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September 12, 2007

Tiger Woods


JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, Tiger, for joining us for a few minutes here in the media center at the TOUR Championship, nice win last week, vaults you back up to No. 1 in the FedExCup standings, and an opportunity to win the $10 million at the end of the week. Just talk about being back here in Atlanta for the TOUR Championship.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I mean, I didn't play last year, so I'm looking forward to getting out there and seeing how the golf course is and looking forward to actually starting play tomorrow.

Q. You could obviously be Player of the Year and yet you could have a different winner of the FedExCup. Is there any problem with a playoff system in which that kind of scenario happens?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think you've got to look at it as how other sports look at it. It can be the best team of the season and still not win the championship. That's kind of how this playoff was kind of instituted. You can win 30 tournaments throughout the year and be Player of the Year but you just don't get the FedExCup, you just didn't play well at the right time. That's the nature of how most sports are. I think we tried to emulate that in our sport.

Q. Put your designer hat on, rookie designer hat on, if you could. Your thoughts on the 18th hole, like it, dislike it? They are all but extinct in this country, for whatever reason, because there's a contemporary standard that's been accepted that no one seemed to violate.
TIGER WOODS: Well, I've never been a big fan of the last hole being a par 3. I think you should have to hit more shots to determine a champion than just one shot. I think you should have to play two or three shots to get to a flag, not sort of just one shot.
Granted, that was out the door in '97 at Congressional. We've played major championships, I think Lytham St. Annes start off on a par 3, Westchester as we all know starts off on a par 3. I think that's different than having to determine -- the last hole being basically one shot.

Q. There's been a lot of discussion amongst players and some articles that say it looks like you're standing a little more upright to the ball. Do you find that to be the case?
TIGER WOODS: I wouldn't say more upright, I'm standing a little bit closer to it, so I think that gives the appearance of it. I've always had a tendency -- my mistake being -- my weight being set too much on my heels and not necessarily on the balls of my feet, and if I get my weight more towards the balls of my feet, it looks like I'm more upright when I'm actually not.

Q. When did you start doing that?
TIGER WOODS: When I got back from the British. After playing in the wind, I have a tendency of sitting back and trying to hit low balls that way. It's easier to get more flat if you get the weight on your heels, but I've got to fix that.

Q. As you look at how you've been swinging maybe the last month or so, which looks to be okay, when did you think -- when did you start swinging it this well? Can you trace it to post-British then?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it was post-British because I slipped into some -- my setup got a little quirky. It usually does when I start playing in a bunch of wind. I tend to hang a little bit, I don't get down on the golf ball, my setup gets a little awkward. Same with my putting. It tends to have the same faults. I just need to be a little more diligent with my posture over there at the British Open. I knew what to do, but it was hard to do it under pressure.

Q. A follow-up, a couple guys were saying yesterday they felt like your swing looked a lot more like it did in 2000. Talk about that. And also, I know you constantly want to change your swing to get better, but is there ever a worry that it could go the other way?
TIGER WOODS: As far as my swing looking like it did in 2000, no, I don't think it does. I've made a bunch of changes since then, and I think the pieces were starting to come together last year. My six tournaments in a row last year and this year, I think the pieces of it were starting to come together, and that's what it looks like. As far as tinkering, we're all tinkering. We're all trying to get better. You have to believe in your heart of hearts that what you're doing is right. Sometimes people do make changes and they go the wrong way and they don't come back. The changes I've made when I first started working with Butch and I first started working with Hank, I usually take a step back before I take two or three steps forward.

Q. Have you ever gone down that road and said I'm going the wrong direction, stopped and then gone back to a different --

Q. In the sports world there's so many different sports where competitors play week after week or day after day. What makes golf different, and why is the idea of playing four or five golf tournaments in a row -- why doesn't it work?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it's no problem if you've got teammates (laughter). We're out there by ourselves. We have no one else to rely on but ourselves.
If M.J. was having a bad day, he's got Pippen. Who do we have? We have to find a way to get it done ourselves. The more tired you get mentally, it starts showing up. You start making mistakes. You know, you just can't afford to make mistakes out here. The margin is just too small.

