June 20, 1999
PINEHURST, NORTH CAROLINA
LES UNGER: First, thank you for coming. And second, have you ever been through that kind of a competition before.
TIGER WOODS: A couple weeks ago. Playing head-to-head against Vijay was pretty tough. This was a major championship with a lot on the line. But I played solid today, I made a couple of swing mistakes, I got steep on a lot of shots, unfortunately. But I hung in there with my short game and I did everything I possibly could to hang in there and give myself a chance.
LES UNGER: Was there anything as you look on the round that you would have tried differently?
TIGER WOODS: No, I thought my way around. I didn't make one mental mistake today. Unfortunately I made the physical mistakes, and that happens. That's part of it.
LES UNGER: This is by far your finest Open.
TIGER WOODS: I guess, yes.
Q. Tiger, could you just go over the two short putts that you missed. What was happening there?
TIGER WOODS: Well, 11 I pushed the first one, hit it. And then it came back and I pulled the second one, hit a bad putt, it was inside left and I just basically yanked it.
Q. How far?
TIGER WOODS: About two and a half feet. And then on 17, it was about an 8-footer there, and unfortunately I just hit it too hard. The line I chose, I chose inside left, and if you look at it, it hit the inside left of the hole and lipped out. But at that pace you had to go left center, and unfortunately I hit it too hard.
Q. Tiger, what club did you pull there at 17, what did you hit in?
TIGER WOODS: A 7-iron, just a soft 7.
Q. How far?
TIGER WOODS: I don't know. I just know it was 177 to carry the right bunker.
Q. Was it maybe a little bit of adrenaline that you hit it? Did you hit it pin-high? Did you hit it too far?
TIGER WOODS: I was about two yards from the pin.
Q. Were you pretty pumped up?
TIGER WOODS: No, I wasn't.
Q. Not after the great putt?
TIGER WOODS: No, I had to block that out. I knew what I had to do. Unfortunately, as I said earlier, I've been getting steep and hitting a lot of pulls. If you look at my round, a lot of my iron shots were left, and that was one of them.
Q. Tiger, are you playing pretty consistent the last four days. What will you take from this experience, how will you be able to build on this?
TIGER WOODS: I think exactly what you just said, I played consistent golf, and that's something I've been doing. Excluding the Byron Nelson, basically the last three tournaments I played I've played really well. And I was playing solid, made a lot of putts, my short game is back, better than ever. I've improved my short game with some more shots. I got a couple of new shots I've been working on, and I used them this week, which was pretty sweet to have them turn out right. I'm very pleased with my performance.
Q. Tiger, you said you didn't make mental mistakes but physical mistakes, but there were several greens where you were long. So you had the right club --
TIGER WOODS: That's exactly what I said earlier. I'm getting steep. When you get steep, you deloft the club. It should have been low left, hence, see you.
Q. Tiger, I wonder if you could tell me a little bit more about the putting adjustment you made, what videotape, what did you see that you went back?
TIGER WOODS: I didn't see anything. I just went back to my old basics, which was basically just to go back to getting comfortable, get your eye alignment right. And it's not that complicated.
Q. Didn't you get your hand a little ahead?
TIGER WOODS: No, I didn't put them any further ahead than they were before. They were still in the same spot.
Q. Tiger, what were your thoughts as Payne played the 18th and it looked like you might be just one shot out of it, did you have any?
TIGER WOODS: I'm happy for Payne for two reasons. It's great to see him come back after last year, and times that he's been leading the U.S. Open and finally get it again for the second time. But from a more selfish standpoint, I'm glad he made it. It would have been tough sleeping for the next few nights.
Q. Just tell us what it was like to be out there with the four of you so close, with the leaderboard changing all the time?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I saw the leaderboard change and I knew that Payne and Phil were going to make mistakes on the back 9, because they were pulling the clock. We were pulling the clock, as well. I don't know what the U.S. Open is thinking, but that's the way they are. And I figured if you rush a U.S. Open, you're going to make a mistake. And they made a couple of bogeys in that same stretch when it was on the clock. I just tried to post an even par, basically, and I thought if it didn't win, it would get into a playoff tomorrow.
Q. Tiger, can you talk about the short putts, 11 and 17 and how you hit them? Is that the pain that you're going to take from here, those two little ones that you missed?
