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May 5, 2004

Tiger Woods


JOAN vT ALEXANDER:. Thank you Tiger for joining us for a few minutes in the media center at the Wachovia Championship. First time back in North Carolina since the U.S. Open. You've had a couple of weeks off. Welcome to the Wachovia Championship. Talk about the golf course today and coming to this tournament for the first time.

TIGER WOODS: Okay. First off, last year I wanted to play in this tournament, but I wasn't quite ready to play so I didn't enter. It was a last-minute deal. This year it has been on the schedule the entire year. I was extremely excited to come. On top of that, the golf course is in fantastic shape. It's not exactly what people have told me. They said it was short with some dog legs. I don't know where they find short out here. It's a very long and difficult, demanding golf course with some pretty tricky greens.

I couldn't believe the support you guys already have for this event, with the fans being out here yesterday, Tuesday, and this many people on Wednesday. It's going to be a great event and a great week.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: We're trying to picture it. It's a little something you would find up in the Northeast, but it's got more water than most courses up in the Northeast. I would say a little bit like Hazeltine and Medinah. It looks like the shape of the hole.

Q. Tiger, how do you feel about your game right now?

TIGER WOODS: I feel pretty good. I did some nice work over my little break that I had, and I'm pretty excited about this week.

Q. Does it feel like a Major?

TIGER WOODS: The excitement level, yes, with the fans and everything, but I think if it was a Major Championship, you would see the greens a little firmer than what they are. Other than that, it feels like -- the atmosphere, yes.

Q. (Talk about Vijay.)

TIGER WOODS: He's been playing great since the middle of last year. Nothing has really changed. He's playing really solid golf, and he's had some pretty good success on Mondays.

Q. What made you put this event on your schedule?

TIGER WOODS: It's the golf course, the quality of golf courses. On top of that, I normally play about three events prior to the U.S. Open. Last year it would have been three events, if I would have played here, but I didn't do that and I only played two. I played in Germany and I played the Memorial. It's about the same type of schedule I normally play. From what I've heard from the players about the quality of the golf course and on top of that, on TV last year, it's certainly a golf course I wanted to come play.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: I did, solidly.

Q. You're probably aware of how close Vijay is getting to the top of World Rankings, is there any surprise how long he's held that spot (inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: Yes, I'll be losing some points. It's just quality of play. If you play solidly every time you tee it up, the rankings should take care of themselves. If you win, that's the ultimate goal. Any time you enter an event, if you do that, then everything is where it should be.

It's all about winning anyway. If you win, you move up a lot. The more times you can win, like I did the past four or five years, I've won five or more tournaments every year, so that's what's been able to sustain me at that level.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: No, I'm still working just as hard. The things that I'm working on, you have to be very patient when you're making changes in your swing. It's not a big swing change like I made in 97, just little things, tweaking it here and there. It takes time, you have to be patient with it. I'm starting to see progress, and that's what I was doing back in 98, I was making progress and playing more consistent golf, and that's what I'm trying to do now.

Q. When you come to a course for the first time, what are you looking for?

TIGER WOODS: Tee shots, trying to get the correct lines off the tees, club selection. Then once you get on the greens, approximately where they're going to put the pin and where you have to miss it. I think everyone when they're swinging well, you know where to put it, but the key is to mis-hit it in the correct spots so you have uphill puts or easy up-and-downs. In most of my practice rounds that's what I try to do, try to understand the golf course, where I have to miss the golf shot to have the best chance of making pars or birdies.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: Well, it's about time, it really is. Charlie has been -- I keep calling him grandpa because he's been like my grandfather. I talk to Charlie every now and then, and it's been great having his support. He'll write letters every now and then, and I save every one, so I have a nice little collection of letters he's written over the years. His influences on the game, and especially among minorities, if he wasn't as persistent and as stubborn as he has been his entire life and his career, players like me may not have had a chance to play on the Tour. We don't know if that clause still would have been there. So his persistence, it's so admirable. I love the guy like he's my grandfather.

Q. On that note, how much did he influence you, and do you take it upon yourself to kind of help him get recognized so players like him aren't forgotten?

