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January 27, 2008

Tiger Woods


JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Congratulations, Tiger on your sixth victory here at the Buick Invitational, your 62nd victory of your career, tying Arnold Palmer. You've won by eight strokes. What do we have to look forward to next?
TIGER WOODS: Well, a great press conference (laughter).
Today was -- I got off to just a great start. I couldn't ask for a better start than that, making a bomb at the very first hole. The whole idea today was to go out and shoot something under par and not make any bogeys, but I got half of that right.
But at least I built a big enough lead through that -- I guess the back nine, making a big putt at 11 and made a nice little birdie putt at 13, built me a nice little cushion, which was nice.

Q. You must be chomping at the bit for June to roll around. This roll you've been on goes back five months winning by five, six, eight shots, tournament records and rounds in the 60s?
TIGER WOODS: Well, that's hard to explain to people. That's one of the reasons I made the changes I made is I knew I could attain another level, and here we are.
Even though I didn't drive the ball particularly well this week, I still was able to do what I was able to do this week, which was nice. I just need to go ahead and improve on that for next week, and hopefully the rest of my game will be about the same, if not better.

Q. Can you describe the long birdie putt, and how much of a break was that?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it was just inside right, and I just hit it firm and it went in (laughter).
Actually the line -- I tried to figure it out from behind the hole, I actually had to hit it past the hole just a touch because of the slope coming off the bunker actually would feed back in towards the hole. There happened to be some dark patches up on top of the ridge, and if I hit it a foot or so past that as it started to come down the hill, I should have a pretty good line.
When I hit it, I thought it hit it pretty good, and then when it came over the hill, I thought, that's pretty good, but as it started picking up speed, I'm like, just hit the hole somehow, because it was moving pretty good. It would have probably gone six, seven feet by, but it had a train wreck and went in.

Q. What was the break do you think?
TIGER WOODS: Probably close to about 15 feet.

Q. Is this the best you've ever played?

Q. In this stretch I'm talking about from --
TIGER WOODS: The stretch? Yeah, I think so.

Q. Better than '00?

Q. And when you said that you wanted to get to another level, when did you get there do you think?
TIGER WOODS: You're never there. I'm starting to get better. I'm hitting shots that I never could hit before, even in 2000. People think, yeah, you played great, but I made everything. I'm actually hitting the ball better now than I did during that stretch.

Q. I'm actually talking about in this July-to-now stretch; at what point did you reach this level? In other words, is this more of a continuation from last year, or are you still climbing do you think?
TIGER WOODS: I'm still getting better. I still have holes in my game that I need to fix and need to improve on. I just think that what I've been working on, I'm headed in the right direction.

Q. What does it mean to have won this sixth event here at Torrey Pines?
TIGER WOODS: (Laughing) well, this course has been really kind to me. Ever since junior golf all the way through my professional ranks, I've somehow really seemed to have played well here. It fits my eye. I feel very comfortable here. I can read the greens even though they're a little bit bouncy. I can still read them, and I read them well.
It's just one of those things where some people just have an affinity for certain golf courses, like my buddy O'Meara won five times up at Pebble, I guess Sam at Greensboro and Nicklaus at Augusta, guys that have won a number of times at certain venues, and somehow this golf course seems to have been pretty good for me.

Q. In 2000 when you won the regular event at Pebble and then came back however many weeks later, between the ears, what's one do for the other?
TIGER WOODS: Nothing, because of the conditions. When we play at AT&T you're hitting driver off the first hole. During the Open I'm hitting 2-irons and 3-irons, and one day I hit 4-iron off the tee, just because it's going to roll out. It's two totally different sites. The greens are bouncing. You try to position the ball below the hole.

Q. The slopes and stuff like that on greens and tendencies --
TIGER WOODS: But every ball backs up during this time of year. Then you get to the Open and every ball springs forward. You can afford to miss greens during the AT&T and you have easy up-and-downs because you know you plop it up there and the ball is going to plug and release on down. During the Open you can't afford to do that. You've got to hit the ball below the hole if you miss it so you at least have a chance have the hill kill it if you go up the hill.

