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June 12, 2007

Tiger Woods


RAND JERRIS: It's a pleasure to welcome Tiger Woods to the interview room this afternoon. Tiger is playing in his 13th United States Open Championship this week at Oakmont. He is an eight-time USGA national champion, having won the Junior Amateur on three occasions, the U.S. Amateur three times, as well as the 2000 and 2002 U.S. Open.
If you would start off with some general comments about the golf course that you've seen in the past few days.
TIGER WOODS: The golf course is obviously in perfect shape. The fairways are starting to run a little bit now. The greens are starting to pick up a little bit of speed. I think they are faster today than they were yesterday. The wind is awfully blowing so it's drying them out a little bit faster and that helps.
Over all the course is set up very fair, it will be a very difficult test, but also one that you just have to really grinds your way around the golf course really well.
RAND JERRIS: Can you give us a little indication of how you're feeling about your game coming into the championship this week.
TIGER WOODS: Well, I'm pleased with the things that I've been working on and pleased at the progress that I've been making in my practice rounds. Honestly, really looking forward to Thursday.

Q. If it's true that the great players like to win on the great golf courses, do you have a special motivation this week playing at Oakmont?
TIGER WOODS: Well, you don't really look at it that way. I think that, you know, this golf course has obviously had a lot of history to it, but more than anything, you just know that this is your nation's championship.
Also probably one of the most difficult tests I think we'll ever face, as well. The way the golf course is playing right now, you'll probably think that it's only going to get drier and faster, and get even more difficult. You're really going to have to play well from tee-to-green, and then the fun really begins.

Q. Hi, Mr. Woods. I have a question that everybody in Japan is talking about, the younger amateur golfer who won the Japanese PGA tournament.

Q. He's the biggest fan of yours and he loves you so much and he wants to be like you. Do you know about him?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I found out about him yesterday. He showed me a video and like I said, a small little press clipping of one of his press conferences. Obviously I saw a couple of swings that he made during the event. Tremendous power. You've got to realize, he's only 15 years old, and to win a Tour event, you can see the talent that he has.
I hope that he enjoys it. I hope that he enjoys playing and progressing and you just know that given time, he could be something special.

Q. Given the way your swing was grooved at the end of last year to the beginning of this year, there seemed to be a lull to the time of the Masters; looking back, do you feel that you let that one get away and what lessons did you learn from that that you can bring here?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I didn't hit it particularly well on Thursday and Friday at Augusta. The weekend, I hit it pretty good. I didn't make as many putts as I would like, especially on the back nine on Sunday, I really had some chances.
I just didn't get it done, but at least I was there and had a chance. Overall this year, it's been a pretty good success so far and hopefully I can play a little bit better than I did at Augusta this week.

Q. Have you played out of the church pews at all during your practice rounds --

Q. Have you dropped a ball there?

Q. Is it like 17 at Sawgrass --
TIGER WOODS: I don't really think that you should be practicing negativity. You're not going to place the golf ball there, and if you are, if you do make a mistake there, you just basically are going to wedge out anyways. Accept your mistake, and move on.
I'm practicing where I'm trying to place the golf ball and tendency is I think where the greens, even with good shots, balls with run-off to certain areas, and that's basically what I've been doing so far.

Q. On what hole do you think it's the hardest to make a par out here, and where?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it might be the first hole right out of the gate. You know, it's a pretty narrow hole. If you hit the ball in the bunkers there, you're probably not going to advance it to the green.
The second shot, a good shot -- it's 50/50 whether it stays on or not. You know, that's also one of most difficult greens and you haven't quite got in the flow of a round yet, the feel for how the golf course is playing. It's just an opening hole.
I think that's one of the more difficult holes I've ever seen as your opening hole. I know that we thought No. 1 at Muirfield in 2002 was pretty hard, but I think this one's a lot harder.

Q. Are there any fun holes out here, any hole that you particularly look forward to?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, the 19th is great, man. (Laughter).

Q. How about No. 8, your thoughts on No. 8?
TIGER WOODS: No. 8, it's pretty nice that you can drive a par 4 like that. (Laughter). I've hit wood every day, and it's pretty good for the confidence.

