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April 9, 2024

Tiger Woods

Augusta, Georgia, USA

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: Good morning, everyone, and it is always a very special pleasure to welcome back to the media center a five-time Green Jacket winner, Mr. Tiger Woods.

Tiger, thank you for being with us today. Thanks for spending a few minutes. It's been five years ago, hard to believe, that you won your fifth Green Jacket. You started Thursday, if you remember, that first round, outside the top 10, and went on to win in dramatic fashion. It is rare for a player outside the top 10 after Thursday to win. You did it in 2019. And the last 20 years it's only been done one other time. And that was 2005, and that was you.

TIGER WOODS: Right. (Laughing).

THE MODERATOR: What a testament --

TIGER WOODS: Thank you for telling me I started outside the top 10.

THE MODERATOR: What a testament to your indomitable will over your career and your ability to make changes and adaptions to your practice, to your therapy, according to your body needs. And you executed that to perfection in 2019.

In 2021 there was that horrific accident that did serious damage to your leg. Could you share with us what adaptions to your healing, your rehab, your practice, your preparations that you have done that puts you in the best position to win your sixth Green Jacket.

TIGER WOODS: Well, I have an amazing medical staff that has really helped me get through this. Kolby has really been there through thick and thin to help me get into this position, and it's daily adaption. We work at it each and every day, whether it's trying to loosen me up or strengthen me or just recovery.

My practice sessions certainly aren't what they used to be. I used to live on the range or live on a short game facility and just be out there all day. That's no longer the case. So I just have to be more focused on when I do get a chance to go out there and practice and really grind out and make every shot count because I just really don't have the ball count in me anymore.

So those adaptations have -- hopefully I've made 'em for this week, I've got a chance to go out there on Sunday, take a look at the front nine. I played yesterday with Will on the back nine and came out today and played the front nine again with JT and Fred.

So this golf course is -- when we came up here last weekend, it was in perfect shape. And it's only gotten better, which is hard to believe, but it has. Hopefully we will get the weather to cooperate a little bit with us come Thursday.

THE MODERATOR: Let's open it up to questions.

Q. Given those physical challenges that you just described, why is it so important for you to keep playing in this tournament?

TIGER WOODS: Well, this tournament has meant so much to me in my life and my family. I think I've been playing here for, what, 29 years now. It was the ultimate to be able to stay in the Crow's Nest and to watch Byron and Sam and Gene tee off on the first hole.

It's been a part of my life to have won here as my first major as a pro. Hugging my dad, as you saw; then a full circle in 2019 to hug my son.

It has meant a lot to my family. It's meant a lot to me. I always want to keep playing in this. And today I got a chance to play with Fred. And Fred's been here a very long time, and we're joking that he's the oldest person ever to make a cut, and I think he can do it again this year.

So it's great. I mean, that's the neat thing about this golf course, and it's the only major we play on the same site, the same venue, each and every year, and we get to tell stories and catch up with friends and for me get a chance to catch up with idols and the people that I looked up to my entire life.

Q. What would a record 24th straight cuts mean to you at this event considering all the major accomplishments you've had in your career?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I think it's consistency, it's longevity, and it's an understanding of how to play this golf course. That's one of the reasons why you see players that are in their 50s and 60s make cuts here, or it's players in their late 40s have runs at winning the event, just the understanding of how to play it.

Now, you still have to go out and execute it, but there's a lot of knowledge that goes into understanding how to play it. And, granted, every tee box has been changed since the first time I played. Every green has been changed. But the overall configuration of how they roll and how they move and the angles you take, that hasn't changed.

That's the neat thing about this. I can still go through the mental Rolodex and bring out a few putts from the '90s that still move generally in that direction and the effect that Rae's Creek has on certain shots and putts. And it means a lot.

Q. Two things. What have you seen, the golf course and some of the changes, since last year? And is there any particular lie with the severity of some of the tilt to the ground here either uphill or downhill that's tricky for you with your ankle?

TIGER WOODS: Let's see. 2's been lengthened a little bit. I think it's 313 or 311 from the plate to the bunker.

4's been resurfaced. Some of the putts -- they have widened the top right of it. The bottom, the back left is a little bit steeper. Some of the putts from the bottom move a little bit differently.

6 is a little bit different too with the addition of a little more room on the top right and the elevation of the back of the green. So that little chip shot we had is a little bit different now over the back part of the green. I think there's more room on that shelf. It doesn't feel like that you're crowded with two people on top of that shelf. There's a little bit more room now.

As far as my physicality on certain shots, every shot that's not on a tee box is a challenge (smiling). So, yeah, once we start the hole, it's a bit of a challenge.

Q. You said last year your hope or your ambition was to try and play once a month. I realize you have some limitations. I'm just curious what specifically determines whether you play, what kept you from -- since playing from Riv?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I wasn't ready to play. My body wasn't ready. My game wasn't ready. And I thought that when I was at Hero, once a month would be a really nice rhythm. Hasn't worked out that way. But now we have major championships every month from here through July. So now the once a month hopefully kicks in.

