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February 28, 2004

Tiger Woods


JAMES CRAMER: We have Tiger Woods with us this afternoon, the 2-1 winner in both of his matches this afternoon, first over Padraig Harrington, and this afternoon over Stephen Leaney, running his record to 19 and 3 in the Accenture Match Play Championship. Why don't you get us started with some brief comments about today.

TIGER WOODS: All right, James. I felt like I played pretty good this afternoon. I didn't quite hit the ball that well in the morning, but I putted all right. Padraig and I both kind of played a little bit loose, but it was good enough to get a win. This afternoon I felt like I really hit the ball well.

It was a tough match because Stephen is a wonderful driver of the golf ball, and then these fairways, being as soft as they are, it makes it wider for him. I knew he was going to hit just about every fairway. On top of that, he made some great putts today for pars and birdies and basically put a lot of pressure on me.

Q. Talk about this being a mentally wearing tournament. I'm sure it mentally wore you down. Are you physically worn down now?

TIGER WOODS: My legs are okay. My feet are a touch sore from walking on the soft ground. If the ground was normal I don't think my feet would be like this, but soft ground and hard ground like at the British Open, your feet are always sore.

Q. How did you feel about 16 and 17? Obviously that's where you were able to close it.

TIGER WOODS: 16 was the hole that I needed because he obviously lost it to the right and he had the momentum. He won 13, and that putt looked like it probably could have gone five, six, seven feet by with no problem, and it goes right in the middle, so he takes all the momentum there away from me.

On 16 there, lost it a little bit to the right, so I figured it was a perfect 8-iron for me, left-to-right wind, I can go right at the flag, my natural draw. I started it just a touch right and then drew it. That's why I ended up right of the flag. He played just a beautiful bunker shot and almost holed it. I knew if I could somehow bury that putt I could grab the momentum back. On top of that, it would give me a little bit of a crutch with two holes to go.

Q. 17?

TIGER WOODS: 17, I went for a little 3-wood off the tee to kind of try to put it in play, and I thought if anything I might be short of him, to put pressure on him going into the green, but he actually spun one up into the air. My ball actually released on the fairway, which is unbelievable. He actually hit first and jerked it left and left himself with just an impossible bunker shot. I went with a little 7-iron, aimed right at the flag.

Q. What was your number there?

TIGER WOODS: 190. Aimed right at the flag and just cut it, and if I miss it, miss it right, and I actually started the ball probably about a yard left and then cut it right on top of the flag.

Q. You talked about him putting the pressure on you. Could you talk about the difference in pressure standing over the putt on 16, or more importantly, standing over the putt on 14?

TIGER WOODS: 14 was a bigger putt, definitely, because he already has momentum after winning the last two holes. I won 10 and 11 back to back, and I gave him 12, and then he wins 13, and the last thing I wanted to do was go from 2 up to 1 down. To be able to somehow halve the hole, it almost looked like I might even win the hole. I had a 12-footer for par if he would have given me a little gift.

Q. 15 was a good putt, as well.

TIGER WOODS: 15 wasn't that hard, just three feet.

Q. What's your take on being 19 and 3 in this event? It's a pretty phenomenal record considering everything.

TIGER WOODS: Well, I've had a pretty good record in match play from my junior golf days through amateur golf until now, and I've always liked it. I've always liked the idea of going head-to-head, because in stroke play, I mean, it takes us through three days, maybe three and a half days to get a situation where we go head-to-head against somebody. Generally it's not in the same group. Someone is ahead of you or behind you. So it's nice to be able to tee off on the first tee and go head-to-head against somebody and know that they're going to have to play well to get you.

Q. On 16 when you hit them in the bunker, typically you might go for the middle of the green because the green is wide open. Were you going at the pin?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it was a perfect play for me because the wind was coming off the left and I draw the ball, so they cancel each other out and it should be right at the flag. It was a perfect number. I could go ahead and just let it go.

Q. The number was?

TIGER WOODS: 82, hole, down left to right.

Q. You, of course, are good friends with Darren. You recommended he lose weight. Playing him in the finals, does it make it more interesting or a lot harder?

