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Easy Tiger!

Steve Hill joins the redoubtable Mr Woods to get the inside story on his long-running golfing series

It's a Monday morning in New York's Central Park - which actually features in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06 as a fantasy course - and I've been granted an exclusive audience with the great man himself. Exclusive that is apart from at least a dozen interested parties analysing every word, each ready to blow a metaphorical whistle should the quadruple-checked questions veer off topic. Furthermore, I've been instructed to remove my Puma top for fear of offending the Nike representatives. Luckily, I'm shod in the Swoosh, otherwise the interview may have had to take place barefoot.

Given the absurdly exacting build-up, it's a surprisingly low-key entrance from a sharp-dressed and unbranded Mr Woods, who ambles in unannounced, pours himself a glass of water, sits down and introduces himself as "Tiger" through unfeasibly white teeth.

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In the game he appears as a sullen latex-skinned robot in a pair of highwaisted grey slacks. In reality, with his outlandish hairstyle and laidback demeanour, he seems more surfer than golfer, liberally using the word "dude" and peppering the conversation with descriptions ranging from "pretty cool" to "really neat".

Woods has been the dominant face of golf for so long that it's easy to forget he's only 30, and thus comfortably within the videogameplaying demographic, something he
confirms by reeling off his earliest gaming memories.

"Oh, I've been a gamer all my life," he says. "I remember as a kid we played Atari 2600, then the 5200, then Nintendo and all that stuff. Back in the day it was Pong, then it became Frogger and then Dig Dug, Galaga, Donkey Kong, stuff like that."

SWEET SPOT
It's all a world away from the ultra realistic Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06, the latest incarnation of the game that Woods has lent his name to since 1999. Endorsing a game was an opportunity he readily accepted, although he says: "It felt awkward having my own game in the sense that I'm actually part of a game. I've always played games, but never ever envisioned myself being in a game."

In the game he most certainly is, having squeezed into the obligatory motion-capture suit. "It's pretty tight," says Tiger, "but at least it's not as tight as it used to be, and it's become more forgiving in the right spot..."

The efforts would appear to have been worth any discomfort, and Tiger is more than happy with the end result. "I'm especially impressed by the swing changes that I've made. You can tell the difference from the first time I did it. My swing's changed so much and you can actually see it in the videogame." Realistic though his virtual character may be, Tiger claims never to play as himself, citing that "it's just too weird". Eschewing the bespoke Woods, he prefers to use the game's character customisation feature. As he explains: "I create my own character. I always play as either one of two guys. One guy's really big and fat and round, and I try and get him as big as I can. The other guy is all buffed out with a big old afro."

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EASY TIGER
Although not particularly vocal on the golf course, Tiger has recorded some dialogue for the game. As he explains: "I was just saying things that I normally say to myself, I just had to say it louder. Which is different, because usually I just mumble it to myself and think nothing of it. But this is stuff that I actually had to get out, which was a little harder for me because I like being kind of sly and not really being heard."

Uniquely, the game features an option to 'trash talk' your opponents to put them off, something Tiger seems to be an advocate of. "With your buddies, that's all you do all the time. In tournament play, no-one ever does that anymore - but they used to back in the old days. The etiquette of the game has changed a lot now."

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