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July 30, 2014
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: We'd like to welcome back the defending champion of the Bridgestone Invitational, Tiger Woods, eight‑time champion here at Firestone Country Club. If we could just start with opening comments about coming back to Firestone and your third event since coming back from surgery.
TIGER WOODS: I'm excited to be back. I've had some pretty good memories here. I've had some pretty good rounds and certainly some great moments on this property. Any time I come back here, it's always a good solid feeling, and I'm looking forward to this week.
Q. Welcome back to Akron.
TIGER WOODS: Thank you.
Q. You've always raved about the golf course itself, so I wanted to get your reaction to something that was written in Sports Illustrated a few months ago. A writer said: Those World Golf Championships in Tucson and Akron are stuck in such uninspired venues. I'd move them to places that are more dynamic. What's your take on that?
TIGER WOODS: I like this place. The only thing that we haven't had here‑‑ Jack was fortunate enough to have played a Major here. It would be nice if I could play a Major here.
I've had my share of success on venues that we've played Tour events on, whether it's Torrey or Pebble. This would be nice for me.
Q. Tiger, how challenging is it for you to be the father you want to be, the golfer you expect to be, and as your kids get older, do those two goals become less compatible?
TIGER WOODS: No. No, they're‑‑ the most important thing is being the father. That's the responsibility of a parent. You make that decision to have kids and bring them into the world, and that's my number one priority.
After that, then it would be my game. But my kids take precedent over anything.
Q. For example, last week when you are on vacation with them, ten years ago would you have been grinding more on the golf course in that week? Is that sort of the balance that you have to strike to achieve?
TIGER WOODS: I'd have been scuba diving a lot more. I take my breaks where I just get away from the game of golf.
Now instead of going out there and scuba diving or spear fishing, I go snorkeling just so that I can participate with the kids and do things that we all can do as a family and do it together.
I mean, that to me is so much more enjoyable than obviously what I used to do.
Q. Tiger, given your success here‑‑ obviously, everybody knows how well you've played this golf course. Is this maybe not the perfect litmus test, but certainly a proper one to see how your game is progressing?
TIGER WOODS: Not necessarily, because I've come into this event not playing great and I've come into this event playing great, but it's one of those golf courses I always feel comfortable.
The neat thing is there are certain venues, whether it's here or Torrey or Bay Hill, I somehow see the sights, I see the sight lines. Even though the golf course, like some of the courses like Torrey or Bay Hill have changed greens over the year, this place hasn't. I still feel comfortable seeing the sight lines and playing the venue.
But this golf course is just amazing. It's very forward. It's right in front of you. And there are some years where it is just impossible to hit these fairways. They're so hard and so fast. And other years, everything plugs, and it plays long, and you've got to make a bunch of birdies.
But I think that this venue‑‑ it goes to show you that you don't need elephant burial grounds out there to make a golf course fair, difficult, and enjoyable.
Q. Tiger, last year on the second round, you nearly shot a 59 here. What will it take this year to try to duplicate something like that, and what will it take to get the ninth win here at Bridgestone?
TIGER WOODS: First off, two shots less. That was a pretty nice day. I got off to a great start, had a nice little run there in the middle part of the round, and had a chance to shoot 59 with about three holes to go. I had my opportunities.
I made a hell of a par on the last hole. I putted from off the back edge of the green. So it was a nice way to basically get myself into the weekend. I really played well on the weekend as well.
To try and win the ninth this week is‑‑ there's no secret formula. It's just go out and play well. This golf course is right in front of you. There's no hidden secrets out here. You've just got to go out there and play well.
Q. How much have you practiced and worked out in the weight room?
TIGER WOODS: I've been on the golf course every day, except for the travel day. But other than that, I've been on the course every day.
Q. And do you feel any extra pressure these next two weeks knowing what you have to do to get into the FedExCup playoffs?
TIGER WOODS: Unfortunately, I've been in this situation before. Maybe three years ago, I believe, when the PGA was at Atlanta Athletic Club. I had my Achilles injury, and I didn't play all summer, and I was in a similar position coming into these last few weeks, having to play well to get myself into the playoffs.
At that time, I didn't. So hopefully, this go around I'll be a little bit better.
Q. Tiger, what have you felt you've needed to shore up or improve after two tournaments and six rounds? When you got back to practicing, is there anything you focused on or felt like you needed to get better at?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, everything. Everything needed to get a little bit better. Just got to get more efficient at what I'm doing.
My good shots are still really good. My bad shots need to be in positions where I know I should miss the golf ball instead of places where I have been missing it.
