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September 16, 2007

Tiger Woods


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Tiger Woods, congratulations. We've got a couple of nice big trophies here for you. First and foremost, winning the TOUR Championship for the second time in your career and winning the inaugural FedExCup. Maybe some opening comments about a great week and a great year for you. You finished the year with seven wins.
TIGER WOODS: Well, I really played well today. I mean, I hit a bunch of good shots. I think the putt at 3 today was a big putt. I needed to make that putt, didn't want to lose two shots back-to-back and give the guys ahead of me all the momentum. You know, that was a big putt to make.
And then from there I really played some good golf, got on a birdie run there in the middle part of the round and basically put it away.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Maybe some thoughts on your season. Right now your scoring average is going to be identical to 2000, so obviously those years are pretty comparable.
TIGER WOODS: Yes. You know, I made a lot of improvement. It's interesting how people questioned whether I should try and improve or not or try and change my game, and here we are.

Q. Not to dwell too much on the money, but $11.26 million just got deposited into someplace with your name on it. Is that even jaw dropping to you, given your endorsements and all that? That's a pretty healthy chunk of change and accomplishment.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, you know, for me I don't look at what the purse is or prize money. You play, and when you play, you play to win, period. You know, that's how my dad raised me is you go out there and win. If you win, everything will take care of itself. You take great pride in what you do on the golf course, and when you're able to win events, that's when you can go home and be very proud of what you've done.

Q. Can you talk about your putting this week?
TIGER WOODS: (Laughing) you know, I don't know how many amazing putts I made this week, I really don't. Like I told Stevie early in the week, I really tried to make it feel as if I was back in junior golf because the greens were basically this speed in junior golf, a little bit bumpy, and you have the same mentality, get up there and just whack it, make sure you get it to the hole.
Because they were so much slower than we're used to, we didn't have to play as much break and you didn't have to feed them into the holes. So it was a lot of low lines. It took me a little bit to get accustomed to seeing putts on the low lines because I've been accustomed to seeing putts on the high side and trying to feed the ball to the hole. That's what made this week so different than the prior weeks.

Q. Best putting week as a pro?

Q. Do we have one off the top of your head, best putting week as a pro?
TIGER WOODS: I putted pretty good in '97 at Augusta.

Q. Where would you say your confidence level is right now? And have you seen it grown over these last two years? Was there ever kind of a turning point for you?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think the last couple years has been -- I've made a bunch of changes obviously on my swing. But last year as we all know, I think the Western in the second round I really played well. Finally I went back to just playing golf again. I got over all the things that happened earlier, my dad passing, and I finally got back to just playing golf again, didn't have to -- that mourning period was finally -- I felt I was done with it. Once I got back to playing golf, I felt I was back in my rhythm again. And from then on, if you look at my results since then, it's been pretty good.

Q. Is it higher now than it was in, say, March?

Q. Your confidence level.

Q. You've gone 1, 1, 2, 1, 1.
TIGER WOODS: Right. I think my driving has gotten better. I feel as if I'm able to shape the ball in there and actually work the golf ball better both ways than I did early in the year. My trajectory control has been about the same, been pretty good, but being able to shape the ball both ways and being able to land the ball on the number has been good.

Q. When are you going to go home and tell Sam what daddy did today?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I'm going to probably get home tonight and stay up a little bit. Hey, I'm sure that she'll -- she doesn't understand anything right now. I can't wait until that point in time when she does, when she's able to understand what her dad does and when she looks back on it and says, you know, he was actually halfway decent at one time.

Q. Zach was making a little bit of a run on the front nine you kind of sent one over the bough, over his head.
TIGER WOODS: I didn't think I could hit one there. The line wasn't very good. I hit 5-wood. I thought I had to land the ball short of the first bunker on the left and run it into the greenside bunkers. I was hoping that I could skirt it past there, and I was trying to get the ball in one of the bunkers where I had a pretty easy bunker shot. But I had absolutely no idea that I could even get to the green. It was 281 to the front out of just a terrible lie into the wind. I didn't think I could do it. I was just, as I said, trying to run the ball in the right bunker. There's two bunkers over there. Any of the two would be a pretty easy bunker shot because the greens were soft.

Q. Did you say anything to him?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I apologized to him. I didn't even try. I wasn't trying to hit the ball in there and I wasn't trying to hit that shot. I felt bad because those guys were playing and they were focused on what they were trying to do. It's my responsibility not to interfere with what they were doing up there with a shot like that.

