June 3, 2001
JACK NICKLAUS: I'm not running anything. I think you've got it, Tiger, and do you want to go through your birdies and so forth, Tiger?
TIGER WOODS: Sure. Started on No. 2 -- actually we started on 1, but I made birdie on 2. I hit 3-wood off the tee. Hit a 9-iron up there to about 12 feet and made that. Eagled 5. Hit a 3-wood off the tee and hit a 2-iron to about six feet. Made that. Birdied 7. Hit a driver and a 3-wood over the green. Chipped up there to about two feet and made that. Bogeyed 8. Hit a 7-iron, kind of pulled it in the front, left bunker. Blasted up to about 12 feet short. Missed that to the right. Birdied 12. Hit a 7-iron to about 18 feet right below the hole. Made that. Birdied 14. Hit a 3-iron off the tee. Got a great break there. Hit a tree and hopped back to the first cut. Hit a sand wedge up there to about three feet and made that. 15, hit a 3-wood off the tee. Hit a 2-iron up to about 12 feet short of the hole and 2-putted. And that was it.
Q. Azinger just called you the most dominating athlete in the history of sports. You all right with that?
TIGER WOODS: I think if someone is going to be considered that, I think they would be a little bit bigger than me. (Smiles).
Q. What do you think Michael Jordan might say about it?
TIGER WOODS: Well, he's 6'6. He's not small. I'm six-foot and chase a little white ball around for a living.
Q. How far was the 2-iron on 5?
TIGER WOODS: What did I have in there, I had 249 to the hole.
Q. And 5, obviously, it was a three-shot swing right there?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, after Paul put the ball in the water, that was uncharacteristic of him to make a mistake like that, but, you know, my main thought was just get the ball in the air, and on dry land, somewhere. I absolutely flushed this 2-iron. It was just a high, towering draw back up against the winds. As it was coming down, you could see the wind hitting it and it was knocking it to the right. I was just praying that it was enough club, and it was there, and I converted the putt.
Q. Did you get a little bit of a break on 4, the hole before, you maybe pulled your tee shot?
TIGER WOODS: The fat hook. I hit it fat. It was just a terrible shot. Tried to have a low, chasing flyer up there and get it back to the hole. I just got over the top on it, and then tried to save it with my hands, and pulled it left, got in the tree, wrapped around the tree and got in the bunker. I did have a good lie; I was watching Zing hit some bunker shots this morning and I was checking out his action through the ball and , well, maybe I could try this a little bit here. Just got the club underneath the ball pretty good and ended up pretty good.
Q. What's it like to win Jack's tournament three years in a row?
TIGER WOODS: It's awfully nice. I've won it three different ways, but nonetheless, I've been able to somehow figure out a way to get in the Winner's Circle. Any tournament that Jack Nicklaus is affiliated with is going to be run with the utmost of integrity and class. To be able to put my name on that trophy three times is awfully special.
Q. One area that you seem to have particular prowess is par 5s. Can you talk about how well you've done?
TIGER WOODS: This week, with as much water as there was on the fairways, I really wasn't hitting my short irons as well as I would like to. I was catching a couple jumpers here and there. But my long irons, I was just sweeping off the ground beautifully, and when I can full release it like that, up in the air, it just so happened to work. On the range every day, I hit my long irons beautifully. I just tried to convince myself over every shot, "You've done it on the range, just do it now." For most of the week, I was able to do that on most of the par 5's, and from there, I made a few putts, too.
Q. Azinger said he apologized to you for not giving you a better game.
TIGER WOODS: Oh, yeah.
Q. What was your reaction to that?
TIGER WOODS: I said, "Thank you." (Laughter.)
Q. Where is your game right now? Is it the best ever? Is it close?
TIGER WOODS: I don't know. It's just right here, right now. Hitting it all right. Making a couple putts here and there.