Q. 3-wood or 5-wood?
TIGER WOODS: Driver. Come on, Art. I'm not that old yet.
You know, I've hit 3-wood there from the back tee. Even into the wind, I can still reach the front edge with 3-wood into the wind. The fairways are starting to dry out a little bit.
I hit 3-wood, a 5-wood, depends on the winds from the back tee, and I've hit 3-iron to 5-wood, depends on what the wind is doing from the front tee.

Q. How possible do you think it is for another Australian to win this tournament for a second year in a row?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I mean, you've got quite a few guys that have been doing very well. Obviously Geoff won last year, Scotty has been playing well. Badds won this year. Overall, you've got some pretty good talent.

Q. It's been five years since you've won the U.S. Open, are you surprised at your lack of success in this tournament, and what do you attribute that to?
TIGER WOODS: I think I've had pretty good success; I've won two.
It's not an easy championship. It's probably the most difficult championship that we face all year, because you're tested from tee-to-green and you're tested on the greens. Generally if you're missing one facet of your game, more than likely you're not going to win the championship. You have to have everything going.
And then you've obviously got to, you know, get a break here and there. A ball that you think might run off the green and it hangs up, and you've got to putt at it. Especially here this week, like a marginal shot down the first hole, sometimes the ball hangs up, but if it doesn't, you go down in that little swale over there and depends on the lie, you could make 6, you could make 5, you could make 4. Little things like that in a championship this difficult adds up.

Q. Just wondering if there's any added emotion this week for you heading into this Open, just relative to what you were going through last year at Winged Foot?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, well last year was a complete 180 of where I am now in my life. I had not played a tournament since Augusta. Last year my father, obviously, passed away in that time frame. I wasn't quite ready to play until I got to the U.S. Open. Probably not exactly the best tournament to come back to.
So this year, I'm going to being a father, you know, shortly, and I think that's -- it's a complete polar opposite of where I was last year at this time.

Q. Two questions, if I could. The rough, is it a little -- have they thinned it up -- not thinned it, but I know they cut it; is it more playable? And do you like 17; is that going to be a pivotal hole?
TIGER WOODS: Cut what rough? I know they had the mowers out there. I don't know if they did anything. (Laughter).
From what I hear that you should be able to get a 5-iron on the ball from the first cut. That's what I hear. I have yet to be able to experience that. Bubba hit the ball in there, and Bubba has a lot more speed than I have, and he hit a couple of shots that probably went 30 feet.
So, it's kind of hit or miss. You know, if you get a ball that sits down in the grain, you have no chance of advancing it with anything more than a wedge. But also, you know, if you get one downgrain that sits marginal you might want to take a chance at it.
It's a penalty for hitting the ball in the rough and that's the way it should be and if you make a mistake, you have to pay the price.
17 this year I think is a pretty neat hole. You can take a cut at it. Obviously the pretty deep bunker on the green there and the rough is pretty high on the left, but the lay-up on the right is no bargain either, because the green is tilted and it's slanted and dried out quite a bit.
Balls that are landing in the left hand of the fairway are not rough; not exactly the second shot you want to have out of the rough. So it's a hole that's going to be probably pivotal and very key to who wins the championship.

Q. You've always been pretty vocal about the respect you have for Ernie Els's game; what do you think has been the problem last couple of years, and do you see any evidence this year maybe just watching him practice or play or playing with him that he's getting back into it a little bit?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think Ernie, he's probably one to admit, that injury is pretty significant. When you rupture an ACL and you have reconstructive surgery, it's not something you come back from right away.
It happened on probably the wrong leg. If it happened on the right leg, he could get away with it, but the left leg, it's your impact leg, and a lot of torque goes through that area. You know, it's pretty significant. It takes time to come back from that. You've seen signs of Ernie starting to play a little bit better. I know he switched his putting grip to crossing and he's been putting better.
He's made a few changes, but I think overall, you can see the talent that he has, and I think anyone will admit that once he gets it going, that he can pretty much win any tournament.

Q. I saw you execute a flop shot on 18 on the front of the green and it rolled all the way to the back. I just wondered if all of the greens were that difficult.
TIGER WOODS: That's a long difficult -- 80-yard flop shot --

Q. Just from the front edge?
TIGER WOODS: I landed it eight feet short of the hole, and that's a false front, so landed it 10 or 11 and had a little bit of spin, and anything with a little bit of spin is going to come back to the green, but hey, it's a practice round, who cares?

