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June 13, 2000

Tiger Woods


LES UNGER: Tiger, thank you very much for joining us today. I happened to be looking at the summaries, and they show everybody's results in the Opens. In the last four you've gone from 82nd to 3rd in a steady progression.

TIGER WOODS: At least I'm heading in the right direction. I've gotten a little bit better since '96 when I played as an amateur.

LES UNGER: What are your thoughts about this golf course? I'm sure you practiced a number of times. How does it size up for you?

TIGER WOODS: It's playing quite a bit differently than it did during the AT&T. All of the fairways are drier, they are faster, the greens are harder and firmer. The so-called three-and-a-half rough is a little different than the three-and-a-half inches of rough that everyone had said prior to the tournament. It's going to be a very difficult week. If you round the ball well here, I think you've got a pretty good chance.

Q. Tiger, there was a time when you came in and would try to overpower the course, but you have now really stressed your course management, and, I think, taken what the course will give you and you feel like you can go for it?

TIGER WOODS: I think it's a natural progression of learning the game of golf. And I guess like any teenager, we thought we knew everything. But as I've played more golf, especially out here on TOUR, I've really learned how to manage my game and understand what shots I need to play at what time, how to get the ball here to there the proper way. And I think that's just experience. I've always been one that -- I always wanted to get better. And I've understood that learning how to play the game properly is definitely going to make me a better player, and it has. I've taken a lot of times where what the golf course gives me that day. One golf course, hit a 2-iron, and the next day I hit a driver all day, because that's what the golf course gives me. But it's not to fight it; go out there and play the golf course for what it has to offer that day, and do the best you can.

Q. Tiger, as we approach the final U.S. Open for Jack Nicklaus, could you just talk a little bit about maybe his impact on you with respect to the game?

TIGER WOODS: Well, Jack has obviously set the bar up pretty high for everyone to try to chase after. And to win as many majors as he has and the record he has in the major championships is very remarkable. For him to be playing, I think it's like the 44th, it's unbelievable. If you think about it, that's 20 years older than me. And if you play with a perspective like that, it really makes you appreciate the fact of his longevity, and the fact that he never really had major injuries until he had his hip redone. Other than that, Jack never really had any injuries, and he played his career at the highest level with no injuries, and that's one of the reasons why he's been as successful as he has.

Q. Tiger, are you aware that at this stage of your career, compared to Nicklaus, that you have the same amount of victories at comparable stages in your career, are you aware of that?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, we're pretty close.

Q. I know you used to keep track of him when you were a youngster. Are you aware it's almost identical except the number of majors?

TIGER WOODS: It is pretty close. I know he has, through this time, probably I think two more majors, I believe, or maybe three, whatever it is. It's been pretty good and that's pretty remarkable. When he first came out, he played pretty well, and won a U.S. Open, won a Masters Championship, won everything. I've had a pretty good run lately, and hopefully, I'll continue to play well, and chalk up some more majors, as well.

Q. You spoke a moment ago about your course management and experience and the maturity it's brought. It's brought a lot of consistency, as well. As you come into these tournaments now, any tournament you play in, the players, the media, the general public say, "Tiger is the guy to beat. He's the hands-down favorite." Do you find it more and more difficult to motivate yourself for the first round of an event or does that still drive you on to prove that in fact you are the guy to beat?

TIGER WOODS: Since I was a little boy, I've never had a problem getting myself to play in the first round of the tournament, or any round; if I'm going to enter a tournament, I'm going to give it everything I have. I'm proud of that. I haven't left anything on the golf course. I gave it everything I had. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't. I've never struggled with being motivated in the first round of a tournament. I'm pretty nervous like anybody else. I'm ready to go; sometimes I have to pull the reins back on myself. But other than that, I've been very pleased with the way I've handled things leading to tournaments, preparation for tournaments. I've always found when I get to a tournament, I'm ready to go.

Q. For people in California, and maybe the rest of the world, Pebble is a very special place. You've had a first and second here. Can you describe when you first saw it, what you thought of it as a kid? And was it harder, easier and were you sort of enthralled by the beauty?

