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June 30, 2004

Tiger Woods


TODD BUDNICK: We welcome Tiger Woods, defending champion of the Cialis Western Open, three-time winner here, last year won wire-to-wire, Tiger. Talk about defending at a course you love to play.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I've had some success here and I'm excited to be back. This golf course again is in fantastic shape. This course means a lot to me because I grew up in the WGA. I played the Western Junior, the Western Am. This is where I made my first cut in any professional event -- actually a professional event here in the States. This golf course and this organization means a lot to me.

TODD BUDNICK: Talk about the changes to the course. They made a few modifications. You just finished playing. Good, bad?

TIGER WOODS: Well, No. 5 usually plays that way. If you get it going downwind you're going to hit driver, 5-iron, 6-iron, 7-iron in there so that hole really didn't change that much, but 9 certainly changed quite a bit. 9 being as long as it is now, you have to have help in order to get there. It basically has become a three-shot par 5. Just get it down there, lay it up and then try to wedge on and make a birdie. It presents -- it used to be if you hit a great drive into the wind you could pick up a cheap birdie by knocking it on in two. Now that's not the case and it's downwind.

Q. Having won three times here, is there anything specific about this course other than the fact that you're comfortable here?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it's just because I played here as an amateur. I've played here since 97 as a pro. I missed one year in 2002 because I was really sick, but other than that, I love coming here. This golf course, as I said, the WGA has done a fantastic job for junior golf and I always want to support that.

Q. A lot of your critics I guess who have said that you're in a so-called slump have pointed to the driving as the reason for that. Is that something that you agree with, or if there is one aspect of your game that maybe needs the most improvement, would you agree it's the driving or some other aspect?

TIGER WOODS: Certainly I'm not playing as well as I know I can, and I feel like the game is very close to coming together. I know I keep saying that, but I feel in my heart of hearts that it is. I'm close to putting it together. It's just the whole package has got to get a little bit more refined.

Q. Why do you think that there is so much more scrutiny this year, and does it bother you when the media dissects your swing, and if so, why?

TIGER WOODS: Well, it's frustrating in a sense because I have to answer it again and again like right now. From that aspect, yes, it is frustrating, but I understand their point of view. They're trying to do their job. There's nothing wrong with that. I just keep getting asked time and time again, and from that aspect, just like every single tournament stop, this is kind of what it's been like. So that adds a little bit of frustration to it.

Q. Is it too philosophical to ask if you've taken a step back and looked at your career and thought, well, you could or couldn't have sustained the pace you were at earlier in your career, or did you ever expect, yes, I think I'm going to go through some highs and low to some degree overall?

TIGER WOODS: Everybody goes through highs and lows in their career, everyone. I've gone through one low already for a year and a half, if not almost two years. When I played from the middle of 97 through the middle of 99, I didn't really do anything. I've had a great run from 99 until basically all of last year. I won quite a few tournaments around the world, but I went through a lull where I won two tournaments around the world for almost a year and a half to two years. That's not very good, considering what I had done prior to that.

Yeah, it goes in waves. Everyone's career does do that. You don't want to do that, trust me, but it happens.

Q. Aside from the fact you try to win every week, are your expectations any higher this week because of where you are and the fact that you've won here three out of six times?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think any time you come to a golf course where you've had success, you usually feel pretty good. Even if you're playing great or poorly, you still feel like you can play well around a golf course that you played well on in the past, and that's been the case when I've played at Bay Hill or Memorial. I may go in the tournament hitting it great, may go in there hitting it terrible, but for some reason I've turned it around and really played well just because I like the golf course and a lot of the holes just fit my eye. This golf course is very similar to that.

Q. Along the same lines, but last year before the tournament, a lot of the same questions, you hadn't won either of the first two majors, people were wondering what's wrong and then you matched or tied a bunch of records in this tournament. Does that feel similar to you and does your success give you more of a comfort level coming back to this course?

