March 25, 1997
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA
WES SEELEY: Well, the last time you were on this stage was a fairly momentous occasion, your first of three U.S. Amateurs. I remember it being a little better day.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it was a perfect day, 98 degrees and humid and sunny, but things were dry.
Q. Talk about what you remember about that day, Tiger, and just what that whole tournament playing here, how your game has changed since then.
TIGER WOODS: What question do you want me to answer?
Q. All three of them.
TIGER WOODS: What is the first one?
Q. What do you remember about the day?
TIGER WOODS: Obviously it was a big day because I won. But more than anything, I was glad it was over because it was a really long week. We were indoors a lot just because of the heat and the humidity and had to play 36 holes. And, it was just a long, hard week. But, yeah, it was a big day in my career, and it was my fourth USGA title in a row. But, more importantly, put me on the amateur level. I won a big tournament at the amateur level which meant a lot to me.
Q. Has your game changed since then?
TIGER WOODS: Understatement. It has changed a lot. Much more consistent now. I don't hit some of the shots I used to hit. I am scoring better. That is one of the reasons why I am a pro. But, yeah -- but, honestly, my game has changed a lot for the good.
Q. Do you think differently now than you did that day?
TIGER WOODS: You know, yes, I do, just because of experience. I have played a lot of tournaments since then at a higher level than I was accustomed to then. I play in Majors now. Played in six Majors. So I have learned a lot by just playing in these tournaments, as well as talking to other players and watching them play the game, and I have learned a lot.
Q. How about the golf course? Did you see any of the golf course before it started raining?
TIGER WOODS: I saw a few holes; that is about it.
Q. Can you comment on -- there is good fields every week --
TIGER WOODS: Right.
Q. -- But, this is 50 out of the top 50 off the Sony. Your thoughts on -- there is nobody missing, absolutely nobody. What is your thoughts on competing?
TIGER WOODS: I think it is great. This is a perfect way to prepare for the major, The Masters, in a couple of weeks. We have got a great field that we are playing against this week. It is almost pretty much the identical field at Augusta, so, yeah, it is nice to get, I guess, a preview, you could say, or warm-up, a good warm-up tournament before Augusta, because you are playing exactly the same field. So, if you play well here,, obviously you are going to get a lot of confidence in going into Augusta.
Q. Have you ever taken anything from a place where you have won before? When you come back to a place have one year winning, are you more comfortable; do you look at it that way or is it just --
TIGER WOODS: You know, I have had success here, yes. I am comfortable around this track, but the differences -- two formats. And also the time of year too. Those two factors are pretty huge. And, I played obviously in a match play tournament where, you know, really didn't matter if you made a 10 or 12. Who cares. Only one hole. Totally different mentality. But, I think what is most important is I played in the summer when it was dry, hard and fast. And, it was mostly Bermuda grass - the fairways, the greens, the rough. So you had grain on the golf course. Here, right now, pretty much null and void, a lot of it is winter rye. It's rye grass. The grain is not prevalent on the greens, but they are faster now. Everything is totally different from what I was accustomed to seeing the golf course and how it played.
Q. When you have a break like today with the weather, how do you spend your spare time?
TIGER WOODS: Probably go home and play a few video games. We brought our play station.
Q. Any favorites?
TIGER WOODS: I love Mortal Combat.
WES SEELEY: Nice passive game. (laughter)
Q. Couple of questions about Butch Harmon. Can you comment on -- you talked about your development from the amateur to the pro game. Can you comment on his performance in terms of your development as a player over the last three or four years since you guys began your association in '93?
TIGER WOODS: He changed my swing. Obviously we shortened it. Let us see. I am making a bigger turn now than I was then. My width of my golf swing is different. So I have changed a few things. But, overall, it has been a lot of minor changes over time. Nothing really major. Only major change we made was pretty much the position at the top of the swing. With the fact I am trying to get more cuppy or trying to get more width at the top than shortening. Pretty much has been the same. We just had to tweak it every now and then. No major reconstruction of my golf swing.