TIGER WOODS: When I first played on it -- I played on it when I was 13. I just remember coming out here and finding the golf course so long. And I came back later and played the AT&T -- actually I played the State Amateur, when -- I believe I was 17 or 18. I thought how short the golf course had gotten (laughter). Maybe just the fact that I added about 30 yards and about six inches in height. But the golf course has always had a special place in my heart. One, for its pristine beauty and another for its, I guess, its mystique behind Pebble Beach. Maybe because the tournaments held here, maybe a combination of the layout and the beauty, the finishes that we've had in tournaments over the years on this golf course. And maybe the fact that all the snowbirds see it every year, and see how beautiful it is. But I've always absolutely loved playing here, from the time I was 13, and now, and I'll always continue to love it.

Q. Tiger, what impact has your coach had with what you've been able to do the last 18 months? And generally, what do you think for a professional is the key to having that kind of relationship work well?

TIGER WOODS: Butch and I are working on our seventh year together. I started back in '93 with Butch, and we've worked a lot, a lot of hours trying to get better. And it's been a steady progression of getting better every year. If you look back on every year that I've played, I have become a better player, And that's what you ultimately want to strive for. You don't ever want to have a year where you feel you've gone backwards. Even where I didn't win in '98 as much as I did in '97, I was becoming a better player, and I was proud of that. It was just a matter of time before the wins started coming, and they came last year and have continued to come. It's been hard work and understanding of my golf swing, and Butch and I have built it together. He suggested a few things, I've suggested a few things, and we kind of collaborated and have basically built the golf swing together.

Q. Tiger, could you tell us how you chose Steve Williams as your caddy and what influence or help he might have been since he signed on with you?

TIGER WOODS: Well, Stevie obviously has been a tremendous help for me. He's very upbeat, very positive. On top of that, his past record, he's worked for Greg, worked for Ian Baker-Finch; he worked for a lot of guys in Australia. He's worked for countless other pros on the Asian Tour. His track record is amazing. He told me the other day, I never knew this, but I think there's only one tournament he hasn't been on the bag for a win, on the Australasian Tour. He's won everywhere. And I think that's because of his attitude. He's always prepared, and I think that has rubbed off on me, being so upbeat and positive.

Q. Tiger, I was wondering if you have any preference this week, once the tournament started if you would prefer it to be windy or would you prefer it calmer and why?

TIGER WOODS: I think if you're playing well, you always want to have the conditions tough. And I feel like I'm playing pretty good coming into the tournament. And if the wind blows, great. I'm going to go out there and strike the ball the best I can. The harder the conditions, the more it favors the person who's playing well. Obviously, you know, wind accentuates bad shots. And the fact that you can go out there and play well, the level I've been playing at, with the wind, I think I can do all right.

Q. Tiger, how much has your mental toughness been a factor in the way you've separated yourself from everyone else over the last year; and secondly, how is your mental approach, I guess, different for this major than it is for the other three?

TIGER WOODS: Doug, I've always felt that I've always been pretty tough mentally. I've always felt that I've always had a mental edge over a lot of my opponents. Doesn't mean I have the physical ability to back it up. But I always felt that I could play to win. I had a desire to win, I wanted to beat you, but sometimes my physical abilities weren't there. That's why I needed to get my physical abilities up to where my mind was. My mind won me a lot of tournaments. But physically, I always felt I wasn't as good as I could be, and that's what I've been working on to -- where I'm at now. And I guess this major championship is more predicated on driving the ball than the other three. You can spray the ball down there a little bit more. This golf tournament, in general, par is a good score. Even if you hit the ball -- say it's different three holes in a row, and you miss all three, you're disappointed, but not too disappointed, in the fact that par is a good score. If you go around and make 72 straight pars, I guarantee you have a chance to win.

Q. You talk about winning tournaments sometimes with your mind. Is this more a case of that more than any other major that your mind helps you in this major more than the other three?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think probably in the fact that you're going to have to -- if you miss a fairway you have to wedge it on, and you have to grind to make pars. The other majors, like I said, you can spray it a little bit and be okay. Here, you have to stay committed to each and every shot, stay in the ballgame. You can't afford to let your intensity down one bit, just because of the fact that it can cost you a couple of strokes here and there, and that can be the end of the tournament.

