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May 30, 2001

Tiger Woods


JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Thank you, Tiger, for spending a few minutes in the interview room here at the Memorial Tournament. You came here last year, defended your title for the first time, and now you are back to defend your title again. You had a chance to play the course this morning. Why don't you make a couple of comments about that and your opportunities this week

TIGER WOODS: Okay. I was pleasantly surprised at the golf course today. I didn't realize it was going to be, it was going to drain this well. All the rain that they've gotten here in the Columbus area, this golf course drained magnificently. The greens today were slightly receptive, but you could tell as the week goes on, if you don't get any more rain the greens are going to firm up pretty good. It's going to be quite a test. The greens are faster than I think I've ever seen them here. Fairways are always immaculate. The golf course is in perfect shape, just like it is every year.

Q. Tiger, a lot of tournaments would like to think of this as sort of the next best thing as a major. Obviously, majors are separate entities, especially for you. This tournament, the way it's set up, the way the course plays, Jack's involvement, would you say it's one of those tournaments you look at as being after the majors, one of the more important tournaments you play during the year?

TIGER WOODS: I think every time you get the involvement of such a great champion as in Jack, same thing with Bay Hill with Arnold, and the Byron Nelson, obviously, those tournaments stand out because of the quality of the individuals involved in it. This golf course separates itself just because of the condition it's in each and every year. It's always in great shape. I think that's why, the reasons why you see so many great players want to play this tournament year after year.

Q. Tiger, just wondering, can you talk about what specific attributes you think are most important for the success of the U.S. Open? Talk about how you had to tailor your own game in the past, and now in preparation specifically for the U.S. Open.

TIGER WOODS: U.S. Open is very simple. All you have to do is drive the ball very well. If you can drive the ball well that week, you're going to give yourself chances going into the greens with control. If you're not driving it very well that week, it's going to be a tough week, because you're going to have to somehow figure out a way to make par. It's a lot easier to make par for the fairway even if you're a club or two longer coming into the greens. At least you have control of your spin. Playing on the rough, especially this year with Bermuda rough is going to be quite a test.

Q. Do you play any differently or approach a tournament any differently when it's not a major? Do you experiment, take chances you wouldn't otherwise?

TIGER WOODS: I think it depends on the setup of the golf course. I think you can look at each and every setup and that dictates how you're going to play. Obviously, if the golf course is set up with no rough and wide open fairways, you can play aggressive. If it's set up tight with some rough and the greens are hard and fast, you've got to be very careful. Consequently, I think the scores reflect that.

Q. Tiger, the golf fans obviously expect you to win every time you tee it up in the tournament. I wonder, does your -- do you get jacked up to win a tournament the same way every week? When you don't win, like you had on the West Coast this year, does it have anything to do with your mood, or is it purely technical?

TIGER WOODS: It is frustrating when you don't win, because that's my goal heading into the week. My goal is not to make a cut or just show up and play halfway decent. My goal is to win. You have to be realistic. Obviously, you're not going to win every time you tee it up. But that's my goal. It's disappointing when that doesn't happen. Especially if I've made some careless mistakes which ultimately lead me not to win. Some weeks you just hit the ball, you hit the ball poorly or putt poorly because of the mechanics. But it's frustrating when you're making mental decisions that impact your game and the score down the road where you eliminate yourself out of the chance to win a tournament.

Q. Is that the difference between early in the year versus later?

TIGER WOODS: No, I think later on the West Coast -- get me on good greens, which I was able to do when I went over to Dubai and shot, Pro-Am I shot 64. Opened up with two straight 64s. So 24-under in three days isn't too bad.

Q. How integral an element of your sport is walking the course, and what is your feeling about the Supreme Court ruling in the Casey Martin case?

TIGER WOODS: I think walking the golf course is part of our game. I think what ultimately, the decision with Casey, I'm extremely happy for Casey. Casey is one of my friends. I've played with him. He was my roommate on the road in college my freshman year. To see Casey now be able to go out there and play with some peace and quiet finally without having this over his head I think is going to be beneficial for him.

Q. Is there any concern on your part about particularly the High Court making the rules for the PGA TOUR?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, there is -- I was talking to Tim about that at lunch. Yeah, there is a question about that, and you know, we would think we would like to be able to govern our sport. Sometimes it just doesn't work out that way.

Q. Tiger, there's been a concern about finding somebody to challenge you, and you know, Sergio Garcia is a possible contender, won a couple weeks ago at Colonial. Do you feel this victory will propel him and make him more of a threat on the PGA TOUR?

TIGER WOODS: I don't know. Winning on the Tour obviously gives you a lot of confidence. The way he played on Sunday should give him a lot of confidence. He played well. I think what he needs to do and what I try to do from the point I won in Vegas for the first time in '96, is to keep doing it. Keeping yourself there. I understand that you're not going to win every time. The key is to keep putting yourself there more times than not, and occasionally you're going to luck into victories. You're going to outplay guys, and you're going to get your championship, championship wins. You need to keep putting yourself there time and time again. This might eventually lead him to that point.

