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August 4, 2010

Tiger Woods


COLIN MURRAY: We'd like to welcome our defending champion Tiger Woods to the interview room here at the Bridgestone Invitational. Tiger, obviously your record here in Akron speaks for itself. If you could just give maybe a couple of quick comments on being back here at Firestone and then we'll open it up to questions.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, looking forward to getting out there. Haven't played yet, just got here. Everything I've heard from all the players, the golf course is in phenomenal shape again. Looking forward to getting back out there and seeing how it's really playing.

Q. Since '06 you've played 17 events post-British Open, won 12 of them, four seconds, Deutsche Bank last year was the only time you weren't in the running or you couldn't have run. What do you attribute that to and is that something you can use going forward now this year?
TIGER WOODS: I never knew that. (Laughter.)

Q. Now you do.
TIGER WOODS: I guess it's just one of those things. There's no rhyme or reason for it. I just happened to play well at that particular time. Might be the venues. I love playing here. I believe that some of those wins were actually at Flint as well, which I like that golf course, as well. It was a lot to do with venue.
I think in my career I've played pretty good on certain venues.

Q. Is it August and September, the heat? Do you play better do you think in the --
TIGER WOODS: Well, I'd rather be hot than cold. That's always been the case. I guess I got kind of spoiled being raised in southern California.

Q. Assuming you've been watching the last couple weeks, does the threshold at 60 still exist or has that wall been torn down and destroyed? How much of that is between the ears? I think you've shot 61 here, so you must have even sniffed it that day.
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it goes to a lot of, one, how much further the golf ball is going and how much better the equipment and the players have become.
You know, you're getting guys -- and it also depends on the venue, too. Not a lot of 59s and 60s have been shot on par-72s. They've been more 71s or 70s. Granted, they're still extremely low rounds, but you know, it's a little different deal getting to 10-under than it is to 13. It's a big, big difference.
I was talking to J.B. in there real quick, and he said he had a great shot at it. He had a bogey and missed a three-footer and still shot 60. But I think it also has to do with the fact that the guys are so much better now and the ball is going so much further. It doesn't move as much as it used to.

Q. You spoke last year and always talk about how the course is right in front of you and straightforward. You talked about playing courses like this when you were a kid. Is there a kind of nostalgia to it, a course like this?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I've always liked this type of -- it fits my eye. Golf courses like this where the shape is very simple, it's not target golf and I've always liked that.

Q. When you play a venue where you've had some success in the past, how does that impact your mindset or your level of confidence going into the event?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it also has to do with the venue. You know, just because -- certain tournaments I've had success on but they've rotated around different golf courses, but this has been a constant. Coming here each and every year, I've always liked it. I played here as an amateur and liked it then and got to play here from '97 until today. You know, it's just -- even the golf course has changed a little bit, just length and certainty locations and a couple bunkerings here and there, but it's the same golf course you pretty much see when the big three played. It's pretty good to see that.

Q. There's been a lot of speculation on the Ryder Cup. We're two weeks out from locking up the top eight. If you were asked to do as a captain's pick, are you all in?
TIGER WOODS: I'm planning on playing my way into the team.

Q. If it doesn't happen --
TIGER WOODS: I'm planning on playing my way into the team.

Q. It's still kind of an equivocation --
TIGER WOODS: I'm planning on playing my way into the team. (Laughter.)

Q. I guess that answers my question about the kind of shape you feel your game is in?
TIGER WOODS: Of late I've been driving the ball so much better. Iron game has been spotty, and I just haven't putted well all year. You know, if I clean all that up, hopefully put together at least these two weeks.

Q. I'm sorry, did you get a chance to work much during the time off?
TIGER WOODS: I did. I worked pretty hard even though it was not cold back home. I still got some pretty good work done.

Q. Is there any sense of urgency with your game right now, not so much the Ryder Cup, but even if you look at the FedExCup standings you're down there pretty good, last major coming up.
TIGER WOODS: No, just be patient, keep working, keep going. I've been through periods like this before. And just got to keep being patient, keep working, keep building, and keep putting the pieces together, and when they do come, when they do fall into place, that's usually when I will win a few tournaments.

Q. You've talked about being close before, in '04 that came up quite a bit and late '98, early '99. Can you make any comparisons from those situations to now?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, very, very similar. You know, granted, I haven't done the big swing overhaul I did during those periods. I've been through stretches where I haven't won, and it's just a matter of putting the pieces together, and as I said, just being patient with it. It's not something that happens overnight.
If you look at my career, I've never been one of those guys that just plays awful and then all of a sudden just plays well. You'll start seeing trends. I'm starting to put the pieces together of late, and I'm very excited about that.

Q. Is it hard being patient?
TIGER WOODS: No, but as I said, I've been through this before. If I hadn't, like back when it was late '97, all of '98, early '99, almost two full years I think I won one tournament. That was a tough stretch to go through because I hadn't been through anything like that .

