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THE PRESIDENTS CUP MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 7, 2019
LAURA NEAL: The Presidents Cup 2019 is just about a month away and we are excited to return to Royal Melbourne Golf Course in Melbourne, Australia.
Tonight the final pieces of the puzzle come together as our U.S. Team captain, Tiger Woods, rounds out his team.
Tiger thanks for being with us tonight. Congratulations on your 82nd PGA TOUR record-tying win in Japan.
TIGER WOODS: Thank you.
LAURA NEAL: It's been evident you've embraced your captaincy about a year and a half ago, and I'm assuming this date and this decision has been circled on your calendar in red ink for quite some time. Can you just give us some insight as you approached this important moment?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it's an honor and a tremendous responsibility to be able to be captain and represent our country. Especially since we are going over seas and we are going to Australia, and a place in which we've only lost one time. Happened to be there and I happened to be on that team. We're excited with the core group of guys, the top eight guys who qualified, great dudes, and we want to round out that team and just have some good pairings because of the four picks, and we're going to have a pretty solid team going down there against the Internationals.
LAURA NEAL: Without further ado, let's get to it. Let's start with the first pick.
TIGER WOODS: My first pick will be Tony Finau. He is ranked 14th in the world right now. This will be his first Presidents Cup. He played in The Ryder Cup last year. So he's been around it, he's understood it, and what a great team guy and a pleasure and just an overall genuinely nice guy. Everyone on this team wants to play with Tony. He can play either format, which is great, so we look forward to having him part of this team.
No. 2 will be Patrick Reed. Patrick will be making his third Presidents Cup appearance, and he has an amazingly solid record in The Presidents Cup. He's played in The Ryder Cup, as well.
So this is a person that is as fiery as they come and he's bleeding red, white, and blue and he will do anything to get points for you, and that's what we want. We want points, and he's a great team guy in there because he knows that when he goes out on that golf course, he's going to give you absolutely everything he has, and that's admirable, and the guys are looking forward to embracing him and having him be a part of this team.
LAURA NEAL: We can't have a team event without Captain America. And No. 3?
TIGER WOODS: No. 3 is Gary Woodland. This will be Gary's first team event. And what he displayed this year at Pebble Beach in winning the U.S. Open, that was awfully special, and we've all known the talent that he has had, and he's just now figuring it out and putting it together, and we couldn't be -- he couldn't have a better, more competitive guy. We all know he's a jock that played basketball, and went with this golf thing, and it turned out all right. Again, another good dude that all the players wanted on the team.
LAURA NEAL: Last and certainly not least, rounding out the team?
TIGER WOODS: As captain, I'm going to choose Tiger Woods as the last player on the team. He's made, what, nine Cups and he's played in Australia twice in The Presidents Cup, so this will be his third appearance as a player, and I find it interesting talking in the third person.
It's going to be difficult, but also I have three amazing assistants with Fred, Strick and Zach, and that helps a lot, two guys that have won Presidents Cups and one will be a future captain along the line in the near future. Three great minds that will help 'me when I'm playing.
Right now with the format change, I just have to play the one match prior to singles, so a two-match minimum for every player in The Presidents Cup, and if I happen to play more, I have to play more.
But it's about me getting an understanding of the guys, get an understanding of the golf course, as well, and I want these guys to have a great team, but also I want to have this communication, open communication with them.
But also, I'm going to be getting ready as the same time, it's going to be a lot of work, but something I've been looking forward to for a long time. I've been vice captain in two Cups, so understanding it and seeing it, what those roles are is a little bizarre, and seeing it from a different side is really going to help.
LAURA NEAL: Congratulations for building out an incredibly strong team and making the team yourself, first playing captain in Presidents Cup history since Hale Irwin in 1994.
TIGER WOODS: '94, correct.
Q. Just a couple quick ones. How difficult was it to arrive at these four, and are you thinking about adding another vice captain?
TIGER WOODS: It was a difficult process. You know, the guys were playing here in the United States, they had Asian events to play and I wanted to see some form. It's so far away till we play, but having guys play a little bit, and hopefully play well and distinguish themselves, I'm being one of them.
