Tiger Woods is vying for his fifth green jacket at this week's Masters in Augusta, Ga. Tiger Woods feeling strong on eve of Masters

It's been 10 years since Tiger Woods won his first major as a professional golfer, blowing the field away at the 1997 Masters in Augusta, Ga. That was the beginning of an almost unprecedented run of major championships.

Now, fresh from a win at Doral in Florida, Woods is the favorite to collect his fifth green jacket.

Is he thinking that far ahead? No. Woods says he is just focused on putting the golf ball in the fairway. Here is what he had to say at Tuesday's press conference at Augusta National.

Q. Are you thinking about another Tiger Slam, having won the last two majors?

TIGER WOODS: No, I'm thinking about trying to place my ball around this golf course. That's about it.

Q. So the concept of putting another four in a row together is not on your mind yet?

TIGER WOODS: No, my whole preparation is getting the ball in play and putting the ball on the correct parts of the green and getting the speed of these things. I've played, what day is today -- Tuesday. I played Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and they have been three different speeds. So as usual around here, they usually change things a little bit. So just trying to get the adjustments and get ready for this week and that's it.

Q. With the course changes since 1997, is 18-under even possible around this place right now?

TIGER WOODS: I'd take it right now. (Laughter). 18, the way the golf course changed, you've got to play some serious golf. All of the par 5s then for me I could reach with irons, maybe a 3-wood on 8, but a good drive down 1, definitely an iron. Like 5, 7, 14, even 11, 17, I could hit wedges into the greens. Even 18 downwind a little bit. That's all changed.

You know, now we're back there a lot further and the golf course is a lot narrower rough. They have added trees, made this golf course not just a second-shot golf course but a first-shot course as well.

Q. When you do think about '97 here, what types of things come back to you, particularly on Thursday after you were 4-over on the front and made the turn and did what you did?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, Thursday was not the ideal start. Only thing I did right there is I made a nice putt on 9 for bogey. And I felt that was the first putt I actually hit well. Okay, fine, I finally hit one well. I hit a nice tee shot on 10 with the 2-iron and I'm thinking, well, maybe I can carry these two things to the back nine. And all of the sudden, I was trying to get back to even par for the day; two par 5s, maybe sprinkle in a couple here and there, even par wouldn't be too far behind the lead. All of a sudden, I got hot.

Q. Two parts. First of all, how is your wife feeling?

TIGER WOODS: She's doing great, yeah. (Smiling).

Q. The other part is, I'm sure you've addressed this, but how do you anticipate your life changing in the context of your career once you become a father, and what have other players said to you about what you can expect?

TIGER WOODS: Sleepless nights. Obviously our whole priority is obviously to raise our child. So that will be our No. 1 priority.

Q. Do you anticipate your drive to prepare for these type of weeks -- there's probably no way to know, but do you anticipate a scenario where it might not be as important as it is to you right now?

TIGER WOODS: As important, I don't know. But certainly it will be more difficult to try and prepare. Because obviously we're going to have a little one, and it's our responsibility to try and raise it as best we possibly can, and that's going to require a lot of energy and, I don't know, because I've never gone through it before. I don't know how my preparation is going to change or not, and my playing schedule is going to change or not; these are all things that are up in the air because I really don't know.

Q. I took a lot of abuse last year for asking you a dog question. But you went and got another dog, so I'm just trying to find out a little about the Labradoodle and what you named him.

TIGER WOODS: Okay. My wife went out and got another dog. (Laughter). I have mine already. She wanted her dog and I guess a Labradoodle is what she wanted. So we got him right after the PGA. Flew down there Sunday night to Houston, picked him up, and here we are.

Q. What's he like?

TIGER WOODS: He's pretty laid back. He's definitely not like a Border Collie, that's for sure. He doesn't want to run 20 miles a day.

Q. We've heard you talk frequently about what your dad meant to you. I wonder in terms of the type of person you are now, how much of that do you think is your mother's influence?

TIGER WOODS: My mom is probably more competitive than any father outwardly. She's certainly more abrasive about her emotions and she wears them on her sleeves. Dad was not like that. Dad was more icy and more cool. So when I'm out there on the golf course, I get a little fiery, I think that's Mom coming out. If I'm playing pretty cool and pretty level-headed, it's definitely Dad.

