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January 5, 2005

Tiger Woods


TODD BUDNICK: Welcome Tiger Woods to the 2005 Mercedes Championships. Tiger finished fourth on the PGA TOUR last year with one win at the WGC Accenture Match-Play Championship.

After two wins late in the season, one in Japan and your tournament, what's in store for 2005.

TIGER WOODS: Looking forward to it. That big off-season I had there, it was nice that I should kind of wind down a little bit but also very excited about the prospects of this year as well. The way last year ended, it made me really excited about this year.

TODD BUDNICK: There's not much time between your tournament and the Mercedes; did you get a chance to do anything?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I hung out with the family at home, it was great. I was out there in California with my mom and dad. It's just nice to be around there for the holidays. It's been -- didn't really get a chance to see them very much this year. It was nice to be around them.

Q. Tiger, at the start of '04, working on what you were working on, did you feel a feeling that it could be kind of like a growing pains year, and then how that compared to how you feel about your outlook going into '05.

TIGER WOODS: Any time you make changes, it's going to take a little time. Unfortunately it took longer than I would liked to have had it take, but just the way it is. I was proud of the way I was able to hang in there and contend in a lot of tournaments not hitting it at my best. All of a sudden at the end of the year, I started putting it together. From there I played some pretty good golf. It's very exciting.

Q. As an overview for the year you've been asked about rivalries for five or six years now and it seems like there's been a revolving door of them, Ernie, Phil, you can go on and on. Now it seems like we are at a stage like everyone, you're in the door with them and there's five or six guys that are on top. Wonder if you could just talk about that.

TIGER WOODS: Well, this year, this past year, I didn't really play my best, and consequently, I fell in the World Rankings and I didn't win as many times as I had over the past five years, and previous five years. Consequently, yeah, I did come back a little bit, but the guys also stepped it up, too. You know, Phil had a wonderful year, Vijay had a great year and Ernie came as close as close gets to winning three majors in one year. Could have won all four, actually. Just one of those things where I think Goose was up there, as well. There's like five guys.

Q. That's what I'm saying, can you remember a time when there have been that many top-notch players hitting their stride all at the same time?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, probably back in like '98, '99, when you had me, Phil, Ernie, Vijay, Duval, Davis, we're all winning numerous tournaments each and every year.

Q. No majors?

TIGER WOODS: No, it's hard to win majors.

Q. It is?

TIGER WOODS: Slightly. (Smiling).

Q. Tiger, is the feeling that you have now similar what you had in '99 when you had your big run in '99?

TIGER WOODS: No. It's better.

Q. How so, Tiger?

TIGER WOODS: I just feel that the swing's better. Hard to explain, just I worked my tail off this year, this past year, and the results that I had, you know, towards the end of the year, just it's made it so exciting. I went out there and I didn't -- I didn't go out there and not putt well at Sherwood and end up winning the tournament. It shows you how well I hit the golf ball. It's nice to win tournaments where you don't putt well. I haven't had that this past year.

Q. What's better, the tighter shot pattern, the shape, the trajectory, the control, all of it?

TIGER WOODS: You hit it, right there. You got it.

Q. When you say it's what you just did but it's better than it was in '99, I think the public who watches you is going to expect to see the results that you've had in '99; is that unrealistic?

TIGER WOODS: It depends on how well I play and how well the rest of the guys play. I can hit the ball as great as I want and make a bunch of putts, but other guys play well as well and make everything, it's tough to win.

I know from '99 to now, the margin of error has gotten even smaller to win golf tournaments. It's become more difficult, you have to shoot lower scores, the cuts are getting lower. 4-under par is making cuts, 70 guys at 4-under par or better. You have to shoot lower scores. So consequently you haven't had an off-day where you shot 71 or 72 anymore. An off day has to be 69. Back when I had that great run for about five years, those were my off days, or they were 69s and 70s, and that's what you have to have.

Q. I remember when you made your swing changes a few years ago, you said there was a moment on the range at Isleworth where you hit one shot and you said, "That's it, I've got it." Two-part question if I may, was there a moment like that this time?


Q. And also can you describe in layman�s terms for the non-casual golfer the changes this time?

TIGER WOODS: (Laughs) It really isn't simplistic. I can't explain it in simple terms. We worked on so many different things, and it's not -- you can't say just one thing, it's not just two things or two or three things. I mean, it is a bunch of things that I had to change in my golf swing. And if I wasn't able to do one, two and three right, I couldn't go four, five and six. And so it led to different stages of development in my golf swing.