Q. I doubt if you're one for nostalgia, but it's been ten years since the shot in the dark. Can you believe it's been that long?
TIGER WOODS: It's hard to believe it's been that long.

Q. You probably never think about it, but do you think about that when you come here?
TIGER WOODS: The only thing I can remember is if it was a tight tournament, if it was one shot difference or two-shot difference, I think we probably would have called it on 17 tee. But we just wanted to get in. Hal and I were in the last group, and he wanted to get home and so did I. The only thing that was pretty neat coming up the last hole after I hit it -- we had no idea how close it was, we just heard people cheering, is seeing all the lighters go up as we were coming in, and then when I made that putt, all the flashes going off, and it was like a rock concert.

Q. I presume you haven't seen anything like that anywhere else?
TIGER WOODS: No, not like that.

Q. It was pretty dark at Bethpage that one year.
TIGER WOODS: Not like that, though. Not that bad. I couldn't see anything.

Q. Seeing as we're at a WGC event this week I thought it was an appropriate time to ask you whether you're playing the next one in Shanghai?

Q. You are?

Q. What's your sense on what's plagued your putt?
TIGER WOODS: Speed. My speed has been off all year. I've three-putted quite a few times, which I don't do normally. Just had to go back to basics and practice a little bit more. I haven't worked on my putting probably as much as I should have, probably the last couple years actually, so had to go back to that.

Q. This is a follow-up to that. Do you feel that with all the distractions that have gone on in your life that it's been hardest for you to focus on golf at any point in your career this year? And then secondly, there's been a couple of sort of reports that young Corey has sort of been helping you out, not as a coach but sort of helping you out. Can you talk about that?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, as far as difficulty, yeah, it's been difficult. It's been a trying time for a lot of people who are friends of mine and who know me. You know, it's been tough, no doubt.
As far as Corey helping me and things like that, yeah, he's helped me. He's had to hold the camera. I can't hold the camera. So yeah, he's a good friend of mine, and we've played a lot of golf together. Just a good kid.

Q. As a follow-up on the first one, do you feel that your concentration is what has been most affected this year in terms of focusing on golf, whereas maybe your whole career you've been able to just make this number one?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it's not only concentration, but it's also preparation and then also my preparation out here. I haven't been able to practice as long as I normally have when I've been out here. People have been wanting more of my time. I've had more things going on once I'm at a tournament site than I have in the past, and for different reasons. That's obviously taken a little bit of a toll on my preparation.
But things I said probably a few tournaments ago, things are starting to normalize, and that's been a good sign.

Q. Corey Pavin said recently he did want you on his team in Wales, and he had planned to talk to you next week at the PGA. Given what you just said about the Ryder Cup a little while ago, is that conversation unnecessary? I mean, I think he wanted to gauge where you were at with that. Does he not need to talk to you about where you are and even if you want to play on the team?
TIGER WOODS: I think if I do well this week, I should sew up my spot. (Laughter.)

Q. You've been world No. 1 for five years, but for the first time there are two players who have a chance to pass you this week. Is that an incentive to you or are you conscious of the pack closing in?
TIGER WOODS: Am I conscious of it, yeah, because every tournament I go to, you guys keep reminding me. (Laughter).

Q. Is there an incentive to it?
TIGER WOODS: No, you just keep playing. You play, and how I got here in the first place was by winning golf tournaments, and how I will sustain it is by winning golf tournaments. Winning golf tournaments takes care of a lot of things and being No. 1 is one of them.

Q. You're playing obviously the next two days with Lee Westwood. He said he really enjoys playing with you and it helps him to focus. What are your feelings about playing with Lee and the fact that he's been playing so well over the last 14 months.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I've always enjoyed playing with Westy. He's a great guy. He's been going at it for a long time, going back to our Walker Cup days. So I've known him for a very long time and what he's done over the last couple years now has been -- we always knew he had that type of talent, that type of level of play, and now he's showing it. I got a chance to play with him -- seems like almost every major championship we seem to get paired together, or every big event. This is another good pairing, and I enjoy being out there with him and Billy, and we have a good time.

Q. You made a reference earlier about the first time you played here as an amateur. What do you remember about it? Who did you play with? What did you shoot?
TIGER WOODS: I played with my dad. We were traveling through Ohio and came down here to play. I couldn't believe how long it was. At the time I was only an amateur, so I was only like 15, 16, somewhere in there. I didn't hit the golf ball as far as I do now, so it played long. Plus the golf balls back then were pretty spiny.
I could see why a lot of the players enjoyed it. Why they had, at the time, the World Series here and why they have had major championships here.

Q. What did you shoot?
TIGER WOODS: I don't remember. It wasn't very good.

Q. I'd like to follow up on the putting question. Have your putting problems filtered at all into the rest of your game? Sometimes guys, when they're not putting well press, they try to hit it closer or whatever. I'm just wondering if you've noticed that happen to you at all or think back if it has. And also, where are you, on which putter? Have you been experimenting?
TIGER WOODS: As far as pressing, no, I play the game for what it gives me on a particular day. Ironically I said to you guys at the British Open this is the best I've driven it in years and this is the worst I've ever putted. What a game.
But as far as my putter, I've gone back to my old one. I know all the numbers show that the method putter does roll the ball better, technology, just does. But I went back to something that I'm familiar with and had good results with.

