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Tiger Woods interview: Full text

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Tiger Woods

ON CNNI TV

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Tiger Woods
Mark O'Meara
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Retief Goosen

DUBAI, UAE (CNN) -- CNN World Sport Anchor Don Riddell interviewed Tiger Woods before the Dubai Desert Classic, which he went on to win. The following is a full transcript of the interview which aired on the Living Golf show.

Don: Tiger, welcome to the show and welcome back to Dubai. How does it feel to be back in the Middle East?

Tiger: It feels good, it feels good. It feels very much like Palm Springs but a lot bigger.

Don: Do they roll the red carpet out for you?

Tiger: It's pretty remarkable what they've done here. People are always nice but this region's incredible -- what Sheikh Mohammed's done, his vision he's had. It's just hard to believe. I have been here ... 2000 was the first time I was here and to see how much it has changed in that short span of time is absolutely remarkable.

Don: And everytime you step off the plane, there's still more buildings and more scaffolding -- you wonder when it's gonna stop?

Tiger: Ah without a doubt, without a doubt. When I first came here there were only two or three buildings you could see on the 18th hole. Now, it's a whole skyline. It's amazing, it really is. I mean the commerce that is coming up through here, it's hard to believe that it's changed so fast.

Don: Do you get a sense of how important golf is to this region, to this part of the world. Do you get a sense of that when you fly in?

Tiger: Yeah I do, and from being here enough times now and playing here, golf is certainly a major attraction to this region. Granted it's a great resort destination but having great golf courses sure help.

Don: What about this event in particular. Do you enjoy playing it?

Tiger: I do, I really do. I mean we get some of the best players in the world playing in this event. It's also nice to see all my buddies in Europe, haven't seen them in a little while so it's awfully nice.

Don: From the jet lag though maybe, it's a long way to fly from where you've come from?

Tiger: Not so bad for now for now -- later on tonight I'll be a little tired but that's why you work out, that's why you train as hard as you do, so that jet lag should only happen for a day or two.

Don: I'm sure you want to win in every tournament you play in but it would mean so much for them here, having got you here for you to win as well and on your third time out?

Tiger: Well that's my intention to win. We'll see what happens, a lot of work ahead of me, a great field so hopefully I can put all the piece together this week, because this is one of the greatest events in the world and obviously look at the list of the champions, some pretty impressive names on that list.

Don: Obviously coming off the back of the Buick, great start to your year but it was a strange way to win wasn't it? How did you feel about -- did you feel as though you had won the event?

Tiger: I didn't play that well on Sunday -- I sure didn't putt well. I had three three putts on Sunday and the greens weren't very smooth on Sunday but nobody played well on Sunday, because it was a little tougher. I probably did something really stupid on the first day -- I changed the shaft on my driver and didn't drive very good and went back to my old shaft and drove really good the next three days so it's just one of those things -- you live and learn. I felt like it was a good start to the year because I had taken six weeks off -- I didn't really do much over the six weeks. And to get off to a positive this year was a bonus.

Don: Six weeks off, that's not like the Tiger of old. What prompted you to take that much time off?

Tiger: I needed to, I needed to. Some things I needed to deal with off the golf course, I had some physical ailments, I played through a lot at the end of the year, so there were some nik nak things I had to heal. So a little rest, a little r&r, I got away from the game, I got refreshed and energized again.

Don: Did you pick up a club at all?

Tiger: I took 24 days off from the Target World Challenge until I started up again. I didn't even touch a club. Normally I would say I didn't hit a golf ball, usually I'm swinging in the room, working on things, doing stuff like that - I didn't even do that this time. I just wanted to stay away from that...

Don: You must have been getting itchy...

Tiger: Not for a while though because I was beat up. I played a lot at the end of the year and as I said I had a lot to deal with and so with all that said, I needed that break.

Don: Did you use that time to plan 2006. Have you got goals for this year?

Tiger: Yeah, I do.

Don: What are they?

Tiger: Win.

Don: Well we know that.. ha ha ha

Tiger: That's it.

Don: You don't have anything special you would like to achieve or is it just keep going in the way you have.

Tiger: In golf?

Don: Yeah.

Tiger: Win. Three letters.

Don: And how do you feel your form is at the moment?

Tiger: Getting better. Better at this time of year than it was last year. I have less things on the checklist that I have to go through to get ready for Augusta which is nice, so I'm ahead of the schedule for Augusta which is great and I hope I can have everything ready and organized for that.

Don: Are you prioritizing the majors again?

Tiger: Always. My golfing career revolves around those four events so hopefully I can peak at those four times of the year and get everything organized for those events.

