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June 10, 2003

Tiger Woods


RAND JERRIS: It's a pleasure to be joined by eight-time USGA champion Tiger Woods, winner of the 2000 and 2002 U.S. Opens. Tiger, now that you've had a chance to see the golf course a little bit, how would you compare it to Pebble and Bethpage where you had success in the past?

TIGER WOODS: I think this golf course is totally different than last year. It's not as big a golf course, and certainly got a lot of doglegs here. You have to make a decision what your line is going to be off the tee and stay committed to those lines. And the greens are a lot more undulating than they were last year. We've got some good slope on them. And I'm sure the USGA will put some pretty tricky pins out there for us.

Q. Tiger, are you concerned what we are concerned about, the fact that if you do not win one of the majors this year, it won't seem like Tiger Woods is in the game? That's one question. The other question, how do you compare the course now as to when you played it days before The Memorial?

TIGER WOODS: I didn't know you were concerned about it. You know what, if you can just -- as said, you can win one major, you've had a great year. And that's always been my goal, and that's my goal this week is to win the tournament this week.

As far as the golf course, it's a little bit different than what we played nine days ago. They cropped the rough last night. I don't think they're going to cut it again for the rest of the week, so it should get up a little bit. But the greens are certainly faster than we were playing, and they'll get them up to speed for the tournament. Other than that, everything is the same.

Q. The pressure of a major championship, can you recall any instance where you saw someone do something that you thought there's no way in the world they would have done that in an environment other than a U.S. Open or major championship, the pressure got to them?

TIGER WOODS: It happens every year, whether it's a top player or not. I've made mistakes because of pressure. Every player I've played with has made a mistake, because it's a pressure-packed environment. Everyone feels it. And I think you can go down the list, every single player I've played with has made a mistake because of the pressure, and so have I. That's the beauty of playing in a major is we have to overcome those mistakes.

Q. Tiger, since we're talking about pressure, what kind of pressure do you think a 16-year-old must be going through and what kind of pressure were you under when you went through your first major?

TIGER WOODS: You know, when I played my first major I was, what, 19, and I had already played in a few Tour events prior to that, so I'd already been accustomed to playing with the Touring process, and being in a Touring environment, but never a major championship environment, but in a TOUR event. I had seen some of the guys and got to know them, and played practice rounds with them, so it was easier for me. This is his first one, and it's a big one, so that's something that he's going to have to go out and deal with, different circumstances. And all he can do is play his own game, stick with what got him here and he'll be fine.

Q. You talked about concentrating in a major, and how difficult that is. How much more difficult is it when you have some sort of adversity, like the death threats or what Davis Love is going through now?

TIGER WOODS: It's tough. When you have outside distractions, it makes it tougher to focus, there's no doubt about it. And understandably what Davis has gone through and the whole family has gone through, that's tough. That's very difficult to deal with. I had to deal with something similar to that with my father back in -- well, '96 when he had his heart attack, and his heart operation in '97. I didn't have to deal with a death in the family, but the distraction weighs on your mind; no matter how much you try to block it out, it's still there. And it takes time to get over things like that. I'm sure Davis and his family will get over it eventually, but definitely not in the short-term.

Q. Tiger, already some criticism that Olympia didn't deserve the Open, because it doesn't stack up to Pebble, some of the other U.S. Open courses. You've had practice rounds, played here previously. Your thoughts as we head into the Open, is this course up to snuff of some of the other U.S. Open courses in your opinion?

TIGER WOODS: It's different. You can't say that anything stacks up to Pebble Beach. It's one of the most beautiful places in all of golf. And we do play some very historic venues. Last year was completely different. It was a huge success. And I think this year is going to be the same. It's going to be a big success out there with -- this is not as easy as people might think. This is a very difficult golf course. And when you get a lot of winds blowing through here and these trees and it starts swirling, some of the holes may be short, but they've got fairways that are 18, 20 yards wide. That's pretty tough to drive your ball into.

Q. Tiger, with no par-5s on the back and the one long par-3, how difficult is it going to be for somebody to rally from behind on the back 9 on Sunday?

