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February 24, 2008

Tiger Woods


LAURA NEAL: Tiger, congrats. Third Accenture Match Play Championship win and your 15th World Golf Championships title. Do you want to talk about winning and what the day was like today?
TIGER WOODS: Today was a lot of fun, actually. I made a bunch of birdies. I put a bunch of heat on Stew today and got off to a quick start and never really let him get back in the match.

Q. You'd mentioned, I think, at the Target and at the Buick that you felt like you were in the best stretch of your career. Why do you suppose that is, or what about you is better now? Because I think some of us are finally starting to believe you.
TIGER WOODS: There's a shock. I just have a better understanding of how to play the game, how to fix my game, and have a lot more shots than I've ever had.

Q. Of all the amazing numbers, 15 -- is it 15 of 26 or whatever it is, World Golf Championships is pretty amazing. Are you kind of committed to these things? And you've obviously done well at them. What does that number mean to you?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it's -- well, they're exactly what they were meant to be, and that's putting the best up against each other more often than just the four majors and THE PLAYERS. I think that's why we as players and competitors love them, love the idea that we can go head-to-head more often. Most of the guys play in Europe or some other part of the world, and we don't get a chance to buck heads. Maybe, like I said, just five times. And now we can do it more frequently, and I think it's been a huge success.

Q. If that's the case, is this a true reflection of the gap between you and everyone else?
TIGER WOODS: That's a good question, Fergie, but I don't know how to answer that one.

Q. Can you try?
TIGER WOODS: I can try. All I know is that I just love playing against the best players in the world. That's the fun part because we don't get to do it that often.

Q. Stewart Cink said during his press conference that he didn't think there was any course out there that you couldn't adapt to. Can you comment on that?
TIGER WOODS: That's awfully nice of Stew to say that. Understanding how to play and obviously making changes and adapting your game to the golf course, and that's what you have to do in order to be successful on all venues. It helps that I've played all around the world and have got an understanding of how to play on different places and different styles.

Q. We were asking Stew what he thought made you the champion you are. He thought that you basically never relax and you have great composure. You were saying yesterday you couldn't wait to kick your dad's butt in putting. Have you always been this incredibly competitive? And is insatiable a good word to describe you?
TIGER WOODS: I love winning and I hate losing. But, you know, that's how my father was. My father was the same way. Anyone in here who knows my mom, my mom is probably more fiery than my dad. That's kind of the household I grew up in. We were always competitive. You never backed down to anybody. And that's the fun part about competing, it's the fun thing about playing sports. My dad, in his former occupation, you back down, you die. So you can't have that mentality.

Q. As great as your record is in the majors, in the WGC events it's even better. Do you have a theory as to why you play so well when the fields are so strong?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I don't know. As I said I've always enjoyed playing these championships, even though they've been all around the world. And for some reason I've had success all different places. I can't say it's the venues. Maybe I just enjoyed playing the fields, just like I enjoy playing major championships.

Q. Stewart said that he wasn't intimidated by you in terms of his golf game, but he says there is something there that's a bit daunting when you go head-to-head against you. Is that something that you see in the eyes of those guys that you're playing head-to-head?
TIGER WOODS: Probably, because I'm shorter (laughter), and if he acts up, I hit him in the ribs. No, you just go out there and you focus on your game. If people perceive that as intimidating or what have you, that's to each his own. I'm trying to go out there and shoot the lowest score I possibly can and win an event. That's all I'm trying to do.

Q. In this familiar position to win the match again or win the tournament again, what do you do as far as not getting comfortable being No. 1 and being on top the way you've been?
TIGER WOODS: It's very simple; you can always be better.

Q. Yesterday you talked at length as to how difficult it is to win the Match Play Championship, and yet here you are, sitting with this Walter Hagen Cup again. You've won it three times in the last six years. You can understand that a fan's perception could find a very interesting contrast between your words and your actions. How do you respond to that?
TIGER WOODS: Well, they told me today I played 107 holes this week. I could have easily played 16 and then been home. That's the fickleness of match play. And if I didn't make a run against J.B., I wouldn't be here.
When you put the best players against the world against each other on a venue like this where you have reachable par-5s and two par-4s you can drive and perfect greens, you know these guys aren't going to back up. If you get down early, you're in a world of hurt because then you have to make a bunch of birdies to get back in it. So that's why I said what I said.
It's not like we're going out to play the U.S. Open golf course; we're playing a golf course in which you have to make birdies.

