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March 17, 2002

Tiger Woods


JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Tiger, we'd like to thank you for joining us, and congratulations for the winning the Bay Hill Invitational for the third time in a row.


JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Three times in a row at Bay Hill, and your third time successfully defending a tournament you've won three times in a row. Why don't you make a couple of comments on your championship and then we'll go into some questions.

TIGER WOODS: Well, as you all could see, today was quite a fight out there. On that board there was a lot of guys who had a chance of winning on that back nine. I tried to just hang in there and just gave myself a lot of looks at birdies and tried not to make my bogeys on the back nine because it was very easy to make a bogey on the back nine, especially the last couple of hole. As difficult as they are playing. I just wanted to keep the ball safe and to stay away from making bogey.

But I made a couple of good putts there on -- a few good putts on 8, 9 and 10, and a good up-and-down on 12, and made a big putt over there on 16 to give myself a little cushion.


Q. The putt that maybe kept you going, was it the putt at 8?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, without a doubt. Because at the time I'm only one back, and I just wanted to -- I just wanted to keep myself up on that board. You know, you don't want to drop too far out and have to go out there and have to make birdies on the back nine, as difficult as it was playing. And I absolutely pured a tee shot the next hole, held a high draw back up against the wind, a shot that I have not been able to hit for the last day and a half. I stepped up there and just ripped it right down there. It was a nice feeling to hit exactly the same shot coming into the green. So I hit two shots exactly the way I wanted to and just gave me a nice shot of confidence there.

Q. Did you feel a change of momentum or something after that putt?

TIGER WOODS: I just felt like I was still in the ball game now. As I said, you don't want -- with the conditions being this difficult, have to go on that back nine and feel like you have to make a bunch of birdies, because it's just too hard. The greens are too firm, and the pins are not that easy to get to.

If I could just somehow stay between one or two back, I'd be all right, and I was able to do that.

Q. When did you notice Phil's kind of decline down the leaderboard and did you hear anything about it?

TIGER WOODS: To be honest with you, there are not hardly any boards out there. There's a board on the back of 11 tee that you see walking on 14, and the next board you see is when you get around to obviously 16 tee and then 17. So in the early part of the back nine, you don't know what's really going on. You've just got to listen.

Q. Did you hear about anything he did on the back?

TIGER WOODS: I just saw he just made some bogeys on the back nine.

Q. From where you were yesterday in the rough on 16, when you pitched out from the fairway on 16, from that neighborhood, that rough, how hard would it have been to reach the green where the pin was today? How hard would it have been?

TIGER WOODS: Where I drove it today?

Q. No. From your position.

TIGER WOODS: I drove it in the right rough and the right trees and I pitched out.

Q. Yesterday where you were when you pitched from the rough, how hard from that spot would it have been to get to close for birdie where the pin was today?

TIGER WOODS: You can't hit the green; it's too hard. I was on the fairway and I wasn't even firing at it. I was firing right of the hole and just use the slope and just take my 15-footer. That's all you can do. If you line it at the hole, it's out of here.

Q. How did you play 16 today? Did you pitch out today?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I hit a great tee shot, snapped it off the tee left, and ended up on the upslope of the bunker, but on the grass, and it rolled out. From there I just played up with a pitching edge wedge to -- tried to lay up to about 100 yards; so I could hit a fuel sand wedge in there -- I'm sorry, full 60 and laid up 97.

So I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish, and then I fired to the right and used a -- the pin is in a bowl. I was trying to fire to the upslope short of the bowl, and I landed it just where I wanted to, skipped up on the other side of the bowl, and that's when I had that putt. So accomplished what I wanted to accomplish there and buried the putt.

Q. You had 240 in?

TIGER WOODS: Let's see, that's about right, yeah.

Q. Would you have gone for the green in two, like if you were two back, would you have considered going for the green?

TIGER WOODS: From there? No way. Physically, even if I had the -- if I had a perfect lie, I don't think I could have gotten there. Not from that stance.

Q. Are surprised given all of the guys within three shots starting today that none of those guys were really breathing down your throat there just the last few holes as tight as it was in the tournament?

TIGER WOODS: It just goes to show you, I knew how difficult this golf course was playing, and like I said earlier, just try and make pars and give yourself some looks and don't make any bogeys on the back nine, you're going to have a chance. Anything could happen on last few hole: There's water out there, the pins are tucked. You just can't get the ball close to the hole. You just need to play smart, and I was able to do that and take advantage of my opportunities.

And my opportunities came on 9 and 10. And then made a not too hard up-and-down on 12.

Q. Tiger, when you have a day like you did yesterday, a lot of people say you're not going to play badly two days in a row. Do you feel that way?