Q. Nothing special?
TIGER WOODS: I'm hitting it flush, yes, but this week, it's really hard to really judge on what you're doing, because of the soft condition. I hit some squirrely tee shots that ended up in the fairway and hit some good ones, too. Hit some good iron shots that sucked back off shelves. Hit some borderline shots that caught the right shelf and fed back down in the hole. It was tough to get a great barometer of how you are playing because the conditions are so soft, you could make a good swing and see the ball zing right out of there, because it's so wet, you are catching fliers.
Q. I would think lift, clean and place would hurt you competitively because you could go down and get a 3-iron up in the air when you have to, as other guys can't. Agree or disagree? I would think you would rather play it down, when you can?
TIGER WOODS: I think with the conditions this wet, it's always nice to be able to put your hand on it. It is lift, clean and cheating, but it is really nice when you have a ball in hand under these conditions. Because you hit a tee shot, it is going to pick up a little mud, it is going to pick up some water; you can see the water on the ball. You make any kind of steep swing on it, it's out of here. Knowing that you can tee it up just a little bit, put it maybe downgrain, it could help out.
Q. Is this your final tournament before the U.S. Open, and if so, what type of momentum and confidence does this give you?
TIGER WOODS: I feel pretty good heading into the Open. Hopefully, my practice sessions next week will go well. Just looking forward to kind of shutting it down for a couple days. Going to be hanging out with my buddy, Mark -O for a little bit.
Q. What will you work on for practice, anything specific?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah. Hit it straight. There's no secret to winning the U.S. Open: Hit it straight, hit good irons, make a lot of putts. It's really not that complicated. But you're going to have to shape your ball around Tulsa a little bit. If the fairways are as fast as they could be, it depends on -- they said they have gotten seven inches of rain around there. That's a lot of rain. If they get some good weather, and it dries out, the course can play awfully tough. The doglegs you are going to have to shape the ball to keep it in the fairway.
Q. How much do you think you'll be hitting driver?
TIGER WOODS: It depends on how you are playing, how the winds are; you can hit driver a lot or you can run it along the ground. Depends on what the conditions are.
Q. If you would build a golf course to suit your game, would this be it, and do you have advice for Jack on how he can Tiger-proof his par 5s?
JACK NICKLAUS: (Laughs).
TIGER WOODS: Well, I didn't like the changes he made on 5, but they ended up all right this year. (Laughs). This golf course does set up really well for me, because of the fact that I can use my driver a lot here, only because it rains every year here. (Laughter.) I'm sure it would be a little bit different if it didn't rain, because then you would have to hit some iron shots and really shape your ball to keep the ball in the fairway. For instance, No. 2 is just a nothing hole, downwind, with conditions like this, you just hit the ball in the air and it plugs out there. If it's hard and fast, it's hard to keep the ball in the fairway. It's just going to go right into the rough or in the creek.
Q. On the flip side of that, do you think Southern Hills maybe negates your power and length advantage?
TIGER WOODS: When you play the U.S. Open, you don't really look at it that way. You just have to get the ball in play and keep it in the fairway. When I played last year at Pebble Beach, I drove the ball beautifully. From there, I was able to control my iron shots in the greens and give myself putts, and I was putting good. But the whole key to playing a U.S. Open is to get the ball in play. From there, you can make up your mind on what you want to do: Play aggressively, play safe, use slopes, not use slopes, whatever it may be, whatever the situation is. But get the golf ball in the fairway.
Q. What is the single biggest difference now, as opposed to the last time you did play Southern Hills?
TIGER WOODS: My game is a little bit better than it was then. (Smiles). Hopefully, my family affairs is definitely a lot better than they were in '96, with Pop having what he did. My mind is a lot clearer. Hopefully, it will be a lot clearer during the Open than it was in '96.
Q. What do you plan to do with this trophy, and are you going to put them right three together in a cluster? Are you going to stack them on top of each other?
