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January 23, 2008

Tiger Woods


JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, Tiger, for joining us for a few minutes here in the media center at the Buick Invitational. Welcome back to the PGA TOUR, first week out, and you're very comfortable here with five wins here at Torrey Pines. Talk about your break a little bit and how you feel coming into the week.
TIGER WOODS: Well, I feel good. The break was nice. It was nice to get away from it for a little bit, and to practice and play and stay at home for a little bit was kind of nice. Usually during that period I'm always overseas, so it was a little different. It was nice to be at home with Elin and Sam and to have fun.

Q. What did you work on conditioning-wise? I know you said during the break you were going to pound it pretty hard. What is your conditioning level relative to ever before and how does that factor into your confidence level coming into this year? Your confidence looks pretty high.
TIGER WOODS: Well, I'm certainly stronger. I can't run five-minute miles like I did in high school, but everything feels pretty good. It's just a matter of getting out there and competing again. I've done all the stuff earlier and now have been playing and practicing to get my speed back and just really looking forward to teeing it up. Playing money games back home isn't quite the same thing.

Q. Can you quantify stronger, what you've been doing specifically?
TIGER WOODS: It's everything. It's not just one thing, no.

Q. Throwing more weight around?
TIGER WOODS: Not necessarily.

Q. What's the condition of the course? Does it look like a U.S. Open course, and what's the difference going to be?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it's not -- well, the fairway lines are set up I think how they're going to be in June. The rough is spotty. It's deep in some places and in some places you can hit 3-wood out of there.
But I think -- I don't know if we're going to play the tee box back there on 13 or not. We saw it behind the fence. That certainly will be interesting when it's raining out here. But I think that overall the lines are slightly different but not by much. I don't think we're going to play No. 6 as a par-4 this week. We'll play it back. But other than that the greens are going to obviously change quite a bit between now and the U.S. Open.

Q. As part of that Kelly Tilghman situation, some commentators have called for you to be more a social activist, more outspoken on social issues. I was just wondering what your reaction to that expectation being made of you is?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I am. I am socially active every day of my life, and that's with my foundation, what I try to do with kids. We bust our tails to try and give as many kids the opportunity to better their lives and go to college and teach them how to lead and give back. That's my directive, that's my focus.
I know there are people who want me to be a champion of all causes, and I just can't do that. This is not the first time this has happened. But I just know that what we're doing with the foundation right now has been pretty good, and we're looking forward to growing it globally and moving on from there.

Q. I wanted to know, you said a few days ago that you had spoken with Kelly and that you thought the incident was behind you. I was wondering -- my question is twofold. Number one, what was your reaction to the Golfweek cover, and how much do you think that escalated the entire incident?
TIGER WOODS: I thought the incident was pretty much handled and was over. I talked to Kelly. We discussed it for a little bit. She felt extremely bad about what had happened. As I said earlier, she's been a great friend over the years, and everyone makes mistakes, and she certainly regrets what she said and what happened.
The Golfweek article, obviously the cover itself, just perpetuated it. It was over and handled between us, and we had moved on from it. But unfortunately Golfweek did what they did, and from there it created more of a firestorm.

Q. You've seen Torrey over so many years. Is this the best condition you've ever seen it in?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, probably this and the year that they first redesigned it. Was it four years ago, something like that? Five years ago? Yeah, probably these two years were probably the best in shape, yeah.

Q. We've heard you talk a lot about Jack over the years and obviously chasing his standards, and as you know your next win will tie you with Arnold Palmer on the all-time list. I'm curious, what are your thoughts about Arnold's legacy in the game, any stories or thoughts about interaction with him, maybe at Augusta?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, well, Arnold and I have had a lot of great talks and some dinners together. He's been always there as an ear that I could always go to and turn to. Certainly I've done that. Early in my career I was out here and didn't really know how to handle things all that well. Obviously he's the best that's ever been at dealing with situations out here on TOUR.
You know, he taught me a bunch. It's always been nice to have that. He's told me a lot of good stories, and obviously I can't repeat them here (laughter).
Arnold has been just a -- obviously he's the King. He is the greatest at just -- so much fun to be around.

