June 16, 1998
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
LES UNGER: For our third chapter of meeting the Stanford great golfers, Mr. Tiger Woods is with us, and is it true that your wallet might be slightly lighter than it was this morning.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I was taken for some cash today, Casey played well, and he made birdies and pars on the correct holes.
LES UNGER: Your assessment of the golf course. I know you have played here, I don't know how many times and it is obviously in different condition than when you played it. But, we would like your perspective on it please.
TIGER WOODS: I usually play this golf course in the fall or the winter when it is a little wet, and it is different hitting 2-irons off of some of these holes in which I usually beat driver and still have a 4- or 5-iron in there. So it is a little different. But overall the golf course is playing great. It is fast. Not as fast as it will be on the weekend. Greens are already starting to dry out and starting to bounce a little bit. Today when we were on 13, there they were watering the rough and not the greens. I found that kind of interesting. Watering a little bit the front part of the green, probably two yards front part of green, so anything that hits there it is going to stop. Anything that hits after, it will bounce and fly over. Other than that, the golf course is in great shape. I am really looking forward too playing it.
LES UNGER: Do you feel slightly cheated that they set up a course and don't give you a chance to hit your driver?
TIGER WOODS: You can hit it with a driver. You really can if you want to. Hard part is a lot of holes are dog-leg, so you really have to be very careful whether you hit a driver or not. If you do, you have got to shape it into the slopes because the fairways are running, but then again you can hit a driver and shape it in the slopes and actually get it down there pretty far.
LES UNGER: We will entertain your questions.
Q. In team sports, players complain about playing at home. You have all the distractions. This is no longer your home but you have a lot of friends and acquaintances here. Is it distracting for you to come back to the Bay area especially with the U.S. Open?
TIGER WOODS: No, it is actually kind of nice. It is nice to play in front of your hometown. People you see -- you used to see, friends of yours, family, things like that, you don't get a chance very often when you play golf because you are always travelling all over the world all over the country you don't get to play in the same spots where you have a lot of friends. And, it is nice to see those familiar faces. It brings back a lot of good memories.
Q. How does it feel coming into a week being only the second biggest story?
TIGER WOODS: It is great.
Q. Talk a little bit about it. Casey and him -- and him being here and riding cart what do you think?
TIGER WOODS: I think it is great that he played. He qualified. He earned his way out here. And, he is going to go out here and play a golf course that he is familiar with and teed it up with us. I think it is great. It shows a lot of courage on his part to deal with all of the things that he has had to deal with, with the lawsuit and all the distractions of trying to play golf, meanwhile, better himself as a player, of all the distraction that he has to deal with now. And to be able to go out and qualify, especially the way he did. Making a blunder on the last hole then go on and making birdie on the second playoff hole, shows a lot of guts. That is what he has got.
Q. I understand recently you went to a graphite-shafted driver. With USGA looming over this in the equipment debate, where do you stand on that?
TIGER WOODS: That is fine. They can bring it back for me. I don't have any problem with that. I don't think any of the longer hitters do. But it will be interesting because I don't really see how they can because of how much money people are making now off of these titanium drivers and graphite shafts, and I don't know how they can financially withstand it. And I think these companies are not going to stand for it.
Q. I want to ask you about the autograph seekers that follow you around. Do you wonder if these people are really interested in watching you play golf or just want your autograph?
TIGER WOODS: Well some of them are. Some of them aren't. You get kids who are out there just to watch golf, and fans that just want to watch golf, and other people who just want an autograph and watch golf. Then you get the people who are doing the collecting of autographs for business purposes, to go sell them somewhere else. And that is where we, as players, have a problem because a lot of these people, a lot of adults are sending kids out as runners, paying them money to go get autographs from us; sign it and then they go sell it in a store or somewhere, or mat it and frame it and go sell it. That is when it is hard to distinguish the two. Whether it is a genuine fan or it is someone trying to make money off of it.
Q. Did you ever collect autographs as a kid?
TIGER WOODS: I never collected autographs as a kid.
Q. Ran into Butch Harmon, your coach. He said you are rather motivated because a number of observers have remarked that maybe your game isn't well suited to a US Open. To what degree are you motivated by others telling you that you can't do something?
