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August 11, 2009
KELLY ELBIN: Four-time PGA Champion, Tiger Woods, joining us at the 91st PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club. Tiger was second here in 2002, the only other time the PGA Championship was played here at Hazeltine, coming off consecutive wins at the Buick Open and last week at the Bridgestone Invitational.
Welcome back to the PGA Championship and to Hazeltine, and comments on from what you have scene of the golf course.
TIGER WOODS: Oh, man, the golf course is in phenomenal shape. It's a heck of a lot longer than what we played in 2002, and you know, it's going to be just a great test all week. It's playing a little bit soft as of right now. I don't know how much it's going to dry out with all of the rain they had, but it's playing very long right now, and it will be just a great test. You're going to have to hit the ball pretty good out there, especially if they play it all the way back. This is a pretty long golf course.
Q. I was wondering for the sake of an analogy I'm hoping to draw, when you were running cross-country in distance as a kid, did you have a pretty good closing kick? Second question would be, the last several years, you've really, really put it together in the second half of the season, often starting kind of right ash the British Open and you've reeled off these strings of ones and twos, if you have an explanation for that.
TIGER WOODS: Growing up in southern Cal, the boys are fast, because my stretch after the British Opened it just happened to turn out that way. I don't know what it might be, but for some reason, I've played well in the middle part of the year and not every year, but certainly in some years.
Q. Question about golf in the Olympics, do you support that, and your thoughts on what you think that would mean if it was accepted.
TIGER WOODS: I think that golf is a truly global sport and I think it should have been in the Olympics awhile ago. If it does get in, I think it would be great for golf and especially some of the other smaller countries that are now emerging in golf, I think it's a great way for them to compete and play and get the exposure that some of these countries aren't getting.
Q. If it would be 2016, would you play, if eligible?
TIGER WOODS: If I'm not retired by then, yeah (smiling).
Q. There's been a lot written by some very prominent journalists that's been sharply critical of swearing and club slamming on the golf course during majors and other tournaments, how do you feel when you see these things that go out that women and kids and fans see, and do you think that if you made a change now, that people would find your reputation as a sportsman as equally impregnable and unassailable as your reputation as a championship golfer.
TIGER WOODS: That's a great question, or statement. (Laughter).
It is what it is. Unfortunately I do make mistakes, and I hit bad shots and I say bad things at times. I don't mean to; it just comes out. It's not something that I try and do. It just happens.
Have I been trying to get better at that? Yeah, my entire life. But it happens from time to time, and I'm not the only person that does it.
Q. I'm not sure you know, you made a bad time for this press conference; I think you get fined for that. In the first three majors of the year, aside from playing the way that you played, do you think that you've been as relaxed going in as you have, let's say, certainly the last couple of weeks, and if not, why not?
TIGER WOODS: Certainly not at the Masters. I had just came back from playing. Even though I had won, you know, I was gone for a very long time. I didn't really start feeling comfortable until this summer with my practice and being able to play and then being able to recover and all of those different things. So earlier in the year was kind of hit or miss. You see me make mistakes at Augusta but I couldn't really go work on it.
As the summer, as the year as progressed, I've got much more comfortable with my game and being able to practice and play and get into the flow of competing. Being away from the game for that long, and you know, having a new limb to work with, it's been a little bit of a challenge trying to get all of that organized early in the year. And also, I didn't want to hurt it, either. That's one of the reasons why I didn't play that much. That's one of the reasons why I didn't practice a lot. You don't want to stretch this thing out. You want it to heal properly; meanwhile, also, try to compete at this level which is not exactly easy to do.
So I was really trying to rely on other parts of my game to try to get me around, my mind, chipping, putting. I knew my ball-striking would come along once I was able to really start practicing and working on my game, and as the summer has progressed, it's gotten better and better.
Q. Relaxing, does that have an effect?
TIGER WOODS: No doubt, you certainly become much more relaxed when you're able to practice. I don't know how you can go to an event, haven't really practiced, and feel real comfortable with your game.
Q. Have you heard from the TOUR regarding Sunday and the fine, and also, you're not a guy that typically putts his cards out on the table, and Padraig was in here earlier saying that it was easier for you having won the tournament to say what you said, and he felt in his position he would keep his mouth shut; why do you feel you had to say what you said if you felt that you needed to, and is there a point to be made with that, put your whistles away at the end of a game and let the players decide it?
