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October 26, 1999

Tiger Woods


JAMES CRAMER: Why don't we go ahead and get started this afternoon. We have Tiger Woods with us. Six-time winner on the PGA TOUR this year, No. 1 on the money list. Tiger, obviously the same subject is on everybody's mind. Maybe you can get us started maybe by just giving us your feelings right now.

TIGER WOODS: Well, every time I think about it, and watching it yesterday and watching it unfold, it was a tough day for all of us. Anybody who knows Payne, and doesn't know him, it still has been a tough day because of the person that he as was. And it was just an empty feeling that I had when I saw the tragic ending to it. Especially seeing the photos, the live photos of the crash, and looking at it, it was a feeling which I really can't describe. I just saw him the other day at the tournament site, and for him not to be here it is just -- it was tough. For instance, I got in last night and I got the Pro-Am pairing sheet, and there is my name at 9 o'clock and there is an open space right behind me. That was a rude awakening to -- you almost think that hopefully it was a dream, a bad dream or a nightmare, but unfortunately, it came true. My heart and prayers go out to Tracey and the kids and everybody else who was on board.

JAMES CRAMER: If you can raise your hands for questions.

Q. At this stage what is your fondest and best memory of Payne? What is going through your mind right now in terms of your memories of him?

TIGER WOODS: Payne was a guy that, from what I have been told and I have also watched some of the reports on TV, that he was a very difficult person at times to be around. I never found that to be the case because when I came out, especially in the last year and a half when I really started to get to know him, he had gone through -- I guess became more dedicated to his religion, and it changed his entire life. That is the Payne I knew. I knew Payne as a care-free guy who was nice to everybody open-hearted and loved to share and talk. That is the Payne that I will always have inside of me. That is the Payne I know.

Q. How about the Ryder Cup experience with him there and being the veteran and the way he was cheering all you guys on? Then, of course, the way he talked about how he didn't like the way Colin Montgomerie was treated, and he gave that last putt, I wondered your thoughts there about the guy?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think that's indicative of how he changed his life. As I said, he became more dedicated in his religion, and it changed his entire way of living and became more respectful of others, and really became more of a caring person. He already was, but he took it to a new level. When he did that, he was able to look at a bigger picture. And he knew that at the Ryder Cup, Monte was going through some tough experiences on the golf course with the fans. He did not want to see Monte go through that experience on 18. He didn't need to. He definitely didn't deserve it. Payne is the sportsman that he is; conceded the putt, lost his match, but he looked at the bigger scope.

Q. Looking ahead to the tournament, and golf being such a close-knit group, do you think the tournament should be played, and how difficult will it be to now play?

TIGER WOODS: I think the tournament should go on, but obviously, it is not going to be an easy week for all of us. It is going to be a tough one. It is going to be a tough week. When I was driving in here with Butch Harmon, my coach, and when you got to the golf course, it was so silent. It was just almost erie, and nobody was really asking for autographs or clamoring for pictures. It was just real quiet. Even on the range, guys would warm-up hitting because, normally in a Pro-Am situation, you have a lot of amateurs asking the pros for autographs and pictures and wanting to talk to them. Nobody was talking. It was just silent out there. It was very erie when we first started warming up, hitting balls went to the first tee, it was just silence. I think that's indicative -- one really knows how to react because it was so sudden. It was a shock to everybody. I was telling Butch today, "I almost feel like he is going to show up, I just saw him the other day. It is hard to believe he is not going to be here."

Q. I guess it was about to -- you guys have to put distractions aside to play this game. Do you think this is going to be as tough an attempt as you have had to put the distraction aside and play, or do you think it will be impossible to forget about it?

TIGER WOODS: Any one of your friends you are close to and you have a sudden change like we all did with Payne, you really can't put that aside. You can't bury that in your head. It is always going to be there. It is going to pop in your mind. I am sure it is going to happen to every one of us. You have to understand, you've got to go ahead and do your job. And my job this week is to go out this week and try and win a golf tournament. It is not going to be easy. I know like today, for instance, I am walking down the fairway. Occasionally I get a few flashes in my head of Payne and some of the memories I have with him. Everyone is going to go through that. It is just a matter of dealing with it and understanding and coming to the peace and understanding that he is in a better place now. I was fortunate enough to run into Stuie (Appleby) night and Stuie said, "Well, he is in a place where Renay has just welcomed him, and Renay is going to be there and take care of him and he is going to be okay." That was pretty eye-opening right there and put everything in perspective for me.

Q. Why play this week, Tiger? You have to go on; that is probably what Payne would want. We have heard that, too, but doesn't golf seem somewhat insignificant right now?

