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TIGER WOODS FOUNDATION MEDIA CONFERENCE
February 20, 2009
GLENN GREENSPAN: I'd like to welcome everyone today to a teleconference with Tiger Woods. Tiger, if you don't mind, before we begin with questions, can you make an opening statement?
TIGER WOODS: Hey, guys. I hope everything is well with y'all. I'm really looking forward to getting back. Getting out there and competing again. It's been obviously a long time.
And everything's been great here on the home front. Charlie's doing fantastic. Elin's recovering, and everything couldn't be any better than it is at home.
So now's the time for me to get out there and start playing again.
GLENN GREENSPAN: Thank you, Tiger. Questions, please.
Q. Can you just talk about what your expectations are for the week, whether it's results oriented or play oriented?
TIGER WOODS: Well, nothing changes from every time I enter, it's to win. So that's my intent, to go in there and win, and nothing has ever changed.
Q. What are you expecting out of your game? There would be a thought that eight months without competition would lead to some rust?
TIGER WOODS: No, no, I'm as curious as you, too. Getting out there and competing again and feeling the adrenaline and feeling the rush of competing and playing again, all of that, I haven't done that in a awhile.
So, hopefully, I can get into the flow of the round very quickly. It helps that it is match play, and that each hole is basically an individual match. So it pays to get off to a quick start with match play, and hopefully that's what I can do.
Q. Why did you choose the match play to come back? It has a lot of vagaries; it's different from stroke play. Why this event to make your return back?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it's basically going to be one of two tournaments. It was either going to be the Accenture Match Play or Doral. And depends on how I was recovering as well as the birth of our child, the timing of that determined when I was going to play. It was basically going to be in one of those two tournaments.
As I started practicing getting ready in late December, early January, that was kind of my timetable was to be back for that, for one of those two events. And with Charlie coming on time, and my practice schedule has been very positive. I felt that this was the time to get back and play again.
Q. Do you have to make any changes to your swing? Will you have anything different about your swing than you did in June after the surgery, after the rehab, or are you basically swinging the same way you were pre-surgery?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I've been trying to make changes in my golf swing, and one of the great things about coming back was with the ACL, my bones aren't moving anymore. That's a very comforting feeling hitting a golf ball and not having your bones slide all over the place. One, it didn't feel good, and two it caused a lot of pain.
It's been very exciting to be able to play that way, and really looking forward to the season.
Q. I'm wondering if you were able to watch any TV last night and sort of see the reaction of players who found out that you're coming back, or if your cell phone kind of blew up with a bunch of text messages yesterday and what your reaction to that is?
TIGER WOODS: I purposely didn't watch a whole lot of TV last night on that. But, yeah, my phone was blowing up quite a bit.
It was actually, pretty funny. Most of our friends were either saying it's great to have you back or giving me a lot of grief. More than likely they were kind of tied together. So this was on the phone.
Q. I was wondering if you could tell us the meaning behind Charlie Axel's name?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, Charlie, well we thought it sounded good. We kind of like Charlie, and he just kind of fit that when he came out. We had a couple of names, and it just fit him. Then as far as the Axel, that's her brother's name, so wanted to make sure it stayed in the family.
Q. Was there a eureka moment in the last few weeks where you said on the range, okay, I'm now ready to come back?
TIGER WOODS: No, it was none of that. It was never that type of moment. More than anything, it was making sure that family was all good, with the birth of Charlie and making sure that Elin was okay, and Charlie was okay. Everything was safe and sound on the home front.
Well, then, after that was taken care of I could start focusing on playing again. And my mind wouldn't -- I wouldn't have played if our baby was delayed or E or Charlie were struggling. So everyone's happy and healthy on the home front, so it was time for me to get back.
Q. If things were different on the home front, if Elin wasn't pregnant and Charlie wasn't coming along, would you have been ready to come back earlier?
TIGER WOODS: Probably, yes.
Q. Buick Invitational, maybe?
TIGER WOODS: I don't know. I don't know that. That's all speculative.