TIGER WOODS: Okay, what part of your question do you want me to answer first? (Laughter).
Q. First have you heard from the TOUR?
TIGER WOODS: Yes, I've heard from the TOUR and there's no fine that. Was an erroneous report.
Q. About why you said what you said. NBA games, you're a big NBA fan, the fans tell the referees, put the whistles away and let them decide it.
TIGER WOODS: The way I understood it, we were the only two in contention to win the event. We had separated ourselves. The winner was not going to come from the groups ahead, even though Robert played just a great round ahead of us. It was going to come from our group. And we were having a great battle.
You know, I just thought that even after Paddy had pitched the ball in the water, he then walked all around the lake, taking the drop, hit his shot over the green and pitched back up, we got on the 17th tee, hit our shots down the fairway and as we were arriving at the ball, the group ahead of us was now entering the 18th fairway. So we were not that far behind, maybe five minutes or whatever it may be from the group ahead of us.
If Paddy does not hit the ball in the water, we play up, we are right behind the group in front of us. So that's why I was -- that's why I said what I said, because that certainly affected how Paddy played the hole, and how the outcome of the tournament, he was in control of the event. He was 1-up with three holes to go and he had a par 5. And you know, when we were put on the clock, it certainly changed everything.
Q. We all kind of talk about No. 18 that you're looking at, but I wanted to know, are you beginning to think about Sam Snead's record, and then past that, Kathy Whitworth's 88, now that you're at 70 and holding; are those things that are shooting through your mind every once in awhile?
TIGER WOODS: You know, those are numbers that are pretty mind-boggling to get up that high.
You know, those records and those numbers don't happen in the course of a few years; it's the course of an entire career. You know, I feel like I've had a pretty good start to my career and I still have a lot more years ahead of me, and you just keep playing. Where the number falls, the number falls when I'm all said and done.
It's just one of those things where you just can't make that happen overnight, just like I've gotten to 14 majors, and to try and get to 18 or beyond, it's going to take an entire career, and we all know that.
It's just a long process. The only time I think about it is when you guys bring it up. Sorry Mel.
KELLY ELBIN: By the way this will be Tiger's 12th PGA Championship.
Q. If you win this week at the PGA, what letter grade would you give your 2009, and if you don't win this week, what letter grade would you give your season this year?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it's been a great year either way. For me to come back and play and play as well as I've done and actually win golf events; to say at the very beginning of the year, when I was feeling the way I was, to be honest with you, I don't think any of us would have thought I could have won this many events this year.
Q. Just to go back to Bridgestone for a moment, Padraig was saying that he was not able to sleep Sunday night. I wondered if you had a lasting sense of frustration and whether you also felt that it was perhaps sending out the wrong message to supporters, to spectators who had been enjoying what was a pretty compelling duel.
TIGER WOODS: Absolutely. We had a great battle. Unfortunately I guess we had to finish by 6 o'clock. I guess that was that important. You know, we finished three minutes late, I think it was, so unfortunately we didn't get in in time and unfortunately that influenced the outcome of the event. Having a battle like that with Paddy when we go one-on-one like that and when we separated ourselves on the front nine, we were enjoying that battle, and that's why I think Paddy feels the way he does and that's certainly one of the reasons why I've said what I said because we were having such a great battle going head-to-head like that, and it got influenced from outside.
Q. A year ago at this time you were missing your second straight major. Just curious if you can recall what physical state you were in at that point, and could you have even looked out a year from then and imagined what you've accomplished in any way.
TIGER WOODS: No, to look out a year back, August I was just coming off crutches, so trying to learn how to walk, yeah. So it wasn't a whole lot of fun, no.
Q. In 1999, you had your first Tiger Woods Foundation clinic here in Minnesota with your dad. What are your fondest memories of that, because you did win a major that year, as well.
TIGER WOODS: Well to, have all of the kids come out and being exposed to the game, this is a phenomenal market for golf. A lot of kids play. Unfortunately the season is not very long. They certainly have other sports they do play in the wintertime but for them to come out and play in the summertime, the enthusiasm that I saw in the kids when we came out here and did the clinic, you don't see that around the country all the time. The kids were so excited to come out and play, and I think that's one of the lasting memories that we all took from the Foundation from that day.
