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April 9, 2019

Tiger Woods

Augusta, Georgia

THE MODERATOR: It's always a pleasure to welcome back to the interview room our four‑time Masters Champion, Mr.Tiger Woods. This is his 22nd Masters appearance.
Tiger, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us.
TIGER WOODS: Thank you. Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Seems like just 18 months ago, you had made a comment, that you weren't sure whether you could ever get your body back to the point of playing elite golf, and then 12 months later here, April of last year, you emphasized that this journey was a process and that you needed to be tournament‑tested; you needed to work on your swing and your conditioning and so forth. Well, five months after that, in that period of April through September, you played some brilliant golf. You took a great run at the British Open, a great run at the PGA and captured your 80th career victory at East Lake.
So my question is: On that historic walk down that fairway at East Lake last September, did that culminate this process? Is the process ongoing? How do you see it?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it's always ongoing, but for me to have gotten in the winner's circle after the years I've had, the past few years, I didn't understand, I didn't really know if I would ever get there again and lo and behold I got there again.
To me I'm still working on it. Still trying to get better. Still trying to win more events. But I think that winning at East Lake confirmed to me that I could still win again. You have to do it first in order to truly understand that you can do it, and after what I've been through, it was a great way to cap off the season.

Q. Just spinning off what Rob was saying, last year at this time, you were still in that process of seeing how it was going to go, the full year and whatnot and obviously you went on to that latter part of the year success.
In what ways are your expectations different this week at Augusta than last year when you were still feeling things out a little bit?
TIGER WOODS: Well as I was alluding to earlier is I feel like I can win. I've proven that I can do it and I put myself there with a chance to win the last two major championships of the year last year. I was right there and just needed to have a couple more things to go my way and not throw away a couple shots here and there, which I was able to do at East Lake.
I just feel like that I've improved a lot over the past 12, 14 months, but I've more than anything just proven to myself that I can play at this level again. I've worked my way back into one of the players that can win events.

Q. We heard you had a good day here when you came up last week. Could you just talk about what that means, if anything? Obviously the course changes considerably, even if it had not rained these last few days. Maybe from a confidence standpoint, to shoot a good number, does that matter much at all going forward?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it doesn't really matter, but it is something that I feel it's‑‑ I know that I can play this golf course. I've had some success here.
I just wanted to do a quick scouting trip and get a feel for how this golf course is going to be playing, especially see No. 5, see the changes to the green, well the entire hole, and see what they did to 18, as well, and was able to do that.
I played well on top of that. It's just amazing, over all the years I've been here, every time they make a change, it seems like it's been here for a hundred years. It just looks exactly like it's always been here, and No. 5 is no exception and 18 looks immaculate.

Q. Hard‑hitting journalism question here, but are the mock turtlenecks for real this week, and what all goes into that decision? Is it your idea or Nike's?
TIGER WOODS: I thought it was a pretty neat look back in the day (laughter) I was probably in a little better shape back in those days, but I had won events wearing the mock, and I just think that it's‑‑ I've always enjoyed wearing them, and you'll see it on Thursday.

Q. I think you know that if you go on a run this week, there will be an awful lot of excitement in the galleries. You've always generated a lot of excitement and I wonder, as your career has progressed and as your perspective has changed, how do you feel your relationship with the Patrons and the fans‑‑ and have you ever thought about the reaction that you create in people and how that makes you feel?
TIGER WOODS: What was the last part again?

Q. Just in terms of the way you make people feel because of the golf you play, and the excitement and the hysteria and how that makes you feel as you reflect on that.
TIGER WOODS: These are some of the most respected‑‑ respectful people that you'll ever play in front of. The people here‑‑ well, Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday are a little bit different than tournament days. But you see the same people; for me, I've been here 22 years, and you see the same people on 16, same people on 18, same people on No. 1 tee. It's fantastic to see, and they have all their badges from 50 years of being at the Masters.
This is unlike any other golf tournament, and my relationship with this event and the Patrons that have followed, not only myself but all the players here throughout the years, has been just special.
The golf course is special. The tournament does an incredible job of creating a special atmosphere, but it's also the Patrons and howyou can tell birdie roars and eagle roars. It's not like most Tour events, if you get a ball in the air, you're the man (laughter). We do have our names on the golf bag, so we are able to get the ball in the air, but this is different.
It's neat to hear. For me, I played in front of Jack when he made that run in '98, and it was just electric, and that's what this place does. And I've been a part of it throughout the back nine whether I've won or lost, but I've heard it. I've felt it, and it's exciting for me to be part of, and hopefully I can be part of it come Sunday night.

