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February 19, 2008

Tiger Woods


JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Thank you, Tiger, for joining us for a few minutes in the media center at the Accenture Match Play Championship. The World Golf Championships have been very good to you. You've won the last two. You're a pretty good match play player, too. So I know this is a great week for you.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I'm looking forward to it. The weather forecast is better than last year. The golf course has matured a little bit over the last year, and the greens are getting up to speed and I think it's going to be just a pretty good week. The greens are actually perfect. The fairways are in great shape. It's a matter of going out there and making a bunch of birdies.

Q. You've talked before about the vagaries of match play, that you can play great and sometimes it doesn't even matter. Has anything changed in your mental approach to change that attitude?
TIGER WOODS: No, it's just the way it's been. That's the way it's been ever since I was a junior golfer. You can go out there and shoot 6- or 7-under par and you're going home. Other times, I remember at LaCosta, one of the matches one of the guys shot 80 and advanced.
It's just the way it is. It's match play. All you have to do is beat one guy, just beat the guy you're playing against, no matter how.

Q. I don't remember your answer from previous years, but what's your opinion on tournaments that are tougher to win, something like this or something like a full 144-man stroke-play event?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think this is always going to be probably a little more difficult to win, because you could be playing well and still go home. It's not about the marathon; it's not about the long race of four rounds to position yourself for winning a golf tournament. It's a sprint. You've got to get it done in 18 holes. If you get two, three behind in this format with only 18 holes, generally the guys lose. But in stroke play, in a tournament, if you get off to a slow start you can still win a golf tournament.

Q. Go with the sprint?
TIGER WOODS: You have to get off to positive starts, even if you are down early, but at least you're making birdies or giving yourself chances, then you figure that you might be able to get back in the match. You just can't afford to give guys holes. I think that's always been the key to match play, make guys earn holes.

Q. Just as a quasi-follow-up to that, do you have any opinion on how you think the course should be set up? Early in the round last year, it was very major-esque, very tough. I know it doesn't matter in match play, but should there be more availability for birdies?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think the fans enjoy birdies, but I think the better ball-strikers always are going to want it more difficult. You always want to have shots -- you have to have quality shots to have good birdie putts.
Sometimes, especially last year, the conditions were such that you played a little more conservative, even though they had tough pins, but the conditions forced you to be more conservative. If the conditions are like this, even if they tuck the pins, the balls are backing up, so you'll see guys going out for a lot of pins.

Q. That being said, some people think that obviously stroke play is a truer test of golf, because you have that four days where you can catch up. But you had a great record winning the -- three Amateurs in a row. So what is your approach? Do you really like match play? They play it so much as an amateur, and then you play it only in the Cup matches and this, as a pro.
TIGER WOODS: You know, I've always loved match play. You just have to beat that one guy. It doesn't matter how you do it, you've just got to find a way. And I think that's -- what you do in a stroke play event is generally play three days, maybe three and a half to try to get yourself in a position where it's one-on-one. And generally that guy is not in your group. It's a guy ahead of you or a guy behind you.
Here it's right from the very first tee. And I think that's one of the things that all of us growing up playing match play in amateur golf absolutely love about it, because it's that same feeling on the last round of the tournament on the first tee, every match you play. And you just have to bring it. You just have to step up to the plate and hit shots. You just can't afford to slip up.

Q. Is there more adrenalin -- is that a danger in the fact you might get too hyped up? Not you particularly --
TIGER WOODS: I think there's certainly more adrenalin early. Stroke play you kind of position yourself, plodding along, making pars here and there. And generally, actually all the time your playing partner the first two days you're playing with them, you don't really care what they're doing. You're just setting yourself up for the weekend.
Well, here what your playing partner does dictates what you do, and vice-versa. You can force your opponent to try things that he doesn't really want to do. So the momentum switches here, it's amazing in match play how fast they can happen, per shot, per hole. It can turn on just one shot. In stroke play that usually doesn't ever happen.

Q. Being your position as the No. 1 golfer in the world, can you talk about being able to handle the pressure the way you do and kind of having to live up to the expectations or having that focus where people expect you to win every time out?

