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July 5, 2003

Tiger Woods


TODD BUDNICK: We thank Tiger Woods, your third round leader, for joining us today after a 7-under 65, looking to become the fifth three-time winner here at the Western Open. You set the 54-hole record with your score of 198 through three rounds. You're the third round leader for the 31st time in your career and you've won 28 of those, including your last nine. Let's first talk about the play today. Not a lot of pars out there, a lot of birdies.

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think I got off to a decent start. I hit the ball really well starting out, and on top of that I made everything. You know, when things are going your way like on 5 today, I hit a terrible tee shot over to the right, and I had a decent angle, I had a really good angle and a decent lie, and I hit the shot and it was about a foot away from going in the bunker or going on the green, and it kicked straight right and it rolled up about two feet for eagle. I got a great break there.

TODD BUDNICK: Talk about the fact that holding a six-stroke lead heading into the final round, how does one approach that aspect of the game?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I've got to go out there and play one shot at a time. It's a whole cliche but it's very apropos. You have to do that in order to win championships. I'm just going to take it one step at a time.

Q. After the putts on 6 and 7, you said outside you knew you scored well. At that point did you consciously think I'm scoring well, I can put this away today?

TIGER WOODS: No, you just -- I was just so focused on just staying in the present and just hitting -- making sure my mind was ready to hit that next shot. I did that, and I just came off birdying 6 and 7, and I drove it right down the middle on 8 and ended up in a divot and then hit a terrible golf shot, straight right. Then I hit a pretty good bunker shot. It ended up below the hole but then I hit a good putt and it lipped out. I said even though I just made bogey I hit three good shots. The only bad shot was the second shot, and there's no need to get down on yourself for that. I birdied the very next hole.

Q. How big was that? Playing bogey-free golf through 7, then you bogey and then you come back with birdie?

TIGER WOODS: It's always nice to get the bounceback stat that you have on the Tour. Any time you can come right back with a birdie, it just feels like it automatically erases what you've just done. You messed up but then you erase it by making birdie the next hole and then we start even again. That's awfully nice when you can do that.

Q. Can you talk about the approach to 17? Was that another case like 5 where you got a good break?

TIGER WOODS: I hit a terrible tee shot. It was just straight right. But I had a decent lie, but more than anything I had a shot. In order to go at the flag -- my only shot was actually to fire at the flag. I had to cut it a little bit to try and hold it against the wind, and it just came off perfect.

Q. What did you hit there?

TIGER WOODS: I had 151, I hit wedge.

Q. Did the gentleman say anything? You were in his folding chair before the drop. Did he say anything to you?

TIGER WOODS: I didn't -- no. I wasn't really in the mood to listen anyways after hitting a shot like that.

Q. How far were you on 5 and what did you hit there?

TIGER WOODS: I had 76 front, and I think it was 13 more to the hole, and I hit 8-iron. It was kind of down off the right, a little bit of a flyer lie.

Q. You have a very nice record when you're ahead after the third round. What do you think the secret is to doing so well while ahead?

TIGER WOODS: I've always enjoyed it. I've always enjoyed being ahead, and on top of that, if you're ahead and you go out there and shoot the same score, you automatically win. You know, that's one way to look at it. You don't have to try and make up ground. If you are ahead and you make a couple mistakes, at least you have that lead and the cushion to right the ship and get it right back and you can still win the tournament. If you're trailing and you try and make a run and you make the same mistakes, that person who has the lead, you're not going to win the championship.

Q. But everybody doesn't do as well as you do when ahead. Guys have trouble sleeping on the lead and it takes a toll on them and so forth.

TIGER WOODS: I've always slept better.

Q. Really?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, why not? I have the lead. It's not like I have to go out there and shoot 63 and make a comeback in order to win a championship. I'm winning the tournament.

Q. Can you think of the last time you played nine holes that consistently solid the whole way through?

TIGER WOODS: To be honest with you I was really close -- I played about eight holes like that at Westchester. I just didn't make quite as many putts, but I hit the ball just as good. Today I did that and I made a few more putts.

Q. Is the mindset any different having a six-shot lead as opposed to a one-shot lead?

TIGER WOODS: The only difference is if you're in a situation where you feel like you need to fire at a flag stick you may not have to. That's about it. You still have to go out there and play the game. There might be a few times when, yeah, you might be a little more conservative and fire away from a flagstick here and there. Depends what the situation is. If I get off to a good start tomorrow, then I can play conservative coming home, but if somebody makes a run, obviously you've got to change that.

Q. On 6 were you aware of the squirrel that jumped over your ball and nearly knocked it off course?

TIGER WOODS: I saw it running across the green. I didn't know it was close to my golf ball. It was?