Q. How do you reflect on the way people react when you're playing well? I mean, people lose their minds when you're playing well. We all know about the roars for Tiger; they are different, they are more special. How do you reflect on how you make people feel like that?
TIGER WOODS: I think it's fun for me; the fact that I can get people fired up like that, and they enjoy something I love to do.
But I get a rush out of pulling off shots that sometimes I only dreamt about pulling off, and to see some of the reactions. I remember seeing the video later after I had holed that shot on 16 in 2005, and there was a gentleman in the back that you look at it from the camera, I think it was towards 15 green. I mean, he just slams his hat on the ground (laughter).
That's fun. It's exciting to be part of situations like that, that people will look back on my career and say, "I saw him pull this shot off." Some of my best shots I've ever pulled off have been here. It's just a very special place and I get excited about it.

Q. Let me just take you back to East Lake for a second. There's this obvious Bobby Jones connection, and I know that you have ultimate confidence in yourself, but what did that week mean to you going forward?
TIGER WOODS: Well, as I said, it proved to me that I could win again. You know, I was close a couple times. I was close at Tampa. I was close at The Open Championship, had the lead there. I was making a run at Brooksy at the PGA.
I just need to clean up my rounds and maybe need to get a break here or there. I was finally able to do that. And when I look back upon that week, it's not only how it culminated with everyone on 18, but I led from day one. That's not easy to do.
And from the struggles I've had the last few years, to go out and take the lead on the first day, and then end up winning the tournament, to lead it wire‑to‑wire, that made it that much more special, as well.

Q. A couple quick ones. First of all, what's the logo on your shirt?
TIGER WOODS: It's Frank.

Q. What?
TIGER WOODS: Frank, my head cover. (Laughter).

Q. Can you tell us, what do you think of the changes made at 5 and how will you play that hole differently?
TIGER WOODS: 5, it's just long. The bunkers, they are still deep. You know, I think they are unplayable to get the ball to the green. You have to be very lucky and get a situation that you might be able to get to the front edge of the green, but you need to stay out of those bunkers. But it's just really long.
The green, I know it's been softened. That new pin up on the top left, they created years ago, for them to give an opportunity to put a pin there, but now it's definitely going to ‑‑ they are definitely going to have a pin up there.
It will be interesting to see what they do with the course setup on that hole. It been raining here. It's soft. The fairways aren't going to give it up. If that's the case, I don't know if we're going to play it 495 every day. I'm sure it will be moved up, very similar to what we see on 7, sometimes on 1. Sometimes the tee boxes are moved up on 1. Other times, if it's warm, they put it back.
There's tremendous flexibility in how they create these tee boxes because they are so long. You can move around the golf course, you can play it probably play it 7,400 if they want to play it on the short side and north of 7,500 if they want to play it on the long side.
It will be interesting to see how they set it up, but I'm sure that they will do an incredible job like they always do and present us with an incredibly tough test, but one that is extremely fair.

Q. You mentioned as you were coming back, wondering about whether your clubhead speed would return, and it obviously did. I wonder, if you can be the putter that you once were, and if you can be a better putter here because you know every putt, than you might be at another stop.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I feel I can still putt. The hardest part is I just can't practice like I used to. My back gets sore. I just can't log in the time that I used to and that goes with every part of my game. I can't work on every single part of my game every day, I have to pick different parts of my game to work on and that's the challenge I now face going forward and just have to figure it out and try to create a good balance there to find a prep of what I need to work on, and it was‑‑ it was a little bit easier when I could work on everything (smiling) but that's no longer the case.
You know, putting, I've worked on my putting, and when I have, I've putted well. If I worked on my short game, I've chipped it well. You know, I just can't do all things all the time anymore.