TIGER WOODS: I think any time you go back to a tournament where you've had success, you always feel pretty good. I went out there yesterday and played with my good buddy Notah. This golf course, I just feel comfortable on it because I've had success on it in the past. I don't have to play a whole bunch of practice rounds and learn the golf course, either. I already know where to put it. The only thing I need to know is where is my landing area now as opposed to where it was before. Other than that, the clubs are still the same, lines are still the same. I still have some targets out there in the distances that I aim at.

Q. What's your philosophy during a tournament week like this as far as signing autographs when you have fans trying to get autographs?

TIGER WOODS: I don't sign autographs when I play. Practice rounds I won't sign until after I'm finished. Same with the Pro-Am, just because it detracts from either my preparation or my ability to interact with my Pro-Am partners. These guys, we're there as professionals to basically help them out, entertain them and make sure they have a great time. That's our responsibility as professionals. I try and sign as many as I can after I'm done and try and do it that way.

Q. A couple weeks ago we were talking about how Europeans haven't fared at the well at the U.S. Open; on the other hand Americans fathered well at the British Open. Do you know why Americans have fared to well and played so well at the British Opens?

TIGER WOODS: That one I don't know. If you look at most of the guys who have won, generally they're pretty good wind players. Whether they're Americans or Europeans, it doesn't matter. If you're a good wind player, you're going to have success in the British Open. It just so happens that we have Americans who have won, but if you go down the list, you would have to say just about every one of them is real consistent when the wind blows.

Q. When you say you're close, is it because you're feeling maybe that some of the same sensations that you felt perhaps the end of 98 or going into 99 just before you started your run?

TIGER WOODS: It's different because in 97 through 98 and 99 I completely changed my golf swing. I went from strong grip, in and shut and across to more where I'm playing with a much weaker grip. So I had a lot of things going on in order for it to feel solid. This time it's not. I don't have to overhaul my golf swing, it's just a few changes. It's just a matter of doing work and it's starting to piece together.

Q. Last year at the U.S. Open you mentioned that because of your knee surgery you couldn't do a lot of practicing. How much do you think that's affected your game?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I crept into a lot of the faults because of the knee, and not being able to work on it for an extended period of time, those faults stayed in there unfortunately. But now that I can go ahead and hit unlimited balls, I've been able to do that for about a year now, which is great, I think that's really helped, to go out there and -- before I had a limited ball count. You can't practice that way. I've always been used to hitting just a boatload of golf balls at home when I'm working on something. I may hit 500 or 800 golf balls. But if I'm on limited ball count, I can use that up just by hitting my 9-iron. That part was very frustrating until my knee felt solid enough to do it, and over the last year I've been able to hit unlimited balls.

Q. The scrutiny you faced at Shinnecock a couple weeks ago and what is inevitably in a couple weeks at Troon, is it nice to be at a regular TOUR event or are the outside pressures basically the same for you?

TIGER WOODS: I think the distractions aren't what they are at a major championship. They don't have the number of media personnel. We don't have basically the number of people out there. It's still tough when you're out there focusing and you've got to play. That's not easy to go out there and concentrate all the time.

I think it certainly is much easier at a regular TOUR event than it is at a major.

Q. When you won here last year, you joked at the presentation about the so-called slump and being Comeback Player of the Year, and a lot of people thought, okay, Tiger's back. Since then you've won twice but obviously haven't had the consistency. Has it taken you longer to get your game back to where you wanted it to be than you expected?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it has. If you look at my year this year, usually I play two or three good rounds and the other round is what keeps me from winning a tournament. Two tournaments back to back with one shot off the playoff a few weeks ago, it was basically just one round that kept me out of it. Now with the scores going as low as they are, you can't afford to go out there and have that one round over par anymore. You've got to continuously be under par. You've got to turn those 74s and 75s into 69s and 70s, and that's how you win.