Q. What did you miss while you were away? You said you didn't pay much attention. You didn't allow yourself to miss it initially. But as it went on, what did you find yourself missing?
TIGER WOODS: I missed competing. I just had to find competition in different ways. What I did was I really focused on my rehab, it was my own personal competition each and every day to get better, because I couldn't do it in the golfing arena anymore.
So I had to turn my competitive juices into a different area, and it was fun. I made my workouts more productive, I believe, and, here we are.
Q. In your time away from golf, did you find yourself liking something else more than you thought you would? I mean, did you learn to cook? Did you get better at video games? Did you find yourself doing something unexpected that surprised you?
TIGER WOODS: Certainly it's not sleep. I didn't get real good at that. You know, but I think enjoying being at home with the family and cherish that time. Work on different projects, whether it's my golf course design business or teaching Sam some new things.
I mean, that was probably more than anything the best thing in the world was actually to watch her grow up, and, you know, each and every day to have fun with that, and teach her different things, and I really enjoy that type of life, you know.
That's something my dad did all the time. Each and every day was an opportunity to teach. I feel the same way. I'm very lucky to have had that time with Sam. We're looking forward to also getting back and playing as well.
Q. I'm assuming you haven't seen the golf course. Does that create a few problems, the fact that you've never seen it before, and how will you get ready to play that golf course?
TIGER WOODS: Just like anybody. Make sure you really concentrate on your practice rounds. Making sure that, you know, you handle your business out there and take in as much as you possibly can. Take good notes, and just try to get an overall feel for the speed of it.
I don't know how the golf course is going to be playing, what kind of speed they'll have with that. I know generally in the match play terms I've played there in Tucson they've had pins that are pretty difficult. We'll see what they do on this golf course, whether this golf course will allow it or not.
Q. I don't know if it's too early, but have you seen similarities between Charlie and Sam?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, they look a lot alike, there's no doubt. Only difference is Charlie's sleeping a lot better than Sam did, which is really nice, actually.
Q. Could you put a number on how many, you know, you've been playing for a few weeks, how many rounds you've played or have you done more practicing?
TIGER WOODS: I'm sure I played every day. Doesn't mean I'm playing 18 holes every day, but I'm playing every day, playing holes. So there is a practice session, yes, in there. Each and every day. And also holes being played to make sure that the things that I practice are working on the golf course and in that environment. Everything's felt pretty good.
Q. Are you taking this one tournament at a time, or is Doral and Bay Hill also in your plans?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it's one of the frustrating things is that I really haven't been able to make up my schedule like I normally do. So I've got to take this tournament by tournament.
You know, I would like to play certain tournaments, yes. But I don't know how this thing's going to behave in a competitive environment and how the recovery is going to be day-to-day. So that's one of the things I'm looking forward to testing how that feels.
Q. I'm interested in if you have one, what is your biggest concern when you step on the course on Wednesday?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it's whether or not my game's sharp. It's one thing to do it in a practice environment at home against some buddies for a little bit of cash.
But it's a totally different deal to do it in a PGA TOUR event against the best players in the world. That's something that I'm looking forward to the challenge, and really excited about getting on out there and experiencing that excitement again.
Q. If it's called for, are you able to play 36 holes on Saturday and Sunday?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I'd like to have that problem, bud.
Q. As I'm sure you've noticed a lot has changed during the eight months you've been on the shelf. Have you taken time to reflect kind of what you represent to the game and the tour and the vitality and all of that? Obviously, I think there's going to be more on your back now, fairly or not, than ever before. Do you worry about that or does that just kind of take care of itself if you rack up the wins?
TIGER WOODS: The only thing I can control is, obviously, my play. We as a collective whole on the PGA TOUR have to do a better job of making sure that we certainly appreciate all the fans and sponsors for what they do for us and allowing us to have an opportunity to compete and play for a living.
In these environments and these times, I think that everyone's well aware of how important that is. And I think over the years we may have taken that for granted. But certainly now is a time that reality has certainly checked in.
