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March 12, 2002

Tiger Woods


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

Three in a row at the Memorial. Three in a row at the NEC Invitational. Three in a row here at Bay Hill?

TIGER WOODS: It would be nice. I would like to play well enough to give myself a chance. The golf course is playing really difficult this week. The rough is not quite as high as it was last year, but the greens are obviously a lot harder, and with some new designs out there, and it's going to be a fun test this week. I think we are going to have a nice golf course out there. We're going to have to hit a lot of good golf shots in order to get the ball close.

Q. What are your impressions of the greens and how much more difficult does it make the course? Can you compare these greens to others that you've seen?

TIGER WOODS: A lot more difficult. There's no doubt about it. You know, some of the holes, you already know. You're on top of the green; you know where the pin is. As you are walking up, you know it's going to be about a ball outside the right.

Now the greens are completely different. They are kind of the same shape, but they are breaking differently now. So now you've got to take a look at some of these putts.

The greens are certainly a lot firmer. The balls are skipping quite a bit. And it's good to see because you've got to hit good shots and it puts more of a premium in putting the ball in the fairway. So you can go ahead and put the spin on the ball, and not only get the ball close, but keep it on the green.

Q. Moving the Foundation to only one clinic -- inaudible -- how did that all transpire, your thoughts on that?

TIGER WOODS: The four to five clinics I would do a year got a little bit taxing, not only on me, but as well as our staff, to try to put together four or five different clinics throughout the cities throughout the summer. They were being taxed pretty hard. It was just too much for us, being a smaller foundation, to have that much. So now, make it one big one and go ahead and focus on it. Not only are we running four or five clinics a year, but we are running our own golf tournament and we have our own concert. So added that in there all together at once, it was -- I think it was too much, so now we are moving it back to one. I think it's going to be a bigger blowout and we are going to have more kids from different cities. We are still going to get the kids from other places, but it's not going to be where we have to be taxed by going to those cities.

Q. Any idea how they are going to pick them, the kids?

TIGER WOODS: I think it's going to be up to the Junior Golf Association there, the locals, to make sure they do the right thing. It's going to be hard to police, it really is, doing the right thing, not just having it be a political decision.

Q. This year on the Tour, you've had Matt Kuchar as a champion, Chris DiMarco, Ernie Els. It seems like Orlando, your backyard, has just got an explosion of central Florida golfers right now.

TIGER WOODS: A lot of guys based in Florida obviously are playing well and it's good to see. These guys are awfully talented players. Chris has been playing well for quite some time, and Ernie, everybody knows Ernie is a great player.

And to see Matt get his first win under his belt, he obviously has had the talent. He just needed to be given the chance to play. He's played all over the world just to play, and now he's out here full time, and he's showing you the talent that he has.

Q. Having said that, is this kind of a local bragging rights tournament here at Bay Hill?

TIGER WOODS: I don't think we look at it that way. I look at it the fact that it's Arnold's tournament and it's always been an honor for me to be a part of Bay Hill and his tournament. It's been awfully fun over the years to play, and I played here as an amateur awhile ago, and it's neat to come back here and play here as a pro.

Q. So you could probably give some advice to Ty Tryon, his first time as a young kid, too.

TIGER WOODS: You've just got to go out there and play. This golf course is such that if you just go out and just play, it's not tricky. So it doesn't really take a whole lot of local knowledge. You've just got to go out there and execute golf shots. I'm sure he'll do all right.

Q. What did you think of Charles Barkley's comments?

TIGER WOODS: Charles is being Charles. (Smiles).

Obviously, he's one of my best friends, but Charles, as we all know, likes to talk a little bit and I think that's where he just let it fly probably too much.

Q. Do you think Augusta has hurt you?

TIGER WOODS: Say again?

Q. Do you think Augusta has hurt you by changes they made?

TIGER WOODS: I like the changes, what they have done. I like how they have now made driving a priority, not just hitting second shots, and obviously putting, but now you've got to get the ball in play. I think it's going to be more of a premium, and I think that's good, because now you've got to test your full game and not just your second shot ability or your touch.