Q. Can you tell us, will you contact Mr. Palmer? And if so, will you tell us what you might say to him?
TIGER WOODS: I will definitely -- I can't say what I might say. Never mind. When I see him I will give him an earful, and I'm sure he'll probably do the same.

Q. You've probably enjoyed the start that you've had this year, but because of the way you're playing, to use your words, is it within reason that you could win every tournament this year?
TIGER WOODS: That's my intent. That's why you play. If you don't believe you can't win an event, don't show up.

Q. Welcome back. Talk about winning in Tucson for us. We're very glad to have you here, obviously.
TIGER WOODS: Thank you. I haven't won this event here yet. It was nice to actually go out there this week and play as well as I did and make as many putts as I did. Very fortunate to get by some of the matches I got by, and here we are.

Q. Was this what you had in mind when you heard the event was coming here?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, the W? Yes.

Q. In the context of Nelson's record of 11 in a row, do you think Dubai should count, given how global golf is and it was such a strong field?
TIGER WOODS: I'll let you handle that.

Q. You don't have an opinion?
TIGER WOODS: I'll let you handle that.

Q. Have you had a chance to see the plans for the new course?
TIGER WOODS: I have not. Well, I can only see it from some of the fairways here, but I haven't seen the plans at all.

Q. A quick match question because Stewart couldn't find anything that was really pivotal about the day. Do you see anything? Maybe 17, 18 early morning, that really gave you really good control, or was it a slow bleed?
TIGER WOODS: You know, the only, I guess, chance he could have gotten some momentum was 18 when I made bogey there. If he makes par, at least he has some momentum going into lunch. I felt like I had all the momentum because he -- obviously he had a tough putt, but he was in the fairway on his tee shot and he could have put himself in a better spot than he did.

Q. Talk about 18. What kind of lie did you have in that bunker, because --
TIGER WOODS: Which one?

Q. The fairway bunker.
TIGER WOODS: The fairway bunker? It was a perfect lie, but just a really funky stance. I had 152 to the hole.

Q. It was the first green they said you missed out of a bunker. Fairway -- obviously greenside no problem.
TIGER WOODS: Well, there you are (laughter).

Q. The jibing with Arnie aside, from an emotional standpoint and just from a career goal standpoint and all that, how much does it mean at this point in your life and at this point in your career to pass Arnie?
TIGER WOODS: Well, if you would have asked me would I have attained what I have right now when I first turned pro at 20 years old, no. I could never have foreseen my victory total being this high, my game improvement being as much as it has been, my knowledge of the game. I would never have foreseen that. I knew I was going to get better, but I didn't think I was going to have this victory total when I first turned pro, no.

Q. But what about specifically, about Arnie, and what he meant to the game and basically being the most popular player of all time and basically him as a person?
TIGER WOODS: I think anytime you're associated with Arnold and what he's done with the game of golf, it's always a positive thing. He's been the ambassador of golf since the '50s. It's hard to believe it's been over 50 years of him just being the flagship of golf on a global scale, not just here in the United States. He's played all around the world and he's carried golf. He's what brought golf into the mainstream on TV.

Q. I want to go back and talk a little about that stretch you had in '99, 2000, which is getting pretty analogous to what you're doing now. Do you think the wins today might be more meaningful in that you're not playing as many Disneys and Phoenixes? I'm going to get stares for that one, but some of the ones where the scoring is really low? Your scoring average for 2000 and last year were identical, and last year you're playing pretty much just the varsity schedule and winning those types of events. I wonder if maybe that factors into why you think you're playing better now?
TIGER WOODS: Finally someone understood. That's one of the reasons why I said what I said. You hit the nail right on the head on that one.

Q. You mentioned about on the 14th on Wednesday and you were making a run. Is that something you can just decide to do?
TIGER WOODS: I wish it was that easy. You know, when I made that putt there at 14 it was nice to make because, one, I needed to make it. I had to get back in the match. But I just felt that if I could make that putt, hit a good drive down 15, I would have momentum in the match. Even though I was 2-down, I felt like I would have the momentum. And all of a sudden that's how it turned out to be.
But the putt I made on 16 was the putt. I had to make that putt. I just had to get all square before we got to 18. That's what I kept telling Stevie; we just need to get this thing all square before we get to 18, just to put heat on him. He's never played in this event before. He's never had to finish off a guy in this event. If I get it all square to 18, just make him think about it.

