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February 12, 2003

Tiger Woods


TODD BUDNICK: We thank Tiger Woods for joining us at the Buick Invitational.

Tiger, you'll be receiving your fourth consecutive Player of the Year Award and fifth in the last six years. Congratulations on that.

TIGER WOODS: Thank you.

TODD BUDNICK: Talk about the Buick Invitational, though. Five top finishes in your five trips here, including your victory in 1999. Talk a little about that.

TIGER WOODS: I'm excited, excited to be back. I'm excited to get back out there and play again and compete. I've had some pretty good memories here going back to my junior golf days, as well as playing as a professional, and just really excited about competing again.

TODD BUDNICK: We saw you play a little bit of a practice round yesterday morning. Tell us how that felt.

TIGER WOODS: Wet. It was fine. I went out there and I played, hit the ball pretty good. I had a good time working with Stevie again, and just overall, it was just nice to get a feel for the game again.

TODD BUDNICK: Do the wet conditions, damp conditions, does that bother the knee at all?

TIGER WOODS: No. The knee is fine.

TODD BUDNICK: We'll go ahead and take some questions.

Q. How did you decide when you were coming back?

TIGER WOODS: It was either going to be this week, next week or The Match Play, it was one of those three weeks. It was all dependent upon how my recovery would be after I started to hit full practice shots, hit driver, unlimited ball count, things of that nature. If the knee blew up and swelled up, then obviously I couldn't go. But if it stayed down and I had no inflammation, then, yeah, I could play, and that's one of the reasons why I could play.

Q. Just wondering, four rounds this week is it a test --

TIGER WOODS: Definitely, definitely. It's going to be a week-to-week trial and error and see if I can keep playing.

I know I'm not 100% yet, but it's pretty darned close. It's a heck of a lot better than it was last year, let me tell you that.

Q. When did you start hitting balls and what is the absolute quickest that you could have come back?

TIGER WOODS: I could have played Mercedes . If I could have , would I have injured my knee and probably have surgery at the end of this year? Probably.

So the longer I took off, the better it would be for the recuperation period. So the longer I took and the more -- we took the most conservative route, put it that way. The procedure that we did on the knee was conservative and so was the rehab.

We weren't aggressive with any part of the process at all, and I think that's one of the reasons why I feel as good as I do now heading into this week.

Q. When did you start hitting balls?

TIGER WOODS: I started hitting balls probably four weeks post-surgery.

Q. Phil said he's left you messages; have you gotten them and have you called him back?

TIGER WOODS: I did call him back, we talked and we cleared the air. Everything is fine and no worries.

Q. When?


Q. Inaudible?

TIGER WOODS: It really feels good. It really feels good. My schedule going to this year without my knee problems. Without even doing the surgery, I was supposed to play Mercedes and that's it.

So I had four weeks off, Mercedes, and four more weeks off and then play here. Had the procedure done; so that took Mercedes out. So I had a break. I had two breaks there. Just tried to give myself a little break and get it away from it for a little while and recoup and feel energized about playing.

Q. I met your dad the other day -- can you talk about your relationship with your father?

TIGER WOODS: My father, my father is a beauty, as you probably have come to realize. He's a person I truly love and same with my mother. They have meant everything to me.

Without their guidance and their support, throughout the years, I would not be where I'm at right now, there's no way. I have the greatest time talking to them, the greatest time being around them. It's not like we're mother/son or father/son. We didn't have those type of relationships. It seems like we are best friends. I call him up on any subject any time and we can just rap. I think that's the ultimate of how our relationship has transcended over the years.

Q. Inaudible?

TIGER WOODS: I think that's part of anything. If you go out there and feel not quite 100%, yeah, there's a chance, and there's a chance this week. There's a chance every week. Excluding those events, yeah, there's always a chance.

And am I going to be probably a little bit rusty? Yeah. I would liked to have been able to play out there today and get one more round in there and try to focus on some shots because I haven't really played that many rounds. Yesterday was my third round I've played since I've had the surgery, but I've played a lot of holes. That's my third round, but I've gone out and played two, three, four, five holes just about every day. So I haven't played four rounds of golf yet.

Q. (Inaudible.)

TIGER WOODS: It means a lot. I would like to get to 100, that would be nice.

100 tournaments excluding my guaranteed four rounds, I think that would be even more impressive. Granted, I've got 100 now, but I don't know how many of those events were guaranteed four rounds.

Q. (Inaudible.)

TIGER WOODS: It wasn't a personal shot at me, no. I thought it was Phil trying to be funny and it didn't come off right at all. From there, it blew up and escalated to what it's at now, and as we all know, Phil can try and be a smart aleck at times, we all know that. I think that was one of those instances where it just backfired on him.