Q. What was driving the changes, was it strictly power?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I've talked to Hootie on several occasions about this. I hit the ball a long ways, relative to how that golf course is played. And I think what their main concern is, is that there are kids who are coming up that hit the ball further than I do, and that these kids are going to be on the Tour the next ten years or so. I think it's these kids that they are kind of worried about, making the golf course obsolete. Now we are playing Merion (ph) again, that golf course is obsolete for as far as we hit it. They are afraid because they can't really grow that golf course anymore. They are pretty taxed on the property.

Q. How much would your standing on the tee, even if you go back to '95, '96, how much thinking is required? How has that evolved the last five or six years?

TIGER WOODS: Before, the thinking was some of the tee shots, like on 9, just go ahead and rip driver and blow it down the right side, if not in the gallery. And now you've got to use the approach shot with the best angle.

;Now you've got to think, okay, now I've got to draw this ball, keep it in the fairway, make sure I don't run it through; and if I run it through, now I've got a downhill sidehill lie out of the first cut to a green that's three levels, and it's brick hard. Obviously, now you have to shape some of these tee shots, where before, you could just go ahead and blow it out there, some of the longer holes, like 18, the bunkers really were not in play. For me, I would just not even ride the bunkers and hit it as hard as I could. If I hit the bunkers fine. If I cut it, fine. If I pulled it, I was fine. Now you've got to go ahead and hit a shot that keeps you in play in order of having a chance of making 4 or 3.

Q. Do you think they are going to utilize the full 285, 300 yards in the tournament?

TIGER WOODS: I think it's all based upon weather. I think if -- they are not going to be naive and say, "Okay, we are going to play it all the way back every time." Because some of the holes would be unplayable. If we get a north wind that comes in that's really cold, and 18 is playing straight in your face, and you play it 470 yards, whatever it is, uphill into the wind, that's a left-to-right hole. There's no way we can get there. So obviously they would move the tees up.

But the pin locations they always keep the same. Would they fluctuate the tees? I would say yes.

Q. Is this stretch your favorite part of the season in how the schedule falls together and how it builds? Do you approach this month-long period, five-week period any different than any other time of the year?

TIGER WOODS: You know, I thoroughly enjoy it. I thoroughly enjoy coming back down here to Florida and playing. This is where I live now.

And making the run to our first major of the year is exciting. Yeah, it is exciting because I think, you know basically we all say that once we get to Florida is when we really start focussing on getting ready for THE PLAYERS Championship and the Masters.

Q. But this tournament and THE PLAYERS and the Masters, is the build-up to it any different than the build up to the four weeks before the U.S. Open or the PGA?

TIGER WOODS: That's a good question. I think it's -- for me, I think there's a little bit more of a build-up, because we haven't played a major in a while. So obviously, there is more of an anticipation of getting ready for Augusta to play.

Q. Looking back on last year, did you put, I won't say pressure, but so much focus on the Masters win that afterwards it affected you more than you probably anticipated going in, and have you had a chance to really kick up your feet and say, "Four in a row"? When did it hit you, or does it hit you more and more every day that you won four in a row?

TIGER WOODS: I think it hits you as time progresses. I appreciate what I've accomplished a little bit more.

Last year, when I was competing, you don't really look at it four in a row. Even though I won that day, I didn't really look at it that I won four in a row. I looked at it that I won Masters because I was so intent of focusing on that, that I blocked everything else out.

As I've gone on throughout the year, I have gained a greater appreciation for four in a row. It is a pretty neat accomplishment, and to be able to say that I've done it, I'm very proud of that.

Q. In retrospect, did that take more out of you, just from the concentration standpoint?

TIGER WOODS: I was beat. I was starting to get sick on Sunday, and by the time I got home on Monday, I had 104 temperature. I wore my body down pretty hard. Plus, don't forget the pollen, too. I have allergies like a lot of other people and wore my body down pretty good.

And the stress of competing under those conditions in that environment definitely wears on your immune system. Yeah, you're pretty worn tired and worn out and exhausted by the time your final putt goes in on Sunday.

