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February 16, 2003

Tiger Woods


Q. (By Tiger, imitating journalists): So you played well?


Q. (Still imitating): What did you think of your performance? (Laughter)?

TIGER WOODS: I hit a big putt there at five.

Q. (Still imitating): Are you excited to be back?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I'm pretty excited to be back. On top of that, to have won the tournament is pretty exciting. To beat a field like this, I'm very excited about that.

(Imitating Moderator): Any questions? And at the very end we'll go over birdies and bogeys. (Laughter.)

TODD BUDNICK: Thank you, Tiger. Congratulations on your victory, second time you've won here, 35th career victory. I guess we'll start with congratulations. Must feel like a good way to get off to the start of the season.

TIGER WOODS: I just answered that. (Laughter.)

TODD BUDNICK: I don't think everybody was in here for that one.

TIGER WOODS: I couldn't have asked for a better start to -- one, to have played 72 holes without being sore, which is a big positive, and to have won the tournament is another big positive. It was a successful week from two standpoints.

Q. Inaudible?

TIGER WOODS: When you're cooped up on the couch forever, you know, laying at home and just practicing -- I miss competing. Not necessarily getting out there and all the other stuff that goes with it, but I've missed getting out there and competing with the guys. That, to me, is my rush, is going out there and having to hit a golf shot that really matters. That gives me a big rush and I missed that.

Q. Your third shot on 18, were you thinking all the way green or were you thinking of at all laying up?

TIGER WOODS: I had a shot. And I had a four-shot lead -- five-shot lead. At the time. So it's only a 6-iron; it's not like I was hitting a 3-wood out of there. I had 179 yards to the hole. I figure I can handle that.

Q. Can you talk about the tee shot on 11?

TIGER WOODS: Playing some gambling games with your buddies at home is not exactly the same thing as getting out here and competing. I missed getting out here and getting into the zone and focusing and giving it my all on each and every shot.

Q. There's been a lot of talk; Ernie's great start, Phil's Golf Magazine interview, the state of your game, etc., Do you feel like you answered a lot of questions this week?

TIGER WOODS: I hope I did. I know I answered my questions. Mine was whether or not this knee would hold up for 72 holes, and would it be sore. Played 27 holes on Friday and I was fine.

Then on top of that, my competitive -- my competitive, I guess, feeling out there on the golf course came back. Each and every day, it got better. I got a feel for hitting shots again. The first day, obviously, if you watched me play, you saw me; I was everywhere. I hit one fairway through ten holes, wasn't doing too good. But each and every day I got better. Felt better over every shot. That's a positive.

Q. Given how anxious you were to be competitive, you probably would have taken a special effort to compete today --

TIGER WOODS: You know, I just tried to go out there and just be consistent and keep the ball in play and put the ball in greens and don't put myself in danger of making bogeys.

I made one today, and -- tried not to make any today. When you have the lead, the last thing you want to do is come back to the guys.

For the entire week, I think I only made four bogeys. I made one bogey in each round. So from that standpoint, I'm very proud of that. I didn't make that many mistakes.

Q. Is it a little sweeter to win with Phil in the last group after his comments last week?

TIGER WOODS: You know, to be honest with you, Phil and I haven't played a whole lot together in a final group or any group -- I know that. I'm answering my way. (Laughter.)

Phil and I -- first of all, Phil and I haven't played together in a group that often, and when we do, I think we both relish that and enjoy going out there and competing against one another. That is a lot of fun.

After his comments, you've got to put that aside. You've got to go out there and play and compete. He's ranked No. 3 in the world, but he's capable of shooting any -- I mean, any low number. You have to understand that going out there. You've got to respond to that and respond to that challenge. I felt like I did that today.

Q. You seemed to enjoy it more than him?

TIGER WOODS: That's just because I came out on top, this time. He's come out on top before and I'm sure he enjoyed that one.

Q. You talked to Brad Faxon more than you talked to Phil, should we read things into that? Were you in the zone --

TIGER WOODS: Brad and I have known each other since I was an amateur out here. He took me kind of under his wing when I was an amateur and let me play practice rounds with him.

At the time, he had Cubbie (ph) on the bag and what they would do is have a challenge on every green. He would throw some balls over there and we would try to hit it closest to the hole. I've always remembered that and ever since my amateur days, Brad and I have been pretty close because of that. He didn't have to do those things but he invited me to go out there and play practice rounds with him as an amateur, was so nice to me and just continued from there.

Q. Getting in the zone, you missed getting in the zone, were you in the zone before you even struck your first ball today or did it come before you were on golf course today?

TIGER WOODS: You have to be, before you play.

Q. Is there any way that you exceeded your expectations this week, and when did you think you really had control of the tournament?

TIGER WOODS: Did I exceed my expectations? From the standpoint that I only made four bogeys for the week, I figured I would make some mistakes, but I really saved myself pretty good. I missed a lot of fairways early in the week and then I got that under control. I missed a few greens but I made a lot of good saves.