Q. You won last week at 21-under par. I've had several players tell me they feel like overall the course has been set up tougher this year. What are your thoughts, and have they been set up tougher, or do you think the Tour would like to encourage more birdies from you?
TIGER WOODS: The courses are set up tougher, there's no question. Look at what happened on the Florida Swing. Most of those tournaments, except for Tampa, usually plays pretty difficult, but this year you've never seen scores like they had at West Palm. Even Doral was playing hard, Bay Hill was playing really difficult, and I think that's just the nature of the game. It's changed. We've had to make it more difficult.
The fairways are narrower, the greens are -- they try and get them harder and faster, but more than anything I think it's pin locations. The pin locations, if you look at our pin sheets most weeks, you're probably going to see two or three pins that are three from the side, which you never used to see. When I first came out here in '96 the closest pin you'd see is maybe four, and usually they were five from the side. One or two steps closer is a pretty big deal.

Q. Do you feel like most fans would rather see birdies, or do they like to see guys struggle?
TIGER WOODS: I think you've got to have a mix throughout the year. I don't think you can play it one way or the other the entire year. I think you have to have a blend of it. This year there were tournaments where the guys did take it low and there were weeks when if you shot a round in the 60s you would definitely move up the board.

Q. It's been ten years since you won your first major. What effect do you think you've had in those ten years as far as minorities, particularly African Americans?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think the golf has picked up. I think that the perception of golf -- it wasn't just me. I mean, there was a lot of other athletes like M.J. playing, actors playing, like Samuel Jackson, who are, I guess, cool, hip figures, playing golf, and they promote the game. I think that helps the perception of golf, because when I grew up golf was not a sport that you wanted to play. You wanted to play basketball, football and baseball. Golf was certainly not looked at as a cool, hip sport. I think that's changed.

Q. When do you think that effect will reveal itself at the highest level in terms of more guys playing on the PGA TOUR?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it's the weeding out process. If you want more minorities you've got to have a bigger base. As my dad would say, that will take at least 20 years before you start seeing any of it because you can't just have ten players and expect that one of the ten is going to make it to the elite level. I mean, you've got to have hundreds in order to expect one to make it to the elite level.

Q. You talked a minute ago about putting. I get a sense that your memory is just unbelievable and a lot of your putting and your streaks come from your past playing on a golf course. How important in your putting is memory versus reading at that moment?
TIGER WOODS: It's both. I use a blend of that. I remember a lot of putts that I hit over the years and tendencies that certain greens have. And actually, to be honest with you, Stevie has got a great memory for that. We work really well. He'll say, I remember this putt you hit three years ago broke a little more at the end. I'll say, yeah, I remember that, it was in the third round. We'll discuss it that way. I think that helps because sometimes certain greens have this optical illusion, and you tend to play what your eye sees instead of what's actually there, especially when you're putting in shadows, trees tend to overhang certain greens, we mark those in the book, and over the years may add to it, but generally try to remember those putts, especially in the shadows.

Q. Going back to Doug's question about the swing, was there a eureka moment when this light went on in your head?
TIGER WOODS: No, no eureka moment. It was just trying to get everything more organized. As I said, I tend to slip back in the same old tendencies. I used to do it with Butch, I used to do it with John before Butch. I tend to have the same flaws in my setup, the same problems over and over again.

Q. Seems like the aftermath of this has been pretty immediate. Does a swing change to you seem as massive as it does to us when someone said when you cock your wrist or something, it feels like you're swinging a totem pole. For you it seemingly has taken you no time to incorporate this into your bag of tricks.
TIGER WOODS: Because it wasn't that much of a change. It was just getting back into my natural posture, which is no big deal. That's what I usually play from. You tend to get off. Towards the end of last year we worked on the same things at the Western, and I went on that nice little run there towards the end of the year in some tournaments. A lot of this is the same thing. I tend to slip back into the same old faults.

Q. There's been a lot of debate about what's right and what's wrong with this FedExCup system. When we come in here this week it has seemed that the three guys who have been playing the best have gotten here and have a chance to win the thing and a couple guys who are just close behind are right on the outside. Do you feel like it's been somewhat of a success and done what it's tried to do?
TIGER WOODS: On the top end, yes. But from the bottom end, I would say no, because we really don't have a lot of movement. There weren't a bunch of guys that played their way in. I think it was a pretty -- you guys all wrote about it, Rich Beem tried to get in at Deutsche Bank, tried to get into the Chicago event. I think that was a good story. But we didn't have a whole lot of movement, guys who would make some runs. The only big change was I think this week, like three guys got in. Generally most guys didn't make it. We didn't have guys who were well outside play one good tournament, and boom, they're in.

