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January 5, 2000

Tiger Woods


JAMES CRAMER: We have Tiger Woods with us. Tiger, congratulations on being named being named 1999 PGA TOUR Player of the Year. Maybe you can just get us started by giving us a couple comments. A lot of questions were about going for five in a row, if you feel like it's a continuation beginning this tournament.

TIGER WOODS: I guess it's officially a continuation. I played a few tournaments since then. I've played -- what did I play? Malaysia, I've been in Taiwan, I've been in Japan, I've been in Hawaii, Phoenix. I've played some tournaments since then. It's hard to say it's a continuation from last year, but I guess officially it's part of this TOUR so I guess it is.

JAMES CRAMER: Questions.

Q. Is the streak in your mind: four in a row, trying to win five?


Q. Byron Nelson, any of that stuff in your head?

TIGER WOODS: No. Sorry, no.

Q. Starting off the year with this ProAm, how fun is it for you to be involved in this? Out on the course today, you were joking with the fans, joking with ESPN. How much fun is it for you?

TIGER WOODS: You know, today is obviously a very light day. This is a day to try new things, see how they work, have some fun with it, get into the competitive mode to a certain extent, have a practice round, but more importantly having a good time playing with your playing partners. I got very lucky today; had some great playing partners. We had a great time. Unfortunately, it rained on us for a little bit, but other than that it was a great day.

Q. How does the course play to your strengths or weaknesses? How does that work into what you expect this weekend?

TIGER WOODS: I think it's a wonderful golf course because for anyone who hits the ball a long ways, it sets up well. Fairways are about an acre wide. Just sit up there and pound it as hard as you want. That's very difficult to miss a fairway. If the wind starts blowing, then it becomes a challenge because you've got to hit the ball in certain lines that you feel uncomfortable with because it just doesn't fit with the shape of the hole, but you know you have to start the ball there to fit the ball in the fairway, and then the fairways become a little more narrow. Last year the wind didn't blow very hard; we were able to bombs-away as hard as we wanted to and keep the ball in the fairway.

Q. You made a joke last year during this tournament, the way David was playing, that you're going to need a stroke aside. Did you derive inspiration or motivation from the way he played the first three months of the year?

TIGER WOODS: To be honest with you, I really can't say that I did, just because I knew what I was working on was going to take time. It just took a while for things to come together. When I was playing here, it wasn't going to happen next week, it wasn't going to happen the day after that. It was going to take time. I knew once I started to get it, that I could possibly play some pretty good golf for a long period of time. It finally came together the week before the Byron Nelson.

Q. Were you impressed by what he'd (David Duval) done earlier in the year?

TIGER WOODS: Oh, yeah. What he did for actually end of '97, all of '98, and in the beginning of '99. He was playing better than anybody else in golf consistently. He wasn't only winning, but he was also in contention. That's the whole key. When you're not winning, at least you give yourself a chance on the Back 9 on Sunday. If someone else beats you, that's fine.

Q. That was the key from Nelson on for you then, wasn't it?

TIGER WOODS: I just hit the ball better; that's all it was. Nothing more than that.

Q. You were in contention about every week.

TIGER WOODS: I was hitting the ball better.

Q. How are you hitting it now compared to that stretch?

TIGER WOODS: Probably a little different now. The ball is a little flatter than it was then for obvious reasons here this week. It has to be. Very reminiscent to the British Open. You have to change the swing plane a little bit. I'm very pleased at the way I'm hitting the golf ball, the way I'm rolling the rock, overall short game, everything has gotten a little bit better.

Q. Years ago, there seemed to be a school of thought with golf, Sam Snead used to say, "Golfers shouldn't swim or lift weights." David has resculpted his body; you work out. Can you talk about your regimen? Do you lift before rounds, days of rounds, how that's changed in your mind since you started playing as a kid? Has the school of thought of weight lifting changed?

TIGER WOODS: I've done it -- I did it before I went into college, but I really started getting serious in college. It's just because I was pretty thin. I mean, you saw me in junior golf, amateur golf, how thin I was. It's difficult to compete against players who are so much stronger than you are. In any other sport, if you're not stronger, you're either going to get your butt kicked, run over, someone is going to hit more home runs than you. You just need to get stronger to keep up. That's what I believed in, even in college. It's just that my body developed late. In our family, for some reason, the genes kick in late, start filling out later in life. My brothers were all about 155 pounds when they graduated college, came out of college, became 170, 180. My dad was the same way. When I turned pro, I was 20 years old, 158 pounds. Now I'm 180, so I've put on a little weight. That's been a combination of lifting as well as natural maturation.

