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July 14, 2009
MALCOLM BOOTH: Ladies and gentlemen, we'll make a start. We're joined by three-time Open champion, Tiger Woods. Tiger, thank you for joining us. How difficult was it to miss last year's championship for injury, and how does it feel to be back at the Open Championship?
TIGER WOODS: Not as frustrating as I thought it would be. After the procedure last year I couldn't do much of anything. So just a struggle day-to-day. I couldn't compete out here, and so it really wasn't that much of a struggle as I thought it would be. It was certainly a little more struggle towards the end of the year when I knew I could start competing and playing again; that's when I started to get the itch to get back.
MALCOLM BOOTH: What are your thoughts of the course?
TIGER WOODS: The course is fantastic. It's in great shape. The rough is up a little bit. We haven't had the big winds yet. We'll see how the weather holds out, but all in all, the golf course is just a fabulous golf course.
Q. If you look at the guys that have done well here the last three times, you've got Nicklaus, you've got Watson, you've got Norman and you've got Nick Price, all of them maybe the best player in the world, you could argue, or one of them at the time. Does that make you feel better coming to a place like this, knowing that in the past it's rewarded the guys that have been at the top?
TIGER WOODS: I think if you look at it that way, I think you look at the guys who were some of the best ball strikers. At this golf course you can understand why. You really do have to hit your ball well, here. And you have to drive the ball well. You have to hit your irons well.
You just can't fake it around this golf course. You just have to hit good golf shots.
And those four guys you alluded to, those are all some of the best ball strikers of all time, or certainly in their eras.
Q. You've beaten up Torrey Pines, Bay Hill, Firestone. You haven't played this course; does that put you at a disadvantage?
TIGER WOODS: I wouldn't say that. You just have to do more homework in your practise rounds. I've obviously seen it on TV but I haven't played it yet. It was nice to get out there. I played the last three days, and I've had basically the same wind but three different directions, which was nice. And to try to get a little bit different feel for how the golf course is playing. You've just got to really make sure you do your homework while you're playing, because I can't rely on past years' experience.
Q. Obviously you're a multiple major winner, but because you missed last year and the recuperation you've come through, if you do lift the Claret Jug on Sunday would it be a little bit extra special?
TIGER WOODS: Anytime you have a chance to lift the Claret Jug it's special. I wouldn't say it's extra special, but it's been special for me three times, and hopefully I can do it again.
Q. Can you tell us what you were doing 12 months ago, and were you watching it unfold on television? And if so, what did you make of Norman, what he was caught up with, what he was doing?
TIGER WOODS: My day consisted of trying to get from the bed to the couch and then from there back to the bed. That was my day. My leg was at the time -- I was going through probably some of the worst pain at the time. Just basically the two-and-a-half-week mark, two-week mark I was in pretty good pain.
So watching this tournament, I really didn't do much of that, either, until -- I probably caught the last nine holes of it pretty good. And I was amazed at how windy it was. I could see the scores really weren't that low. I watched some of the highlights, but I didn't really watch much of the golf. I was really surprised it was that windy and the guys were really playing that well. What Paddy did on the back nine was pretty phenomenal, to shoot that score. I think he shot 32, I believe, in that wind. When it really mattered, he had to shoot a number, and he did.
Q. Tiger, your three wins this year obviously come right in preparation, your last prep for the majors. Does that heighten your expectation going into these majors, and how did you feel in the previous two and how do you feel coming in here? Obviously this is a different kind of golf.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I mean, Bay Hill I putted well that week, had a good putting week. I had 102 putts, 103 putts, whatever it was. Muirfield was nice, to be able to hit the ball that well right before the U.S. Open. I hit the ball well at the U.S. Open, I just didn't make any putts, and consequently didn't win.
But hopefully I can hit the ball like I it the Congressional and putt the same. But you're playing different shots over here. You're not hitting the ball the same way, and you've got to hit different shots and maneuver the ball differently than what we did there. So you have to make some adjustments.
Q. Do you recall the first time you played true links golf and do you remember if it was something where you liked it right away or if you felt it was going to take a while to get used to this type of style, and was it the Scottish Open?
TIGER WOODS: Absolutely. I fell in love with it right away. I played Carnoustie and St. Andrews, my true links golf, my first two right out of the gate. It doesn't get much better than that.
And to play at Carnoustie my first year, it was just -- I just fell in love with being able to use the ground as a friend, as an ally. We don't get to do that in the States; everything is up in the air.