Q. What did you consider your greatest advantage at Augusta the first ten years you played it, and what do you consider your greatest advantage now?
TIGER WOODS: I think when I first got here, it was my length. The par 5s were all reachable with irons, some with short irons. The years I drove it well, longest iron I probably hit into a par 4 would probably be an 8‑iron‑‑ 8, yeah. A lot of sand wedges.
I had a lot of success. It was a driver and if I‑‑ for a little while that week, I was going to have a lot of short irons and with short irons it's easier to be more aggressive and put the ball in better shots and hence I can have better putts and hence I ended up winning some of the Masters championships I won.
But throughout the years, I also accumulated a lot of knowledge how to play it under different conditions, and playing practice rounds with guys who have won here a lot, who understand how to play it; and then to be a part of the entire process of having to compete as they have evolved the golf course and trying to understand how to play it, it changes from when they do change a few things and having to adjust that; adjust how the strategy is going to be applied to those specific holes.
I've got a pretty good little library in my head of how to play the golf course.

Q. Would you rather have superior length and no experience, or not superior length and loads of experience?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I would like to hit it 40, 50 yards past the longest guy out here (laughter) and I'll figure it out from there (smiling).

Q. The Masters might be the biggest collection of people on earth with no cell phones.
TIGER WOODS: It's nice, isn't it. (Smiling).

Q. How does it change the experience for you? Is it refreshing on the tee box or walking down the fairway? It must look very different to you, and how does that make it unique?
TIGER WOODS: Well, you know, as people have learned, you know, what is acceptable and not acceptable on the golf course with cell phones, you know, it's very simple. We don't mind you taking pictures. We don't mind you videoing it while we're playing. Just please put it on silent.
It took a number of years for, you know, most people to figure that out, but now it's not really that bad.
But this event, is so different, and is so unique. It's pure golf. You know, it's just player and caddie out there playing. We're prepping together and there's no other distractions inside the ropes. Some of the events, like The Open Championship, because it's usually on very small venues, because the golf courses are so old, that there's not a lot of room and there's sometimes 75 to 100 people inside the ropes following us, and that gets a little distracting and it gets a little difficult at times.
But here, it's just us playing, and you see some of the greatest golf you've ever seen here. I think that's one of the reasons why.

Q. When you step back and look at the totality of your stellar career, how surprised are you that you haven't won a major in more than ten years? Thank you.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I would say that I wouldn't have foreseen that, for sure. After I won my 14th, I felt like I still had plenty more major championships that I could win, but unfortunately I just didn't do it. I put myself there with chances on the back nine on various Sundays and just haven't done it.
You know, hopefully this year, I put myself there again, and hopefully I'll get it done.

Q. Welcome back to Augusta. They made history here Saturday. I'd love to here your thoughts on the Women's Amateur event.
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it was just incredible, how they played. They only got one practice round in, so for them to learn a golf course like this, in one day, and go out there and perform like they did, it was incredible. It was incredible to see, and I think that it's going to only‑‑ it adds to the allure of Augusta National and the Masters Tournament, and I think what they have done for women's golf is a huge step in the right direction.

Q. Do you feel like you need to win here again or would you‑‑ do you just want to win here again?
TIGER WOODS: I don't really need to win again. I really want to (big smile).

Q. Was there a time where you felt, either in your amateur or pro career, that you needed to win these big events?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, there was. There were a couple of events over the course of my career major championship‑wise I needed to win. One, don't blow the lead I had in'97, because of what just happened the previous year. Greg lost a six‑shot lead. I didn't want to lose a nine‑shot lead, so I was able to win that one.
And then to win here in '01 to complete all four in a row, that's never been done. So I don't know how many more chances I'm ever going to get to do that again. Probably not many, if at all, ever again in my career, and the buildup going into that event, I mean, that's nine months of just getting asked the same question; and to pull it off like that one, yeah, I needed to win that one to get all four.