TIGER WOODS: Once you figure out and get a feeling of your golf swing and feel like you can hit the shot that you need to hit, yeah, you feel pretty good about it. If you don't feel that way -- a couple of times out there I didn't feel that way, I didn't feel very good over the shot, but I just suck it up and hit a good shot, somehow. That's not easy to do. It takes a lot of energy out of me doing that.

Q. You sound like you won a playoff but you won by four --

TIGER WOODS: Not necessarily. I didn't want a playoff. I didn't want a playoff --

Q. But the way we are all talking it sounds like --

TIGER WOODS: It's like playing -- when you play on greens this firm and under these wind conditions where the pins are, you've just got to play one shot at a time and keep plugging along and not make any mistakes.

It's very similar to when you are playing down the stretch in a major championship. When the greens are baked out like this, anything can happen and it's so easy to make a bogey. If you can just hang around and keep yourself on that board near the lead, anything can happen the last few holes.

Q. You got to the turn at 10-under; was it more important you to not make a mistake, not make a bogey or to make a few birdies?

TIGER WOODS: Not make a bogey.

I figured 11-under would probably be the winning score.

Q. When you get up in the morning, are you focussed and into the round already in your mind before you get here, or is that something you try to leave until you actually get here for --

TIGER WOODS: No. I just try and stay as relaxed as I possibly can. I know once I get the out here, the environment is tense enough as it is.

Q. Yesterday when you were struggling and not playing the way that you want to, do you take an approach in your own mind where you're going to play well with the way you're hitting the ball that day and rely on your short game, or are you constantly trying to fix it and hit the shots the way you really want to?

TIGER WOODS: You know, when you're playing down the stretch like this, you've just got to play the shot that gets you the best position, whatever it is. Sometimes it may not be the right shot, but you have to go ahead and hit the best shot that you can possibly hit at that given time.

For instance, some of the holes today, I didn't feel very good off the tee so I went with a different game plan. Instead of throwing the ball up in the air I ran it on the ground. Some of the shots I hit into the greens it felt good and went ahead and released and hit a good shot. Otherwise, I just played what I knew I could hit the best at that moment.

Q. How important is it to have a victory before the Masters?

TIGER WOODS: Not that important.

Q. Are you happy with this one? Is it nice to have?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it's great to have. But it's not life or death. I think it's more important for the media than for me.

Q. We've got to have something. (Laughter.)

TIGER WOODS: (Smiles).

Q. What do you mean when you say you're not comfortable over a shot? Is it a question of physical execution?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, you don't feel like you can hit -- you can make the move that is required at that given time. And that's -- I mean, we all -- everyone who plays golf understands that feeling. I mean, it's not easy. Then you've got to hit a shot to a tough pin when there's water off the tee and it just -- it's tough, but you've got to somehow find it within yourself to hit the best shot that you possibly can at at the given moment.

Q. How good is your score, given the conditions?

TIGER WOODS: I'm very proud of it. To shoot something in the 60 -- Stevie said, "If you shot-round in the 60s, it's your tournament." And I was able to do that today.

Q. Was it a case of you keeping your head while everyone else was losing theirs? Because apart from Phil, nobody seemed to --

TIGER WOODS: As I said, with the conditions being this difficult, it's very easy to make a mistake. And I guess -- I didn't want to make a mental mistake. It's okay if I made a physical mistake because I certainly wasn't feeling the best over the shots. But don't make a mental mistake. Go ahead and be committed to your shots and hit the ball as best as you possibly can at the time; and think your way around the golf course and just plug your way along, or else you start beating yourself, hitting aggressive shots and you have to stay away from that.

Q. I know there are not a lot of leaderboards on the front nine, but did last year's finish cross your mind at all?

TIGER WOODS: It did cross my mind. But the great thing about the position I was in, just like last year, is that he's ahead of me; so I had time to answer him.

For him, you can look in reverse, too. You're thinking, well, I can post a number and let him play the last couple of holes.

I feel like I have a chance to answer him, and that's where you always want to be. You don't want to have to rely on someone else.

Q. If he had posted a number and you are one or maybe two back, how much harder are these conditions?

TIGER WOODS: A lot harder. A lot more difficult. That's why I really grinded pretty hard with that putt on 16 because I knew that I only had a two-shot lead at the time. I saw that 10-under was leading. I saw it was Campbell at 10, and I just needed to go ahead and just bury that putt somehow. I was able to make that putt and I had three-shot lead.

Then I saw where I saw where he put his tee shot. I heard the groan, so obviously he was not in good shape; so he was not going to make birdie there. The chances of him making birdie on the last hole with that pin aren't very good. So if I could just make this putt, that leaves me with a chance to play last couple of holes at 1-over and still win with no problem.