Q. When did you know it was headed that direction, as soon as it left the club?
TIGER WOODS: I pulled it. I wasn't aiming over there. I was aiming right edge of the first bunker on the left and trying to hit some kind of hard low cut, and it landed short, just drive it through. If I pulled it, it ran through the bunker and it would be somewhere in the fairway or the rough and have an easy pitch. It came out just smoking. It was 281 to the front but went about 300 yards.

Q. You've won 61 TOUR titles. Do you think you've reached your prime?
TIGER WOODS: I don't think so. Well, I don't know when it's going to be (laughter). What do you want me to tell you, it's like January 5th of such-and-such a year? I mean, you don't know. The whole idea is to try and keep improving. When all is said and done, when you rack the cue and go home and retire, you can honestly say these were my best years, when I was at my peak. But when you're in it, you're always trying to improve that a little bit to get to the next level.

Q. We all know how focused you are when you're hunting W's. I just wondered what the impact of playing with Calc was today and if there was any danger of you feeling a little too relaxed.
TIGER WOODS: No, Calc was pretty focused. He came out and birdied the first hole right out of the gate. I felt that Calc, of all the people that could make a run, it would be him, just because he has the ability just to make a bunch of birdies.
I just thought that, no offense to Zach at all, but to fire back-to-back really low rounds, as we all know, is extremely hard to do. I don't think anyone ever has done it. You can fire 7-under par and then come back with another 7-under par, but you never see anyone fire 9-, 10-under par and then come back with the same kind of score. It's never happened in our sport. I thought if he played well, he'd probably shoot 4- or 5-under par, and it would be a very good score after shooting 10. 15-under over two days is very impressive playing. I thought that's what he could do today. I just thought that Calc hadn't really shot a low round yesterday. Yesterday he had it going for a little bit, and I thought today if he could have got it going, he could shoot that 8-, 9-under par.

Q. You mentioned junior golf earlier. Is that possibly the last time that you walked away from a golf tournament with two trophies?
TIGER WOODS: I don't ever remember doing it.

Q. Play up a flight maybe, win your age group?
TIGER WOODS: There you go, yeah. It's just very interesting. Normally awards aren't given out until later in the year. Player of the Year, money title, all those things.

Q. Does one mean more than the other?
TIGER WOODS: I think winning this week is pretty special. Winning the FedExCup is one thing, but I think as a player you always want to win the TOUR Championship. There's history involved, and the players who have won it, these are basically the 30 hottest players for this year, and you know you're going to have your hands full coming into this week.

Q. Kind of along those lines, aside from winning the TOUR Championship and the bonus, the FedExCup, how would you assess winning the first FedExCup?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think that overall the FedExCup was a success. I think that there need to be tweaks, yes, there needs to be some tweaks, but I think overall it provided a lot of drama towards the end of the season, especially post-PGA when most of the guys shut it down. You know, post-PGA it's either Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup and that's basically all anyone ever talks about, now that the Bridgestone has moved to the week before the PGA especially.

Q. You said again today that you never imagined this victory at this stage of your career. When you were just starting as a pro, what did you envision as a successful career at this stage?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think that if you have gone through your 20s with just a few majors, it would be a huge success. Most golfers reach their prime in their 30s. Hopefully you can carry that momentum from your 30s into your 40s, especially now that guys are working out and their longevity and their standard of play is longer than it used to be, you feel like you can carry it into your 40s. I didn't see winning this many times in my 20s and now in my 30s. I never would have foreseen that.

Q. Can you describe on today's round the ebb and flow a little bit? And were you just trying to maintain your place or were you still being aggressive?
TIGER WOODS: Well, the back nine, after I birdied 8 and 9, the whole idea of the back nine was to shoot under par. I had a four-shot lead at the time, and if I shot under par on the back nine, it would force -- I think at the time it was Calc, to have to go out there and shoot 6-under par to win the tournament on the back nine. If he shot 5-under par and it forced a playoff, so be it. But my responsibility was to shoot under par on the back nine, and I did it.

Q. You talked about tweaks. Do you have any comments on what tweaks you would consider to make the tournament better? And what's it like, the final tournament for you this year, to go out with such a big bang?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think -- what I described earlier to Fergie here, a couple days ago, I think that when you have 125 exempt players on TOUR and your first event is 144 guys, I thought a playoff was play all year for a smaller field, you're supposed to narrow it up, not have more players. Especially when we have limited field events, invitationals that have smaller fields, more elite, and I just think that the playoffs should be that many players. I think the playoffs you narrow the field down, and when you have 10 percent over what you do on the exempt player list starting off the first event, I think that's too many.