Q. Looking into The Masters, this is the tenth year that the second cut has been part of the golf course. Can you talk about its impact, if you think it's made the course more difficult or easier or more interesting?
TIGER WOODS: Say that again?

Q. The second cut, do you feel it's made the course more difficult or has it altered it compared to how the golf course played prior to that with no second cut of rough?
TIGER WOODS: For the U.S. Open?

Q. For Augusta National.
TIGER WOODS: Oh, for Augusta, okay. It changes. You know, the trees don't come into play like they used to. Balls used to -- borderline shots, like No. 1, pulled tee shots on 2 used to run into the trees or the creek. Now they get held up by the rough -- I'm sorry, second cut (smiling). It makes it play easier in that sense because you don't have to deal with the pine straw or the trees.
But then again, you do catch fliers out of that, and fliers coming into those greens is not what you want to have happen. You want to have as much spin as you possibly can and be able to control your shots.
I think it would play harder now if they took away the second cut because they've already narrowed the golf course down by planting more trees and making it more narrow. A lot of the fairways are tilted, so take the second cut out and balls are running into the trees and pine straw and I'm sure it would be a more interesting test.

Q. You wrote on the website that you thought the Grand Slam this year was within reason. Is that due to the confidence in your game and your swing going into this year or the venues, your familiarity with the venues, or all of that?
TIGER WOODS: I think it's the development of my game over the years. For most of my career I've won more than four tournaments per year, and all I have to do is win the right four, and I've done those a few times. I think if you put it all together, have luck on your side, all the stars will line up, and it certainly is possible. A couple years ago I came within four shots of at least being in a playoff -- winning or being in a playoff on all four, so yeah, I think it is possible.

Q. The South has been kind of characterized as this long, slow, straight grind. How much shot-making is out there? Shot-makers have won it four of the last five years. How much shot-making is out there and how much more will be out there for the Open?
TIGER WOODS: I think trying to get up there for some of these pins is going to be a little more interesting obviously with the rain coming in, and it's going to play long.
When the greens get firm like they did the first year of the redesign, that's when you had to truly shot-make. Look at the guys on top of the board, O'Meara, Olazábal, guys who know how to work the golf ball, great short games. That's very similar to what we're going to have to do during the U.S. Open. You have to be able to move the golf ball, be able to place it, lag putt really well.
But I think that shot-making is now more apparent. You have to do it more here now with the redesign than you did before. Before it was just a driver out there, a 9-iron or a wedge at every flag and try to shoot 20-plus under par. It's not going to happen.

Q. The enjoyment of spending your first Christmas and new year with your daughter, I just wondered if that had led to you being able to switch any golf goals for the year to come.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it did. Spending it with -- my mom came down to Florida and we just got away. I didn't hit any balls over that stretch. We just hung out. It was nice to actually get away from it for a little bit, for that little stretch like that and just shut it off. Since I wasn't going to go to Kapalua I could actually take that week off and not have to practice and get ready for the first week of the year. I could wait another week.

Q. When people talk about the rotation this year for the majors, everyone knows Augusta and Torrey and Birkdale. Oakland Hills seems to be somewhat of the mystery in this mix, and really the only times you played it was as an amateur, either with a partner or when your game was really at its low point in this decade. What do you see about Oakland Hills and how should we write that it fits into your grand scheme of things?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I like Oakland Hills. I liked it when I first played there in '96. I didn't like the way I finished the first round (laughter); I'm still playing 16. But when we played there in the Ryder Cup, I liked the golf course. I don't think the PGA is going to quite set it up like it was in '96, but it's still going to be quite a test.
Those greens are the key to that golf course. You've just got to figure them out. I think that's when you're going to have to spend a little bit more time in the practice round in preparation trying to figure it out, just like we did for Oakmont, spend a little more time trying to figure out those greens. That's the defense of that golf course. Is it long? Some holes are long but not overly long. You've just got to be able to place the ball on the greens properly and hopefully putt well that week.

