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February 24, 2004

Tiger Woods


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: World No. 1, Tiger Woods. Thank you for joining us. If we could start with some opening comments about coming back to defend your title at the Accenture Match Play Championship.

TIGER WOODS: I'm very excited. It's always fun to come back here and play at Match Play. It's an exciting event. On top of that, the golf course is playing very similar to how it was last year, being soft, the rough is up. You've got to watch how much your ball spins back on these greens. Sometimes you've got to hit one or two clubs more just so the ball won't spin. So it's going to be more of a challenge to try and get the ball to stay where it lands rather than spinning off the greens. If you miss the ball off the fairway, the rough is so high, you really can't advance them to the greens, so it puts a premium on driving.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: You had a nice round on Sunday. Do you feel some momentum coming on or did you put everything together that day?

TIGER WOODS: Well, it is exciting. I drove the ball well all day. I hit my irons terrible, and then finally I hit them great on Sunday. I hit them just like I did at the Buick, so I knew it was in there, just getting the timing right and finally putting it together on Sunday. It's a lot easier trying to make putts from 10 feet than from 30 feet.

Q. Is La Costa playing almost the same as Riviera was on Sunday?

TIGER WOODS: No, because this place has rough. On top of that, the greens up there were much firmer than they are here. For some reason, this golf course just collects the water in this little valley. Riviera was very hard and fast on Tuesday until the rains came, so it had a long way to go where it became really soft and out of control. This golf course, it's always been soft and it's only going to get more soft.

Q. Most golfers will say when they're playing great in a tournament, I played the course. In match play, do you play the course or do you play the person?

TIGER WOODS: You have to do both. You try and play the golf course, but your opponent does put you in situations where you have to play differently than you would in stroke play. You have a 10-footer and if you two-putt you walk away with winning the hole. And in stroke play you're trying to bury that putt at all costs.

Here you're just trying to get it up there so you can yell, "That's good," and go on to the next. So your mind changes. If your opponent hits the ball in the rough off the tee, and sometimes you might take a 2-iron or 3-wood and put your ball in play, or if he misses the green you might fire a little safer because he's got an impossible up-and-down.

Q. Will you take chances that you wouldn't take in stroke play? In other words, if you're the other guy, you're in the rough or you're buried --

TIGER WOODS: Sometimes I don't. I mean, I can't say that I never have because I have, but you rarely take a huge gamble, I believe. I think the best way to play match play is always be in every hole, just make sure that if your opponent was ever going to win a hole, he's going to have to win it with birdie or eagle. You're not going to give him a hole with a bogey. I think that's uncalled for in match play. You want to make your opponent earn his victories on holes.

Q. Most weeks you've got to beat 155 other guys. This week you've got to beat six. Which is harder?

TIGER WOODS: The thing about match play -- the thing about stroke play, the best player that week wins. In match play, the best player that week doesn't always win. It's the best player that particular day. We saw last year -- we've seen here, throughout the years we've played this tournament, that matches are won at 3- and 4-over par, other matches are won at 7- or 8-under. It's two totally different things. You just have to be better than your opponent that day.

Q. If this had been a stroke play tournament last year, the way you played, is it safe to say you might have won by 12?

TIGER WOODS: I felt like I would have won by a lot. I mean, I really played well, I really did. For, I think, the first four matches, I really played some pretty good golf. Playing Scott Hoch, Scott was 3-under and I think I got him 7-6 or something like that.

Q. Along those lines, you could repeat the way you played last year and it guarantees you nothing.


Q. With that in mind, what's it like heading into this week?

TIGER WOODS: Well, it's the unpredictability of match play. You know that all you have to do is just beat your opponent that day, just be better than your opponent.

Tomsie and I were talking about that when we were playing our match, that if we had to play match play every single week, guys would retire by the age of 40 because of the emotional ups-and-downs and roller coasters that you go through on 18 holes.