TIGER WOODS: It does. It really does. I came close in 1997 to losing my father with an emergency surgery, heart surgery, for the second time he had to go into the hospital. And yes, he was dead for a little bit, but somehow he was revived. That puts things in perspective for you real quick. My father said to me: "Go out and play. Play a tournament. I want to see you on TV. At least I have something to look forward to while I am in the hospital bed." That's kind of how you have to go on. And you have to move on. And as I said, you got to come to a peace within yourself and know that he is in a better place. But I just feel so sad, and my heart goes out to all the families that were affected. Tracey, I know Tracey; I know the kids. I didn't know any other of the other people on board, but their families are just crushed as well.

Q. Just kind of a follow-up, talking about the silence out there on the course today. Did it ever at all feel like you weren't going through the motions perhaps? Is that a way to describe what you were describing?

TIGER WOODS: What do you mean, not going through the motions?

Q. Did you ever get -- were you kind of on autopilot, just hitting the shots walking around? Did you ever really get the feeling you are at a golf tournament and preparing to play a golf tournament today?

TIGER WOODS: Not really. Today was a round of golf that I actually felt -- I actually was a little bit, from my own selfish standpoint, was actually happy that we were able to play with amateur partners today. At least get our minds off of it for a little bit for the time being and enjoy each other's company. Then I got to come in here and talk about it and that brings it right back on me again. So it was a nice way to get away from things for a little bit, and hopefully, it would get a little bit better.

Q. Did you really get away from it?

TIGER WOODS: I didn't sleep at all last night. I really didn't. I had a tough time sleeping. I tossed and turned all night, and I don't see how you cannot. Anyone who knew Payne, and all the people here in the media room who knew Payne really well, it is a huge blow to all of us because he was -- he was a part of our lives. To have him gone, it is really difficult to refer to him right now in the past tense. That is the hardest thing for me right now when I talk about it.

Q. You said you had the feeling you needed to get back to work. Is that why you felt obligated to be here today while some players didn't participate today? You felt an obligation?

TIGER WOODS: No doubt about it. When you have an obligation to play -- I have learned from my mistakes that I have made in 1996 to go ahead and uphold your obligations. When you go through experiences like I went through in 1996 you get -- I got slammed for it. I learned. But this was a different feeling. This was, as I said, for more of my own selfish standpoint, just to get out here and not only play with these guys, but at least get away from it a little bit and enjoy these guy's company. They wanted to play in a Pro-Am, and in order to play in a Pro-Am you have got to have a pro. I was fortunate enough to play with four great guys today and we had a great time.

Q. I am told that you use a private jet to get you around the Tour.


Q. Similar plane to what Payne was using?

TIGER WOODS: Correct. Two different companies, yes.

Q. But still?

TIGER WOODS: It is the same type of program, yes.

Q. Would you talk about that, as to why you guys have to use that to get your job done, and what your feeling is about the dangers of that?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I use it for probably a different reason than most guys do. I don't know if you guys have seen me at a golf tournament when people are -- then go if I go through an airport the same way, try to sit on an airplane and go to sleep it wouldn't happen. So that is why I use it. But for players such as Payne and Scott Hoch and Mark has been doing it a little bit, guys like that, they do it for different reason. They have families and they want to get home to their families. Sometimes they can't get out late at night and they got to leave the next morning and get in mid-morning and your kids already gone to school. You never got to spend time at dinner with them or kiss them good night. Things likes that. That is why they do it. It is a different reason. But still, from what I have been told and from what I have read, and in the past, that actually flying is the safest mode of transportation. Just unfortunate that when you have an accident, it is more catastrophic and there are more deaths.

Q. They may have the funeral service on Friday. How does that disrupt the mindset of the players, and how do you go accommodating this disruption?

TIGER WOODS: This golf tournament, it doesn't have the same emphasis as it once did, and rightfully so. Even if the golf rounds are done, figured in a different way, that is fine. We, as player players, understand that, and I think we should do that to honor not only a fellow player; not only a PGA fraternity brother, but one of our friends. It would be the right thing to do.

Q. Two-part question if you will allow me. First, change the subject just a little bit. Now that you can see, you are obviously playing even better. And can you talk about how well Notah has done this year?

