August 26, 2001
TODD BUDNICK: All right. We welcome the three-time champion of the World Golf Championships NEC Invitational. Tiger finished the tournament at 12-under and a dramatic playoff victory. Go ahead and give us your thoughts on today.
TIGER WOODS: I shot 69 and made six holes of pars and got a birdie. (Laughter.) No, today was -- I was telling Stevie today, it was a war out there, because neither one of us were going to give an inch. When we didn't mess up and we did make our share of mistakes out there and both of us recovered pretty good, made some big putts, big saves, hole-outs, you name it, we both hung in there. It's just -- I was able to hang in there just a little bit longer than Jim and I got a few good breaks in the playoff and had a few good shots and I was able to capitalize and hit some good shots. Today was a lot of fun for me to just be involved in that, win or lose. It was just fun to compete like that where you were tested to the absolute utmost.
Q. How does this compare, in any way, to the PGA Championship last year with Bob May?
TIGER WOODS: It's different. Because one, obviously, that's a major championship. But, two, this is sudden death and a little bit different than the playoff at Valhalla. Valhalla, we knew there was three holes to be played before we went into sudden death, and here it is strictly match play and see what could happen. I ripped two drives right down 18 and made a few mistakes from there, and Jim made a great hole-out. It was just shot or shot. It was a lot of fun.
Q. Who recognized first that you could get relief on that shot that was behind the tree?
TIGER WOODS: Mike. Mike Shea.
Q. Did he say to you, that?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah. I couldn't see where the tower ended, because, where we were was a few hundred people in my line. We had to move them back so we could actually determine whether or not the tower was in my line.
Q. Was the relief from a scoreboard or from a tower?
TIGER WOODS: Tower -- well, the scoreboard.
Q. How much did it help you?
TIGER WOODS: You know, if I had to play from where it was, I would have gone right at the flag, because I had a shot, to be able to put the ball in the bunker. Once I took the relief, that was no longer an option. I just had to pitch out.
Q. Just because of the slight change in angle?
TIGER WOODS: The tree. Because actually where I was originally, I had no follow-through, but I had a shot where I could carry it pretty easily into the front bunker, the second bunker. But, you know, you have to take -- it's mandatory relief, so I took relief.
Q. You talked about how during the playoff it went back and forth, can you expand on that a little more? Like Jim, I think it was the first playoff, he misses the one in the sand and he comes back, can you talk more about that?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I had -- after I saw Jim put the ball in the bunker I just tried to get the ball on the green because I knew that where he was, it would be a pretty tough par -- because the way it looked, the ball had to have gone on the downslope and more than like he was going to make bogey. So, if I could just put the ball on the green, maybe be in position to make birdie but at least secure a par, but then I hit my putt short which I think gave him a little bit of hope. I mean, he played a great shot. It was so soft when it landed, and to hit it that soft on that steep of green was pretty impressive.
Q. What was that like, standing there waiting, not being able to do anything as Jim had three really good chances to end it?
TIGER WOODS: You know, Stevie and I, every single one of them said, "It's over" because he's such a great putter. And knowing the fact that he rolls the ball so well, he's got to make one of those. I was just very lucky that he didn't make any of them.
Q. On your last approach shot, what was so different than the other approach shots?
TIGER WOODS: It was on the upslope this time. I hit it shorter. I hit it probably -- actually I hit it 20 yards shorter off the tee which put me on the upslope and it was a lot easier shot so I could clear the tree. Otherwise I would have to hit a spinning, hooking sand wedge -- I was too close the first couple times to carry the tree, so I tried to play some hook sand wedges against the left-to-right wind, which is not exactly an easy shot, but it was a shot I tried to play.
Q. How much does something like this energize you for the rest of the year?
TIGER WOODS: To be honest with you, Fergie, I have not really thought about that yet.
Q. I have.
TIGER WOODS: (Laughter.) You must be pretty impressive then. I know that I'm playing a little bit better and the things I've been working on are starting to come together, just like I said last week, and this week; it takes a little time. You have to be very patient in this game and my ball-striking is starting to come back and I'm showing some good sign of making some good putts.
Q. Had you ever been in a seven-hole playoff or anything close, nothing compares to this in terms of length, stamina?
TIGER WOODS: No. I have not. No. Professionally, I think the three-hole playoff at the PGA is probably the longest one.
Q. That's six great in Ohio now. Is there something special about here?
TIGER WOODS: I actually have -- every time I've headed to Ohio, it rains. I played here in college in two NCAAs and it got rained out. But for some reason, I've played well. I can't explain why, because previously before that, I didn't really play very good here and then all of a sudden it just turned around and maybe it might be just one of those coinky-dink things. But I really played well and got some good breaks.
Q. Two questions about 18 when you had to hit out, can you talk about the pitch-in, because that looked like a really delicate spin because the ball had to spin down the downslope?
TIGER WOODS: I had to play a two-shop skipper in there.