We certainly appreciate everyone and their support for the PGA TOUR and what they've done for us. And I think that it is the next two or three years are going to be very vital in that.
Q. Kind of a philosophical thing, there is an old saying you don't appreciate what you've got until it's gone. I wonder if the preceding eight months have given you time to pause and take reflection on where you are kind of in the grand scheme of things, and what the game has been able to do for you?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I certainly miss being out there and competing as a competitor and as an athlete. That's why you train. That's why you log in all those hours of preparation is to test yourself out there. And I certainly missed that. Looking forward to getting back and experiencing all of that again.
Q. This is following up on Steve's question a little bit. One headline I read this morning said that it was applauding you as golf's personal stimulus package. I kind of wonder what is your take on that? A lot of private clubs are losing members, some are closing down, and you had been kind of pinpointed over the years as the guy who has increased interest in golf. Your take on the idea that you and even players yesterday, a lot of them said that having you back is great for the sport. Are you a stimulus package?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I don't know about that. But it is nice to have the players say nice things like that.
As far as the only thing I can control is what I do on the golf course. As far as off the golf course and whether the appeal or vitality of the tour are, as you said, the stimulus package, those are things that I feel are out of my hands. All I can do is really control what I do on the golf course.
Q. Going back to the question about Charlie. Axel obviously was in the family, but some people had speculated maybe Charlie was a connection to Charlie Sifford at all? Is there any sort of connection in that area or is it just a name that you like?
TIGER WOODS: Well, there is a slight connection, yes. There is no doubt. But it's not the 100% reason why we chose the name. I like the name. E liked it as well. And it also has a nice meaning on to it if you look at it from that perspective.
But we had a collection of names, and when he came out, you know, we had a collection of names on both sides. We didn't know if it was going to be a boy or a girl.
We sat there and thought about it for a little bit, and we both realized that Charlie just fits him, so we went with it.
Q. Have you decided on a sponsor for the bag yet?
TIGER WOODS: Yes, I will be carrying the AT&T bag. It's an extension of our preexisting relationship. They sponsor our tournament, our foundation, so it's been just a great partnership. Just continuing on that.
Q. Did you consult any other athletes during your rehab process? Bounce any ideas off anybody or just try to get some feed back?
TIGER WOODS: Oh, yeah, no doubt. I've talked to a lot of guys. A lot of guys have been hurt over the years to different degrees, though.
But, yeah, you just want to get a feel for what they did for their rehab. But, you know, each individual athlete is different, because they've had different injuries, different timetables and different sports.
A lot of the guys who have a shorter duration of life expectancy in their sport come back even when they're a little bit hurt. They have to come back.
In golf, because of the longevity of the sport, I can afford to take my time to make sure I was ready to come back. You know, if I was playing football or basketball or something like that, it would force you to come back a little bit earlier.
Q. What is the last time you were able to hit the ball completely pain free?
TIGER WOODS: Say that again, you were breaking up.
Q. I'm assuming you're virtually pain free. When is the last time you were able to go at the ball pain free?
TIGER WOODS: It's been years.
Q. My question has to deal with sponsorship. You ended your deal with General Motors recently. Could you see yourself return to the Buick open here in Michigan? I know it would mean playing three straight weeks this year. But could you see yourself come back this year and maybe future years as well?
TIGER WOODS: I plan to, but I don't know. That's all up in the air. My whole year is up in the air. Would I like to come back? Yes. But I don't know. That's one of the more frustrating things is that I have to take it tournament by tournament. I wish I could have more of a plan for the year, but I really don't.
Q. Is there anything you didn't miss about playing on the tour?
TIGER WOODS: Talking to you guys (laughing). No, I really miss the environment. Just being out there with the guys and competing. There really is nothing not to miss. It's such a great place to be out there and compete and do the things you love to do each and every day. I do miss that.
Q. During your absence, you had an opportunity with big news you coming back, but even bigger news for the entire country when you had a chance to go up to Washington and be part of an historic occasion. I'd like to hear from you firsthand what was that like for you? And can you even imagine how your dad would have felt that week?