Q. Last year the North Course was statistically the easiest course on TOUR, and of course you have the South Course. I was wondering if you could acknowledge and discuss the different plans of attack and mindset on those two. Secondly, I don't know if you've heard, your thoughts on how they fixed the FedExCup, and there's going to be basically a bye week in there and whether you think that's going to fix the problem, have 100 percent attendance at the tournaments?
TIGER WOODS: I think the first part of your question, the North Course here is -- you've got to shoot low. You have to be aggressive. But they added a couple new tee boxes this year on a couple par-3s, made them a little bit more difficult.
You know, it all depends when you catch the North Course. If you catch it with no wind, I mean, you can just tear that place apart. You figure the scoring average is probably going to be 68 for the field on the golf course with no wind. Some guys go hot like Brandt did last year, that's possible on this golf course. With the greens being soft, fire at every flag, get rolling, it's just a matter of poa greens obviously are -- some balls bounce in and some bounce out. Sometimes you get those soft greens and everything goes in.
You see a lot of guys shoot in that range between 3- and 7-under par. You see a lot of guys right there. So you have to take advantage of the North Course. You have to go low. You know if you don't shoot something in the 60s you're going to get lapped.
As far as the FedEx question, I think that it's a good change, considering that the Ryder Cup is a big week, and I don't think that the Commissioner would want to be responsible for wearing out the guys that are going to be on the Ryder Cup team. If we just so happen to lose, I don't think it would have been good. So it'll be nice to have the guys get some rest, get ready to play and obviously go to the Ryder Cup, hopefully win it, and then for the guys who made the TOUR Championship, head on down there.
I think it's great because as you play the three weeks in a row, we've got that bye week, but it still has the continuity going into the TOUR Championship. You have the Ryder Cup obviously buildup, but nothing is played in between. It's just the same guys that you saw a couple weeks ago. You never take any of the buildup that you have for the first three playoff events going into the TOUR Championship. They're probably more enhanced now that you have the Ryder Cup and the dead week.

Q. Have you ever felt as confident going into a season as you do right now?

Q. When was that?
TIGER WOODS: A few times (smiling). I've had a few good ones in my career.

Q. You mentioned it's going to be far from the course it will be for the Open, but do you have some level of comfort because of the success you've had here?
TIGER WOODS: The success I've had here, but also playing here in July in the Junior World. I played when it was burnt out, bone dry, fog delays. I was telling Hank today, we were yelling out on the first tee, "All clear on the No. 1 fairway," that kind of thing, and keep playing.
Yeah, so I've seen it like that. I've seen it bone dry. I've seen what can happen here that time of year, and I do feel comfortable on this golf course. It's a matter of having my game show up at the right time. You've got to make sure it peaks at that time.

Q. Back at the media day for this event you said you were in the process of putting a new 5-wood in your bag. Are you still tinkering with that?
TIGER WOODS: Actually I put in a new 5-wood at the Target Challenge and really liked it. I hit it a little bit further. It's a little bit better out of the rough. I can get underneath the ball and hit it a little bit higher. Actually it's slightly better than my old 5-wood, so it's in the bag.

Q. Is it a little smaller head?
TIGER WOODS: It's a little bit shallower, and the face is a little bit thinner. This new generation is a little bit thinner than the one I was using. The one I was using was about three years old, and technology changes pretty quickly in this sport.

Q. Do you ever feel like you'll put a 2-iron back in your bag?
TIGER WOODS: I play certain events with a 2-iron. That was the British Open last year. Certain golf courses fit well with a 2-iron being in the bag. It's just a matter of figuring it out. I carry two 2-irons, one with less loft for the British Open or hard, fast golf courses, and the other one with a little bit more loft. Last year at Oakmont I used a 2-iron that week because it fit well.
But this week I need some air. It's not going to be very dry this week.

Q. Is it possible you could switch back to the 2-iron --
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, definitely. Depends on whether or not I can reach 13. I can slice a 3-wood in there or I don't know how it fits, but we'll see how the course is set up. If it's really that fast then a 2-iron might be in the bag.

