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March 13, 2018

Tiger Woods

Orlando, Florida

JOHN BUSH: We'll get started. We would like to welcome Tiger Woods to the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard, making his first start here since 2013. Tiger, I hope you had a chance to familiarize yourself with the golf course this week.

TIGER WOODS: Actually, I haven't. I just got in today, I chipped and putted for a little bit. Worked on my short game and worked on the speed of these greens. From what I've been told the golf course is playing great, it's fast, rough is up and consistent, and they have the ability to get these greens to whatever speed they want. And so just right here on the chipping green just to be able to hear the chips make that hard skip and see it make that hard skip, it's going to be a good test this week.

JOHN BUSH: You've won eight times here in 17 previous starts. Talk a little bit about what this tournament means to you, I know some of your most memorable moments have happened over on that 18th green with Mr. Palmer.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, to be able to win this tournament and to have Arnold there and to shake his hand and for him to give me a big hug and a couple times he says, I called it, I knew you were going to make that putt. And it was little things like that, the last sharing jokes with him out there on the green and he and I laughing, those are moment that is unfortunately that I'll never have, but I have those memories.

JOHN BUSH: We'll get started with questions, please.

Q. Going back to the Hero you said you didn't really know what your expectations were as you progressed, you said you wanted to get some round under your belt, maybe be competitive. Now considering how well you played last week and you come here where have you won eight times, what are your expectations this week?
TIGER WOODS: Well, just keep getting better. Just keep making incremental improvements and I think I've don't that. Each and every week I've learned from what I've done and more importantly I'm learning my body. I'm learning how I can swing it and not swing it. My recovery, these are all things that are new. So I'm still learning, I'm getting a lot better at it, which is nice and I think that you're starting to see the fruits of that now of the little tweaks I've made and I'm excited about it.

Q. There were times in the past few years when chip and putting were about all that you were cleared to do. I know obviously that wasn't by design, but do you think in hindsight that that is part of why your short game has come back as strong as it has?
TIGER WOODS: Not at all.

Q. Really?
TIGER WOODS: No. Because I think that was one of the bigger misconceptions with my back. The least amount of pain I felt was hitting a driver. It was any time I bent over that far to hit a putt or chip that my back pain was off the charts. So I couldn't chip. I couldn't putt. So that was the hard part is that now, yeah, I can hit driver out there and get it somewhere in play and play from there, but your scoring is around the greens. I wasn't able to practice it. So that part was difficult. Now that I'm feeling better I'm able to dedicate some time to it again and not have the shooting pain down my leg or my foot not work anymore, all those things that I was struggling with for a couple years there.

Q. Curious, there's obviously an evolution to all this as far as your physical abilities and so forth, I was wondering maybe if you could speak to the mental aspect and obviously not knowing what to expect not knowing how your body was going to react and now knowing some things, do you go from an expectation or I guess from not knowing to an expectation of winning or at least thinking about winning?
TIGER WOODS: No, I would just have to say is just like what I keep saying, just enjoy this. You asked me -- if you would have asked me this at the Presidents Cup last year, didn't know. And so for me to go from not knowing whether or not I will ever be able to play the game again to, I might be able to play maybe at the TOUR level, actually I might be able to make a couple of cuts, well I might be able to possibly get myself into a mix, oh, I'm in the mix. And so there's a process and an evolution to it and it's been quick but still I have to say just to enjoy all of this, because I, at one point, that wasn't, man, that wasn't even a thought, I didn't ever even think about playing out here.

Q. Does it feel the same to be in the mix as it did the first time around?

Q. And can you practice as much as you would like these days or are you restricted?
TIGER WOODS: I'm probably more restricted than I used to be. I try and get my work in and get out of it. Staying there and lingering on the range for three, four hour sessions, that's just not happening anymore. I think that's also not only the function of my injuries and the surgeries I've had but also a function of just getting older as an athlete. So, yeah, the more important thing is my recovery for the next day. Get my work in, how I need to recover for the next day to be able to do it again and do it consecutive days, consecutive week, consecutive months. And to keep doing that. I've been able to find that balance of the.

Q. Along those lines, you always talked during your time away about missing the competition mostly. Specifically on last week, is it possible you missed it more than you realized? Did it take that to realize how much you missed it?
TIGER WOODS: I did miss it quite a bit and I wouldn't say that it took last week to remind me of that. You think that, yeah, it's very easy to get your self into the mix and feel that again, but it's three and a half days or three days of work to get to that point. And that's where I was looking at, yeah, once I get there, I'll be all right, but it's getting to that point, getting my game consistent and good enough where I can play myself in contention. Once I get there, I've done it enough times, I'll figure it out. But getting to that point's a different story.

Q. And then secondly, in terms of not competing, I can't imagine you've ever been to Augusta without golf clubs until the last two dinners you went to, correct?
TIGER WOODS: That's correct.