Q. Tiger, it's gotten to a point where if you show up at a tournament, you're the favorite. What kind of burden comes with that, and does it wear you down?

TIGER WOODS: Actually, it really doesn't, because I don't really pay attention to it. I'm out there trying to get ready. I don't really read any articles or watch the TV when it comes on, to the golf. I kind of just turn away from it, change the channel. But I do like watching those sports highlights, though.

Q. You recently changed to a new ball. When you come into a tournament like this, is it total confidence in a new ball or is there a while where there's still some apprehension playing something that's new and different?

TIGER WOODS: People think that I've all of a sudden changed one magical day. But that wasn't the case. I've been testing the golf ball for a few months and found some of the things I liked in it. I just needed to put it in play. I was able to do that in Germany, liked what it did there, and came back and played at Memorial. I liked what it did at Memorial. I've had some wonderful practice sessions after that with the golf ball. I've had some pretty good scores. And I've just found that over time, you will build that confidence and trust. There are times when you -- especially around the greens, when I've played one ball for such a long period of time, I've hit a shot and not really realized the golf ball, it reacts differently on the green. And I think that's the mental discipline you have to have, this ball is a little bit different. You just have to remember that and hit the shot accordingly.

Q. Tiger, there's been a drive to come up with golf's next great rivalry. It was tried with David Duval, and now the thinking is you and Sergio Garcia, another young fellow striving to get to the top where you are. Would you comment on that?

TIGER WOODS: Well, Sergio is obviously a great player, and he's had a wonderful record. He has won a couple of times already early in his career, which is going to be great for his confidence. He's contended in a lot of tournaments. It's just a matter of time before he starts piling up the wins. But hopefully I can keep putting myself up there in position so there can be a rivalry, if it ever develops. I think you need to have both of us play well in the same tournaments time and time again in order for that to happen.

Q. Tiger, there are several players on TOUR who are established winners, but have gone through periods of a year or more without winning. Do you think you have the ability and the mental toughness to avoid prolonged slumps in your career?

TIGER WOODS: I think I did already. I remember people telling me: "Why are you in such a slump? You haven't won in three months, four months, five months." Kept going on and on. And I said, "Be patient." I'm getting better enough to where I kind of put that to rest. But I think what ends up happening is that a lot of times in your life, things change in your life. Either through injury or through other things that become more important, other guys get married, they have families, and that becomes the most important thing in their life for a little bit. Then they get back into golf and start focusing on that. It kind of ebbs and flows. There are going to be times where I'm not playing well, but that's part of playing sports. I feel that I have the mental toughness to overcome that. If I dedicate myself to the game, I feel I can play pretty good.

Q. Tiger, there's a lot of players that say the USGA doesn't have to touch this golf course, but they do. Is there a sense of USGA trying to get inside of the players' heads?

TIGER WOODS: I think they do that in every tournament that they set up. Every U.S. Open they set up. U.S. Amateur is a little bit different, and definitely the U.S. Junior is different. I think U.S. Open historically has always been very difficult. They say they're trying to identify the best player. I felt they're always trying to identify the person who drives the ball the best. If you drive the ball straight, in the fairway, pick the sides of the fairway you want to put it on, put it in there, yeah, you can win a tournament, but if you go in and spray it all over the lot, you're not going to have that good a chance of winning that tournament.

Q. Tiger, what was your yardage into the 6th hole yesterday?

TIGER WOODS: The 6th hole, I had a good drive down there. I had 205 to the hole, a 5-iron about ten feet and left the putt short.

Q. 3-wood fixed?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it is. It's doing really good now. I can still hit it short and straight.

Q. Tiger there's been so much written about Payne this week. He's on a lot of minds out here; he's on the minds of the spectators. Are the players talking about him? Are there some feelings coming out? Early in the week, obviously, it's not the foremost thing on your mind, but are you talking about it?

