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U.S. OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP MEDIA DAY
May 4, 2009
RAND JERRIS: Pleasure to welcome by telephone our nine-time USGA National Champion. He won our Junior Amateur Championship in 1991, 1992, and 1993 and followed that with victories in the U.S. Amateur in 1994, 1995 and 1996, and he is a three-time United States Open Champion having won in 2000, 2002 and 2008. It's a pleasure to welcome Tiger this morning, and we thank him for joining us on the telephone.
Tiger, thank you for joining us this morning. You are of course the defending champion, having won a very memorable championship last year at Torrey Pines. In a way you're also a double-defender having won here at Bethpage in 2002, and this being the first time we return to Bethpage. Maybe you can take us back a little bit to 2002, your memories of Bethpage, the crowds and the golf course that week.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, actually the crowds were amazing. I think that atmosphere I don't think we have ever seen, obviously the state of our country, 9/11 happened, and everyone from that city came out and supported and wanted some type of relief.
It was exciting not just for the fans but for the players, just an incredible atmosphere and on top of that, the golf course was extremely difficult. It was bigger than we probably would have thought. It was a pretty big ballpark.
It was pretty dry, and then it rained, and then it dried out for the weekend, but it was a tremendous test.
Q. You've won a couple U.S. Opens opponent public venues. Your thoughts on your background playing in public courses and just what you think about public golf generally.
TIGER WOODS: I grew up on public golf courses, so for me, they were a vehicle for me to be able to play golf, and played all throughout southern California. Grew up on a military base, I guess that's semi-public. But still, I played a bunch of junior golf tournaments with the California Junior Golf Association, a bunch of tournaments on public golf courses, and that's basically where I did a lot of my playing. Just so happened that I won a couple of U.S. Opens on them.
Q. What about the crowd here, they are loud; do you welcome it? How do you approach that aspect, because the people are really into the game here.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it was a great atmosphere when we played in 2002. The fans were truly into it. I think everyone was having a great time. If you made a putt, people went crazy. It was ton to play in front of that, because it's always fun to play in front of people who appreciate shots and are excited that the guys are playing well.
Actually back then, I think everyone was excited just to have players playing. It gave everyone a relief and a distraction from what was going on in the city.
Q. You've spoken before about how physically demanding Bethpage is; can you talk a little more about that?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it just a long golf course. It was long then. It wouldn't be long if we played the same yardage, obviously but they have changed it since then. They have added length. When we played, the rough was extremely high. You had to drive it straight.
The greens were bigger than what we thought going into the week, or at least I thought they would be, but just a tremendous golf course. It played long. It was fair. A couple of holes were kind of questionable, maybe the forced carry, 10 and 12, but I think they have addressed that.
But other than that, I think the golf course played extremely fair. It was right in front of you and come and get it.
Q. With a couple of near misses at the Masters and Quail Hollow, what's the state of your game right now, and what do you have to do to get it ready for Bethpage and what do you hope to get out of THE PLAYERS Championship this week?
TIGER WOODS: Hopefully get a win this week, that would be nice. No, I have a few things to work on the next few days. I didn't quite hit the ball that well yesterday, but I hit it well on Saturday afternoon. The back nine, I just need to do that a little bit more consistently.
But I've got a couple of days to work on it, that will be nice, and hopefully have it all sorted out come Thursday.
Q. You've played courses throughout the entire country. How would you compare Bethpage Black to the other courses in terms of difficulty?
TIGER WOODS: Well, Bethpage Black, if it was set up the way we played the Open every day, I don't think anybody would play golf anymore. It's brutal, the way we play it. I'm sure the rough is not quite as high and the greens are not quite as fast.
As an overall golf course, I think it's just a fantastic golf course, and especially since what it used to look like prior to the renovation. It's quite exquisite considering where it used to be and now where it is now.
Q. It's been seven years sense you played here obviously; talk about how your life has changed since then and how has being a father changed you?
TIGER WOODS: Life has come a long way. Back then, 2000 two, Elin and I just started dating basically. Now we're married with two kids. We've come a long way family-wise. I couldn't be happier than where I am right now, having the two kids is just unbelievable, how much fun we are all having, except the sleepless nights, that can be a little tough at times but other than that, it's just been incredible.
Q. The last time the Open was played here, they did not have the graduated rough concept and they have it this time around; how will it change the way the course is played?
TIGER WOODS: In 2002, if you hit the ball in the rough, majority of the time, you could not get to the green. You had to lay up and try and make par with the wedge game.
The graduated rough, I'm sure you could get some balls to the green, but may not get all the balls to the green. The USGA does tend to rake the rough a little bit and they rake it into you, which means the ball will settle down into the grass a little bit, and you are playing against the grain.
Yeah, is it cut down? Yeah, it is graduated, but then again, some places it can be quite brutal.
Q. I know you did not make the trip to Augusta National before Masters week, you knew the course so well going into this year. Having played Bethpage before, do you anticipate coming here prior to the U.S. Open for some prep work, and if so, when?
TIGER WOODS: As far as that, I don't know when I'm going to go up there, but I will go up there prior to the Open, or the Open week. I need to check it out, because they have obviously made some changes since 2002. I just want to get a better idea for some of the changes.