Q. Somebody said when you won the PGA, you lifted before every round, is that right?

TIGER WOODS: Maybe (laughter).

Q. Why are you being coy?


Q. Can you talk about your regimen?


Q. Do you lift three, four times a day?


Q. Trade secret?

TIGER WOODS: No, it's just what I do. What I do is what I do.

Q. Does it feel like a new year? You were just filling us in on mentally how it is to psych yourself up for the long haul.

TIGER WOODS: Now that I've kicked in the door (laughter).

Q. Great job.

TIGER WOODS: You know, starting off the year, it does feel like it's time to start playing again. I took a month off where I didn't really do much; just tried to wind down after the long trip I took. I played five and a half weeks straight. That was a long time to be playing all over the world. It was nice to take that break and get away from it. Now I'm gearing back up, season is starting up again. I played last week. It was a wonderful preparation to get my juices flowing, see what I needed to work on, improve, just trying to get ready for the start of the season. When I come into this week, I feel like I'm almost ready.

Q. As well as you played the end of last year, as well as you've been playing, how important is it getting off to a great start?

TIGER WOODS: It's nice to get off to a good start, there's no doubt about that. It's something I've always believed in - to play the West Coast swing very solidly - because if you get behind on the West Coast, now with as much money as there is available on the West Coast, you're going to get behind, almost to the point to where you probably can't catch up. It will be very difficult for someone to do what Greg used to do in the early '90s and even '80s, not play the West Coast swing at all, come out at the Doral and play well and win the Money Title. Since there's so much more money available on the West Coast, especially when the Matchplay in there, if you get behind, it's almost impossible to catch up.

Q. Do you feel like a heavyweight champion; the title is yours, you want to defend it?

TIGER WOODS: No, I don't. To be honest with you, I really don't. I just feel like it's just strictly a goal of mine, to win a tournament. If I tee it up, if I show up at a tournament, my No. 1 goal is just to win, do whatever it takes to accomplish that.

Q. How long did you go between when you got done with your worldwide swing there without touching a club?

TIGER WOODS: Probably two and a half weeks, didn't touch anything. Just got away from it for a while. It was nice, too.

Q. Will your schedule run pretty much the same as last year?

TIGER WOODS: Especially end of the year. I've got to play the same tournaments (laughter).

Q. The Sony is right after this, a week after. You chose not to do it this year. Any ideas on what you're going to do?

TIGER WOODS: I'm not going to play, no.

Q. The reason for that is to rest?

TIGER WOODS: I'm going to go home. I haven't been home in a while. I've been hanging out with the family, but I'm going to go back to the East Coast and hang out in my own house for a while.

Q. How about Phoenix?

TIGER WOODS: I don't know about that one yet, no.

Q. Byron's 11 straight, untouchable?

TIGER WOODS: Untouchable?

Q. Unbreakable, whatever you want to call it.

TIGER WOODS: I don't know -- I don't know if you could say it's untouchable or attainable. What I can say is that if a player gets on a roll like he did, I don't care what era you're in, if a player is hot, the player is hot. Obviously, he was for a long period of time (laughter). If someone can do it? Yeah, I believe someone can do it, no doubt about it. You need luck, yes. You need a lot of luck. But you also need to play well. In that stretch, I'm sure he didn't win every tournament. I'm sure somebody probably gave him a tournament or two here and there, which you're probably going to need to have happen.

Q. There's always a lot of discussion about how many more good players there are today as compared to when Jack first came out or when Byron Nelson played or whatever. I'm wondering if there isn't another school of thought that says the best player in any era is simply the best player and rises above all, no matter how many other great players there are. Do you ascribe to or agree with that or disagree?

TIGER WOODS: I definitely ascribe to it, but I'll also say it is more difficult now to win. Just look at the scores. I was told if David only shot 61 in the final round, I would have won. That never really happened. Guys never went that low. If you look at most tournaments now, when you play a tournament, exclude the Majors, most tournaments, if you go out and have a bad day and shoot 73 or 74, you have to come back with 63 or 62 or 64 to get back in the tournament, or you can't win. When those guys were playing, it was okay to shoot a high round. That was your high round. Now your high round has to be a 69 or 70 to keep yourself in the tournament or else you are going to get blown away. I think that's where the improvement of players has occurred, is their bad rounds aren't quite as bad, they're a lot lower now. The guys who are winning come in here in the press room and say, "I struggled today." "What did you shoot?" "68." They're that much better.

Q. Relative to that, the best players would always still be the best players through each era.

TIGER WOODS: But they're that much better each time to get above everybody.

Q. That's right.


Q. You've talked for a couple years about changes you were making. Do you enjoy that process and can you talk a little bit about it? Is it hitting balls, watching tape?