There's, obviously, short sides and fat sides and making sure I miss the ball on the correct side, depends on where the flag is. And that's something that I haven't done as consistently, as well as I'd like to.
Q. [Inaudible] course management has cropped up a little bit? Maybe the time away that you had being a factor there?
TIGER WOODS: I didn't really play a lot. When I went into Congressional, I'd only played a couple of rounds. I'd just gotten the okay to go ahead and do that.
Since I was given the okay, I thought I could go ahead and push and play in a tournament, which I did. Unfortunately, I didn't do very well.
From there, I started to ramp up my playing and obviously my practicing. I just need to keep progressing. This is only my third tournament back from a back surgery. So that's something that I've had to try and keep in mind because I've been in these situations before with my previous surgeries. It takes a little bit of time.
Q. You mentioned, obviously, having been in this situation coming back and sort of playing your way into competitive form. Has this time been any more difficult than the previous situations? Secondly, what is maybe the one or two major differences, if there are any, between this versus any of those?
TIGER WOODS: Well, there's no comparison between a knee and a back. The knee is so much easier to deal with and rehab from than coming back from a back.
I've had Achilles injuries, obviously knee surgeries, but this thing is just way different. It's way more debilitating than I thought.
The people that I've talked to that have had the same procedure, how long it takes them to come back. And most of the people I talked to who have had the procedure have no idea how I'm even back here playing. They just can't understand that.
Also, again, when you have great protocols and you do everything perfectly, everything fell into place. I was able to get back. But now it's just continuing, and I still need to get much stronger than I am now, and I still need to get much more explosive than I am now. That's just time.
Q. Do you count yourself among those who's surprised you're already back playing?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, the goal was to get back for the British Open. The goal was to get back where I was playing golf the week before the British and then assess whether or not I could play in the British or not.
That was the goal once we saw what the problems were in my back, and then after the procedure was done, we all sat down and said, okay, that's a realistic timetable.
But then I've always healed fast. So diet's been perfect. The treatments and just having the soft tissue work every day. It's mundane. It's monotonous, but I had to do it if I wanted to get back and play again.
I wanted to give myself the best opportunity to play at the British Open, and I did, and I came back even sooner than that. I'm only six rounds into this.
Q. Tiger, being back in LeBron's hometown, do you have any thoughts on his return? Do you have any relationship with him at all?
TIGER WOODS: On who?
TIGER WOODS: Oh. You know, I was probably as surprised as anybody when that all went down. We were overseas when that all was happening, I believe. I was in, I believe, Switzerland at the time. We were all surprised.
But you could see the cards kind of falling into place, with the three of them not re‑signing, all opting out at the same time, and nobody was doing anything. Everyone's waiting for his decision.
As a player who plays an individual sport where there's no home affiliation, it's different. We don't play half our season at home. That's just not part of our sport. We're similar to tennis, where it's always on the go.
For him to have grown up here and obviously play here for his first seven years, I can see where that could be an attraction to come back. He already accomplished what he wanted to accomplish. He set out to win championships, and he did. Four straight final appearances is awfully impressive. He won two, but people forget he went to all four.
That, to me, is probably as admirable of the energy level to be able to do that. As well as playing in the Olympics, all the qualifiers, he really hasn't had much of a break. I can understand him coming back here and wanting to be at home and wanting to do it in front of the home fans.
Cleveland hasn't, unfortunately, won championships in a very long time, and it would be pretty huge if he was able to do it.
Q. Tiger, does it feel like a year since you walked away from here with the trophy?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah.
Q. No shorter, no longer?
TIGER WOODS: No, it's hard to elaborate on this one.
Q. Just coming here to this place, considering your amount of success here, do you instantly gain more confidence just coming here?
TIGER WOODS: Absolutely, yeah. As I said, there are certain golf courses, here, Torrey, Bay Hill, even Augusta, no matter what my form is going into that week or on those particular venues, I just somehow feel good.
It doesn't mean I'm going to play well, but I still have that feeling. Unfortunately, one year I didn't play very well here. I finished second to last. But other years I've finished first eight times. So that's actually a pretty good stat.
Q. Tiger, next week we're at Valhalla for the PGA. In 2000, you had that major victory. Going back to that Sunday, many were surprised that he was able to go shot for shot with you considering you were at a high point of your career. What impressed you about Bob on that day? And to follow up, are you kind of surprised that that wasn't a launching point for him, that he didn't have a better tour career?
TIGER WOODS: Was I surprised? At the time, I was going on all cylinders. That year, I was really playing well, and it was just a matter of staying out in front.