Q. When did you stop practicing as much putting?
TIGER WOODS: I haven't had time. I haven't had as much time to practice overall with the kids. Life has changed.

Q. You kind of made it sound as though whatever your practice session is, you're devoting more to the full swing.
TIGER WOODS: No, I haven't practiced as much as I used to, nor should I. My kids are more important.

Q. About the 59 thing, has the number been devalued. You mentioned equipment, golf ball, all these improvements, guys basically devouring golf courses instead of vice versa. Is two of them in the span of a month, a couple of 60s, Fisher had a 61 in Ireland, is it still the same number, same aura?
TIGER WOODS: Probably not. Probably not. Because I think it's easier to get to now. It's more attainable. As I said, J.B. shoots 60 with a three-putt -- I'm sorry, a bogey and a missed three-footer. Think of what that round could have been. But if you think about it, there really hasn't been a lot of 59s shot on par-72s.
I think there is something more magical about 13-under, how much more difficult that is to get to, because you don't have the holes. You can't afford to miss too many putts or too many shots or have many opportunities to go the wrong way. But still, what Paul did and what's been done with a lot of the players out here going low, you've got to get the right venue, greens have got to be soft, and they've got to be smooth, and the guys will just tear the golf course apart.

Q. When did you have the realization about you've always liked shagging shots and having a spinnier ball, but when did you have the realization that you were losing a lot of distance to everyone else, you were not hitting it as far, and I noticed since AT&T your driving distance is way up, you're hitting a harder ball, maybe utilizing a straight ball whereas in years past --
TIGER WOODS: Well, it's apples to apples. When I was probably, I believe, the second longest on tour when I first came out, J.D. was one and I was two, for a number of years, the professional ball was the hardest ball on tour. A lot of the guys were still playing the Tour balata. Apples to apples, give me the same golf ball as the other players, I can still move it.
I decided to go to that type of philosophy, everyone is going to a harder golf ball, I haven't. I decided to shape shots but I losing too much distance. More guys are hitting par-5s in two with irons than I was. 600 yard holes, geez, J.B. was driving a 9-iron into it last week. A 600-yard par-5s, guys can hit irons there. It's not out of their realm now.
But for me to do that, I have to have the same type of level of golf ball.

Q. When did that really dawn on you? Was it before the AT&T?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it's been like that all year, and I just haven't switched because I was trying to get my game back. A lot of other things were going on, so I didn't want to make too many changes.

Q. A follow-up to his question about concentration, there's been some conjecture maybe that maybe you haven't had that razor sharp focus that you've been famous for over the years. Can you run us through what the challenges of focus and what you've had to deal with and your thoughts on the golf course while you're playing?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it's just been obviously a little bit more difficult this year than it has in years past with all the attention and all the questions and all the demands. So it's been kind of -- altered a few things, and as I said, things are normalizing and that's a good sign.

Q. Do you have any fears that you won't get back to your level if you go and practice as you used to?
TIGER WOODS: No. Just got to be more efficient with what I do and when I do it.

Q. I'm just curious, considering your success here, is this the truest test of where you are game-wise because of seven victories?
TIGER WOODS: No, you just go out there and play. If I looked at it like that, then most tournaments I don't think I've had the success that I've had. When it comes to just playing, just whether I've had success or not, I haven't had any success; it's about placing the golf ball in the right spots around the golf course, and that doesn't change. That didn't change last week, won't change this week, won't change next week. Just want to go out there and take a look at the golf course and how it's playing, what clubs we might be hitting off the tees and then kind of develop a strategy based upon that.

Q. Being a stranger from when you started and everything, I'm just curious, does the Masters seem like yesterday or does it seem like a long time ago?
TIGER WOODS: I'd have to say it seems more like a long time ago.

Q. Feels like a long year? Is it hard to believe that the last major is around the corner?
TIGER WOODS: It has been a long year. It's been a long ten months.

Q. You have shot 59, I believe, at home a couple times --

Q. Can you say when that was?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it was the week before the Masters in '97.

Q. Have you ever gone lower than that anywhere?
TIGER WOODS: No. No, mm-mm. It's the lowest relation I've ever been in relation to par, too, 13.

Q. Did you birdie the last?
TIGER WOODS: No. Actually it was a good day. We started off on the back nine. I parred 10, birdied 11 and 12, eagled 13, birdied 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 1, had two irons into both par-5s, made par and shot 59. It could have been a good day. (Laughter.)

Q. Somebody's wallet must have been light?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, O'Meara didn't like that too much.

Q. So that's 11-under through 10 if I'm keeping up? Did the pressure get to you?
TIGER WOODS: Got nervous, yeah.
COLIN MURRAY: Tiger, thanks for your time, and play well this week.

End of FastScripts

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