TIGER WOODS: It'll be a lot of fun if that's the way it turns out.

Q. Right now Love is on 18 in 2. Darren is about 100 yards away in 2. So how would you like playing Davis? (Laughter). Give us two answers.

TIGER WOODS: If I play Davis, it'll be a fun match because we played two years ago and had a lot of fun. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to play as well as he did. He played just beautifully and put all the pressure on me that day, so hopefully I can play as well as I have been the last couple days and take it to him.

Q. You also said one of the keys is not to let your opponent get an opportunity. I think we figured out since you trailed 1 up in the 16th hole the first match, you have not been behind in this tournament, pretty steady golf it would indicate.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, there are times when I probably should have been, should have been down, but either my opponent might have given me a gift or I might have made a clutch putt.

For instance, against Trevor I made a really good putt on the 2nd hole for par from 12 feet. In order to win matches you've got to putt well. That's what it boils down to. You can hit the ball well, but if you're not making any putts your opponent is going to be not under a whole lot of pressure.

Q. Would you have guessed when you first saw this format, and you talked about anything goes over 18 holes when it started, that you would reach the finals three times out of five years, would you have expected that from anybody? Would you have expected that from yourself?


Q. Would you care to elaborate or try to elaborate?

TIGER WOODS: I expect myself. I don't know how any other person in the field thinks, but I feel as if I have the game to win matches.

Q. Kind of as a follow to that, is it an upset or surprise that more highly ranked players, whoever they are at the time, whether it's Vijay, Davis, Duval, whatever, haven't gotten to the finals more often, or is that the nature of the way you play and they don't?

TIGER WOODS: I think it's the nature of match play and the fickleness of it, but it's also -- a lot of it is experience. I've had great positive memories to rely upon. When I'm out there and I'm down, hey, I've been down this road before in amateur golf. I've been down 5 -- against Trip Kuehne I was five down with 11 to go, so I've been down that road before and I've made rallies, so any time I'm in that situation I can rely upon those positive memories.

Q. Is that where you get the sort of intestinal fortitude to produce the shots that you did against -- who did you play in the first round?

TIGER WOODS: John Rollins.

Q. On 17 where you stuffed that 8-iron in there, and then today on 16?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, a lot of it is the fact that I've been down that road before. I've had to pull out shots in order to win matches. It's nice to be able to call upon those type of memories.

Q. Is that actually running through your mind?

TIGER WOODS: Oh, yes. Like that putt I hit on 16, I said, I've made putts like this before. Let's go ahead and bury this putt and take the momentum away from Stephen and let's move on, and I hit a beautiful putt and it went in.

Q. There would have been almost 108 holes of golf in three days. How much of it is endurance and how much is good golf? Is it going to be good golf that wins or better endurance?

TIGER WOODS: I think endurance does play a factor when you put three straight days in a row. I remember playing in the Western Amateur and we had three straight days of 36 holes, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and we were all beat tired come Sunday afternoon. It does play a factor. But there's no substitute for good golf and adrenaline. Those two things carry a long way.

Q. If you play Davis Love tomorrow -- have you played with him head-to-head?

TIGER WOODS: I've played with -- I think I've beat Davis, what, last year or two years ago?

Q. A couple years ago, I think.

TIGER WOODS: In 2000, I got to play against Darren. I beat Davis -- I've been paired with Davis before as partners in the Ryder Cup. Davis is a great guy. On top of that, just an unbelievable talent. You step up there and you know you've got your hands full playing against someone like that.

Q. Do you remember what club you hit on the old 7th, the 16th, par 3 in 97, in the rain there?

TIGER WOODS: I hit 6-iron.

Q. This is really a test. About the same tee box --

TIGER WOODS: Take that back. I hit 7-iron. I hit nothing but 6-irons on the range. I get up on the tee and the wind has changed and all of a sudden I've got to hit a 7-iron.

Q. Second question is, you're good friends with Darren. Does he ever join you in those early morning practice rounds?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, he actually sometimes played ahead of us. He'll actually get out there before dawn.