Don: When you're preparing for a major, are you able to put Jack's 18 Major wins out of your mind or is that always there?

Tiger: No, it's something you have to put off because it takes a career. I mean it's something that's not going to happen this year, it's not something that's going to happen next year. I mean that takes a career. It took him 20 years to accomplish that, so you understand that it's going to take a long time and I understand that and so far I've done a pretty good job over my first ten years and hopefully over the rest of my career I can continue.

Don: You've been making some adjustments to your swing over the last 18 months or so, are they finished now or are you still working on ...

Tiger: You're never finished, ever, and golf is fluid. Golf is evolving, every day, every shot. You may hit one good one, but the next one may be a little bit off and you try to figure it out for the next one, so that's the great thing about golf - it is fluid and you have to be so dedicated and so disciplined to try to get things better.

Don: What do you think would have happened if you didn't make those changes? Do you think about that?

Tiger: No, because I had a game plan for the future and I've changed my swing twice now in my career - since I have been on tour and it's worked out for the best.

Don: And the Ryder Cup is this year of course and people have said in the past that it perhaps doesn't mean as much to the Americans and maybe to you as well. Is that fair. Do you agree with that?

Tiger: I don't agree with that. I mean it means a great deal to us. It's just that we haven't played as well. We certainly haven't putted as well, I mean if you look at the last one and what happened at Oakland Hills, we lost the 18th hole every time and a lot of that was either down to bad ball striking or bad putting and we just haven't made enough putts and when you get an event like that - any matchplay event - it comes down to putting. Are you going to hole the putts or not? This past year at the Robert Trent Jones club at the Presidents Cup, we as a team putted great, hence why as a team we won. And that's what it takes.

Don: Just tell me what it's like to be the world number one - to be a champion. Do you feel like a winner every time you wake up in the morning?

Tiger: I feel like my life is pretty special. To wake up, to have the life as I have, can't wait to go to work, and the things we are doing with the foundation. To have a beautiful great wife, you know my parents are doing great, so ... you don't ... you hope that one day your life might be like this and I'm very lucky to have it like this.

Don: I mean being Tiger Woods is a full time job. Do you ever get a chance to pinch yourself and think Jesus, this is amazing. I mean can you believe what is happening to you sometimes?

Tiger: I don't look at it that way. You know, it is what it is. I caused all of this by making some putts at the right time and hitting some good shots and sometimes I just don't understand the people and the fascination. I enjoy what I do. I enjoy competing, that's my love, I love to get out there and mix it up with the boys here and see what I've got, see if I can take them down and hopefully they don't take me down, that's the fun. That's the fun of competing and I... I just enjoy it.

Don: You know my wife thinks that one of the reasons that you came good after the 2004 year was that you got married and that helped you out. Is that fair and how much credit do you give to Mrs Woods?

Tiger: Ah without a doubt! Ever since she's moved in, in 2002, we've been a great team, inseparable team and I think a lot of the success that I've had is certainly due to her. There are so many things and distractions that go on in my life that I have to deal and things that the public doesn't know and doesn't see so... she has to help me with all of that and she's certainly brought balance to my life and I'm very lucky to have that.

Don: Now, earlier this week, your manager Mark Steinburg said that Tiger Woods is not a superhuman.

Tiger: No, no. Not at all.

Don: That's just shattered the illusion for everyone...

Tiger: No, no, no, no -- I'm just like you and me... we're all the same, we're all human.

Don: You are one of the most famous faces on the planet though. How does that feel? Is there anywhere you can go where you're left alone?

Tiger: Yeah, underwater! That's why I like diving. I don't look at myself that way. I look at myself as a competitor. I love to compete. This is my arena. It's just gained awareness because I made a couple of putts. I wake up every day and I can't wait to go to work, and that's a gift. Not too many people have the opportunity to feel that way.

Don: What's the best shot you've ever played?

Tiger: Probably the best "feeling" shot I've ever played in competition was at Hazeltine. I hit a snipe off the tee, I was in the left bunker and we were finishing up the second round on a Saturday because of a rain delay. The wind was howling at 30 miles per hour. My heels were up against the edge of the bunker -- I was closer to it than I would have liked. I had to hit a three iron up over the trees with a big draw. It was so good ... it went through the shaft, into your hands, through your arms and into the heart. It was one of those special shots and I'll never forget how good I felt when I hit that shot ... And I made the putt too!

Don: Many people remember the shot you played at the Masters last year, which was absolutely sensational!

Tiger: That involved a lot of luck. It needed skill to throw the ball up on the green, but there was a lot of luck in trying to read it. I was trying to get it inside 15 feet, I'm not trying to make it. The shot that I played at Hazeltine was eons better than that.