Q. Just want to follow up on that. Was there any physical issues that kept you from preparing the way you would have wanted to, you know, a month ago to play in Florida? And where are you in that regard right now?

TIGER WOODS: The body's just -- the things that just flare up. Again, the training that we have to do at home, it changes from day-to-day basis. Some days I just feel really good, and other days, not so much.

Q. With everything that you go through in your career right now, what makes you get up and go through all the preparation and all the things you have to go through to get ready to play top-level major golf?

TIGER WOODS: I love golf. I do. I've always loved it. I played other sports growing up, but I just have always loved this sport. I love to compete.

And be able to have the love I have for the game and the love for competition be intertwined, I think that's one of the reasons why I've had a successful career. I just love doing the work. I love logging the time in, and I love preparing. I love competing, and I love that feeling when everything's on fire with a chance to win and you either you do or you don't.

Q. You talked a bunch about your local knowledge, and it's obviously considerable after all these years. Is there any way to quantify how many strokes a round that might be worth to you on an average round?

TIGER WOODS: I don't know if it's quantifiable, but I can tell you that understanding where to miss it is -- I mean, granted you're going to get some weird wind pop up and hit spots, but understanding of where to miss it, how to miss it and shot shape to put it there, I don't know what an exact number would be.

But it is helpful, and it's one of the reasons why it's always helpful to play with players that had success here and players that have played the test of time, especially the past champions.

Q. I think last year you talked about bringing your son here and sharing memories and stuff with him. How often do you bring him here to play, and how often does he ask to come?

TIGER WOODS: We haven't played in a couple years now. I came up here last weekend. He wanted to be at home. So I came up here, and came up here and got a chance to play with the chairman and Rob and JT, and we had just an absolute blast.

I would like to, obviously, play a little bit more up here with him and to share the experiences. Especially now that he's got a little bit longer so he hits it past me. So I think that the days of playing from the members tees are over. He's got to come back there with us.

Q. When you think of everywhere you've been, everything you've achieved and the life you've had, what does the game of golf mean to you?

TIGER WOODS: Well, it's been my life. I started playing at nine months; so I've done it pretty much my entire life. I played my first tournament when I was five. I have been playing tournament golf and playing golf around the world, not just here in the United States but around the world; it's allowed me to see places that I don't think that I would ever have gotten a chance to see, people that I've got a chance to meet all around the world. The generational connectivity with the sport, right.

So, as I said, with watching Sam and Gene and Byron tee off, two years later to watch them drinking my milkshakes, to play practice rounds with Fred and Raymond, Seve over the years, those are -- and Jack and Arnold, those are memories that I'll have for a lifetime. And it's all because of this sport.

Q. Can you talk about what it means to you to mentor younger players? We know what it means to them, but how about any kind of joy that you might get doing that?

TIGER WOODS: I love watching them succeed. That's part of the game is we pass on the knowledge. We don't keep it. All the players that have come before me, I really didn't really discover anything new, it's the fact that they were able to share a lot that have with me.

And then that's what we do; we pass on the knowledge to the next generation. Especially here. This is one of the events that we get a chance to do that just because we're playing on the same venue each and every year, we're able to pass that on. I think the Masters does an incredible job of bringing together the past and the future of the game of golf.

Q. What's your current position regarding the Ryder Cup captaincy at Bethpage?


Q. What is it?

TIGER WOODS: We're still talking about it. (Smiling).

Q. Is it linked to how much you're going to play golf?

TIGER WOODS: It's something that Seth and I are going to sit back and talk about it after this event. I said I'm going to be busy for a couple weeks, so let me focus on getting through this week and hopefully getting another jacket, and then we can sit back and talk about it next week.

Q. Curious, can you describe the feeling you get when you return to this property and get to put on your Green Jacket?

TIGER WOODS: It's special. To come down Magnolia Lane. The first time I got a chance to see it, I came in the middle of the night. We played a Stanford-Georgia Tech event. So I came in the middle of the night, and I didn't get a chance to see Magnolia Lane. My first time, right? So got a chance to stay in the Crow's Nest and the next day got a chance to see the golf course and what this amazing property is.

Just the fact that I'm able to put on a Green Jacket for the rest of my life is just absolutely amazing. I'm just an honorary member, but I love it.

Q. I want to talk about Verne Lundquist. He is retiring from the Masters after this year. His iconic call on 16 years ago, I'm sure you hear a lot about it. Could you talk about that for a moment and what Verne has meant to Augusta National?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I've heard that call a couple times. (Smiling). Yeah, that -- I mean, he has just an amazing ability to bring in the audience and describe a situation and just be able to narrate it in a way that is poetic but it's also -- he describes it with emotionality. He just draws the audience in.

It's amazing. It's I think his 40th year, I think it is now, 39th, 40th year, to be able to call the Masters. That's what I grew up watching. I grew up listening to Verne. And he made a nice call there at 16, and it's one that I've been lucky enough to -- I will have that memory with Verne for the rest of my life.

Q. As someone who knows what it's like to win a career Grand Slam or slams, as Rory McIlroy tries to achieve that feat again this year, can you explain how difficult it is to win a slam, and do you think he will do it at some stage?