Yeah, did I have that moment; yes, I did. Right before I went to Japan, I was home in L.A. just hitting shots. I hit a couple nice 8-irons out there. It was what I had been looking for. And then I went to Japan and, you know, really played well.

Q. What course, what range in L.A.?

TIGER WOODS: My home course, Big Canyon.

Q. Are you hungrier perhaps now that you're not No. 1 in the world for the first time?

TIGER WOODS: Still the same. Still the same. Just go out there and just win.

Q. In terms of pursuing versus being pursued?

TIGER WOODS: It doesn't matter whether you're No. 1 or not. The goal is if you enter the event is to win the event. I didn't fly all the way out here just to finish second. It's just not my deal. My deal is to try and win every tournament I play in. That's the goal. I don't think you can be much more hungrier than I've been in my entire life to win golf tournaments.

Q. Is it fair to say that you're better prepared to do that now than you were last year?

TIGER WOODS: Oh, gosh, yes.

Q. Those times last year when you were saying "I'm close, I'm close, I'm close," and you got hammered for it a little bit, where were you in the process that you knew you were close and the laymen couldn't see it?

TIGER WOODS: I'd hit on the range all day and then I'd play three or four holes the way I know I'm supposed to and then the rest of it is not very good and then it became nine holes and then it became a round and then two rounds, three rounds and eventually four rounds in Japan. I kept telling everyone I was close, you were at home watching me, ask Cookie or Mark at home in Isleworth, how is he playing the way he is in tournaments when he's playing this way at home? I just wasn't able to take it from there to the tournament round. That was frustrating because I knew I had it, I knew it was in there. I wasn't able to produce it in a tournament round. Then when I was able to do it, I need to do it more often and keep repeating it.

Q. What's the minimum you could do this year and consider it a successful year?

TIGER WOODS: The minimum?

Q. Yeah.

TIGER WOODS: I don't know. Just win. Don't know. I just play to win, that's it. So I don't worry about the minimums or anything. Just go play.

Q. San Diego moving up a week, does that affect your schedule in any way or the momentum you're trying to build going into Augusta this year?

TIGER WOODS: No, still going to play here and San Diego and take my other off-season off, continuation of it. So it just kind of moved the off-season around a little bit.

Q. If you talk about off-season, did you enjoy the last couple of weeks since Target?

TIGER WOODS: Oh, it was just nice -- it's always nice to shut it down. I was talking to Goose about it. He's playing a couple and then he's shutting it down for another month because it wasn't long enough. For guys like myself, I played in Japan, I played in the Skins Game, I played my tournament, those guys played in South Africa and numerous events on their tour, so they never really got that time off. So we are going to take it towards January and February.

Q. What allowed you to finally take it from the range, to see it manifest?

TIGER WOODS: Practice.

Q. Was it trusting it, too?

TIGER WOODS: Practice. Keep working on it. Eventually it will get in there.

Q. You could talk forever about getting stuck, and part of this change, did that enable you to get rid of that?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I haven't hit one -- not the way I used to, not the stuck how I used to hit it, in months.

Q. Is that one of the reasons why you wanted to change?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, definitely. I fought that shot all my life and I've always had natural speed. I've never been one that is always looking for more speed. I was just always trying to make sure that, you know, my body matched up and now it is.

Q. The article was talking about the upper and lower match of the speeds there. Are you amazed that you are able to match it perfectly for, you know, 18 months or so right in the middle of that five-year run?

TIGER WOODS: No, everyone gets on a run. I don't care how unorthodox your swing is or how classic your swing is. People do get on runs and I just happened to have a run at that time and I putted great, too. What everyone realizes playing golf is there's no substitute for confidence and when things are rolling, things are rolling.

Q. Did that run with 2000 being the centerpiece, did it end sooner than last year, and you just kept winning a few tournaments because you're good?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it didn't continue as long as I would liked it to have, there's no doubt about that.

Q. When do you think it ended?

TIGER WOODS: Well, a lot of it -- I played all of 2000 -- end of 2001, all of 2002 hurt, as you guys know. I don't know how I got through 2002 but I did somehow, and then had to get that rectified so I could play in 2003.

Q. The Golf Digest article mentioned the knee as one of the root motivations for your swing change; how is the knee now?

TIGER WOODS: Knee's fine. Knee's good.

Q. Was that one of the motivations to do the change?

TIGER WOODS: The motivation to do the change is I wanted to become better. I wanted to play at a higher level and I thought I could and I thought that deep down I was capable of doing that.