TIGER WOODS: That was incredible to be able to go up there and be part of history. You know, this is a very important time in our country. To be a part of that and be part of the change and to be a part of something that is near and dear to my heart is the military, and to be able to speak about them and thank them and honor them.
You know, I was raised in a military family. My dad though he was retired, I grew up on the military golf course. So I was around it my entire life. So to have an opportunity to go up there and thank them personally, everyone around the world for their services, it meant everything to me.
My dad, I know, would have been proud. I would have loved to have gone off that stage and gotten a big bear hug. It would have been pretty cool, because things like that mean a lot to me.
Q. Match play certainly totally different than stroke play. You can conceivably have a bad day and still come out on top and advance. Did that weigh into your decision going to Accenture at all?
TIGER WOODS: No, it was just the timetable of playing. Then, obviously, the birth of our child. Making sure that everything was safe and secure on the homefront. I felt my game was good enough to go. It's just a matter of getting a few more rounds in.
Basically, it boiled down to Charlie and Elin, you know. When they gave me the okay, well, they -- I'm sorry. When Elin gave me the okay that she was good and Charlie was doing well, then I was ready to get back.
Q. I just wondered, I'm sure you've probably seen a couple of your bodies Cook and O'Meara talking the last couple of days about the word better. You're going to come back better than ever. I wonder if you subscribe to that at all because of the fact that you're pain free now? Obviously, you've got some questions, probably, in the coming weeks, but as you move on, do you feel like you'll be better than ever?
TIGER WOODS: I'm looking forward to that challenge of doing that. You know, I haven't been out there. Haven't really been able to test in a competitive environment yet. What I do at home, yeah, I do feel good. I'm able to hit all the shots. It's just a matter of getting out there and performing in a tournament and dealing with the pressures of a tournament. That is something that I haven't done in a while.
Q. You addressed a little bit missing the competition. I know what's always lit your fire is obviously standing there on Sunday with the trophy in your hand. How much do you burn to win again right now after being away for so long?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I was doing it in different ways. As I said early in the press conference I was talking about how my competitive juices, I had to turn that into my rehab, and each and every day to try to become better. That's the only way I could drown myself to the degree that I would on the golf course. I had to turn the energy into a different area.
It feels good. I'm really looking forward to getting back out there and turning that energy into a competitive environment on the golf course.
Q. I think it's safe to say that we on this side of the business welcome you back to the fray. In this town, Gilbert Arenas injured his knee a couple of years ago and quite frankly didn't follow all the doctor's orders and that kind of happens with top of the line athletes. Was it difficult for you to stay the course and not want to, you know, knowing your own body move quicker?
TIGER WOODS: Well, initially, yes, because I wanted improvement right away. The first few months anyone that's ever dealt with an ACL, it's just brutal. You lose all your muscle. You lose your flexibility. You lose all your endurance. It's just a terrible feeling.
But then building that up, it came back quickly. The thing is like I said earlier is that I'm very fortunate that I do play golf instead of say basketball like Gilbert does, when your longevity in your sport is certainly not there in basketball. We can conceivably play competitively on our tour into the early 50s like some of the guys have. You certainly can't do that in basketball.
And I can understand why other athletes in other sports push it and try to come back earlier or try to stay on the court or field as long as he they possibly can because you just don't know about your timetable when that window closes.
In golf it's different. We're very fortunate to have a non-impact sport, and it's a little easier on the body.
Q. Donald Trump last week purchased Lowes Island here in Virginia, and flat out said he's going after your tournament the AT&T national. But, of course, Congressional has that right now for a few more years. Is there any conceivable way you could see of leaving Congressional to go to one of Donald's courses nearby?
TIGER WOODS: You know, I haven't seen that quote, so it's hard to really talk about it. But I understand. Donald has always been very aggressive in business, and certainly he likes to make statements. But we're under contract with Congressional and we're very happy being there.
GLENN GREENSPAN: Thank you everybody.
TIGER WOODS: Thanks, guys. I'll see y'all next week in Tucson.
End of FastScripts