Q. One part of your game that's been spectacular is your putting. You said you putted probably the best you ever have. What do you attribute that to, extra work? And when you're playing in a Pro-Am, if your Pro-Am partners ask for a putting tip, what would be the key to putting and what would you tell them?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think this year my putting has been a lot better because I've gotten back to some of my old basics and just worked on speed. You know, what Bobby Jones always said is that speed determines line, not vice versa. If you work on your speed, then you can figure out your line. A lot of times, as you know, back in the past I was pretty aggressive in my putting. I would always take the low line. Now I'm starting to take a little bit more of an arc. If I'm working with amateurs -- like today, one of the gentlemen asked me what should he do with his putting, and a lot of it is get being comfortable and making sure that you're in a position that you can repeat. Even if your stroke is kind of all over the place, as long as you can repeat so your ball is rolling the same each and every time, if it's doing that then you can make putts. Raymond Floyd cut every putt and you have Ben Crenshaw who hooked every putt, but they putted the same way each and every time. I think if you do that then you can accommodate for that and develop your lines.

Q. With everything that's gone on this year but knowing how you feel about your game, is this up to your standards, and if it's not, is it simply because of the swing, or has your confidence been affected at all?

TIGER WOODS: Is it up to my standards? No. My standards are pretty high. I know when I'm hitting it right. I've had rounds -- I've had weeks where I've done that and I just haven't done that consistently enough. So I know it's in there, it's just a matter of doing it day in and day out, and that's how you win out here. As I said, you can't have three days where you're playing great and one day is mediocre. You have to play well all four days.

You've just got to keep working on it.

Q. I'm curious to your reaction to the comments that developments in your personal life have taken away from your golf game. When you hear that, what's your reaction, and do you talk to other married guys on Tour to talk to them about did they go through that same thing?

TIGER WOODS: No, I haven't talked to anyone about that. That's not a factor in my life, no, because I was living with Elin when I won my two majors in 2002. We had already made a commitment to each other back then.

Our relationship hasn't changed, so it's not her fault. It's not my family's fault, not my friends' fault, nobody's fault but my own for not putting the ball in the hole fast enough. Hey, that's sport.

Q. The next time you'll be in this area will be for the PGA. Whistling Straits, have you seen the course, have you --

TIGER WOODS: I have not.

Q. Do you realize what Shaun Micheel might have said, that 12 over par will win that tournament, and he suggests that every Tour player should do their homework. What do you know about the course and can you talk anything about how different that PGA might play?

TIGER WOODS: I've heard of two holes so far, and that's being -- one of the amateurs played it Monday. I think they had some Commissioner's Cup I think it was.

TODD BUDNICK: They had a corporate outing.

TIGER WOODS: And he was up there Monday playing it. He said the first hole is 490, and I think the last hole is, what, 509, am I right?

Q. It sounds right. It's a very long course. The wind is in play on every shot, so it's going to be a wind players' game. Do you consider yourself a great wind player?

TIGER WOODS: I've had success in the wind, yes.

Q. Are you going to do your homework at Whistling Straits?

TIGER WOODS: You always do your homework before you play. That's what your practice rounds are for. That's why you take time and figure it out.

Q. Your thoughts on the changes here at 5, 9 and going back to the old No. 2 par 3, do you think that might have much of an effect on the tournament?

TIGER WOODS: Well, No. 2 plays the same. You go in and hit your shot, line your shot on the green, take your 60 out and play out of the back bunker. It's still a springboard. It hasn't changed.

No. 5 I think is a great change because generally that's the prevailing wind is usually downwind, and that hole is always a driver, 6-iron, 5-iron, 4-iron. It's always an iron into the green.

And No. 9, it just puts a premium on your wedge game, and there's plenty of birdie opportunities with your wedges around the golf course, and I think that's a wonderful change to bring that back into the game because we don't play too many three-shot par 5s anymore with the equipment the way it is now. You have to play -- the hole is 600 yards, and if you get some help downwind -- like yesterday it was playing downwind. I hit driver, driver into the front bunker and I was a yard or two from carrying the front bunker, so it is possible to get there, we just need help.

Q. First of all, I think how you work on your swing is your business and really nobody else's --

TIGER WOODS: We have two Golf Channel guys here?