Q. How good in terms of the mental game -- Butch has been around the game a long time. What did he bring to you or what has he helped you do in terms of taking your game from the amateur to the pro level on a mental level?
TIGER WOODS: He has helped me out a little bit with that, but, you know, Butch has always been a believer where he would rather have someone else talk to you about it, like a player who plays now, so I have had talks with Arnold, talks with Jack, and, I mean, the whole nine yards, all the great players, he is associated with them. He knows them. He would rather have me pick their brain than have him tell me because he thinks I would obviously get more out of it because they would tell more current stories in how the game is played now.
Q. Have the different ways that you are being helped around the golf course, the increased security and everything, do you feel a little less harassed and able to go about what you need to do as far as practicing and everything?
TIGER WOODS: Definitely, because, you know, at times it can get out of hand. Practice round - granted, today is not a good example - but some of my past tournaments, it has been tough just moving, and you got to draw the line somewhere, because I am obviously here to do a job. It is my job now, and I try to be as accommodating as possible. But, sometimes people don't understand. So, therefore, we have to go to these measures, and it helps me out a lot as far as getting around. But, I think it also helps the other players too who are playing with me or playing behind me because it also speeds up play.
Q. How do you balance that out against some of the thoughts that may go through your head, you know, I should sign some of these autographs; I should spend some time with these people? Is it really difficult to decide when you are supposed to be finished with that and when you have to concentrate on playing.
TIGER WOODS: In practice rounds, I don't have a problem with it. I just have a problem with the guys who come with big duffel bags full of stuff and want to sell it. They are going to sell it for 100 bucks. I have a problem with that. They use kids -- a lot of times they use kids; give them a few dollars and send them over. I will sign it. They run back to the guy and the guy sells it this week. That is the way it works out here.
Q. Some autographs you won't sign; are you being more cautious?
TIGER WOODS: Very cautious. I have learned my lesson because I have seen these booths pop up every now and then in catalogues and stuff, so I have learned the hard way.
Q. Can you size up the state of your game now and last week at Bay Hill you had tied for 9th without being all that sharp. Can you talk about that.
TIGER WOODS: I drove it pretty good at Bay Hill. The fairways, I did miss. I was on first cut - I was on first cut a lot, so wasn't too far off with my driving. I thought I drove it pretty good, but my iron-play was kind of suspect; therefore, that put a lot of pressure on my lag putting. And, when we see guys shooting some pretty good numbers, you feel like you should be hitting the ball closer to give yourself a chance to catch up. I wasn't really doing that. And so, therefore, I worked hard on my game during the tournament. But it didn't gel. But, I worked on it yesterday, and as well as today, and it feels a lot better now, my iron-play. So, if my iron game comes around, that basically relieves a lot of stress on my putting, so I don't have 40-, 50-footers for birdie.
Q. You spoke about picking Arnold's and Jack's mind. Last year at a practice round Jack mentioned you were going to win more Masters tournaments than him and Arnold combined. Does that put any added pressure on you as well?
TIGER WOODS: No, it doesn't put any pressure on me. Obviously, I want to do that anyway. What is most important, it shows that Jack has respect for my playing ability and that is a huge compliment. It is complimentary. Those words, I took that to heart. And because, one, I respect the guy for who he is and what kind of player he is.
Q. Has your mind set changed coming into it after playing as an amateur there, now going back?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I don't have a paper to do this week or a final. (Laughter) No. See, that is, I have explained a number of times when I went to Augusta, I am always tired. I am always worn out because I have had finals the week before Augusta every year, and that is no way to prepare. I never practiced for probably a week and a half, then I head to Augusta, and I have to be very sharp. Obviously, I am not going to do as well. Now this is a different story. I am prepared. I am mentally sharp. Similar rested now. And, most importantly, I am tournament-tough. I have played enough tournaments to get my edge, you could say. A lot of players do that. They play, play a lot leading up to a tournament just to keep their edge and their playing skills in tact, and that is one thing I have been able to do. Been able to concentrate on my game outside of the other distractions.