Q. Yeah, jumped right over it.

This year some of your higher scores have been during the third round. Has there been something different to your approach that certainly changed that?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I hit it good (laughter). Yeah, you're right. My scoring average this year really hasn't been that great. Either I shot a great round or I shot a terrible round, one of the two. It hasn't been right in the middle. Today I went out there and I really played well.

Q. Have you ever wondered why many other players say they don't want the lead going into a final round, they'd like to be one off the lead and try and chase somebody?

TIGER WOODS: I have no idea why.

Q. Could you ever imagine thinking that way?

TIGER WOODS: No. As I said earlier, if we go out there and shoot the same score, the person leading is automatically going to win, and that's the great thing about having the lead.

Q. Going back to the 28 out of 30 stat and why you've done better than other players, how important is it that you have been in contention, whether at the lead or near the lead more than other players? Do you see that as a factor?

TIGER WOODS: You feel a lot more comfortable. You asked me because you've been there. When you have success by being in that same position, it just breeds more confidence, no matter how poorly or how well I'm playing. I've done it all different ways. I mean, you guys saw it at Memorial one day when I was playing Vijay and I hit it all over the lot and I got up-and-down from trash cans that day in order to win the championship. That breeds confidence, knowing you can do that and still win, and then I also played great on Sunday and won. Winning breeds winning.

Q. When you got it rolling like you did today, does the thought ever creep into your mind I can get this lead to four shots, five shots, six shots if I keep doing it, or is that not part of the equation?

TIGER WOODS: I never thought that way. I just want to keep giving myself looks at birdies. That was my main focus is just give myself looks because I was putting so well, give myself some looks at it. The putts I had legitimate chances at, I made. When I did put myself in that position I didn't make them.

Q. Is there any condition when you come out to the course tomorrow, whether it be with the weather or the course, which causes you some concern about tomorrow?


Q. Ed Fiori ever needle you for overtaking you?

TIGER WOODS: I haven't seen him in a while, but yeah, he does.

Q. What's he say?

TIGER WOODS: Well, nothing you can repeat in here.

Q. Obviously a win here would be some good momentum for the British. What will preparation the next two weeks consist of and will it involve some fly fishing?

TIGER WOODS: Probably. I know I'm just going to go practice a little bit, work on a few things and make sure I keep engraining the things I'm working on, and obviously it's working. More than anything, get some rest, get some much-needed rest, because when you go over there and play in major championships it's a long week, especially when you can have any kind of weather.

Q. Will you be stopping in in Ireland?

TIGER WOODS: Possibly. I haven't really confirmed it yet, but there's a good chance.

Q. You were just saying the other day how you love this course and it fits your eye. It's no secret Cog Hill would like to host a U.S. Open. Knowing that you love this course the way it is, can this course host an Open?

TIGER WOODS: As of right now, no, it needs to be toughened up.

Q. Which would mean lengthening?

TIGER WOODS: Lengthening it, adding bunkers, making the greens more difficult, something like that, because the golf course is not in a shape where it could host a U.S. Open.

Q. Would that make it less appealing to you to come back to the Western since you like it the way it is now?

TIGER WOODS: No, as long as they don't change the routing. You may add a few different things here and there, add a bunker, but the overall shape of the holes, I think that's -- that's why I like this place so much is it just looks good each and every tee shot.

Q. What if they played it to a par 70 or 71?

TIGER WOODS: No. I mean, the greens aren't -- they're big, so if you drive the ball in the fairway you're going to see some really low scores if they did have a U.S. Open here. I just don't see it, not under these conditions. Now, if they redesigned the golf course and made it much more difficult, then yes, it could.

Q. Kresge said he was comfortable today in a situation that he had never been in before. Could you tell us how he handled himself out there today?

TIGER WOODS: He played well considering what he had to deal with today with his foot. He hung in there pretty good.

TODD BUDNICK: Let's go through your birdies. Start with the one on No. 2.

TIGER WOODS: 2, I hit a 9-iron to about four feet, made that.

3, I hit a sand wedge to about eight feet, made that.

Eagle, 6, I hit a 6-iron there to about 25 feet or so, made that.

7, I hit a sand wedge to about 12 feet.

8, I described.

9, I hit a driver off the deck, mishit it a little bit, hit it short right and hit a decent flop shot out of that lie I had and made about a 12-footer down the hill.

11, lost my drive just a touch right. The rough snagged my club and I hit it left in the tree and I actually got a great break. It came down where I had a shot, and I lashed it up there to about three feet.

13, I three-putted from about 35 feet, ran the first putt by about three feet and missed it.

And 14 I hit an 8-iron right in the bunker, hit a pretty good bunker shot to keep it where I did, then hit a decent chip to just miss on the low side and tapped it in for bogey.

15, I hit a driver and a 4-iron in the left bunker and blasted it out to about four feet, made that.

17, I hit a 3-wood and a wedge and made about a 12-footer.

TODD BUDNICK: Thank you, Tiger. Good luck tomorrow.

End of FastScripts....

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