Q. What club was that?
TIGER WOODS: A 60. The problem that made it slightly more difficult -- if it was downgrain, I would have played a one-hopper and just flown it more toward the top, but I was into the grain and I couldn't afford to try and fly the ball there so I tried to be a little more steep. So I figured if I could two-hop it one in into the flat, then the second one at the top of the shelf and let the spin take it down there -- and it came out absolutely perfect. It could not come out any better than it did.
Q. Of all the shots you hit -- because he was going to make 4, was that maybe the best of all, the many trouble shots that you hit on the seven holes?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, probably. Yeah. He was guaranteed 4 from where he was, especially as good as he putts and probably more than likely, he would hole it the way things were going so I had to somehow just put it at least inside of them, so I could -- I wouldn't have to putt first and if I made bogey, he could go ahead and just lag it down there. I wanted to get inside him so that he was forced to have to make his in order to win.
Q. The final approach, what was the distance on that compared to last year?
TIGER WOODS: The one in the dark was 170. This was 140.
Q. What did you hit?
TIGER WOODS: I hit wedge. It wasn't quite as close (as last year).
Q. Going back to when Jim holed out from the bunker, what went through your mind? Talk about how you felt?
TIGER WOODS: You have to always expect your opponent to hit the best shots and when he made the shot it was not a surprise. If he was looking at my reaction out there -- in either case, where whether he holed it or not I was going to have to make my putt or not. My putt was not going to be conceded, I had to go ahead and make it. That's what I was waiting for, him to make a shot and make or miss, I have to make it, but I have to be ready, mentally, to go ahead and make this putt. So, when he made the shot, I just went up there and knocked it in.
Q. How far was the chip after the punch shot to the hole?
TIGER WOODS: I have no idea.
TIGER WOODS: Probably. Good number. Great number. It was, you know, one of those here to there feel shots.
Q. Three quarters green, wasn't it?
TIGER WOODS: You tell me. Look, I don't know. I just -- 50 yards. Perfect.
Q. Can you describe the mental and physical toll the day took?
TIGER WOODS: It was so long ago that we teed off to start this thing. It was a long day. Starting out, I was 2-under through 3 and Jim was in 1-under par and we were both playing well. By the time we turned, it seemed like it was just going to be he and I going at it. Clarkey was probably the only one when was up there with a chance, if he played a great back nine. But the way the conditions were and where these flags were, it was going to be hard to make birdies. I just tried to play as good as I possibly could and just really played smart, put the ball on the green and give myself a chance at putts, because these pins were awfully difficult to find today.
Q. During the playoff for seven holes, how many times do you think you had won and how many times do you think you had lost it?
TIGER WOODS: Probably lost it every time he had a birdie putt and I sat there and waited -- I think it was three times, I believe. I don't know if I thought I won it, but I knew -- I knew I made that putt on 17, the bomb. I just don't know how that putt didn't go in.
Q. How long?
TIGER WOODS: It was about 45 feet or so.
Q. That was the second time that happened. You hit a longer putt earlier, too that almost went in?
TIGER WOODS: I did? I can't remember. I don't know, I made a big par -- I made a big par putt on 17. A big long putt I almost made?
Q. I thought you had a longer one.
TIGER WOODS: Maybe it was in regulation, I don't know.
Q. The up-and-down on 17 just before he lipped out, again, pretty much a guarantee for him.
TIGER WOODS: You know, when I played the shot -- I had the same shot earlier today on the first hole -- not the first hole, I'm sorry. Yeah, the first hole. I had exactly the same shot. I was up against the deep stuff and played a nice little soft shot down there and I tried to visualize that and I saw a spot I wanted to land it and I landed it about two feet past that spot. And I made sure when I was lining up the shot, I played left of the hole, at least six or seven feet left of the hole because I had a chance of -- if I hit it too hard or too short it was going to stay on the correct shelf. If I hit it too hard it is going to stay on the fringe on other side. If I play to the right or at the hole and hit it just a little bit right, it's down on the bottom, so I made sure I stayed left which I was able to do. I stayed up on top and the putt was probably about two cups outside right; and just go up there and trust your stroke and I made it.
Q. Was there any mud on your ball on that chip? It looked like it?
TIGER WOODS: I was on the green. I was able to mark it.
Q. I'm talking about your chip from the collar.
TIGER WOODS: A little. Not much.
Q. Is a win like this anymore satisfying than, say, Memorial or any other tournament, given what you had to go through?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, quite a bit. To be able to play 25 holes today and -- it's a long day. It was a lot of fun today playing and competing at that level. Not too often do you get a chance to have your emotions and your intensity and your level of competitiveness at that high a level. That, to me, is a lot of fun, and that's the ultimate. Win or lose, to be able to be out there in that environment is pretty cool.
Q. On the 72nd hole, I know as you said, it seems like ancient history now, you both went in the bunker and he basically got it up-and-down; that putt that you had, it was barely on the green. It looked like it was in from where I was, and it looked like you thought it was in, too?
TIGER WOODS: I thought -- I hit the putt exactly where I wanted to and how I wanted to. And evidently it just didn't have enough speed. It just broke right across the front edge of the hole. I don't know how -- honestly, I don't know how that putt didn't go in.
Q. Would it have been better to involve 16 in the playoff, maybe get it over with quicker?
TIGER WOODS: No. It's a long walk. (Laughter.)