TIGER WOODS: No question, he'll do it at some point. He's just -- Rory's too talented, too good. He's going to be playing this event for a very long time. He'll get it done. It's just a matter of when.

But, yes, I think that Rory will be a great Masters champion one day, and it could be this week. You never know. I just think that just, again, the talent that he has, the way he plays game and the golf course fits his eye, it's just a matter of time.

Q. You keep talking -- we all know that your body's taken a lot. Is there anything about the ankle which is like still that is unknown to us? I'm sure there's a lot unknown, but something that you are trying to prepare to make sure that you continue to play the game that you love and have given so much to?

TIGER WOODS: Well, the ankle doesn't hurt anymore. It's fused. It's not going anywhere. So that's fine. It's other parts of my body that now have to take the brunt of it.

So, yeah, once he put the rods in there, it's good to go.

But, the back, the knee, other parts of the body have to take the load of it, and just the endurance capability of walking a long time and being on my feet for a long time.

Q. You've talked a lot about some memories already today, but what do you feel like you're capable of doing this week? What do you believe that you can do this week?

TIGER WOODS: If everything comes together, I think I can get one more. Do I need to describe that any more than that, or are we good? (Smiling).

Q. You mentioned knowing all the shots here, but that means you also know the difficulty of the walk. I wonder if it's the most difficult walk there is on TOUR, and what is the impact on your body of four days of that potentially?

TIGER WOODS: It's certainly one of the more hillier walks that we have on TOUR. You just don't realize it. And where the clubhouse is perched to the bottom of 12 green, we're playing on a hillside, and we're just meandering back and forth across that hillside.

So, yeah, it is a long walk. I think it's -- I think I've done just over six and a half miles here. But I think that it's -- more than anything, it's the shaping of shots. These are things that I can't simulate in Florida. We're pretty flat. So I try the best I can on certain hillsides back at home to hit shots. But you just got to come out here and do it.

Then, on top of that, playing on bent and the movement of these greens, that is something that, because I haven't played a whole lot on Tour, I don't really get a chance to see that very often. I'm home on Bermuda all the time. And so that's another factor into this week.

Q. Curious, you spoke about obviously your reverence for Augusta National, and Jack back in the day would always talk about he would resist to be a ceremonial golfer. And I just wonder for yourself, as the physical stuff has mounted and the challenges have come, where are you in that thought of, you know, how -- where your kind of golfing competition mortality is, if you will, for this place? And have you thought about being one of those starters down the line on the Thursday morning and that kind of thing?


Q. Maybe not that far?

TIGER WOODS: No, I have not thought about being a starter here, no.

Q. In a more immediate sense, in terms of playing, when you maybe don't think that all things can come together and you can win as you do right now?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I still think they can. So I don't know when that day is, when that day comes, but I still think that I can. I haven't got to that point where I don't think I can't.

Q. Curious, under ideal tournament conditions, do you think a 59 is attainable on this golf course?

TIGER WOODS: If we played the old yardage and the old tee boxes, I would say yes. Not at 7,600. The ability for this golf course to get longer than it has, than it plays -- I mean, when we played, when I first played here, the fairways were more cut down grain, now they're into the grain. The overseed has gotten thicker. The golf course just plays stickier, in a sense. I know they sand capped all the fairways, but the roll-outs is not what it used to be. So you just can't sneak down there.

And then when I was telling -- JT's heard this a bunch of times and we were talking about it, and I was talking to Mr. Chairman when we were playing, when I played here in '95, my clubs here, it was raining, and I had a 60-degree sand wedge into 1, I had 8-iron into 2. I drove in the crosswalk on 5. I had 5-iron into 8. I drove it if the in crosswalk on 9 and 17. So there was a lot of 60-degree sand wedges. I had pitching wedge into 15. That doesn't exist now.

So I don't think that's a reality anymore just with the fact that we're so far back.

Q. Can I ask again about your physicality, pain you're under? Is it constant when you're out there on the course, is it worse here, and are you playing with playing with pain killers?

TIGER WOODS: I hurt every day. (Smiling.) So, yes.

Q. Is it worse here?

TIGER WOODS: I ache. No, I ache every day. And I prefer it warm and humid and hot. And I know we're going to get some thunderstorms. So at least it will be hot. It won't be like last year.

Q. The USGA and R&A are trying to make golf simpler. I'm wondering if you would be interested in joining a growing movement to make the OB rule just stroke, not stroke and distance, just drop it where it went out.

TIGER WOODS: Say that again? I'm sorry, I don't understand.

Q. Okay. Trying to make golf simpler and have it a rule change by which for going OB you can just drop it where it went out instead of having to reload. Would you be in favor of such a rule change?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think there's a number of rule changes that would have to come before that one that would speed up the game and make it better.

Q. What's your favorite thing?

TIGER WOODS: I don't know, but I think that's -- I think there's a number of items that are on the list before that one.

THE MODERATOR: Well, Tiger, thank you very much. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. And, Tiger, we wish you obviously the very best of luck this year.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, thanks, Rob.

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