Q. If a lot of fans had their way, you would be the kind of player who high-fives and fist-pumps your way around a golf course. Just wondering, can you talk about your on-course demeanor and why that works best for you.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, when I'm playing, I just kind of like to get in my own little world and do my thing. There are times when, yeah, I do get excited, and you know, emotions do come out, positively. But those are just -- you let that just happen. It's just not something that I ever plan. It just comes out.
That's just the heat of the moment. You just pull off a shot or you have a situation where it gets pretty intense and you're somehow able to execute the way you know you can and you pull it off, yeah, I get excited. I couldn't get that excited on the very first hole of, you know, a tournament just because I made a 3-footer; it just comes out whenever it comes out, it comes out. Sometimes I look back on it, because I don't realize what I had done. People may say something, and I didn't realize how I celebrated at the U.S. Open when I made that putt to get into the playoff against Rocco. I didn't realize how stupid that looked. (Laughter) It just comes out.
Q. You said this would be a great year, mostly because of the come back from the knee, would you have said in the past with five wins and no majors, you've been pretty open about your emphasis on the majors, and when you look at the majors this year, is there any thread to why you were not able to pull it off? You obviously contended in the first two, is there something you've identified reflecting that you need to improve?
TIGER WOODS: I've said that in the past but I didn't have ACL reconstruction, either. It usually take as while for an athlete to come back, and most guys, or some of the guys who have had it in our sport have not gone onto have the years I've had this year. I'm very proud of not only winning the golf tournaments but how consistent I've played. The only one bad event I've had was the British Open. Otherwise I've had a pretty good run of Top-10s, stroke-play events, like 18 or 20 in a row, I think that's pretty good.
As far as the Masters, the Masters I did not putt well. I putted well in streaks and I didn't finish off the rounds the way I should have. At the U.S. Open, I putted very, very poorly. Hit the ball well enough to win, but certainly did not putt well enough to win. And the British Open, I had six bad holes that cost me a chance of contending on the weekend.
Q. For those of us that don't follow you week-in and week-out, you get in a situation here in Minnesota where you have crowds like this following you on a Monday and Tuesday, is that typical of what you find around the country, or is this something a bit different for you?
TIGER WOODS: No, it's very atypical. We only get people that come out in this number and show this much enthusiasm and watch us play, to have that many people out here in a practice round is phenomenal. Even at Bethpage this year, we never saw this many people. We thought that would have been the most that we would have had all year.
This place has been phenomenal; on a Monday afternoon to see all of these people out here, I couldn't believe it yesterday, and today it was even more. I think it's going to be a great week.
Q. I think it's been a while since you've played three straight weeks; even though you've won the last two weeks, do you feel out of sorts a little bit or do you feel like in 2006, I think you won Doral after playing three straight weeks, which one would it be?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it's one of the reasons I'm taking tomorrow off, just work on my game and not play. It's also one of the reasons why I train as hard as I do so I'll be able to play at a high level. That's one of the reasons why I didn't play that much earlier in the year so that I could actually have my leg intact to play this stretch, play this much golf. There's a reason behind all of that, and most people weren't quite looking at it that way.
Q. Following up on the crowd question, I'm looking at 18, it's five, ten deep all the way around the hole and there's a couple hundred people in here. You're under the microscope constantly, how do you handle that scrutiny throughout your entire life?
TIGER WOODS: Certainly what has happened has transpired and what I have to deal with. It's not always fun at times. But then again, I get to compete against the best players in the world on golf courses all around the world and that to me is fun. Some of the stuff that I have to deal with off the golf course, it wears on you at times, and it's also one of the reasons why I play a select amount of events because it would just wear me out. You look at golf as a long haul, a long career, and don't want to wear myself out or burn myself out trying to play so much, so early.
I did that in '97 and learned my lesson quickly and made an adjustment from there and I've had some pretty good years after that.
Q. You won before the Masters, you won before the Open, our Open, their Open, and now you've won two; is that an accurate gauge of where your game is now vis-a-vis this major championship?
TIGER WOODS: You know, Larry, I feel as if I made some pretty good strides since the British Open. I had some nice practice sessions before the Buick, and especially on Monday and Tuesday after the Buick. I really had some good work down there.
I think it was evident the way I was hitting the golf ball last week, I really hit it good last week, and hopefully I can improve on that and carry that over into this week.