Q. You seem more anxious to reach that tournament more than any other right now.
TIGER WOODS: Obviously it is our first major. As soon as that one is done, I am going to try to get ready for the U.S. Open.
Q. Where does this tournament stand in terms of that preparation and where do you rank this one?
TIGER WOODS: Obviously it is pretty high because this is -- 50 of the top 50 players are here. So, obviously, it's a pretty tough tournament. Best field we have had all year. And I am going to go out there and try to win and see what happens. But, I think it is going to be -- I guess you could say -- a good measuring device, see how well you are playing because you are playing against the best.
Q. Can you talk about the three finishing holes here.
TIGER WOODS: 16, if you drive it well should be able to get home at 2. Hit a good higher shot, looking at birdie, if not eagle. 17 is a hole where I think the hardest pin placement is not on the right. It is up front. Because there's no bailout area, when you do bail out long, you've got that downhill putt. If you are under the gun, that is a tough hole, especially if the winds start swirling. Then you get fire to the fat part of the green which isn't that much. 18 is a great hole. Good par 4 version of Pebble 18 - kind of the way I kind of feel when I step on that tee box. But, that hole I had can't hit driver on that hole if there is no wind in my face - hit 3-wood and middle iron to the green.
Q. Can you comment on any specific memory you have had from the last time you have played here. Obviously those three holes were crucial in winning the amateur that year. Do you have a specific shot that comes to mind?
TIGER WOODS: A specific shot -- well, I guess obviously 17. But, I think before then, it was the putt I made at 7 in the afternoon was probably the biggest putt I made all week because it got me going. That specifically is what I remember a lot about that amateur because I was -- I was 5 down at the time, and I needed to make a run. I made like a 30-footer up the hill. Double breaker. It was left-to-right then right-to-left at the end, and that was a big putt.
Q. At that point, you didn't -- you wouldn't show a lot of emotions, but on 17 when you get that birdie putt that might be -- I mean, we still see highlights of the emotion you showed.
TIGER WOODS: Problem is people see that as the first time I have ever done that. It is not. I have done that in my junior career and amateur career. I was never on TV. So, I finally made a big putt. It was in a big tournament. It was telecast, and it was on all across the United States, and people -- it was the first time they have ever got a glimpse of that.
Q. Are you able to concentrate, with all the activity around you, on golf?
TIGER WOODS: Put it this way: It was tough -- well, initially because I wasn't used to it, like Milwaukee and my first couple of tournaments, but as time has gone on, I have gotten adjusted to it. I have found a schedule that works best for me, through trial and error; learn from my mistakes. But, yeah, I have found a way for me to deal with it where I can focus on my game, yeah.
Q. Palmer has dealt with Arnie's army for years. Did you get anything from him in dealing with the crowds?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I have learned a lot from Arnold.
Q. Such as?
TIGER WOODS: I think that is very private. That is between he and I.
Q. The level of attention you get, the occasional pandemonium that I have seen on TV, I guess, I think I am wondering why this is going on, what it is about you that causes this.
TIGER WOODS: I would ask the same question.
Q. What answers do you come up with?
TIGER WOODS: I think, one, the fact -- the way I play the game is a little different. I am obviously long, but I play the game. I don't go out there and beat it all around and try for show. That is not my deal. I try to win. Two is the fact that it is you guys, as well, you guys write about me a lot. That puts me in the public eye. I am always written about. People always read about me or see me on TV, so that gives it a new interest, and, one, I am young, too. So...
Q. Lots of people have been written about, lots of people are on TV, and I can't isolate it, but I sense there is something slightly different here, and I really wonder what it truly --
TIGER WOODS: When you figure it out, tell me.
Q. I will.
Q. Last week, you were quoted as saying that some of your fan base kind of has a basketball mentality. Was that accurate?