Q. Of course. Talk about handling that pressure, handling it the way you do.
TIGER WOODS: I just go out there and I compete. I just try and -- I prepare before I get here. And then when I get here it's all about winning an event. It always has been that way. It always will be.

Q. A couple of quick ones. Have you peeked at your bracket?
TIGER WOODS: I haven't seen it. I haven't seen my tee time yet. As soon as I get up there and have some breakfast I'll take a look.

Q. And the second part is, can you answer if your five-tournament winning streak is on your mind? And can you answer in more than one word (laughter)?
TIGER WOODS: I won five tournaments in a row? Well, now that you mention it, it's all about going out there and just playing and advancing. That's match play. I've experienced it enough over the years in my amateur days. All you care about is just advancing, just move on to the next round, whatever you've got to do.
In amateur golf it was probably a little more difficult because you always had to play an afternoon match. You had to play three straight days in junior golf, 36 holes a day in order to win it, to just advance to the afternoon. And here, advance to the next day, that's all you're trying to do.

Q. You've played with Bubba a lot. You say you like playing with him because you like seeing where he can hit it. When it comes to J.B., any thoughts where he can hit it and where that ranks up with where you can hit it off the tee?
TIGER WOODS: I haven't played with J.B. He's been at home practicing and we just haven't crossed paths and played at home. I've only seen what he's done in tournaments on TV. I've never paired with him. I've hit balls next to him. It will be interesting to see what he does.
I know he doesn't spin the ball a lot with his driver, and that's one of the reasons it goes as far as it does. Under these conditions he'll be hitting it probably past me all day.

Q. Does that change your approach?
TIGER WOODS: No, the whole idea is just keep the ball in play and put the ball up there and give yourself 18 looks at it and force them to have to make birdies to win holes. Don't ever give a hole away.

Q. If you say you come into each tournament expecting to win, do you ever allow yourself to think about a perfect season?
TIGER WOODS: No. I've had one perfect season, but it's been a while.

Q. Which year?
TIGER WOODS: When I was 11. I won 36 tournaments that year (laughter).

Q. Never lost?
TIGER WOODS: No. I peaked at 11.

Q. Your thoughts on the Tucson area in general, the surroundings, the course, and if you would like to see the tournament stay here on a long-term basis?
TIGER WOODS: I think it is going to stay here, at least for a few years. But I think that the fans came out last year and the weather wasn't all that great, but they supported the event. That's all we can ask is for everyone to come out and the whole community support this event.
I think this year with some of the changes that are made in the parking and getting everyone a little closer, I think that will accommodate the people here. This is a very difficult golf course to view, because a lot of times we're walking down just one side. Plus it's all the way down there and all the way back and it tends to get a little strung out.
But overall I think that with the weather forecast people are going to come out. We have some great match-ups. So I think that the fans will come out and support this event.

Q. Could you tell us a little bit about what you've been doing leading up to this? Any interesting matches back home?
TIGER WOODS: I haven't really been doing a whole lot as far as playing. I've been practicing a little bit, but I haven't really played a lot. Just been at home, up a lot of nights.

Q. Being the competitor that you are, that missed ball mark from last year, how long did that stay with you?
TIGER WOODS: Quite a bit because I don't normally make mistakes like that. That's just a complete mental error. And I get into those type of zones a lot at Augusta, but the greens are always perfect, so you never really have to worry about that. Here I should have paid more attention to detail and I didn't do it, and it cost me the match. And it was a complete mental error. I don't mind making physical errors and losing tournaments or losing a match; that happens. But making a simple mental error like that, that one stuck with me for a little bit.

Q. In terms of your mental strength, which has been talked about a lot, do you think match play helps hone that at an early age, playing 36 holes a day, every shot having immediate consequences?
TIGER WOODS: Without a doubt. It's a totally different animal. You have to be in the moment. You can't just plod along and say, okay, if I make two birdies, three birdies over the next couple of days I'll be right there in the tournament. Make two or three birdies or you're going home. So you have to stay in the moment, you have to be geared up. You certainly get more psyched up on that first tee, because you have to bring it right away, versus plodding your way along and building throughout the entire tournament for four days.