Q. Tiger, you mentioned Vegas, the next tournament you won was Disney and played with Payne that last day. Can you talk about what he meant to you as you watched golf on television growing up, and once you got to know him, how that fostered your relationship?

TIGER WOODS: When I first played with Payne, I think I played with him there at Disney. Down the stretch, we had a good time. You know, we were, I'd just moved into his community, and I'd seen him out there practicing. I've been on one end of the range, he's been on the other. I've never really talked to him. That week, I think that started our relationship. And what really got our relationship going is our trips to Ireland right before the British Open, to go fishing. We've had a great time. He was the life of the party every time we went out and had dinner and went out for drinks afterwards. He was always center of attention, just loving life. I think that's when he really opened up to me and became one of my friends. It was because of that and those experiences that I was able to really get to know Payne.

Q. Tiger, what comparisons could you make between the way you play the game now and the way Jack Nicklaus played it in his prime?

TIGER WOODS: I can only say through either watching on tape or just hearsay. I wasn't around, obviously. I think the similarities, I think we both hit the ball a little bit longer than the guys we're playing against. Consistently. We both hit the ball high. I feel like I can make a couple putts here and there, and I'm sure he felt the same way. Only difference is I prefer to go right-to-left. He likes to obviously fade the ball. I think that's what separates us.

Q. Can you tell us how much golf you've played since your last tournament and given your practice here, how well are you playing, do you feel tuned in? Are you rusty?

TIGER WOODS: I took a few days off after Germany. Then I started practicing end of last week and most of this weekend. Beating a lot of golf balls and working on my game. I really feel like I'm swinging the club the way I know I can. That's kind of fun to be able to step up there and hit shots that I haven't hit in a while. It's nice to see that flight and that trajectory, and the divot pattern, and the overall feeling of my swing.

Q. On Jack, do you have any expectations at all about your own longevity? And also, given the inherent attractiveness -- (Inaudible.) Mickelson, Love, Duval aren't here -- (Inaudible.)

TIGER WOODS: My longevity, that's one of the reasons why I try to stay as fit as I do, is for that reason, to be able to compete at a high level for a long period of time. Hopefully that will pan out. You never know, but that's my intent. That's one of the reasons why I don't play that many tournaments. I play 20 in a year in the States, that's about it. Maybe five or six worldwide. I really don't play a whole heck of a lot. But I think that also helps. But as far as three guys not playing, I know David committed to a wedding that he has to be a part of. We were talking about that in Dallas. That's one of the reasons he's not playing. He would love to play here, but just didn't work out. The other guys, Davis is hurt. Phil has been playing an awful lot of tournaments. I'm sure he needs a little rest. I don't think that in any way, shape, or form is going to hurt this tournament because it still has a great field and a wonderful track.

Q. Golf courses continue to make changes with you and other long hitters in mind (Inaudible.) Do you feel there's only so many changes you can make?

TIGER WOODS: I think if you keep making the golf courses longer that's only going to help us who hit the ball further, especially if you get the fairways soft. Some of the shorter guys are going to have a difficult time stopping the balls on greens. Generally, if you can hit the ball long, you can hit the ball high. With that in mind, you can stop the ball on the greens with long irons where most of the guys are having a difficult time.

Q. Your dad is going to be honored as Father of the Year in a couple of weeks. Can we talk a little bit about the most meaningful things he did for you growing up, either in golf or in life?

TIGER WOODS: I think my pop, just being my best friend, I think our relationship has taken on many different facets. He was my father, obviously, and still is. He's become my best friend. He's become a president of a foundation. It's weird to talk to him about things and ultimately I make the decision on it. Role reversal. But I think we can talk to each other in different roles. We can put on different caps and talk to each other. Either president/chairman, father/son, or best friends. I think that to me is very special. And there's no way I could have ever accomplished this without him.

Q. I know it's hard to take yourself out of being you and look at him as your father, but do you, if you could, would you look at him as sort of a visionary in a way that he was ahead of his time?

TIGER WOODS: I think my father had a lot of belief in me. And I think that's what he ultimately showed to all of you and everyone who asked him what I could do in the game. He believed in me. More importantly, I think you've got to understand if you ask any father in this world, they are going to be pretty proud of their son. I think a lot of it is that. He's very proud of me when I was a kid and still is. I think that's what you hear too is a proud parent talking.

Q. You play two weeks in Germany, you will play in France in September. How important is it to play overseas for you? Is it part of your duty?