Q. Can you share with us your memories of playing in this event as an amateur? I think you played twice, and what advice would you give to the young Scot who is playing with you on Thursday and Friday?
TIGER WOODS: Well, when I played my first one, I played with Nick Price and -- who did I play with, Nick Price and Corey Pavin maybe -- no, he won that year. Nick Price and Ernie Els actually, at Shinnecock. Then the next year was pretty interesting because I played with John Daly and Corey Pavin. (Laughter). '96 was getting tricky, because it was John and myself and Corey, and I think Corey ended up beating all of us.
I think that more than anything, what you do is you learn by watching the guys. I got a chance to play with two major championship winners of the previous year, and it was quite interesting to play with them, because you see them attack the golf course differently. But they all play to their strengths. That's also one of the things that I tried to implement, but I didn't know what my strengths were at the time. I could just hit it and go find it and go play it and hopefully it worked out.
But learn the strategic way to play the game of golf, I think that's something I certainly picked up, especially playing with Pricey, because he's pretty impressive.

Q. Looking ahead to fatherhood, just how do you expect or perceive that it's going to change your life and practice schedule and routines?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, you certainly -- your nights are going to be a little more awake. My practice sessions are going to have to be tailored around a little bit, have to move things around. But, you know, I don't really know how my game is going to be affected by it because I've never gone through it before.
All I know is that Elin and I are excited, and that this is far more important than any game of golf. This is an opportunity for us to raise our first child, and we're really looking forward to it.

Q. What's the single most important thing you can pass along to your child that your parents instilled in you?
TIGER WOODS: I know that if I had to pick one thing that my parents -- I was very lucky to have two great parents. I was never afraid to go fail, because I knew that I would always come home to a home of love. My parents loved me unconditionally no matter what.
If I went out there and I gave it my best and I screwed up, it didn't matter. My parents always told me they loved me every night. Every time we said good-bye, that was just something that I was never afraid to go out there and push myself to the limit. And if I failed, so what? I always had them to pick me up.
I think that's something that not all people have, but I was lucky to have that in my life.

Q. Do you perceive yourself to be more of the disciplinarian or would you let your wife?
TIGER WOODS: No, I think I probably will be more a little bit than she will. I know my mom was certainly a lot more than my dad. I probably will be just a little bit more than Elin.

Q. Phil changed coaches, finished third, finished third, and then won THE PLAYERS Championship --
TIGER WOODS: Say again?

Q. Phil changed coaches and then finished third, finished third, and then won THE PLAYERS Championship. Did that get your attention?
TIGER WOODS: Well, certainly. I mean, he won, and I didn't.
You know, Phil obviously has been playing better. He's made a few changes to his game to improve it, and that's what you're supposed to do is improve and try and get better and try to take yourself to the next level. You know, Phil is certainly trying to do that right now.

Q. You talked about what's coming up on the home front being a lot more important than the game of golf; are you planning to take paternity leave when it comes along, and could that put in doubt any participation in the British Open?
TIGER WOODS: Well, my intent is to play. I don't know what's going to happen because I don't know if -- you know, a lot of different things can happen. Hopefully our child will be healthy, and that's the main thing, and then I'll figure out my playing schedule based on what's going on with Elin and our child.
Other than that, it's pretty much up in the air. Your guess is as good as mine.

Q. Again, kind of with regard to Phil, obviously you're not in his body and whatnot, but you've had the knee injury, and I don't know what other nagging things that we might not know about, but wondering, particularly at a place like this where it's so demanding with the rough and whatnot, when you have an injury like he has with the wrist right now, is that something that is difficult to get through? Is it always going to be in your head a little bit? Just wondering how you handled that.
TIGER WOODS: I pulled out of my first Open with a wrist injury, at Shinnecock. I hurt it I believe going down the third hole -- yeah, the third hole down the left side. I had to pull out. I think going down No. 6, I pulled out. I couldn't hang on to the club anymore. It was in my left hand.
His injury, I think it's on his trailing hand, so I think that makes it a little bit easier, but probably not much. Impact hand is always going to take more of the brunt of it, but still, out of this rough, and try and advance the golf ball, even if you're healthy, it's still going to be a difficult test.

