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March 2, 2003

Tiger Woods


JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Thank you, Tiger, and congratulations on winning the World Golf Championship, Accenture Match Play Championship, your 7th victory in the World Golf Championships, and your 36th career victory. Congratulations.

TIGER WOODS: Thanks, Joan. It was a tough day out there. It was long. Match play is a very, very fickle thing. And I went out there this morning and played -- not great, I missed a lot of putts, but David missed a ton of putts early, which is unlike him. And this afternoon I made birdie on the first, and then the perfect example of match play, he buries it on the second hole and I missed a short one there. Then I 3-whipped the next one, and he makes a great putt there.

So match play is very fickle. There's so many different things that go on, just the momentum, how it ebbs and flows. And it's a very grueling match, playing 36 holes. To come out on top, I'm very fortunate, because today I didn't really hit the ball all that great and I missed a ton of putts today.

Q. Nearly 90 holes of golf this week, three straight tournaments, how is your knee doing? Is it bothering you right now?

TIGER WOODS: It's a little sore, yeah. It's not to the point where -- not like it was last year. There's a difference. This is sore from just being on it all day, all day every day this week. So actually, it's more of a good soreness, kind of like you had a great workout kind of thing.

Q. And because you won, it's worth the pain, right?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah. Like I said, it's not painful, it's just sore. And winning certainly makes it feel a little bit better.

Q. One of the things, obviously, you got through the week, you weren't making any bogeys. And then you made a few on the back nine. Actually, you made two in a row, you weren't getting the putts in that you had made earlier in the week.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I didn't putt well today. My speed was off. The greens were so fast out there, I don't know what they were rolling, but they were rolling pretty quick. And I think the first -- sorry, the 10th hole is a perfect example this afternoon of how the greens are that much faster. We both hit really good, makeable putts. They looked like they were in. Next thing you know they're three feet by, they kept rolling out. And as soft as these greens are, you never really have to think about playing below the hole. But this afternoon you really did. You had to try to keep it below the hole, but without ripping it back off the green, it just made it that much more difficult.

Q. Did you hit a bee or a bug or what was that?

TIGER WOODS: It was a bee. It just landed in my line. My putt was breaking right in the middle of the hole, and it kicked over to the right.

Q. And you killed it?

TIGER WOODS: I didn't kill it. I sure thought about it, though (laughter.) I'm sure the animal rights society would have gotten on me or something (laughter.)

Q. It just plopped down as the ball --

TIGER WOODS: On my last look, I didn't see him. And I hit the putt and when I looked up it was about two feet from the bug, and it was right in the middle of the hole. It caught the right side of him and kicked it out of the hole.

JOAN vT ALEXANDER: They showed him flying in on television.

Q. David said he was impressed with your ability to keep the ball from spinning off the green. He said you're basically chipping the ball around the golf course, instead of -- can you elaborate on that?

TIGER WOODS: That's what you have to do. You hit clubs that you don't normally hit. This week, normal is to hit an 8-iron 120 yards, 118 yards this week. That's kind of what I was hitting it: 6-iron, 145, 150. You've just got to hit those shots. If I hit one more club, I can rip it back 20 feet, still hitting it soft. You've got 140 yards and hit a 7-iron in there, you can still rip it off the green. But you've got to hit little chip shots and just plot your way along.

Q. Would you hit 9-iron? Wedge?

TIGER WOODS: 140 is my normal 9, just walk up and hit it.

Q. When did you get a sense that the match might go longer than you thought? Was it the birdie on 2 or your miss on 8?

TIGER WOODS: Probably the miss on 8. And also, then, giving him the hole on 9, I was just frustrated. Because he's already in trouble, and here I am with a little 4-iron in there, just trying to hit it below the hole and to the left and I slice over to the right. Giving him those holes back-to-back like that with bogeys, not like he made back-to-back birdies, I gave him those two holes, and that's -- you just can't do that in match play.

Q. Along those lines, on No. 8 in the morning, it looked like you could have gone for that green in two. Could you have, A? And B, did you not, just because it was pointless to do something --

TIGER WOODS: I could have gotten there if I could have hit driver, but there's no guarantee the ball is going to roll up the green. If the pin was over on the left-hand side I definitely would have gone for it. But if I missed it left, in the left-hand bunker, now I have a long bunker shot with the green sloping off a cliff left-to-right, so I decided to lay up short of him, and make sure that I was hitting first, to put pressure on him. And I hit a good shot, and then he put it inside of me.

Q. Did you hit 3 on 17?


Q. Is that the first time all week?


Q. Was that determined by his tee shot?

TIGER WOODS: He put it over in the junk on the right, and I needed to get a ball in play somehow. Whatever it took to get that ball in play to put pressure back on him. And I put it in play and then, geez, I had 188 yards downwind to the hole and I hit just a smooth 7-iron, and it flew over the green.

