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June 3, 2009
MARK STEVENS: I'd like to welcome Tiger Woods to the media center. Tiger is a three-time champion of this event. Tiger, if you'd just start off, talk a little bit about your three weeks off and how your game is right now coming into this tournament.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah. It was nice to have those three weeks off to work on my game a little bit. We hosted a concert in Vegas, and that's about it.
Otherwise, I've been kind of working on my game trying to get ready.
Q. Tiger, this is a very difficult, non-golf related question. Lakers-Magic. See you courtside a lot. How is your heart feeling on that?
TIGER WOODS: I was kind of torn a little bit. Obviously, I live in Orlando and root for the Magic, but I'm from L.A. Grew up watching Magic and Kareem and Worthy and Byron and all those teams. Before that, McAdoo and Nixon, you name it. It is hard. It is hard. But I'm from L.A.
Q. So what's the answer?
TIGER WOODS: There you go.
Q. Tiger, Jack was just in here, and he was asked to assess your recovery and how you've played so far. One of the things he said is that he felt that you were probably being protective of your knee, and he said that's probably a good thing. He said, if you watch your swing, you're not getting out of the way the way you used to. Again, he said, that's probably protective. Wonder what your take is on his take on that.
TIGER WOODS: Absolutely no doubt. Had to be that way. Worst thing you can do is stretch out the ligament right away. The surgery would have been all for naught. That's one of the reasons it takes most athletes a lot longer to come back. You just don't want to stretch out that ligament.
That's one of the reasons why I have -- had kind of -- haven't been able to hit balls as far as I normally do, but that's coming. Each week, I'm able to hit a little bit longer. It's great. Just a little longer before I'm able to get all of that back.
Q. Tiger, I just wanted to ask you about playing with Nicklaus. Most of us don't get to play with our heroes. Obviously, he's a guy that's been well established that he's been a name on your wall since you fell out of the womb practically. Have you been looking forward to this day? Are you going to give him the business?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I'm looking forward to it, no doubt. Any time you can play with Jack -- obviously, we all know he doesn't play much anymore.
For him to get out there and play in front of people, it's going to feel good. For us as players, and certainly the fans. I don't know if he's been practicing or playing a lot. He's been doing golf course designs all over the world. They're literally all over the place.
So it's always been fun. And really looking forward to it.
Q. You've been a -- got a lot of great history at this golf course. You've had a lot of success here. Could you talk about playing here, what this course means to you, what this Tournament means to you. And just what you like about the course.
TIGER WOODS: I've always loved this golf course. This golf course is certainly one of the best on the PGA Tour. It's hard. It's straightforward.
They made changes to it, seems like, every year. Jack makes positive changes. He makes it a little bit harder, little bit more difficult. I think that over the years I've really enjoyed coming back here and playing.
Unfortunately, I missed the last couple of years, and this happened to be the year of the furrowed bunkers, so it worked out perfectly.
Q. How, Tiger. Little different question here. You getting into the design business recently and just wanted to see how that's going with you. What would you do to grow this game? I know you're a fan of this game. You grew up with this game. What would you do to grow it? With men, women, children.
TIGER WOODS: Well, as far as my design business, we still have three golf courses under construction right now. That hasn't changed. Certainly looking at different opportunities all over the world. But pretty busy with those three and then trying to play the Tour here and still compete at this level.
I really can't handle too much more than that. I don't think I'm going to be adding to that list until we get one of these completed.
But as far as growing the game, well, it's hard to. You know, one of the things that, you know, with our economy changing, and you know how expensive this sport is. And the fact that the golf cart has really hurt the game. A lot of kids aren't being introduced to the game of golf by caddying. I caddied growing up. A lot of older players on the Senior Tour, that's how they all learned to play. You don't have that opportunity anymore.
It's becoming more difficult to introduce kids to the game. The first tee has done a great job of that, and we need more of that, more institutions around the country to adopt the philosophy that they have, and hopefully that will get more kids into the game and being excited about it.
Q. Tiger, I've heard you say over the years that you found the phrase, "If you're not getting better, you're getting worse." Is that still something that you apply to yourself?
TIGER WOODS: Always.
Q. How does that work out in a chart? Are you always getting better?
TIGER WOODS: Oh, yes. We have periods we go up and down. That's one of the reasons you change to try and get better. Sometimes change, you may take one step back and then make three steps forward later on down the road. It doesn't happen overnight.
Sometimes you have to look at the bigger picture of things. It's not just one day, one week, one month. You've got to look at it in a bigger hole. Sometimes that's difficult as a player, to look at it like that. That's certainly one of the things I've learned how to do as I've played the game long enough out here.
Q. So when the ordinary fan looks at your amazing 2000 year, and you look at where you are in 2009, how do you look at that differently than the ordinary fan might?
TIGER WOODS: I'm a far better player than I was in 2000, no doubt. Certainly have a lot more shots than I did then. Understand how to play the game of golf infinitely better than I did then. People fail to realize the field's gotten better. Everyone's gotten better. It's not just me making improvements, it's everyone.
Everyone's gotten longer. Everyone's gotten stronger. Back in those years, fitness wasn't a big part of the Tour. Now everyone seems to have a personal trainer that travels with them on the road. You see guys in gyms 15, 20 at a time.
Back then, it was one, maybe two. It was always Vijay, but it wasn't a whole lot of players. Now it's -- the philosophy has changed. So everyone's getting better.
Q. Just curious, what's your favorite memory of Valhalla in 2000 with jack?
TIGER WOODS: I'd have to say the 18th hole, 36th hole. Walking off the tee. I thought the cut was going to be -- he's right on the cut. Whether he makes birdie or not, I think that -- I thought that was going to be the number, but I found out getting on the fairway he needed to make eagle to get the cut.
With Jack and I walking off the tee, I said, "Jack, let's finish up the right way." He said, "Definitely." That means making birdie, and we both made birdie. He almost holed it off from the fair which, I haven't heard a roar that loud in a long time. It was pretty special to see Jack kind of revert back to the old Jack of days past and for him to suck it up and hit a shot like that when he absolutely needed it the most. It was pretty fun to watch.
Q. We're kind of in the public golf course era with the U.S. Open here. Two questions. One, if you could tell us some good stories on what it was like in your muni days in terms of walking up to the counter to pay. Did you do that yourself? Did your mom and dad give you money? Did they do it for you?
TIGER WOODS: I definitely did it. One, I couldn't see over the counter. So the guy had to -- I'd be yelling down from under the counter. The guy would stick his head out over. I'd pay my money. Usually from my earnings the day before. Putting green. That's usually how I kind of got my greens fee.
Q. Putting with your dad?
TIGER WOODS: No.
TIGER WOODS: Exactly. I was a little kid. Want to putt? Want to play for some skins, whatever it is? Good story about that.
My dad -- I used to come along and pocket full of quarters. So after a couple weeks of that, my dad got real frustrated that I kept coming home with a pocketful of quarters. So he said, no more playing for quarters. That's fine.
Next day I come home. I grew up at Hartwell. It's a par 3 course. We had a skins game that afternoon. I come home with a pocketful of dollars.
Q. Not much he could say.
TIGER WOODS: It was kind of fun, though.
Q. Did he say go back to quarters?
TIGER WOODS: No. Basically, he said no more gambling.
Q. Found the loophole.
Q. Tiger, if you can recall, when's the last time you had to walk up to a counter and pay for a round of golf? Please don't ask us the same question.
TIGER WOODS: Probably when, '95 or '96.
Q. Do you recall the occasion?
TIGER WOODS: Back home at the golf course.
Q. How much?
Q. It was like $12 or something.
Q. And you had money for it?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah. Earnings the day before.
Q. Let me follow up a little bit on that. Do you jump ahead now and talk about the significance of golf going back to Bethpage, which is truly a muni course, and maybe your opinions about public golf in general.
TIGER WOODS: I think that everyone here has played public golf courses. I think it's pretty neat to see our biggest championship in our country go to the public venues. Bethpage and tory. I just think those two sites, everyone has played them. That's one of the neat things about it.
When you hear, what we heard as players in 2002, to hear a lot of the fans saying, I've played here. I grew up playing here. I've hit it there. I've hit it here. That's when it's pretty neat, when it truly is an Open, when the majority of the people who are following us have played the golf course.
And I think it just makes for a much more special atmosphere.
Q. Tiger, when you played with Jack for the first time, do you recall being nervous? Or what it was like? Anything about that day that you remember.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it was a practice round at the Masters when I first played with him. It was him and Arnold. You know, tall, thin looking 1 iron kid. And we played skins.
Arnold birdied the last hole to take all the skins. I remember Jack not being happy about that. And basically said, let's go get Arnold on the par 3 course. I'm like really? You want me to go play? Let's go. But I don't have a tee time. My tee time is much later. He said, we'll work it out.
So we walk over there on the tee. Just like that. It was pretty cool. For them to invite me to play basically 27 holes with them, certainly a day I'll never forget.
Q. How did the par 3 turn out?
TIGER WOODS: Turned out well. I birdied the last hole to even it out a little bit.
TIGER WOODS: Not quarters.
Q. Tiger, getting back to 2002, lots of fans can relate to playing there, but when the players were playing there, there were a fair share of gripes as there are at typical U.S. Opens, the 10th hole and the wind and cold and the USGA not being so flexible about changing the setup. I wonder if you can reflect back to 2002, how they did things, to how they've done things the last few years and how they've set up Opens.
TIGER WOODS: Basically, it was only two holes, it was 10 and 12. That was the first year we actually had to tee off at the 10th tee, a two-tee start. I remember getting out there -- I forgot my third, but DiMarco was in the group. He didn't carry it all the way to the fairways, 240 or whatever it was, but it was cold. And he obviously wasn't very happy.
No, it wasn't fair. A lot of guys were trying to -- I remember Corey trying to hit the runway, the walkway. A couple of guys had to layup on 12 to the right, just play like an iron. Some kind of fairway wood that could wedge the green. Had to play it that way because you couldn't carry the bunker.
The flexibility, I thought, was certainly an issue that they have addressed. Look at past U.S. Opens. We have a variety of setups. Depends on weather. Depends on, you know, the graduated rough, moving tees up and around. Torrey Pines was supposed to be the longest U.S. Open in history, but we played all over the map. Each day was a little bit different. I think that's more fun. It's more challenging to us but also more fair too.
Q. Bethpage has got a par 5 that's shorter than a par 4. 7 is 525, and 4 is 517. Do you find that weird?
TIGER WOODS: Did we play 7 as a par 4 last time?
TIGER WOODS: Oh, perfect.
Q. Fairway is 85 yards wide, so you can really go at it.
Q. Do you find that odd where you have a 4 that's actually longer than a 5?
TIGER WOODS: Probably the only time you see that is 10 and 13 at Augusta. Well, the old 13.
Q. Tiger, when you're watching other athletes, like when you went to the games with the Magic and the Cavs, do you -- when you watch guys like Dwight Howard or LeBron or other athletes at the top of their game, do you start to watch that as a fan, or do you think you maybe appreciate that a little differently as an athlete at the top of his game?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think I've been lucky enough to get to know a lot of these guys. I think their work ethic and how they prepare and what they have to do in the off-season and during the season, no one has any idea.
I remember the countless hours I spent with Michael in the gym feeding him balls. He would just shoot all night, and he thought that, yeah, he just showed up to the game and off he went and scored 45 and went home. You don't realize what he did to prepare for that. I think that's something that getting to know these guys, it's something I appreciate a lot more. Watching them play right there on the floor, it's just phenomenal with be the banging, and how physical it is. These guys and their strength and the balance that they have.
It's just phenomenal to watch.
