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April 8, 2008

Tiger Woods


ROB JOHNSTON: Good morning, on behalf of the 2008 Masters Media Committee I would like to extend a warm welcome to each of you.
It is indeed my distinct honor to introduce Mr. Tiger Woods, one of three players who have won four Masters Tournaments, and if you would permit me to briefly recite a history of his remarkable accomplishments.
In 1997 Tiger became the youngest player ever to win at Augusta, accomplishing a feat at 21 years at age setting the tournament record 270. He won his second green jacket in 2001 which gave him a victory in four consecutive professional majors. He won the 2002 Masters to become only the third player in tournament history to successfully defend his title and in 2005, he captured his fourth green jacket in an exciting playoff with Chris DiMarco by birdieing on the first playoff hole.
He is the holder of 13 major titles. He has won on the PGA TOUR 64 times and has already won four victories worldwide this year. This is Tiger's 13th Masters appearance.
Tiger, we are very excited to have you here and we appreciate your time, sir, and we would invite to you make a few comments before we open it up for questions.
TIGER WOODS: Okay. Well, looking forward to this week. It's our first major and the golf course is a little soft right now, for right now. I'm sure it will speed up come Thursday.
But you know, overall, the greens are starting to pick up a little bit of pace. There will be a lot more grass on them than they normally have and adjustments in the course setup, but overall this golf course, as usual, is in just pristine shape.

Q. Players look for motivation wherever they can find it. Is there something to be said coming to this tournament coming off a loss, as opposed to winning seven or eight in a row?
TIGER WOODS: It's just another week. You have to put whatever happened behind you whether you won or lost, and it's all about this week. You've got to be focused and ready to come Thursday, and get everything going the right way.

Q. You've always scheduled your year around the majors and that's paid off handsomely for you through the years. When you come to Augusta National what makes this so special when you come here each year?
TIGER WOODS: Obviously the history, this is the only major we play each and every year on the same venue. That, and, you know, I think I've been lucky enough to have won this tournament and just to go up in that Champion's Locker Room and see all the guys over the years and get to know them. That's one of the neatest things about this golf tournament is the history behind it.
You know, this golf course, even though it's changed so much over the years, you can still say, the par has not changed but the course setup and you remember where you hit it just because you play it each and every year.

Q. You made a comment earlier this year that winning all four in a calendar year, all four majors, was possible; has anything happened so far so dissuade you from that opinion?
I mean, the reason why I said that, you have to understand why I said that, because I've done it before; I've won all four in a row. Majority of my career, I think this is my 12th or 13th season out here, and nine of those years I've won five or more tournaments, so just got to win the right four. That's what it boils down to.

Q. How much have you played this week here?
TIGER WOODS: I played Sunday. I played yesterday and I played nine today.

Q. But the other two days were 18?

Q. The first two majors, which is the toughest test of golf?
TIGER WOODS: Depends on how it's set up. Last year, we were playing Oakmont; that's Oakmont.
But generally this is a golf course which you can make birdies, but the weather conditions didn't allow us to do that. But normally you could shoot under par, and I think this golf course, over the years has been much more forgiving than the U.S. Open.

Q. Can you make birdies the way you used to here?
TIGER WOODS: No. No. You know, you used to say that par was 68 for the longer hitters. I remember roaming around here and hitting good drives off the par 5s and good irons to every green; that's no longer the case.

Q. Now that you have obviously entered the zone of extreme expectation, probably unprecedented in golf, does that affect you in any way? Are you able to shut out what people expect of you, or does it get to a point where you have to exclude it completely, or is it an incentive for you to be aware that people are expecting you to fulfill these extraordinary feats of consistency? Does it have any real impact on you as an individual?
TIGER WOODS: No, it actually doesn't, because I play for myself and my family. That's it.
That's what my father's always said to me and that's what I've always done.

Q. Do you recall what it was like putting these greens the very first time and can you articulate what makes them so different from any others?
TIGER WOODS: I've never seen anything like this. Over the years, I guess through experience, they slow down to you. Even though they haven't slowed down, they have probably gotten faster over the years, but just going from amateur golf to junior golf to here; are you kidding me, we've never seen anything like this, this much slope and this fast.
I always tell every amateur I usually play with after they have completed the first hole, hey, most amateurs I've ever played with have done better than I did. I was playing with Ollie my first time, and I blew it over the bunker and had a little 60-degree sand wedge and the pin is middle left, hit not a very good shot but it was pin-high, no big deal; and next thing I know, I'm chipping for my next shot. (Laughter).
That was my first putt at Augusta in competition, putted off the green.

