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October 1, 2003

Tiger Woods


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: We'd like to welcome defending champion and World No. 1 Tiger Woods to the American Express Championship. Tiger, you talk a lot about batting average. Compared to baseball, you're 7 for 14 in the World Golf Championships and you've had some success here. Just touch on that, especially this tournament.

TIGER WOODS: Well, this tournament in particular I've had some pretty good success. I won a Valderrama. I had a chance there in Valderrama where Mike Weir won and I won in Ireland, so it's been a fantastic championship, one that I look forward to playing in just because it's, again, another collection of the best players in the world again. It's a lot of fun to play.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: You've had a little bit of time off. Maybe just touch on that real quick.

TIGER WOODS: It's been nice taking a little break. The summer was a long summer. It was nice to get away from it for a little bit and recharge the batteries and start practicing the last couple weeks.

Q. How much of the recharge thing, going back to what we were talking about yesterday, the cut streak, the pacing and establishing your schedule is attributable to the 111 in a row or whatever you're at right now?

TIGER WOODS: Well, as you know, I don't play that many events. I learned that back in '97. I just turned pro in '96. Halfway through the year I was pretty tired. I think it's just because a lot of the things I have to deal with, or I have to deal with more things at an event than most guys. Week after week of that will wear on you a little bit, and that's one of the reasons why I don't play as much as -- I would like to play a few more events, but it would just take too much out of me.

Q. Your thoughts on getting back to Houston for the Tour Championship. Everything could be riding on that tournament?

TIGER WOODS: Without a doubt. This week and obviously the Tour Championship will probably determine a lot of different things, obviously the money title, Player of the Year, Vardon Trophy. A lot of things are up for grabs. With these two big events coming up, it's pretty important to play well in those events.

Q. Do you enjoy playing at Champions? Obviously you won there.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I've had some success there. I've really enjoyed the golf course. It's a chance for us to hit driver and be a little bit more aggressive off the tees. It's not too often you find that you putt on Bermuda greens that are running at 11 and a half and 12. So that's another thing that makes it a great challenge.

Q. Do you know Jackie Burke pretty well now?

TIGER WOODS: I know him a little bit, not really well, but I've had a few conversations with him.

Q. Since you brought up Player of the Year, this is the first year in a long time it hasn't been quite a runaway. As a voter, what criteria do you use to vote and what are your priorities in terms of what you're looking at?

TIGER WOODS: Number of wins, how well you've done in the major championships, and obviously how well you've fared on the money title, and if you've had a very consistent year scoring average-wise, too. If you're up there in scoring average, you should have a good chance.

If you look at the past, since I've been on Tour, the guys who have been Player of the Year, you've had to be at the top of just about every single category. You have to be close to the money title, if not win the money title, you have to be up there in the major championships, you have to have won quite a few events and had a very good scoring average.

Q. Or live at Isle Worth?

TIGER WOODS: Our four houses apart.

Q. A couple of reasons why the Player of the Year race is a little bit up in the year is what Ben Curtis did at the British and what Shaun Micheel did at the PGA. Those two tournaments are examples of guys breaking the ice and winning majors there. Why do you think it happens less frequently at Augusta where you have a guy making his first major at Augusta? It happens way less than the other.

TIGER WOODS: I would say experience at Augusta National, but they keep changing it every year and making it so different. They didn't really tinker around with it that much more 15, 20 years, and then the last four or five years they've really changed it. Maybe it's just the mystique and aura of the place that makes it that much more difficult to win.

I think the experience on that golf course and how to play those particular holes, there's so much pressure on the back nine there and you have to handle it and know where to hit a shot. If you put the ball in the wrong spot, you're making auto-bogey. I think that's where experience does come into play.

Q. Do you think that more is running through a guy's mind the first time he plays Augusta than at the other majors as far as history and that mystique you touched on?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, probably, because it is the only major that we play on the same golf course. Every major, the other three majors, we move it around, and I think because you see it every single year on TV, television makes it that much more dramatic, too, the announcers with Jim Nance adding more colorful highlights to it. When you're out there playing, it's not really what it sounds like on TV, that's for sure.

Q. Have you decided whether or not to play the World Cup, and if so or if not, what goes into your thinking about that decision?

TIGER WOODS: I'm not going to play the World Cup, no. I'm taking that week off and just kind of hanging out.

Q. Based on all the criteria that you listed for Player of the Year honors, give us a sense of the importance of this event and how it may sway the vote.

TIGER WOODS: One thing is this event as well as the Tour Championship, they're two big events. If you can play well in both, I think you can sway some votes. Overall, I mean, the guys are going to take a look at your overall year. We have the stats when we get our ballots. We know what the guys have done, and just kind of based upon that.

Q. Does a guy automatically vote for himself if he considers himself in the running?

TIGER WOODS: No, I wouldn't say so.

Q. Did you vote for yourself last year?

TIGER WOODS: Last year?

Q. Yes.


Q. Considering the success you've had in recent years, do you think that may, when it comes down to a vote, work against you in some ways in players' minds, that there are other people who have a chance and maybe they'd try to spread it around?

TIGER WOODS: I wouldn't think so. I think they would look at the quality of year you've had. If you've gone out there and played well for an entire year, that's what Player of the Year is, someone who played well for the entire year. I think that's what they'll look at.

Q. Should they judge you by your standards that you've set or by the standards of sort of everybody in general?

TIGER WOODS: I don't know. So far I've had a pretty darn good year, four wins so far. That's tied for the most on Tour. I guess anytime you can win that many events you're in the running.

Q. As far as the golf course, I know you haven't played your round today, some of the guys are saying it's sort of a different golf course where it might not have the scope or the landscape maybe of some places as far as bigness, but it's a subtle thing, and the whole key is making sure you're hitting something short enough into the greens. Is that pretty much it?

