And what was your opinion?
TIGER WOODS: On what? Be more specific. (Laughing)
Q. On this heavy schedule at the end of the season when you say that people's bodies, your needing to rest?
TIGER WOODS: It's going to be hard. You may not see all of the guys play. Guys fight injuries all the time. If you're asking the guys to play seven out of nine in a condensed schedule like that at the end, you could see guys miss because of injury. A lot of guys have been hurt already this year so it will be interesting to see how it turns out toward the end of the year.
Q. When you didn't play The TOUR Championship at the end of last year and you didn't play the Mercedes at the start of the year, you took a bit of hammering in the press and from the PGA Tour officials, who also expected to you play these events. How do you cope with such expectations, and what is your reaction when you hear things like that is this?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I understand that, I totally understand that. People want to have you play their tournament and support their events. I decided not to play this time around.
Last year was a long year, and it was a year I just wanted to just kind of tone down and get away from a few things and settle down. It's just one of those things where I wasn't ready to play early in the year. My Target World Challenge moved back another week closer to Christmas, so you don't really have a big break there and I wanted to take a little longer break and enjoy the holidays before I start practising and getting ready for the game again.
Q. A good friend of yours is playing in Europe this year, Notah Begay, who has been through a hard time with injuries. What can we expect from Notah and have you given him any advice?
TIGER WOODS: Well, he and I practised quite a bit at home. He came down right before he left for Abu Dhabi.
He's been through a lot, with the injuries he's had to battle through. He's finally after about six years, finally feeling healthy. Notah has a lot of talent in the world and he's one of the best putters I've ever seen. Just give him a chance to play healthy for a year and I know he's going to have success.
Q. Is it a good move to come to Europe?
TIGER WOODS: It's a great move to come to Europe without a doubt.
Q. Going back to the scheduling, everyone always wants a bit of Tiger, whatever day of or week of the year it is, do you think once the baby is born, do you think you'll ease back on your schedule?
TIGER WOODS: I don't know. That's one of the things that I don't know what's going to go on because I've never experienced that before. So we'll see how things go and plan accordingly from there.
Q. You can never answer everyone's requests, can you?
TIGER WOODS: No.
Q. Just want to get your reaction to the announcement by the R&A that they are going to ban mobile phones at the Open.
TIGER WOODS: Fantastic.
Q. And, any other comments?
TIGER WOODS: No, just fantastic.
We got put on the clock because of it. You know, it was frustrating because we were trying our best to play arrhythmic round and try to keep up with the group in front of us and we couldn't, we kept backing off shot after shot after shot because of the phones.
Q. Is it fair to say that of all of the four majors that that experience at Carnoustie was the worst?
TIGER WOODS: Liverpool. Yes, without a doubt. The best experience you'll ever have is probably Augusta because they don't allow that to happen there.
Q. You've obviously had many hot streaks before this run of seven wins there you're on now; is this the most confident that you feel?
TIGER WOODS: I feel good. I certainly feel good about where I'm headed, the understanding I have of my game and the swing. Just feel very excited about the future of improving and getting better.
Q. Just two related to South Africa. Obviously they have produced some very good golfers in the past, what do you think of young Trevor Immelman, and will you ever play Sun City?
TIGER WOODS: Well, Trevor has got all of the talent in the world. I've seen the improvements he's made in his game and the changes he's made. He's made great strides. He's hitting the ball fantastic. He's made some adjustments on his putting and he's been so much better. It's just a matter of time before he starts winning a lot. He's won all over the world, and I think he's headed the right direction quickly.
As far as playing Sun City, I don't know.
Q. Just out of left field, late last year in Australia -- inaudible -- cricketers retire at the peak of their career, and you know you can play golf longer. If you do go past Jack's record, will there be a time when you say, 'I've done it,' hang up the clubs and retire, or will you still keep playing competitive golf?
TIGER WOODS: No, Bernie, it's pretty simple for me. I'll retire from this game when my best isn't good enough anymore, period. I couldn't handle it if I go out there and prepare and play my best and it's not good enough anymore. There's no reason to play anymore. At least out here. At home, different deal.
Q. Can you talk about the impact of the advances in technology and training compared to when you started and where you are now?
TIGER WOODS: Oh, geez, I grew up with Persimmon woods. So it's changed a lot. Even just from being on Tour the last ten years, it's changed dramatically. The golf ball is going so much further. Less side spin, the shafts are longer, lighter, the heads are bigger, faster. Guys are hitting the ball just unreal distances. The average cut now has probably gotten better by maybe two or three shots per event.
Q. Has the training made a difference?
TIGER WOODS: It has, there's no doubt about it. I think that golfers in the past didn't treat golf as a sport. You know, some of the guys who have had sporting backgrounds have come from other sports, certainly treat it as that, and I think that's where you've seen the difference in the evolution of our game.
Q. Ernie Els has a three-year plan to catch you as you must have heard. Do you have any tips for him? (Laughter)?
TIGER WOODS: Well, keep improving because I'm going to do the same.
Q. Can I ask you a general sports question, whether you're a soccer fan and whether you've taken any interest in David Beckham signing to play in the States, and are you interested in going and seeing him?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I like to watch. As far as me following soccer religiously like people over here do, no. I'm more of a basketball/baseball/football kind of guy.
Q. The U.S. sports picture is so crowded, is there room for another star, do you think that's enough interest generally?
TIGER WOODS: No doubt about that. I think Los Angeles, we've lost basically two football teams there, the Rams and the Raiders moved out. Now we're looking for something else, and I think with David's star power there, I think it will bring another notch and another thing for all of us in southern California to come out and watch and observe.
Q. Are you a Galaxy fan if you follow anybody's results?
TIGER WOODS: Well follow, that's the thing. You watch but you don't really follow. As I said, I'm more of a baseball, football and basketball.
Q. Have you set yourself any specific targets in terms of majors and Tour events to win this year, or do you take one at a time?
TIGER WOODS: It's very simple. Whatever tournament I enter I'm going to try and win it, plain and simple.
Q. Just going back to David Beckham, have you actually met him?
TIGER WOODS: I never have, no.
Q. But you've seen him in action?
TIGER WOODS: Correct.
Q. Are you happy with the Ryder Cup format?
TIGER WOODS: Well, if we keep losing like this, no. (Laughter).
No, it's an incredible format, and it's a lot of fun to play in. You know, the atmosphere is just fantastic. It's just that we've been on the losing end too many times. You know, who knows, maybe Valhalla we'll finally get a win.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Okay, Tiger, thanks as always for your time. Good luck this week.
End of FastScripts