Q. This is obviously presuming now, but do you think Darren's familiarity with you -- you're sort of almost like brothers, it seems, the camaraderie between the two of you, does that help him play against you in comparison to other players who play against you? Does that mean anything?

TIGER WOODS: No. If you're playing well, you're playing well. I don't care if you're best of buddies or not. I played, I guess, Marco in the finals at Wentworth, probably one of the greatest matches I've ever played, and I was 12 and he was 13 under for 36 holes, which is a pretty darn good match. If you're playing well, it's going to carry you no matter what.

Q. Talk about you possibly have a chance to repeat win at World Golf Championships. Is this considered different than stroke play in a way a more important win than a regular PGA event?

TIGER WOODS: It's totally different. This is more of a physical and mental variety than stroke play. Stroke play, you don't really care what anyone else is doing until Sunday. You're kind of plugging along playing your own game. Out here you're worried about each and every shot. Two totally different animals.

Q. That was an old-fashioned Tiger-like jab after you made the play. Is that the best putt of the year, the best jab of the year?

TIGER WOODS: I haven't been in a situation where I was close to winning. It's still only my fourth tournament of the year, though.

Q. Can you describe that emotion when that ball hits the cup and goes in on 16 like that?

TIGER WOODS: You know, I kept my head really still on that putt. I only saw about the last foot of it. It was just kind of left center, and with the pace I hit it, it was in, and it's one of those feelings where yeah, you're excited because you made the putt, but also more importantly, I just snatched the momentum away from Stephen. So there's two different elements going on here, and I kept telling myself on the next hole, get the ball into play, keep that momentum on your side, and I was able to do that and he made a mistake on the second shot.

Q. How much more satisfying or how much more fun is match play, what you mentioned earlier, the fact that you get a chance to win essentially every day as opposed to a stroke play where you wait until Sunday, the last nine, to see if you even get a chance to win? Is it a lot more fun for you?

TIGER WOODS: I love it. I've loved it since junior golf when I first played in the Southern Cal Match Play over at Eldorado Park. I've always loved match play. I love the fact that momentum changes, the emotional drain that happens just over 18 holes, let alone an entire week of it. I've said this a few times now, that I think if we played match play every week guys would be toast by 40. They'd be in a padded room drooling on themselves.

Q. You said there's no substitute for good golf and adrenaline. Does the adrenaline kick in when someone does challenge you, when they square a match?

TIGER WOODS: No, adrenaline -- your adrenaline is up on the first tee.

Q. But you're saying you can keep the adrenaline going?

TIGER WOODS: You don't even worry about it, it's there.

Q. It's just there?

TIGER WOODS: It's there. You're excited to play. You're nervous, you're excited. It's a challenge, the rush of going out there and trying to beat someone. All these things are going on and your adrenaline is up.

Q. What was the more important putt for you, 14 or 16?

TIGER WOODS: 14 by far.

Q. Did you get even more adrenaline from that putt?

TIGER WOODS: It was just the fact that I stopped the momentum in the slide because I had won 10 and 11, he had won 12 and 13, and you don't want to go from 2 up to 1 down. You want to put a halt to it, and I was able to do it.

Q. You're going to play in the finals tomorrow, but you were on the 17th fairway Wednesday 1 down. Was that 8-iron you hit against John Rollins maybe the most important shot you hit all week? Is that kind of a comment on how strange match play is, from penthouse to outhouse and vice versa?

TIGER WOODS: People who don't play don't realize how strange it is. You can go out there and play well; some of the guys shot 3- or 4-under par this week and are already home. Darren didn't make a birdie and beat a guy, what, 7-6. Who played Duffy?

Q. Poulter.

TIGER WOODS: He didn't make a birdie, either. He was 1 over or whatever, and he won his match 6-5, and Duffy was 7 over through 8. It's the fickleness of match play. It all depends on who you get. Darren this morning played great, so you can just toast somebody off.

Q. Another hypothetical, depending on what goes on, but if it's Darren, the last time you guys played, there was that kind of funny scene on the range where Butch was on one end, Darren was on the other, saying I don't need you right now, Butchie, et cetera, et cetera. If you guys play tomorrow I think there will be some attention on you no longer having Butch and him working almost exclusively with Darren. I wonder if you could talk about your relationship with Butch now, and B, your decision to kind of go it alone?