Q. Is it safe to say that hitting long or whatever else, that's why you've done so well --
TIGER WOODS: You have to putt well here. You can't putt poorly here and win. Now, you have to drive the ball well in order to win here; before you could spray it all over the place and it didn't matter -- actually tried to spray it all over the place to give yourself the best angles. 9 you used to hit the ball so far right to give yourself an ankle up to those left pins; now with the added trees you can't really do that anymore.
The holes have changed over the years in that way. 17, sometimes you had to hit it to 15 to get to the back left pin just to get a shot at these angles; they have taken that away. It's playing a lot more different and a lot more penal off the tee but the greens are still the same. The greens are still just as penal.

Q. I read the other day, Jack Nicklaus said, "I wish they would get rid of that rough up there." What rough is he talking about?
TIGER WOODS: The second cut, yeah, if you go out there, you'll see it. That's all you need to change this golf course.
Shots, for instance, on No. 1, if you pull it up the left side it used to run straight to the pine needles and you had no shot. Now it has a chance to get caught up, pull tee shots down 2 can get caught up. It changes the speed of this golf course quite a bit. Shots on 10, if you don't turn it, used to land up the right and actually roll through the gallery down into the trees and now it can get caught up.

Q. That much rough makes that much difference?
TIGER WOODS: Mm-hmm. (Nodding).

Q. Granted there is not really trash talk in golf but there's been a little bit of chirping whether it be Jason Day or Sabbatini or to a lesser degree, Poulter, guys like that. When you get wind of comments from other players, does that amuse you, annoy you, motivate you, how do you react to all that stuff given how well you have been playing?
TIGER WOODS: I think it's just funny. Some of the guys, that's just their personalities, you know.
But, hey, my father's always taught me, just go out there and just play and let your clubs do the talking and that should be enough.

Q. At The Match Play, you mentioned your putting is still getting benefits from matches you had with your dad a long time ago and he enjoyed trying to get in your head a lot on the tee making noise and this or that; is there a favorite story you can look back on during that time and felt like he put pressure on you and you responded and understood what pressure was after that?
TIGER WOODS: It's funny that people say that, because I asked my dad to do that to me, to make me a tougher golfer, to make me a tougher person; so he did. He put me through the same stuff that he had to go through in Special Forces, all the psychology part of it. It was fun to me. It was frustrating to me at first because I didn't understand how to deal with it but I just had to figure it out. He used to pull all the little tricks.
It got to a point where it was amusing and we would laugh about it. He would try it and it didn't work and I would hit better and better shots. It was just one of those things where my dad helped me grow up, and some great times. I mean, we had so many great contests and rounds, putting contests, short game contests, you name it. We were always competing against one another in everything, and really, it was everything. Played cards, no one wanted to lose.

Q. About what age?
TIGER WOODS: Oh, geez, from when I can remember. We always were going at each other. It was always fun because I always wanted to beat him because he was so much better than me. Finally when I got to about 11 or 12 when we started getting some pretty good matches, but he was a 1-handicapper at the time, so some great matches.

Q. How do you explain the Masters is so good in your own history; you won your first major here, after that in 2005, you had not won for two years, and you won here again; so why is it so special here for you?
TIGER WOODS: I just feel comfortable on this golf course. One, because I see it every year. From what I remember is every spring, that's all you did is you just get tuned in, and usually early coverage started at No. 6 or No. 7 and you see the highlights and off you went, and you always saw all the holes, the guys coming in, how they played. You remember all those shots.
When I came here, I played it for the first time, I remember where a lot of these guys have played from, and it didn't seem as daunting of a task because I've seen it so many times.

Q. So each time you win, each time you play again at the Masters, you are stronger, because it's experience of playing and winning?
TIGER WOODS: Well, experience definitely helps. But also, you have to keep evolving, because the golf course keeps changing. They keep changing the greens on you. The fairways, the tee angles, you know, there's little subtle changes, and obviously you have to mark that down and put it in your memory banks.
Some of the greens haven't changed and those putts are still just as true as they were when I first came here.

Q. Have you bumped into Trip Kuehne and what are your memories of the '94 Amateur?
TIGER WOODS: I saw Trip yesterday on the putting green just real quick. '94 was a good week. I hit the ball well. Trip played well in that final and I just got hot at the right time in that second round and got ahead somehow.

Q. You got pretty early mental training; how critical was that to get it early and to get what you got and how much do you draw on that?
TIGER WOODS: Well, a lot of it now I just do but then it was different, because obviously I like to create shots, and I have no idea what people say about seeing the shot. I've never seen the shot. I just don't understand that, because my creativeness, I see this thing going all over the place, so I use feel and you see my hands, I feel things that way. That's one of the things Jay really helped me with was to understand that and harness that.