Q. Could we go back to when you were 11 for a minute? Were you serious about that, 36?

Q. Who did you beat?
TIGER WOODS: It was just on the Cal Junior Golf.

Q. Anyone that we would know?
TIGER WOODS: Well, he used to play out here, Ted Oh. That's about it.

Q. These are weekend tournaments?
TIGER WOODS: No, Southern Cal actually is unbelievable, the junior golf tournaments they have there. We play probably I'd have to say four to five tournaments per week that they were somewhere in Southern California, every day during the summer. The only ones we don't play is the weekends.
But it's all throughout -- I feel -- I was very lucky to have my mom there because she was incredible. We'd drive out to Redlands or San Bernardino, and 11 years old always teed off first on the back nine. You're looking an hour-and-a-half-, two-hour drive because we teed off at 7:00, getting up at 4:00 to get out there just to watch nine holes. My mom was incredible that way. She kept score and still has a lot of scorecards from there.

Q. The semifinals is the only round in which you have not departed at this tournament. What are your thoughts on the consolation match they play Sunday? I'm trying to picture if you ever played a consolation match what the gallery would look like, one. That's come up a few times.
TIGER WOODS: I hope I don't have to experience that.

Q. It's come up a few times with Ernie in Australia or whatnot, and there's a feeling by some, what's the point in coming back on Sunday for third place. Do you have any thoughts on it?
TIGER WOODS: A lot of the guys don't want to do it because you feel like you've lost the tournament. All the guys from -- who have played match play growing up, if you lose, you're out, you're going home. It is different to have a consolation match. Obviously that's for TV purposes.
For a lot of us who grew up playing this format, if you lose you're gone, and the mentality of losing, knowing that you've lost the tournament is -- it hurts because you normally don't get a chance to come back and play. But here, you're basically forced to come back and tee it up on Sunday afternoon.

Q. Did the back injury come up --
TIGER WOODS: Well, no, hopefully that will never happen. If you got a chance to win another match you go out there and win your match.

Q. Clearly physical errors happen, mental errors happen. Given that, doesn't it increase the pressure, or why even bring up the idea of winning a Grand Slam given how fine a line it is?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think you can. I've won -- if you look at my career, I've won -- the majority of the years I've played I think I've won over five tournaments per year. And I just have to win the right four. That's the hard part. A few years ago I was four shots from winning the playoff or winning all four. I was pretty close.
So I think that if you have everything go your way, get lucky, peak at the right times, have the golf course set up well for you and then go out there and have everything go your way. Is it possible? I've won four in a row before, so it is possible.

Q. All that happening?
TIGER WOODS: Well, same thing, I've won four in a row before and had all those things happen four straight times. Not too many people ever figured that would happen.

Q. Talking about the Grand Slam, you've won at the first two. You haven't won The Open there. The next one, a lot of people forget you came in a shot behind O'Meara, and I don't know how much you like Birkdale. I guess the big question a lot of us wonder about is Oakland Hills, where you played as an amateur, finished like -- and actually did pretty well, didn't you for a while, and then hit the ball in the water if I remember, but then you didn't play real well at the Ryder Cup or at least until the singles.

Q. So do you sort of say, okay, the first two courses I really like and then I don't know the next two, or how do you look at all that?
TIGER WOODS: I like all four venues. That's the thing. I really do. I think all four venues are really great golf courses. It's about playing well at the right time. That's how you win major championships. You have to put it together at the right time.
And when I -- I was an amateur and I thought the 69 I shot to make the cut on Friday was one of the biggest moments I had up to that point. For me to shoot under par as an amateur in The Open, that gave me so much confidence for the rest of the year.

Q. That's when your dad used to sort of downgrade you, came in the pressroom, you were leading for a while and I think you hit the ball in the water?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I was still playing 16, yeah (laughter).

Q. He said, "That's to be expected." That was his way of sort of keeping you on track?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it wasn't 16 that got me, it was 14. I had a sprinkler there on the green I thought I could get a drop from, and I didn't. I let that bother me. I think I made either bogey or double there. And then I bogeyed 15, made a triple or quad on 16, bogeyed 17 and bogeyed 18 or something like that.
But I let one little simple ruling get to me. That's just lesson learned. I have never let that happen again, because it obviously affects you and you learn, you make a mistake, and you grow up. That was a big learning experience for me, it just happened to be on the world stage where everyone saw it.

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