TIGER WOODS: I am not saying basketball mentality, but what I am saying, they are not used to golf etiquette; that is what I am saying. I used basketball as an example because they can scream and yell and wave your arms during foul shots, so it is different. When I look around and see my galleries, they are people who usually don't go to a golfing event or may not even play golf, period, or may not ever have been on golf course before. So, obviously their behavior is not going to be I guess, quote/unquote, "up to par" with the golfing world. So, they are going to get real rowdy, i.e., 16 at Phoenix. Yeah, so I can understand that. I think over time, they are going to get adjusted to the game and understand it, and I think that is when the game is really going to grow and profit from it.
Q. Your fan base tends to be a little younger, as well.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, a lot younger. Just because the fact that I am only 21 and the kids, in particular, relate to me. And I wasn't too far out of my teens, so they can understand where I am coming from. And, I know that it is hard, when I was growing up, I looked up to players, but I never looked up to, say, like a Ben Hogan or Sam Snead or any of those players because they are too old. I couldn't relate to them. But I could relate to the Seve Ballesteros, who was young when I was growing up, so I could relate to that. That is the same thing with this generation; they could relate to a younger player.
Q. Back to with your father being unable to travel to all the events, can you talk about the relationship in terms of friendship, someone to kind of lean on if you need to and how Butch provides that for you in your professional career.
TIGER WOODS: Butch, obviously, is one of my good friends and offers advice when I ask for it. But I think where it is very important in our relationship is that we respect one another as a human being. I respect him as a teacher, but I also respect him as a human being. So, therefore, I can talk on any level I want as a friend. Sometimes it is more of -- kind of has a brotherly feel for it too. But, yeah, I think the respect level that we have for one another is where most teacher/pupil relationships are different.
Q. Could you comment, if you could, about his part in helping you make the decision to turn pro last year right before the Greater Milwaukee Open.
TIGER WOODS: Butch said my game was -- my game is ready for the TOUR ranks, but he didn't know whether my mind was ready for it. Because that is what he doesn't know, my mind. I only know that. So it was nice to get an opinion from a pro that I respect. He is my swing coach. He said my swing was good enough to come out here, but I had to find out within myself whether I was ready personally and inside.
Q. Butch Harmon comes from a long line of golf. His father won The Masters in 1948. He has been around golf all his life, much like you. Does that come through in discussion? Do you see that as the fact that he has been around golf since he was three; is that important? Do you feel that as being an important asset he brings to the table?
TIGER WOODS: It is a huge asset. One is that he has seen some of the best players of all time play. He played a few rounds with -- I said number of rounds with Hogan and he has seen these things. His father and Ben Hogan were best of friends, so he could see the shots that these guys played and how they played them; how they conducted themselves, and, he has past a lot of that knowledge onto me which is quite an honor and quite a privilege.
Q. You spoke of 16, 17, 18, but what are your overall impressions of the course.
TIGER WOODS: Put it this way, I haven't really seen it under these conditions. When we played the amateur here, as I said, it was Bermuda grass and it didn't have to be that deep to be very penalizing. And it was fast. When we played it, a lot of guys didn't hit driver off the tee because they were afraid of running it through the fairway because it was really rolling that week. It didn't rain. Here, this week, it is raining a little bit, so it is going to play a little different. I like the layout, but I don't know if the conditions have changed it a lot; that is what I am trying to say.
Q. You talked about relating to other golfers. What athletes in other sports did you relate to growing up? Were there others, baseball, football, basketball?
TIGER WOODS: I think pretty much basketball. I grew up with Showtime, the Lakers. I used to love watching Magic and Kareem and the whole -- I can go through the whole staff. I won't bore you with that. I used to love to watch them play. And the finals that they had with the Celtics, that is what I grew up watching.
Q. Baseball at all.
TIGER WOODS: I grew up watching baseball because, one, my dad played baseball, and he taught me a lot of the idiosyncrasies of the game and I learned a lot, but I love baseball. I have played it, but I still like basketball.