TIGER WOODS: I think just like anything you try, if you don't want to think about it, obviously you're not going to talk about it. And I think that's exactly what's happening out here is a lot of players aren't talking about it. We don't feel like we need to be thinking about that. Obviously, it's going to be difficult at times. And I think each person is handling it differently. It depends on how they want to handle it individually. But for me, the way I like to handle things, I'd rather go on about my business. I know there's going to be times when, yeah, I'm going to think about him and he's going to cross my mind. But I have to put that out of my mind and get back focused on what I'm going to do. I try to take care of my golf on the golf course, and if I mind wants to wander off it, that's fine.

Q. Where on the golf course do you think you can attack and make it play a little more aggressively, and where do you think you'll have to pull back and play conservatively?

TIGER WOODS: It's all predicated on the wind and the pin locations. Yesterday, the wind was blowing down left on 4, and I drove it about a yard in front of the left green-side bunker. So if the pin is on the left side of the green, I won't try to do that, but if it's on the back right, yeah. But if you have the wind off to the left and down, north wind, then you can go ahead and drive it down there. But a lot is predicated on the wind, pin locations, how you're feeling that day. Some days you feel aggressive. Other days, you get the ball down the fairway and on the green and pick up your ball and move on. In USGA events, you're going to have to do more of the latter.

Q. You've gotten to know Darren Clarke a little better, he's No. 1 one on the Money List there, you're No. 1 on the Money List here. What do you think about him as a player and the jump he's made this year?

TIGER WOODS: DC and I have become good friends. We call and leave messages, and especially when he won in England. I was proud to see him do that. He's a good friend, and it's great to see him progressively get better, and want to get better. And it's kind of fun to play with him occasionally, except when he kicks my butt. But other than that, DC has been a guy that I've grown to admire and really enjoyed his friendship. He's taken his game to another level. And I think that's a lot to do with -- more with Butch working with him, but also I think he's starting to find out the ability he has, and all he needs to do is work on it. Before, I don't think he really worked as hard as he should have. Butch has always been the one that likes to work a lot, hit a lot of golf balls, work on your game to get better. He's taken that and ran with it, and worked even harder.

Q. Tiger, AT&T, great 7-stroke comeback. Now we've got the U.S. Open Pebble Beach, different conditions, but the one thing they can't change is the breaks in the green. You and Steve have got to really feel confident in that it's fresh in your mind and how are you going to play it?

TIGER WOODS: I know that -- I was struggling earlier in the week, but I did a lot of putting on the practice green and I finally found it and I rolled the ball beautifully on the weekend. I think this golf course, now that it's drier, the greens are breaking a little bit more. Obviously, because it's drier, it is faster, and you have to be a little more careful on some of your lines that you pick, because we've played so many tournaments here where it's been soft and that's ingrained in your head, and you go ahead and wrap the putt; no, you can't do that, you've got to go ahead and feed it down there and make sure you're below some of these holes. In the past, when I played in the AT&T, say 13, for example, you can be above the hole and be fine, feel like you can go ahead and make the putt. Now that's not necessarily the case. You feel like you might want to leave the putter cover on and go ahead and hit it.

Q. Given the changing times and the depths of the field, is the Nicklaus record of 18 majors as a pro viable, even for you or is that sort of a fantasy?

TIGER WOODS: It's viable, definitely. It's just that -- like what he did, I think that's what any person who wants, to win as many majors, or more than Jack did, what you have to do is put yourself in that position to win. You're not going to win every one, and obviously Jack proved that in 17 consecutives. You have -- there are times you're going to beat everybody down the stretch. There are times they're going to give you the major, and other times a person is going to flat outplay you and you're going to play bad. But the key is to put yourself there, time and time again, on the back nine on Sunday and see what happens.

Q. Tiger, do you feel that the Open is a tournament you can will to victory? Can you control your emotions? Can you control your desires and hit shots, as opposed to hitting the shots that need to be hit? Is it a will issue or is it a talent issue?