TIGER WOODS: Well, if you're playing well, you can make birdies, but more than likely if you're making pars on the back 9 I'm sure you'll probably gain ground because there are some holes out there that you make one mistake, i.e., 17 and 18, the last two holes, probably two of the most difficult golf holes we play on the entire course, they happen to be back-to-back and they're the last two holes.

Q. Tiger, is there an Open championship in your career that stands out for the worst rough, the hardest rough, and also, are there a couple of shots in your Open career that stand out as an example of how bad it is?

TIGER WOODS: Probably the worst rough was probably Congressional, after it had just rained for one of the days and the rough was thick. We had a big rain delay, and I came back out and finished up, I think it was my second round, and it was pretty long. It was really long. And I just remember getting in that rough and hitting shots that -- you see the ball down there and you know darned well you can't advance it a hundred yards, and you're trying to put the ball in play, even hit it 60, 70 yards, and you can't even do that. The rough grabs hold of it because it's wet and long, it's about 5 inches or so, maybe even 6. You just play some different kind of shots.

And this week is not quite as long, but it sure is thick. You can get a good lie, a good lie where you can advance it to the green, if not hold it on the green or you're wedging out, you don't know what lie you're going to get until you get out there.

Q. There's been an increasing number of reports around here about Michael Jordan buying the Milwaukie Bucks, and you're rumored to be a principle investor in that group. Any truth?

TIGER WOODS: No truth.

Q. No truth at all?


Q. I know you watch --

TIGER WOODS: From my end -- I don't know about his end, but from my end.

Q. I know you watched the Annika story a few weeks ago, and with the record hits on websites and things like that, could you interpret what it might mean for your Tour? Is it within the realm of possibility that people are looking for someone to challenge you, personalities, is that what that situation may have spoken to?

TIGER WOODS: I think that might be a little of a stretch. I think when it comes right down to it, I think it was a person who wanted to challenge herself more than what she's ever done in her life. And that's what she did. It was a challenge not to any of the players out here, but it was a challenge to herself. And she wanted to find out where she stacked up and how good she could be, and a learning experience that would -- the learning -- the things she would learn from that event that she could apply and eventually win more majors.

Evidently it worked. She's only had four majors prior to this experience. I'm sure she's going to win a heck of a lot more because of this experience. I think it might have been a little bit of a stretch trying to say we're trying to get more personalities out here.

Q. The Masters you had a difference of opinion over club selection with Steve Williams. How did that affect your relationship and how do you keep that relationship on track now?

TIGER WOODS: Well, Stevie and I always make mistakes. It's just part of the deal. It's part of the caddy/player relationship. He's going to disagree, I'm going to disagree. But ultimately it's my responsibility to pull the club. The player has ultimate veto power over anything on the golf course. We all know that as players and we all know that as caddies. He gave me his honest opinion, which he's always done.

That's one of the things I respect most about Stevie. He's always stepped to the plate and given me his honest opinion, whether it's wrong or right, it's his honest opinion. I pulled a club, made a terrible golf swing, and from there it compounded the problem with more bad shots on that hole. Unfortunately that threw me out of contention to win the tournament.

Q. You went through a major swing change in 1998 and now Sergio is trying to do it this year. Can you relate to what he's going through and explain what he's going through, how difficult it is?

TIGER WOODS: Well, the swing changes I made were piece by piece. I didn't overhaul my whole swing like Nick Faldo did. I didn't take that drastic a step; I went piece by piece. I still wanted to be able to compete, but also understand that I may not win as much, because of the things I'm working on. As long as I'm showing consistent progress. And in '98 I actually had more top-10 finishes than I did in '97. That was the whole game plan was to be more consistent. My approach all along was to be able to compete, probably won't win as much, but be more consistent. Ultimately that will lead to victories down the road. And my game plan came out perfect.

I don't know what Sergio's exactly working on, how drastic a swing change it is. I haven't seen him hit a golf ball in a while, but obviously -- when you're working on things like that, you go out there, you're going to lose a little bit of confidence, that's just natural. But it's a matter if you're showing progress. I don't know if he's showing progress or not. I think he's going to have to be the one to answer that.

Q. On your preparation for this tournament, I know early in the year you had physical problems. Have you played enough golf to satisfy you that you're ready and could you give us a rundown on how your game is in your observation?