Q. Just curious, between the difficulty of the hole and the aura of the Masters and so forth, is there a more difficult or intimidating opening tee shot in golf?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, that tee shot at Oakmont is one of the hardest tee shots you'll ever face, because you know if you miss that green, it's an automatic 5.
But this tee shot, you know, if they play it back, that green's really hard to hit with, you know, a 5‑iron or a 6‑iron and be precise. It's really not that bad if it's warm, because you'll see some of the players, if they put the tee up a little bit, if it's warm out, some of the guys will hit 3‑wood to the corner and some of the longer hitters might challenge that bunker and hit it over the top.
But when it gets a little cool out, you get that wind out of the north coming off the right, it gets pretty difficult because those trees run up on you pretty quickly.

Q. Can you describe your feeling driving up Magnolia Lane after all these years, what's your excitement level at this point and what do you think about?
TIGER WOODS: It's unlikely any other drive that we ever are a part of in this game. Obviously you look at the‑‑ for me, because I was still‑‑ they still had the warmup area as you drive in on the right‑hand side, we warmed up for all those years, but I look over to the left and I see that's where Hogan in all those Hogan videos and you look back and see him practicing for the Masters, he hit driver there? You see some guys hitting long irons, they are hitting it out of the range now because of technology.
But it's a complete mixture of tradition and technology because you look at now, you have a barricade there with a remote, it comes up and down. That was never there. They don't really want to let people there that aren't really supposed to be here.

Q. You mentioned technology. You've changed clubs more in the last year than probably you have in your entire career combined. Where are you with your gear right now?
TIGER WOODS: Let's see, probably the last change I made was at the Match Play. I changed shafts in the driver and 3‑wood, went to a little bit lighter shaft in both of those and that was because of, you know, struggling with my neck like I was.
A little lighter shaft made it a little bit easier for my body to take it and, next thing you knew, I got a little more pop out of it and started driving it a little bit better, which was nice.
And irons have changed a little bit here and there but it's basically the same type of head I've always used.
The wedges, I've gone back and forth with different grinds and different events I've played in and different grasses and what I want to feel through the ground. That's probably been one of the bigger changes.
And for me, when I came back this time around, playing with a non‑glued hosel in my woods was the biggest challenge in trying to figure that out, because I've never done it before. So trying to get help from a lot of our TaylorMade staff guys, whether it's Jason or Rory or DJ, just picking their brains of how to understand the technology, so that was quite a bit of learning curve. That took months to try to figure all that out and I'm still trying to figure that out.

Q. Now, in perspective, how disappointed it was, The Ryder Cup, after such a good individual performance?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, well, The Ryder Cup was frustrating for all of us on the U.S. side. We didn't play well, and the Europeans played fantastic, and so there was a lopsided win right there.
We had opportunities to turn matches around and flip them, and we didn't do it. And I went 0‑4, and so that was frustrating. I never helped our team get a point. I was responsible for 4 points and I didn't accomplish any of it.
Yeah, so I was very disappointed that I didn't play as well as I needed to play to help my teammates, and it's never fun losing. Especially losing by the margin we lost by, it's never easy.

Q. You were the last player who was outside the Top‑10 after the first round who went on and won. The next 13 were all inside the Top‑10. What do you attribute that to, after just one round?
TIGER WOODS: I didn't know that one. What year was that?

Q. '05?
TIGER WOODS: '05. Yeah, that's a very interesting stat. I know that most of the winners have come from the final group, but I didn't know that one after the first day.
It's interesting. It's interesting you brought up that stat because I think this is one of the courses you can make up a lot of ground. You can get on one of these hot rounds and make up some shots, like I did in '05 against Chris. I got on a nice little run, made seven in a row and next thing you know, I'm in the lead. You know, I think that's where this golf course allows you to do that, but you get going the other way pretty quickly, too.
I just think if you get off to a quick start here, a solid start, it gives us a lot of confidence going forward.
THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for your time today and Tiger we wish you the very best luck in chasing your fifth green jacket.

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