TIGER WOODS: I think if you're playing well -- obviously that helps -- but it does come down to the mental state, because you need to go up and step up and try it and believe in your abilities to hit the golf shot. There are times when the hole or sight or shot does not fit your eye, you don't feel comfortable on it. You're going to have to try to get over that and stay committed to where you want to put the ball and put it there. And that's the challenge of it. And with a U.S. Open setup, it's not very forgiving, and bad shots are going to be accentuated with a lot of bogeys. And unfortunately, that's just the way it is. So you need to go out there and obviously have a good mental state to try to stay as focused as you possibly can for all 18 holes, and then let the chips fall where they may.

Q. Tiger, what are your memories of Payne and do you have a couple of anecdotes to share with us?

TIGER WOODS: I have some pretty good memories of Payne. We started to get to know each other pretty well over the last year and a half. And it was kind of funny, we were in Ireland and out fishing, and he was getting frustrated and talking a lot of trash. And I was yelling, "What would you like to do?" It was fun getting to know him. He loved to sing in the bars in Ireland when we were there together. And there were some things about Payne that are sorely missed. And I think we as players know that, you as the media know that, and the fans know that, as well.

Q. Tiger, Mark James, the European Ryder Cup Captain has written a book criticizing several American players.

TIGER WOODS: I haven't read any of that. I haven't heard any of the quotes or anything.

Q. If you haven't read it, then you can't answer it.


Q. Tiger, historically par has been the score in the U.S. Open to target, and many times it's a winner. Now that they've cut the par down four strokes for the tournament, is par going to win here or is it going to take better than that?

TIGER WOODS: Technically if you shoot 284, it should be 4-under. So obviously they've changed that. And if you go out there and you feel like you shoot 284, which is 4-under par, normally, you should have a pretty good chance. Now that's even par. I still believe that's a pretty good score, considering the fact with the weather and what they're predicting, some wind on Thursday. If that's the case, then 284, so-called 4-under par looks pretty good.

Q. Back to Butch for a second. What is it about him and the way he works that has instilled the confidence or trust from you in what he's working with you on?

TIGER WOODS: I think it's the countless hours he puts into it that people don't know about. Butch loves to watch film. He'll sit there for hours on end, analyzing, critiquing, and trying to find something in my swing that he can see when I'm not swinging well or things I'm doing right when I am swinging well. It's that hard work that you give confidence to -- you can feel that he's always there for you. He's doing the right thing. And there's never been a time I've ever questioned him. We've talked things through, but there's never a doubt that he -- he and I are always on the same page.

Q. Tiger, you obviously are a big admirer of Jack Nicklaus, and you've used him as a sounding board. Any advice that he's given you that you've utilized or taken to heart that he's talked to you about on or off the golf course?

TIGER WOODS: The funny thing is, we've never even talked about that. That's the weird thing about that. I've had several lunches with him and I've talked to him a lot of times on the golf course, but we've never, ever once talked about playing golf. And that's -- maybe that's just different. But it's just -- I guess it is a little weird, because you think I'd try to pick his brain. But I've always felt that if he wants to offer something, he'll say something. But I've never been one to try to press on and dig something out of somebody.

Q. Tiger, we've talked a lot about your game. We talked a little bit about the developing rivalry with Sergio playing well. Vijay Singh comes in as The Masters Champion. Is there anybody you think has the game coming into this event that will really give you a challenge this week?

TIGER WOODS: I think you've always got to look at the past champions of the U.S. opens. They obviously understand what it takes and how to play a U.S. Open. Past major championship winners; they've figured out what it takes to win down the stretch in a major, which this is. And the people who are playing well right now, at the time. You can never forget the guys who are playing well coming into an event. There's a lot to say for confidence. And there are several players out there right now who are playing well, especially after last week, what transpired down the stretch of the tournament last week. There were a lot of big names on the top of the board that I think you have to take a look at this week.

Q. Tiger, Vijay has a pretty good track record in recent years here, at St. Andrews, last two British Opens there, and Valhalla, the '96 PGA. If you were Vijay, would you be confident knowing you played well on the remaining courses, four majors?