Q. So this doesn't help you in June?
TIGER WOODS: No. It's totally different clubs off tees. Joe and I were talking about today off No. 4, how are you going to keep that ball in the fairway? We hit 3-woods and drivers. During the Open you could see guys hitting irons down there and still have 7-iron to the green. Two totally different sites.

Q. With the success that you're enjoying here at Torrey Pines and when you take into consideration the jets flying over, and 6, 13 and 18 are par-5s similar to what you grew up in your early teens at the Navy course and the roots sticking out of the ground in the rough and everything, all of that, that familiarity, does that give you a more comfortable feeling when you're here from those days?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I don't mind having the jets fly over. As you said, I grew up on a military base. We were used to having choppers and planes and guys jumping out. It is what it is. Navy golf course is right there on the runway. Guys can actually hit planes (laughter).
You just get used to that type of noise. I don't have a problem with it. I think it's still pretty cool every time the jets fly over to see that.
But I've always felt comfortable coming down here and playing ever since my junior golf days, even though the golf course has been redesigned. I still feel comfortable even after the redesign. Sometimes you don't. But I still felt good with the lines. I picked up on the greens pretty quickly, and I've had success ever since then.

Q. When you were comfortable with your lead on the back nine, were you thinking about how the course will shape up in the U.S. Open and trying different things?
TIGER WOODS: No. The only shot I probably tried to play that probably shouldn't have played was probably the third shot on 9. Again, here I go. I take out my 2-iron because of what happened yesterday, I needed a 5-wood, and what do I need on No. 9, I need a 2-iron. 3-iron might not get to the front edge, so I've got to hit a 5-wood in there and try to hit just a little cut 5-wood in there and hit it about head high right on top of the flag about 90 yards over the green. That was the only shot I probably shouldn't have played. If anything, just hit the 3-iron short of the green, chip up, try to make par that way.

Q. Freddie said you just screwed the U.S. Open up for everybody. Are you sorry about that?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I only did it on one hole. I think after what the USGA probably witnessed on 18 yesterday, that ball staying up, that will be shaved. Just like Augusta, you see Freddie's ball stayed up, next year it's all shaved.

Q. There's been so much focus over the years on the majors, getting to Jack's 18. How conscious are you of the victory list, tying Arnie, now you've got Hogan, Nicklaus, Snead?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it's just like Nicklaus' record, just like Snead's record. Those take time. Those aren't going to happen overnight, and it's going to take a long time. Those guys did it over an entire career. I figure this is my 13th season on TOUR, and I'm just kind of getting into my stride of my career.

Q. Arnie issued a statement today congratulating you, but what do you think he's going to say to you when you finally hear from him? Do you think he'll say something like "what took you so long" or something like that?
TIGER WOODS: He probably won't put it that nicely. He'll give me grief, just like he always does. He always gives me the needle, which is great. I'll do the same, and it will actually probably be more fun when I can needle him if I can get ahead of him.

Q. Could you hazard a guess on what the winning score in the Open will be?
TIGER WOODS: To be honest with you, I don't know how they're going to set it up. I know these are about the lines, the fairway widths, but as far as the rough and how they're going to have it and the pin locations and the greens and how fast and how firm they're going to have them, if we get wind like this every day, no one is breaking par. But you get calm days, you can see guys shooting under par.

Q. In terms of execution, how good was your tee shot on the par-3 third, and what was your most satisfying shot today?
TIGER WOODS: Par-3 third, that was a nice shot. I just hit just a little 4 in there, tried to hold it back up against the wind, and there was two camera guys back part of the green, and I was aiming at the right one and trying to draw it into the left one. I just flushed it and it just went just over the flag.
But certainly probably that shot, and then the tee shot I hit down 15. Those two swings felt just -- they felt great.