TIGER WOODS: I don't think it's part of my duty to play overseas, but I enjoy it. I enjoy traveling the world and seeing new places. I haven't been in France since 1994 to play in the World Cup, the Eisenhower Trophy. Played there. I had a good time. Stayed right down the street from the Palace of Versailles and had a chance to go tour it. It was actually incredible. Things like that are an opportunity to see the world and see different things. If a person who is only 25 years old, to be able to see all these places all around the world, that's not a bad thing. I thoroughly enjoy it. I'm going to continue to do it as long as my body can hold out. I love playing overseas. One of my best friends Mark O'Meara still does it. He's always loved playing overseas because the people you get to meet, the places you get to see leave a lasting impression on you.

Q. (Inaudible.) Look down the first fairway and sort of focus and concentrate. People are amazed at that ability you have to do that. Can you talk about where that came from? Was it your dad working with you when you were young? Your mom? Your background? Books you read? How did you develop these skills?

TIGER WOODS: I think, to be honest with you, Tim, I've always had the ability to focus and to give it everything I had at that moment. I've always had that ability. The problem I had when I was a kid is to get out of that and relax a little bit when I was playing, because when I was a kid I would grind so hard I was worn out by the time I was playing 14 or 15 because I would never let up. From the moment I stepped on the first tee box, I was into it. And by the time I got to the 14th, 15th hole, I never looked around or saw anything. I was so into the round or into what I was doing, I wore myself out. The trick was learning how to relax and do that at the same time. And that has just taken experimentations, trial and error, experience, and learning what works best for me. I can't play like Hogan. I can't play that way. I can't ground it out for all 18 holes and never let myself out of it and relax. Then again, I can't talk it up and ham it up like Lee can. I'm somewhere in between. And each day, there's some barometer I just got to feel it out. Some days, I can play longer with more focus; other days, I've got to relax and try to get away from things.

Q. We've seen your majors, and you seem to have these blinders on like you don't see outside your periphery, and you get in the car and you see your mood change. Is that something you have to work on? Is it as simple as flipping on a switch or a conscious thing, or do you not think about it? (Inaudible.)

TIGER WOODS: When you take pride in what you do, automatically you are going to give it everything you have. That's what you see when I play, I'm very prideful what I do on that golf course and how I play. I think that's one of the reasons why you see me give it so much attention. When I don't have to do it anymore, it's over, yeah, I'll relax and I'll ham it up with the best of them.

Q. We've been working on a story on golf and the African American community and minority golf talking about your father and the foundation. Wanted to know, the kids we've spoken to say that basically the reason they're playing is because of you. How does that make you feel? Is that just awesome?

TIGER WOODS: It's very humbling, tell you that. It's pretty neat to be able to be a part of a change like that. That's a positive change. Because this golf -- this great game of ours in the past wasn't accessible to everybody who wanted to play it. It's getting to that. I think that's pretty cool to be a part of a positive change and influence, because I love this game to death. To be able to influence it positively is a big kick.

Q. What's your analysis of why there are still so few African Americans on Tour? Do you think it's a racial issue, a socioeconomic issue? Is it possible to separate the two?

TIGER WOODS: I think it's very difficult to separate the two. I think what you're finding, it's awfully difficult to get started. When I was playing the game, growing up as a kid, that wasn't too long ago. We were looked at as wusses, guys who didn't, shouldn't be called athletes, shouldn't be considered athletes. That's changing and that's evolving. And I think the game is becoming more hip, is becoming more cool. And I think you're starting to see more kids play it who traditionally would never even think about playing the game.

Q. (Inaudible.)

TIGER WOODS: I really don't see that. The clinics I've done around the country I've seen a lot of good swings. A lot of kids are going to be pretty darn good.

Q. What about in terms of your level?

TIGER WOODS: You never know. One-tenth of one percent get to the professional level. There's a lot of weeding out that happens. I think that you need to have a bigger base to start out with. That's what I think is happening, is starting to change. More kids who are in the African American community are starting to play the game. I've seen it all around the country doing the clinics I've done, there are kids hitting the ball further than I ever thought I could when I was that age. 13, 14, 15, 16 years old -- I mean just bombing the ball. These kids in 10, 15 years they might be the ones that are going to be out here.

Q. About a year ago this tournament, you were starting to use the Nike ball and there was a lot of chatter about that obviously. You've obviously played great with it, but how much of a difference has the ball made, if at all?

TIGER WOODS: I think the ball has made a big difference in the fact that I was able to have more shots around the greens. One of the reasons why I did switch. I was a little leery testing after I put it in play in Germany, the week before this tournament. I was a little leery of it around the greens. Because in practice it's one thing, but to actually do it in game time is a different story. I was very pleased at the changes. I was a little bit longer off the tee, but that didn't really matter. I think what really mattered was I was able to control my ball in the wind, and I think that made a big difference. Around the greens, I could be a little more aggressive. I had new shots that I could play. That to me is awesome because I love to hit shots and create shots around the greens. And to be able to give me some more arsenal to use around the greens, I loved it.

JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Thank you, Tiger, for joining us. Play well this week.

TIGER WOODS: All right, Joan. Thanks.

End of FastScripts....

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