Q. How big was the birdie on 13?

TIGER WOODS: I thought that was big, real big. I figured something out on the 2nd hole -- the 11th hole, on my par-putt, I found that my shoulders weren't aligned properly. So I kind of carried that over, and I hit a couple of practice putts on that green and really felt pretty good about it. And then I go over two holes later, and I said, all right, just trust it. You did the work two holes ago, go ahead and trust it. And I poured it right in the middle.

Q. You've had a lot of victories, obviously, in majors, but a match-play tournament is so different. Is there a special satisfaction of, say, getting through this and finally winning it?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, because it's a long week. Seven rounds of golf this week, that's a long week. And on top of that, there's so many -- when you're in a stroke-play event, you play your own game. You don't worry about anything until probably the back nine on Sunday. Here it's right out of the gate. So there's more of an emotional drain from each round of golf that you play. Because it goes up-and-down. Every match has a little ebb and flow to it. And it wears you out a lot more than it normally would in a stroke-play event.

Q. You get to the 14th tee after you made the big birdie, you pulled an iron there. I don't think you hit an iron in the morning.

TIGER WOODS: I hit an iron in the morning.

Q. Was that a result of --

TIGER WOODS: It was downwind. It switched. It should have been right-to-left, but when I got on the tee it was straight down, so I hit 2-iron down there. And then we both got fooled on the next shot, because we both thought it was more down, and you could see both balls get up there and slapped by the wind.

Q. Were you aiming --

TIGER WOODS: I was aiming for the right edge of the green, trying to hit a little draw, which should have put it in the middle of the green, and it slapped it over way to the left. And David hit a cut. He held it into the wind, and it still knocked it into the bunker.

Q. Were there any specific shots that are benefitted most by not having to worry about your knee?

TIGER WOODS: Every shot, because the putts were hard. I asked Steven to read a lot of my putts, because I didn't want to get down there.

Q. Coming into the Buick because of the surgery, would you have guessed you would have won two tournaments on the West Coast?

TIGER WOODS: Uh-huh. (Laughter.)

Q. Would you say that David belongs in the same class as Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson, some of the top players in the world after this match today?

TIGER WOODS: Not after this match, but going into this match, yes. He's a heck of a player. DT goes out there and plays his own game, drives it extremely straight, and is just a beautiful putter. And just look at the way he plays week-in and week-out, he's always there. And on top of that he's one of the nicest guys out here, too.

Q. Were you impressed with the way David, after being five down, fought back and just kept coming at you and didn't give up at all?

TIGER WOODS: I wasn't impressed, no. You expect that from him, because that's the type of player he is. He's going to keep coming at you, and you know his past, what he's done in the game. He keeps fighting, and you knew that going into the match, and you just had to go out and just play.

Q. Tiger, how does it feel to have the full set of World Golf Championships?

TIGER WOODS: It's pretty cool. It really is pretty cool to have all four. I guess they're all different in their own right, but I'm extremely happy to win this one. And this one was tough this week. It's a long week, on top of that with the weather at the beginning of the week, and the soft conditions, I'm pretty stoked about it.

Q. Was this the hardest of the four to win, and do you value it more because of it?

TIGER WOODS: I'd have to say it's the hardest to win, yeah, because you've got to win six matches. And it's more of a -- yeah, it's physically grueling, but I think it's more mentally grueling, because of the ebb and flow match play. And Stevie and I were talking about this last night, if we had to do this every week, I think every pro's playing career would be about ten years.

Q. Given your success this year, would Tiger sitting here today meet the Tiger last year playing match play?

TIGER WOODS: Last year? Yeah, I'm playing better.

Q. How much better are you playing? Can you put a percentage on it?

TIGER WOODS: No, I'm not going into any numbers. I learned about that. I have more shots than I did last year. And on top of that I'm feeling a lot better, too, which allows me to hit more shots. So the combination of the two makes me a better player than I was last year.

Q. In the morning, how did you feel after the first 18 in regards to where the match stood, and your feelings about that? Then how did you feel just two holes going into the afternoon match, after he made the birdie at 20?

TIGER WOODS: I felt very good. I ended up 4-up and didn't really play all that well. And I certainly didn't make any putts. So if I would have made a couple more putts, I could have blown it wide open. In the afternoon, I was right there with a chance to blow it wide open, and I didn't. I buried the first, and he made a quick putt on the second. And I missed mine. And I missed the one on the next hole. If I would have birdied those two holes, 2 and 3 in the afternoon, he would have been -- he would have played the first three holes 2-under par and would have lost a hole to me. And so that's kind of the attitude I took, that I was in position to actually bury him, still. And he was still 3-down. He's still got to come get me. If I go out and play my game, make no more bogeys from here on out, and make my normal share of birdies, I win the match.