Q. How about the rest of the year was it hard to crank it back up?

TIGER WOODS: Not at all. It was the same. Once that's done, you go ahead and focus on the next one.

Q. You talked last year about practicing a couple shots specifically for the Masters. What about this time? Is any of the shots changed because of the changes they have made?

TIGER WOODS: As I said, just puts more of a premium on driving, of getting the ball in play. And not only that, being able to shape your -- I think you have to shape your driver a little bit more than you had to in the past. You're not going to be able to hit shots like I normally would out there and just bomb away, like on 7. They didn't really like the fact that I was hitting 60-yard and 70-yard shots into 7. So now they moved the tees way back there. Now it's a heck of a driving hole.

Q. How about short game shots?

TIGER WOODS: Same shots you always work on every year. That golf course is so unique that -- actually THE PLAYERS Club is a wonderful place to practice, the chipping area that they have in the back.

Q. Do you like the tee on 13?

TIGER WOODS: Do I look the tee on 13? It makes 13 play like -- realistically, you are probably not going to go for it every day. I'm sure that Phil -- probably Phil will probably go for it than most guys, because for him it's a high fade and it's easier to control a fade than obviously a draw. And for him to step up there and hit driver and cut it around the corner, I think that's a little bit easier than us hitting 3-wood or driver and trying to shape it around the corner.

Q. Are you starting to feel like one of the older guys on this tour, considering the younger guys, like Ty is nine years younger?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, a couple of guys, I forgot their names, but some of the guys have come up to me and haven't really been on the Tour that long and come up and said, "Mr. Woods." That's when you know . I used to be the young guy out here. I used to say "Mister" to everybody else.

Q. Would you talk about your game? I keep reading that you're once again in a period where you are re-evaluating and working on some things. My question would be: If it ain't broke, why fix it? Where does Tiger have to go?

TIGER WOODS: The game of golf, if you understand the game of golf, you never really have it. It just ebbs and flows. And you are always working on something. I don't care how good you hit it one day. Shoot, like I shot 59, I still hit a couple of bad shots, you still go and work on those things.

The game of golf is very unique that way. You always try to get a little bit better. You always look back and say, I could have hit this shot a little bit better, could have done this, what went wrong here. And you start analyzing it, and I'm still working on the same old things.

Nothing really changed. I've been working on the same things since '97. It's just I've got to keep working on it.

Q. Are you still frosted at the word, "Slump" that was used last year?

TIGER WOODS: I think it's frustrating because people who said it was a slump don't really understand the game of golf. Because this game is not exactly easy.

Q. We know that about, but instead of just going, they don't know what they are talking about -- you've brought it up a couple of time where is seems it sort of aggravates you still?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, of course it aggravates me because I get asked all the time about it. The people who did write about it or did start it, I just don't feel that -- I just feel that if you say a "slump" is someone who wins five times in a year, I don't think that's really a bad slump.

Q. After the Masters last year, you had the physical crash-and-burn there for a little while. I mean, is it possible, you could have had, you know, a mental hangover from that and wouldn't be able to recognize it?

TIGER WOODS: No. Not a problem at all, man. It wasn't a problem to get up for the other tournaments.

Q. Have you had a chance to fill out your NCAA pool sheet? Your Cardinals are looking suspect.

TIGER WOODS: I haven't seen the sheets yet, but I have seen our bracket and we have got obviously a tough bracket. I know who we play. (Laughter.)

I know we've got Western Kentucky, and if we can get by the Hilltoppers, I think we've got Kansas in the second round. So I think we need some work. We need to go out there and take care of business.

Q. What are your memories of last year? One of the best finishes we've seen with Phil's approach at 18, your errant tee shot at 18 and making the putt at 18. What are your memories of the finish last year?

TIGER WOODS: I think getting to the point where I had a chance to win was kind of a mini-miracle in itself. I was not playing well on Sunday. I was just kind of getting it around and chipping and putting and just kind of hanging in there.

