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June 7, 2009

Tiger Woods


MARK STEVENS: I'd like to welcome Tiger Woods, our 2009 champion and our tournament host and founder, Mr. Jack Nicklaus. We'll start off and have Tiger give some comments about his round today, and we'll take questions. If you would, please, raise your hand and state who the question is for so that we can move it along quickly.
TIGER WOODS: Today was obviously a good day for me. I hit the ball well all day. I just wanted to shoot 2 or 3 under par and get something positive on the front nine. I thought 11 was going to be the number to win it outright today. That ended up being it would be a playoff. The greens were so fast and so quick, I just figured it might be a little more difficult to make birdies out there given the pin locations.
Some of the guys got off to quick starts, and it was hard to maintain it. You know the ball's going a long way on the fairways, you can get in trouble here pretty easily. Marginal shots just weren't going to hold fairways and they weren't going to hold the greens. You had to hit the ball well today and really have some pretty good touch on the greens.
So I told Jack, I've never seen greens this good and this fast. I think they're running at 14 1/2. That's not slow.

Q. Tiger, looking at where you were at the Players, in three weeks you've managed to get to maybe -- well, statistically this was your best ball strike in the tournament on the fairways here, not far behind the greens here. Today you really didn't miss a shot. How were you able to get from there to here in such a short period of time?
TIGER WOODS: It was just a matter of time. As I said, I was just starting to go practice after my rounds. Quail Hollow, hit a few balls only two of the days. TPC I was able to hit consistently. I was starting to get physically good enough where I could do that. If I had a problem, I could go on the range and fix it. I was get to go that point where I could start doing these things again.
My practice sessions started getting longer at home. Hit more balls, play more golf, all these things. People don't realize you need to do that. You need to have that ability. You can't just think about your swing and how to be great the next day. I needed to do the reps and do some good practice sessions this past couple of weeks.
It came together this week.

Q. Tiger, Furyk said this would answer a lot of questions, presumably talking about the public. Does it answer any for you?
TIGER WOODS: No. I knew I could do this. It's just a matter of give me a little bit of time. I just came off of a pretty extended break, and I was close to winning, but the game wasn't quite there when I really needed it on Sunday. I rectified that.

Q. And what about the significance of it coming in your last tournament before the Open?
TIGER WOODS: It was nice to play this well going into the U.S. Open. This is how -- this is how, you know, you have to hit it in order to win U.S. Opens. Especially Bethpage. That golf course is as big as they come.
You know, with the rough as deep, even with it graduated, it's super thick. From the guys that I've talked to who have already played it, they said it's already -- you really can't get to some of these greens if you hit the ball, even in the first cut.
It's just one of those things where you have to hit the ball well all week. I did that in 2002. That was one of the reasons why I was up there.

Q. Tiger, 17 and 18 playing very, very difficult this week. You were able to finish birdie, birdie. How did you have the success finishing up?
TIGER WOODS: 17, I hit a 5 wood off that tee. I was surprised how far it went. I thought the wind was a little bit more off to the right than it was. It was a little more down. I got down there and hit a 9 iron up. I just tried to hit it straight up, and anything that lands just on top of that ridge. If I hit it high enough, it should hold. And it held. I had to putt at it.
It was just on top of the left edge. Just had to debt get committed to it and hit a good putt. That went in.
Then 18, you can get suckered into hitting too much club off that tee. For me, if I would have hit a 5 wood down there, it turned it with the wind just a little bit. I mean, it's in the hazard. You had to hit it up the right side. For me, 5 wood runs out of room. So I decided to hit 3 iron and just make sure -- I knew 3 iron could get me past those trees.
Once I knew that, hit it down there, hit it past the trees. Hi a shot, 7 iron into the green and just try to line the ball up on top anywhere to the right. If it makes it, great. If it doesn't, I've got a 15, 20 footer. Don't know if I could make that.

Q. Tiger, I'm sure every win for you is satisfying. Is this one any more so given the way you did it, especially today, the final round score, the last two holes, you know, the way you hit the ball all week?
TIGER WOODS: Just all week, I've been hitting the ball well all week. I really controlled my flight and felt in control with shaping the ball both ways. I didn't really have a problem hitting it either way. That's when you know you feel like you're in control of what you're doing.
You know, I overshaped a couple of balls earlier this week, but so be it. That's an easy fix. I didn't hit any surprises out there.