Q. Steve Stricker said he found the last couple of weeks very exhausting, and he almost reached the end of his rope today mentally. How mentally tiring has the last few weeks been for you?
TIGER WOODS: Very. Very. That's one of the reasons why -- people questioned why did you take the first week off. I won the PGA and the Bridgestone event, a World Golf Championships and the PGA, those are big events. When you're in contention, it takes a lot out of you. I wanted to be fresh coming into these events. It takes a lot out of you when you're in contention. I think that's what Steve was probably alluding to. It's one thing to play, and if you play four days and you don't play well, it's really no big deal. But when you're in contention, it wears on you all the time. It's not like you can go home and get away from it because you're right there with a chance to win a tournament. It definitely drains you. You know, four weeks of it, for me it was three weeks of it, four for Stricks, it takes a toll on you, not necessarily from the physical side but definitely from the mental side.

Q. You've played well at East Lake before but you haven't won. Do you take note of the fact that there are only a handful of courses where that's the case, the fact that you've won at a course you haven't won at before?
TIGER WOODS: I never really looked at this week like that. I just thought that I've had my chances here at this golf course, I just haven't gotten it done yet. I felt that the golf course set up well for me over the years, I just unfortunately haven't won. I've come close, been in position, led for three rounds and just haven't gotten it done. There's no reason why I couldn't do it this week, and it so happened to be.

Q. You've driven the ball beautifully over the last month or so. Do you think that is the main key to this nice run of four wins and a second? And was there a time when you felt that the driver really kicked in because of the swing change or whatever?
TIGER WOODS: Well, not necessarily, because I didn't really drive it very good at the British Open. I think it's just -- as I said, I was able to shape the golf ball both ways and still hit the ball -- the number I wanted to hit it. I think that's where I needed to make some improvement, and obviously when you start feeling confident and are able to work the golf ball either way, off the tee, into the greens, and you're able to land the ball wherever you want to land it, you start feeding off of that.

Q. Zach came in here and said that dangling any more carrots in front of you was bad news for the rest of the guys in the field. Do all of these things when you add them all together, Player of the Year, Money List, FedExCup, majors, do all those little carrots add up in your head? Does it drive you even more to win them all?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think once you experience it, you want to have it again. It's like winning a major championship. It feels so good, you want to get another one. And plus, once you do, you understand how to do it. I think that's probably the most important thing, is that you understand how to do it. To win Player of the Year, how do you that? Well, it's about consistency.
I remember coming here in '98, I had a chance to win the scoring title and Nick Price birdied a couple holes on the back nine to edge me out for the scoring title. Well, you learn from that. It's about playing well all year. You can't have a bad round or bad couple rounds or bad tournaments to win the scoring title. You live and learn from those experiences.

Q. After The Presidents Cup, you've got an extended break and some quality time with your wife and daughter. Just wondered if there was anything in particular you were really looking forward to doing?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, putting the clubs away, not picking them up, not swinging a club, just getting away from it. Like Stricker said, I can't wait to go hunting. For me, I'm the same way, I can't wait to hop in the water and go driving.

Q. Anything special about your daughter you've missed in recent weeks?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it's not seeing her every day and helping Elin. We don't have nannies, we don't have any other help, she's just doing it on her own. And when I'm there, I can help. But when I'm not there, she's being a complete stud about it and doing it all on her own. You feel guilty for not being there, not helping out. We want to do it ourselves. We don't want anyone helping raise our child because it's our child.

Q. As much as Tim was kind of leading you in that direction, I noticed you didn't kiss the Cup on the green. Do you have a policy on which trophies you kiss?
TIGER WOODS: Damn, Fergie (laughter).

Q. Claret Jugs only?

Q. We've got pictures of that, yeah.
TIGER WOODS: There you go.

Q. Secondly, as you look forward to next year, you're defending champion of BMW and here, and Deutsche Bank supports your foundation. Do you see any way around playing four in a row next year?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it's going to be extremely hard, hard on the body and hard on the mind. We'll see what happens. First of all, I've got to qualify (laughter).

Q. For the Ryder Cup or for the Playoffs?
TIGER WOODS: For the Playoffs (laughter).

Q. Running the numbers, you didn't even have to show up this week to still win the FedExCup. I know that wasn't the intent, to miss events, at least the TOUR didn't plan it that way. Do you think the schedule needs to be rejiggered to allow guys like yourself to play two in a row, then have a week off and play two more?
TIGER WOODS: It's not just four in a row, it's playing Firestone followed by the PGA and then you have that week off, and then next week four in a row plus one more, so it's five in a row. Seven out of eight weeks is a lot to ask of guys. They're all big events. Some guys have hometown events and they can go out there and have a great time. These are big events, a World Golf Championships, a major, followed by our new Playoffs system, followed by a Ryder Cup. You can't take an event off.
So I think that's what guys were having a complaint with, is that because they're all such big events with such big meaning to them, it's going to be hard for all the guys to play all the events. It'll be easier for the international guys next year because they won't have to play the Ryder Cup.

