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September 27, 2006

Tiger Woods


GORDON SIMPSON: Okay, everyone, this feels like a far cry from The K Club a few days ago. Tiger, before we maybe talk about your five in a row in individual events and going for six here, maybe you ought to say a few words about the sad passing of Byron Nelson last night because a few of the guys have been talking about it today.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it's very unfortunate for all of golf. Mr. Nelson actually passed on his best wishes this year at Augusta through Ben. Ben hosted the dinner. I got a note from him not too long ago saying that hopefully he can make it to see us play at the Byron Nelson but it wasn't likely that he was going to be able to do that. He must have known something, but unfortunately hopefully he went easy. Hopefully there wasn't any complications, and he moved on to a better place.

GORDON SIMPSON: We'll move on to you, defending champion at the WGC American Express Championship. Can the streak continue?

TIGER WOODS: Well, after playing the golf course, you're going to have to go low. You're going to have to make a bunch of birdies. The golf course is ample wide off the tee, but if you miss the fairways, you're going to have a hard time getting to the green. The greens are somewhat undulating but they're really smooth. So with them being smooth, you figured guys are going to make some putts.

So that being said, if there's no wind at all, expect the scores to be really low this week.

Q. What's your fondest memory of Mr. Nelson?

TIGER WOODS: I've got so many. Either playing at the Nelson or him hosting the Champions Dinner at Augusta or just talking to him on the phone occasionally here and there.

Mr. Nelson was great. I mean, he always kept up with the game of golf, always followed the guys, how they were playing, what they were playing in, and it was truly remarkable, some of the things that he was able to remember from his playing days. His playing days were back in the 40s, so that's 60 years ago, which is pretty remarkable.

Q. Is his streak 11 possible in this day and age?

TIGER WOODS: Probably not.

Q. Why?

TIGER WOODS: The competition is so much deeper now. I mean, back in his day I actually talked to him about this, he said he had to beat four or five guys every week, and when you're hot that's not that hard to do. That's not the case anymore. It's 40 or 50 now, so it's a lot different.

Q. Looking ahead now to this championship, how do you feel you're going into it? Obviously off the back of the frustrating team effort at the Ryder Cup.

TIGER WOODS: Well, yeah, I'm starting to hit the ball a little bit better now. I didn't play well on Saturday morning. I played really well Saturday afternoon, then played well again on Sunday. So I just had one bad day out of five.

So that being said, at least I started turning it around, started hitting the ball better and started putting better, which is nice, which gave me a little bit of confidence going into this week.

Q. First of all, the way you look at the course, do you think it sets up nicely for you? Do you like the look of it? Thirdly, this is the third event you've been in the British Isles, and we've seen you at Stamford Bridge the other day. Anything else you've enjoyed doing in your time over here?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, sleep. I didn't get a whole lot last week, and unfortunately I didn't get a whole lot on Monday. You need to get your rest while you can. I got plenty of it during match play, so I was ready the first day.

Overall you just try and relax, try and get things organised. I really haven't done much.

But the golf course is in fantastic shape. I know they've never had a tournament here, but the greens are very similar to Mount Juliet. They're absolutely perfect there and they're perfect here. You just know the guys are going to make some putts, once you get a feel for the greens this week and get an understanding of where to play it, where to miss the golf ball. Expect some good scores.

Q. You liked Mount Juliet, didn't you?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, the greens were perfect over there. I've never seen more players hole 20 footers on any golf course than that golf course. Well, the first year we played it. The second year was a little bit rainy and ugly on the last day. But the first year I shot 25 under, and Goose shot 62, I think, on Sunday and Sergio 63. Guys were just tearing that place apart. Maybe not quite that low here, but still, they'll get pretty low.

Q. When you went five straight just before coming over to the World Match Play, did you think about Byron Nelson's streak?

TIGER WOODS: I didn't think about that. I thought about one tournament at a time. When you win one, you can move on to the next one, try and win that one. You win the next, then move on to the next. His record is still remarkable that particular year, his 12th event he finished 2nd and then he won the very next one, so it's 12 out of 13, and the worst finish was 2nd. So that's pretty good. And 18 in a year, I don't play that many tournaments, so I can't get 18.

Q. Byron retired at a pretty early age and went home to live on his ranch in Texas. Do you ever envision your life down the road, being the things that your dad was to you to a kid, driving around to AJGA events?

TIGER WOODS: I won't play golf anymore when my best ain't good enough. When I play well, I feel like I can win. I don't see how you can go out there and play and prepare and know that your best isn't good enough anymore.

I couldn't deal with that, so I'd move on and I have other interests. I will have a family by then, and by then certainly my foundation will be international and we'll be doing different things there, so my plate will definitely be full.

Q. When you talked about him being the greatest ambassador in golf, can you elaborate on that, and specifically what was different when you spoke to Byron, when you looked at him, looked into his eyes, than, say, a Palmer or Nicklaus or Snead or Sarazen or that kind of thing? What made him stand out?