I feel like I really had it in control when I buried that putt over there on 15. I thought that was huge, to get myself a pretty good cushion with a fuel holes to go. I had 93 front, seven more to the hole.

Q. Can you talk about the rush of the competition? You're a guy that lives to win; can you just talk about the rush of walking up 18 and knowing you've won another tournament?

TIGER WOODS: It's a pretty good feeling, let me tell you, especially since I hit three slices in a row and finally put it on the green. And knowing the fact that I went out there today and competed and beat everybody. That is a pretty great feeling, let me tell you. Especially knowing that I might not have played this tournament because of my rehab. If my knee had swelled up during my practice sessions when I got permission to hit unlimited balls and I blew up, couldn't go this week. But it held in there and it's pretty exciting.

Q. When you made that shot on 15, what went through your mind --

TIGER WOODS: Well, the tree in front of me -- the immediate tree in front of me was not the concern. It was the second tree. Because if I would have pulled that shot at all, I would have hit that tree. Keeping the ball -- hit it below the first one, even if I hit a normal 4-iron, you still want to go below that tree.

The only thing I really wanted to do was focus on not losing it right. If anything, overdraw the ball and then I have the entire green to pitch up. And on top of that, if I lost it right, I probably would have missed it short. If anything, fly it to the hole, if not beyond and I have all the green in the world to chip back or put back to, and I absolutely roasted that 4-iron there.

Q. The 231 par 3, can you talk about that, and also, can you talk about Ernie?

TIGER WOODS: No. 11, it was 231, but it was coming straight across, so I hit 4-iron there. The second day, we had about the same numbers, like 232 or something like that and I hit 3-iron because the wind was more into my face. I made birdie there, and just said, you know what, go out and make the same exact swing you made on Friday. Step out there, be committed to it, hit the same shot, stay relaxed and let it go. It came out perfect.

And Ernie winning again, that's pretty impressive. He's putting up some great scores, great numbers. Everybody makes a big deal of how far he's hitting it, but you can hit it 400 yards, but you've still got to make putts. He's making every single putt inside 12 feet, and that's what you have to do in order to win tournaments. You have to make those big putts.

He's hitting his irons -- I wouldn't say stiff on every hole, but he's hitting it close enough, but you can still miss those putts, and he's going up there and burying each and every one of them. The putts, they are not just going in, but they are going in with perfect pace, and that's when you know you've got a great feel for how things are going.

Q. Inaudible?

TIGER WOODS: -- inaudible ... in the final rounds, anything can happen. Anything can happen in the Match-Play. We all know that. It's very unpredictable.

Q. (Inaudible.)

TIGER WOODS: Well, you think about that because everyone brings it up, but when you're out there playing, you compete and you play. You play your game and strategize from there.

Whatever controversy there is, that's out the door that first tee, because that's not going to win your golf tournament. Having controversy does not hit you any shots or win the tournament. You've got to do that on your own. So you've just got to go out there and compete and strategize on your game.

Q. (Inaudible.)

TIGER WOODS: He flew it by me a couple of times today, but I hit more fairways when I needed to, and that -- I think that's where I probably won the tournament today is I drove it really well. I was hitting straight.

On top of that, I think I was not going out there trying to pound it out there because I knew that rough was pretty high. I felt it was more important to get the ball in play. I'm just squeezing it out there, squeezing it out there, just kind of bumping them along and making sure the ball stays in the fairway at all costs, keep it in play. Toward the end, I lost a couple to the right, but throughout the entire day, I was pretty pleased with how I was able to keep the ball flat and in play.

Q. (Inaudible.)

TIGER WOODS: Exactly. You know, I tried to hit that shot but I didn't have it. I just didn't have a feel for that shot under the gun. I can do it on the range all day for you, but going out there and doing it in a tournament is a different story. I didn't have a feel at all for that shot. But as the week progressed, I started getting better, hitting that little flat ball out there and keeping it in play.

Q. (Inaudible.)

TIGER WOODS: Probably the first tee shot -- I got stuck coming down and hit a big slice over the right trees. Last year that shot would have been unbelievably painful, even on the painkillers, I would have been in pain. But I snapped my leg -- I knew I snapped my leg. I saw my spike slip in the ground and there was no pain. Even when I sliced off the trees like that in that stuff when I shot it, there was no pain, and that's when I knew what I had done is right.

It's a pretty exciting day for me to hit a shot like that to not hobble in and not hit another painkiller.

Q. (Inaudible.)

TIGER WOODS: After what you guys had been writing about, the fans were definitely excited about the possibilities that could happen for the day. I think that showed out there.

Q. Have you committed playing the Nissan next week?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I've committed.

TODD BUDNICK: Thank you very much, Tiger. Congratulations.

End of FastScripts....

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