When you're playing stroke play you could care less what anyone else is doing until Sunday afternoon. You're going out and playing your own game. Here, you're worried about what your opponent does. He hits the shot over here, I've got to counter that. You're in the hole, out of the hole, in the hole, out of the hole, all in one hole, you have these amazing emotional roller coasters. You get off to a great start and through nine you're one down. You boat race him on the back nine, he comes back and now you're going extra holes.

Q. What do you compare the feeling to when you left on Wednesday two years ago after the humility factor?

TIGER WOODS: I didn't play well. He did absolutely everything he needed to do to win the match. He kept the ball in play, put the ball on the green, kept putting pressure on me. I wasn't hitting the ball well that day and I was just trying to hang around in the match and maybe he would give me a hole or two to turn the tide, and he never did.

Q. Does that feel like missing the cut?

TIGER WOODS: No, because missing the cut was a pretty bad feeling up there in Canada.

Q. You've got a good record here, other players don't. Do you think some players get spooked out by match play?

TIGER WOODS: I think other guys might alter their games too much. I really don't know. I don't know how they play. I don't know what their strategy is going in. I know that the best way to play match play, in my opinion, is just try and put a lot of pressure on your opponent, just try and always keep him under pressure by knowing the fact that you're in every fairway, on every green, you've got birdie putts, not just from 30 feet, but makeable putts, and if you give him 18 holes of that, it's going to wear him out.

Q. You said last year was your best ball-striking tournament of the year here. With what you know about where your swing is at now, can you approach what you did last year as far as how you struck the ball?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I did on Sunday. I hit it just the way I did last year here on Sunday this past week at Riviera. I really hit some good shots.

Q. And you felt like you did that here last year?

TIGER WOODS: Last year I hit the ball really well. I drove it in just about every single fairway. I really controlled my ball on the greens, taking 6-irons from 155 yards out and taking the spin off, hitting little half shots like that, shallow divots, and just really controlled my ball on the greens, so it wasn't ripping back on the greens. So I had a lot of makeable putts where a lot of the guys were probably hitting the ball closer but they were spinning the ball off. I felt like I really had good control of my ball from tee to green.

Q. Who do you feel is going to be the biggest man to beat here at the Accenture?

TIGER WOODS: You've got to take it one match at a time. I've got my match with John tomorrow and hopefully we'll get it in. You just have to take it one match at a time. You can't look ahead to who you're playing the second round because you may not be there. You've got to take it one step at a time.

Q. Do you feel the rain is going to affect your play at all?

TIGER WOODS: It's going to affect how you play, yes, because it puts more of a premium on driving. You've got to put -- be more aware going into the greens that you don't spin the ball off these shelves. You've got to be very careful on what clubs you choose going into the greens, because normally 140 yards for me is a no-brainer 9-iron. Out here I may be hitting a little 7-iron in there trying to take the spin off.

Q. I come from a student news show and what people want to know is, you're probably one of the most recognized faces in the world, do you ever resent the invasion of privacy and people coming up to you all the time?

TIGER WOODS: It's not that bad. It's not as bad as what people might think. I'm no longer a new face. That newness has worn off, so it's not as bad as it used to be.

Q. In the 97 Masters you struggled for 9 holes, made a nice swing adjustment and played extremely well. Is it easier or harder to make adjustments on the golf course? Are there less variables or more variables?

TIGER WOODS: I think it's much easier to make changes now because I don't have as much of a drastic change to make. I had a lot more moving parts back in 97, a lot more -- my swing plane was totally different then as compared to now, short, face was a little shut. A lot of different things going down on the down swing to try and get the club face square and not shut coming into the ball. I had to do a lot of things to try and compensate for that.

Now when something is off, it's not that hard a fix. It's a very short list of things I need to do, but the thing is, it's a matter of going out there and trusting it. I can do it on the range, but down the stretch on Sunday afternoon when you've got to really hit a shot, that's when it's the hardest for anybody.

Q. What are the most common mistakes people make in match play?

TIGER WOODS: I think they may give up on a hole too early. If you think you're out of the hole, you're not really out of the hole yet. Make your opponent go ahead and play it out and make him work for it. I saw Davis do that at the Presidents Cup this year. Robert Allenby made a putt on 15 -- I mean, all he had to do is two-putt from about six feet and he didn't give it to him. You never know if somebody might mis-hit a stroke and hit it by there. Make him go ahead and finish out the hole.