Q. Now that it's almost a year later how do you look back on last year's incredible open?
TIGER WOODS: It seems like so long ago. A lot has transpired since then. I haven't played a lot of golf, but a lot has changed in my life, and it was just a pretty incredible week. To sit back and think about it; how everything kind of fell into place, things that I had to deal with for the week, and somehow came out on top. But it was a pretty magical week.
Q. You've been experimenting with some different driver shafts; can you explain where you are in the process of trying to find the right mix for your driver and how important that's going to be as you start your preparation coming here to Bethpage?
TIGER WOODS: I think I'm going to stick with my same shaft, my old shaft.
The other shaft did not quite work out for me. Wasn't what I was looking for. Felt good in the practice round but in the tournament, I didn't quite have the same feel for it, so went back to my old driver on the weekend. Hit the ball nice; I wouldn't say great, but I hit it a little bit better. But still, this driver has done pretty well, and that's the one I'll continue working with and hopefully get my swing organized.
Q. How do you see the challenges differ between Bethpage and Shinnecock?
TIGER WOODS: Well, Shinnecock is much narrower. The greens are much more severe and certainly not as big. It's a different feel. The fairways are a little bit more sloped and pitched.
Bethpage is a little bit more wide open and flatter fairways. Greens are much bigger and have some movement to them but certainly much bigger.
Q. The USGA was telling us today that they believe bunkers are to be hazards; you guys are so good at getting out of them, but they are making efforts to make it deeper and softer. What are your thoughts on that?
TIGER WOODS: Well, stay out of them, pretty simple. Hit the ball well and stay out of those bunkers.
I understand they are trying to make it a little more difficult. Yeah, you know, with the bunker consistency and the guys that their technique is better, the wedges are better, I think the guys are certainly better at getting up-and-down than they were in the past.
If you get there, like what Augusta usually does, or usually do, they make the bunkers a little fluffy and a little more cakey and a little more harder to get out of where you can't spin the golf ball. Or you can do what Jack did at Muirfield and have those furrowed bunkers and you take the ability for the guys who spin the golf ball, and it becomes a different story.
Q. Given that you've already won an Open at Bethpage, how much do you think muscle memory here will help you next month?
TIGER WOODS: I don't know. That's one of the reasons why I was going to come up there and check it out prior to tournament week, just because I don't know how much it's changed. I don't know how much they have lengthened it, and whether they have done anything to the greens or if my book from 2002 is even good sore that, so going to have to check it out.
Q. When you're in your round and you're focused during the four playing days, but before that in the practice round, because this is a people's venue, do the fans ever say, 'Tiger, that putt goes to the left here'; do you ever hear the fans trying to give you some advice?
TIGER WOODS: They do that during the tournament. It doesn't just happen during the practice rounds. They yell that out there during the tournament, as well.
Q. As someone who liked to work out regularly and to run, have you had to alter what you can do post-surgery as far as running on concrete and working out and that sort of thing?
TIGER WOODS: My lifting is about the same. I just don't run the miles I used to. Just not allowed to do that yet. That will come in time.
Q. I wanted to ask you about what corporations you'll be working with and what does it mean for the key players in terms of corporate sponsorships and what your plans are working with them?
TIGER WOODS: Say that again? I don't quite understand your question.
Q. In the past some players have played practice rounds and such; I just wanted to ask just from a financial standpoint from key players, what does it mean working with the corporate sponsors and what your plans are for this particular Open?
TIGER WOODS: What do you mean by working with corporate sponsors during the Open? I'm sorry, I'm just having a hard time understanding your question.
Q. Correct me if I'm wrong, you played a practice round with AMEX in 2002, with some of the folks there, I just wanted to ask you what your plans are if there are any plans for this coming Open.
TIGER WOODS: No, as far as like I did with American Express, no, there's no practice round for that. Not this year, no.
Q. I just wanted to know how long David Feherty is going to be in the hospital after he called you a loser yesterday.
TIGER WOODS: He was just messing around. I totally understand where he was coming from. As I said, I wasn't even a first loser.
Q. And does anybody ever get on your nerves in that respect?
TIGER WOODS: Of course. But David and I are friends, and we have been friend for a very long time. So he was just trying to be funny like he always is, and I understand where he was coming from with that.
Q. Have you seen or felt the impact of the economy in your sport?
TIGER WOODS: No doubt. We have lost a few of our sponsors this year, and that's a shame. Obviously with the turn in the economy, it's going to be difficult to find sponsors now, so we certainly have felt it, I'm sure just like anybody. We are not immune to it.
Q. How does playing at a public course inspire other kids to play like you did as a kid?
TIGER WOODS: It gives them a chance to play and have courses that you can say, hey, I played it from here; you watch the U.S. Open, you see the touring pros playing from the same spot that they played from. I used to do that when I used to go watch the old Andy Williams tournament down in San Diego. And saw the guys that I followed that I played the golf course from not exactly the same spots, but I can say that I played the same golf course and truly relate to what they were playing.
Q. You just came off a rough week. How is the knee holding up? Is it 100% yet?
TIGER WOODS: No, I feel great. I've had no issues with it.
RAND JERRIS: We thank you very much for taking time out of your day to spend with us and we certain will I look forward to seeing you here in June.
TIGER WOODS: You got it. All right. Thank you.
End of FastScripts