Q. Not as much buzz about Michelle Wie this year as last year, have you followed her much this year and would you be surprised --

TIGER WOODS: I haven't seen much of her. I saw her yesterday when I was driving back to the hotel. She was hitting balls at the other golf course at the hotel and that's the only time I've really seen her. I saw her in tournaments here and there. But it's mainly through highlights. I haven't really seen her in live competition. So I haven't really seen her development towards the end of the year, if she'd made big strides or not, I haven't seen it because I haven't seen her play.

Q. But you're okay with her doing what she's trying next week?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, if you've got the talent, play. I understand it from a marketing standpoint of what Sony is trying to do. But if you have the talent and they offer it to you, you know, take advantage of it. I was lucky enough to get an invite when I was 16, to the L.A. Open. And did I belong out there on a tour level? No. I wasn't good enough. But it was an experience that I wanted to take advantage of, an opportunity presented itself and I took advantage of it. It proved a lot to me because I went out there and I thought I played pretty good, for me at the time. I shot -- what did I shoot -- I shot 72-75 or something, I was 17 back from Davis, so I figured I needed a little work. He gave me a shot every other hole and I clipped him by one.

Q. You talked last year about the importance of winning and what that did for your confidence as a junior on up, can her playing a number of Tour events, say 10 or 11 a year now, serve her any purpose?

TIGER WOODS: It will serve her in the sense that she understands the level of competition she's playing at. But I think that, this is in my opinion how I grew up, there's an art form to winning. And learning how to win different ways, learning how to win when you're dominating, learning how to win when you don't have anything at all, somehow you've got to gut it out and somehow win. There's so many different ways that you can win a golf tournament. I think I've gone through all of that, so I've learned.

And it's served me very well once I got out here, because I found it's the same, so no matter what level I'm playing at you still have to overcome the same inner demons and the same process. And I think from that standpoint, I think what she's doing might hurt her, but at the end she might be so talented she might just win everything and it might be a new way of doing it.

From my own personal experience, I think that winning breeds winning, and you know, my dad always believed that if I wasn't able to win at this level, we weren't moving up to another level. I wanted to play more amateur golf but I wasn't ready to play more amateur golf because I wasn't winning enough at the Junior level. Once I started doing that, then move it up to amateur golf. Got my brains beat at amateur golf, so you're not ready for professional tournaments. So just play amateur events and try to win amateur events and then I do that, I can move up to more professional events and I moved up that way.

Q. With all of the talk about the parity on TOUR now, Vijay doing what he did last year and you winning eight, nine times, how surprised would you be to see someone do that this year?


Q. Eight, nine, ten events?

TIGER WOODS: Well, considering it doesn't happen very often in PGA TOUR history, it's not easy to do. You know, I've been a part of that a couple of times, Vijay has now been a part of that. Byron and Sam, you have to go back to maybe Jack's time when Jack won six or seven events, as a lot of events. That was back in the early '70s. It's been 20-some odd years since somebody has done that consistently. It's hard. Especially as deep as the fields are getting, as you said, parity; it takes someone who is playing great golf, but also getting some wonderful breaks at the same time. Because the tournaments that I won, there are tournaments that I've backed into that I probably should not have won and somehow got a victory, and that's how you can add to that total, because you're not going to dominate every event.

Q. You got to No. 1, were No. 1 year-in and year-out for a long time and now you're not No. 1 unfortunately. What's that like as you start the new year; is it important or just whatever happens and happens and you try your best? How do you feel about that?

TIGER WOODS: It's the same way I perceived it when I first got there back in '97, is that winning takes care of that. If you want to become No. 1 in the world, you have to win, you have to win consistently and you have to do it for a long period of time. You have to do it just for one year real quick. You have to be able to play at a high level for a very long time, and that's how I was able to get there, that's how I was able to maintain it and that's how Vijay was able to get there and that's how he's maintained it. So winning takes care of all that.

Q. Wondering how your schedule, how you determine where you play. You did very well in Japan, and Sony is a Japanese company, you haven't played Sony; is that in the cards in the future and how do you determine your schedule?

TIGER WOODS: A lot of it is just by feel and tournaments I've played in. But also, making sure I have enough rest so that I am ready to play and try and peak towards certain events. Make sure I get off to a good start this early in the season but also make sure I'm ready for the WGC and then make sure I'm ready for THE PLAYERS Championship and Augusta, and make sure everything is creeping towards the bigger events and that's how I've also planned my schedule.

Q. Can you talk about your reaction to southeast Asia, I know your foundation does a lot of charitable endeavors; is there any plans of helping out?