TIGER WOODS: Without a doubt, you have to. You have to remember our past, our history, and he was so influential for minorities in the sport of golf and especially on the PGA Tour, that you have to acknowledge that, and you have to remember that. He paved the way for players like Lee Elder and myself, Calvin Peete, Jim Thorpe, to be able to participate and play on the Tour. We all owe him a great bit of gratitude for what he's done.

Q. After a week at Fort Bragg is coming back to the golf course like a vacation?

TIGER WOODS: It was so much fun there. It was a lot of fun. I had the time of my life, really. I've always said this, if I wasn't playing golf, that's probably what I would have done, been in Special Ops like my father. To see those guys train and see their enthusiasm, their zest for life.

And on top of that, I felt pretty old. Most of them are between 19 and 23 and 24. I was talking to this one kid who was 19. He just got back from a second tour in Afghanistan at 19 years old, and he's a Ranger. It was pretty phenomenal to see what they're doing, what they're in charge of, the responsibilities they have, and how they go about it. That, to me, is what I got out of it.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: Practice?

Q. Was there military training there?

TIGER WOODS: I went in the wind tunnel for a little bit, but that's nothing like being up there.

Q. Was there any fear?

TIGER WOODS: I was so excited, I couldn't wait to go. I mean, that's like a rush, like bungey jumping, you can't wait and go.

Q. You've been bungey jumping?

TIGER WOODS: Yes, in Colorado, Arizona and Northern California.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: I think it's personality, because some guys, as a you say, like faster cars, some guys like to fish, other guys like to hunt. I think it's all based upon personality, your upbringing, what you're exposed to. And if you participate in any kind of sports that were -- that made you have to be aggressive -- Jerry Kelly loves to play hockey, that's his background, so it all depends on what you did as a kid, I think.

Q. How they treat players, courtesy cars (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: It doesn't matter to me. I'm here to win. I'm here to play. I think it's fantastic they do all these nice things, the amenities, but that's not why you're attracted to a tournament. You're attracted to a tournament because of quality of the field, the golf course, and then the players. I say quality of field. That, to me, is exciting when you have a chance to play against the best. If you look at our field this week, we have some pretty darn good players here.

Q. To follow-up on the question a minute ago, do you see yourself playing here for years to come?

TIGER WOODS: I can see myself playing here consistently, yes, it's such a great golf course. It's so challenging. We don't get a chance to play too many golf courses like this anymore, old school, a traditional style golf course, tree-lined fairways, use of natural terrain to shape and sculpture the hole. Now lots of golf courses we play are artificial. It's really rare and nice and enjoyable to play a golf course like this.

Q. Are you really enjoying your commercials?

TIGER WOODS: I have fun with it. The only one I didn't really enjoy, that was so hard to do, was the Caddyshack spot, because I've never had to play anything but myself in all my commercials. That's easy. I do that every day, wake up and be me. Now you want me to be someone who is an all-time legend in acting and he made that character a classic, and I didn't want to screw it up. I put a lot of pressure on myself to do it right and be funny. I don't know, it was hard.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: Actually, we have a bunch of fun on the set, because the guys, the puppeteers and the director, the amatronic guys who control the puppet, we have a lot of fun, and the words we usually put out of his mouth don't get on TV (laughter). We have a good time.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: I've just been working on my game. I'm starting to see some positive signs.

Q. How much importance to you place on rankings (inaudible.)

TIGER WOODS: It would bother me because I wouldn't have won. If I continue winning, you know between, what have I done, in 99 I won -- seven years, six years, whatever it is, five or more tournaments every year, that takes care of itself. There's no substitute for winning anyways. Yes, if I would be passed, then I wouldn't have won as many times as I normally have and the tournaments I want to win. If you win Major Championships on a consistent basis each and every year and some of the bigger World Championships, that takes care of itself.

Q. When are you playing Shinnecock?

TIGER WOODS: I'll play before the tournament. I don't know how far out I'll play, but I certainly will play a couple of rounds out there.