TIGER WOODS: My game is pretty good, I think. I hit the ball really well in Germany. I didn't make any putts. Then I hit the ball really well at Memorial, and I just had nine holes there Saturday afternoon that cost me my chance of winning the tournament. But overall I played the ball well that week. I'm hitting the ball well this week so far. I'm pleased at the signs that I'm showing.

Q. You worked with Butch last week a little bit. Is there anything in particular that you worked on?

TIGER WOODS: He said just keep doing what you're doing.

Q. Is it all-systems-go this week?

TIGER WOODS: He said just keep working on the things you're working on because I've been playing well. As I said over here -- I didn't make any putts over in Germany. If you saw the greens, you'd understand. And then at Memorial I hit the ball just as good and the greens were perfect, and I made some putts. I just unfortunately had that little block of nine holes where I went for wads.

Q. Tiger, you said winning one major in a year is a successful season. If you were to win this week and not win a single tournament the rest of the year, how would you rank your season?

TIGER WOODS: A great year.

Q. This morning you had a chance to play nine holes with Jay and Bill Haas. Can you talk about the bond you saw with them and how special that would be, if you had a chance to play with your dad in a major championship?

TIGER WOODS: I think that -- that's a dream come true, I think, for both of them. Jay loves his kids a lot and you can see that as much time as he spends with them. And just seeing how they interact, it's pretty neat. As you know I'm very close with my father, and it's really neat to be able to see them interact on the golf course like that and play and compete, with and against one another. I think that's what's really neat. You can see Jay kind of help him on some of the pin locations and how he should play it, and it's pretty special. I wish I had that chance to be able to do that with my father, but it's really neat to see that happen.

Q. Three years ago you changed golf ball models right before the Open and you won. You're doing it again. Talk about this new Nike ball and whether you're as confident in this equipment change as you were three years ago.

TIGER WOODS: Well, in 2000 it was completely different technology, so that's a much bigger jump than what I had made a few weeks ago. This new ball is -- the core is faster, and it's interesting enough that actually the outer cover is actually softer. It's a weird blend, I don't know how they do it, it goes further and spins more on the greens. Hey, it works. I'm pleased at the signs it's showing. I know for a fact that this ball is better in the cross winds than my previous ball. And that's been actually one of the more difficult things to get accustomed to, when you have a right-to-left wind, you normally hit the ball -- aim left of the hole, draw it back up against the wind, and then as it's coming down it would fall more back to the right again. This ball actually falls straight down, so you can be more aggressive and go at some of these flags. I started to get a pretty good hold at that at Memorial, and I started doing that a little better on Sunday. As I said, you know what, just trust the ball. And I was able to be more aggressive than I had been in the past.

Q. In recent weeks Butch has been saying that he feels your swing is close to your best. Where do you think your ball-striking matches up now compared to Pebble Beach in 2000?

TIGER WOODS: It's close to that. Not quite -- I don't hit the ball as long as I did then, with my shorter irons, that's for sure, because I don't go at it as hard. Everything else is about the same. My trajectory is maybe a little bit different, my ball flight is a little flatter than it was in 2000. And I think that's just from the overall swing changes that I've made. But as far as the comfort and the confidence, it's very close.

Q. In the last decade or so your 12th place finish as defending champion is the best of any defending champion. Most of the guys have either missed the cut, finished 40th or 60th. Is this because the course has changed so much from year to year?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I think when you go to certain courses they just fit your eye. And all of a sudden the next year it's a completely different golf course. I think one of the biggest things for guys who have won the tournament, it's nice to go to a golf course where no one has ever played it before, so there's no past experience, there's nothing to recall from, positive experiences, because no one has played there. And no one has ever played Bethpage. I think that's always a positive thing to have happen.

Q. You had not played Southern Hills, though, had you?

TIGER WOODS: I played Southern Hills in '96 in a Tour championship, when it was about 30 degrees.

Q. Expectations are always so high for you, people expect you to win every time you step on the course. What is your definition of a slump for you, and have you -- do you feel you've ever been in a real slump?


Q. Can you --

TIGER WOODS: Elaborate more than that?