Q. (Inaudible.)

TIGER WOODS: We're here to play and compete and not worry about things like that.

Q. (Inaudible.)

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, he apologized and he was sorry for what he had done. Just, he says -- it's Phil being Phil again.

Q. Inaudible?

TIGER WOODS: Yes, I did. At the time that was true. I was -- recently kicked off a golf course when I was 16 years old or 18 years old. They were young obscenities, using the "N" word a lot so I was kicked off. So, yeah it wasn't too recent, so, that's one of the reasons why I said it was okay to do those type of ads.

Q. (Inaudible.)

TIGER WOODS: Well, what it boils down to was that was the truth and that was based upon my own experiences.

Am I a politician, no. I'm a professional athlete, and there are certain things that I truly believe in, and those are the things I try and do with my foundation now; and that is try and grow the Junior golf, as well as provide children with a better learning base for life. That's what we are trying to do with our foundation, and that's what I'm trying to do socially.

Some of these other issues people are trying to drag me into, but I right now am concentrating on my foundation and trying to get that start asked growing worldwide.

Q. Inaudible?

TIGER WOODS: I haven't played there yet. I haven't played the South Course, I have not. I played the North Course and I was supposed to play today on the South in the Pro-Am, so, no, I haven't gone out there yet.

Q. (Inaudible.)

TIGER WOODS: Was I happy? Not Friday. But the weekend I got it going. The weekend I played well. Finally got something rolling. I think I shot 69-66 and started to play a little bit better.

But it takes a little time, especially when you're not familiar with the golf course, and especially since I've got such a huge memory curve from junior golf how the golf course used to play and how it used to look. All of the angles, you didn't have to think; you just had to go out there and just play. Now you have to totally think -- come up with a completely different game plan to play it.

Q. Inaudible?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I understand Nike's position. I understand how they could definitely take it that way, there's no doubt about that.

As I've always said, I'm not going to change into a product unless I believe it is the same or if not better than I've been using, and I've proven that. I came out in '96 using Mizunos; won the Masters using my Mizunos from college. Finally switched over to Titleist near almost '98, and I've played the 975D driver for a long time because I never found anything better than what I've been using till now. And same thing with my irons. Every club in my bag, I'm not going to switch, unless it's better.

That's something I tried myself on and that's something I've done my entire career.

Q. Inaudible?

TIGER WOODS: No, I didn't react the same way because obviously I have a different relationship with Phil. Nike and Titleist are competitive companies in the marketplace. It's a shot to them and I think that's why they took it personally. I know Phil and I know how he can be sometimes, so I just went ahead and just made a joke out of it.

Q. Inaudible?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, right now, we're in the later stages of it. We have designed the center right now. I think we are going to have a ground breaking sometime in February, March. So it should be pretty soon.

We are still raising funds, corporate dollars for the learning center, and things are going -- progressing quicker than they without and we're having a good time with it.

Q. (Inaudible.)

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, we are going to have somewhere in the neighborhood of I think it is something like 70-some-odd computers in the learning center. It is going to be a way for them to go ahead and progress in their studies. We are going to have the Start Something Program implemented in there. We are going to have numerous mentors and adults around to help the kids with whatever their homework may be, as well as instructors to help them on golf.

So it is a pretty exciting project and one that I hope comes off without a flaw so that we can go ahead and implement these in other parts of the country.

Q. (Inaudible.)

TIGER WOODS: Well, it's just one of those things where you've got to suck up and go play.

You know, you're hurt and that's part of the deal, part of playing sports. You can't always be 100%.

Q. (Inaudible.)

TIGER WOODS: When you live off of painkillers, anti-inflammatory injections, I don't think it's good.

Q. (Inaudible.)


Q. Can you talk about Annika playing in the Colonial, are you intimidated?

TIGER WOODS: You know, I probably am. That's an intimidating golf course and an intimidating field. She hits it pretty good. So I don't think I'm going to play. (Laughing).

No, I think it's great. I think it's great she's playing, but -- this is the but part -- it will only be great for women's golf if she plays well. I think if she goes out there and puts up two high scores, then I don't think it's going to -- I think it's going to be more detrimental than it's going to be any good.

I think it all depends on the golf course and how they set it up. If they set up the pins in the corners like when I played there in '97, they are hard to get to, they really are. You've got to have a lot of spin and hit the ball pretty high. She might have to have more of a conservative game plan and just dump the ball in the middle of the green.

Q. (Inaudible.)

TIGER WOODS: It's going to be interesting. It is. It will probably be very similar to how we have media centers set up at major championships and probably a little bit more, because you are going to get other female writers and female journalists that probably don't exactly come to our majors that are going to be attending that event. I think it's going to be a pretty big event with a lot of pressure on her.