TIGER WOODS: If I was Vijay -- yeah, I would feel confident, but you have to stay in the present. You can't think three majors down the road. You can't think towards the PGA. You can't think toward the next one coming up, which would be the British Open. You have to stay in the present, here and now. This is the tournament I need to focus on and put all my abilities and concentration on this tournament and then move on to the next. It's very easy to get looking ahead, because you've had some pretty good success. But I think you've got to stay in the present and keep working on what you need to do to win this week first. Take care of business here.

Q. Tiger, one thing we've learned about you, is you have a really good feel going into the tournament, where your game is at, and I don't want to attach too much significance to this, but I think you said you're playing "pretty good" coming into the tournament. Could you explain that statement? And also as competitive as you are, you've got that fire that burns, could you talk about your frame of mind going into majors, as opposed to going into normal TOUR events?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I am playing pretty good right now. I've hit a lot of good shots on my practice sessions. I've played some pretty good rounds. I've shot some pretty good numbers. And it just kind of makes you believe that you're heading the right direction. When I'm at home, I'm trying to pick sides of the fairway I want to hit the ball on, shape it in there to ten-yard-wide fairways out there, that kind of thing, and I was able to do it. And that lends you to believe that if you can do it there, you can definitely do it in a tournament. My mental preparation, my preparation for major championships really has changed as I've become a pro. Because all my life, there's only been one big tournament a year. Actually before, when I was really little, it was the Junior World, people from all over the world playing. Then the U.S. Juniors, then the U.S. Amateur, and now there's four. And my first year out here on Tour in '97, I struggled with that. I won one and I said, "I've got three more to go." You feel that's your year, it's already over, because that's something I've become accustomed to all my life. Now I understand there's four, and I'm preparing for each one individually, when the previous one was over. I feel like my mental state is getting better and better each year as I go in to each and every major.

Q. Tiger, there's a few players who are upset about the change in the 2nd hole from a 5 to 4 because it destroys the historical context in relation to the past U.S. opens. Do you feel that way?

TIGER WOODS: I definitely feel that way. Why change something that you have a historical reference? We've always played this golf course as par-72, the major championships we've had THE TOUR Championship here, we've had PGA and State Amateurs here, and we've had AT&T, Crosbys, and it's always been par-72. All of a sudden, we make it a par 71. And I don't think that's right, just because now we can't really compare all the past champions. You can say, yeah, you shot -- let's say you shot 284, shot 2-under for par for the tournament, but your mental state, knowing you make 4 on No. 2, versus when you made 4 on 2 in the past tournaments.

Q. How many truly great holes does this course have, one; and secondly, can you talk about how you're going to play 18 and different options for that?

TIGER WOODS: Truly great holes. I think you have to say all 18, because they're all different. I think that's one of the great things when you're looking at all the great golf courses that we play all around the world. What you find is great golf courses, every hole stands out in your mind because it's a little different. We've got a wonderful mixture of short holes, doglegs, long holes with shape to them, without shape. Each hole if you look at it, they're all different. And I think that's what makes for a wonderful golf course, and why this golf course is ranked so highly in everyone's mind is: "The 18th, how am I going to play it?" Hopefully, I'll have big enough lead that I can have a couple 5-irons on there and walk away.

Q. Can you reach it?

TIGER WOODS: Can I reach it? Yeah. I almost went for it yesterday, but I was underneath the second little tree.

Q. Is that high-risk?

TIGER WOODS: It depends on where the pin is. If you have the right wind, if you have the south wind coming, then it's -- obviously, you can get there. The north wind, you have no chance of getting there.

Q. Over the last year, basically it's been a 50/50 proposition for you, almost, in terms of starts and wins. Practically speaking, can you get any better than that or are you just trying to maintain?

TIGER WOODS: Well, it would be nice if it was 100. But realistically that's probably a little far-fetched. But I feel like if I can keep putting myself there in position enough times, my wins will come, and I think that's what I've done in the past -- for the past year and a half, I've put myself there in position enough times where I've gotten those wins. There are times where I've lost it, I played bad and other people just beat me. That's just the way it is. But if you can put yourself there each and every week, you'll win your share of tournaments.

LES UNGER: Tiger, we thank you and wish you luck.

End of FastScripts…

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