Q. What did you hit in on 13 and what did you have?

TIGER WOODS: 13, I had 145 to the hole, downwind, right-to-left and I hit 9-iron.

Q. We know your answer about Dubai now. But if you don't mind explaining the reasons behind your decision.

TIGER WOODS: Well, it's just not a safe environment over there right now. I don't think it would be wise for me to go over there at this particular time. I want to go. I want to play in that tournament. I had a great time the last time I went two years ago. If it's safe next year, I'll go, because I wanted to go back. I had a great time there, go-cart racing there, a gun club, we had a great time, and I know my buddy, Mo, is going. So he can give me a report.

Q. Is it fair to say that traveling outside the United States for yourself is something that you really have to take a hard look at now this year?

TIGER WOODS: I think so. Going overseas in this particular year, right now, especially in that part of the world, is a little tough for me to go. If it's a little bit more safe than it is now, I'll go, but it's not. It's a reality question and you've got to be realistic with your answer, too.

Q. What about Sandwich, St. Georges?

TIGER WOODS: What about it?

Q. You said "going overseas is tough for me now," you just said.


Q. Are you going to the British Open?

TIGER WOODS: Am I going to go to the British Open? You're unbelievable.

Q. I'm from Britain.

TIGER WOODS: Really? Yeah, I'll be there. If I can walk, if I can play golf, I'll be there.

Q. Just finishing that Dubai question, is it a fact because you're such a high-profile person, as you said? Mark is going, a few other guys, but your profile of U.S. athletes, that you would be in greater danger, perhaps, than somebody else?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah. You have to be honest about it, and yes.

Q. Has the State Department counseled you on that?


Q. Have they advised you not to go?


Q. Mark probably has to fly commercial.

TIGER WOODS: He's not too happy about that. (Laughter.)

Q. Have you talked to him the last couple of days?

TIGER WOODS: I have. I talk to him every day.

Q. Was he on his knees?

TIGER WOODS: No. I'm not going to say that. I'll tell you later.

Q. The day before Torrey Pines, you told us "Ernie's start motivated me." Now I think you've passed him. I think you almost caught Mike Weir. You're talking about the motivation that you felt laying off while we all wrote about how great Ernie was and how he caught up to you, et cetera. Can you talk about how big the fire burned to get back and make this kind of two-win statement on the West Coast?

TIGER WOODS: You guys make too big a deal out of it. I was happy to play pain-free. I hadn't done that in a long time. And as I said, playing last year with injections and painkillers, it's not fun. It's not fun at all. And for me to play 72 holes the first week and play pain-free was the biggest thing. And then to win, it was a bonus. And then from there, I kept playing, and here I am. I've won two tournaments. But you can't believe how happy I am not to be hobbling along and waking up in the middle of the night, can't go back to sleep because it keeps me up at night. And dreading to go out and play the next day, because I have to hop back on the painkillers again. That's not how I want to play golf. I don't think any athlete wants to be in that position.

Q. This is the only other time you've won twice before, on the west before leaving the West Coast, can we expect something similar?

TIGER WOODS: You can expect me to keep trying to get better? If my year turns out like 2000.

Q. You improved that whole year.

TIGER WOODS: I'm starting to feel good. There's no doubt about it. I was on a tear, actually, from '99 into 2000. It kind of rolled over into it. I started putting the pieces together at the end of last year. At the Grand Slam I started playing better. My practice sessions at home, I'm starting to hit some balls. I was starting to work on some things that I know I used to do in my golf swing that I haven't been able to do because of my leg, and things were starting to come together, and I'm pretty excited about that.

Q. Secondly, I know it's different monsters, but I would be curious how you could relate the difficulty of winning one of these to the U.S. amateur. Could you say, for example, that winning one of these is equally as difficult as winning two in a row of the U.S. amateurs, given your level of play and your competition?

TIGER WOODS: The level of competition is a lot tougher here. But in the U.S. amateur you've got to qualify.

Q. Did you have any troubles there?

TIGER WOODS: I did, yeah. Yeah, I did. You can't believe how low you've got to go there now. You have to shoot 148 or 147 to get in, get in the top 64. And from there anything can happen, because you're not as consistent as you are out here right now on Tour. Back then I knew I could hit it a long way. And I knew it would go forward every time, but that's about it. It was very interesting in those days, playing the U.S. amateur, and I had a lot of fun.

Q. It took you five tries to win a tournament. Is that surprising?

TIGER WOODS: No, not with the level of competition. Not with the level of competition here. The guys are that much better at this level and you have to win six matches to win the title. You're dealing with a smaller margin of error at this level than you are at the Amateur level.

Q. With the great 2000, the fields in 2000 versus the fields now, do you feel that the fields now are that much better than they were in 2000?