TIGER WOODS: What ended up happening is I had -- I have one at home. I have one at Nike in the new building. And I don't know where this one is going to go.
Q. Jack, how do you react to what Zinger said when he called Tiger the most dominant athlete in the history of sports?
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know about the history, but certainly, since I've been playing the sport, I've never found anybody that's dominated anything more. Some of the comparisons that (Jim) Nantz was trying to run with me on television, I come in a very distant second. And certainly, there's other sports that the guys have dominated, but I don't think anybody has dominated an individual sport anywhere near the level that he has dominated anything at. Tennis would be the only other game, and I don't see anybody that dominated quite to that level. You know, what he's done has been pretty special, and what amazes me, is that week after week, he's prepared. There's never a slack. And that's pretty special when you can do that.
Q. We know you like to come here and play golf; you've won three in a row, you won in Akron last year. Is there anything you like to do off the course when you come to town? What in general do you like about Ohio?
TIGER WOODS: I'd love to stay dry. I think every year that I've played here, it has rained. This week -- this week has been a long week. We finished last night at 9:05. We ended up marking our golf balls. That's pretty late. Then got to get up early this morning to get ready for today's completion of the third round to play again. But for some reason, Ohio has been pretty good to me over the last couple years. I've won five times now, and I don't know -- I don't know what it is, but for some reason, it's just been pretty good.
Q. Ernie Els has finished second in the three majors last year and he said he needed to make a swing change in order to try to win a major again. Are you surprised to hear a guy like him say that?
TIGER WOODS: I think any player who plays the game is trying to get more consistent, and I think that's what you're hearing from him. He feels like he's, he could get better -- his swing could get more consistent day-in and day-out, and that's one of the reasons why he's making the change.
Q. There were several big-name players not here this weekend. Does that play into your strategy? Do you play the course or does it affect your game in terms of your strategy?
TIGER WOODS: No matter who is playing, you've still got to go out and execute golf shots. This week, obviously, there's three guys not playing here this week on our Tour that have been very prominent. But nonetheless, you've still got to go out there and play. Paul is a heck of a competitor, and a great champion. He put up a pretty good fight for not really having his game where he wanted it to. No matter who is playing in any tournament you're playing anywhere around the world, you've still got to execute shots in order to win.
Q. Right when you were put in the tournament -- the putt at 6 for par, how far was that? Was it significant for you in terms of keeping your momentum going and trying to pull away from the guys?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, because I hit a really good drive and a great iron shot in there. Did a spaz on the putt. Paul had just made bogey, and I wanted to, obviously, make that putt and not give him any kind of feeling that he kind of stole on there, especially Paul dropping three shots on the previous hole; and then now if I would give him any kind of hope there that he could turn it around. And then I had the par 5 on the next hole, which I could reach if I had a good drive; so I needed to make that putt, and then maybe birdie the next hole, which I was able to do.
Q. How far was the 3-wood on 7?
TIGER WOODS: I had 259 to carry the bunker. And I flew it in the middle of the green. (Laughs). It's the same shot I hit at Augusta on 13. Just a big, roping, high sweep, club down in front, arcing off the plane, and I absolutely flushed this thing.
Q. You were chasing after it?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah. I started this ball, as I said, it was just up in the air, drawn right of the wind. I got very lucky. To be honest with you, I got very lucky. When I was setting up over the shot, my first waggle, the wind was coming more into me and all of the sudden it switched more across, and that's when I said, "All right, here we go. If I get this ball in the air I can get it there." Before, it was kind of borderline. I was playing to the front edge, the front left bunker but as soon as the wind switched, I knew if I hit a good shot, I knew I could get it into the green.
Q. The second putt on 6 was how far?
TIGER WOODS: Six feet.
Q. How do you stop your swing on the downswing?
TIGER WOODS: Bug flew there. Flew right in front of my ball and landed right in front of my golf ball.