Q. Jack came out years ago and said you would win ten green jackets. Wonder your initial thought as you heard that and as you go with a chance to win your fifth now if you at that time thought you would even be sniffing five at some point in your career.
TIGER WOODS: Well, I felt that he was a little out there by saying that. (Laughter) I haven't made a cut yet.
But you know, I just think that the way the golf course was set up then, versus the way it's set up now, guys with power had just a huge advantage. Obviously you could see that.
I remember playing No. 2, my first year, my longest club I hit in there was a 4-iron. You know, when I won in '97, I hit two wedges into 15. The golf course has changed quite a bit since then.
You know, if it would have stayed that way, guys with big power could have taken overall the bunkers and shortened up this golf course quite a bit but that's changed quite a bit.

Q. As a follow, is it a little bit difficult to imagine five, even as strong and powerful as you are?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, to have four at this age, it's a dream come true. You don't want to envision winning this many this soon. It takes so much experience and so much knowledge of how to play this golf course. And then obviously to play well at the same time.
But I got lucky and played a lot of practice rounds with some past champions and the knowledge they shared with me was invaluable.

Q. With some of the changes and the lengthening they have done to this golf course over the years, could you ever have fathomed somebody winning this championship by laying up on all the par 5s all four days like Zach did?
TIGER WOODS: Not the way that the course used to play, but now the way it's playing and obviously the weather conditions we had last year, I can understand that now, yeah.

Q. Can you see that happening again?
TIGER WOODS: It can happen, yeah. It happened this year. If it doesn't pick up any pace and the ball is not rolling anywhere and right now it's cool and the ball is not flying, either; you know, a lot of guys are hitting wood on 18 after good drives.
So you definitely can see that now, but if it dries up, ball starts rolling out, then guys will start going for it.

Q. Your drive to win is well documented. Does that ratchet it up a little bit more this year considering how last year's Masters came to a close for you?
TIGER WOODS: Still the same. You always want to win major championships. This is a special one and I've had some nice memories here. I just didn't finish off my rounds last year the way I needed to. I made some mistakes on 17 and 18 a couple days, and that was the difference between winning and losing.

Q. When Jack was in his prime, he wasn't a huge fan of playing in the Par 3 Tournament because he thought it was a distraction for him and he wanted to focus. Talk about your approach to the Par 3 and what you enjoy about it and your memories?
TIGER WOODS: My last one I played when Arnold, at the time, it was his last Masters. (Laughter) I made a hole-in-one and that was it. Good way to end it.

Q. You won't play tomorrow?

Q. Why?
TIGER WOODS: It's changed over the years. Used to be, I thought was a lot of fun to play, but now it is a little bit distracting to get ready and be ready for the tournament.

Q. The focus you bring to the course is obvious, and all of the distractions you have to deal with, what is it about the click of a camera that can unhinge you sometimes, and do you do anything now to try to strengthen yourself against that?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it's one of those things that we have to deal with. It happens more when you get towards the final groups. Obviously they have more guys following them, and it happens. It's not the guys that we see week-to-week that travel with the TOUR and we see. It's the local guys that general don't have the golf knowledge and they don't know when to do it. Sometimes they move and do distracting things. It happens and that's just the way it is. The game is growing. It's gotten bigger and these are things that you just have to deal with, and it's going to happen. You've got to deal with it the best you can.

Q. Some years ago here, you were asked if you ever felt intimidated on the golf course, and your reply was, not since you were 11 and in the Junior World championship -- has anything happened since Todd change that?

Q. Going back to how your father used to find distractions so you could learn to deal with that, would he stand will with a camera or mobile there?
TIGER WOODS: We didn't have those things then. (Laughter).

Q. Could you get anybody to take pictures of you all the time?

Q. Doral obviously the leaderboard had a bunch of big names, wonder what that might have told you about the state of the PGA TOUR now heading into the first major and the likelihood of having big names at the top?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think we have all seen, I think most of the top guys are playing well this year. You know, when it comes to Vijay, Phil, Goose is starting to play better, Ernie is playing better, Jim is starting to turn it around a little bit and Adam is playing well; a lot of the guys are playing well this year. It's just that it doesn't happen the same weeks when we are all together. Guys are all over the world playing, and we're not always in the same fields playing, but generally guys have been playing pretty good this year.

Q. Smoltz and Francoeur wanted me to ask you about you taking batting practice --
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it was a simulated game. Smoltzy was pitching a simulated game.

Q. What was that like?
TIGER WOODS: It was fun. It was fun. It's one of those things that you've always -- I always wanted to do. My dad played baseball and I grew up playing baseball, but not to face probably a future Hall of Famer in Smoltz's and having to get up there and have him throw you all of his stuff and to make contact and drive one up with the middle a little bit, that was pretty cool.