Q. What was that like being there and with no clubs?
TIGER WOODS: Frustrating. Very frustrating, because I love playing Augusta National. I love it. And I know how to play it. Sometimes I don't play it well, but I know how to play it. I just me being out there on those greens and hitting putts and being creative, it is, there's no other golf course like it in the world and there's no other golf tournament like it. It is literally, it's a players' heaven. And yeah, the last couple dinners have been frustrating in that aspect for sure. But none more so when Jack and I walked Arnold into the dinner. That was tough. Because we all knew.

Q. Speaking of Arnie what do you miss most about him not being with us? Do you ever find yourself wanting to pick up the phone and call him for some sort of advice?
TIGER WOODS: I used to do that. He was a friend. I've known -- I first met Arnold when I played here in the U.S. Junior when I was 15. And then I moved here in '96 and he invited me over here to play in his Monday shoot-out and I did and I didn't like it very much because he took my money. But I thoroughly enjoyed being around him, being with him and we had so many great times. None more so than last time I won here. We were over there, I'm cleaning out my locker, and he's over there having his ice tea thing and so he's just siting there and, hey, grab a seat. Absolutely, yes, sir. So we sat down, we just started to BS and have a great time together and I'm going to miss those times, for sure.

Q. Have you found yourself as you've grown older in any way trying to emulate anything he did?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, the way he hitched his pants up on the side like that, I just can't make it look cool.

Q. You've forge friendships out here with some of the younger players in recent years and was that a conscious effort and what's been kind of the benefit for you there?
TIGER WOODS: I think it just happened with my injuries. I was out and being part of the Ryder Cup team, being assistant captain, or vice captain, then getting to know the guys that were going to be on the team and working with them to try and figure out who would play best with who. And same thing with last year at the Presidents Cup. So that was a, it was an evolution that I didn't foresee happening because I thought of more, I thought I would be more of the player, but I wasn't, I wasn't able to play yet, so I got to know them on a totally different side and got to watch them play and then they would ask questions about what do you think of this, what do you think of that, how do you hit this, how do you hit that, where do you think I could improve. And it was an open dialog with a lot of these guys. They have all done well and it's fun to see.

Q. Jason Day talked about you two years ago when he won here as having an impact, texting with him and stuff like that. He's been through a lot since that win here and that season, have you kind of been there for him during that?
TIGER WOODS: He's had some tough times with his own health, his mom's, obviously what just happened with he and his family, he's had some really tough go's and it's tough to listen to him go through that and he's a friend of mine and I don't want any of those things to happen to him or his family. But the kid's tough, I mean he can handle a lot. I think he's shown how strong willed he is. He's really trying to fight and get back out here but also he understands there's a very important balance with family and knows how important it is to have them there a part of his life because he lost his father as well, so he and I can relate to that, we have talked about that numerous times.

Q. To what do you attribute your impressive club head speed off the driver after four back surgeries so quickly with this come back?
TIGER WOODS: Dude, if I knew I would tell you.

Q. Gym time?
TIGER WOODS: I don't know. It just -- it just happened. I used to swing it at what? With a 43 and a half inch steel shaft probably about 126 or so and I know this these shafts are much lighter than it was then, slightly longer, but still I don't know, because I went through a number of years where I just couldn't get speed. Now all of a sudden it's just happening. I think that -- we think amongst our, my inner circle is that I was living in so much pain I didn't know it and I was just going through that slide of just protecting, playing around it and I didn't know. I thought, oh, I hit that hard and it's like slow mo. But to me it felt hard. Now I don't feel like I'm swinging very hard, but it's producing some incredible speeds, which I'm not against.

Q. I think it was before I think you used the term, it's winning time and that was only two tournaments into your come back. Just wonder with the progression of the last couple weeks, particularly as close as you were on Sunday, if that's more applicable this week certainly given the fact you have won here eight times?
TIGER WOODS: Not just because I won here eight times doesn't mean I'm going to win this week automatically. I still got to do the work. I still got to go through the process of getting myself in position, but I understand this golf course, I've played it under so many different varying conditions, I've got to do some serious homework tomorrow though and really get to know and get the feel of how this golf course is playing this particular year, considering I haven't played here in five years and so I really need to do some good homework tomorrow, Joey and I have been texting a lot, talking little bit today about how the golf course is playing, and then we're going to do some work tomorrow.

Q. Did you, assuming you went kind of over your round on Sunday in your mind, I'm sure there were some moments that you look back on the most and thought, if I do that, maybe I'm winning?
TIGER WOODS: You know, I just wasn't sharp with my irons that particular day. And I knew it. I was warming up, I wasn't very sharp with them. And then not feeling sharp with them, I got to be a little more conservative firing into some of these flags. And I was, I gave myself a chance, if I was a little bit sharper it might have been a different story. But Paul went out there and put it on us, he shot 65 and put it on us. And he did it and the rest of us didn't.

