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March 21, 2007

Tiger Woods


LAURA NEAL: Tiger, thanks for joining us. Before we get to the incredible record at this event and at this golf course, maybe some fun stuff. You had an unusual large, extra-large gallery following you today. You had a special guest; you want to tell us who was out there with you?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, Roger (Federer) came out and watched the back nine. We had dinner last night on the boat. He's obviously playing this week -- actually, he starts on Saturday. But it's great to have him out here. I think he's a wonderful supporter of golf, and I think it's pretty neat when you have probably the most dominant athlete on the planet out there in your gallery.
LAURA NEAL: Plan to return the favor this weekend?
TIGER WOODS: I'll be there. I'll definitely be there.

Q. Does he play golf?
TIGER WOODS: He plays, yeah. He played for a number of years and then got a rib injury for a while and he thought it was caused by golf, so he quit playing golf for a little bit and that's when his tennis took off. But he's playing a little bit more now, starting to get into it again and absolutely loves it. His mom is a hell of a player, she shoots in the 70s all the time so it's in the family.

Q. You said he's probably the most dominant athlete on the planet, are you saying that because of the back nine at Bay Hill on Sunday?
TIGER WOODS: Even if I won that tournament, doesn't matter. What he's done over the last three years -- last week he lost, but other than that, he's lost five or six matches for three years; that's pretty good.

Q. Can you walk through the last two hours Sunday? It looked like the 8th hole, you see the leaderboard, you roll in a bomb from the back of the green and you're off and running, or so it looked.
TIGER WOODS: On 11, really hurt quite a bit. I just missed the fairway by about a foot and I had a lie in which I thought I could -- I thought I could get the ball to the bunker, and decided to lay up instead, laid up in the rough. Wedged it up there, and promptly 3-putted.
I thought I could get it back on the next two holes, and I was just off the green in two on 12, I'm making par there. I had a sand wedge in my hand on the next hole, missed the green and I'm making par there. Never got back in the tournament, and I actually started going the other way at the end.

Q. Was anything going on with your swing on the back nine? Was this something you've been able to correct since then?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I've definitely fixed it, but you know, it was just frustrating, because I've made some uncharacteristic mistakes with my club selection on some of the holes. Some of the shots I hit off the tees, iron shots into the greens, placing the golf ball.
When I look back, yeah, you look back at the finish, and I hit bad shots. But all throughout the entire tournament, I kept making silly mistakes, mistakes I don't normally make.

Q. One more Federer question. The argument people make about whether it's tougher to win a golf tournament versus a tennis tournament, it sounds like you don't -- that tennis is harder to you?
TIGER WOODS: Well, tennis is in the sense that if you're physically dominant, you can dominate somebody. In our sport, you can't physically dictate what somebody else is going to do. You can't all of a sudden hit a drive out there past him and say, okay, I win the hole. That doesn't happen.
So a person who actually is more physically gifted and physically dominant can actually just overpower somebody, and that just does not happen in our sport. So it's a little bit more difficult in that sense, golf-wise. But what he's done, you know, over the last three years, no one's ever done.

Q. One more question, I hope you don't mind, about Sunday. When you shoot that kind of score that we are not used to seeing, how much does that stay with you, and is it easier to do that than to miss a win by a shot or two when it kind of gets away at the end?
TIGER WOODS: Well, you have to analyze it objectively. Yeah, you say, okay, I had three bad holes right in a row at the very end. But the other 69 holes, I made some mistakes along the way that I need to rectify.
So you have to look at each tournament objectively. You can't look at it just one hole, one shot, because I made too many mistakes throughout the entire tournament that going into Sunday, I probably should have been right next to the lead, if not leading, if I didn't make those silly mistakes.

Q. When you were with Roger, do you guys have discussions about your individual sports and dominance, the aspect of dominance?
TIGER WOODS: No. It's more -- if we do talk about our sports, it's more in the sense, how we prepare, what he does, all of his training that he does off the court, you know, and what I do off the course to get ready. Just a number of wind sprints and miles we both log and our lifting schedules, how long and what type of lifting do we do. It's obviously very sport-driven, but also very similar at the same time.

Q. From the fan/paparazzi side of things, who has it worse?
TIGER WOODS: I might have a slight -- I don't know if you would call it an advantage or disadvantage. (Laughter)

Q. How so? What do you see in the limited times you've seen him play?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it's just more of walking down the street. I think -- in this country, certainly. But globally, I don't know, but I know certainly in this country that I'm probably a little bit more recognized than he is.