Q. When you made your first bogey today you were laughing. Did one of the guys say something to you about "you finally made one" or something along those lines? You were picking your ball up once you tapped out and you were laughing like one of them said something to you.
TIGER WOODS: I don't remember anybody saying anything. I remember I blocked my putt pretty bad, but I don't remember anyone saying anything.

Q. Three-part question. With the Open coming here, are you surprised that more of the top 25 are not here this week? Do you attribute the number in Qatar to appearance fees? And should the PGA revisit that issue?
TIGER WOODS: As far as the last part, no. We play for plenty of money out here.
As far as the guys not playing, I totally understand. Some of the guys play the European Tour, and those three tournaments right there, Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Dubai, are very close to one another, and guys like to play over there where it's warm. The greens are always perfect, not bumpy poa like out here.
A lot of the guys didn't play in 2000 at Pebble Beach when the U.S. Open was going to be there because it's going to be two totally different conditions. Some of the guys did come back and play this year like Jim. He told me during the first two days he came out and played this year because he hadn't seen the golf course after the redesign. He wanted to take a look at it. Obviously two totally different conditions, but he's never seen the redesign. He hadn't been back in seven years. So maybe some guys did that.

Q. Your appreciation for golf history is well-documented. Now that you're two inside Ben Hogan, can you just talk about what he meant to you growing up? Do you think he was one of the best ball-strikers?
TIGER WOODS: Oh, definitely. As far as just pure ball-striking, how can you not say that Trevino and Hogan and probably Mo Norman are in that category? But Mo never won the tournaments that Hogan and Lee won. Those guys really knew how to control the golf ball, hit it whatever height, shape, spin. I've never seen Ben actually hit a golf ball in person, but I've actually watched Trevino do a couple clinics, and it's frightening how much control he has over the golf ball. He obviously looks pretty funky setting up over it, aiming way left, but just the shot shapes and the trajectory control he has, and still has, it's just phenomenal.

Q. Did you ever meet Hogan?
TIGER WOODS: No, I talked to him several times. I never got a chance to meet him.

Q. When did you talk to him and what was the occasion?
TIGER WOODS: Unfortunately he was starting to go downhill with his health, and I talked to him in '97 a couple times. The last time I talked to him he was going down pretty fast. It was pretty painful to talk to him.

Q. Do you remember what led to the phone call?
TIGER WOODS: I just wanted to talk to him, just wanted to talk to Mr. Hogan. I mean, he is a legend of the game, and I never got a chance to meet him. His health wasn't good enough for me to come over to Shady and talk to him, but he was at home.

Q. He didn't get you to try to change clubs?
TIGER WOODS: No, probably thought my lies would have been too upright (smiling).

Q. You talked about holes in your game. What could possibly be holes?
TIGER WOODS: You can always get better in everything. I didn't drive the ball particularly well this week. My iron play certainly can be better and I can putt better. My chipping was good this week. I had two chip-ins, which was nice. You've got to go back and fix it and work and continue to bust your butt to get better. If you're not getting better, you're getting worse, right?

Q. I did a little quick pressroom poll and nobody could remember the last time you bogeyed three holes in a row.
JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Bay Hill last year?
TIGER WOODS: Bay Hill last year, those weren't bogeys (laughter). They had a word in front of them, double bogey, triple bogey. I started off with a bogey -- I bogeyed 16, then doubled 17, then tripled 18. I was pretty worried about it when I played my next event, which was Doral, hoping I didn't make a quad on the first hole. Those were ascending (laughter).

Q. Would you get a kick out of breaking Arnie's record with him there at Bay Hill?
TIGER WOODS: Hopefully I can do it before then.