Don: You worked so hard at your game. How much of your success is down to the work, or natural talent?

Tiger: A bit of both. I was lucky and blessed that I had a little bit of talent to play the game but I always thought that I would rather be considered an overachiever. That was my goal as a kid. My Dad didn't quite understand it, but he let me go with it! I enjoyed the work. He didn't have to encourage me to work. I always wanted to work because I always wanted to perform at my best every time I competed. For me, the enjoyment is preparing and the rest is just a test. But I enjoy the preparation of it. I enjoy spending hours upon hours and hours working and preparing and getting ready. And when it's time to compete, let's roll.

Don: There isn't much spare time in the life of Tiger Woods to do other things, but I guess one thing you may move onto is golf course design. Have you thought about it?

Tiger: Certainly. There is no doubt about that. I would love to get into that. I wanted to wait a good while on tour before I ventured into that because I wanted to play around the world. I wanted to get a feel and a taste for links golf, tree-lined golf, the sand-belts of Australia. I wanted to play all around the world which I've done and I've played on every continent except Antartica ...

Don: Do you fancy going there?

Tiger: You know, there aren't too many courses down there! I've played all around the world and I had to do that in order to get an understanding of what a golf course should be like and how golf should be played. In the future, yes. I would love to get into it.

Don: Some people have a natural flair, and some don't. Even good players can't design courses ...

Tiger: There's no doubt about that. Hopefully I can make a golf course enjoyable for the public, but also make it challenging. And one that they want to come back and play again. That's the whole idea of designing courses, you want repeat customers. And hopefully I can do that.

Don: What's you prediction for this week? Do you get a good feeling when you go into a championship?

Tiger

If I'm prepared, then yes. And obviously I'm coming off a win last week, I feel pretty good about it. I'm going to do some work on my game this afternoon, but hopefully I'll be ready by tomorrow.

Don: Can I get a word on the lengthening of golf courses. It seems to me that it just plays into your hands.

Tiger: Well that's the way the game's evolving. If you look at the top players in the world -- the top 5 -- I'm short. Retief Goosen and I are the shortest ones. Everyone's over 6'2, 6'3, 6'4. And that's where the game's evolving. It's not about the short hitter anymore, it's about guys who are big and athletic. Wait until you get kids who are athletic, kids who aren't fat and out of shape, and the only sport they could play is golf. Wait until you get guys who could play any sport. They're gifted, and they decide to play golf. That's what the future holds. I look at my game right now, and I used to be one of the longest hitters, and I'm not anymore. The guys are getting taller, bigger, more athletic. They have more speed, and that's the way the game's evolving and so the courses have to get longer in order to adjust to the change of the players.

Plus, technology ... the ball is so much faster now, the shafts are lighter and the heads are hotter. The agronomy is faster, the fairways are cut shorter. With all these different conditions, you can't help but hit the ball further. I was talking to my buddy Mark O'Meara about it, and he's hitting it further now than he did in his prime. And he's 49 years old. So, the game has changed. The courses have top adapt.

Don: So there's no other way?

Tiger: Either that or make the fairways narrower and grow the rough up eight inches. If you really want to get the scores down you've got to make the greens hard and fast and tuck the pins. But you can't always rely on that, because of mother nature. If it rains at all, guys are going to tear it apart.

Even if we play major championships, where the greens are soft -- like at Augusta: they're as hard as rocks on the practice grounds, but if it rains at all (which it has in recent years) then we'll make birdies in bunches. That's what it amounts to. If they're hard and fast then you can't get the ball close. But it doesn't always work out that way.

Don: How has your friendship with Mark O'Meara helped?

Tiger: Without a doubt. Marko -- or Mo as often call him -- is like a big brother I never had. He was the one who took me under his wing. He didn't have to do it, but he did. The age discrepancy between us is 19 years, but we're so similar. And it's fun. We have the greatest time together. We fish, we ski, we play golf , we do everything together. He's like my big brother. And not only that, I love him dearly. He's been there and hopefully I've been there for him as well.

Don: And has he taught you that it's not all about golf?

Tiger: It's never about 'all golf'. Golf is what I do, it's not who I am. I don't ever want to be defined as a golfer. I want to be defined by my character as a person. Marko is more instrumental in trying to get my life more balanced with hobbies.

I got worn out in my first year on tour, because I'd never played that much golf. You've got to have hobbies and distractions. You've got to get away from the game. We go fishing all the time, he got me into that. We go snow-skiing, he got me into that. I love spear fishing ... he doesn't do that but I'm trying to get him into that so hopefully one day I can do that for him.

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