Q. Is it as much fun for you to have a run to win or when you have to work hard to win?
TIGER WOODS: I would rather be out front, it's just slightly easier on the system. Coming back from behind obviously it's -- you get a lot of satisfaction out of it because you have to dig deep and find a way. But when you're out in front and rolling, everything is kind of going your way. And it just seems like it just snowballs the correct way.

Q. You always talk about improving. I was wondering if you could talk about the improvement in your short game. Coming out of this week, is there anything you need to improve upon before Bay Hill in your own mind?
TIGER WOODS: I worked on my short game pretty hard this winter. I didn't like what I was feeling at the end of last year, even though I was winning tournaments. My short game was not very good. I was chipping it up there in a range I didn't think was close enough, but I was making putts. So it was misleading.
One of the things that -- I guess it's hard to explain to someone. If you're hitting a lot of greens, you get into a rhythm of hitting greens. And then when you miss one, you haven't hit a pitch shot or you haven't gotten a rhythm of hitting a pitch. So I wanted to make sure I did a lot of work on that this winter so if I did miss greens I would feel comfortable with my technique, even though I haven't hit a bunch of pitch shots.
Obviously going into the Florida Swing I'm going to have to work on a few things, but I'm very pleased at the progress that I made this week, and I think the ability to adapt and figure things out on the fly is something I'm very proud of.

Q. You've talked a lot about the match with J.B., but against Baddeley on 18 and the 19th hole and he has those putts to win and you're watching him. What's going through your mind at that point when he can close out the match?
TIGER WOODS: Well, 18 was not a realistic putt to make. People don't realize how hard of a putt that was. Of the two putts, I had the easier of the two putts, even though mine was a lot faster. I didn't have that much break. He had just a really difficult putt.
The putt he had at the first hole, that was the putt. It's a tough putt to read because that pin was so deep that actually it's on the other side of the slope, and the valley has a little bit more effect on that putt. And he hit a good putt and you could see the valley just kind of snag it at the end, but it was a good putt.

Q. When you're standing there watching, are you giving yourself a pep talk to get ready for the next tee?
TIGER WOODS: That's what you always do.

Q. Given that you've won this event three times, I wonder if you would be totally in favor of the PGA Championship reverting back to the match play format and why that is?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I guess I'm 50/50 split, because I've won, I think, both tournaments three times. So I could go either way.

Q. When you get on these -- when you start winning in bunches over the last eight or nine years, people invariably will say, where are these guys to step up and challenge Tiger. Is that more offensive to you, do you think, or to them?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it's probably more offensive to them because it's not like they're not practicing at home. We're all trying to improve. We're all working extremely hard to get better. People just don't understand that. Look at what some of the guys do in the off-season, getting more fit, getting stronger, more flexible. Guys have changed equipment companies, anything to try to get a little bit better. I think it is a shot at them a little bit.

Q. Do you think it's hard for players from a past generation to give you your due?
TIGER WOODS: It's probably that way in every sport, isn't it?

Q. Ending on something that's apropos of nothing, your Policy Board is meeting tomorrow to visit that cut rule thing. I'm wondering if you would be bummed if they shot that thing down. And secondarily, if they enforced the speed provisions of how you guys are supposed to play, wouldn't the cut rule thing kind of take care of itself?
TIGER WOODS: I know, but the second part of your statement is obviously -- that's where it's lacking. The guys don't police it out there with pace of play. And it is getting slow out there, especially if we have any kind of frost delays or any kind of weather delays; guys aren't finishing. From what I remember, we didn't have any delays out of LA and the guys had to come back and finish. That's not good.

Q. They docked them strokes on the LPGA?
TIGER WOODS: They might have to. But the guys are a little sensitive about that.

Q. You've mentioned a few times since the whole talk of the Grand Slam came up about peaking at the right time. I'm curious, you're not worried about peaking too early? Is that a concern, or do you have enough -- do you feel in your mind there's enough to work on to keep you --
TIGER WOODS: I've got a plateful to work on. You can always get better. You can always keep improving. Golf is fluid; it's always evolving and it's always changing. You work hard on the short game, then you lose your long game. Work on your long game, then you don't putt well. You don't putt well, you work on your putting, all of a sudden you lose your long game.
It's just one of those things you always have to keep a handle on every single facet of the game. And a lot of times you just don't feel like there's enough time in the day for that because there's so much that you have to do in order to improve and there's so much you have to do to get better and so many things that you have to do to keep a handle on things.
LAURA NEAL: Tiger congrats, thanks for your time.

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