Q. Did your dad ever tell you anything about Jackie Robinson if he grew up playing baseball; is that something that came up?
TIGER WOODS: It came up, yeah.
Q. When talking about the media and maybe the way that we contribute to the, I guess, your celebrity, there is a huge cycle at work, I guess, where we are doing stories because our readers and our viewers are interested in you and in turn, that creates more interest and so we write more stories. There is a huge cycle. But, I get the sense that maybe you think the media's level of interest in you is not in proportion to the fans's level of interest or do you think that, in other words, that we are doing too much and that it causes problems because we are all looking for a new angle?
TIGER WOODS: I wouldn't say you're causing it, I wouldn't say that. Granted, I will say you are looking for an angle. I think the fact that I am, I guess, new to the scene, I think that has generated interest. And I think that the way -- if you look back at the amateur, the way I won it, it was the thing about not only winning the amateur but the time it was on TV, it spilled into prime time news on the east coast, the third one, so everybody who wanted to watch the news, which is a lot of people, they were forced to watch the amateur. And then, that obviously generated some interest. Then I turned pro the following week, so then that generated more interest. Then it kept piling up and piling up. All of a sudden, there is snowball effect.
Q. You don't feel that we are doing more than what is warranted by the amount of interest in you by the general public?
TIGER WOODS: No. I think you guys are doing great as long as you don't rip on me.
Q. Did that search for a different angle go too extreme this week and is that going to make you a little bit more cautious in dealing with --
TIGER WOODS: Very cautious with you guys, yes, because I have learned my lesson. I had to learn it the hard way. I have learned that some -- I guess some writers have an agenda going into an article. Obviously, you guys do. But, some more than others.
Q. Continuing on that same vein, because you are a crossover star, are you having a lot more problems getting with being interviewed by people who don't know about golf; don't understand what you do or --
TIGER WOODS: Yeah -- yes and no because one, I don't do a whole lot of one and one interviews, so, therefore, I don't get that crossover very much. Were you in L.A.? The L.A. Open press conference?
Q. No, I wasn't at that one. I was with you at Phoenix.
TIGER WOODS: I don't know if you guys remember, there was a young lady in the back asking --
Q. Dumb questions.
TIGER WOODS: -- Yeah. She is what from Inside Edition or Journal -- I don't know what. You are going to get some people like that who -- she wanted to talk about my private life.
Q. Is that what happened in the Esquire article, GQ article?
TIGER WOODS: I have already answered enough on that GQ article.
Q. Is that an example of being questioned by people who may not appreciate your golf more so --
TIGER WOODS: I think that is a guy who wanted something else out of the article instead of just writing it.
Q. With so many people watching your swing and getting so much attention for the average golfer, what can they learn from your swing and how can they implement it in their own games?
TIGER WOODS: What can they learn from my swing? I guess, one, my swing has -- it is not very loose. I don't have a whole lot of moving parts that are flying all over the place. I have tightened it up over the years. I think that is one of the reasons why -- that is one of the reasons why I hit the ball further than most players. It is because my swing is pretty tight. It is compact. And if you look at -- I have always understand the game best, if you want to hit the ball further you have got to have more speed and in order to do that -- my dad always looked at a figure skater. When a figure skater spins with those arms out, they are going to obviously spin slower. If their arms are in, they are going to spin faster. That is the way the golf swing works as well.
Q. Do you feel like you set the club very high or --
TIGER WOODS: I let the club set itself. I don't actually physically try and set the club, no. I have never been one who likes to pick the club up right off the ball. I like to get a lot of width on my golf ball. Butch has really stressed in my game early in my career, I used to fan it. But, I still would never cock my wrist until very late. So that has come natural. My dad always taught me, set the club naturally; let the club do it by itself.
Q. On Jackie Robinson, with the 50th anniversary, what would a man of your generation know about Jackie? Obviously just from reading or whatever, how significant is he to you?