I didn't make THE TOUR Championship, so for me, the ZoZo Championship was a big event, and it validated that I could go play and I thought I could help the team, and the guys did play well. Woods did play well, he was in the final group with me -- and guys that have been playing, it's been good to see.
Q. What have you told them about the course and what will you do to prepare those players before they arrive on site in regards to the subtleties of the course?
TIGER WOODS: Well, we know the golf course is quick and fast. It's very similar to a links course, but bentgreens, a little bit more like Augusta National. The bunkering is absolutely fantastic. The ball ends up in the middle. You're going to have to hit high bunker shots with a lot of spin, and the greens are always quick.
And we all know that when you're in Melbourne, it always blows. So you're always going to have wind. It's never a day where wind doesn't blow, so that's always been a challenge. We'll learn it quickly. We'll have three days to get ready and learn it. Guys can watch previous Cups, World Cups that were there or the old Heineken Championship that was there, composite, as well.
Yeah, it's as fantastic as it gets. The two times I've played down there, it's been hard and fast.
Q. As you were deciding on yourself, if there was a list of pros and cons, what were some of the cons, if any?
TIGER WOODS: Well, some of the cons would be how well I traveled overseas. I had not played yet in a tournament after my knee procedure, and then traveling to Japan and playing in a championship, how it would respond. It responded well and Bahamas was just, I guess, about a 40-minute flight from here, that's really a nothing trip on the body.
But the long haul to Australia is very much like the one to Japan, and seeing how my body felt and how I reacted in Japan and how I was able to play, it certainly gives me a lot of confidence that it will hold up over the long haul down to Australia.
Q. Firstly, can I just thank you for picking yourself. I guess with the PGA TOUR's wraparound calendar, the chance of us hosting the Presidents Cup in the next decade, there's a real fear here that this might be the last time we get to see you play live down under. Is that an accurate take on things or can you put our minds at rest?
TIGER WOODS: I don't know if it's the last time play down under. I can still play at The Open or some other event that's down there. There's always that chance. But let's just focus on us coming to Melbourne to play Royal Melbourne, and really enjoy that experience and that competition.
Going against Ernie and his team is no easy task, and the Aussie fanatics and the home crowd, they will be into it, and they will certainly be bipartisan, as it should be.
Q. As a captain, you have to be very outer-directed. As a player, you have to be more inner-directed. So what is the biggest challenge trying to balance those two things?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it's communication. It's communication with my vice captains. It's communication with my players, trying to get a beat on it and putting the players minds at ease, who they want to play with, when they want to play, what sessions, trying to figure out the practice schedule, rest time, workout times, treatment times, there's a lot to get ready for events.
Having that direct communication with these guys, and the texts or phone calls have been free flowing, any time, doesn't matter, just shoot me a text. I want that open line of communication.
There will be no stone unturned, and if you have an issue or a problem, let's talk about it. Let's figure it out. If you have any concerns. Like I have concerns about certain things that may come up, I'll call them and tell them what's up with this, do we need to do this, and it's been fantastic. Guys have been very open and the communication has been free flowing, which is fantastic.
Q. The two weeks in a row, for you personally, doesn't get a whole lot bigger than your own event, trying to manage all that, playing, and then heading all the way to Australia. Can you just talk about sort of the challenge of that and knowing that last year was tough for you going to France after all you had been through the week before.
TIGER WOODS: Well, last year was a bit different because it was all the Playoff events and the read that we played in, and then hopping on a flight that night and going straight to Paris.
And also, I think the emotional stress and the emotional release of finally winning an event coming back from my back surgery, that took a toll on me a bit.
So this is a different -- a totally different animal. I'm playing the Hero World Challenge, not a TOUR event, even though we have World Ranking points. It's a very easy week. I do have some duties there that the night, but overall, it's a very easy week.
And then our flight down to Oz will be easy, just long.
Q. How do you temper the expectations around the United States Team, given you've only lost once in the history of the Cup, and if you look at the World Rankings, the U.S. Team on paper is a much stronger team?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, on paper, we certainly have the advantage in the World Rankings. Our players have earned that by playing well around the world and playing well in big events. When it comes right down to it, like I told the guys, when you start out on Thursday, it's 0-0. We have to go out and win this cup. Doesn't matter what the World Ranking is. You have to go and beat the other guys, and that's what we're going to try and do.
