June 11, 2002
FARMINGDALE, NEW YORK
RAND JERRIS: It's a pleasure to be joined by Tiger Woods. Tiger is a seven-time United States Golf Association champion having won the Junior Amateur '91, '92 and '93, and U.S. Amateur in '94, '95, '96, capping that off with a record-setting performance at Pebble Beach.
Notice that you had an opportunity to play the golf course in late May, after which you commented that it was one of most difficult par-70 golf courses you've ever played. Having been back here now for a day and having a chance to play for another round or two, do you still stick by that statement?
TIGER WOODS: Oh, yeah, without a doubt. This golf course, the way it's setup, I don't really know if the golfing public who plays here every day would want to have it set up like this every day for them. It's set up so difficult this week that it's certainly going to be a test for all of us. We're going to have to hit the ball really well this week and really control our ball, not only going into the greens, but even on the greens, too, because the greens are starting to pick up a little speed. With the wind, they are starting to dry out. They are definitely going to pick up a little more pace by the time tournament time comes.
RAND JERRIS: You've been playing well this year so far, excellent stats greens in regulation and driving distance. Talk about how your game plays towards this particular golf course this week.
TIGER WOODS: I think anybody who can hit the ball long and high is going to have an advantage, but you've still got to keep the ball in play and you've got to hit the ball in the fairway in order to have a chance to win this title.
Q. With the length of the par 3s over 200 yards and the way the greens are firming up, how hard is it going to be to get the ball close to the pin?
TIGER WOODS: Well, any time with the greens getting like the way they are now, they are getting firmer. When they are like that, if they put any of the pins up front, that's where you're going to have the problems getting the ball close. If you put the pins in the back, yeah, we have more of a chance of running it back there, but the front pins this week are going to be awfully difficult to get at, especially the par 3s, even though you are teeing the ball up.
Q. Tiger could you talk about your strategy during a practice round on a course that you really have never played before a few weeks ago. What are you looking for, hole-by-hole, what makes you decide to hit out of this bunker or that bunker or hit that putt or this putt, just give us an idea about what you are doing out there.
TIGER WOODS: Well, off the tees I'm trying to get lines, how I want to shape the ball, what is the prevailing wind, what's the forecast going to be, what club do I want to hit off some of these tees to give myself the best chance of putting the ball in play.
From there, into the greens, you kind of have a feel for where they are going to put the pins and go ahead and putt to those locations. If you miss a spot, I generally know how I'm swinging now, where my misses are going to be and I'll go ahead and chip from those spots.
You're just trying to get a feel for how you want to play this golf course, and I think that's all we're doing out here in practice rounds, is just trying to get an understanding of what works best for each individual player.
Q. The atmosphere around you in a Major is always a little hectic, and with the confluence of events here, the world's greatest golfer, the world's biggest sports market, the public course, can you describe how hectic this has been, more so than other Majors?
TIGER WOODS: I've been out here for a few years now, and I don't think I've ever seen the excitement level that I've seen like this early in the week. The fans are definitely into it. A couple of times, you've got to remind them, it's only Tuesday or it's only Monday. (Laughter.)
It's really going to be interesting late in the afternoon on Saturday and Sunday, especially when the heat and humidity and beverage of their choice have taken effect. (Laughter.)
Q. How comfortable are you right now on this golf course? You probably wish you could have played it a whole lot more but how comfortable are you on this golf course?
TIGER WOODS: Pretty comfortable. I got a chance to play here earlier a couple of weeks ago to take a look at it and kind of get a feel for how I wanted to prepare for it. Coming out here the last couple of days, the golf course really has not changed that much since I played. The greens have definitely become firmer but the rough is just as high as it was when I played. So the golf course really has not changed. I've gotten basically three practice rounds on it and I feel pretty comfortable about my game and about my game plan for the golf course.
Q. Is there one hole out here that you think is particularly distinctive or memorable above all others?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think certainly starting off on a 480-yard or 490-yard par 4 beginning on the 10th hole, it's the first time we've ever done that, starting off in the middle of the round. And then go off on a hole that long.
Then you've got to play the next couple of holes, which are not bargains, either. I think that, to me, is a pretty tough stretch, starting out one of the first two days when you are teeing off on 10.
Q. The network seems to be promoing this tournament as, "Watch Tiger chase a Grand Slam." On one hand, nobody else can do it, but do you think this puts undue pressure on you and does it unduly raise expectations?
TIGER WOODS: I guess they are trying to sell tickets, I don't know. I have no idea. (Smiles).
To be honest with you, the only thing I can do is go out there and play and give it my best. Whether that puts higher expectations, I really don't know. I think that everyone here and the public is going to have to decide that. I think for my own expectations level, I come to every tournament to try and win, and that's what I'm going to try to do this week again.
Q. When you said that this course was the toughest par-70 that you had seen, what separates this Bethpage Black course from some of the other tough ones that you've played?
TIGER WOODS: I think Congressional was par-70, but the fairways were a little more generous than they are here. The greens were more difficult, but the fairways were a little bit more generous.