TIGER WOODS: He was so kind hearted, so kind and so soft and so genuine. He always looked at you and talked to you with extreme interest, and you don't find that with everybody you meet. But Byron, you just felt very comfortable any time you ever spoke to him. He just had a softness about him that was very unique.

Q. Could you say was there a piece of advice you ever gave you that stuck with you, and can you remember anything that he told you about his career that sort of made you chuckle?

TIGER WOODS: Well, the chuckle part is I think all of us at the Champions Dinner each and every year when he would go back, he'd give us facts every year, some weird facts. But anyways, he would always remember some of the shots he would have hit back in '34 and '35, and I'm thinking, "my dad was two." The fact that he was able to remember the shots, and then you actually look it up and you do research on it, he actually hit those shots. The fact he was able to remember that far back was pretty remarkable. He was so alert and so sharp, even late in his ages. I mean, he would have a very articulate conversation with you, and you don't find that with people at his age, being that sharp and that witty.

The first time I ever met Mr. Nelson was at Bel Air. Nicklaus was doing a clinic and I guess I was invited to be his opening warm up act. I hit balls and warmed up the crowd for him and then Jack came out, but then I had to leave and go play a nine hole high school match. And Mr. Nelson stopped by and wanted to say a couple things to me before I left, and 20 minutes later I didn't say a word, he was just doing all the talking (laughter).

But yeah, he took the time out, asking me what I was doing and how I was doing and what were my plans for the future, and he really liked the way I was progressing through my career and keep doing what you're doing. He was excited that I was going to college and where I was going, I was going to Stanford, and he was very excited about all that and all those different things. He said: "You're on the right path. Just stick with that path."

Then later on down the road, he invited me to his tournament as an amateur.

Q. Mr. Nelson was known obviously for his swing. Did he ever say anything to you about your swing or your swings? And was there anything in his game that you've adopted or just the way he approached golf that you adopted?

TIGER WOODS: He always liked the way I went through the golf ball. He always thought that the swing should be initiated with the legs. And if you look at his swing, that's what he did. His legs drove through the golf ball more so than anybody else. He kept the face going towards the target line longer than anybody else because of it.

That's one of the reasons why he drove it so straight. I mean, he never really hit the ball off line that much. He did have a slight inside and over the top move that was ever so slight. So he hit kind of a pull; that was his natural shot. He said that that was the game at the time. That's the way a lot of guys played. A lot has changed since then.

But certainly I think the way Mr. Nelson played with steel shafts, I mean, he was one of the first ones to actually learn how to play steel. We have all actually adopted a lot of his fundamentals since then.

Q. How many handwritten notes, which he was famous for doing, did he send you, and which of those notes stands out?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I must have, geez, close to 40 or 50 of them.

Q. What was the first one, and is there one that means more to you than the rest?

TIGER WOODS: The first one I ever received was when I won the Amateur, my first one at Sawgrass. He wrote a nice letter. I was just shocked. Here he is, legend of the game writing to some little amateur a handwritten letter, which I thought was just out of the blue, shocked me, and something I never, ever forgot.

Q. On the issue of the streak, some stories say it ended two weeks ago, PGA TOUR says no, it didn't. What is your view?

TIGER WOODS: It did. It ended two weeks ago.

Q. So you don't feel like you're going for six in a row?

TIGER WOODS: I'm going six in a row on our tour, but not six in a row tournament wise because I've played two since then and lost both.

Q. The European Tour should count, though; it's the strongest Tour.

TIGER WOODS: I'm not touching that (laughter).

Q. You're paired with Darren the first two rounds. You're obviously going to put your friendship on hold short term?

TIGER WOODS: He will always be my friend, no matter what. Darren is a fantastic guy. But when it's time to compete, it's time to compete. He's trying to beat me as hard as I'm trying to beat him. That's the nature of sport.

When I play with my best friends, it doesn't really matter. I'm trying to knock them off and they're trying to knock me off. That's the way sports should be. But there's etiquette involved. You've got to play with sportsmanship.

Q. A number of people outside the sport of golf have talked about how impressed they were with the spirit that the Ryder Cup was played in. Was it different this time around?

TIGER WOODS: It was. It was absolutely fantastic. The fans were just incredible. Certainly I think the best I've ever seen, the most fair and the most appreciative that I've ever seen in the Ryder Cup Matches. Bipartisan; they were rooting for Europe really hard, but you hit a good shot, they clapped. They appreciated good golf shots. They obviously wanted the European side to win, which they should; but for them to appreciate when we hit good shots and to clap, that was really nice, and that was genuine, too.

They really did appreciate good shots. If you hit a shot with a sand wedge and it was 15 feet you really didn't get a lot of applause because that's not a very good shot. But if you hit a 4 iron in there to four feet, you got a pretty good eruption.

Q. The fans were a bit like a football crowd or a soccer crowd on the beginning of the final day.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, on the first hole they were, but after that it basically spread out. There were so many games going on that it just spread out.

