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March 14, 2007

Tiger Woods


Q. What did you think of the changes, specifically 16?
TIGER WOODS: Well, 16 played just like it normally does, long. We had a south wind so it's blowing a little bit, and you know, it's going to be -- you know what, just like it was when we played it as a par 5. You have to hit the fairway in order to hit the green. Now it just a par 4.

Q. How much of this tournament and the way it's conducted have you used maybe as a model for the events you already are associated with and how much of a model will you ask the organizing committee to incorporate into your D.C. event?
TIGER WOODS: I think this event, the Memorial, the World Golf Championships and Wachovia are the type of events you want to have. Great fields, great golf course always in wonderful condition and always a stern test, and that's what players love.

Q. We asked Arnold and he said he would never have permitted a tournament to be named after him while he was still playing. That may be too far in the future but what would you think of the idea of if somebody wanted to name a TOUR event after you?
TIGER WOODS: Hey, I'm still competing. So I have hopefully a few more W's before that ever happens.

Q. Some of your peers were vocal last week about the fact that a limited-field event is replacing The INTERNATIONAL. They were pretty vocal about it. Do you have any response to that; play better and don't worry about it?
TIGER WOODS: We're trying to put on the best possible field and best possible tournament we possibly can, and I think ultimately that's what we've decided on. Field size is still up in the air. It's not finalized yet. But we are certainly looking at a reduced field.

Q. Do you have a preference?
TIGER WOODS: Oh, I always liked reduced fields, because obviously play moves along a lot faster. You get around in a much more rhythmical pace. You know, I think that's important.

Q. What about size, do you have a preference of field size?
TIGER WOODS: Well, we're still working on that. That's something that, you know, as Tim (Commissioner Finchem) alluded to, we want to have it like some of the invitationals and some of the World Golf Championships.

Q. Just to follow up on that, a lot of the players as Damon was talking about, have some questions about limited fields, but yet they would be somewhat comfortable with the fact that while the limited-field events were all the same size, like a 132 number. Would you be in favor of trying to normalize them across the board?
TIGER WOODS: You know, that's a great question. I just think that when we get enormous field sizes like we do 156, you know, sometimes you have a hard time finishing, and if you have any kind of weather delays, you're definitely not finishing.
So ultimately, to be honest with you, a lot depends on the sponsors, what they want. This Tour is driven by the sponsors and TV, and that's what drives our Tour.

Q. Usually as guys get older, they start throttling back on the off-the-course stuff, you're kind of the reverse. When you were younger, you didn't have a lot of extracurricular stuff, you were not a big risk-taker; now jumping out of airplanes and shooting fish in the close vicinity of sharks and diving in caves and doing should things that I'm sure drive up whatever your Lloyd's of London premium is. What's your explanation for that? Why is the culture out here to sort of push the edge, and why have you seemingly gotten a little closer to that line has time has passed? You're married and have a kid on the way --
TIGER WOODS: That's a good question. I've done those things before. People just didn't know about it. The things I used to do as a kid, don't know how I'm still here. So I'm pretty ecstatic I've made it this far. You know, I've always pushed it because you don't know what the body can do unless you push it.

Q. You and your buddy, Federer, are going to be competing in the same town at the same time next week. Currently Roger has been telling a few people at least that you're going to make a few trips to Key Biscayne.
TIGER WOODS: I would love to try and catch one of his matches, if not two of his matches, yeah.

Q. What is it about Federer's play on the tennis courts that impresses you the most?
TIGER WOODS: It's sick. (Laughter) I mean, it really is. What he does, he makes it look so effortless, and it's not. The shots and the angles and the things he can create, no one in the history of the game has ever been able to do. I mean, it's pretty neat for all of us to be watching a living legend play. You know he's going to surpass Sampras's record. It's just a matter of when.

Q. When you two guys get together, do you compare notes on success, or what do you guys talk about?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, some of that, sometimes. Sometimes we may talk about mind-set that it takes, the discipline and the practice sessions, as well as the things you do off, for him off the court and off the course for me, to train and prepare. But a lot of the stuff is mainly BS. We're just giving each other a lot of grief all the time and it's a lot of fun.