TIGER WOODS: You know, I like the challenge. I like when people say that. It definitely gets me a little reved up but you also have to understand you still got to go out there and play the game no matter what the motivational factor is, that is all aside once you step on the first tee and you have got to go out there and get your focus on and maintain your concentration all the way through and your patience. All that is trying to get me fired up going into the tournament, trying to get my preparation a little more intense, and it has worked. My preparation has been very intense. Physically, mentally, as far as hitting balls, lifting and then also the mental part of the game, it has been pretty intense. I am pretty proud of the way I have gotten there in stages, and the way I am at right now.
Q. People think of you more of distance rather than, say, direction and yet you did lead the Open as an amateur in 1996. I mean, does that mean you can play an Open golf course more than -- last year means you couldn't play an Open golf course?
TIGER WOODS: You know, God, I was 21 when you guys are all speculating. Now I am only 22 now. So I have a lot of time to play this tournament, so I think as time goes on I think I am going to improve and really learn how to play U.S. Open golf course because it is different than any other tournament, where straight and down the middle, and making pars wins. Normally, week after week you have got to go 20-under par, 59s are now becoming regular. I mean, golf is changing. But the way the golf course is set up now under USGA conditions, you have really got to be very patient and par is really a good score, and that is different from the mindset that we have normally. I think that is where a lot of players such as myself in the past have kind of struggled with.
Q. You say that you wish Casey Martin well. You are not really in favor of using golf carts. How do you approach that with Casey?
TIGER WOODS: I don't really like seeing golf carts out there. But he is one of my good friends, and I want to see him be out there. But all I am saying is what is right for the game. Just like anything else. If that is right for the game, then so be it. I want to see him have it and I want to see him succeed more than anything. I do want to see him succeed.
Q. Tiger, can you take us through the back injury that forced to you withdraw at the Kemper and what you did for that, and is it still any problems at all?
TIGER WOODS: Back is 100%. It is fine. What it was is I was playing a lot of golf at the time, and I was doing a lot of roadwork. What I mean by that, I was running. All of a sudden I went from no miles to running four, five, six miles everyday, and that kind of puts a little stress on your back, and I felt a little twinging a little tightening and couple of spasms here and there I said know what: I rather have my body ready for the U.S. Open. And so, I decided to pull out of the Kemper and get everything ready. I went to Vegas and saw my trainer Keith, and Keith basically just stretched it out, used ice and heat. Warmed it up but, more than anything, he really stretched it out and made sure everything was loose.
Q. Can you tell us how this rough compares with other roughs that you have played?
TIGER WOODS: It is not as bad as it was in Oakland Hills. Oakland Hills was the worst rough I have ever seen. But it is not as bad. This rough is different. It is clumpy. With the poa annua being mixed in there, you get clumps of grass. So you can have a ball where you see it on TV where, yeah it is playable. You think it is no big deal. Guy should be able to hit it close, but it has a huge clump of grass behind him and he can't get the club on the ball. Or vice-versa, you can be behind the clump and it is no problem. You can flop it up there and look like a hero. But, it will be very interesting because it is all luck. You hit the ball in there and you can get a lie. Like today, I had a couple of lies that I could play from the rough and get to the green and vice versa, I have hit a couple of balls in there where no way I could advance it.
Q. Talk about your relationship with Mark O'Meara; how important it is to you, and what you think of his golf game and his chances on this course?
TIGER WOODS: Mark, one, is a great guy, and two, he has kind of taken me under his wing, kind of like a little brother, and he has shown me the ropes, and we have played a lot of practice rounds together. We hang out all the time. And, he has always been there for me. He has been literally like a big brother to me. I wish him all the best this week. He is playing really solid golf. He finished third over in Germany, third in at Kemper. I mean, he is playing great golf. It is just a matter of him continuing that game because, one, you know he can putt. And get him on this poa annua type greens, you have seen what he has done at Pebble Beach, same type of greens. Just let him -- he is hitting the ball well and giving him a safe chance because he will be right there.
Q. You have officially changed your name over to Tiger?
TIGER WOODS: No, not officially, I have gone by the name.
Q. What does your mother call you?
TIGER WOODS: Tiger, Baby. And whatever else she might call me when I get in trouble.
Q. Talked to a lot of kids today. They said they have taken up the game or are interested in the game because of you. Talk about kind of the role model you are and why it is important for kids to get interested in sports.