TIGER WOODS: I am seeing better. It is nice to see everything at the correct image size. If you wear contacts or glasses, the image is a little bit smaller than you normally would if you take out contacts or your glasses. It is nice to actually see something the actual size now that -- funny thing is that people say: "Oh, yeah, the hole looks better." I say: "Everything looks bigger, the ball looks bigger now." The clubs do; my blades don't look like blades anymore. When you have a long iron over water, it is no big deal now. Actually, the challenge of it has gone away a little bit. It is kind of nice. I can actually feel comfortable with a 2-iron, hitting a shot over water. I don't have quite the same nervous feeling looking at that little bitty blade and ball. So that actually has made me feel a little bit more comfortable on the golf course, and Notah getting out here and with two wins this year, we were lucky enough to win on the same week. And yeah that just -- it is nice to have people that you are friends with and have grown up together with out here, because when I first came out here, I was the only one from my own age realm that I knew growing up. Most of the players were older than me. So it's taken a few years for the players that I knew growing up and have played against competitively in Junior golf and Amateur golf to come out here and be a part of the TOUR. Next year, we have Casey coming out, Brad Elder. These are guys that I have played against. It will be nice.

Q. With the leased jets, is the fact that you avoid crowds the bigger factor, or saving of wear and tear on your body? How much of a factor? How much does that help having that?

TIGER WOODS: I think you have to add in all of the above. Players such as Arnold and Jack, and, you know, those guys have definitely flown private jets longer than anybody else out here, and they have said it has extended their careers. Not only because they were able to deal with less hassle of missing flights and the heartaches of that and cancellations and delays, but to get home and be with your loved ones. Out here, that is huge because you are always playing by yourself. You are always alone. And if you have a family, it is nice to go home to a family when you can, right there and then, say, if you miss a cut; or let's say you play a bad first round, you are borderline of missing a cut, well, you got to make a whole bunch of different flight options. That plays into a huge part of your psyche. If I miss the cut, I have got to leave this time; that means you are thinking of missing the cut instead of going out and playing a good round. "I need transportation to the airport, when do I need to leave? Okay, I need to be there at this certain time." That just all becomes a huge headache.

Q. Does it ever cross your mind, "but for the grace of God," something like this happens, in this time when people are always so dependent on air travel and so forth?

TIGER WOODS: It has happened to other people as well. People who are either killed in a freak accident like Payne was, and the people on board, or you have terrorists bombing. You have planes going down like JFK Jr., you have accidents. And when you have an accident -- it is just part of the risk that we all live. If you've been in a car accident, I don't think -- you are hesitant about getting in a car, yes, but you have to. You are not going to ride your bike 50 miles to go to work. That is just not realistic. But you have to go on, and that is the hard part sometimes.

Q. As you know, Notah wants to be a role model for Native American youth. Is it enough to be a good golfer, or does he have to take some more active role in getting involved with some unity or causes, someone who has played that role before, what is he in for?

TIGER WOODS: Well, Notah has been extremely active in the Native American community ever since I have known him. That was way back in Junior golf. He was doing -- when we were at college, he will go home during the summertime, do clinics, exhibitions and do fund-raising activity for his tribe and other tribes as well. He did a fund-raiser, I think it was last year, actually, up in Minnesota, for the tribes up there. He does a lot of these things that people don't see and don't know. But he is a very activity part of the Native American community.

Q. How important is it for the 29 guys at this tournament to go to the memorial service and for other golfers to be there for Payne's family?

TIGER WOODS: I don't know if -- I don't know if you do go. It is going to be a tough day. Either way, it is going to be a tough day. But I don't know. I think that's an answer you have to come to grips with personally and individually. Some players would rather stay away and try and handle it on their own. Other players find more comfort in knowing that they are giving of themselves to others in need. All depends on each and every individual playing and what they need to do not only for their own self, inner peace, but we are also playing a golf tournament, too. You need to find some kind of balance and what that balance is, each person has to find that out on their own. It is not going to be an easy answer, I will tell you that.

Q. How will you grieve personally?

TIGER WOODS: I do everything on my own and away from everybody. That is just the way I have always been. I am more of a person that reflects on the positive memories I have had with that person, and, you know, reminisce over the great times we have had, and know that from the deaths I have had in my family, it is just that you have to understand that they are in a better place. There is no struggling where they are at anymore. It is just unfortunate that we are now. But they are at a place at which they are happy; they are peaceful; they are looking over us; they are taking care of us. Every now and then I feel like my aunts are still taking care of me, still doing nice good things for me when I get in trouble. It is nice to know that. And maybe Payne will be, in essence, maybe like a guardian angel to all of us, I don't know. But I just will do it on my own and away from everybody else.

JAMES CRAMER: Thank you very much for taking the time, Tiger, and coming down and spending it with us.

TIGER WOODS: Thank you.

End of FastScripts…

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