Tiger Woods tees up at Masters, for real and in videogame

RALEIGH, North Carolina (Reuters) - Even as he teed off on Thursday at the famed Masters tournament, Tiger Woods could rest assured he had plenty of practice behind him -- not only on the course but with his new videogame, too.

EA Sports' golf simulation game, "Tiger Woods PGA TOUR Golf 13," was unveiled this week for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 players. Augusta National golf course in Georgia where the Masters takes place is featured in the game, along with many others such as Bay Hill, TPC Sawgrass and St. Andrews.

For the first time, gamers will be able to play Woods during his entire career, starting as a toddler and moving through each stage of his life swinging a golf club. Players can experience key moments of his career in the "Tiger Legacy Challenge," including his wins at the Masters.

It's so realistic, in fact, Woods said he uses the videogame as preparation for big tournaments. He recently spoke with Reuters about the game, convergence of simulation and real golf and how it appeals to older players, as well as young.

Q: Many of today's golf videogames are very realistic. Could this one possibly improve someone's golf game in the real world?

A: "We have 62 million different shots which are possible in this new game, and because of the swing and play and the tempo and the power output, it is all controlled by you as the new remote. ... We know that it's very difficult in real life, but we're making it difficult and fun at the same time in the game. One of the neat things about it is that we're getting people who are older playing. I have guys at my club that play, and they're in their late â€ک50s to mid â€ک60s who are grandparents and are excited about playing with their grandkids because they never grew up with gaming. They don't understand how to use a remote (controller), but they do know how to play the game of golf.آ Now they're able play with their grandkids and to have that type of interaction and that special time with them, it just takes it to a whole new level."

Q: Is there any correlation between hand-eye coordination required in videogames and hand-eye coordination in golf?

A: "Absolutely. I think that people don't realize this, but most golfers are really good at table tennis and pool. And I think it's just because of the fact that our sport is so hand-eye based, and guys just have a good feel with their hands. And those two sports, table tennis and pool, correlate to what we do in golf whether it's reflexes with table tennis or pool, which is like putting to us."

Q: In "Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 13," players can play you as a kid. What impact do you think your golf videogame can have in getting kids interested in the real sport?

A: "I think it's going to be huge.آ It's a great way to introduce the game because we're not just using the PS3 or Xbox controller.آ These kids are now able to use the Kinect and actually physically move and swing from the very first time if they never played before. Or, they can refine their skills because of the swing plane and power of the game. To be able to have that same type of control that we have to have in real golf - and now you have in the game - is going to bring these kids that really haven't been part of the game of golf and get them excited about playing the game of golf."

Q: Do you ever play your videogame as preparation for real tournaments?

A: "Absolutely, I do. I play the Players quite a bit. I play Bay Hill, Augusta, St. Andrews, Firestone -- all the golf courses that we basically play. I'll play that course a lot leading up to an event."

Q: Do any of the younger pros do the same along with playing for fun?

A: "Absolutely. It's just a totally different generation, and they grew up being gamers. I was at my age, being 36, part of the first generation to actually take gaming up seriously because it had just started. But now these kids, that's all they do is play online, play against each other. We have guys that are on the road bringing their own PS3 or Xbox and they play. It's just a whole new world out there."

Q: Any advice for someone who's going to pick up "Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 13" and take on Augusta's 18th hole?

A: "It's long.آ It's very long, and what you don't realize is how much that second shot plays uphill.آ People think that it's a pretty simple shot.آ It is not a simple shot and it depends on how the wind is blowing for us. In real life, that hole is so difficult.آ It used to be a pretty simple hole.آ It used to be a hole where you could, on most days, think about a birdie. But now at 460 yards, the last hole uphill and it's facing north, so when we get a cold wind blowing there, it is a brutal hole.

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