Q. Do you have any ideas what can be done to make there more movement? Would you like to start from scratch maybe?
TIGER WOODS: I think Jim Furyk probably hit the nail right on the head when he said you play all year for a spot in the playoff, and generally playoffs mean a smaller field, and we started off with 1 percent more than what's exempt on TOUR (laughter). I think that was a mistake.
You know, if you're trying to make these events a culmination of a year, I don't think you can have the first event, if not the second event the same size -- some of us are even smaller than that, some of the invitationals are actually a smaller field than that, hence it doesn't give the illusion of it being a prestigious event. I think that if you have smaller fields, guys play all year and you try and narrow it down to a smaller field, I think that will give us the prestige that they're trying to achieve, not when you start off at 144 and go to 120 and we have some invitationals that are smaller than 120.

Q. But if you started with a smaller field and there was more movement, wouldn't that mean you'd have to play four?
TIGER WOODS: I think so. Honestly, I think there would be.

Q. Or start with fewer points on the reseed, which means if you want more movement --
TIGER WOODS: You can do that, or what Doug just said.

Q. I forgot what I just said (laughter). When greens are rolling at about 91/2 instead of 111/2, as rumor has it, does that help the good putter or the bad putter?
TIGER WOODS: Bad putter.

Q. How is that?
TIGER WOODS: Well, think about it; how many bad putters have you seen over the years win Augusta, the fastest, most sloping greens? It takes creativity, it takes touch, it takes feel, and you have to start the ball on-line with the correct speed. When you get bumpy greens, that's kind of out the door. You can make a mistake on a putt and pull it, push it, hit it the wrong speed and it can go in, or you can hit wonderful putts and have them not go in. I think that's where having perfect greens, guys that can really putt, get rewarded.
As I said, over the years look at the champions of Augusta. You don't see bad putters there. You have to putt well.

Q. And secondly, from all the time you spent with Phil a few weeks ago in Boston, did you see anything in his game that in your eyes makes him more of a threat now than he might have been earlier this year?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it's confidence. I haven't played with him that much in the past probably year and a half. We haven't been paired that much.
But I think it's just confidence. He's playing well. He's driving the ball a little better and he's certainly putting better. He putted well early in the year, and then the middle part of the year struggled a little bit. We all go through stretches like that.
I think if you look at the way he putted at the Deutsche Bank event, he putted great. He made a bunch of putts, and that's what you have to do to win.

Q. I know you like to work on things a lot yourself, but how important when you get in these things when you lose your balance or your balance changes a little bit are that second pair of eyes in Hank and the third pair of eyes in Steve?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think you have to have it because you don't really feel it a lot of times. What I feel is comfortable generally is not where I need to be, and that's just, as I said, slipping back to hold habits. And when you slip back to old habits, those are comfortable feelings, and generally you shouldn't feel comfortable. If you're going to make a change and get into the right posture or the right position in a golf swing, it's going to feel a little uneasy at the time but you know it's right, and all of a sudden everything starts falling into place, and the golf swing seems easier.

Q. Do Hank and Stevie see those things very quickly?
TIGER WOODS: Oh, yeah, and it's my responsibility to obviously implement those changes. But I'm telling you, sometimes it's really hard when you've got to hit a shot under pressure and you've got trouble left, trouble right, and you have to position the golf ball correctly. Sometimes that's the most difficult challenge for me.

Q. You talked about these greens helping bad putters. The conditions you've seen this year, does that help better players? Do you like that?
TIGER WOODS: I like that. I like having golf courses that you have to go out there and shoot -- if you play a quality round of golf, it's going to be something maybe in the 60s. That to me is where it's at. You have to understand how to manage your game and how to plug away on the golf course. You can't just go out there and fire at every single pin.

Q. So having a tournament where under par misses the cut, that doesn't really interest you?
TIGER WOODS: I've never liked events like that, even though sometimes I've played well in those events. I've never been a big fan of events like that, for me. I think it certainly brings in more guys who have a chance to win.

Q. With the playoff format and the huge prize at stake, do you approach that with a major championship mindset, or is this just the last tournament of the year for you?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think I need to go out there and take a look at the golf course before I evaluate how mentally I'm going to approach this event. I know this is a big event, but a lot of it is determined on the course setup. Some PGAs we've played it's been pretty easy out there and you know you've got to go low, like Valhalla where you had to go out there and tear it up. Granted, it's a major, but most majors you don't have to go that low, so you have to change your mindset a little bit.

Q. This would seem insane to any player other than you. Does 10 mill still get your attention?
TIGER WOODS: (Nodding head.)

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