Q. We have five, a good week. Butch Harmon was saying on the air at The Golf Channel that you all had talked this past week. Whether you guys will ever get back together is not the question, but I was wondering if you could explain who initiated that call. He seemed to say everything was better. Was that about the comments made at the U.S. Open? Was there a dialogue that's been opened up? Where are we with that?

TIGER WOODS: I decided to pick up the phone and call Butch and handle it the way it should be handled. We talked about it. We talked about every single conceivable issue and point of view that each of us had, perception-wise. Sometimes thing can be spun out of hand with media or friends or whomever, hearsay, and I wanted to hear it from his mouth and he wanted to hear it from my mouth.

We talked about it for a while, and things are certainly much better than they were before.

Q. Does Jack's record in majors still seem attainable or does it seem more distant that it did two years ago?

TIGER WOODS: It was still distant then. I mean, 18 is a lot of majors. You know, it's not going to happen in a short period of time. It's going to happen over a long haul. It took him from, what, 22 to 46, 24 years. Yeah, it's going to take a while to get there for anyone. You've just got to keep plugging along and keep giving yourself opportunities. There's been no player in the history of our game that has given himself more opportunities than Jack to win major championships. I think that's what separated him from everyone else is that he gave himself numerous chances to win. Sometimes he back-doored it, some guys gave it to him, other times he flat-out won it. But the thing is you have to be there in order for those two things to happen.

Q. If you won this week, do you think it would stop some of the critique, some of the analysis, or is it going to take more than that?

TIGER WOODS: I don't know. We'll see.

Q. Out there today you had a new driver. I mean, was this a test drive? You're just working on different aspects, working on equipment? It didn't look like you took today's round very serious.

TIGER WOODS: I tried different things today. I hit driver on every hole except for one hole -- except for the par 3s. I decided to hit irons off those. But other than that, no, I hit a driver on every hole just to get a feel for this club. I tried other drivers, as well, in play. You can do that all you want on the range or at home, but if you hit it in play, it makes it a little different.

Q. Is that driver going back in the bag tomorrow?

TIGER WOODS: I don't know. I feel pretty good about it actually. I just want to hit it some more on the range and try and hit some shots with it, try to maneuver it, high, low, draws, fades, take distance off, add distance, see how it responds.

Q. With all the talk of the off-the-course things being psychoanalyzed, your fiancee, your ex-swing coach, your caddie and photographers, has that made this your most difficult year?

TIGER WOODS: No, no. I've had probably two times when I thought it was pretty difficult. When I first turned pro I had no status anywhere, and that's pretty scary with all the expectations that I had placed upon me, not from you guys but for myself. Not to have any status anywhere, and I had seven spots to try and make a card. That was hard.

And also back in -- the Tour Championship in 96, then the week before the LA Open, those were two more times when it became very difficult to play golf. My father was ill and was in the hospital.

Q. Given the whole thing over the last couple weeks, has there been any talk, not necessarily about Steve but maybe asking for more security to take some of the burden off him thinking that maybe he had another job to do aside from caddying for Tiger Woods, and where are you guys with that coming into this week?

TIGER WOODS: We've talked to the TOUR. The TOUR is going to make an effort to do a better job of it, but this wasn't a TOUR event. The USGA ran the event, and the TOUR does a fantastic job of helping us out as players, but the USGA, we had more guys inside the ropes than we normally do. Hey, it happened. Steve felt bad for what he did. He got a little frustrated, and he did something he probably shouldn't have done.

If more tournaments were like a regular TOUR event and how it's run, the TOUR does a fantastic job of that. Augusta does a fantastic job of that. It becomes much easier for us to do our jobs, as well, and Stevie doesn't have to do the things that he did.

You know, the funny -- I saw Raymond, what he said after, and Raymond said the same thing. This is what he used to do for me. It hasn't changed.

TODD BUDNICK: Well, thank you very much, Tiger. Good luck this week.

TIGER WOODS: You got it. Thanks.

End of FastScripts.

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