But here it's different. You hit a shot that's from 150 yards, whatever it is, you have so many options of how you could play it. And back home in the States you play pretty much everything up in the air.
Q. I don't think you had played Hoylake before, either.
TIGER WOODS: Correct.
Q. You came up with a very interesting sort of game plan for there. Anything about this course that lends itself to any sort of special approach?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it's the same. You either -- you have to be committed to either putting the ball short of the bunkers or carrying them or skirting it past them. You have to make sure you really know what you're doing out there, especially with the cross winds in some of these fairways where they're slanted. It certainly presents its challenges. And you've got to hit some really good shots and you've got to understand why the last three champions are some of the best ball strikers. You have to do that here.
Q. Not saying that you ever would take competing for granted, but when you were in the situation that you were 12 months ago, does it make it feel extra special to actually be out competing once again?
TIGER WOODS: You know, once -- the first few months golf was the furthest thing from my mind. But as I entered December and January, I really started feeling like I really do miss playing out there and competing. But it still was very difficult because I was so limited in what I could do practise-wise. But once I got out here and started playing, I remember how much fun it is, to get to compete against these guys. These guys are the best players in the world, and how could you not want to do that?
Q. And just a follow-up on that, the extra satisfaction that you therefore feel when you win again, having done all the work, all the rehab to get yourself back into a position where physically you are able to compete?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, that first one back was -- that was pretty special. The people who are around me know how hard I had to work to get back to that position to be able to play again. And it felt good. It really did. It felt so good to get that W, because you put in so many hours of work to just give yourself a physical chance to hit a golf ball again. And then once you do, then you have to do all the prep from there. And then ultimately you've got to do that in a tournament. It was three tournaments into it I was able to get a W.
Q. Most of your career has spanned Britain's failure to win a major. So is it your fault? Do you see the British players are just a touch short of the very top level, or do you see ones that are out there and good enough to win a major?
TIGER WOODS: Just like anything, you've got to play well at the right time is basically what it boils down to, whether you're British or what have you. It's about putting together four good rounds at the right time. And unfortunately they just haven't done that.
There's no reason why they can't. The only reason why they're out here is because they're good. It's just a matter of doing it at the right time.
Q. Are there any specific ones that --
TIGER WOODS: A bunch of guys out there.
Q. Seems like the prevailing theory is you've got to be playing out of the fairway this week to have any chance. I'm wondering with your three practise rounds if weather stays rather benign like today how many drivers that will be, what your philosophy off the tee will be. I think Norman three-jacked the 18th hole here one year for a 63. When the weather has been down, it's been a very assaultable golf course. Do you see that number out there?
TIGER WOODS: As far as hitting driver, it all depends on the wind. And a lot of it, even though we've had the same general direction the last three days, they've been three different angles. I've adjusted what I've hit off the tees.
And so far you hit a few here and there, but then again you may hit more if the wind changes or you may get a different angle. That's what's so hard about links golf; it's hard to tell you I'm going to hit ten drivers or I'm going to hit zero drivers; I don't know.
At Hoylake the game plan was to probably hit about four or five. But as the ground got faster and faster and faster, and my 2-iron and 3-wood were going over 300 yards. You get to a point where you really can't control how far the ball is going to go. So the driver, I didn't really utilise it that much.
As far as assaulting this golf course, as you said, a lot of it is dependent on as, as you said, the weather. What Greg did was in bad weather. He played a great round of golf, one of the best rounds in the history of golf in terrible weather. You just have to hit the ball well here, or you just can't get around.
Q. No matter how many assurances a man can have before an operation, there's always got to be some little doubt things might not go according to plan.
TIGER WOODS: Absolutely.
Q. How much relief do you now feel being back actually playing excellent golf, and was there a moment or a shot or hole in your comeback, as it were, when you thought this is working, this has worked?
TIGER WOODS: There was no shot, no. It's a process of getting to a point where I didn't have pain when I played. That's something that I was battling for years. And it just got to a point where, as everyone saw, it wasn't very good.
But it's just nice to be able to play with a leg that doesn't make noise, and it's stable and it's not moving on me like it was. And it's very reassuring when you go out there and play.
Q. You've carved out a life for yourself that many people would be envious of and enjoy. But with all the hullabaloo that surrounds it, are there ever times when you wish you were someone else?
TIGER WOODS: No. Wish I was someone else? No. Wish I had a little more anonymity is different.