TIGER WOODS: I think it is great that I am in a position to influence kids in a good way. If you can influence one kid in a positive way I think you have done a great job. I am in a position that I can influence a lot of kids in hopefully a good way. Now, I think what I am trying to do right now with my foundation and what USGA is doing and all of organizations around the country just give kids a chance, give them access into the game because it is such a great game and you know, unfortunately this game has denied a lot of kids and because of, one, the social background, unfortunately, because of the ethnic background. Now, if one day we can all get beyond that, and just let kids enjoy the game, then, boy, it would be something else when you can see athletes playing this game.
Q. We are from Japan. First of all, your fans in Japan are looking forward to seeing you perform. I know you have a special relationship with your father, very close relationship with your father. Since Sunday being the Father's Day, for you to win the U.S. Open would be a nice Father's Day gift?
TIGER WOODS: It would be a great Father's Day gift. I have already knocked off 50% of it because I have got my mom already on Mother's Day in Atlanta. Now I need to get my dad. It would be pretty cool if I could do that because I have always wanted to do something special for him, and with this recent -- not too recent, but last year his heart problems and the surgery he went through, it would be nice to say: Hey, pop, this one is for you. That would be something that I would cherish very much.
Q. Your message to Japanese fans.
TIGER WOODS: I guess: Tune in, hopefully, I will be on top.
Q. In the past two days as you walked there the 36 holes, the police have been on the side and the police are there now. When you play in tournaments around the country, do you have the same kind of protection or is this protection that you -- what is it supposed to mean?
TIGER WOODS: No, I have it every week. Every week. It is just because people are -- I get threats occasionally or people that are very aggressive, if you can see out there. And they tend to crowd in. And, you can have some dangerous situations where kids are hurt and they are crying, and basically adults will just knock over a kid just to get an autograph. And, it can get pretty violent out there. And, with armed security guards, they tend to back off a little bit and be a little more respectful. Unfortunately, it has come to that. If people could just be more respectful in the beginning, maybe we wouldn't have to have this.
Q. What, if anything, have you and Casey shared about dealing with the media and the fan onslaught?
TIGER WOODS: Patience. Because people are going to ask you some questions at some inappropriate times, you have to kind of have to deal with it. 2: You are going to have to roll with the questions because you hear the same questions every week, and you just have to understand that you just got to go out there and this is, unfortunately, part of the job that we have to do. Casey understands that now. He is not dumb, and he has figured that out very quickly and he has handled it, I mean, as a true gentleman.
Q. How is this course different from Congressional and how will you play it? Will you play it differently from the way you played Congressional?
TIGER WOODS: It is different from Congressional because (1) it is not 7200 yards; not a par 70. Different because the fairways at Congressional weren't banked as they are here. The fairways here are always sloped -- pitched one way or the other and you have got to carve the ball right. You have got to understand what you are going to do every tee shot - whether you are going to cut it, draw it in the slope, use the slope. And, how I am going to play it? Well, play with a lot of 2-irons and 3-woods, get the ball out there in play. Hit a couple of 4-irons off a couple of the holes because, one, they are so short, and just go off and just kind of play the game. Basically get the ball in play and see what happens because this golf course is starting to pick up speed now. And, with no rain in the forecast, and it being as dry as it is out there, this much sun, fairways are starting to get baked out. I have already noticed a difference between playing yesterday and today. And, today, I played early in the morning. It was faster than it was yesterday afternoon.
Q. A year ago at this time a lot of people were just conceding you the second leg at the Grand Slam. I wondered did you get caught up in that at all or did you just have kind of an off-week at Congressional and maybe what are the important lessons you have learned in the years since then that you are looking at this week?
TIGER WOODS: I wasn't playing as I would have liked to have going into Congressional. Unfortunately it is one of those things I couldn't turn around. I worked hard on the range and just couldn't find it. I was putting all right. My feel was good around the greens. But I just couldn't drive the ball the way I wanted to. I wasn't comfortable over my tee shots. No matter what club I was hitting off, I wasn't comfortable with my golf swing. And when you are uncomfortable at a U.S. Open site, it is not exactly one of the best places to be at. This year is different. I feel great about my swing. It has come along. I have shot some pretty good numbers lately, and I am anxious to get out there.