TIGER WOODS: You have to get the ball in the fairway here because obviously with the Bermuda rough with the greens being as hard as they are, you've got a chance of holding the greens. If the Tour goes ahead and sets the pins up difficult and puts them near these falloffs, and the ball rolls 30, 40 yards off the green, knowing that it will have enough speed where it will get into the deep stuff and then you've got no shot. So you have to be very careful going into the greens and it helps to have a short iron so you can control it. Basically it boils down to getting the ball in the fairway so you can go ahead and pick your spot when to be aggressive and when not to be aggressive.

Q. We noticed yesterday that you're using a different club, a Nike Ignite. It's a prototype. How do you like it and are you taking it into the tournament tomorrow?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I'm going to play the new Nike Ignite. It is a prototype and I'm excited about it. The past week and a half, two weeks, I've been practicing with it at home. I'm really excited about the prospects of it. We'll see what happens.

Q. How is it working for you as a driver?

TIGER WOODS: Not too bad. I hit some good shots yesterday. It's one thing to hit some good shots with your buddies at home, but it's another thing to go out here and do it, and on top of that you've got to do it in a tournament, too. That's when you know whether or not it's the right move or not.

Q. Going back to the cut thing, the three eras, do you think -- this is your 23rd no-cut event in the midst of your 111. In your mind does that decrease the validity of the number in any way or is that a by-product of the era in which you play and you can make a similar argument for asterisks on Jack and Byron. Do you know what I mean?

TIGER WOODS: I understand what you mean. The problem is it's so difficult to compare the three eras. The reason why I think we have these no-cut events is because of the depth of the field. We try and get more -- when you get that congregation of the top players in the world, we have these no-cut events. It's tough to say.

Back when Byron was able to have his streak, well, it was different because obviously you had to finish in the top 20 at times to make money. It's just so difficult to compare the three eras, but nonetheless, what those two other gentlemen did is pretty remarkable because you have to be consistent.

On top of that you're going to have bad tournaments, you're going to have bad weeks where you just don't hit the ball well, and they somehow figured out a way to score and get it done, and that's what makes them champions.

Q. With all the stats that you guys have to look at at your disposal every week, what do you look at first when you look at the stats? What do you think correlates the best with success with all the stats that they measure on Tour original scoring average?

TIGER WOODS: You've got to look at wins.

Q. I'm talking about whether it's driving distance or greens in regulation or putting or --

TIGER WOODS: Wins don't count (laughter)? As far as other stats, I don't know. That's a good question. I think if you're doing well in all-around, more than likely you're going to be doing well on everything else.

Q. The Ignite is a 340 cc? Is that the size of the head?

TIGER WOODS: 335, I believe.

Q. That's the biggest head you've used; right?

TIGER WOODS: In competition, correct.

Q. The performance characteristics of this driver, how do they differ from say the Titleist you used the last couple months and the old Nike driver?

TIGER WOODS: It just feels different. I think more than anything I like the results. It may feel a little bit different, but I just like the results. If it goes out there and I can turn the ball over and shape the shots, that's one thing I've always said to you guys that as technology has gone on, it's become more difficult to shape shots. The balls have become harder, the faces have become faster, it's harder to shape shots either way, draw or fades. If I can do that with a particular driver, it'll be in play.

Q. This one you can shape it pretty good?

TIGER WOODS: I can move it around.

Q. Even though some of your tournaments have come with no- cut events, the next best streak is only 25 to your 111. I'm just wondering how much pride you take in that. I'm sure you don't go into events thinking about making the cut, but still, to keep that going for five-plus years, is there a pride factor involved?

TIGER WOODS: God, yes. There's a lot of pride to it. I'm telling you, there are days when I don't really have it and you've got to somehow dig down and gut it out. There are times when I probably should have missed the cut, but somehow figured out how to make a birdie or two coming in to squeeze it in there. San Diego a couple years ago I was right on the number. I needed a big birdie the last hole just to get on the number, and somehow I had a chance to win on Sunday.

There have been tournaments, PGA here in Atlanta, I had to birdie two of the last four holes, I believe, to make the cut. So there were times when I probably should have missed.

Q. What about this year's Masters, the up-and-down on the 9th hole?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, right. I figured I had it locked, I had it in the bag going into 8. I had a little sand wedge in there, hit it to eight feet, got it down. Had no problem making birdie here, make birdie on 9, I'd be back in the tournament. Three-putt from eight feet. Next thing you know I'm on the line. Then I hit a flare out to the right in the trees and it looked like making a bogey, and somehow I was able to make that putt.

Q. Back to the Player of the Year for a second, you talked about having the stat sheets in front of everybody. When it is this close with this many guys voting, doesn't politics enter into it a little bit? Aren't you more likely to vote for your buddy, everything else being equal?

TIGER WOODS: I think you have to be fair about it. You have to be fair on how each player has performed. You look at it -- I mean, it's not like we're going to know who voted for who. It's a closed ballot, so we won't have a clue. I think you have to be fair about it. You have to be objective in how you vote. Sometimes that can be difficult.

I know it was difficult -- I was kind of borderline back in 98 with O'Meara and Duval. Duval had a better year but Mark won two majors and finished, I believe, 4th in the PGA that year. It's hard to ignore how well he played in three major championships. He won two versus Duval won four times that year, I believe. So it makes it difficult, I'll tell you that. Sometimes it can be very difficult.

Q. Do you have your eye on the baseball post-season at all, and if so, will you maybe catch a game here?

TIGER WOODS: I went to the game last night. I wish my buddy Smoltzie would have been able to get in the game. There was no rally at the end. Unfortunately my team is out playing golf this week. The Dodgers are home playing somewhere.

End of FastScripts.

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