TIGER WOODS: Oh, yeah, they're much deeper, because you have more players from around the world playing our Tour now. On top of that you get more players playing the bigger events here in the states. And even the World Golf Championships, they're making more of a concerted effort to get into these events. And if you add all those things together, you're going to have better fields.

Q. Tiger, can you put into words why you were not surprised to win two of the first three, back after your injury, going back to the question earlier?

TIGER WOODS: You should know this answer.

Q. I want you to tell me, though.

TIGER WOODS: Oh, really? I've told you -- how many times have I told you this? I expect to go out there and win every tournament I play in, because that's my level of expectations. That's what I strive to do. That's why I work -- if I show up at a tournament, that's my goal. And I've accomplished my goal two out of three weeks.

Q. We've seen a toughening of the golf courses the last few weeks, tucked pins. Would you expect to see more of that the rest of the season?

TIGER WOODS: I think it's great.

Q. Would you expect to see more of it?

TIGER WOODS: I hope so. I certainly hope so. I know that a lot of the players are for it and some players are against it. But I certainly enjoy it. I enjoy going out there -- like last week, if you shot double digits under par, you win the tournament. How many times in the past four or five years, besides the Majors, have you seen single digits win out here on Tour?

Nowadays it's usually between 12 and 18 under par, every week, just counted on it. And sometimes even lower than that.

Q. Are you concerned that it's going to separate -- obviously Majors separate players. But is it going to separate too many of the just medium-length hitters?

TIGER WOODS: No, it separates guys who know how to work the golf ball, know how to shape it. You put the rough up higher, you make the pins more in the corners, now you've got to shape shots. And a lot of the old players know how to do these things. They know how to shape the shots. That's how they grew up, playing the old golf ball, and the old clubs, the old equipment. You had to do that. You had to shape shots.

Now with the new technology, everything goes so straight that a lot of the players -- all the younger players haven't learned those things. And I think you're going to start seeing the same guys do better in tournaments, and they're probably going to be the older Veterans.

Q. That brings a Pavin in instead of a bomber, doesn't it?

TIGER WOODS: Correct. Because if you've got three from the side and it's tucked over around a bunker, Corey can hit those duck hooks and duck slices, and run up through the gap and around. You have to be able to maneuver the golf ball to get at the pins now, instead of what they were, seven, eight from the sides, from there -- with a 5-iron in your hand you know if it's -- you can go right at it. If you pull it or push it, you're still fine. Now there's a penalty for missing on the short side.

Q. You mentioned that you gave holes, I think it was, 9 and 10 away in the afternoon or 8, 9?


Q. Usually when we watch you play, when you have a four-stroke, four-hole lead, you bury players. Were you upset because you didn't bury David Toms, or did you have to convince yourself to stay calm?

TIGER WOODS: I was hot at myself because I hit two poor putts, back-to-back, and I hit some poor shots. And that's -- you just can't do those things, against a quality player like David and expect to come out okay. I had to clean it up a little bit and hit some better shots and make some putts on the back nine. And I made 1-putt on the back nine, but it was a timely putt.

Q. Could these three weeks, two wins, top five, could they -- and your knee is a little sore -- could it have gone any better than you wanted?

TIGER WOODS: I could have been three shots better last week.

Q. Because you said you expected to win, but was this a good three weeks, do you think?

TIGER WOODS: As a whole you have to say yes (laughter.) But if you want to be a little bit greedy -- I played one really bad round last week, and it probably cost me the tournament Saturday. And if I go out there and shoot the way I've been playing, like I did this week, like I did the first week, like I did the first two days, who knows.

Q. You talked about how badly you wanted to end it on 17 there, to get up-and-down.

TIGER WOODS: I did. I was so hot at myself for hitting that 7-iron in that bunker. I had 180 to the hole, and I carried it 195. I don't carry a 7-iron that far. On top of that, it hit hard and skipped into the bunker. All week they've been hitting and spinning back. So I was pretty hot then. I didn't put the pressure on him right there. He's over in the woods to the right with no shot and if I put the ball on the green, more than likely I win the match. And then he pulled it left, now I was really hot, because I'm looking at the fact that with a two-putt par, I win the match, probably. And now I've got to get this thing up-and-down.

But I had a great lie, just put it down there below the hole there somehow, just get it below the hole so, I have an uphill putt. And I was able to do that and I made the putt.

Q. How important do you think it was that he never actually caught you?

TIGER WOODS: I think that was huge from the momentum standpoint, that he never really got all the momentum. He got a lot of it, but he didn't get all of it.

Q. Do you recall playing in a golf tournament, where, to use David Toms's words, where you had to chip your way around the golf course, take two more clubs to take the spin off, was it more of that this week than ever before?

TIGER WOODS: I guess the only other golf course we play like that is the AT&T every year. And this year I didn't go, when it was rock hard. Usually that's what you have to do there, you're hitting the same shots we did this week.

End of FastScripts....

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