Q. Obviously last year when you were here it was a difficult time for you with your father's health. I know you obviously wanted to win that one for him quite badly; as you're back here this year, do you reflect back on that in any way and how much has the spirit of him or the memories of him come back to you?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, last year was a lot more difficult than I was letting on because I knew that was the last tournament he was ever going to watch me play. I just wanted to win one for his last time and didn't get it done and it hurt quite a bit. Probably one of the reasons why you saw the emotions so, I guess, so apparent at the British Open is because I wanted that to be when he was alive, just one last time, and I didn't get it done. But I learned from it quite a bit. I made a few mistakes out there that cost me the tournament and plus Phil played brilliantly on Sunday and was really tough to catch. But I had some opportunity to make putts on the back nine and I didn't get it done. Heading into this year, a totally different mind-set. I lost a father and then I'm going to become a father, so it's two different places in my life.

Q. It's orange. (Laughter). We know how particular you are in preparations for majors, but where are you now, and how is your putting?

TIGER WOODS: Putting feels good. I just have to get the speed of these a little bit better. Like I said, they have changed every day; they have got a little bit quicker and I'm sure they will get a little faster and come Thursday they will be really quick. Just the adjustments you have to make around this golf course, and, you know, whatever you do practice round-wise, come Thursday, they are always a little bit different; they just turn the vacuums on these greens and suck out all the moisture. It is what it is, and I feel good about my ball starting on-line and I just need to get the pace and I'll be all right.

Q. And you're satisfied with your preparations so far?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I've hit the ball pretty well the last couple weeks. My practice sessions last week at home and so far this week have been -- I'm getting better each day.

Q. A few weeks ago, the scholars up at Duke hosted a symposium to discuss the social impact of Tiger Woods. How does it feel to be so important that pinheads are now discussing your impact?

TIGER WOODS: They have nothing else to do, do they? (Laughter). First of all, I have no idea what they said, and second of all, I have no idea what they even talked about me. All I know is that I do what I do on the golf course, and that allows me to do, I think, some pretty neat things with my foundation for kids. So if it goes beyond that, I really don't know.

Q. A couple of questions. First of all, you've been such a dominant figure in this sport. Have you been following at all the exploits of another person who has just become very dominant, Michael Phelps, the swimmer? Talking about people who dominate sports, do you know about him and have you met him?

TIGER WOODS: Have I met him? No. I think we all follow -- anyone who is a sports fanatic, you are always going to be intrigued by other sportsmen and what they are able to accomplish. What he's done, truly remarkable. Not only is he winning, but he's also setting records, world records. So it's phenomenal to watch, and as a sports fan, I'm just as enthusiastic as everybody else to watch other people do it in other sports.

Q. Can I also ask you about looking ahead to this year as a whole, the majors. This is the only course that you play on a regular basis; do you look ahead at the other courses? Do these four majors set up nicely for you?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I've played three of the four. I still haven't played Oakmont yet. I didn't play it before the changes and I haven't played after the changes obviously. So that will be fresh for me. I played Carnoustie in '99 and I also played I think two Scottish Opens there as well. And played the U.S. Open there in Tulsa and also played THE TOUR Championship there in '96. So three of the four, I love all three venues. Just very curious to see how Oakmont is playing, we're going to play, what, the 8th hole, 900-yard par 3. (Laughter).

Q. You've answered all challenges from all rivals over the years, but in the last five years the competitive gap between you and Phil appears closest here than anywhere else; why?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think once you understand how to play the golf course, you start -- if you look at the course of the history of this event, you start seeing the same guys win this event multiple times. I think it's just understanding how to play it, where to miss it, shot selections. But once you figure it out, you see the same guys up there at the top of the board. Phil has been up there many a times, and once he won a few years ago, all of a sudden it gave him the confidence to do it again last year.

Q. Sort of a follow-up to that, Phil talked about how last year he enjoyed you putting the jacket on him rather than vice versa, and he has spoken about how much he savors playing against you when you are at your best. Curious to reverse that, how much you enjoy that head-to-head duel, or not even head-to-head, but when you guys are both on your game.

TIGER WOODS: It doesn't happen that often, where we're both playing well at the same time, the same week, the same event. It's one of the hard dynamics of the game of golf. But we've definitely gone at it here in this event, a couple of other events on the regular Tour schedule. But any time you get to go at it with any of the top players in a major championship and they are playing well, it's always fun.