Q. (Roger had to walk outside the ropes today --)
TIGER WOODS: It's the TOUR policy. They are trying to clean up the TOUR and I totally understand that. They don't want to have people inside the ropes, but I just thought -- I'm sure I'll get fined for it. (Laughter) I don't mind paying, because, you know, he was starting to get hassled pretty good and I didn't think -- that's not why he came out here. He came out here to enjoy himself and watch me slap it around a little bit.

Q. Do you feel relaxed today? It looked like you were playing loose.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it's just Wednesday, just a practice round out there. Looking at the golf course, the greens have certainly changed quite a bit and some of the little breaks that you have -- I putt a lot by memory and some of those things have changed. So had to go back and build some new memories.

Q. The water cooler talk on Monday after Bay Hill was why he played that way, what's wrong with him and everything else, but obviously if you win this week, then all that goes away. The questions are: You've only played three events which is not unusual for you, but are you a little rusty still; are you working on certain things? If you had to look back over the last couple of weeks, what would be the reason, if you had to give a good reason why?
TIGER WOODS: Just in the process of changing a few things, working on a few things in my swing, as well as my putting, and just trying to solidify all that come Augusta. That's the point. You don't want to peak too soon. You want to peak on Thursday of Augusta.

Q. Obviously the majors, still, even though we have World Golf Championships and FedExCups and everything else, at the end of the day, the majors are what you all focus on, isn't it?
TIGER WOODS: Well, if anybody in here can name any tournaments that -- whether it's Jack or Arnold or Hogan or whatever they want, how many tournaments they won, how many tournaments they finished second in and where have they won them, not too many people can name those numbers.
But you ask them how many majors they have won, the majority of the people can name that.

Q. What was an easier -- what was an easier or better way to prepare for the Masters, the old course on the schedule or the one now?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it's different, it certainly is different. TPC certainly had some interesting shots around the greens, but it had rough. I think a lot of the guys used to utilize the chipping area in the back to get ready for Augusta. You don't have a chipping area here, so that will be different. TPC had overseeded rye, which basically they use up there at Augusta as well, the same kind of shots, if you do play bump-and-run. Here it's bermuda, and that's out the door as well. You know, the slopes here, you can't compare the two. So a lot of it is going to be done back at Isleworth next week.

Q. Your preparation for tournaments, was there anything that you found surprisingly similar or surprisingly different between you and Roger?
TIGER WOODS: I think surprisingly different is how early he gets to a tournament site. He gets to a tournament site, he only plays 19, 20 events a year, but he gets there a half a week to a week early. I just keep giving him a bunch of grief that he's not able to get over the jet-lag I guess. (laughter)

Q. Since Augusta has not changed the course at all this year significantly, how will that affect preparation?
TIGER WOODS: Well, as a player and as a fan of the game, I'm sure you guys are the same way. We're just curious to see when -- with all of the new changes they have made and all the lengthening and the new second cut, all of the trees they have added, when we're going to have a dry year, and what that score might be.
Last year going into the event, we were all thinking, if you shoot even par and a couple over par, you'll probably win the tournament pretty easily. But obviously the rains change everything.

Q. Between you and Phil having won five of the last six, can you draw any comparisons to the way Arnie and Jack used to trade off Masters', late '50s, early '60s, and if so, who is the best candidate to be Gary Player?
TIGER WOODS: Well, the last part is probably Vijay. Obviously he's been very successful there. He's always in contention there.
But yeah, there is some similarity. We both feel comfortable on the golf course. We both have I think decent short games, and that golf course -- one of the very few golf courses where we can utilize our imagination and creativity.
You look at most of the guys who have gone through there and won, they have all got wonderful short games. You've got bump-and-run, you've got to use different spins, high, low; it's just one of the great golf courses to play. I think once you understand how to play it and you can build your misses into some short game situations, you start seeing the same guys up there at the top of the board.

Q. I don't have the stuff off the top of my head but I can't recall Jack and Arnie going toe-to-toe, one guy would have a good Masters and the other guy would win, and it's been the same with you and Phil; as comfortable as you are, how would you explain that?
TIGER WOODS: Just the way it works out. Just the way it works out.