TIGER WOODS: Yes, there is. We're working on that right now, actually. We should have an answer to you by the end of this week.

Q. Just wondering, having spent a week or so with your parents, in person is sometimes different than talking on the phone, any insights that either of them said to you during the week that sticks in your minds?

TIGER WOODS: No. It's just that I was able to spend that time with them. I see mom a lot more than I see dad now. Dad's health was very bad the beginning of last year and awfully tough on all of us in the family. But to have him around here still just kicking and being stubborn as always, it was just a lot of fun for me to get out the needle and start ribbing him.

Q. Is he dying for you to get back to No. 1 in the world?

TIGER WOODS: He certainly thinks it's in me and I can do it and he would love to see me do it. We talked about that a little bit and how my progress is and my swing and things that I'm working on. He's very excited because he saw it firsthand at Target. That was the first time my dad has come out to watch me play in, geez, I don't mean how many years. He came out and watched me play the second round. Like I told Stevie, I said, "Stevie, this is hard for me to concentrate because my dad is out here."

The beginning of the year, for him to make it through the end of the year would have been a miracle, so for him to be out there, it was kind of a tear-jerker when I was playing.

Q. How many holes did he go with you?

TIGER WOODS: He walked about 15 holes, yes, in a cart but he was right there on every shot, just looking. I hit a shot and he would say, "Great shot." And the ball just took off and he knew, he saw my balance, he knew and I hit it up there, you know, four feet. How'd he know? (Laughing).

Q. How is he doing now?

TIGER WOODS: He's doing great.

Q. Will he be out this year?

TIGER WOODS: I don't know. Hopefully he'll be out more. Depends on where his health is at. Trust me, I would love to see him out more, trust me.

Q. You're always under a lot of scrutiny, but last year did you feel like it was more harsh and did that add to the frustration that you were feeling?

TIGER WOODS: It was more hard in the sense that it wasn't like every other player was getting it when they have a bad round or shoot 73 or 72. You know what's interesting is how many times my swing has been dissected by everyone. I mean, it's been incredible. From all different angles, from all different people, from here there and I don't know, Timbuktu, so who knows.

Q. What's the percentage of people who may have perceived it to be close to what you're working on, zero percent, one percent?

TIGER WOODS: I would have to say, honestly, 0.0. (Laughter.) They got in the ballpark but they weren't really on, no.

Q. Is it safe to say you're hungry heading into the season?

TIGER WOODS: I'm always hungry heading into every season because it's a brand new season and it's exciting. It's one that, you know, you're always excited about, no one has got any majors yet or you're excited, you have four majors this year and the prospects of what the year could be. That's the way it is every year. Always kind of wondering, what could this year hold for me, and this year is no exception for that.

Q. Wane Gretzky used to say the toughest thing about the latter part of his career, he was always being compared to himself, when he was great. Is it possible for you in 2005 to have a commitment to the game that was there in 1999 or 2000, being married, having a foundation, just being older and having different interests? Can you still be the same player that you were?

TIGER WOODS: You know what, great question. I don't think so. Honestly, I think I can be better. That's the honest to God truth. My marriage is only going to help me. I found a person that I can talk to and a person that's going to be there by my side to help me through thick and thin and has instilled a lot of confidence in me from all aspects in my life and that can only help make me stronger as a person.

My foundation is growing and has become bigger and we're helping more children, and that's cool. We've got 3 million kids now in the Start Something program. That's only going to increase. You draw more strength from that.

So it's hard for me to answer any other way.

Q. Having a birthday at the end of December, you literally start each year a little older.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I know. It was great in junior golf. (Laughter.)

Q. Do you put much stock when you say, oh, my God, I'm 29 now? It doesn't make much difference to you, the age right now?

TIGER WOODS: It does, because, you know, all of my buddies are ribbing me, that I've got one year left before I turn 30. And trust me, I get a lot of flack about it, who are 30 and above.

Q. Looking back, when you were first turning pro and now you're almost 30 years old?

TIGER WOODS: You know, this one is hard to believe for me. This is my 10th season on TOUR. That blows my mind that I'm starting my 10th year out here, double digits out here on TOUR. It doesn't feel like it's been that long, it honestly doesn't. For me to feel like I've been at it for ten years now, it's scary how fast that went.

Q. Wait till you get our age.

TIGER WOODS: That's pretty old, isn't it? (Laughter.)

Q. It's actually better until you get to his age.

TIGER WOODS: Oh, is that what it is?

TODD BUDNICK: Tiger, thank you for coming in this week.

End of FastScripts.

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