Q. Could you talk about how well you're hitting your 3 wood and what a weapon it was for you this week and really how often strategy-wise you used it. And whether you might use it more at Bethpage.
TIGER WOODS: I used it a lot more once the fairways got faster. The first couple of days -- especially the first day, it really wasn't -- it was leaving me too far back, you know. As the fairways got faster and faster, a low 3 wood and even a low 5 wood at times would go almost 300 yards.
The 5 wood down 17 went 290 or something. Don't normally hit it that far.
But these fairways are getting quick, and everything's cut down grain. When it was cut down grain like this, it presents one heck of a challenge because, you know marginal shots like on 2, if you lose it just a little bit to the right, it's in the water. It's not going to hold.
And you start having to hug the edges of the fairways, which, you know, really presents a good challenge.

Q. Tiger, when we asked you outside the other day on that scale of 0 to 100% how close you were to 100, you didn't directly answer the question.

Q. Were you waiting to find out yourself, and obviously those last two holes, was that the answer?
TIGER WOODS: I think if you're looking at the answer, it wasn't just the last two holes, it was all week. As I said, I controlled my flight all week.
I felt comfortable hitting it left to right, right to left. Didn't have a problem taking the ball up in the air or bringing it down. You know, that's what I was looking for. That's what I was able to do at home in my practice sessions, and now it's just a matter of carrying it out here onto a tournament venue and doing it.
You know, I was able to do it this entire week.

Q. Tiger, I recall when you won here before, you talked about what it meant to you to win Jack's tournament. Now having come back and won Jack's tournament, could you reflect a little bit.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah. I always want to come here each and every year. This is one of the greatest tournaments we can play in. What Jack has done for the game is truly remarkable. As I said out there, I haven't -- I wasn't able to get here the last couple of years. One, I was sick. The other one I broke my leg. I was really looking forward to coming here this year.
This golf course is always in perfect shape. It's always demanding. And it was just a matter of getting some good weather. We were able to do that this week and the last few -- in four days, it's been absolutely ideal. Dried the golf course out. This golf course is as pure as it gets.

Q. Jack had mentioned outside that he had called you, I guess, right after the surgery, and you guys were talking about some swing things. I was wondering about your recollection of that conversation. Secondly, are you pretty much back to 100%, practice as much as you want, as long as you want without restriction at home now?
TIGER WOODS: As far as the first part of your question, yeah, I do remember Jack's conversation. We talked about my hips. Just I knew what he was talking about. I was out of whack, and I had no ACL. A lot of compensations have been accumulating over the last couple years just because my leg was deteriorating.
So that was obviously helpful. But it obviously takes you eight months to get it back. So it's been a while.
As far as my ball count at home, yeah, I can do whatever I want. The only difference is I can't do anything off the golf course yet.

Q. Running? Jogging?
TIGER WOODS: Playing basketball, tennis, all that kind of stuff. They want to hold that off until after the tournament season. Let's see how you do for the regular season. Then you can start, if you want, going into these things, but you need your graft to heal more. Have that body heal better.

Q. Tiger, can you talk about the eagle on 11, the shot, and also what you thought that did for you at that point? Also, the second shot on that hole going in, did you think your second shot was pretty good? Were you surprised it went that long?
TIGER WOODS: I thought it was perfect. I cut it out over the creek, and I couldn't get back in there. I cut a 3 wood because it was too far into the wind. I decided to choke down and hit a cut 5 wood in there. I flushed it. I thought it was going to land in the middle of the green and maybe go up the slope and come back down, and I was surprised it carried that far.
When I got up there, it was a nasty little lie. It was sitting near the green and down. I just tried to make sure I took a big enough swing that, if I missed it, I was going to carry it on the green too far, have it roll over the green, and have an easy chip back up the hill. If I left it there, I'm probably going to -- you're looking at making a bogey from a very simple spot.
So that's one of the reasons why I made that big of a swing is to make sure I carried on the green and, as I said, make the swing long, give myself a chance and stay on the green and make a putt. Having it go in was a huge bonus because that got me to within one. I was 3 back on that hole.

Q. Tiger, ball striking-wise, when was the last time you hit it this well for a full week?
TIGER WOODS: Hoylake. I did all right there.

Q. Tiger, how would you quantify the progress you've made? We're all talking about we knew this was coming. You did win earlier this year. How would you quantify the progress you made from Bay Hill to here? What does it mean as far as, I guess, any extra meaning given the severity of it's almost like a Major with the speed of the greens, the speed of the fairways. How does that play into the satisfaction of what you were able to do this week?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah. When I first came back, I was pretty limited in my shot shapes. I wasn't able to work the ball both ways very well, draw the golf ball. It was something I had to do to try to make sure everything was okay. I didn't have the speed of my body yet. I was hitting the ball pretty short at the time.
But, you know, I knew all that would come along. Just give me a little bit of time. And I started to feel a little bit better each and every week, and my ball count is coming back to where it used to be. I can practice like I used to. I can play the holes at home like I used to. That was just a matter of time before I was able to try to -- you can't put it all together just thinking about it. You have to go out there and do the reps.
I've been able to start doing that now.