Q. Do you pick up any tips from him, conditioning, anything in like that?
TIGER WOODS: What he does is different than what I do obviously. But still, I think the time spent away from competition is very important and what you do in that off time to prepare for the next event, I don't think people have any understanding of what -- truly what it takes to prepare.

Q. We're coming up to the anniversary of your first Masters win. It seemed like a long time ago or do you still remember everything that happened back then?
TIGER WOODS: It seems like forever ago. My buddies and I always kid, I live in dog years out here. It seems like forever. It's just hard to believe it's been ten years.

Q. What do you remember still most about that event?
TIGER WOODS: I think -- obviously winning. You know, whether you win by one or 12, whatever it is, I competed in my first major as a pro and was able to get the W.

Q. You're a competent guy, but after shooting 40 the front nine, did a 12-shot victory ever come into your thoughts?
TIGER WOODS: Oh, hell, no. I was just hoping to make the cut.
When I was -- you know, I just thought I might have peaked too early because the week before I had shot 59, shot a couple 63s and a 64, and I was playing really well. I get out there and I shoot 40. And then all of a sudden it turns around on the back nine.

Q. With the new configured Florida schedule, does this figure more -- does this tournament figure more into your Masters preparations? Obviously you're playing next week and this week, is this going to figure more into your Masters preparations?
TIGER WOODS: Basically this event was right before THE PLAYERS last time. So it was these two events in Florida before I played Augusta. It's basically the same schedule for me.

Q. You played Byron Nelson's tournament every year except for two, can you talk about what he's meant to that event and how strange it might be this year going there with him not being there?
TIGER WOODS: I think it's going to be weird for all of us. You know, Mr. Nelson was always there on the first tee, and it was one of the neatest treats I think if all of golf to have him there on the 18th green after you completed your last round, or even sometimes Saturday, to have him there, shake your hand, and I think that was one of the coolest experiences I think we as players have ever had.

Q. When people talk about your dominance an a golf course, they talk about Firestone and Torrey Pines and St. Andrews and Augusta; does Bay Hill belong in that?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I don't think it's as difficult as those golf courses.

Q. Places you own, so to speak.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I've played well at those golf courses. I think it's just what you feel comfortable in seeing. This golf course, you know, guys say it all the time; certain golf courses fit your eye. This golf course definitely does fit my eye.

Q. You've won it four times, but you also haven't broken 70 in like three years.

Q. You do know that?
TIGER WOODS: This week all I have to do is shoot under par and I do it. (Laughter).

Q. Do you have an explanation why it's been such feast or famine?
TIGER WOODS: I don't know, it's one of those weird things. As I said I feel comfortable on this golf course but for some reason I just haven't played well. I haven't put it together.

Q. What is it about this golf course that suits your eye?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it's hard to describe. I just don't feel, you know, uneasy on a lot of shots like you do on some golf courses, where you face certain holes and certain shots. Angles don't sit up right. The shape of your shots don't set up right. But this one certainly does.

Q. This is only your second stroke-play event here this year. You played in Dubai and you have one more next week. That's fewer than in the past heading into Augusta. Do you feel as prepared or will you be fresher going there?
TIGER WOODS: I'll be as prepared. Basically I'm one tournament shy of what I normally do. That was just because I didn't play Mercedes this year.

Q. How has the pro game changed since you played the '97 Masters? How much of it has changed simply because of what you've done?
TIGER WOODS: Well, at the time -- can we take it back a few more months before that? Because when I beat Davis Love in a playoff in Vegas, he was using a Persimmon driver. I had won the Masters in '97, I was using a 43-and-a-half-inch steel, and that was the norm with everybody. And now the norm is 45 inches. Nobody really used a solid construction ball. Everybody was still in wound balls. Some guys still had fairway Persimmon woods. The game has changed quite a bit. I mean, look at the head sizes, the length of shafts. Everybody is using graphite now. The average driving length on TOUR has gone up quite a bit.