Q. How important is that when you think about these four events?
TIGER WOODS: Well, they're all big events, like I said. I think that's where the guys would like to have a break, to get recharged, mentally recharged and ready to go for all those events. We have a few Europeans that play on our TOUR full-time, and I'm sure a few of them will probably play in the Playoff system, but not their entire team. We have our entire team playing the Playoff system, which adds to the fact that it's going to be a little more difficult for us to do and then compete in the Ryder Cup the very following week.

Q. Congratulations on winning today. What do you think about the example that you're projecting to the children all over the world, not only in the States but around the world with your example, playing golf?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think that we as athletes have a responsibility, and I think it's pretty neat to see kids out there following us and watching us play, and I think that hopefully we can inspire many more youths not only to pick up the game of golf but actually to live better lives and challenge them to push themselves to have a better future. That's what we try and do with our foundation. There's numerous other foundations that players are involved in to help out the youths and that the TOUR is involved in, as well. We're all trying to do our part and trying to make society better.

Q. I think there was only five guys who had a chance this week to win the whole thing. Obviously you made it a moot point by winning, but would you prefer to see there be more guys who have a chance coming into this, or are you okay with the way it shook out?
TIGER WOODS: Well (smiling), I'm personally okay with it (laughter). As I said earlier this week, I think that it would have been nice to see more guys have a chance to qualify, to get in, guys who -- for example, the Rich Beem story, him trying to get into the BMW event. I think it would be nice to see more volatility with the points structure, to have more guys have a chance. I think it would be more fun for us as players, it would be more fun for spectators, as well.

Q. Have you decided how Stevie is going to get his cut of the bonus money?
TIGER WOODS: No (smiling).

Q. Have you ever considered playing the latest Jack Nicklaus course in Dominican Republic designed by Jack Nicklaus, 18 holes in the Caribbean with the capacity to receive the championship?
TIGER WOODS: Say that again.

Q. Have you ever considered playing the latest course designed by Jack Nicklaus in Cap Cana, Dominican Republic, the only Jack Nicklaus designed 18 holes in the Caribbean with the capacity to hold a championship?
TIGER WOODS: I've heard about the golf course. I haven't been down there yet. I've always wanted to go. I haven't been down there yet.

Q. Any thoughts about the Presidents Cup? It's been lost this year a lot because of that Cup for the most part, but I just wonder about the -- I'm not suggesting you guys are thinking about it all year long, but it would seem like it's different this year and the guys that are going to it are -- media, too, have not been talking about it because it's all about this, and now we're getting ready to play it.
TIGER WOODS: I think you hit the nail right on the head. The players understand it. The players want to make that team. It helps who our captain is and you want to play for him and you want to be on the team that he captains, but there really hasn't been a lot of interest in the media about the Presidents Cup, it's been about the FedExCup. They've been asked about getting to the Cup and these kind of things, but the players have kept an eye on the Presidents Cup because we all want to be on Jack's team.

Q. A lot of these guys play on adrenaline. Sometimes you take a week off and get right back into it and that can be difficult. What kind of quality play do you anticipate across the board in Montreal?
TIGER WOODS: I think very high. Any time you go to team events, if you notice, being in a team atmosphere, especially when you have a partner, guys pull off shots that they normally don't by themselves. I think that's the beauty of having a teammate there. We don't play with teammates week after week and then we finally do. You can be more aggressive. You can do things that you normally don't get a chance to because you're always playing pretty conservative out here, especially this week.

Q. You had referenced sort of the light coming on at the Western, putting your dad and the grief behind you and the streak you've been on. You've won 13 of 22 on the U.S. TOUR ending today. I'm wondering, given what you did in those earlier years, '99, 2000, eight-win, nine-win season, where you think this stretch, 14 months, fits in in terms of your best-of list, and if you're as good or better than ever, how you would evaluate it?
TIGER WOODS: I think you would probably say I didn't win as many majors through that stretch, but World Golf Championships along the way. I think that I have a better understanding of how to play the game now by far than I did back then, and I certainly have a lot more shots to get me around golf courses than I did then. That's just seven to nine years of more experience, just understanding all the mistakes I've made and how to improve and how to get myself around the golf course. My course management skills have certainly improved over the years.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Tiger Woods, thank you.

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