Q. Tiger, Sam is nearly the same age as you were when you were on the Mike Douglas Show. And I'm wondering if that's wild for you to imagine, first of all, and if she shares any of your precociousness at that age.
TIGER WOODS: Is it wild? Yeah. It's hard to believe I was swinging a club at that age. But she certainly has my temper.
Q. How about your vocabulary?
TIGER WOODS: Not yet. But, yeah, she doesn't like for me to help her hold a golf club. She'll figure it out herself. Yeah, sounds very familiar.
Q. Tiger, how do you feel about the 18-hole playoff at the U.S. Open? Is it a format that you favor? Would you like to see it shortened to three holes or any ideas?
TIGER WOODS: It's just different. It's hard to -- I could totally understand that, back when they used to have the Super Saturdays and Sunday worked out, but going into Mondays, you usually don't get the audiences. That's one of the -- I think one of the downers to it.
Then again, as a player who's playing well, you want to go more holes. The better player usually wins in more holes. That's how I've always approached it. The more holes you give me, I'm playing well, I want more holes, not just one hole, or even three.
Q. Tiger, when you were talking earlier about remembering the bigger picture of where you're going and how you're going to play, is it difficult, you know, when you come off and you don't play your best to remember the big picture? I mean, is it hard for you because you know where you've been and how good you could be?
TIGER WOODS: Is it frustrating? Yeah, because I wasn't able to practice in between my rounds. I didn't really start practicing until very light practices at Augusta and then not until Quail Hollow is where I really started practicing after a round. Did I have days where I struggled? Yeah, definitely. But I didn't have the ability to go out there and hit a bunch of balls to fix it and get ready for the next day.
I had to go home and ice and elevate and get the fluid out of my knee, all those things to get ready for the next day. Meanwhile, just think about it, and hopefully that will be good enough. I couldn't grow any confidence through physical change.
That's been one of the great things of being healthy enough to do that again. I'm able to get back out there and work on my game.
Q. I just want to followup on something said a moment ago. I think you're probably the only player who's competed in all three formats, player format in a Major, the multiple hole, sudden death, and 18 holes. If you had to pick one, which would it be and why?
TIGER WOODS: I'd say the Open, yeah. Except for last year when I was hurt.
But if you're playing well, I just think you'd much rather go more holes, to me. I just feel better about that.
Q. How do you know you're going to play well the next morning?
TIGER WOODS: To already get into the playoff in a major championship, you weren't playing poorly. So I've played sudden deaths at Augusta. At Valhalla, I played the three holes, first year of the three holes against Bob, and did play the British Open four holes.
But it it just felt -- I felt more comfort when I had more holes, even at Valhalla.
Q. You birdied the 18th at Valhalla going into the three hole. You bogeyed the last two at Augusta going into sudden death. Were you more worried at Augusta?
TIGER WOODS: Absolutely no doubt. I didn't play the last two holes well at all.
Q. Back to basketball. You were sitting front row, and you've seen Dwight and all the guys banging. You've seen Jack walk off golf courses and shake hands when he loses, and you lost tournaments, you shake hands. Waiting for Sean to shake hands when you lost to him. Were you surprised LeBron didn't go and shake hands? Do you have to get to a point where you have to put past, okay, you lost, but there's a sportsmanship issue there.
TIGER WOODS: Well, if you look at it, not everyone shakes hands after every game. Football, a lot of guys just walk off the field. You know, a lot of sports, they do walk off the court or field. Hockey, they line up. It's tradition, and it's part of our sport. The tradition of taking the hat off and shaking hands.
I think that has probably a lot more to do with it than anything else. History of our game is about sportsmanship. We call penalties on ourselves. I don't see anybody in the NFL saying, I'm sorry. I held the guy. Give me ten yards. Just doesn't happen.
But I think that's, you know, what separates our sport from other sports is just the traditions of the sportsmanship and how much -- how great it shows. You know, when you don off the cap and shake someone's hand and look them in the eyes and say, well done.
End of FastScripts