Q. If I can follow that up briefly, fans would obviously savor you doing that here particularly. As a competitor, how much would that mean to you to go against him on that stage?

TIGER WOODS: It would always be fun because if we're both going at it, that means we've got a chance to win the tournament. If we're both in contention, which we've done before in the past, we've certainly had our fun coming down the stretch on the last nine holes.

Q. When you won for the first time here in '97, it kind of ignited a golf boom that introduced the sport to a lot of people who had not noticed the sport before; ten years later, are you surprised that there are not more minorities out here on the Tour, or is it still too early to kind of see that effect?

TIGER WOODS: Still way too early. I think it's -- probably the best way to describe it is, it's like a pyramid effect. The bigger the base you have, the better chance you have somebody get to the top, the peak of the pyramid. You've got to go through junior golf, you've got to go through amateur golf, the collegiate ranks, and then you go to the mini-tours, even some of the foreign tours. Then you get out here, get established and then you've got to make your way up the World Rankings from there. So there's a lot to it. The more players you have, they are introduced to the game at a younger age; you know, 15, 20 years from now, you'll probably see it.

Q. Have you noticed any encouraging signs here in the last few years?

TIGER WOODS: All of the clinics that I do around the country, yeah, these kids are younger, more athletic, bigger, stronger, faster. Some of the guys that I've seen are, you know, former baseball and football and basketball players. They are not just strictly golfers. They are athletic and coming from these different backgrounds and saying, "You know what, I like golf more." That was not the case when I was playing junior golf. Golf was looked down as a wussy sport and no one ever played it. Guys are starting to see it. It helps when you get celebrities out there like Jordan who everybody views as iconic. If he loves the game of golf, there's got to be something to it.

Q. Just back with regard to Phil a little bit, I don't recall you having gone through these similar situations, but with what happened to him at Winged Foot, kind of letting it slip through his hands there a bit under difficult circumstances, everybody kind of assumes that he's supposed to be a mental basket case since then. If you had gone through something like that yourself, would that be in your mind until the next major? How would you process that?

TIGER WOODS: I don't know. I guess you try and live and learn. You learn from your mistakes as best you can and you apply them to the very next event. Doesn't have to be the next major. Has to be the next event because obviously you went wrong and you have to apply it to the very next event you play in so it doesn't happen again.

Q. You talk a little about the greens here. It seems universally all greens are compared to Augusta greens. Do you think they are the toughest, or is it the nuances --

TIGER WOODS: Are they the toughest I've ever played? I haven't played Oakmont; everyone says Oakmont rivals this, but I haven't played there yet. This course, the amount of break you have to play and the creativity you have to use when you read putts, it's different from anything you ever have played. You may try and practice at home and you may try to do other things. But you get here, you just don't find slopes this speed. You try as best you can to get greens at home or putt on your kitchen floor or whatever it may be. But nothing really prepares you for a ball, especially when it's dry like this right now, how much the ball rolls out. You hit a good putt, oh, that's a good putt. You think it's going to be a foot or two past the hole and all of a sudden it rolls out to three, four, five feet; wait a minute. That happens quite a bit. And if you get a little wind out here that same putt can go six, seven, eight feet by; Augusta wind. That makes it so difficult and if you hit it in the wrong spots, it's an automatic 3-putt unless you make a 15- or 20-footer, because sometimes that's the best you can do.

Q. In the ten years since you've won here, there have been so many changes, not only here on the Tour, the technology, the money, the TV, a lot of it is brought on by you. Could you have ever envisioned that when you were starting? I know your dad talked about things like that happening, but could you have ever envisioned that? And as a guy who likes challenges, do you prefer that there are these changes, or would you just have been happy to leave things as they were?

TIGER WOODS: Well, would I have ever foreseen it happening? No. I would never have foreseen the changes that they made, not only in this event alone. I was joking about it the other week, when I played Davis in a playoff in '96 to win in Vegas, Davis was using a Persimmon driver. That's amazing how the game has changed in 11 years.
It just -- every driver was 43 and a half inches, steel was standard, wound balls. Now everything is 45 inches and plus. Heads have obviously grown gynormously. There is no wound ball out here anymore.
The game has certainly changed. If we played the same golf course now with the technology, the scores would be ridiculous, because you would have short irons into just about every par 5. Most of the holes, you could drive it with a wedge on most of the par 4 and the only defense it would have if the weather turned bad. If the weather was perfect for all four days, guys would have probably broken my record easily.