Q. What do you know about John Rollins? I think you said you played with him once. Have you ever played with him?

TIGER WOODS: I think I might have played with him once.

Q. He said no. He said he's never played with you.

TIGER WOODS: Really? I guess I haven't then. I don't know. I thought I may have. All I know is that he pounds it out there, plays a little left-to-right ball. He's not a small guy. He's strong as can be.

Q. Does that change your way, the fact that you don't know at all his game?

TIGER WOODS: It doesn't matter. You can play someone you know really well or someone you don't know. It's a matter of going out there and playing your game and putting a lot of pressure on your opponent and making sure you stay in each and every hole.

Q. Is there a point where you would look at the bracket just to kind of see who's there and who might be there if you remain?

TIGER WOODS: I never have. That's not something I do. Even when I was playing in the U.S. Amateur days and U.S. Junior days, I didn't do that. I kept it in the present and kept focusing on one match at a time. Once I got that match done with, I'd focus on who I was going to play in the next match and figure out what I needed to do, adjust my game to beat my opponent.

Q. Are you disappointed Ernie didn't come?

TIGER WOODS: It's understandable. It's just format. It's not too often we see -- we've never seen the No. 1 and No. 2 players meet in the finals yet. It's very fickle when you get 18 holes and you get this quality of field. Anybody can beat anybody any time.

That's one of the things you have to understand about this format, and I don't see how -- if you're a person who fills out the brackets and try and pick like you do, I don't see how you can ever win at that because there's no way you can ever get every single bracket right, because anybody can beat anybody. There's really no big upset out here because all these guys can shoot 63s and 4s on call. That's just the way it is.

Q. Kind of a follow-up. Everybody's ranking, does that matter how anybody is seeded in this thing?

TIGER WOODS: No, it really doesn't. It might be different if it played like it did at Wentworth in the World Match Play when the rankings -- you get a bye in the first round on something, but not in this tournament.

Q. How much easier is the NCAA bracket to fill out than this bracket?

TIGER WOODS: A lot easier. I usually do pretty well in that, actually.

Q. Is Stanford No. 1 in your bracket?

TIGER WOODS: What do you think?

Q. Who has a better chance? You winning this week or Stanford winning it all? I know you said you're feeling more nervous for others when you can't control it.

TIGER WOODS: That's a great question. I'm not going to answer that one.

Q. You talked about putting pressure on your opponents. Your game the last couple weeks since coming back from Mercedes is what I would say, looking at it from the scores, is somewhat inconsistent. Do you think that you have the game right now to put the pressure on your opponents as well as you did last year?

TIGER WOODS: Yes, definitely.

Q. Along that line, how would you compare your game now to say 2000?

TIGER WOODS: I haven't driven it as well as I did in 2000. My iron game -- well, excluding last week, it's sharper than it was in 2000. My putting probably is not quite as good, short game is a heck of a lot better. My mental game is definitely better.

Q. The reason I asked that question is, on the flight out here yesterday I was reading some old golf magazines from 2001, and they were asking questions in there that some people ask about you now, why can't he do this, basically, why doesn't the guy win every time he plays, and it struck me as this guy is always going to be compared to 2000 or 99.


Q. How do you feel about that?

TIGER WOODS: Well, it's like how Jordan was, Jordan throughout his career. How many MVPs do you think he should have won? He had probably -- instead of scoring 35 or 34 a year, he scored 33.2 or something like that. It wasn't a significant dropoff, but they gave it to somebody else. They hold you to a standard that you've had one year at -- I guess, for example, if Byron Nelson would have kept playing in his career, he would have been held to that 18-win year, but he quit early. Same thing with Bobby Jones. He quit early. He would have held to the Grand Slam year. That's the way it is, public perception.