Q. But how do you stop from here (indicating at top of swing) to there (indicating follow through)?
TIGER WOODS: Baseball players do it all the time. What's the big deal? (Smiles).
TIGER WOODS: Well, Hawk can't do it. He throws it so much, the club is already past his hands. (Laughs).
Q. Jack, you talked about Tiger's dominance. Are you still surprised by what he has accomplished and what he continues to accomplish, or are you used to this?
JACK NICKLAUS: Name anybody who isn't amazed by what he has accomplished. Week after week, he just keeps continuing and continuing to do more. You know, I said at the beginning of this week, I certainly would not have bet against him, and certainly the conditions that we had this week, because of what -- the length we made in the par 5's, it made it much, much greater to his advantage. It was just sort of a walk in the park for him today, once he got started. Once the fifth hole was over, it was a matter of: "Well, how many am I going to win by?" I don't think he thought that in his own mind, but I think he knew where he was and what position he was in and the tournament was his to win at that point. Until then, he had to make the shot to turn the thing around, and he made it. And he's been able to make that shot fairly -- with a fair amount of regularity over the last few years. So not too much amazes me anymore, but it's still amazing.
Q. Are you ever amazed by your accomplishments?
TIGER WOODS: I'm amazed by some of the shots I was able to pull off this week, with, you know, the trouble out there, and hit the ball that flush and that high, and the shape that I wanted to; and if I wanted to step up there and hit a 2-iron 250 yards in the air and I was able to do it. I did it consistently. That, to me, it kind of cool.
Q. When do you start look locking in on Southern Hills? Late next week, like Wednesday?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, about then. As soon as I start picking up a club again.
Q. Have you done anything this week, in particular, that is in preparation for that?
TIGER WOODS: No.
Q. Open preparation any different because of the length of the rough, or do you just worry about that when you get there?
TIGER WOODS: Well, you can't practice that. There's no golf course that does that. The members would kill the superintendent. Bermudarough, all it needs to do is be three or four inches and it's tough. With the rain they have gotten there, if they get some more thunderstorms, which they are supposed to this week, that rough could be some kind of thick. But the key to the U.S. Open, as I said earlier, just hit the ball in the fairway.
Q. Jack, have you got anything in mind for the par 5's next year?
JACK NICKLAUS: I think the par 5's are kind of -- I'm a 4 1/2 guy. I like par 4 1/2's, which is much to his advantage. But it puts excitement in every one of them. You can reach 5. You can reach 7. I made 7 a little bit more difficult off the tee, only because it was so wide off the tee before. 11, it's really not done for him. I knew he could go ahead and reach the hole. I didn't worry about that, but everyone else was taking irons off the tee; I wanted them to get wood off the tee.
TIGER WOODS: You wanted everyone to hit driver and what did you do the first day?
JACK NICKLAUS: 3-wood.
TIGER WOODS: You told everyone you wanted to make this hole so they could hit driver off the tee. (Laughing.)
JACK NICKLAUS: I can't get home. I hit driver every other day, though. Of course, 15, the length it is, I sort of enjoy that. The opportunity for eagle coming in at the end of the round is -- you know, I think it can offer a lot of changes. Guys don't hit the ball in the rough like they used to. So most of them are throwing the ball into that green. But still, you know, you can have a lot of change of strokes there. I think the excitement of that is good.
Q. A couple guys were saying part of what makes you so tough is your confidence is so high that you think you have an eight -, ten-stroke lead before you ever hit a shot. Any truth to that?
TIGER WOODS: When you start off a tournament, everyone is tied. There's no handicap system out here for us as pros. But, you know, when I do play, yes, I do feel confident, because of what I've done in the past. But more importantly, what I've been able to accomplish in practice sessions leading up into that event. Like if my practice sessions aren't very good, it's kind of hard to be confident when you don't know where the ball going to go. When your practice sessions are well and you're hit shaping the ball well and how you want to, when you step up to the tee and subsequent holes after that, you do feel pretty good.
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