TIGER WOODS: No, I'm not going to take that. 17 is not that short, 8 feet. It's short, but not that short. It's very easy to miss that. But 11 was a putt that I should have made, but it's just unfortunate I didn't. But if you look at my entire week, I made a lot of putts to save myself. A lot of putts from 15 feet in just for pars, and without those I wouldn't be in the position I was coming down the stretch to win.
Q. Tiger, good effort. Now that the week is concluded, what's your view of Pinehurst No. 2, and would you like to see the Open come back to it?
TIGER WOODS: I think this golf course proved that it is a championship golf course. We've had THE TOUR Championship here, they've had a Senior Open, and it deserves another U.S. Open because it's a golf course that tests every single facet of your game. And most U.S. Opens don't. The driving, the putting, lob wedge, hack out, and hopefully get up-and-down from a hundred yards. That's what most U.S. Opens test. This tests every single part of your game. And it was great to see -- the guys are basically just off the green, making doubles. You don't see that very often, and especially when they have a chance to putt it, bump-and-run it and a whole bunch of different options and they're still making a bunch of mistakes.
Q. Tiger, you talked about how steady you were for four days in playing. You also appeared emotionally steady, seemed to enjoy all four days. Set aside Augusta, is this the best you've ever done in that regard or how different is it from your other Majors?
TIGER WOODS: In Major championships or other tournaments, as well?
Q. In Majors.
TIGER WOODS: In Majors only? I think it's one of my better ones, there's no doubt about it. It's always easier to maintain your emotions when you're swinging pretty good. It's tough when you have no clue which way it's going to go. At least every day I understood which way the ball was going to go. For two days I hit it left, and two days I hit it right. But each day I knew which way I was going to miss it. It's always nice when you can plan for that. And in most of the tournaments, in most Majors I've played in, I had the two-way miss going. It's hard to maintain your emotions, when you don't know which way to aim. Should I aim left or should I aim right?
Q. What point were the two groups put on the clock and what's your reaction to that?
TIGER WOODS: We were put on the clock at the front 9. They were on 7 or 8 and we were put on the clock. And we remained on the clock for about four or five holes. And when we were walking off 13, 13th tee, I commented to our rules official, the guys behind us should be on the clock. They're a hole behind. Because we're half a hole behind, we're already on the clock. And he said, yeah, they've been on the clock. And that's when the guys started making some mistakes. I don't know how long they were on the clock for, but I knew going up 13th fairway that they were on the clock.
Q. The missed putt on 11, how far do you think that was?
TIGER WOODS: Two and a half feet.
Q. The long putt on 18?
TIGER WOODS: You asked me about the missed putt. Two and a half feet.
Q. Can you also talk about the putt on 18, that's just --
TIGER WOODS: It was about 35-footer straight up the hill left-to-right, broke about two feet and wasn't that hard a putt. It was just a putt that I figured I could make and I almost made it.
Q. You talked briefly about the emotions that Payne must have had standing out there trying to pull himself together. Can you talk about what it's like as a player to watch somebody do that, and you've had to do it. What's it feel like?
TIGER WOODS: It's tough. I guess it's comparable for you all to have a deadline to meet and someone's yelling at you to meet it. If you don't, you're going to get fired. It's pretty intense. And you've got to get it done. And that's the hard part of it. You've got to put everything aside and focus on your task and somehow control your emotions inside, and your adrenaline level and whatever, your conscious mind may be thinking, left bunker, right water. Whatever it is, you've got to fight that inside. I think that's one of the challenges that we as players face in Major championships is trying to handle the mental side of the game, because when you're swinging well it's not that hard. But you start seeing things coming down the stretch, and that's what makes it tough.
Q. To shift gears here, how is Carnoustie going to be different than here. This is a course you won on. What are we going to look for you?
TIGER WOODS: I haven't won on it but played it twice.
Q. How is it going to be different?
TIGER WOODS: When I've played, I've played under basically every single different kind of condition imaginable, rain, wind, calm, sunny, cloudy, foggy, and I think that was all in one round. But it was a challenge playing that golf course, because it's probably the toughest one that they have over there. And when we played, we had some rough that was reminiscent to Shinnecock, with waist high grass, but it was closer to the fairways, and a couple of guys pulled out because they hurt themselves. And it was a brutal test. But then again it was an opportunity for you to run the ball on the ground. If you can do that, it's all right. I don't know how narrow they'll make the fairways for a British Open.
Q. Did you see Payne make the last putt?
TIGER WOODS: I was hoping he was going to make it. I was praying to God he made it, for him to battle back from last year as well as all the other times he's been close. But I'm glad I could sleep a little better tonight.