Q. You seem to harbor at least a shred of hope the last couple years up to the last minute that you might be able to fashion something together at Augusta and maybe be able to play. Was that the case and then how eager are you to get back on that course feeling the way you do now with these young guys?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I was trying. If there was one tournament I could come back to, it would be that one. There's no other tournament like it. It has a deep place in my heart. From the time I was there as an amateur to my first win and to my other wins there as well, but I just love playing Augusta National. I was just hoping I could just get my back to hold on for four days. I don't need the practice rounds, I can just walk them and take a look at them and maybe chip and putt a little bit. But can it hold on for four days and there was no chance, no.

Q. How eager are you to get back on there now?
TIGER WOODS: Very eager, yes, very. I feel like I am physically able to do it again and it's going to be a lot of fun.

Q. You answered the question on Sunday after the round about your decision off the tee on 18. I'm just curious though the fact that at this point in your come back there's already maybe a little bit of second guessing about your game, do you take anything good out of that and then that's what the question is at this point already, I mean that so quickly it's turned into that as opposed to how do you feel or can you even play and now all of a sudden it's gone to hey, why didn't you hit more club off the tee or whatever the choice may have been?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I understand their point. That hole doesn't really fit my eye that well. I hit two 2-irons and two 3-woods there that week and two balls were in the right gallery. So I didn't have a whole lot going into that last hole. I figured if I hit the ball in the fairway, iron game, get it somewhere around pin high and a little bit left of the flag and let's bury a putt. That's what I tried to do. I didn't do it. But for people to look at it in that perspective, versus look at where I have come from in just a short span of time and how I battled to get to this point, I implore them to look at it more that way. That's how I'm looking at it because as I was alluding to earlier, I didn't really know if I could be here again and the fact that I'm here again, it's been a lot of hard work to get here.

Q. To that end, you really didn't need to hit a lot of drivers there, conceivably here you were will, obviously at Augusta, a lot more opportunities?

Q. And yet it seems you were hitting it pretty well when you needed to. I mean, how good do you feel about the club, how much work is there more to go?
TIGER WOODS: Well, yeah, I missed a couple fairways here and there, but I missed them on the sides I wanted to. I think there's maybe just one drive where I didn't miss it on the correct side, everyone was on the correct side. I think the only one I didn't hit it was over on what? 5. I hit it in the right bunker the first day, I think. But other than that I hit the ball on the correct sides. So that part is huge, because I'm able to play a round a golf and shape my misses correctly again. This week it's not single file going down the fairways like it was last week. This place is a little bit more wide open, it encourages one to be more aggressive off the tees, get it down there a little bit further, and it gives me more room. Quite frankly last week not a lot of guys were hitting driver, it was a very tight golf course and played under some very tricky conditions.

Q. Can you elaborate on if you're spending more time stretching before your round than earlier in your career and do you find yourself using the TOUR's player performance center more since your return?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, when I was younger I didn't have to stretch. I started initially lifting weights to get tighter because I was so loose, I was so flexible. I needed to get a little bit tighter. So that's why I started lifting and I felt so much better being a little bit tighter. But coming from where I was coming from, yeah, I've been using the van, the guys working on me a little bit to keep me loose and mobile, keep me warm because the car ride over here, get a little tight, I need to get warm, keep warm, keep moving and be ready to be explosive. So that's where the guys in the trailer are fantastic. They have seen me over the years, some of the guys have been working on me for 10, 15 years, so they have seen it.

Q. It looked like at Innisbrook a lot of shots you were really enjoying kind of the rehearsal and kind of preparing to play the shape of the shot. Is that something that has come back about at the pace you thought you would, the creativity and then also do you, are you looking forward to Augusta in part because it allows you to kind of be more creative?
TIGER WOODS: You know, I finally have gotten to the point where my back is good enough where I can let my hands tell me what to do. My hands tell me how to shape a golf shot. And I've built this golf swing that you see me out there swinging the golf club around, with my hands. My dad always used to say that that's the only thing we have direct contact with the club, so trust your hands. Playing baseball as a kid, you have to trust your hands, you trust your eyes, you trust your hands. So that's what I've done, I've trusted my hands again. My right arm and neck aren't shaking because my back's out, my nerve's out, and it's inflamed, I don't have those issues anymore. So I can trust my hands again. So, yeah, you see me creating shots and doing different things and, yeah, I'm trying to see what trajectory, what shape I want to do it and I'm letting these guys tell me what to do.

Q. Is that more fun way to play the game for you too?
TIGER WOODS: It is. I've gone back to a lot of stuff I used to do with my dad and how he first taught me how to play golf and when I sit -- after the round I told Rex after the round he asked, what were you thinking on the putt on 17 and I said, just putt to the picture. How do you teach a kid when he's so small and he doesn't understand an inch and a mile, well you take a look and you putt to that picture and that's what I did. I kept telling myself just putt to the picture, putt to the picture and I holed it.

THE MODERATOR: All right, Tiger Woods. Thank you, sir.

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