Q. When you were down here last year for your recon, you made it pretty clear then that you were very excited about the possibility of picking yourself as a player. Given you had surgery again this year, were there some anxious moments, and how much of a goal did you make it after your knee surgery that you were available to play down here?
TIGER WOODS: Because I didn't qualify for THE TOUR Championship I was able to have my knee procedure a week early, which gave me an extra week to get ready for ZoZo. It all worked out. The fact that I had to get through all the different PT exercises, scar tissue and get mobile, get ready, get my velocity back up again and recover. The flight time to Japan, it's not a short one; how was I going to recover and be ready to play, and everything came together and I was able to play well for that one week.
Q. You said you might only have to play once before Sunday. What will be the factors that determine if you play more than once?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, that's something I need to figure out with our guys, whether it's the other 11 players or my three vice captains. We need to figure out what is best, who is going to play the most, what sessions we're going to play in, where we are the strongest. Some players are stronger in certain sessions, and we need to figure that out. Now that the team has been rounded out, we have all 12 guys and now it's time for me and the vice captains to put our heads together and get our groupings together and try and figure out what -- who is going to be in what team and who is going to be ahead of each one and how they are going to work it with alternate-shot, fourball, what golf balls are these using, personalities, odds, evens, certain doglegs they are going be to feeling more comfortable on, who has more comfort hitting a little burner on certain holes. All that goes into it.
Now the detail work of playing golf is going to start to come to fruition.
LAURA NEAL: We're bringing in your captain's picks to join us. Patrick Reed can't join us, because he's overseas playing in a tournament and it's 3:00 in the morning there, but he's honored to get the pick from you and we have a quote:
PATRICK REED: For me personally, I live for events like Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup. I enjoy every moment of the competition and the fans and playing for our country. It means so much to me to be a part of this team. I'm going to do everything I can to help the U.S. bring home the Presidents Cup.
LAURA NEAL: Congratulations, Patrick, we'll see you soon.
We're pleased to be joined by Tony Finau and we have fellow South Florida resident right here with us, resident Gary Woodland. Thanks for being here, as well, and congratulations.
Tony, we'll start with you, how exciting was it to get the call from Tiger that you're officially on the team.
TIGER WOODS: Extremely pumped and excited to add my talent to the mix of guys and to play for Tiger. It was a goal of mine to start this season and I know I wanted to just have the opportunity to play and play for Tiger.
So I was very pleased to get that phone call. It's one that I'll remember forever and I'm excited, again, to join the team and honored, honored to get that call from Tiger.
LAURA NEAL: Gary, you were Tiger in the final round when he won that 82nd victory on TOUR, he not only picked himself but picked you, as well. How excited are you to head down under to be on his team?
GARY WOODLAND: I can't tell you how excited I am. I've been close to make a lot of teams and I have never made one. Like Tony said, it's been a goal at the start of every year to make that team.
And I got off to a great start to the year, had a little lull there in the middle. I needed the break after East Lake to get the game back in shape and I played great in Asia. Wish I would have played a little better when he ran away with it, but excited to make the team event. I miss the team atmosphere. I want to get in that locker room and see the guys. That's what I'm looking forward to, and on top of that, representing your country and you're playing for Tiger Woods, that's pretty special.
Q. I had a question about the guys that you had to pass up, who was maybe the toughest call to make?
TIGER WOODS: I think the toughest call to make was the closest to making the team is Rickie. That was a tough phone call. Rickie's a good friend of mine and I've known him for a long time. Kept it short and quick. No reason to make it a lengthy conversation. He's obviously going to be very disappointed by it. I've been on that side. I've been there when the captain didn't choose me, and I get it. It's not easy.
But Rickie is a hell of a player and he's going to start winning tournaments here. He's fresh off of his new wedding his bride and honeymoon and he'll be focused and he'll start winning tournaments.
Q. Just quickly, and I apologize if I missed this question that DiMeglio asked earlier. Are you thinking of asking another vice captain, now that you're going to be a playing captain? And then I had a quick one more Gary.