There's no doubt about it, that she can handle it with her game, there's no doubt. But she needs to go out there and block it all out and go play and do the things that she can do.

Q. Inaudible?

TIGER WOODS: It's pretty good. It's a heck of a lot better than last year.

Q. Inaudible?

TIGER WOODS: No, I don't need to. That's the good part about it.

Q. (Inaudible.)

TIGER WOODS: Just stay out of the trees and sidehill lies and you should be all right. (Laughter.)

Q. Inaudible?

TIGER WOODS: How do I spend my time?

Q. With all of the off-time?

TIGER WOODS: Same old hobbies, same old things, that's it. A lot of video games, there's no doubt about that. When you're on the couch with a brace on your leg and can't really do much post-surgery for the first three weeks -- I got pretty good at some of the games.

Q. Inaudible?

TIGER WOODS: I'm not good at that. I've played with some of the kids in the neighborhood and they just absolutely whack me.

Q. (Inaudible.)

TIGER WOODS: No. Not all at all. I've been a able to run. I've been able to bike, jog, do just about every single activity. The only thing you don't want to be doing is playing basketball, obviously, obviously.

No, I think the only hard thing is going to be -- to get into a full squatting position and reading putts, time after time after time again, and I hope it doesn't get sore that way.

Q. Is Ernie going to be hard to catch after the start he's had?

TIGER WOODS: Pretty good start, huh? I think Ernie, his play within the past six months has unbelievable. He's been consistent. He's been playing at a higher level than I think he's played in a long time.

His start is obviously pretty impressive, but also, I understand that he plays a limited schedule, just I do, so in essence, we are going to get probably about the same number of events, between 16 and 20 events. So it's not like he's going to come out here and play 30 events on our tour and probably no chance of catching him.

Yeah, because we are going to play about the same number of events, and I think that makes it a little more reasonable.

Q. (Inaudible.)

TIGER WOODS: Probably just a little, yeah, I've got to be honest with you. Yeah, it does a little, but it's one of those things where you can't let that be the determining factor and the reason why you're playing. You've got to go out there and play, play your own game, play the way you normally do and block all that out.

We are probably not going to play against each other until, what, the Match-play, and probably Bay Hill, he lives -- he used to live there, so THE PLAYERS Championship and Augusta. We are not going to be playing against each other a whole lot, only the bigger events throughout the entire year.

Q. Will you go to Dubai?

TIGER WOODS: Well, if we go to war, I'm not going, but if we're not at war, I'll probably go.

Q. Inaudible?

TIGER WOODS: I don't. And that part is exciting, but it's also, you're a little hesitant, as well, because you don't know. I don't know, sometimes what my game speed is versus my practice speed, and you try and replicate it, but you never can. Then you add on top of that the wet conditions and you're going to be hitting different kind of shots. My path is going to be different because of the conditions. There's a lot of different factors and you've got to factor that all in.

I'm expecting to go out there and give it my best and see what happens.

Q. (Inaudible.)

TIGER WOODS: I'd much rather know, there's no doubt about that.

Q. (Inaudible.)?

TIGER WOODS: I guess No. 1 is excitement, excitement about competing again and be able to go out there and compete pain-free. That's something I haven't done in a while.

After every tournament last year, I was just worn out mentally, because, one, you're playing, you're under the stress of playing; and also trying to block out pain at the same time. That adds to it and you get just mentally worn out.

Towards the end of the year, it was just brutal to go out there and play, because I was so tired, and physically I knew that it was going it be a very tough day.

Q. How long has it been going on?

TIGER WOODS: It's been a couple of years.

Q. (Inaudible.)

TIGER WOODS: It all depends on this week, because I haven't played. I don't know how the knee is going to react. So as I said earlier to these guys, I really don't know.

Is that a little disconcerting? Yeah, because I don't know, and it's hard to plan out my schedule when I don't know.

But hopefully it feels as good as it does now at the end of Sunday, and we'll see what happens.

Q. Inaudible?

TIGER WOODS: I think you have to understand that when you have absolutely perfect conditions, the guys are going to go low. They just took it to another level beyond that.

It was just like what Fred Funk said: You're playing in a dome; there was no wind; greens are absolutely perfect. When you get that combination with the talent that's out here, guys are going to go low. They are going to take it deep, and that's what's happened.

A lot of us, it's based upon our weather. When the wind blows, we saw that on Sunday at the Hope, it's a completely different story. The guys are not going to go as low and a good round becomes 69 or 68 again; not if you go out there and shoot 65, you still get passed.

I don't know what K.J. was after three rounds, I think he was 22- or 23-under and he was two or three back, and that's tough. That's tough when that happens.

Q. (Inaudible.)

TIGER WOODS: Well, I've always been one who has never liked to have to go low like that. I've always been one who prefers to play tougher golf courses where a good score, that's it, it's 68 or 69 or even a 70.

I think that's why I love playing the U.S. Open as much as I do. You go out there and you shoot even par, or you shoot under par, you've worked and you've earned to move up. I think that's what's exciting about those events.

I don't like going out there and having to shoot 65, and even then I'm probably not would go to win for four days. It would have been -- 66 was par at Kapalua; if I had done that for four straight rounds, I would have been beaten by three. That's not a whole lot of fun.

Q. Inaudible?

TIGER WOODS: Well, when I first got home, after I had the procedure done in Salt Lake, I got home. I was laid up on the couch. Even when I'm away from the game, I'm taking time off. I'm not on the golf course, but I'll have a club in my hand. I'll be putting around the house or chipping balls onto the bed, through the house. I've always done that and that didn't change.

That's one of the reasons why I learned to pick up the ball and start bouncing it and also one of the reasons why I think I got pretty good hitting the flop-shot, because if I hit a bad shot in the house, mom would have killed me.

Q. (Inaudible.)

TIGER WOODS: It is a lot of twirks (ph), there's no doubt about it. When you put a knee into extension, plus rotation on top of that, it's going to take its toll on the knee.

But it's one of the reasons why we worked as hard as we have to develop the quad even more, the glute, the ham. Those are break points, especially the ham, as you know, before the ACL. And that's what we are really focused on, trying to develop that even more than it even has been.

Q. Inaudible?

TIGER WOODS: No. We let just the golf come about. That's one of the reasons why we took a conservative approach. Yeah, probably could have played in Kapalua but had the same procedure done this year. So just let the knee stretch itself out over time on its own, just through the repetitive motions of a golf swing. That's why I didn't hit many wedges. Didn't start hitting driver until a couple weeks ago. Waited a long time, probably seven weeks, before I started hitting driver again and even then it was only limited to a certain ball count, five or ten balls. So we took a very conservative approach to it.

Q. Getting back to Annika, is there any concern about her taking a spot away from other players?

TIGER WOODS: I certainly understand that. I can definitely sympathize to those feelings because I was there. As an amateur, when I played the L.A. Open, I was 16 and played other TOUR events, as an amateur, I took a spot away from a professional.

I looked at it this way. I was going to be making a living on our tour, hopefully and I was trying to gain experience. I don't think that her motives are the same. I just think she wants to find out how good she really is and if the gap between women's golf and men's golf is that great or not that great at all. I think she's curious about that.

So her motives are completely different than mine were.

Q. Is it problematic?

TIGER WOODS: I think it's problematic, as you said, to the lower guys or guys that are borderline to getting into events. I know Colonial is an Invitational event, so you've got to be invited. Guys can kind of take solace in that, because they don't get into Colonial, Memorial, events like that.

Q. Do you have any stories about playing here at Torrey Pines?

TIGER WOODS: Do I have any stories? Well, I've played here, geez, begins I was probably about eight or nine, and I've played here a lot of times in junior golf.

I guess probably one of my fondest memories is coming out here and competing against Chris Riley, who is on the TOUR now. I was lucky enough to get him at Junior World here when I was 15 and he was 17. That was a pretty neat experience to see him out there now and we can talk about, laugh about it joke about it, our experiences back in junior golf, we can kind of relive them out here.

Q. (Inaudible.)

TIGER WOODS: You know, that's a great question. I haven't thought that far in advance yet. As I said, I'm taking it on a tournament basis. I've got my schedule planned through Augusta and then re-evaluate after that.

Can I play more or should I play less, that's going to be the question, and I'm taking it on a tournament to tournament basis.

Q. Were there other options for your knee?

TIGER WOODS: Well, could we have lasered (ph) the cyst on the ACL and put it on that, instead we took a conservative approach and deflated it instead of lasering possibly good fibers that are left inside the ACL. And could have had a complete ACL reconstruction, which is the absolute last resort anyone ever wants to go through. We could have opened up a notch that the ACL glides through.

So there were numerous options. This was the most conservative and least damaging to the good fibers that I have in my ACL.

Q. Inaudible?

TIGER WOODS: I think it's great. We haven't had a major in Southern Cal since probably the PGA up at Riviera. I think it's absolutely fantastic. If there's any golf course that deserves it, it is this one. It's unbelievably difficult, especially in the summertime when it gets dry and fast. The USGA will convert this thing into, what, a par 70. It's going to be unbelievably difficult. And I think the fans are going to be great because they have always been fantastic at this event. They are going to be even more impressive that week.

TODD BUDNICK: Thank you for joining us today. Congratulations again on your Player of the Year.

TIGER WOODS: Thank you.

End of FastScripts....

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