Q. You're the first guy to win a tournament three times, three different times. What does that mean to you?

TIGER WOODS: It's a great feeling. There's no doubt about it. To come out here and play, hit this golf course under three different conditions, actually, they were three totally different scenarios how I won this tournament. But nonetheless, it was always a lot of fun to play in front of your home crowd.

Q. One of those guys was Arnold Palmer. Any significance to getting the record at his event?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it's always nice to do that to Arnold, so I can give him a little jab, because he gives it to me.

Q. You seem to be able to more than anyone else I've ever seen, devote yourself to each shot, whether it's for eagle or bogey. Inside your own head, do you ever get where you're, you know, "I'm just going to have to tap it this in for bogey," or is it that you work hard to make every short as important as every other shot?

TIGER WOODS: You know, I've always said this: You have to have the switch on. You can't turn it on and off. So when I tee off on the first hole, I had the switch on, and I'm giving everything I have on every shot until I finish out the last hole, and that's the way I play.

I can't play any other way because that's just not my personality. I've got to go out and play all out in order to feel like internally that I can sleep at night. If I went out there and dogged it, I couldn't -- I don't think I could live with myself. That's just not my personality.

Q. Are you pleased with the Nike driver?

TIGER WOODS: I am. I'm very pleased. I'm hitting the ball, certainly a little bit further. My misses are definitely more controllable, which is nice. And it's nice to be able to get the ball out there with these young guys again and get out of my shadow. It's great to be able to go out there and control a shot and hit the ball just a little bit further with control.

Q. Is it any more enjoyable even though when you guys are not in the same group that the challenge Sunday is from the No. 2 guy in the world?

TIGER WOODS: You know, you look at the fact that -- yeah he is the No. 2 player in the world. But there's so many guys on the board with a chance to win. Cabrera was there. Campbell snuck up in there. There's just so many different things that could have halved. And John Huston was in there; if he makes a couple of birdies coming in, all of a sudden he's looking like he's in the driver's seat.

There's so many different things. Even though Phil, he had it to 12-under, anything could have happened, and it did. A lot of different things happened on the last few holes.

Q. What would have been harder having to make birdie on 17 or 18, or trying to go to the green in two from the right greens on 16?

TIGER WOODS: Depends if you had a shot on it from the right trees at 16.

Q. He went for it, tried to go low, under the trees --

TIGER WOODS: I really don't know where he was.

You know, actually I remember -- and this is way back, when I was a little guy watching, I think Norman hit the ball in the right trees, and he went for it with a 6-iron and put the ball on the green from the right trees.

It can be done, but as I said depends on the scenario. Depends on what shot you have. If he had a shot and he felt comfortable doing it, then obviously he's going to try and do it.

You can't get the ball close to the pin on 16, even if you lay up. It's just physically impossible. You can't do it. So obviously he's to get the ball up there through the green, and at least chip down, like my playing partner Lenny Mattiace, he hit through the green and had an easy pitch coming down the hill. Depends if that's what he was trying to do.

Q. Very few players in tour history have won 30 times. Does the significance of that sink in with you, and would you ever have thought you would have this many wins this early in your career?

TIGER WOODS: I never ever looked at it that way, no. It's certainly a nice by-product of a lot of hard work, there's no doubt about that. I put a lot into it; and I've gotten my share of great breaks, there's no doubt about that, in order to get to that number that I'm at now.

But, when I was a little boy, I never thought of winning this many times. I thought about just winning on the PGA TOUR and that would suffice.

Q. Did Arnie say anything worth repeating?

TIGER WOODS: Not in here. (Laughs).

Q. Could you talk about what your thoughts were on the second shot on 6 out of the bunker?

TIGER WOODS: I was just trying to lay it up. 6-iron, just trying to hit the ball up the right side of the fairway, and had the ball slightly above my feet, I choked down and hit it fat. Plain and simple; I hit it fat. I turned it left and ended up in the hazard, and from there, looked at my options, got to drop it right there, which I could have, but then I couldn't control it. If I had a sand wedge in my hands, I would have dropped it there, but I still had a full 9-iron so is makes no sense. Went back in the fairway and hit a great shot in there with a 7-iron and hit just a God awful putt. Just pulled it. It was just about a foot inside the hazard.

Q. We're talking about you 3-peating in three tournaments as a professional. Should we be counting your U.S. Juniors and U.S. Amateurs?

TIGER WOODS: I'd say that's not bad, huh? (Smiles). Well, six USGA events in a row, I think that was something I'm very proud of that.

Actually, I've won four times on this golf course. Won the U.S. Junior when I was 15, with the big, old bucket hat, whatever it was. (Smiles).

JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Thank you, Tiger, for joining us.

End of FastScripts....

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