Q. Do you realize that you are responsible for most of these things as much as the technology -- most of that can be funneled back to your appearance on the Tour?

TIGER WOODS: I guess it's all my fault, huh. (Laughter).

Q. In '97, going back to the Masters, how did you hit the ball that week compared to maybe the two majors you won last year, and if you didn't, then how do you explain winning by 12 and doing what you did?

TIGER WOODS: Well, at the time I was percentage-wise a lot longer than the rest of the field. Now there are guys who are longer than me.

I think at the time maybe John Daly was a little bit longer than me, because that was about it. And I had a week that I was hitting it flat; I was hitting it hot; and I was able to fly it on top of a lot of the flat spots and get the ball scooting down the fairway. If you guys remember, 15 had those big speed slots on the right, those mounds. Well, I could carry those mounds and land it on the downside; I could carry the bunker on 2 and roll it down there and have 7- or 8-iron in. That's no longer the case anymore. I hit the ball far enough in the air to utilize some of the things that other guys were fighting, and I just had a hot week with the putter, as well. But the way I hit the golf ball in the last two major ares, you really cannot compare it because of the way the golf courses were set up.

Q. In what ways is Charles Howell different now than when you first met him, other than maybe putting on an extra pound or two?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, he's probably put on 1.5 pounds. (Laughter). Yeah, well, Chuck is -- when I think I first played with him was in the amateur in '96 at Pumpkin.
He's gotten a lot stronger and he understands how to play the game a lot more. The kid works hard. He really does work hard. That's one of the things that I truly admire about him; he's not only a great kid, but his work ethic, his dedication, his passion to try and improve, it's exciting to watch, and I think you're starting to see the fruition of that now. This year, end of last year and beginning of this year, he's starting to put it together.

Q. Do you think anyone out here on Tour can compare to what he's trying to do to win this tournament, obviously growing up down the road, obviously Larry Mize, but probably different from trying to win Nissan; this is a major.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, well, hopefully he does it a little better than I did it at Nissan.

Q. You mentioned other athletes who play golf. You've played with John Smoltz and Jeff Francoeur and Adam LaRoche a few weeks ago. Can you tell me what that's like for you?

TIGER WOODS: It was fun. Playing with those guys, you start realizing the power that they have. Jeff's a joke, how hard he hits it. Obviously we all know Smoltzy is probably a plus handicapper now, scratch to plus. His aspirations are, when he turns 50, he's looking to get out there. It's just fun to play with other athletes and, you know, we can relate to each other on certain levels, which is pretty exciting and their passion for the game of golf. Smoltzy is ridiculous on how much he loves the game of golf. Plus, you know, I'm sure he'll probably watch this press conference which is great, because he's my ATM. (Laughter).

Q. Tiger, we've talked about all of the changes on the course; other than being older and married and being an expectant father, what has changed most for you?

TIGER WOODS: Well, just trying to get to understand what I need to do, you know, with my career. When I was just getting started, didn't really know a lot of the guys out here. My life was totally different than it is now obviously with, you know, the family, the whole family situation; my father is gone and now I'm expecting a child myself.

My whole life has changed, and it's been a pretty dynamic change, the entire process the last ten years.

Q. It's known as the most sought-after ticket in sport to come to the Masters and I've been talking to people today who have come from all over the world just to be here for a practice day. You've got Jeev Milkha Singh and a group of golfers that are playing their very first Masters and you've been here a long time and you're a senior and veteran in that sense; how do you see the Masters as an event? Is it a major? Is it tradition? Is it Augusta? What is it to you?

TIGER WOODS: It's all of the above, until it's time to tee off. And then it's just place the ball down the left side of the fairway, give myself an angle, get away from the bunker, place it on the green side so I have an uphill putt and that's it. Before that, you soak it in, play the practice round, talk to all of the guys. Tonight we have the Champions Dinner and it's fun to hear the stories. But when it's time to play, it's time to play. You put all of that aside and go get the job done.

Transcripts provided by ASAP Sports.

April 4, 2007

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