I had the lead going into Sunday, I had a one‑shot lead, and I didn't play the front nine as well as I liked. I had a couple of mistakes. He played well. And then we both got hot on the back nine.
It's not too often where you're tied for the lead of a major championship and you go out and shoot 31 on the back nine and lose. Unfortunately for Bob, that's what happened.
He played really well. There were a few opportunities‑‑ there were a couple of turning points, I think, on that back nine for me. I made a huge up and down on 11. Obviously, he made a big bomb, but I made a sweet up and down there. He stuffed in at 12, and I hit a shot up there that's about 15 feet, and I made that. That right there was probably a two‑, three‑shot swing on those two holes where I kept myself right in the tournament.
Then he missed a big putt at 15 that was‑‑ again, I made a huge putt to keep it at a one‑shot deficit, and then he misses. Then for some reason, I figured, hey, I've got a par 5 to play still that I can reach with an iron, and a good drive down 17, and I've got a wedge in my hand. Those are two really legit birdie opportunities. I can still force this into a playoff or win it outright.
That was my mindset. Bob made a hell of a two‑putt there at 18, and I made a nice little putt myself.
Q. How about his career moving forward?
TIGER WOODS: His career moving forward, people forget he had some back issues. I believe he had back surgery, and he went through a really rough period of time physically.
It happens. It happens in our sport more than people might think. You have your weeks. You have your years. But unfortunately, some have major injuries that take them right out of their careers.
Q. A couple questions. When you mentioned the word "debilitating" a minute ago as it relates to the back, were you talking about April, May, June, or even now?
TIGER WOODS: No, April, May, June. No, sorry. March, April, May was not fun.
Q. Right. There's been a lot of chatter on TV lately about a shorter backswing for you. Was that by design? Is it back related?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I can't turn that far.
TIGER WOODS: We've been trying to shorten it up over the years. I think a perfect way to do it is just have back surgery. All those geniuses out there, there you go.
Q. The other one I was going to ask, when you talk about the lack of practice rounds, whatever, and this reentry compared with other injuries, did you know what to expect out of yourself when you got to Congressional?
TIGER WOODS: No.
Q. Did you know what to expect when you got to The Open? And do you know now? If not, when do you know?
TIGER WOODS: I think once I got through Congressional, I knew what I could and couldn't do. As I said, that was a big turning point for me.
My comeback was to be able to play those two rounds before I headed over to The Open Championship. Going back over to The Open Championship, I knew exactly what I could and couldn't do.
Q. So that was more exciting than Congressional?
TIGER WOODS: Congressional was a high point. Even though I missed the cut miserably, but the fact I was back playing again after what I'd just been through was big for me.
Q. Were you surprised at the way you played at the British?
TIGER WOODS: Obviously, it wasn't what I wanted. I made my share of mistakes there. I had, I believe, one triple and two doubles and a couple of three‑putts in there. I made plenty of birdies and also missed a ton of opportunities. But I also just made some just careless mistakes.
Q. Tiger, obviously, the Ryder Cup is going to be a big subject here the next few weeks. If you were to talk to Watson‑‑ I don't think you have, right? ‑‑ yet to this point through The Open. How much might you use the fact that it's still two months away as a selling point? I mean, obviously, I know that points are over with in two weeks, but there's a long time between now and the matches begin. Is that at all something that you might want him to think about?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I would like to win these two events and not have to worry about anything. That's the plan. That's the mindset. That's the focus.
We'll see how it falls after these few weeks. Other than that, I really‑‑ I'm so far out of it right now that I need to play well to get myself there where I can get myself into the playoffs and ultimately, hopefully, play all four weeks.
Q. Tiger, it's very possible that I'm overanalyzing this, but your manner since you returned seems low key somehow by your standards. I was curious if it's serenity, or do you feel tired compared maybe to your own past?
TIGER WOODS: I'm exhausted. Sleepy, sleepy. No, I feel really good. I feel energetic. I feel good.
I don't know if it's‑‑ you might be reading a little more into it than that, but I feel good. It's so great to be back competing again. I know what I went through the end of last year, beginning of this year to try and play, and I didn't play very well. To be able to get back out here and do the things that I know I can do and want to do is pretty exciting.
Q. Does Jack's record seem as reachable a goal to you now as it did in 1997? And has its importance to you changed as you've gotten older?
TIGER WOODS: Its importance, no, but I'll tell you what, it's a hell of a lot closer now than I was in '97. These 14 weren't easy.
Yeah, that was‑‑ I've passed a lot of people on the way to get to this point. You look at the who's who and the history of the game and the fact there's only one person ahead of me, it's not too bad.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Tiger Woods, thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports