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February 24, 2009

Tiger Woods


LAURA HILL: Tiger, it's been about eight and a half months since we last saw you. You've had knee surgery. Welcomed a member of the family, and welcome back. Just a couple comments for us.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it's great to be back. Sorry I'm late. I forgot how long it takes to play 18 holes walking. But no, it feels great to be back out and get back out here in a competitive environment again, and it feels really good.
LAURA HILL: Can you talk about what led you to your decision to come back this week at the Accenture Match Play Championship.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it was basically my practice sessions have been going really well, so I felt good there. It was just a matter of Elin and Charlie feeling good, and as long as they're healthy and secure at home, then I was ready to come back and play.

Q. Describe the strength you have in your knee and also in layman's terms can you just kind of describe how your swing could be different now that you have some stability on the left side?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, the strength, I feel a lot stronger in my left leg. Both legs have been stronger than they ever have been. Stability is something I haven't had in years. So it's nice to make a swing and not have my -- as I've said before -- my bones move.
Since I had no ACL, I had a lack of ACL for a number of years, no matter what I did, it was always moving. So I would try and hit into my left side, but the more I did it, the more it would move, so hence one of the reasons why you saw me jumping off the ball is to get off that leg. But it's nice to be able to hit into it for the first time.

Q. Can you describe what the rehabilitation process was like for you?
TIGER WOODS: (Laughing) Don't go through it. It is not a lot of fun. The first few months are pretty tough. I mean, you're in quite a bit of pain, and it was just a lack of strength, mobility, just a lot of different things that you take for granted. That's all taken away from you.
So to come back after -- you start feeling pretty normal probably around five months, start feeling pretty good. But still, five months is a very long time. The six-, seven-month mark you start feeling really good, and here I am at eight months out.

Q. You talked at Torrey Pines how the Open was your greatest win. I just wonder in the last few months as you rehabbed, did you think back on it and how amazing, how did I do this type of situation?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, as I've watched the highlights, it is -- knowing what I went through, just the struggle each and every shot, it was a tough week.
I look back on it, I hit a lot of good shots, hit a lot of bad ones, but I putted great all week. I just hung in there, stayed patient, and that's one of the things I was very proud of is that I was able to stay very patient the entire week. With everything I had to deal with through that week, to stay that focused for all 18 holes each and every shot, I was very proud of that.

Q. You spoke about the physical aspects of being on the sidelines. What was it like mentally for you having spent your life [check] repeating and repeating and repeating and then just have to sit on the couch and watch it on TV, and following up on Doug's question, has your swing changed now that you can swing through more?
TIGER WOODS: First off, being on the sidelines, it actually felt great to get away from it, be with Sam and E and watch her grow. I would have missed a lot of that. So I was able to be a part of that.
That's something that -- it was a blessing in disguise to have an opportunity just to see Sam grow that fast and that much. As players you travel so much that I would have missed a lot of that, so I was very lucky there.
As far as my golf swing, I'm doing the same things I've been trying to do, but now I have a leg I can do it on.

Q. How did you find this as a walking course, and how do you feel about the prospect of maybe having to play an awful lot of golf this week?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it is a long walk, especially between holes. This course is spread out quite a bit. But hey, I feel good just being out here, just being able to get out there and walk the golf course. It felt great today. I was very, very pleased.

Q. What is it like to get back to work in the match-play format compared to a stroke-play event?
TIGER WOODS: Well, you have to be on your game right away. It's not like you can build into it. You can go out there and shoot 4-, 5-, 6-, 7-under par and still go home, so you have to make sure that you bring the intensity and bring your game from the very first hole, because if you don't, then I'll be going home.
That's the fickleness of match play. You have to play well. Sometimes you can play poorly -- I remember one of the guys at La Costa one year shot 79 and won his match. So that can happen. But the reverse can happen, as well. The only thing you can control is what you do on the golf course yourself.

Q. Even for you in your situation, do you think you'll have nerves on the first tee? Do you think you might be nervous?
TIGER WOODS: Oh, yeah. The day I'm not nervous is the day I quit. To me nerves are great. That means you care. I care about what I do, and I take great pride in what I do. Of course I'll be nervous. That's the greatest thing about it is just to feel that, to feel that rush.

Q. You've touched on this already, but how liberating does it feel having that left knee so much stronger again, and how does that change your confidence and your mindset going forward to pile up more titles and specifically more majors?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I feel great. I mean, I didn't think it would feel this good before the surgery or even just after the surgery because I hadn't known what it's like to feel this way. It's been so long. So to have it feel this healthy and this solid and secure, man, it's a great feeling.

Q. What do you think of the golf course?
TIGER WOODS: Well, the greens are a bit tough. They're a little severe out there. The green speeds are down because if they ever got them up, you couldn't play. It's going to be -- I think it'll be interesting to see how the TOUR sets up the pins. Are they going to really make them difficult because the green speeds aren't that fast, or are they going to -- the greens have so much pitch on them and so much slope and movement, that there aren't a lot of pins that you can go to, so each pin will be in its own little section, and they'll probably put one or two pins in that little section.

Q. Switching gears a little bit here, a lot has happened in the world in the time that you've been away from the golf course, not just golf, but the PGA TOUR itself, and you have connections to that. One thing, the Tiger Woods Foundation has an agreement with Stanford Financial. I wonder if you can explain that and where that stands at the moment and what's going on.
TIGER WOODS: Everything is wonderful on our side. The foundation is doing well. Obviously as you said we have an agreement there, but everything is good on our side.

Q. You haven't had any word from them whether that would continue?
TIGER WOODS: We're okay.

Q. Secondly, can you just kind of talk about the state of the PGA TOUR and what you've seen in your time away and sponsors that have left and things that are going on, and what level of concern you have over that?
TIGER WOODS: Well, the TOUR is obviously feeling it, just like any other part of business. I think it is very important for all of us to understand that, how important the sponsors are to our sport, and we have to acknowledge that. It's one of those times where we may be losing a few tournaments, and a lot of tournaments are coming up on their contract years, and this is a very important year going forward for us, and hopefully people will support us and what we're trying to do on the PGA TOUR, because I think it's a great opportunity for people to come out and sponsor this event and our sport, but hopefully everything will be okay on the PGA TOUR going forward.

Q. You said before Christmas that you hadn't had a chance to look into the eyes of guys like Camilo Villegas and Anthony Kim coming down the stretch. You may have noticed recently a lot of young players have come through and won, Danny Lee on Sunday and Rory McIlroy, you may remember him from Carnoustie, he won in Dubai. Have you seen any of that on television and would you look forward to playing somebody like Rory if he managed to make it to Friday and you do, too?
TIGER WOODS: I saw that he won there, yes. I saw some of the guys have been playing well, and I think it's great. It's the new young crop of players. It's good to see the game is youthful. It is a different generation than mine, but I think it's great to see.
We need that youthfulness in our sport. We need that injection of new blood in our sport. It's just a matter of them getting the experience and playing well, and it's good to see that they're winning golf tournaments around the world.

Q. Was there any stage of discouragement during the rehab, and was there ever any doubt in your mind that you would get back to where you wanted to be?
TIGER WOODS: There was no doubt I'll get back. Discouragement, yeah, there's plenty of that (smiling), as I said, especially the first few months. Anyone who's ever been through an ACL reconstruction, they'll attest to it. It's not a whole lot of fun. But once you start feeling a little bit more explosive and a little more secure in the leg and the movements start coming back, yeah, you start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. But as I said, the first few months are pretty tough.

Q. Can you imagine a time, now that you've had a taste of life away from the sport, from the hassles you face playing golf, every time you go out there, will diminish your appetite for the game?
TIGER WOODS: No, I don't think that will. I just think -- I didn't realize how much I loved being home and being around Sam and E and now Charlie. I mean, I'll tell you what, that's something that is just so important to me.
I knew family would be, and it has been, but I didn't know it would be to this degree, the closeness that I feel. That's something that as I said was a blessing in disguise, to be away from the game and have an opportunity to be a part of Sam's growth and development and watch it. That's something that -- we've had so much fun, so many great times, and I would have missed some of those things.

Q. With that being said, the anticipation of fatherhood the second time around, just kind of how has that been these last couple of weeks for you?
TIGER WOODS: A little less sleep, yeah. That's been one of the tougher parts. But it's great. This is my week to get some sleep, get some rest (smiling), so I'll take full advantage of it.
But on a serious note, it's great. To have Charlie healthy and Elin healthy and obviously Sam just doing great, it just couldn't be any better.

Q. What's the biggest mystery you'll face tomorrow?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think just trying to get in the rhythm of the round, something that you -- you need to find that rhythm quickly and get into the flow. Obviously I think match play helps that because it is basically like playing the final round of a tournament from the very first hole each and every match.

Q. There's been a lot of attention on Ryo Ishikawa the last few weeks here. Can you tell me from your experience at a young age getting all this attention, what does he -- what would you say to him advice-wise in order to succeed on the PGA TOUR?
TIGER WOODS: Just like anything. Just because there's attention doesn't mean that that helps you hit any golf shots, doesn't help you make putts, and it doesn't help you win golf tournaments. You've still got to put in the time, the effort, and the legwork to achieve success.
Just because people are writing about you and talking about you, as my dad always said, that's never hit you a high draw, a low fade or holed a putt.
I hope that he does well going forward. He's done great so far, just an unbelievable start to his career, and hard to believe he's only 17. It's just great to see, and hopefully he'll continue to improve and have just an unbelievable career.

Q. You mentioned in the teleconference the other day that you had compared notes to some other jocks who had had knee surgery or similar situations. I'm wondering if you could maybe give a couple examples of names of guys you talked to, what advice they might have imparted, and then as a follow-up you had a couple of check swings out there when the shutter bugs got you. What was that like, was there any pain, and what would that have felt like a year ago at this time?
TIGER WOODS: Well, as far as other athletes, I'm not going to mention their names. It's not worth it. But you have to understand that these guys have been through a lot. A lot of different circumstances, not all of them are knees, but wrists, neck, back. But it's about the process of rehabbing and the mindset you have to have going in and the due diligence. That's what people don't understand. Trying to get back to play at a professional level is different than someone who sits at a computer desk. To be able to have to go out and the movement and the explosiveness you have to have, it's a little bit different. That's what all those guys said the same thing, it is different, you have to understand that and treat it as such.
As far as some of the check swings out there, they didn't hurt when I was doing them before when my knee wasn't good. Some of those hurt my wrists and neck over the years, but never my knee.

Q. Just two quick things: One on the economy side, can you talk about everybody thinks that now that you've come back golf is going to turn around and the world is going to be better and everybody is going to make more money and everything else. Talk about the pressure of coming back and everybody thinking that. Two, Tim has talked about how he'd like to see players do more for the Tour to try to help their sponsors. What, if anything, can you do more because everybody looks to you?
TIGER WOODS: I don't know if I can do any more. Our contracts are already set. Our purses are set. We're in a position now for the TOUR going forward making sure that we can still progress and continue to increase our purses going forward and making sure the sponsors really enjoy and get full value out of their participation in our sport.
That's going to be the hard part going forward is that not all companies have the luxury to be able to put as much money into a tournament because obviously everyone is feeling what's going on.
As far as what Tim says, Tim is right. We have to do more as players. We have to make sure the sponsors are really appreciated, because without them we couldn't have these events. We wouldn't be playing for the money that we're playing for, and we wouldn't have the playing opportunities we have, not just here in the United States but all around the world. Sponsors drive the events. They always have, and it's great for them to be a part of these events.

Q. It's been said that there's ready and being tournament ready. After today's game where is yours? Or is that simply a distinction that you don't make?
TIGER WOODS: Well, tournament ready is just obviously having rounds under your belt. I haven't had that for a while. I've played one tournament in ten months. I've had plenty of rounds. I've simulated tournaments the best I possibly can, but it's hard to get the adrenaline up to where it's going to be tomorrow when I play.
As I said to Tom earlier, trying to get into the rhythm of the round as fast as I possibly can, that's when you're tournament honed, you play tournaments. It happens instantly, and hopefully it will happen quickly for me tomorrow, as well.

Q. Curious as to what you missed the most while you were gone.
TIGER WOODS: Miss the most? I missed sitting here in front of you guys (laughter), talking, just hanging out here.
No, I miss that rush of playing and competing, I really do, getting on that first tee and feeling it. I miss that. As much as you can have money games at home with the guys, it's not the same. This is what I do for a living, and this is what I've always wanted to do my entire life, and not being able to do it at the highest level was frustrating at times.
It wasn't as frustrating as you might think because I knew I wasn't physically ready to do it. As I said when I was at the Chevron World Challenge this year, I didn't feel like I was ready to come out here and embarrass myself, and I had to make sure that I felt my game was good enough and ready to compete and win again. That's what feels good about it, coming back out here and feeling that again.

Q. What, if anything, do you know about Brendan Jones?
TIGER WOODS: Well, he's an Aussie. I don't know a lot. I know he's played out here before, and that's about it.

Q. He said he's never actually met you, but you guys once literally bumped into one another walking into the locker room in Thailand. I'm wondering if you remember that.
TIGER WOODS: You're really stretching it, aren't you (laughter)?

Q. We know you for your work ethic. I just wondered if you ever attempted to cut a practice session short the last few weeks to spend time with Charlie?
TIGER WOODS: I have. I have done that. When Charlie has been awake and alert, usually for not very long, that's usually when I'm at home. If he's taking naps, I'll go out and practice and then come back in. Elin will call me, tell me he's awake, and I'll come back in. That's one of the beauties of living on a golf course.

Q. With your late start to the season, have you given any thought to maybe playing in some other tournaments that you wouldn't have otherwise played in as you lead up into the Masters?
TIGER WOODS: You know, my schedule is so up in the air. It's frustrating because I have to take it week to week. I don't know how the leg is going to feel next week and weeks going forward, continuing playing on this thing.
It's been feeling great so far, but there's a difference of walking out there all the time and competing and playing. It is hard. I wish I could tell you and I wish I knew myself that I was going to play certain tournaments and full schedules and all that, but I don't know. It is a little bit frustrating.

Q. It's special for everybody for you to be returning, especially for southern Arizona golf fans. Can you tell us what it means to return in this part of the country? Second, are there other parts of your golf game that may have prospered from this break other than explosion and the stability of the knee?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think coming back here, it's great to be back here in warm weather. I can work on my farmer tan, which is great. Just being able to come out here and play again, I mean, that's -- I'm really looking forward to that.
And as far as other parts of my game, I spent a lot of time hitting easy shots because that's all I could do for a while. I got really good at hitting a 5-iron 100 yards. I could really dial that in.
My short game has gotten a little bit better. I've got more shots than I did before, just because I've spent so much time on it, chipping and all the different shots around the greens. Some of the shots I had forgotten that I had over the years, I kind of remembered how to hit them again, which was kind of nice.

Q. You talked about missing the rush of competing. Was there any kind of rush at all of coming to the course today for the first time since the U.S. Open, going through your routine of locker room, range? You're kind of officially back on TOUR.
TIGER WOODS: I was talking to Elin earlier about that this morning, and she asked me the same question. I said, "It feels the same. Nothing feels any different." Just because it feels like I'm coming back to what I used to do.
I'm looking forward to the rush tomorrow, I really am, waking up tomorrow and getting ready for my round and getting focused and coming out here, warming up and getting fired up for my match against Brendan. I'm really looking forward to that more than anything else because I haven't had that in a long time.

Q. It felt no different coming here?
TIGER WOODS: Not today, but tomorrow will definitely be a difference.

Q. We see a lot of guys at the beginning of the year, they come out, they're a little rusty, they take a little bit of time to come into form. When was the last time, maybe apart from when your father passed away, but when was the last time that you showed up at a tournament when you weren't in your own mind 100 percent ready and thought you were going to win?
TIGER WOODS: That was the only one. Yeah.
LAURA HILL: Tiger, thanks for your time. Good luck this week.

End of FastScripts

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