TIGER WOODS: Both. It's a lot of hitting balls to the point where your hands are so sore the next day, you just -- you don't want to do anything. You've got to get out there and work. That's the only way to get better. I've spent countless hours on that range hitting golf balls, working on my short game, my putting, every facet of my game to try to improve. It's been a very arduous task, especially when you have to change what has got you there, your natural motion, change it into something that you've never done before. That's very difficult to do. You know, Butch and I could have torn it apart and been over and done with it in about six months, but you never know how you're going to come out of it. I could be shooting 75, might have been my best round. I don't know how it's going to come out of it. We took the slow approach and kind of gradually built it piece by piece by piece, kind of built it together.

Q. Seems to me you have a lot of focus on what you're doing; don't much care about other people. There's a lot of players saying they're working harder because of you. Do you get any satisfaction from that?

TIGER WOODS: I don't know about satisfaction. It's definitely humbling, no doubt about it. If other players are trying to get better because of you, that's good and bad, I guess (laughter).

Q. You said you're working on your game piece by piece. Do you feel it's a never-ending process? Do you think you can reach a point where, "This is it"?

TIGER WOODS: You know, I've always been a big believer that you never arrive, but it's a wonderful journey. I will continue to work and try and get better. Even the greatest player that ever played the game, Nicklaus, says he's working on something new. We're always working on something new, always trying to get better, find something that's going to make us that much better. Knowing that you never arrive is a wonderful thing because you never say, "This is my limit." You never put a limitation on your own abilities. I think that's where a lot of players, a lot of athletes in general, put limitations. "That's as good as I can play." I hear that all the time. "That's as good as I can shoot, as good as I can pitch." If you put a limitation on it, then you can't get any better.

Q. Did you ever have that dream of 54, birdie on every hole?

TIGER WOODS: Could be better than that (laughter).

Q. 50?

TIGER WOODS: Could be better than that, too. You never know.

Q. When you win eight times in a year, better than anybody in 25 years, what does that do to your goals to start a new season? In the back of your mind are you kind of afraid that now you've raised that bar to eight wins, much like you did in '97 with the Masters?

TIGER WOODS: See, that's just one tournament in '97. It wasn't the entire year. I don't look back at that and I say, "You raised the ball so high." I'm not necessarily pleased with one week. I was very pleased I mid my card in '96, was in the TOUR Championship. I think that's a bigger task to do than winning The Masters because that's one week. Just like I've always said, anybody can play good for one week. What I had to do was try to get my card, seven, won twice and got in the TOUR Championship. I thought that was a bigger accomplishment than winning The Masters. There's a lot more pressure. At the time, I didn't have a card, didn't have a place to play, anything. I was looking at options of, "I could be playing the Nike Tour next year, maybe four-spotting here, down in Australia for the winter, Europe." I didn't know where I was going to be. Whether I've raised the bar too high, I don't know. I just know I'm going to try to continue to improve and try and get better. I've proven that when you're getting better, sometimes it doesn't necessarily mean you're going to win. You know, people looked at me like I was crazy in '98 saying I was a better player than I was in '97. How could you be a better player when you're not wining? I was. I was slowly piecing it together. In '99, it came together. Who knows?

Q. Are your goals any different this year than they were last year at this time?

TIGER WOODS: A little bit here and there, but overall probably the same. Last year I accomplished a lot of goals, even exceeded some. I also didn't capitalize on some things I thought I should have.

Q. Generally speaking, golf, you reap what you sew, what you put into it.


Q. Do you feel like you've outworked everybody and that's why you're where you're at?

TIGER WOODS: Outworked everybody? I don't know about outworking everybody. I know Veej hits more balls than I do (laughter). I just know -- I think what I've done in my life so far is what -- I have found what works best for me, what my practice schedule should be, how much I need to devote to here, to there, on the golf course to try to get better. Some guys have to beat a lot of balls; some guys have to play a lot when they're at home to get ready; some guys just have to show up at a tournament, practice there, they feel they can improve faster that way. I've just found what works best for me at a very early age. I think that has definitely been part probably one of my bigger benefits and it enabled me to win the tournaments that I've won throughout my life.

Q. When you're at home, do you practice at Isleworth?


Q. Do they have a special spot there for the pros?


Q. Play with the public?

TIGER WOODS: No one really plays there. It's kind of nice, kind of dead.

Q. You guys have supplies of your own balls?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah. They sort them out for us. I play Titleist. We've got Precept balls down there, Stratas, Taylor Mades, Maxfli's, just different guys play different balls down there. They sort them out for us. They have a Tour balata ball and the professional ball, so you have to sort those out, too. It's pretty nice.