TIGER WOODS: My relationship with Butchie hasn't changed from a friend standpoint, and he's still my friend. It's just that I no longer work with him on a professional level, which is fine. A lot of guys do that out here. Obviously people have paid a lot more attention to my circumstance than others.

Q. At what point did you decide or feel like you needed to do it yourself?

TIGER WOODS: It's just an understanding of your own game. It's nice to go out there and understand how to fix your own swing. The great thing about all the years that I worked with Butch is that we've gone through a lot of different swing changes and I have a lot of things to fall back upon in order to fix my game, which is good.

Q. Jones once told Nicklaus sometime in the 60s that you can't become a truly great player unless you can learn how to fix your own mistakes.

TIGER WOODS: You have to on the fly out there in competition, and that's one of the things that Butchie was very adamant about. When we were out there working on something on the range, whether it was in Houston or Vegas or at another tournament site, he was very adamant if I was not able to feel like I could make this move in a competition, we threw it out. We would never go back to it.

Q. I'm not sure I follow that.

TIGER WOODS: If I feel like I can't make that move under pressure, under the gun, on the back nine on Sunday at Augusta, then we're not going that road.

Q. How would you know unless you got there?

TIGER WOODS: No, you'd know. You'd know the feeling of the golf swing. If there's no way I can repeat that consistently, even if I hit as many balls as Vijay does daily, there's no way I could trust that particular move on Sunday afternoon. Some moves you feel, oh, yeah, that feels natural. You want to have something that down the stretch feels more natural than something else, almost robotic, for me. I've got to be able to go.

Q. Have you added something since you stopped working with him?

TIGER WOODS: Touches here and there, but mainly just same old thing, slow your hips down, get your arms down in front of you, go ahead and let it go.

Q. What's going on in your head on a day like today when you're making all the putts you have to make versus those days when you're lipping out putts and you can't quite find the speed? How do you find it here or how did you find it today?

TIGER WOODS: I wish I could tell you. I just felt more comfortable. I felt more comfortable seeing the lines and seeing where -- you know, when you're struggling with your putting, you tend to take a low line a lot and force the ball in the hole. When you're putting well, every putt just falls in and you're taking the high road. Instead of rolling the ball, you try and jam it in the hole. The other day I just went back to rolling it. I hit a few short putts from 10 feet and just tried to pick the highest line possible, and it was just creeping in there.

I've seen Faxon do that; he puts the tee up there on the high end and tries to roll it around the tee into the hole. It gets you to rolling the ball instead of force-feeding the ball.

Q. Is it hard to do on poa?

TIGER WOODS: It is very hard to do on poa, especially on short putts.

Q. Well, you did it today. All day today you were rolling them in, despite the discussion yesterday about the poa. What's the difference day in and day out?

TIGER WOODS: I rolled it better today, simple as that.

Q. Real quick, do you have a choice, do you want revenge with Darren or do you want to play with Davis?

TIGER WOODS: I don't care. They're both great players and they're both playing well. No matter what you get, you're going to be up against someone who's playing well. You don't win five matches and get to the finals without playing well.

Q. How far was the putt on 14?

TIGER WOODS: It was about six feet.

Q. Off beat question: The white shoes, when did you go with those? Your idea or Nike's?

TIGER WOODS: I wear nothing but white at home when I'm out there practicing. That's all I have. It's the only thing I have with soft spikes.

Q. You just don't see it that much anymore.

TIGER WOODS: I decided to mix it up a little bit at my tournament last year. I wore them Saturday, just a little bit of a change. I used to wear them all the time until 99 I switched over to just exclusively wearing just black shoes or brown.

Q. Are you ever going to go back to light-colored pants? Do you remember the first year you won The Masters you wore white shoes and light-colored pants?

TIGER WOODS: 97 Masters I wore -- I remember this one, hold on. Friday I wore gray pants, white shoes, blue top and a gray sweater vest. Hah.

End of FastScripts.

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