As well -- I can't really remember, was Carnoustie par-71 or 70? 71. So I guess this would be the hardest par-70 and Carnoustie would be the hardest par-71.
Q. When you see these stories that Tiger has never won on a par-70 course and can he, and the par-70 course neutralizes Tiger, does that give you extra incentive?
TIGER WOODS: Well, actually I think it gives me more of an advantage, to be honest with you, because a lot of longer par 4s, if I drive the ball in play, I'm going to have shorter irons into the greens. When you get par 4s over 480 like they are here this week, you are going to have to be able to bring the ball in high. If I'm driving the ball in play, I think I will be able to have a better chance of stopping the ball.
Q. I know you are famous for your focus, but I hear your galleries even in the practice round have been really loud. Have you heard anything in particular that made you feel like you were in New York or something unique out there?
TIGER WOODS: Some of the stuff I can't really repeat. (Laughter.) It would be rated R.
Let me just put it this way. The fans are certainly into it. Even early in the morning when we teed off at 7:00, they were still into it, and I think that's only going to increase their excitement this tournament. It's absolutely tremendous. I just hope that all of the fans who do come out are respectful to all of the players.
Q. The way the course is set up, if you had to pick one aspect of your game that you would like to be a little bit sharper than the other parts, which would it be?
TIGER WOODS: I'm pretty comfortable with every facet of my game right now.
Q. Which one needs to be that much sharper?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I don't think anyone will say -- will disagree that you really I need to drive the ball well.
Q. How would you compare your game to 2000? What's better, what's worse, what's not quite as good and what is about the same?
TIGER WOODS: I'm probably not hitting the ball quite as close as I was in 2000. I was flagging a lot of shots in 2000. I feel like every other facet of my game is pretty close to that and just not quite hitting it as close. Hitting greens, but they are just -- I'm just a little bit further out. Instead of having 8- and 10-footers on every hole, I've got 15-footers and 20-footers -- a lot of times when I'm not feeling as comfortable over the shaft, I'll bail to the center of the greens and just give myself a putt at it. In 2000, I was really swinging the club well. (Smiles).
Q. There's been a lot of discussion about the New York crowds and the raucous nature of them and so forth a unique place to play any major sporting event. This is also an area that was very directly impacted on September 11 and the USGA obviously did not realize that was going to happen when they planned the Open here but that's the way it turned out.
Is there some sense of joy that you can bring this show to a town that really needs it? And also, do you feel there's a more palpable sense of security out there? How different is it playing a U.S. Open post 9/11 in New York City? Do you shut that out or do you feel a sense that it's a little bit different this year?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think that every player certainly was impacted by what happened, but the people who live here on a daily basis, obviously, have gone through just a heck of a lot more than we could ever have imagined, living in other parts of the world, or even the country.
Hopefully, this U.S. Open will be an exciting event for the fans and the people of the New York area to give them something else to concentrate on and focus on, and hopefully, we can do that. I think this event is shaping up towards that. I think the environment certainly reflects that.
The fans are certainly into it. I think that's a wonderful indication that this golf tournament is going to be an exciting event for the people who live here and that have had to see the tragedy firsthand.
Q. For somebody that's done so much at such a young age, can we get your take on a 16-year-old from Colorado qualifying for this event and teeing it up here on Thursday?
TIGER WOODS: That's pretty neat to see that. He obviously played really well, and he earned his spot. I think that's one of the great -- the great things about this championship is that a player who has the ability has the chance to play. It's open to everyone. Even some of the greatest players of the past were forced to qualify, and they qualified and so did he. I wish I could have done it at that age, but I didn't do it. My hat's off.
Q. What club did you hit into 15 today?
TIGER WOODS: Seven.
Q. What might it mean to you to win in New York, between what you've done in your career and your foundation and whatnot, you've seen a lot of impact in terms of more interest and obviously here because of the volume of people; what do you think a win in New York in particular could mean to you and to the Foundation and interest in general?
TIGER WOODS: I think any time that you have a chance to build interest in our sport, it's obviously a wonderful opportunity. This is one of them. This will be fantastic for not only myself, but as you said, The Foundation would be great, if I could win this championship. It would build a lot more awareness to what we are trying to accomplish.
Q. Have you been following the Soccer World Cup and if you've got any particularly favorite players, Ronaldo, Brad Friedel, David Beckham?
TIGER WOODS: You've got the wrong country. (Laughter.) Hopefully our country can make it all the way. (Laughs).
Q. Any funny memories of playing muni courses growing up and because it's on a muni course, will you play on x'd-out golf balls?
TIGER WOODS: I played enough of those as a kid. I fished enough out of the water and the trees to be able to play.
Growing up on a muni, that's where I really learned how to play the game of golf. I wasn't able to play country clubs. We didn't have the money, so I was -- I grew up on a par-free golf course in Long Beach, California playing golf. That's where I really learned how to play golf.