GORDON SIMPSON: Paul McGinley said what he enjoyed was you all mingled afterwards and had a bit of a laugh, as well.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, we did. That's something I've never experienced in the Cups I've played in. We do in the Presidents Cup but certainly not in the Ryder Cup.

Q. What are you looking toward for the rest of the year, what kind of goals from here on out with the majors over?

TIGER WOODS: I'm just looking forward to getting back to the States and seeing the sun (laughter). I just can't wait to work on my tan (laughter).

Q. How busy are you once the PGA TOUR season ends? Is it about the same as last year?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I play HSBC in China, then I play Dunlop Phoenix, then the Grand Slam, then my tournament.

Q. Does the record that Vijay set a few years ago, does that motivate you in the least? Would it motivate you to have a chance to break it in playing what might be half the tournaments he did?

TIGER WOODS: Not really, no. Five years from now you'll be able to break it finishing probably, what, fourth on the Money List. It's the nature of how our Tour keeps changing with the purses.

Q. What does the Vardon Trophy mean to you, and I wonder if there's anyway to distinguish between the Vardon Trophy, and ironically the Byron Nelson Award, which is the Tour's version of it, but it requires only 50 rounds instead of 60. Did you know that?

TIGER WOODS: I did not know that. All I know is that I was one short of Vardon, correct?

Q. You would be.

TIGER WOODS: I would be, yeah. So that's the way it is.

Q. Is it an award that means something to you, though, the Vardon?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think that it's an award that indicates that you've had the most consistent year, more so than anybody else, and under the toughest venues. If you've played in major championships and World Golf Championships and The Players and some other top Tour events and you're able to win that award, you've had the best year.

Q. Would you be willing to miss that award if you still had the award under someone else's name?


Q. Just to follow up on Darren Clarke, you touched upon him there. A lot of people feel that after his terrible loss there was the collectiveness of the team spirit that helped him get through the Ryder Cup. How do you think he's going to adapt now to go back to individual play?

TIGER WOODS: It doesn't matter. He still has us. We're still friends. All of us are we're one big fraternity out here, one big family. Anywhere you go in the world, we see the same guys, and we all hang out with one another, and that doesn't change. The only thing that changes is he's not going to have 11 other guys around him for team dinners every night. But still, he has all of us at every venue he plays in. Those bonds never go away.

Q. What is it about the Ryder Cup? If you look at the lineup of players that was on the international squad last year that you guys beat pretty easily, they're not slouches. It's certainly as strong as the European team and you guys got smacked by them. What's the difference? Why so well against the internationals?

TIGER WOODS: I don't know. I really don't know. I think if you look at the last two Presidents Cup, they've had the best team of anybody in the world, the Americans and the Europeans, World Ranking wise. They've had the lowest World Rankings, combined total. Somehow we were able to do well against them; I don't know why. Who knows? I'm sure there's a bunch of theories and everyone has their own theory on it and their own take on it, but the end result is we didn't have enough points.

Q. Going back to Darren Clarke, what did you say to him, Tiger, after the Ryder Cup?

TIGER WOODS: I said a bunch of things. That's private. That's between he and I.

Q. Just a related question to the Ryder Cup because afterwards we were asking the Europeans why they didn't produce this kind of form in a major, and Sergio Garcia said maybe some of us seemed a bit more suited to this kind of team event. Someone like Tiger Woods is more suited to majors. Do you agree with that?

TIGER WOODS: I don't know. The record shows it (laughter).

Q. Can you explain why the Europeans don't perform so well in the majors and why they don't take that into major tournaments the way they played over the last three days?

TIGER WOODS: Maybe this generation, but the previous generation of The European Team when you had Seve, Lyle, Woosie, Faldo, Olazábal, Langer, all one multiple majors, not just one but multiple. So, who knows.

Q. The friendship and the bonding thing you just touched on, has that all come as a huge bonus to you, because initially you were quite a solitary figure when you were young and playing your way around the Tour. How much have you enjoyed that and what does it mean to you?

TIGER WOODS: Well, it's been nice to have guys that were the same age as me because when I played my first Cups, I was the youngest by eight, nine, ten years, and I was still getting to know the Tour and know the guys.

Now I'm getting guys that I've played college and junior golf with and amateur golf out here on Tour and also making these teams now. So it provides much more of a comfort level when you get my first team at Valderrama, granted, Justin is just a little bit older than me, but we missed our gap in college. He was done by the time I got there, so I never really got to play with Justin.

It's pretty cool, Stewart and I always talk about this, the final round of the big I, which I guess would be the most entrants of any junior tournament in America, our final round when I was 14, it was myself and Notah Begay and Stewart Cink, and lo and behold, we're all on the Presidents Cup team together and Stewart and I were on the Ryder Cup team together, so things like that provide more of a bonding and comfort level because you've known the guys since junior golf days.

GORDON SIMPSON: Tiger, we're all intrigued to know if you keep the streak going. Good luck this week.

End of FastScripts.

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