Q. Various players have speculated today on what they think will be the score that wins. What do you think will win it?
TIGER WOODS: If there is no wind like the way it is right now, no wind, warm conditions, probably 5- or 6-under will probably win, probably pretty low. But if the wind picks up, fog rolls in, and it will be totally different because then the golf course will play long, and get long conditions out here, rough gets a little wet, it will be pretty tough.
Q. You mentioned how you -- obviously, one of the main attributes of your game is length and yet this is a course that doesn't necessarily reward that as much as accuracy. Anything consciously you do, besides the mental thing about thinking par, how many holes do you use your driver on?
TIGER WOODS: I think this is one of the golf courses you don't really use your length as much, but it is an advantage because I mean, I get the 2-iron, 3-wood all day where guys are hitting driver and their ball is going to be a little bit lower where they can somehow -- sometimes if they are off a little bit, they can run the ball in the rough. Whereas, I am hitting a 3-wood and 2-irons straight up in the air and landing them soft. My misses won't generally roll into the rough - unless I hit one way off-line, then it will fly in there. I think that is a huge advantage, and I mean look at down the line now, Nicklaus used to win with his 3-wood all the time; used to hit it straight up in the air and land soft -- his misses used to stay in the fairway. I think that is the key to playing U.S. Open golf. Now, as far as hitting drivers, probably hit only about two or three drivers, that is about it. I don't use my driver that often out here. Length is not really the issue out here because fairways are running.
Q. Back when you were playing in college did you hit more drivers?
TIGER WOODS: Because it was -- the conditions dictated it. We were playing under soft conditions. It was rainy and cold and foggy when we played.
Q. The World Cup of Golf in New Zealand this year, how do you feel about World Cup Golf and what it has been trying to do to the game and playing for your country, what does that mean to you?
TIGER WOODS: I think World Cup of Golf is golf because golf is becoming global. It is expanding. It is not just here in the states. It is in Europe, Asia, South Africa, Australia. It is everywhere now. And it is going to be great to be able to compete on a world kind of circuit in a sense now, with World Golf coming up next year. If you ever get a chance to play for your country as an individual, individual sport, that is kind of like the ultimate because you don't get a chance to do that very often. You are playing for something else beside yourself. Week-in and week-out, we are always playing for ourselves, and whatever we do, only affects us. Now in a team support, you are kind of affecting not only yourself; you are playing for your flag; playing for a lot of other different things that you normally don't get to experience in individual sport. And, if you ever have the opportunity, you have to take advantage of it and play.
Q. Jack Nicklaus talks about peaking for the Majors where he will actually will himself to do better on Saturday or Sunday. Is that kind of how you prepare? Do you have that kind of thinking?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, you try and get your game everyday get better somehow, just get more consistent, tighten a little bit, and hopefully by the weekend it is on full cylinder, I mean, it is firing, it is ready to go. You are playing great golf and not really missing a shot. And more than anything, you are not making any mental mistakes. That is very difficult to do. It is easy to say in theory, but, it is unbelievable how hard it is. It takes a lot of concentration, and, with all the distractions that can happen, it takes one who is very focused and very disciplined and knows what he wants.
Q. How interested or how much of a factor is the history of golf in the U.S. Open in the Olympic Club to you? A lot of people who love golf go back and they think about Jack Fleck beating Hogan and Billy Casper beating Arnie and Watson, fellow Stanford guy, just losing out in 1987. Does that matter to you and do you think, hey, I am Tiger, I want to make history here at the Olympic Club?
TIGER WOODS: It would be nice if I could. One, because it is not only we have had some great moments that have happened here, but I think, for me, more importantly, it is near where I used to live. I used to live 20 minutes down the road at Stanford. To have all your friends out watching and then somehow pull together and win in front of them, and in the Bay Area which I have associated myself with for two years, it would be great from that standpoint.
Q. This sense of Tigermania which seems to follow you around whereever you go, just a comment on that and especially with it happening here, pretty much from the time your foot hit the pavement here at the Olympic Club yesterday?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I made one huge mistake last year not last year 1996 I didn't invest in Kodak and Fuji because there are so many cameras out there. It is unbelievable. I guess it is something else when you go out late in the afternoon yesterday and there are a few thousand people all the way around. That is something you don't find very often.
Q. Ernie Els talked earlier about how the biggest problem with his back is the travel. Is the travel that grueling and is it detrimental to your game?