So there's some memories of playing junior golf and amateur golf, a lot of the public golf courses growing up, you certainly appreciate the things that -- I certainly appreciate the things that I have now, a lot more I think because of the way I grew up. If I would not have grown up on the facilities that I had to grow up on, I don't think I would have had the appreciation that I have now.
Q. The 16-year-old who qualified, he said that you actually gave him some tips in Denver. Can you talk about some challenges that he may have?
TIGER WOODS: Obviously Derek overcame the lessons that I gave him and got here. (Laughter.)
Obviously he has a lot of talent and he has displayed that so far. I think the toughest thing for him is to just go there and play golf. He's playing in the biggest event of his life and he needs to go out there and just play. That will be the biggest challenge.
When I played my first major in '95, that was the biggest challenge, just go out there and just play golf. You try and harp on that, but you look around -- he's in high school -- this is not high school golf. It's not the same golf courses that I just played on. I played on a little muni back home in a high school match and I flew to Augusta and played that course. You try to tell yourself it's just another event, but that's one of the hardest things to try to overcome when you're on that first tee and the subsequent holes after that.
Q. Getting back to 9/11, are you aware that a lot of the marshals and volunteers are members of the New York City Fire Department and Police Department?
TIGER WOODS: Yes.
Q. And your thoughts on that?
TIGER WOODS: Yes, I am aware of that. They have come up to me and the rest of the players, asked for autographs and pictures, things like that.
Q. Going back to the public course thing, would playing here, does that mean anything special to you, just because it is played on a public course?
TIGER WOODS: I think it's special for all of the players to play on a public golf course. For a lot of us, it's how we grew up playing. And to be able to have an Open Championship, our country's Open, have it on a public facility, that's tremendous.
The people here at Bethpage, as well as Rees Jones and the things that he's been able to do with this facility, ought to be commended because they have done a fantastic job to be able to host an Open Championship like this.
Q. Is 10 through 12 the most critical, the toughest stretch of the course? And what clubs were you hitting into them in the practice rounds and how does that compare to what Mark O'Meara was hitting and some of your other practice partners?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I think 10 through 12 is a very critical part of the golf course, especially if you're starting out there one of the first two days. It's going to be tough to get off to a positive start, but you're going to have to somehow, you're going to have to get off to a good start and carry it through the rest of the round.
Yeah, right out of the gate, 10 is a long par 4, and usually the prevailing wind is in your face there, playing at about 490, it's a pretty good challenge. I hit a good drive down the left side today and hit a 6-iron up in the air and put it on the green.
No. 11, I hit 3-wood off the tee and hit a 7-iron up there.
No. 12, I hit a good drive, and just a little chip 5-iron down there, just kind of ran it up.
Q. How does that compare to Mark O'Meara?
TIGER WOODS: He drove it in the rough with a 4-wood on 10. On 11, he hit in the left bunker on the green.
12, he hit it just in the left rough and had to lay up.
Q. Of the four bodies that govern the Major, does the USGA present the sternest test of your game, the way they set up the course?
TIGER WOODS: I think any player will say that this is probably the most difficult championship to win because of the narrow fairways, high rough, the greens are usually pretty baked out and they hide the pins as best they can.
It takes a lot of energy out of you to play this championship and play it well and contend. It takes a lot out of you. By the end of the week, you're pretty fried.
Q. With the exception of the par 3s and No. 2 and maybe No. 6 where they grew the rough in, did you hit driver on most of the holes?
TIGER WOODS: Actually, I hit 3-wood on most of the holes.
Q. A lot has been written about how the game has changed since you won your first Major. What's your thoughts on noticeable changes, good and bad?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think the changes that have happened the most, I think the golf balls have improved, as well as the driver heads have gotten bigger. And guys are hitting it further.
You just look at the driving stats, what the average driver on TOUR now is, the guys are just hitting further.
I think in response to that, you are seeing these guys redo a lot of these golf courses and trying to make this -- make us play to where we used to be able to play from.
But, you know, I think the guys are only going to get longer because they are going to get bigger, stronger. Everybody is starting to work out now, get stronger, hit the ball a little bit further, and technology is only going to improve. They are going to have to continually make these golf courses longer, if they have the capability of making them longer.
Q. Talk about your philosophy of taking a week or two weeks off before a major and why that's so important to you.
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it's just nice to get some rest and prepare, clear my mind and work on the things I need to work on without having any type of pressure of having to go out there and hit shots. Because when you're at a tournament -- for me, when I'm at a tournament, it's hard for me sometimes to work on things as well as play. I'm trying to get my game peaking towards the major championship, and play well.
But other times, I'll play. I've played in Flint a couple of times before the PGA because I haven't really felt comfortable and I wanted to get some more reps in under competition and I went ahead and played, and won the PGA in one year, '99, playing the week before.
A lot of times, I just like taking time off just to get rested, clear my mind and work in peace, be able to hit balls on the range for hours and not have anyone bug ya. Listen to music and have some good time practicing.
Q. Do you feel rested this week?
TIGER WOODS: I do. I feel really good, thank you.
RAND JERRIS: Thank you very much for your time.
TIGER WOODS: Thank you.
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