Q. Do you have any thoughts of wishing you had quit early?

TIGER WOODS: If I walk away from the game right now I think I've had a pretty good career. It's hard to say that I haven't had a good career. People fail to realize, like in 2002, how close I was to having a year like I did in 2000. I mean, I was one stroke off a playoff to getting into a third major, just like I did in 2000.

Q. How often do you think about 2000 and say, gee, can I ever do this again?

TIGER WOODS: Well, it's one of those things where everything went right for me. I drove the ball beautifully, hit my irons well, made a lot of putts. Stevie and I were talking about it a few weeks ago, that it seemed like every break I got was a good break. I hit a bad shot in the trees it would kick out, get a lie in the rough, hit it up there, make birdie. The balls never seemed to kick the wrong way, and you need to have that. Everybody has their little run. We saw Vijay have a great run there for six months. I'm sure if you asked him, he'd say the same thing.

Ernie, over the last -- his run early in the year, last year, I'm sure if you asked him, the same thing. You hit shots and you're one foot or one yard away from being in trouble and all of a sudden it kicks the other way, and you turn it around and turn it -- it's a big momentum changer. It's hard to explain to people unless they've been out there and they see it.

You can ask the guys on Tour because they understand it and they see it every day. You hit one marginal shot and it kicks on the green, you make a 30-feeter for birdie. You think you're going to make bogey and you make birdie and it turns the round around.

Q. Your scrambling stats are pretty far down. We talked about this a little bit last week. When you make bogey or don't make par, does that hurt more on the score card or in sustaining momentum for a round?

TIGER WOODS: Sustaining momentum. I've always said making a big par putt is a lot better than making a birdie. You don't ever want to lose a shot. Making those par putts or getting a crucial up-and-down turns rounds into a direction where you start making some birdies all of a sudden because you get this huge positive energy because all of us can make birdies. It's not that hard to make a birdie out here on Tour. We all can do it. But it's the art of turning that potential bogey into a par, how much mental toughness it takes to do that. Look how good Curtis was back in his prime on doing that. Faldo was good at that.

Q. Curtis Strange?

TIGER WOODS: Yes. Certain guys have always had the talent and the knack of doing that, and that's one of the reasons why they do so well in the majors, because they can do that.

Q. Is there any relationship, do you think, to the number of times getting up-and-down and the scores you've posted? Your worst score is like a 72, but keeping score, it's more 65s and 67s?

TIGER WOODS: I think it's the places that I put myself in. Sometimes a bogey is a heck of a score if you put yourself in a pretty precarious position. If you're missing the ball in the correct spots, you should be able to make par, and I think that's where ball control, iron play, driving, you keep putting yourself with angles to get the ball up-and-down. Like for instance, last week versus San Diego, I drove the ball terrible at San Diego, but I kept missing on the correct side of the fairway where I had good angles for chips or to get the ball on the green.

Last year I kept short-siding myself, hitting the ball long, and I had no chance unless I made a 10, 15-footer. Little things like that add up, and if you do that four, five, six times throughout a tournament, those are potentially six bogeys, and that usually throws you out of the chance of winning a tournament.

Q. We're doing something on Chris Riley. I just want your thoughts on how you think he'll fare this week, coming off of the missed putt at the Buick?

TIGER WOODS: Riley is tough. He makes a lot of putts. He drives the ball beautifully. He's just that tenacious opponent. He keeps coming after you, keeps coming after you, putting pressure on you. Those guys are tough to beat because you know they're not going to beat themselves. That's what you have to do in match play, is never beat yourself and make him beat you.

I played Riley in the finals at the Western Amateur in 94 and we had a good match there. He kept making putts from everywhere. Those guys are tough to beat. I'm sure somebody that plays Faxon or Jay Haas or Loren Roberts, guys who are beautiful putters, those guys are tough to beat because you know even if they don't hit the ball particularly well, if they get them anywhere on the green you're still worried about them making that putt. If they do hit the ball on the green in regulation and they've got a 10 or 15-footer, count it and go to the next hole. That's good. Those guys are tough to beat.

End of FastScripts.

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