TIGER WOODS: As far as adding another vice captain, that's still on the table. We still have that option. It's nice having that option. The reason why it was originally done that way, talking to Freddie, Strick and Zach about it, I wanted it to be the core group of guys for me, just in case one of the players got hurt, and they happened to be -- they wanted to go and be a part of the team but they can't be a player; if they wanted to be a vice captain and still help out, that was certainly available, and we can still add another one. Although we can roll with just the four of us that we have right now.
Q. And Gary, as badly as you've wanted to play in these Cups, what's it been like watching all this time on TV and what are you expecting when you get there and actually get to swing a club and all that stuff?
GARY WOODLAND: Yeah, it's been hard. I've been close. I've had the phone call before that I didn't make the team, and that's tough. But to come out and get off to the start that I had this year, I was excited to make the team, and it was a big letdown that I didn't make it on my own.
To get that phone call was something I'll never forget. It was pretty special and something I'm looking forward to getting down there and helping the team. Whether that's playing five times or whether it's playing two times, whatever it is. Making sure that my teammates, I'm doing everything that I can to make sure everybody is ready to go.
But there will definitely be some extra deep breaths on the first tee that first time I tee it up, and I'll be excited and ready to go for it.
Q. I just wanted to ask you if you could just walk us through the process of speaking with your assistants, especially in terms of yourself as a pick. Was it one of these, "okay, I'm in, who are the other three," or was it, "I'm thinking about this, what do you guys think"?
TIGER WOODS: As far as concerning me as a player, Freddie, Zach and Strick -- they said, "You're on the team, you're playing."
I said, "Hold on, slow your roll. I'm coming off of knee surgery. I don't know how it's going to be. Let me have Japan to test it and feel it and figure it out."
Freddie was pretty ardent, "You're on the team. Quite being stupid."
I said, "No, hold on. I haven't swung a club yet. Let me rehab this knee and get it going. Give me Japan and I'll get back to you." Well, I got back to him after Japan.
LAURA NEAL: Tiger, I'm sure you watched with interest last night's announcement with Ernie, can you talk a little about what you're facing up against the International Team and the roster he's put together?
TIGER WOODS: Ernie, he has a good team. Don't forget, they have, their home soil. It's an away game for us. It's a home game for them. More importantly, the crowds will be an influence, and as we know from being in Australia, they will show some serious support for the Aussies that are on the team and all the other guys who are representing the international colors, and they will not be cheering as loudly for us and that suits us.
Every other sport, the best thing about going over into their arena is silencing the crowd, and my boys are extremely competitive, they are fiery and I see them playing well in that type of environment. They love it.
LAURA NEAL: Gary, I know you're friends with Tiger, and now captain and playing alongside him, have you put any words in on what you want to play with in the first pairing?
GARY WOODLAND: We've had a lot of talks. I've only played one team event as a professional. I played the World Cup with Matt Kuchar, which we were fortunate enough to win in 2011. But I'll rely on captain and the vice captains and my teammates, and golf ball, a lot goes into, it personal alternates, like Tiger said. We have some of the top players in the world. I'll play with anybody. I'm excited to go on foreign soil. I think for my first type -- sometimes it's easier when you don't have to worry about tickets and literally it's just the team and the guys and you can block everything else out and just get to the golf. I'm really looking forward to going down.
Q. To be on a team with Tiger Woods as captain and teammate, given we all know his record and what he's done over his career, how exciting is it for both you guys to be on a team with Tiger?
TONY FINAU: I'll take that one, thanks. Yeah, extremely exciting, and it's just cool to meet international teams just in general and represent your country. But with Tiger as the captain, most of us Americans know that we have this Presidents Cup circled in our minds and a team that we wanted to make.
So it's very satisfying to get the nod from Tiger, and just have this opportunity to be with him, be with the guys, and have an opportunity to win on foreign soil in a place where we last -- the only time we lost the Presidents Cup.
I'm very excited to get going with them and again, just very satisfied to get the nod from Tiger and have the opportunity to play with him. I think it's quite an epic thing for him to play well enough to select himself. You know, I think it was a no-brainer, but he proved to everybody that he deserves a pick with his play at ZoZo, and it's going to be an incredible Presidents Cup.