Q. Sergio said yesterday he wasn't comfortable coming here. He had never seen the course and understood golf in the Carolinas. What does that mean? When you think of golf in the Carolinas?

TIGER WOODS: I have no idea. Maybe there's a lot of pine trees, I guess. I don't know. I've played different types of golf courses, we've played No. 2 in the Open, I've played No. 7 when I played the IYGC there. I played a few other tournaments in college there. They're all different.

Q. Back to Shinnecock, I know you were very young. What are your recollections of that personally (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: I was at home by then, home early. I guess it was the first time I had really played on greens that hard. In Junior Golf, they soak the greens. We play easy golf courses. Amateur Golf, I've played on greens that fast like Sunnehana or the Northeast Amateur, but I never played on greens that hard, where sand wedges are springing 30, 40 feet before they think about stopping. So that was quite an experience and quite a change from how I have always played golf.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: I did, I think it was on the third or fourth hole, the par five, I hit it left in the fescue there and tweaked a couple of ligaments in my wrists -- actually tendon, sorry.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: I think a lot of it is just based on weather.

Q. (Inaudible?)

TIGER WOODS: Toughest U.S. Open course? That's a good question. I don't know. Maybe the length of the rough probably, Congressional is pretty hard. We had eight-inch rough out there on some of the holes. The greens at Pinehurst, we play nothing like that anywhere around the world, so there are different ways to look at it. Probably those two are at the top that I've played so far.

I haven't played the big ones, Oakmont in the U.S. Open or any tournament. I know if they would get the golf course ready at Winged Foot like they did in 75 or 74, then we might see the same type of scoring. Some golf courses have the potential of being absolutely brutal if the weather doesn't come in there and affect the golf course.

Q. Being around the Armed Forces the last few months (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: Some of the guys play golf, not too many, but all of them watch sports and are addicted to sports. A lot of them come from athletic backgrounds. The things they have to do, they have to be athletes. From that aspect, it was pretty neat to hang around them and basically shoot the bull on all different sports and talk to them -- you know, they hop on the Internet in Afghanistan and get the report about who is doing what in the playoffs. It's neat to talk about things like that. These guys are fighting for their lives and they'll hop on the Internet and look what's going on with their home team. That to me is pretty cool, how sports can raise the spirits of someone, especially when they're over there and feeling lonely at times, and it's a good way to get themselves psyched up again.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: It's not just me. I think it's just sports in general, whatever the sport may be. Some guys hate golf. Some guys are addicted to other sports, whatever it is, we all have our mutual respect. We understand what they're doing, we respect what they're doing, they respect what we're doing. The commitment level that it takes to play sports at a high level, and the commitment it takes to perform their job at a high level. We both understand that and we come together in a mutual respectable position. So when we are able to talk and hang out, it's different than someone who doesn't quite understand it, the sacrifices that someone has to make.

Q. Given your period of time as No. 1 in the world (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: The golf courses have definitely become more difficult than when I first came out here in 96. If you look on our pin sheets now, Jerry, you'll maybe have three or four pins three from the side, and that was never the case. Most of the pins were between five and seven from the side now they're making a concerted effort to get them closer to the corners. Golf courses that I've played since I've been on Tour, just about each and every year you'll see new pins that are one step closer to the edge and they're trying to get the rough up higher and the greens harder.

Yes, they are trying to get the golf courses more difficult, because the equipment is that much better and the technique of players is that much better, much more efficient on both ends.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: Probably because he won on Monday, and it wasn't on -- it was on The Golf Channel, but it wasn't on network TV and close to Prime Time hours, that has a lot to do with it. Not everyone is able to get off of work and watch it during Monday afternoon; they have jobs. I think because of that, you just don't have the same type of excitement. It's like the U.S. Open, when it goes to Monday in the 18-hole playoff, there's not the same excitement level that there was on Sunday. You're supposed to conclude on Sunday, but you go one extra day, it's not the same feeling.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: I agree, I think so. He certainly should get all the respect in the world because he's worked his game to a level where he's consistent and he is able to pretty much contend in every tournament he plays in, and that's a lot. He doesn't quite take as many weeks off as I do.