Q. Do they have stripes around them?

TIGER WOODS: Maybe not quite (laughter).

Q. What have you learned about yourself as a person in the last couple years that have enabled you to survive kind of us, the fans, just the general celebrity of it?

TIGER WOODS: That's a great question. I think you have to find a balance in your life. I think I've done that. I know how much time I need to devote to all of you here. I know how much time I need to devote to my game at a tournament site, to my fans, to my sponsors, rest, get away time, alone time. I just have a better understanding. People still forget how dramatic a change that was, that one day in Milwaukee, where you're going from a virtual unknown to a person who is now a global person because the media is global now. I went from not really anyone knowing me to now everybody knows me. That's kind of a difficult little shock to the system when you're 20. Sergio went through the same thing this past year. It's very difficult on the system.

Q. Did it throw you off balance at all at that point?

TIGER WOODS: It does because. For me, I've lived a little over 20 years a certain way. It's weird to have everything all of a sudden in one day, everything in your life changes. No matter what you do, people are going to realize it, are going to know about it, media is going to try to pry into your life, try to get too much out of your life. You've got to tell them no. It's a very difficult task to try and comprehend. There's no school for it. Nobody can ever teach you how to go through this. You just have to go through it yourself.

Q. Has that been hard for your lifestyle to change with so much money? I read places you don't spend a great deal.

TIGER WOODS: That's just not me. I've always worked very hard to attain what I've had. I just feel -- to be honest with you, I just feel if you work hard to get something, it's nice to reap the benefits of it. But that should never change who you are. You should never go crazy just because that's something you are able to do now. You are who you are. That should never change.

Q. Have you gone crazy with anything? What's the biggest -- house?

TIGER WOODS: No, my house is not that big.

Q. Something else?

TIGER WOODS: Nothing really. I guess my only -- I guess my biggest venture that I bought into was probably the executive jet program. That's just to try and, again, maintain balance in my life. That was kind of a combination of. Nice to have that luxury, but also it maintains a little balance in my life.

Q. Just want to nail you down real quick. 54 could be better, 50 could be better. Could I nail you down to 18?

TIGER WOODS: Might have to get a little longer for that. May have to get in the gym. You never know (laughter). No, no, par 3 course (laughter).

Q. Did you take it easy today to make the amateurs feel better?

TIGER WOODS: I try. I try to make them feel more at ease, just try to lighten it up a little bit. Sometimes they're a little too serious, a little uptight, they're playing in front of people, never had their score count like this before. Just try to make them feel at home. We're out here having a fun round of golf. Once they do that, they tend to open up and enjoy themselves, enjoy being in the environment of playing golf. I try not to let them lose sight of that. This is supposed to be fun. They're not doing this for their job, not like us. "Don't take it too seriously. You're not going to give up your day job to come out here and play all the time, especially with your swing." That tends to lighten it up from there and they tend to have a great time from there.

Q. Obviously you've had a lot of success with golf so far. Joe Torre was out there on the course today. Are you thinking about switching sports there?

TIGER WOODS: I was so proud of this. I've taken BP twice this past year. I think that's my greatest accomplishment. Hit some balls at the track. Couldn't get it out, at the Disney Institute, when the Braves were having their spring spraining. Klesko was right behind me. I hit two balls just perfect shots out there, straightaway center, out to the warning track, a guy catching them, out. That's cool. Klesko gets up. First ball he hits, hits it over the score board straightaway center, out in the parking lot. Second ball left field. He's a lefty. Over the bleachers, out of the stadium. I'm thinking he's got away power like this. No, I can quit. I can hit a sand wedge that far, though (laughter).

Q. A couple more times at batting practice.

TIGER WOODS: We'll see. I think I need to get a little more on creatine and andro.

Q. All the time you spent with the kids, what would be the most important elements of the image you want to project to them? Has that changed over the last four years?

TIGER WOODS: It really hasn't changed. My biggest goal as far as that is concerned, I've always said this, to try to make golf look like America. That's still my goal. America is the melting pot of the world. We have all the different ethnic races, religious choices. I just want to make golf look like that. If that's one thing I can have, that's one thing I really want to have happen. I know how it feels to be denied not to play this game. It doesn't feel very good. I don't want these kids have to that opportunity to feel that kind of pain. I want them to go out there. If they want to play the game, they should be able to. But if they don't, that's their choice. We as adults who play the game of golf should always provide them the opportunity to play the game. From there, it's up to them.

JAMES CRAMER: Tiger, thank you, very much.

End of FastScripts…

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