Q. Does that impinge on your enjoyment of your success?
TIGER WOODS: No, absolutely not. Going out there and playing against these guys, that's such a great rush. I've always loved it and hopefully I can do it for a while.
Q. Can you imagine yourself competing and contending at 53 like Greg did last year?
TIGER WOODS: It would be nice to be above dirt (laughter).
Q. You are one of the few people who knows what it's like to try to win golf tournaments after undergoing a swing change. I'm curious if you've talked to Padraig at Bethpage when you guys were paired together, and if not, what empathy do you have for someone that's won three majors out of six and is trying to change his swing?
TIGER WOODS: No, we didn't really talk a whole lot while we were playing. We were both focused on what we were trying to do, and at the time he was struggling a little bit. He grinded pretty hard. The second day, getting up-and-down from where he was was pretty phenomenal.
As far as changing your swing, we're all trying to get better, we're all making changes. The game is fluid. It's always evolving; you're trying to make adjustments here and there to try to get yourself to the next level. I think what Paddy has done, obviously you see he's changing his swing. The hard part is doing it in front of everyone.
I've been through it before. Sometimes it can be a little difficult because you get questioned quite a bit. But you have to understand the big picture for yourself.
Q. In Japan people are so excited and thrilled to learn the groupings yesterday, and the youngest ever Japanese player in The Open, Ryo Ishikawa, is to play with the world's top player, you. What do you think the first two rounds are going to be with this group?
TIGER WOODS: Very quiet. (Laughter.) I don't think you guys will be out there, will you? It will be interesting. There will be a lot of people inside the ropes.
It is what it is. I've been there before. Ryo hasn't -- I don't think -- he's been there, but he hasn't done a major championship yet, but he certainly has had to deal with a lot at a very young age and he's handled it well. So there's no reason why he can't play well the first two days and into the weekend. And hopefully I can do the same.
Q. If you were doing it again would you do the same again? Would you play through so much pain for so long?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, probably, knowing me, yeah.
Q. As you said earlier, with all being said, you love playing links golf over here. Away from the golf course do you like coming over here? Do you drive? Do you eat the local cuisine? Do you like coming overseas?
TIGER WOODS: As far as driving, no, I don't drive. Stevie drives. He's used to this side of the road. (Laughter.) Unfortunately he drives a little bit quick. His racing mentality kicks in every now and again, loves these turns.
As far as the cuisine, I have a cook, and I'm trying to eat as healthy and trying to have the energy that I need to compete for the week.
Q. I think Roger has gone ahead again. Has he been rubbing this in?
TIGER WOODS: No, not at all. Roger, he's as down to earth as you'd ever want to meet in a person, and for the amount of success he's had. No, it's one of those things where it's just so phenomenal to see all that hard work he's put in to get to 15 and to get the record for the most Slams.
He's been great. Our texts back and forth have always been jabby here and there, again, but also extremely supportive of one another. And that's what friends do.
Q. What did the noises sound like in your leg?
TIGER WOODS: Ask Robert Karlsson; he played with me.
Q. I heard him describe it, but I thought you maybe you could --
TIGER WOODS: No, you can go ahead. I thought you were a good writer.
Q. This is audio. Was it something like (screeching sound)?
TIGER WOODS: Really?
Q. How do you spell that?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, exactly.
Q. You can't remember?
TIGER WOODS: Oh, I can remember.
Q. You addressed a little bit about winning that first win after surgery and what it meant to you. I just wonder what kind of a hurdle winning the next major will be for you by comparison. Can you expand, you've got three wins this year; is it a success so far, even though you don't have a major?
TIGER WOODS: It's been a tremendous success. I remember looking at the year and just trying to get back in playing; hopefully I can play, and hopefully I can play at a high level. And to sit here and say I was going to have three wins halfway through the year, if anyone would have looked at my situation, they would have said you probably might be reaching a little bit.
To sit here and say that -- granted I haven't won a major, but I've come close. I've put myself in position to win the first few majors, I just haven't done it.
But to have three wins, realistically, looking at my situation at the beginning of the year, to have three wins, I wouldn't have thought that.
Q. Do you look forward to winning that first major, if it comes this week or next month? What kind of a hurdle is that for you?
TIGER WOODS: I wouldn't necessarily say that. I think it's just a continuation of just playing well and playing well at the right time, and that's what you have to do. And I've done it three times and hopefully I can do it again.
MALCOLM BOOTH: Tiger, thanks very much.
End of FastScripts