Q. You've always said finishing second sucks (inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: It's a fact I won't be No. 1 in the world forever, either someone flat out outplays me or I might not play at the same level or old age takes over. Whatever the circumstances are, I don't know, but whatever they are, it's going to happen. Every street comes to an end. That's just a fact of life. Just like we're going to have, I'm sure, in the future, some new young kid come out here that's going to be a world beater and it's going to surpass Nicklaus's records, my records, whatever they were at a younger age. That's just the way it is, the evolution of sports.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: I haven't won the biggest events like I did for a while. I was winning those majors, and if you win majors, you get bumped up pretty well in World Ranking points, as you know. I have won World Golf Championships, but it's not the same as winning majors, if you want to continue to spread yourself in the world rankings.

Q. It doesn't seem like anybody enjoys the jackets like Phil has. Have you ever seen anybody embrace that jacket the way he has, certainly in the public eye anyway?

TIGER WOODS: The green jacket, no, I haven't seen that. I have seen people in other Majors embrace it as much as he has, but not The Masters, no.

Q. What's your reaction (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: It's exciting. He's proud, he's proud of what he did, and he should be. Any time you win a major you should be proud of yourself. We've all seen what he has done in Major Championships in the past, either somebody may have outplayed him or he may have made a mistake to lose the championship, whatever the case may be, he's come close, he's been there many times. It was about time he was due to win one. He certainly has the talent, and the way he went ahead and shot and made birdies on the back nine with Ernie right there, shooting great numbers ahead of him, I think that made it even better for him, even sweeter because he didn't back into it, he earned it.

Q. Olympics (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: Either way. I'm not depressed about it. It would be great to have an Olympic gold medal, but if you asked any player, would you rather have an Olympic gold medal or green jacket or Claret Jug, more players would say win Majors.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: I don't know, it's going to be the same type of tournament for us. The only thing I would be curious about is how they choose the field. Would they go -- certain countries are only allowed a certain number of players, and most of the top players, the top 50, are from America. The top 50 in the world, if you go by World Rankings, it would basically be like a World Golf Championship, basically, a similar concept. So I don't understand what their criteria is going to be, but as soon as they come up with a criteria, we can analyze it and take a look at it.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: Five days.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: Three things, one is for the morale of the troops, to hang out with them and let them know that some of us care about what they're doing, the sacrifices they're making. Another one would be to experience what my father had experienced. And ultimately, I think the biggest reason why I went was to basically take my father back to Fort Bragg. His health hasn't been all that great. It was important for me to take him back to a time in his life when he was tough, he was happy, and meet some of the guys that he served with.

We had a time when we had a little luncheon where former Green Berets from the 6th Group, which doesn't exist anymore, but they were there, and to have my father there and hanging out with the guys -- two of the guys were actually in his unit, in his A Detachment, so that was pretty neat for him to experience that again. He felt so much better coming out of that because of that. I just wanted him to remember how proud I am of him, but more importantly, how proud of a person that he was and is, and to remember how tough he was, because the things he's going through now, I want him to remember that so he can get through it.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: Former Green Berets in the 6th Group, as well as Green Berets that served in different groups, whether it might be 3rd, 5th or 7th, but they were all in Vietnam together at the same time, and for them to all be there, it meant a lot to me and it meant a lot to them.

Q. To follow that up, do you have respect that your father was in the military, you were in a military family, (Inaudible)?

TIGER WOODS: It's frustrating for me to sit there and listen to some of the news correspondents ridicule our soldiers for what they're doing over there. They're doing their job, they're being told what to do, and they're putting their lives on the line and trying to basically suppress terrorism around the world. They are alone over there. The guys I've talked to who have come back, either Special Forces or Big Army, either one, it's amazing how lonely it is over there, because they're not quite getting the support that they need to get from us, and the news correspondents over there are badgering them for this, that, and the other. It's not their fault. They're doing a job, they're putting their lives on the line for all of us to live the lives we have. I wish more people would understand that.

JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Thank you, Tiger, for joining us.

End of FastScripts.

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