Q. Is that more of a crapshoot in terms of what happens? Is that just getting too steep?
TIGER WOODS: You really don't know. As you come down into the golf ball, you're dealing with the rough as high as it is, and as thick as it is, and you're trying to hit the ball and also control it, as well, all at the same time.
A lot of different things can happen. One time you're expecting it to shut down, but sometimes the rough will actually spin it back the other way and open it backup. That's probably when you get most of the injuries because you're not expecting it to back up, and you're putting your wrist on extension, which is a little more difficult.

Q. Is it more strength than technique?
TIGER WOODS: You can have strength, speed, and sometimes that grass wins.

Q. When you were here in April, you had said that there were three or four holes you thought could be birdie holes and you needed to take advantage of those. Do you still feel that way, and could you tell us which holes those were?
TIGER WOODS: I think a lot of it is based on pin locations. You know, the second hole is a pretty short hole, but you hide those pins -- put it this way, if you make 72 straight pars, you're not looking too bad.
So, you know, even though some of the easier holes, even the par 5s, you think they are easy. But one misplaced shot can lead to a bogey pretty quickly.

Q. When you see the course set up as it is, typically U.S. Open, is that something that you relish, do you kind of say to yourself, great, the tougher the better; or do you feel it actually opens the door to other guys?
TIGER WOODS: No, I think it's fantastic. This golf course is, without a doubt, difficult. We all know that. But it's also fair. I just think that we're going to all see what happens on pin locations, because if they can go crazy on pin locations and make it impossible. But if they put pins in generous spots, I think it will be just a fantastic test.

Q. Follow-up on that, in terms of your abilities, do you feel it place in your hands to have it as tough as it is?
TIGER WOODS: I've had success in the past on difficult golf courses before, yes.

Q. Do you relish playing alongside the defending champion for the first two rounds, the man who has got the title that you want?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I played with Geoff last year at the PGA the first two days. It was myself and Geoff and Phil, and we had a great time.
I've always enjoyed playing with Geoff. He's fast and gets on with his business. I think that in the last few years or so, he's really learned how to play difficult championships well. You know, last year I think was the perfect testament to that.

Q. What are your impressions of the changes at Oakmont; specifically, the removal of so many trees?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I didn't play here in '94. I only watched it. I think it's fantastic. It opens the golf course up. It gives, you know, I think a gallery a better atmosphere. You can see more holes. I think it provides a better environment over all for the golf tournament. It brings everyone together. Everyone can see across, hear things better, see what's going on.
And also, by opening the golf course up, like today when the wind blows, it's going to blow. Granted, it not really supposed to blow here at this time of year, but it's blowing today.

Q. You had mentioned, I think earlier on, that this course had supplanted Shinnecock has the hardest you had played; I wonder if you still subscribe to that? And part two would be the greens here seem to be the thing that everybody talks about, arguably the hardest, anywhere, if you could just touch on those two issues.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, they are by far the most difficult greens I've ever played. I thought Winged Foot's pretty tough, Augusta's pretty tough. But both golf courses have flat spots. You know, Augusta may have these big, big slopes, but they have these flat shelves that they usually put the pins on. Here, I'm trying to figure out where a flat shelf is.
And most of the greens here are all tilted. Some even run away from you, which is not the norm in modern course design. Overall, these greens -- like I said, depends on how the pins are set; if they give us a chance to play, or if they are going to make it really impossible. We'll see.

Q. For the most part, the major championships have been won here by the people who have turned out to be the greatest players in golf over time. Do you think there's any correlation between this course and producing that type of winner?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it's the quality of golf course. I think that it tests you from tee-to-green and more so on the greens. Like I said earlier, you have to have every single facet of your game going and knowing how to manage yourself around a golf course.
This is a course in which you have to place the ball correctly. If you don't, you're going to get penalized. If you look at most of the guys, if not all of the guys on that list of champions here, that's how they play. They know how to maneuver the golf ball. They know how to place the golf ball correctly and give yourself the best chance to get around this golf course in the lowest number of shots.
RAND JERRIS: Tiger, thank you for your time today. Best of luck this week.
TIGER WOODS: Thanks for having me.

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