Q. From your perspective, what distinguishes the PGA Championship from the game's other three majors, and now that you've seen the golf course, what target score might it take to win this week at Hazeltine?
TIGER WOODS: Well, as far as what distinguishes it, it's the best field that we play against. This is the deepest field that we get, and usually there's 98 or 99 of the Top-100 players in the world here. I don't know what the number is this year but that's usually around what the number is. It's been very deep; you know if you win this championship, you've beaten the best field in all of golf.
As far as a target score, we are still trying to work that out, because with the added length and don't know how much the golf course is going to dry out, I think I'll get a better idea of when they set the golf course up on Thursday; I don't know how far up they are going to play it or how far back they are going to play it, or how they are going to utilize certain tees, 13, 14, one up, one back, two up, two back, whatever it's going to be, and how they set up the par 5s will certainly determine what guys do.
KELLY ELBIN: Currently 99 of the Top-100 players in the world are in the field this week.
Q. Could you tell us about the changes made to holes 7, 12 and 13 and how you like them and how you think they are going to play this week?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, 7 is a little bit longer. They give you a little bit better angle, but I can't get to the corner, or around the corner like I used to, with the added length.
You said 11? 12. Yeah, 12 is over 500 yards. I absolutely -- I roasted a driver down there today, and to hit a full 3-iron in there; that's a little bit longer than it used to be.
And what is it, 13, full 5-wood for me. Bubba was hitting some kind of cut 3-iron in there, just -- I didn't see that shot, either. If they play the tee all the way back where we played it, it's a wood for me or maybe a long iron to a front pin, but most of the guys will be hitting some kind of head cover.
Q. When you start playing really well, when you seem to raise your game as you seemed to have in the last few weeks, we in the media love to compare you and the state of your game to 2000 when you were playing at a totally different level. If you went out tomorrow and played your 2000 self 18-hole match play, who wins and why?
TIGER WOODS: I would win now.
I know how to manage my game a hell of a lot better than I did back then. Just understanding how to get the ball around; I have so many more golf shots now to get me around the golf course. And that's just experience. That's nine more years of learning how to play and how to manage my game around a golf course.
And I'll probably say the same thing nine more years, because I have that much more understanding mentally. Physically, I don't know if I'll be able to hit the ball quite as far, but understanding how to play, that's just years of experience.
Q. Going back to the timing issue last Sunday, do you in any way regret personalizing the issue by naming John Paramor in your criticism of --
TIGER WOODS: No. Because he's the one who did it.
Q. And secondly, do you have any sympathy for what he has to do and officials like him have to do under these circumstances? And thirdly where does discretion begin and end in the discussion of slow play which is really strangling the game?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, that's why I thought they would have used better judgment on that considering that, as I said, we were the ones that were probably going to win the golf tournament in the last group. We separated ourselves.
And after what Paddy went through, we were still right there behind the group in front of us. So I don't know if the group in front of us was being timed or not. They didn't look like they were rushing. But it certainly influenced us in how we played and influenced the outcome of the tournament, which that's not how you want to have the tournament come to an end.
Q. Where does discretion begin and end on the subject of slow play, which is strangling the game?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, you're right. But then again, we were in the last group, and you know, we finished at 6:03.
Q. Back to your physical conditioning. Studies show that virtually every professional golfer suffers injuries during the course of their career. Are you doing anything different or more or better in order to avoid having another physical injury?
TIGER WOODS: Well, hmm, had four knee surgeries, so I guess that's significant I guess.
As far as other parts of my body, I've always had a pretty healthy body. I've been very lucky that way. I've never had any back issues. No neck issues, where a lot of guys certainly had that. I've never had that problem.
The only area that I've had is in my knee when I first had those tumors in my knee, and that's kind of what started the whole thing.
Q. You say it's lucky that you haven't had these injuries; you must be doing a lot of things that people are advising you to do in order to avoid having them, it's certainly possible to avoid them, isn't it?
TIGER WOODS: Certainly I've trained hard to get to this point, but also, then again, I've also been very lucky in that regard, too. All it takes it one bad shot. A couple of guys have got hurt with one bad shot and they have been out for a long time. I've been very lucky that way.
KELLY ELBIN: Tiger Woods, thank you very much.
End of FastScripts