Q. In the ten years since The Masters, besides your victories, what do you look back and think, "That is what I am most proud of, my impact on the game?"
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think I've brought a new look to the TOUR. What I mean by that are young kids that have never even thought about going to a golf course are now coming out and watching what we do out here and getting inspired by some of us playing golf and watching it on TV and getting fired up and participating in the great game of golf. As I've done junior clinics all around the country, I've seen more minorities playing the game, and I think that's pretty neat.

Q. There was a stretch in the 60s where I think Jack and Arnold won the tournament six out of seven years, and I think you and Phil are appearing ready to embark on a similar trading jackets type of thing. Do you see any reason for that other than they were both good, you guys are both good; is it the golf course, short field, explanation for short-period dominance?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it's usually when you catch the guys in their primes, and you have limited fields, as you said. And on a golf course in which, you know, you can utilize your short game. For us, Phil and I, are decent chippers and putters. That golf course obviously relies on that, creativity. I think that's one of the hallmarks of the golf course and I think what all of us love about it.

Q. Is it the easiest major to win relative to the other four in the test they present, given short field, same course, positive memories?
TIGER WOODS: It takes a lot more experience than people think to know how to play the golf course. You may get -- it hasn't happened I think only one time where Fuzzy won in '79, is the only time a first person has gone there and won. It just doesn't happen. That golf course, you have to learn it over time. Practice rounds, I was lucky enough where I was able to play practice rounds with all of the past champions, with Arnold, Jack, Seve, Raymond, Freddie, all of these guys invited me to come play with them as an amateur, and I would sit there and just pick their brain until they were crazy.

Q. Once you figure it out, is it the easiest?
TIGER WOODS: If you're playing well, probably, yeah.

Q. What you went through last year with your dad and not knowing for sure how long he would be there, I assume you're going to Augusta with a lot different feeling this year, knowing you were trying so hard to win for your dad last year?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, life is totally different. Last year I was not looking forward to when that day comes. This year in July, I'm looking forward to when that day comes. So it's a total 180 degrees.

Q. The fact that there are more minorities in the game coming up, even in '97 there was a feeling back then that you would also change the face or the color of the PGA TOUR and ten years later, nothing has really changed. Were those expectations to high or what's your take on that?
TIGER WOODS: No, it takes time. It's like a pyramid effect. You have to have a big base in order to have one or two get to the top. The bigger the base, the better your chances are.

Q. The fact that you're not coming back as defending champion like you were last year, does that have any effect on the way you feel coming to Augusta?
TIGER WOODS: Never. I love going to that golf course. I felt in love with it watching it on TV, and each and every year I go back, it's one of the greatest places we can ever play.

Q. Can you talk about Charles Howell over the last few months and his game?
TIGER WOODS: Well, Charlie has gotten -- a lot of it is confidence. Obviously he's worked on his technique. Technique has gotten better. Once you can prove to yourself that it works down the stretch, you know, then basically the lid is off. I think all of us have been waiting for that time to come and I think it's here.

Q. Were you in the rough today, and if so, how tough is it?
TIGER WOODS: It's tough. I was in there a couple of times today. If you get a downgrain lie, you might be able to get the ball to the green. If you get a ball that's into the grain, you're not getting it there. You'll have to rely on pitching and putting.

Q. At what point do you think you and some of the other guys will start to look more at the FedExCup points? Will it be a lot later in the season, closer to maybe within a month of those events? How do you think it's going to evolve?
TIGER WOODS: I think that a discussion will probably start heightening sometime around the PGA, maybe a little bit after the PGA. This is such a long season and there's so many opportunities to make points that -- and first of all, we don't know where the line is going to be because we've never experienced it before. So we are going through this blind just like you guys are.

Q. Do you think it will take a period of maybe years before the concept sinks in and takes over the consciousness?
TIGER WOODS: Probably. We don't know. We've never experienced this in golf before. As I said I think we're all just flying blind right now.

Q. Just wondering, are you antsy to win this tournament?
TIGER WOODS: You're always antsy to win every tournament you play in to win. I'm looking forward to and looking forward to the challenge this week and getting out there and hopefully shooting some good rounds.

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