Q. Are you running?

Q. On the chip on 11, did the hand come off the club? Was that by design?
TIGER WOODS: I was just trying to add loft. Just trying to really get the blade working underneath the golf ball as fast as I possibly could.

Q. Take the ball to the hole.
TIGER WOODS: It just happened to do that. I was just working so much that way.

Q. This is for Jack. The other day you sort of joked about Tiger's comeback, how disappointing it was with all the high finishes. But his game does really get scrutinized quite a bit. I'm just wondering if you can recall yourself having gone through that. Like you finish eighth and people wonder what's wrong. Did that happen to you at any level?
JACK NICKLAUS: First of all, let Tiger know what I said.
TIGER WOODS: I know what you said.
JACK NICKLAUS: He had a win and six top tens.
TIGER WOODS: I know what you said. I know what you were talking about.
He was making fun.
JACK NICKLAUS: For most people, that would be unbelievable. For him, that's not his best. It's still pretty darn good.
You said did I get what?

Q. Did you get that kind of scrutiny, you know, where you'd have five top tens and people wonder what's the matter?
JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah. I think I went through -- one year I went eight or nine tournaments, and they said, what's wrong with Nicklaus? He didn't win a Major. I finished second in three of them, but I didn't win. So I'm in a slump. He goes through the same thing. It's the same thing every time. You just really can't pay much attention to it. You've just got to go about and do what you do. That's what he's been doing, going about and doing what he does.

Q. I don't want to give those TV guys too much credit, but when you stuck the one at 18, they brought up the shot in the dark on Firestone. Did it feel anything like that?
TIGER WOODS: It felt more like how Shaun Micheel felt. Unfortunately, mine wasn't for a Major.
The shot in the dark was -- as I said, it was in the dark. Couldn't see it. This one was with everything on the line at the time, had a one-shot lead. You know, trying to hit it up there and use the wind. If it comes across perfect, then hit it tight. If it doesn't, I've got a 15, 20 footer. I couldn't hit it any better than I did. Wind shaped it a little bit and held over there.
I was actually surprised it held. If I landed on top, I was expecting it to scoot past the hole and putt back. Steve and I were walking up the green, and I was so into it, I was thinking I had a four footer down the hill. Stevie got out there and said, oh, thank goodness. You know, two less gray hairs are going to be happening here in a little bit.

Q. Tiger, Jack said yesterday it's probably a matter of when, and not if, you'll break his Major record. Just wanted to know your thoughts on that. Obviously, how much you respect him and how much he's done for the game. You are chasing the most ultimate record in the game. Do you think you'll get there. Do you think you'll break it?
TIGER WOODS: I'm hoping to. It's five to pass him, four to tie him. That's a lot. Most of the guys in my generation haven't won more than three. So it's quite a challenge. There's no doubt about it.
I probably wouldn't have had as good a chance to put myself in position to tie or pass, whatever it may be, if I hadn't had the surgery. My leg was deteriorating the past couple of years. I'm healthy enough where I think I can give it a go.

Q. We ask a lot of questions of athletes about the public's expectations, and the answer is the athletes' expectations are even higher. That's my question to you, given how much people have expected out of you for a long time.
TIGER WOODS: In this case, no. My expectations have been -- I had to lower them a little bit because I knew I couldn't practice where I wanted to and I couldn't do all the things I used to be able to do. But people just didn't quite understand that. To some extent, they've never been in that position before.
So it's just a matter of time before my practice sessions started getting long enough, and I started building my confidence through that. And here we are.

Q. Whatever your expectations are and however you measure them, how are they different now than, say, March?
TIGER WOODS: Well, you know, March I was just seeing if this leg would hurt or not per day. Don't hit any shot that would cause any injury to it. Don't stretch the graft out. There was a lot of don'ts. Don't do this, don't do that. Wasn't a lot of dos.
Really had a hard time going out and hitting shots. Really had a hard time doing that because I really couldn't. I was pretty limited to what I could do.

Q. Let me rephrase that. Are they any different now than they were two years ago?
TIGER WOODS: Different between seeing the shots and hitting the shots, no. Feeling-wise, night and day. I feel good now.

Q. For the better?
TIGER WOODS: No. I feel good now. I'm not hurting and having to take a bunch of pills just to make myself feel normal.

Q. Tiger, Jim Furyk was made sure to let us know that he thanked us for beating you off, talking about how your swing's gone and all the rest of it. He said, great, now look at what I've got to deal with. Do you, when you hear of all this, is it extra motivation for you to say I can still be the guy that I was? And then just actually a totally separate question. Did you watch Roger Federer this morning?

Q. What was some reaction?
TIGER WOODS: Frustrating in the sense that I've -- coming off of what I came off of, I win one tournament and have four top tens or whatever it was, and excluding the Match Play, I had 18 straight top tens. That's not bad.
But people said, you know, you're not that good anymore. I'm pretty consistent. Just give me a little bit of time so I can work on my game. Now I'm able to start doing that. Able to work on the things -- I take so much joy out of practicing. That was the hardest part. I wasn't able to practice the way I used to. I usually hit a lot of golf balls, play a lot of holes, but I wasn't able to do that. Now I'm able to start doing that again.
As far as Roger, he was impressive to watch. Talked to him a little bit yesterday and a little this morning. It's just phenomenal just how he's moving again. He's not hurt. He was hurt for a while there. His back was bothering him, and then he had the whole mono thing last year and had to deal with that.
It's just truly remarkable when he gets it going. He just hits shots that nobody else can hit. It's fun to watch.

Q. Did you feel the emotion of him to finally break through?
TIGER WOODS: Absolutely no doubt. I was pulling for him. I was as nervous as can be for him. A couple times there, Soderling had break point in the third set. Roger is off a break, and I'm like don't lose this break. I was yelling at the TV, the whole deal.
You know, it's fun to watch your friends go out there and play and compete. I get just as nervous doing that because they're my friends.

Q. Your putting is obviously back on track? Were there any changes or tweaks to it, or was it simply a matter of reps for you?
TIGER WOODS: I felt comfortable this week. The speed you have to get used to this week. You don't see greens this fast ever. Augusta's fast, only reason because they have slope. These greens don't have as much pitch to them and much movement. They're faster.
You just have to get used to dying the putts at the hole. I didn't really do a great job of that. I had three three-putts this week but also made my share too.

Q. Tiger, after Augusta most of us had Hank Haney on the unemployment line. Can you talk about what Hank does for you, especially with the changes in your swing and how maybe we were like maybe misguided in some way in running that.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, you guys jumped the gun on that one. You know, Hank's been just absolutely phenomenal for my game and helped me through a lot. We work great together. And just like he and I understand. I mean, give me a little bit of time.
You know, most guys, when they have a surgery like that, it takes them a little bit longer to come back. People expected me to go out and win everything I played in. Maybe I'll just surprise everyone by winning a third event. I just think that Hank's been just phenomenal for my game and my development. He's one of my best friends.

Q. Just to follow up, your frustration like we saw maybe at Augusta, was that more the fact that you didn't have -- you couldn't do some of the things you wanted to do?
TIGER WOODS: It was frustrating because I finished bogey bogey every day. You would be happy with that finish.

Q. Yes, he would.

Q. He'd be buying beers.

Q. Tiger, I'm curious, when you had the surgery, you had the transplant out of your opposite leg, correct?

Q. Versus having the cadaver transplant, which is supposedly trying to speed up the process a little bit. I was wondering why you did that. Was there some concern over having anonymous dead guys?
TIGER WOODS: There's always the chance of rejection too. There's always the chance your body could reject it. Do a contralateral and take it out of the right hamstring is a pretty conservative approach to it. Patellar tendon's obviously something that some people have, but then again a lot of guys are pretty sore for a long time. You know, my right hamstring, I can get it to -- they've had guys within a year get to 110% what they were before in the hamstring. So having the hamstring taken out wasn't that bad.

Q. Tiger, not to be fishing, but wonder if I could maybe get personal on the issue of do you actually read anything that we write or watch anything that guys say on TV, or is it secondhand information?
TIGER WOODS: It's more TV.

Q. Okay. So when you're watching and they say, Tiger's in a slump or he doesn't know what he's doing with his swing or Hank Haney is on the ropes, your reaction to all that is what?
TIGER WOODS: It's all speculation. There's no credibility to it. That's the thing I just don't understand is that, you know, where's it come from? Just because it makes for a sexy story so people go ahead and say it. That's what's frustrating because I have to live with the ramifications of someone saying that. And I have to deal with that on a daily basis. That's just something that someone doesn't have to deal with, but I do.

Q. Tiger, you talk about the importance of this being Jack's tournament. What's it mean to you to come back and have a round like you did today and get this?
TIGER WOODS: Oh, it's just phenomenal. Jack's the greatest player to ever play the game, and to come here to this event and to be involved in this event -- I always want to come here each and every year, and I have except for the last couple of years.
I always want to come here and play. This is one of the greatest golf courses we get to play on all year. That includes the major championships. So to come here and play this venue. We always draw just a great field, and it's just a phenomenal event to play in. You know, if you play well here, it always gives you a lot of confidence going into a Major championship. This is set up sometimes harder than a Major.
MARK STEVENS: Thank you for taking the time, Tiger.

End of FastScripts

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