Q. Do you find that odd, though?
TIGER WOODS: No, not really. Golf is a little bit on the fickle side that way.

Q. As a property owner on Jupiter Island for more than a year, have you had any opportunity to spend some significant time there and how do you like it so far?
TIGER WOODS: The second part of your question, I don't really know because the first part is, no, I haven't. I haven't spent a whole lot of time there. I've been up in Orlando. We are still working on plans for the house. I haven't been there that often. Usually when I go down there, I just hang out and go just off the coast and go fishing.

Q. Is there any timetable for when you might be making that move?
TIGER WOODS: It won't be in the near future, that's for sure, but hopefully it will be sooner than later.

Q. We're going on ten years since the '97 Masters; do you have any memories of that you could share in terms of the significance of what you did that week, any reflections on that at this point?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it's just there's so many different stories that week, you know. I guess for me personally, now that my father is no longer here, how important that hug was to me on the last hole. Because you know, the year before in '96, he had a heart attack at THE TOUR Championship, and he ended up having heart surgery again; he had complications. I was here in Florida and I flew straight back, and he was actually dead for a while, and then somehow -- he used to tell this story that, "Yeah, I saw this warm light; I was kind of headed towards it. I said, hey, you know what, I grew up in Kansas. So let me go back the other way."
And when he went back the other way, and all of a sudden he heard the beeping and everything; he came back. He just always used to say, "No, I'm not ready for that place yet."
So he went down to Augusta the week of Masters against doctor's orders. He wasn't supposed to travel. As you all know, my dad's real stubborn. I had been playing pretty well up until that point. I shot 59 at home; I shot 63; I think two 65s or something. I was having a really good preparation.
I get there and I can't putt a lick. I had the worst speeds, the worst lines, I'm hitting it well, but I just cannot shake it in from anywhere. Wednesday night I go up to Dad and say, "Pop, can you take a look at my stroke? It feels terrible."
He tells me just a couple of things and tells me, "Just go out there and do it."
I didn't really putt particularly well on the front nine. I didn't hit anything well on the front nine. But I hit a good putt on 9 for bogey (pumping fist). I hit a wonderful iron off the tee on 10. So let me just utilize those two markers and take them forward on the back nine and get back to even par for the day. All of a sudden it happened. I made a bomb on 10, chipped in on 12 and, you know, went through the back nine.
When I got up to Saturday night with Dad, he and I were just sitting there, past midnight, both of us don't sleep very well, and we were just rapping, talking. He said, "You know what, just go to sleep. You know, it's going to be the most important round of your life, but you can handle it. Just go out there and do what you do. Just get in your own little world and go out there and just thrash 'em."
So that was mind-set. When I hugged him on 18, looking back on it now, I could not have won that tournament without him.

Q. There are guys that show up here with two and three putters in their bag, yet you've stuck with your putter for a long time. When you go through a bad stretch, do you just look at it and say, it's me, that's my problem and I have to fix it myself; where a lot of other guys will switch putters. How do you deal with that?
TIGER WOODS: I've never switched putters very often. Since I've been on TOUR, I think I've only used three putters. In my amateur days, I basically had Anser II and I think one Scottie and one Odyssey. That was for like ten years. I was never one who switched putters very often.
The reason being is that, you know, each putter has its own little swing weight. It feels different. The shafts feel a little bit different. Your impact point, in certain clubs, different manufacturers, more off-set, less off-set. All this changes, and changes the roll of the putt.
So I'm trying to eliminate a variation, and by having the same putter all the time, I think I eliminate that.

Q. In the ten years since your win at Augusta, the impact and influence you've had, what are you most proud of?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think what I'm probably the most proud of is what we've done with the Foundation; and the youthfulness of the faces in the crowd in the galleries now and the diversity, that wasn't the case before. When I played in TOUR events as an amateur, I used to go out and watch the pros at the L.A. Open, even down there at Buick as well. That wasn't the case. Now to see, you know, more youth involved in the game of golf, it's just a pretty cool sight.

Q. Do you think that will lead to more participation?
TIGER WOODS: I think so. Because the caddie programs are no longer a valid means of introduction to kids to the game of golf, so we're going to have to do it a different way, either through academies or through youth foundations, The First Tee, what they are doing. Introductions to the game have to be done differently. I think that what we're trying to do around the country right now, it's working. We just need to keep opening up more doors for the kids that participate.