Q. What about LA?
TIGER WOODS: What about it?

Q. Any thoughts yet, yes or no if you're in yet?
TIGER WOODS: I don't know.

Q. You've won this six and Firestone and Amex/CA, I guess, six times each. Is any one more meaningful than the other? Would you balance the World Golf Championships of having great players but a short field against how much harder it is to win against a full field when you get anybody --
TIGER WOODS: I think if you had to pick the Championship ones, Amex or now CA, that's probably more difficult because we play it on different golf courses. We don't play the same golf courses. I've won all around the world playing that event. You never have the continuity of having Torrey Pines or Firestone. We've had Spain, we've had England, we've had Ireland, Florida, California. So it's been all over the place.

Q. Secondly, when you talk about holes in your game, Hank had mentioned this week that because you had such a high percentage of greens in reg, you get into a rhythm of not needing your short game as much.

Q. How do you become aware, I guess, of what your deficiencies are when you're doing other things well?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I mean, it's just the touch, do I have it or do I not have it, do I feel comfortable through the ball on my short game shots, my shots I was able to pull off. Did I have the speed right? All these little different things. You know, you can feel it, whether or not you've got the club in the right position or not.
Last year I kind of struggled with my short game coming in at the end of the year, and I worked pretty hard at it this winter to try and fix that. It was nice to come out here and hit different shots and work the golf ball again around the greens and actually chipped in twice.

Q. And do you think this win was any kind of a statement at all, not that you did it intentionally, but what do you think everyone else takes out of a week like this?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it's -- I've been playing well. They can look at it however they want to look at it. I know that I'm trying to win and trying to improve and trying to get better.

Q. When you arranged to have the 40 kids from the Tiger Woods Foundation here today earlier in the week, was an eight-shot victory what you had in mind, or something better?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I'll tell you what, did I have that in mind, no, but I was hoping I could win the tournament and have the kids out here and have them watch. I was asking about the trophy, whether or not -- can I keep the trophy right now and have them take it home with them and put it in the Learning Center, but they engrave it and send me a replica and I'll have it in the Learning Center for all the kids to take pictures with it.
It was neat for them to come out here. Some of them have never been on a golf course before, so for them to come out here and watch and basically soak it up, probably not -- well, you might have one or two or whatever that might play golf, but these kids are -- it's an education, which is even more important.

Q. You seemed to suggest earlier that your success here at this tournament isn't going to really matter much for the U.S. Open, but certainly your knowledge and your success here can't hurt you, can it? Is there any good you can take from it when you come back in June?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think the reading of the greens. They're probably just going to break a little bit more being a little bit faster and a little bit quicker. The guys who did play that first year when Ollie won after the redesign and the ball was springy, definitely can go back to that experience because it was really hard to try and get the ball close. I remember trying to hit the ball close on a front pin on 4 downwind, and it was impossible. It was going to go to the back part of the green. That's exactly what we're going to face during the Open. It's going to be really, really difficult.
I know the USGA is saying that they're going to be nice about the rough and give us a chance, but you just get wind like this coming off the coast, it could blow like this for four straight days. And if that happens, then what do you do with the course because you know the USGA never moves tees up. They may soften pins, but they never move tees up.

Q. Have you thought about in your 12-odd seasons on the TOUR where you place amongst the all-time legends at all?
TIGER WOODS: Not yet. My career is not done yet. Hopefully my good years are still ahead of me.

Q. When you were a kid from fairly humble means, did you have an allowance, and does $900,000 or whatever it was this week still seem like Monopoly money to some degree? You've got more money than you can count.
TIGER WOODS: It is unbelievable. I remember my dad used to -- in my bank account in college he used to put 100 bucks in for the month, and I had to make it last somehow. Or I could turn that 100 bucks with good playing and increase it (laughter).

Q. At your own risk.
TIGER WOODS: Better not play poorly.
Yeah, to go from that to what we have on TOUR, I mean, this is just ridiculous, really. We're so lucky to have an opportunity to play for this much money.
JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Congratulations, and good luck on the rest of the season.
TIGER WOODS: Thank you.

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