Q. A lot of us had written that the Grand Slam was a possibility given the venues and how well you've played historically and obviously you're in the prime of your career historically for golfers, and then you obviously with your comments from the website added to that. Is there a risk of people almost expecting a Grand Slam this year, of winning two or three majors and people being disappointed?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I've had that happen before, won two majors in a row and people say, "What's wrong with you?" It is what it is. The question is do I see it as a possibility, and I say yes. As I said, a lot of different factors go into it, and hopefully all those factors line up for me. The venues this year, I like all the venues, but I've liked all the venues before in the past. It's just a matter of getting your game coming together at the right time and getting all the right breaks. You're going to have to get lucky every now and then, and hopefully you get lucky at the right times.

Q. How important would it be? You've obviously had four titles, but to win them all in the same calendar year, how important is it you do that once in your career?
TIGER WOODS: It would be nice. It would be doing it a different way than I had done before. Hopefully I get it done.

Q. Quick question about your schedule over the next few weeks. Last few years you've been in and out of the LA Open, Northern Trust Open now for the first time. Do you see yourself getting to Los Angeles this year, and how much do you want to get that one under your belt?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, LA is still kind of up in the air. I've always loved playing Riviera. I've only played well I think two times. But hey, hopefully one year I'll be able to get it under my belt.

Q. You're known as one of the better shot-makers out here, which seems to be somewhat of a dying breed on TOUR. Can you talk a little bit about shot-making and why you think so few guys aren't good shot-makers and just pound the ball now?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think the guys don't -- they didn't grow up with the ball moving all that much. I was still on -- when I grew up playing I was on that periphery of persimmon and balata balls, so the ball moved quite a bit.
These kids now, they grow up playing big drivers. The ball doesn't move. They don't have the gear effect in the drivers like they used to. A lot of big changes.
The golf courses have changed, as well. So the game is played totally different now than it used to be. So yeah, you have to make the adjustments.
What year did Vijay have that great year, four years ago? He proved just hitting driver on every hole was the best way to attack golf courses. If you're driving it well, great. If you're not, you're going to have a wedge in your hand. That's not the way the older players used to do it. They used to shape it, move it around the golf course and go about their business that way.

Q. I was hoping to just get your general thoughts on the meeting yesterday and kind of the message you took out of it. But secondly, I was curious about your thoughts on Tim's kind of ability to show discretion in a lot of areas. Most other drug testing it's just black and white, and if he is able to make some decisions based on how a positive test came about or et cetera, would that at all put him in a position of being perceived to treat players differently based on his relationship with them?
TIGER WOODS: No, I don't think so. That's a good question. But I think the policy is set up so that some guys do have -- for instance, Shaun Micheel. He has to take testosterone just to feel normal, and he can get a TUE for that. When we play or TOUR and we go to Europe, we have to obviously ask for a TUE before you go over. I think that's going to be the most difficult thing for players who play on our TOUR full-time and then go over and play in Europe or Asia, South Africa, where the testing is a little bit different, what is considered a positive test and what is considered not.
That's why the guys were asking most of the questions. Some of the guys that play in Oz, a lot of the Aussie guys, obviously Ernie who plays all over the world, guys like that, I think they're going to have to really watch what they take and pay more attention to it because rules are set up differently here than they are in Europe. And that's where we as players here, we're trying to ask a lot of clarification, and we still don't know all of it because we're still trying to figure it out. But I think overall the policy is fantastic.

Q. You like the idea of someone being able to come to your house and telling you to drop your drawers and pee into a --
TIGER WOODS: I don't have a problem with that because that's how tennis is. Tennis has a policy where you have to let them know three, four months in advance where you'll be on that particular day. If you're going to be traveling on a safari in Africa, well, if you change your plans and you don't tell them, well, that's a positive test. So you have to make sure that -- our tests aren't as stringent as tennis. But I still think that we're heading the right direction of proving that our sport is clean.
JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, Tiger, for joining us.

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