TIGER WOODS: I am not a world player like Ernie is. I don't travel all over the world. He plays in this year has been Australia, Asia, Europe, back United States, back and forth, back and forth. And, that is a huge told on your body. Fortunately, for me, I have been able to stay in the states and kind of pick and choose where I am playing. I think he feels a little more obligated because he grew up on the European Tour and is from South Africa so he has got to support these other Tours. I was born and raised here, so I will support us, no problem.
Q. Doesn't seem to be a course that allows much risk-taking. In that mind, how do you plan on playing 1, 7, 16 and 17 in terms of say had you to chase a little bit when it counted?
TIGER WOODS: Well, 1, if you put it down in the -- the fairway is running, you should be able to have some kind of iron to the green with no problem because the fairway is really running. If you use that speed slot on the right-hand side and you kick that ball down there where you can see some maybe longer hitters who hit hot cuts could possibly hit 6 or 7-iron into the green. I have hit 4- and 5-iron the last two days and it has been wet. You get some guys like Calc. Calc hits these low hot cuts and bullets. Those things are gone. 7, I don't see anybody going for 7 because there is really no point. There is no place to bail out. If you miss it, in the bunker with a lot of sand, and you could bury it with as much sand in the bunkers that is out here. Rough the way it is, three levels, makes no sense. 16, I don't see anybody getting there in two because you got to -- one, you have got to take the chance of hitting a hot hook around the corner and running it down there to get it there. And then hit a great second shot from 280, 290, 300 yards. That is kind of hard to comment, so you will probably see a lot of guys hit irons off the tee, 3-wood, lay-up with irons, hit a 6, 7, 8, 9, wedge, somewhere around there into the green and take their chances that way. 17, bomber drive down there and hopefully you have an iron to the green. If you do, hit it straight up in the air so it lands soft because it is not like you are hitting it into an easy green. You are hitting to a green that is pitched like that and anything on the right runs into the bunker -- I mean, not in the bunker, in the rough. Anything left, you are putting straight downhill towards the lake, and it is not a whole lot of fun.
Q. There has been a few references by David Duval calling you America's greatest player. Do you have any reaction to that?
TIGER WOODS: It is very humbling that he said that because he is one of our greatest players. I think there is a clump of them. Not just myself, but you have got Justin, Davis, Phil, a lot of great young players right now. It is pretty cool.
Q. Back problems are nothing new to golf but in the last six weeks you have had 3 of the last 5 major winners and some of the young superstars in the game withdraw from tournaments because of various back ailments. Is this just a coincidence or is something more ominous?
TIGER WOODS: I think it is one of those things in which it is more publicized that it ever used to be. Guys used to be hurt all the time, but never got publicized. Now it does. Now it becomes more of a public issue; not just a personal issue- let me take a couple of weeks off; let it get better and then come out here and play. Where have you been? Oh, just at home hanging out with the family, fishing. Now it is something: What is wrong with you? Haven't you played? Or, what is going on? What have you done to get better? Times have changed. It is just one of those things that unfortunately happened to all of us, and it has happened to a lot of players over -- all the great ones have had it. Unfortunately, part of the game, having back problems.
Q. Assuming you watched the '87 Open as a kid, down in L.A. when you actually stepped on this golf course for the first time, what did you think? Did it seem to be the same golf course and what were your reactions like?
TIGER WOODS: I was surprised at how much undulation there is from the clubhouse all the way down to the bottom of the golf course because you don't really get to see that on TV. And, from what I have seen on TV in 1987, and from what I have read and heard when I first played, it was really wet. I am saying, God, these guys hit what in these greens? And seeing what stories of people hooking the ball off 17 like Watson in the last round hooked it into the hill on 17 and still rolled into the right rough. I couldn't imagine that because my ball is plugging in and backing up. So it was hard for me to imagine that under those conditions. But, it was pretty neat because there is a certain feeling to get walking around here. And, seeing the treat that Tommy Nakajima hit it on 18. Little things like that are pretty neat.
Q. If you can give advice to a guy who is undistinguished, never really had this kind of a shot, what might it be?
TIGER WOODS: Just go out there and play your game. Play the way that got you here. He earned a spot. He deserves to play, and shouldn't change anything just go out there and play and see what happens.
LES UNGER: I know they are going to approach the dias. Thank you for your time and we wish you good luck.
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