Q. Pick up the story, the middle of the night, go to bed, you're there in a rented house, you get up the next morning, I can't remember what the lead was, you obviously ended up winning by two touchdowns. Were you surprised you were able to execute, even though you were fully aware of what was at hand and you were still basically not much removed from a true rookie at that point; the process of going through that last day and playing those last couple of holes and what that was like for you, must have been overwhelming?
TIGER WOODS: I looked at it this way. I just kept -- I went through the board. And, okay, Tom Kite won the '92 U.S. Open; I think there was like Tommy Tolles, Constantino Rocca. There was not a lot of guys who had won a bunch of majors there. Even if I shot a couple over, those guys have not won anything before on a major scale.
So that was a little bit of a relief. It wasn't like Norman the year before who had Faldo chasing him who knew how to win major championships. And I figured, you know what, with the lead I had, if I shoot -- if I had handled the par 5s, if I drive the ball well on the par 5s, I had iron to every one, handle those holes, at the time no rough --

Q. So Norman crossed your mind?
TIGER WOODS: Of course. It was the year before. If I just played the par 5s well and do what I do, nobody can catch me. I'm just kept saying, if I shoot under par, it's over. I didn't think anyone could shoot 62 and win. I just kept saying, just shoot under par, handle the par 5s and shoot under par and I did.

Q. What was the last hole like coming up there, sort of a coronation? What did it feel like then?
TIGER WOODS: It was mixed emotions, it really was. One, that the tournament was over and all I had to do was keep my heart beating and I was going to win it. No. 2, I kept yelling at myself inside how stupid I was for hitting the ball on the wrong shelf. I kept telling myself, just hit a nice little easy 9-iron out to the right. Instead, I flipped it up on the top shelf. I could have had an easy 2-putt and got this thing out of dodge and had the record, now I have to have one of the hardest putts and it's a double-breaking putt and I don't really know it that well. So mixed emotions.

Q. Talking about the diversity, are you surprised that in that period, while you have young kids being introduced to the game, that no one else has in terms of people of color have gotten on to the TOUR?
TIGER WOODS: People asked me that week actually. This is what I think it is, is that, one, it takes time. And two, it's about building a bigger base and having more kids -- like I said, it's a pyramid effect. The more you go through junior golf locally to the state, to national, then to amateur, collegiate, mini-tours, pro, then eventually out here, you're just dwindling it down.
You know, over time, you may have at the bottom starting out in junior golf, you may have a couple thousand, but you get to the collegiate ranks. Well, some of them just are not good enough to make it that far. You get to amateur golf, you're not good enough to make it that far and you get to professional golf, you're not good enough to make it that par.
So the bigger the basis, the better chance you have of having somebody make it and that takes time because golf wasn't always that popular. I remember when I was in high school, golf was considered like a wussy sport. No one ever played it. You were not cool if you played golf. That stereotype is changing and it's evolving and more kids who are part of football and track and baseball and basketball are now trying out for golf teams.

Q. A year or two Michael Schumacher was dominating in his sport -- inaudible -- has Roger gone beyond that?
TIGER WOODS: Only difference is Roger has not done it for as many years as Michael did. That's the only difference. Michael did it for over ten years, and Roger is just basically in the last three years, has just taken his sport to another level. But there's no reason why he can't continue to do it for another eight, nine, ten years as well.

Q. Just a couple quick questions about the practice round today. I saw you on No. 2 today, it looked like you -- inaudible -- it was not the aggressive afternoon Tiger swing we all know; is that a swing you would make in competition, something soft?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I started doing that quite a bit now. Certainly it's one of the things I've been working on with Hank for the last few years and I'm starting to feel more comfortable utilizing that shot. Doesn't go very far. As you said -- it was a little 3-wood, probably went 240, 250, which I can hit my 5-wood that far.

Q. And you're taking something off the swing?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, just slowing everything down. It's the same swing, just a different percentage rate I guess you could say.

Q. And then a lot of us when we play early in the morning like that, of course we don't have time to hit balls beforehand; what do you do to loosen up?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I get up pretty early. I was up this morning and I was doing a little bit of weights and stretching a little bit, so I was ready to go.

Q. So you were loose by the time you get to the tee?
TIGER WOODS: Oh, yeah.
LAURA NEAL: Thanks for joining us.

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