Q. Tiger, sort of related to that, can you talk about Phil Mickelson's round just a tad, and what you think. You've been in that situation, I'm sure, the final twosome, when one guy is going to make it and one is going to lose and sort of the heartbreak of it?
TIGER WOODS: It's part of playing athletics; someone has to win and someone has to lose. It's terrible when you're on the losing end. It doesn't feel good. But there's one thing you can take from it, I'm sure Phil gave it everything he possibly had inside, and you shouldn't hang your head for that. Unfortunately somebody beat you. Phil didn't play bad today, he played a solid round of golf. And that's all you could ask for. Someone else just beat him. And that you can accept, because that's part of athletics. But if you stumble down the stretch, and you give someone an opportunity to win or you just gag it away. That's a tough way to go.
Q. All the moisture may have softened the greens a touch, did it affect the distance? Did it make it tougher to control any fliers or anything?
TIGER WOODS: No, I drove in the fairway most of the rounds, so I didn't have a problem with that. The only problem was controlling your little bump-and-runs up the greens, because of the moisture you had to hit it harder. And it's just hard to make yourself hit it that much harder when the other side is going away from you. And you know you have to do it, but you don't want to do it. If you hit it too soft, just bump it into the grain, it will come right back at your feet. I think that was one of the mental challenges that you had to accept, trust, hit it hard. If it goes by the hole, fine. Go ahead and make the putt coming back. But don't leave it back at your feet.
Q. Does this performance leave you feeling more hungry to win an Open, and feeling more confident that you will win an Open?
TIGER WOODS: You know, this golf tournament has been a tournament I've always wanted to win, because I've won three U.S. Juniors, and three U.S. Amateurs, and it would be nice to win three U.S. Opens. That would be pretty neat to do. And I had a good chance this week, but it just proves to me that I definitely -- I know I can win a Masters, and I know I can win a British Open, because I've come close and won one. It makes me feel like I can definitely win a U.S. Open. I know I have the game, I have the mind for it, and it's just a matter of time.
Q. What effect did being on the clock have on your personally? It seems that you disagreed with the fairness of why you were on the clock.
TIGER WOODS: I disagree being on the clock when you're in the last few groups of a Major championship. If somebody gets a bad time, and another bad time that's a one-shot penalty. With the greens as severe as they are, if they're flat, fine, put us on the clock. But if they're severe, it takes time to figure out the slopes, if I understand the pace of play rule, but there are exceptions to it. And by looking at these greens, I think that's a pretty good exception.
Q. What effect did it have on you?
TIGER WOODS: You know, the funny thing is the last two days I've been on the clock. Yesterday with Phil, we were on the clock for about four holes, and today about the same with Timmy. And it's tough to do, because you look at these greens and you miss them. It's tough. You've got some weird shots and it takes some time to figure them out, and you don't want to blow it, but you don't want to get a bad time. I got a bad time yesterday on the second shot into 12 because the wind changed on me. It went from straight into me to straight across, and I had the wrong club. I backed off, hit the shot correctly, made my par and I was informed I got a bad time. It would be tough to say, you know what, if I do it again I'm going to get a one shot penalty, and to lose the U.S. Open by one would be pretty tough to swallow.
Q. You and actually David also talked a lot this week about how much you loved the difficulty of the course. You loved the fact that it was a really difficult challenge of golf. Is that because it reduces the field or because you take more pride in the challenge of conquering a course like this or winning a title on a course like this or is it both?
TIGER WOODS: Both, definitely both. I remember Nicklaus saying, and I don't know who wrote it, one of you all, that the U.S. Open is probably the smallest field you ever had to beat. And it's true, because usually right around par wins, and you just need to hang in there. And most of the players don't have that ability to hang in there, and swallow your pride and hit shots that you don't normally hit, because you're used to making birdies and have to make birdies to win. I have to look at it and say Jack was right, because it's a golf tournament that tests your mental aspect, your mental approach. And it's a difficult challenge. Usually U.S. Opens have high rough, fast greens. This week it was the opposite, low rough, slower greens, but they were mounded worse than Augusta. With that in mind, you just need to hang around. And most of the players either haven't learned it or aren't willing to change from the birdie mode. And I think that's one of the reasons why Jack Nicklaus was so great, because he was able to change back and forth.
LES UNGER: Any final words?
TIGER WOODS: I'm hungry. (Laughter.)
LES UNGER: Thanks for coming.
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