TIGER WOODS: Well, one, I think for any minority who plays a sport, you know, he is our catalyst. He was our -- basically he is one of our heroes. The reason being he had to endure a lot. Society didn't approve of him. They didn't want him to break down these barriers that had been established. And he knocked them down and it is because of him that other players took up other sports, i.e., Charlie Sifford and Ted Rhodes, I will use that example in golf. They took it up because of him and endured it just because Jackie endured it. And, he is one of my heroes, yes.
Q. So there might not have been a Tiger Woods if there was no Jackie --
TIGER WOODS: Who knows. Because reason being, I don't know if the barrier in golf would have been knocked down.
Q. Could you comment on the mental approach it takes when the weather is going to be obviously as much of a factor on this course this week?
TIGER WOODS: I don't know. I don't know if it is supposed to rain this week or not.
Q. It is likely to have some rain early Wednesday Thursday maybe Friday.
TIGER WOODS: Then if that is the case, then the course will be playing a little bit longer and obviously softer, but I still think that if you don't get -- if you get rain, great, but if we don't, in either case, I think the score is going to be pretty low. I think because the golf course is very soft and the greens are absolutely perfect like playing on a carpet out there.
Q. Talking to Nick Faldo this morning he indicated he would prefer no rain and fast greens to separate the men from the boys for lack of a better term. Your thoughts in that regard.
TIGER WOODS: It would. That is one of the reasons why a U.S. Open or Augusta National separates the field. That is exactly why -- because marginal shots will repel. You have got to control your ball; got to hit the ball in the fairway and control your spin into the greens. When have soft conditions, that is no longer the case. Fire at any pin you want because you know it is not going to go anywhere when it lands.
Q. Because of Butch's knowledge of Winged Foot having spent years and years there, might that be your best chance at a major this year because of how he could help you?
TIGER WOODS: Granted, yes, he could help me, but I wouldn't say my best chance. I am not going to go that far. No, to be honest -- but I haven't played it yet. So I don't know. I have played the other course -- the east course? That is not the tournament course?
WES SEELEY: That is correct.
TIGER WOODS: Right. So I have only played that course. And, I have never played Winged Foot's tournament course.
Q. You are going to miss the Crows Nest.
TIGER WOODS: Am I?
TIGER WOODS: I will miss the prices of the food.
Q. You have had a bit of a sub-start at the beginning of the year with winning early and then travelling and then your father's illness and everything. Does this sort of feel like the start of the tournament year for you?
TIGER WOODS: No, I think -- well, obviously, tournament year started at Mercedes. But, I think this is almost, in a sense, once the Florida swing starts, I think it is pretty much the stretch run to Augusta and I think that is when a lot of guys -- obviously a lot of guys from Europe come over here because they are trying to get ready for this. It is our last few preparations, tinkering and change that we can do.
Q. Somebody asked you earlier about sports figures outside of golf you looked up to while growing up. How about outside of sports, who are the people who make you think about other things besides golf? People at Stanford, authors, who helped you think about other things.
TIGER WOODS: Well, obviously one of my favorite authors in high school. I only read one book was Frederick Douglas. He was an amazing individual. That is what got me to think about other things, reading articles and actually books on a subject like that. And, I have learned a lot by reading a lot of articles, yes.
Q. I wonder about Tiger golf and golf in Great Britain, your experience there; what about your knowledge of those courses.
TIGER WOODS: Troon. The only thing I know about it is the playoff Calc won.
TIGER WOODS: Right that is the only thing. I remember there is a club louse in the background.
Q. Any thoughts about golf in Britain.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I love it over there because it is not like here in the states. It is more than one dimensional. Over there, you have to control your ball. You have got to bump and run. You have got more options. Over here it is target golf. Here is a perfect example of this golf course: Fairway, green, that is the only thing you have. You have those two options. You don't have a chance to play down another fairway if you want because of the wind, run the ball up with a 5-iron from 100 yards because the winds is howling. I think that is fun because I like to be creative and, boy, it can be really creative over there.
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