GARY WOODLAND: Yeah, I think for me personally, you're talking Tiger Woods is the most competitive person I know. Whether he's playing or he's being, you know, being captain, whichever part it is, he wants to win. That flows through the rest of the team. So we've got 12 guys going down there fired up, ready to go, and with one goal in mind, and that's to win.
Q. Where does it stand with Brooks at this time, and are you able to say like if there's a cutoff point as to when he has to give you an answer when you would pick somebody else?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I did have coffee with Brooksy this morning. We did talk for a while. All I can tell you is he's rehabbing and he's trying to get better, trying to get ready and let him focus on that. Just let him do that and put energy into that, and when you start playing golf, let me know. But your rehab comes first before golf, and just keep me abreast of what the process is, that's all.
Q. I was just going to ask, there's not many captains or no captain has ever had the luxury of having their own tournament the week before the Presidents Cup. Can you explain how you're going to use that more casual surroundings there to develop some of your fourball and some of your foursomes, and what is the No. 1 element you might be trying to improve on from the failed Ryder Cup Team performance?
TIGER WOODS: The only thing that I have control over at the Hero is the first round pairings. Put together the pairings the first day and that's about it. Other than that, we re-pair every single day and after that, it's a crapshoot and based on how you play.
Some of the guys may want to play with certain players. We'll talk about that. They can use that. More than anything, I want them to use that as a tournament to get sharp, knock the rust off and be ready to go to Oz and be ready to bring home a Cup.
Q. Following up on The Ryder Cup, was there a team element that you want to enhance during that week?
TIGER WOODS: A team element? Well, we have had a lot of meetings. There are a few functions that we have to attend. We all will be there, and so maybe like usual, we'll probably separate ourselves a little bit and we can talk about certain things. But we'll be at different functions and doing different things, but we'll have our time, especially on the training tables, pre- and post-round, where we can start opening up some direct dialogue about what we need to do in Oz and who wants to play with who, what ball they use and all that stuff and to figure all that out.
Q. Can you say how many guys you called with bad news, and secondly, kind of along those lines, did you talk to any of them and mention if Brooks can't play, that you still might be in play, type thing?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, probably made five calls. I never disclosed anything about Brooks or anything of that nature. As of right now, this is the team. It's a tough decision to make, and some have to be left off the team. Unfortunately those were the ones -- but right now we're just waiting on Brooks rehab and playing back to golf and when he'll be ready. That's open-ended and we'll cross that bridge when we cross it.
Q. Is there any type of a cutoff date where he has to say yay or nay?
TIGER WOODS: No. Technically, we can replace a player that's part of the Top-12 Wednesday morning of tournament week. But obviously we'll do something a little bit before then (chuckling).
Q. Tiger, you talked earlier about the process for picking the pairings. Have you given any consideration yet to who you specifically might play with?
TIGER WOODS: I have, yes. And I've run through that. I've run true with my vice captains and some of the guys on the team.
Q. You don't want to elaborate on who that might be?
TIGER WOODS: It's one of the other 11 players has hey good chance, except for Sunday.
Q. And are you likely to pair those who have played Royal Melbourne previously with those who haven't, or would you put together two guys who haven't seen the course previously?
TIGER WOODS: I don't know. We'll see. We have three days. When we get there on Monday, guys will probably stretch their lags after being on a long flight, want to move around after being in a cabin for 19, 20 hours. They want to get out and stretch their legs and look at the golf course. Let them get a feel for it, and then as Wednesday comes along, we'll get more finalized on what we need to do and who plays with who, and from there, it's up to myself and my vice captains when we start pairing up players, and that's the tough part about it. Sitting next to Fred when he gets all fired up doing that stuff, it is -- it is one of the greatest experiences I've ever had. Fred is the best at it, and it's going to be fun having him there running through it. I can't wait to hear him.
LAURA NEAL: Fantastic. I started by saying the final puzzle pieces would come together. I would say they are very exciting pieces of the puzzle. Congratulations tone on the phone. Gary thank you so much for making the he tort hoverboard tear and congrats to Patrick overseas. Tiger, great team you've put together. We can't wait to see what happens in about a month down under.
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