Q. Did Jeff Francoeur play any better than he did the year before?
TIGER WOODS: Well, he's watching this -- no. And I'm not going to give any more shots to him. (Laughter).

Q. When you consider how this course is set up now, where would you rank it in terms of the course that you're most likely to win at, of the courses you play on a regular basis, where does that rank in terms of what you feel is best set up for you?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I feel pretty good. I've had some pretty good results here. Certain venues, if you look over my career, I've had some nice results, and certainly this is one of them.

Q. For a guy who has defeated as many people as you have, how much have you ever looked back on the guys you've beaten, their careers and how their lives have changed? Not to say you've let these guys lay to waste, but have you looked back on what you've done to some guys?
TIGER WOODS: Not necessarily, no. Mark's out here. I've played against him in the final I think my second U.S. Junior. He's out here. Most of the guys -- you had to make a decision, whether you wanted to do it, to work that hard and the lifestyle and being away from home and all of the things that you have to do in order to succeed at this sport; are you willing to pay the prices.
Some guys say no and that's fine, and they go on and they have had successful lives. So an article about Brad Zwetschke and what he's doing now in the ministry, and what Trip is doing in the financial world, guys have found their own niche and it doesn't have to be golf.

Q. I would like to clarify a point on the rough, please. Some guys have said that it helps more than it hurts because it keeps the ball from running off into the trees. What's your feeling on that? Does it help you or hurt you, generally speaking.
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it helps on tee shots, there's no doubt because it does slow the ball from going into the trees. But second shots, it does hurt you, because it's hard to control your distances on a golf course in which you have to be so precise, and if you're not with your distances, you're going to pay a pretty good price.
So, yes, it does help you off the tee, but certainly hinders you quite a bit going into the greens.

Q. Before Doral, I think a lot of people here even might have started to believe maybe you can win everything, but then you had a day when the putts didn't go in and the camera went off and one day at Muirfield, the weather; can you talk about how hard it is trying to be on top of your game and have everybody else not get ahead of you on the four major weeks a year?
TIGER WOODS: Well, you have to have all -- a lot of things come together in order to win a championship and more so major championships. One break where you hit a tree and it goes out of play and didn't come back in or it happens to catch the right slope or catches the right gust of winds; all of these little factors that come in just one time is the difference between winning and losing.
It really is hard to quantify that to people. Even as knowledgeable as Hank is, he's seen me play umpteen holes; even he can't always pick it up. Steve is the only one, you ask all of the players and the caddies, they are the only ones who really understand the difference between winning and losing, how fine that is.
That's what makes this game so great is that you have to find a way.

Q. Given what you said about the Grand Slam earlier this year, easily within reason, why those particular reasons, easily?
TIGER WOODS: Well, Tom, because I've done it before. I've won all four in a row. I think I'm the only guy who has done that; modern configuration.

Q. So going back to the history, what continues to drive you, is it the Grand Slam, is it the pursuit of perfection or the game itself, what continues to drive you?
TIGER WOODS: I love winning. I just love getting out there and mixing it up with the guys here, and they are trying to beat me and I'm trying to beat them; that's fun. (Smiling).

Q. Stanford will go for another national title tonight. Will you be watching and what message, if any, did you have for the team?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I hope they win. The guys didn't get it done and hopefully the women can.

Q. When you won the four in a row, it happened to start at the U.S. Open and you actually came here last year going for three in a row. Is what makes the calendar slam so difficult is that it has to go in order and it has to start here and if you goof, you can't start over, and is that maybe why no one has done it and can you just speak to that? Do you sense the pressure especially since there's been such a discussion about it this year, started by you.
TIGER WOODS: It's hard to say, because this major is so important to all of us. You know, it's such a special event. You always want to win this event. I've been lucky enough to have won it four times. But in order to win all on the calendar, you have to win here, yeah.
Hopefully I can get it done this year and move on.

Q. Jack had said in the middle during his pursuit, sometimes if he didn't win the Masters, he felt deflated; do you have to protect against that?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, you feel deflated because you lost, but the very next day, you're fired up about the U.S. Open.
I've talked to him about that, and it's been blown out of proportion just a touch, about that. Because are you frustrated that you lost; of course, you don't ever want to lose. I don't understand how you can like losing.
But you know, once this tournament is over, you start refocusing and getting your game ready for the next major, no one has been better at that than Jack in his career, 19 seconds and 18 wins, how good is that.
ROB JOHNSTON: Thank you very much for joining us, and we wish you the best of luck.

End of FastScripts

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