I made a good birdie on 16 from the left rough, and on 18, hit another pull off the tee, because I didn't know which way the ball was going to go. It's easy to play for a shot when you're missing one shot one way all day. That's a lot easier to play for, but I hit shots both ways so I'm standing on 18 tee not understanding where the ball is going to go, so just trying to hit it low, should it runs down the fairway and didn't do that. Pulled left and got a great break by hitting a spectator in the neck, I believe it was, and from there probably hit the best shot of the tournament for me. It was a 5-iron where I had to keep it pretty flat in order to get it there, and I just absolutely flushed it and stayed really flat, never peaked.

And I had about a 12- or 15-footer left-to-right, and I've had that putt before and I knew that it breaks more than it looks.

I went out there and I stayed committed that line. Just said, "Just trust it, that there's a grain on this green." And I hit the putt and released the blade, and it felt good. And just waiting for it to break, it took its time breaking, but when it finally started to break, it went in.

Q. Mr. Woods, back to Charles for a second. Did you know he was going to say that? Because y'all are tight, but supposedly he had talked to you?

TIGER WOODS: No, you don't know 99.9 percent of the things that Charles is going to say. Whatever is on his mind at that time, he's going to say it.

Q. Also curious, when he is outspoken as a role model or whatever as an athlete, a lot of types you guys are under pressure, sometimes people are outspoken about issues that are not golf-related, but he gets ripped for saying stuff. What is your view on the responsibility, or do you have any as, are you athletes, at least -- somebody comes up, do you feel like you have to speak out on issues that really have no effect on golf?

TIGER WOODS: I'm in a position, where, yeah, I can make a difference. You've got to pick your causes and stay focused to that.

I think if we, as a society, would all take the initiative instead of just putting it on certain people, I think this place would be a lot better place to live. It's just that we always let other people do instead of taking initiative upon ourselves to make a difference. If we could just make a difference in one person's lives and so forth and so on. I just wish that it wasn't just put on a select few, whether it's athletes or celebrities or entertainers or religious figures, whoever it may be. If we all did as a whole, I think that's what we need to do.

Q. Just curious about what you think about Charles Howell and him being from Augusta, what is that going to be like for him? Can he contend there?

TIGER WOODS: Oh, God, yes he can definitely contend. He's got the talent. He's obviously played really well over the last -- all of last year. He was really consistent. He just hasn't got his win yet, but it's coming. You can see the signs. It's coming. He's really close to breaking through. It's just a matter of time. And I think going home there at Augusta is going to be great for him and his family and his friends. I think it's going to be a very special moment for him.

Q. You were pushed pretty hard by David in '99, by Phil last year, no one really in 2000, and this year there are some early indications that Ernie could be stepping up to the plate. Is there one of those challenges that you relish more than the others?

TIGER WOODS: I think Ernie and I have probably gone down the stretch more times than any other players that I've played against. I've got him a couple of times and he's got me a couple of times. But Ernie is one of my good buddies and it's good to see him playing well. I always like to get in a position where I can play him down the stretch again because it is a lot of fun, instead of spotting him 8.

Q. Are you ever at all curious who it might be at the start of the year?

TIGER WOODS: This game is such that it could be anybody, and I think that's the one thing about our game right now; that it is so deep that players come and go. You're just going to have to keep playing well in order to have a chance. >Q. Could you indulge me for one Ryder Cup question. Is 9/11 going to take the edge off the events, and is that good or bad?

TIGER WOODS: I think so.

Unfortunately, it happened, and I think it's going to be a good thing for the Ryder Cup; that the edge has been taken off of the tournament a little bit. I think we're going to see it how it used to be played. Granted, this is a competition between Europe and the United States, but this is supposed to be a celebration of golf. It's not life or death, and I think that's what a lot of the public, and as well as the press, make it out to be, and even some of the players. It's not life or death. No one is being held hostage here. We're going out there and we're supposed to have fun, enjoy competing against the person in your group, and shake hands and let's go have a beer afterwards. That's how the Ryder Cup used to be, and I wish it would get back to that.

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

End of FastScripts....

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