Q. Yes.

TIGER WOODS: I don't think I've ever been in a slump, no. I think my overall career has been pretty good. Ever since I came out of the womb and I've started playing golf, I've had a pretty good career (laughter).

Q. For most of us mortals, a 496 par-4 is a little extreme. Can you talk about how difficult that is for a player of your caliber, and what kind of clubs you'll hit into there?

TIGER WOODS: It's tough today because it's a left-to-right wind. If you go back on that tee box, you'll see the tree on the left overhangs the left side of the fairway. So you have to turn the ball. And for me, I can probably on a good drive carry that bunker on the right-hand side, so even if I miss it I can carry the bunker, but I've still got to turn it. And I've hit driver, 4-iron, driver, 5-iron the times I've played it. So the key is to get the ball in play. From there at least you have a chance -- that's one of the good things about the hole. It may be long, but you have a chance to run the ball up. And granted, it has water, probably about 50, 60 yards short of the green, but it's downhill on the other side of it, so you can squirt one up and run it up the gap.

Q. Extending what you said about Olympia, what do you project for a winning score? We've seen some experts say six under par, eight under par. Can you tell us what you think?

TIGER WOODS: You know, honestly it all depends on the wind. If there's no wind, yeah, you'll see those scores. But if the wind blows, over par can very easily win this tournament.

Q. Padraig said earlier today that U.S. Open setups tend to be less imaginative, and sometimes the golf has to be a little less imaginative, as well. Do you enjoy that as much as you do another major championship challenge?

TIGER WOODS: It's a different type of challenge. I think that's what you have to understand, it's completely different. I think the best way I've ever heard it described is you've got to plod your way along. If you hit your ball in the rough, knock it out, wedge it on, try to make a putt. And that's what you find at U.S. Opens more than any other major is that you drive the ball in the rough, you're going to have a lot of wedges into the greens, and you've got to make pars that way instead of trying to get creative and hit some funky shot up there. Every player says it's probably boring golf, but any tournament you play in, if you hit it straight, hit the ball on the green, make putts, you're going to be successful. And I think this golf tournament in itself is probably the epitome of that. You really have to hit the ball well.

Q. There's been plenty of talk on technology and the effect on clubs and balls, and you addressed the new ball you'll be playing this week, but not a lot of similar advances in course conditioning, maintenance practices, things like that. From a player's perspective, how much do you notice things like course conditioning and maintenance practices, and how much of those kind of things changed since you started playing in Opens?

TIGER WOODS: Not a whole lot has changed since the time I've been on Tour, but from the time I've grown up playing golf, I played some courses that looked like cow pastures. You talk to a lot of the older players, and you'll hear them say if you drive the ball in the fairway, you can get a bad lie. But you'll hear guys moan and complain about getting any kind of bad lie in the fairway. So that's completely different; the agronomy is so much better now.

It used to be kind of marginal on shots that were in the rough, that you can get a good lie, you can get a spotty lie. Now it's all uniform, they oversee it to make the stuff four inches, you can't find anything lower than that. And I think that's it's made a significant impact so that you can get perfect lies on the fairway, and if you miss the fairway you're punished uniformly. And the greens are so much faster than they ever used to be.

I get a kick out of some of the older players saying at Augusta how hard and how fast they used to play. We've got them now running about 14. And out here, I was talking to Tom Meeks yesterday, and on the first green I asked him, what are these things running, they seem a little on the slow side. And he said 12. It's hard to believe that 12 seems a little slow to us, but we've played majors when they're running close to 14. And it never used to be like that in the past.

Q. Two part question, to go back to one previously asked, what is your definition of a slump?

TIGER WOODS: I guess when you completely lose your game.

Q. Secondly, assuming you haven't lost it yet, if the media exaggerates your exploits, do we tend to make you up greater than you really are or worse than you're actually playing?

TIGER WOODS: Both. There's no doubt about it, honestly, I think I've had some success, but I think sometimes all of you can be a bit dramatic in your writing styles, very flowery at times. I've hit some good shots, but they haven't been that good. And then I've hit some bad shots, and they haven't been that bad. So, yeah, it's somewhere in between.

RAND JERRIS: Tiger, thanks very much for your time. We wish you lots of luck this week.

End of FastScripts....

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