Q. You talked about how going into playoff it was -- after the sixth playoff hole and the rains came, what's going through your mind at that point?
TIGER WOODS: I actually -- to try and end it because I thought -- I thought for sure we were going to get dumped on and have lightening and thunder and have to come in. So, I wanted to end it if I had a chance, and more so than normally. Because you don't want to go into the clubhouse, cool down, come out and warm up and try to match that same intensity level. That's just kind of hard.
Q. Not having done this seven-round playoff before, what do you take back with you? What do you work on for your text opportunity?
TIGER WOODS: I feel very pleased with the moves I'm making in my swing. I was able to hit some good shots when I had to. I hit some poor ones as well. But more than anything, I'm pleased at the progress I'm making with my game. It's just -- you have to be patient with it. You can't expect too much too quick and I feel like I'm making progress in my game. I'm slowly but surely -- the swing changes that I've made, the swing changes I've made are trying to take shape and I'm hitting the ball the way I know I can and to me, that's a lot of fun, to see the things that you've been practicing on, be able to go ahead and apply them down the stretch when you know that you have to.
Q. Can you reflect on the last few months. Some have called it a slump but some have said you've been less than your best. Are you relieved to have won again? Are you elated to have won? Is it part of the process?
TIGER WOODS: I'm happy, no doubt about it. You know, win or lose, I don't think either one of us are going to feel real bad because of what transpired out there. We both gave it absolutely everything I had. I was very lucky to come out on top because I could very easily have missed a couple of those putts or had no shots and didn't get relief -- a lot of different scenarios could have happened where I would not have won. But in either case, I think it would have been fun to compete in that level.
Q. Relieved to not get anymore slump questions for at least a couple of weeks?
TIGER WOODS: It's just that you guys don't understand the game, that's all.
Q. Two part question, if I may. First of all, not that you ever worried about it or even think about it, but do you think the win today kind of quiets any discussion, broaching of the subject who might be Player of the Year?
TIGER WOODS: I think I've had a pretty good year and Phil's had a pretty good year. You know, this is pretty early in the year to be talking about stuff like that and we have a lot of tournaments to be played. We've got two really big tournaments coming up, the AMEX championship as well as our TOUR Championship and some pretty good TOUR events in between. We've had a lot of golf to be played before that.
Q. Secondly, I'm sure you might be a little sorry to not be returning here next year, although it's going to be here in 2003. Your thoughts on skipping a year?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, but we're going back up to the Pacific Northwest, and I've played pretty good there, too. I am looking forward to getting out there to Sahalee. Last time I played there, I didn't play as well as I wanted to, and ended up finishing 10th, I believe, in the PGA. But I had a chance. Played well there at the beginning of the week and just didn't quite keep it. But that's a great golf course. I'm looking forward to playing there but I'm also looking forward to coming back here, too.
Q. This is also U.S. Amateur weekend. On any of those seven holes did the thought cross your mind that you might be playing 36 here today?
TIGER WOODS: No. Not at all. You know, in the U.S. Am, you are scheduled to go 36. We were not scheduled to go 36 or 25 or however many holes we played today.
Q. You were so dominant in that stretch through the Memorial and then you came out two weeks later at the Open and it seemed you were grinding to find your swing. What happened in that two-week period there? Were you trying to change your swing or did you just get a little bit off?
TIGER WOODS: I think if you're playing golf courses that are that difficult and your swing is not quite on, you know, you're going to be penalized. U.S. Open is not exactly an easy golf course where you can spray it all over the lot and shoot 62s and 63s. You have to be able it put the ball in play on the correct sides of the fairway, put the ball underneath the holes and shape shot correctly and I was not able to do that. I putted really good for the -- probably a month or two after Memorial, just to keep myself in it. If I would have not putted well, it would have been interesting. But I hung in there and then I started putting it back together this week.
Q. Have you been working on some other things recently that you have not recently discussed or some things from '99?
TIGER WOODS: Both. (Smiles).
Q. It's tough enough to win three times in a row the same event anywhere, let alone a course of this caliber. Reflect on that a little bit. You've won big here and now you've won the hardest way. How about those three victories?
TIGER WOODS: I would much rather take last year. Now I understand why most of the golfers are gray and balding; they have to go through things like this. Last year was fun to play that well and win by a large margin, and the previous year, I really played well on the back nine to make a couple putts. I made a huge putt on 17, to take a two-shot lead going to 18. Still made bogey, but at least I was able to get it done somehow. Today, it's a war of attrition, I guess.
Q. You have a great record in these World Golf Championship events. Do you get up a bit more for them than you would a tour event or regular?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think any time you get -- you know you're going to have a collection of the best players in the world assembled, I think you are going to feel a little bit more amped up, I guess. Whether it's a major championship or a World Golf Championship, you are guaranteed to have some of the best fields, and the best players going head-to-head, and that to me is a lot of fun; that's what it's all about. I do get up for it probably just a little bit more, I guess. I try not to. I try to apply the same effort level, but it's just natural.
TODD BUDNICK: Thank you very much, Tiger. Congratulations.
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