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June 24, 2014

Tiger Woods


MARK STEVENS: Like to welcome to Quicken Loans National Tournament Host, Tiger Woods. Tiger, you've had a whole layoff. If you want to kind of start off with where you are and your comeback and then we'll have a few questions.

TIGER WOODS: Well, I'm right here. So, no, it's been an interesting rode. You know, this has been quite a tedious little process, but been one where I got to a point where I can play competitive golf again, and it's pretty exciting.

MARK STEVENS: You want to make a comment, you have a new sponsor here.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, Quicken Loans is our first-year sponsor here. We've don't very well over the years with this event. Since 2007, we have raised $17 million for local communities here and we have opened three Learning Centers here, and also at Quantico Marine Base, 25 Earl Woods Scholars now. Tonight, we're going down to the White House, Lindsay and I, and we're taking Darian Parker, who is an Earl Scholar graduate from Georgetown. We've had some pretty exciting things and we're looking forward to another great week, just like our commitment to the military, since the very beginning, it's always been the utmost of importance to me and my family, and this year is no exception to that. We are giving away 30,000 tickets to our servicemen and women and their families, as well.

Q. In the past, whenever you're in a tournament, you've always said you expect to win. Is that your expectation this week, and if not, how different is that for you?
TIGER WOODS: Expectations don't change. That's the ultimate goal. It's just that it's going to be a little bit harder this time. I just haven't had the amount of prep and reps that I would like, but I'm good enough to play, and I'm going to give it a go.

Q. What do you say to the people who worry that you're coming back too soon, trying to come back from this where others have not?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it always depends on obviously the person's healing capabilities as well as the physios that they are involved in as well as the surgeons. I have great trainers, great physios, and they have been lock-step with my surgeon the entire time, and we have done all the protocols week-after-week. We are always on calls, chatting with one another to see what the next step is going to be. As I alluded to when I first came here for the press conference, that we were -- I was only chipping and putting, but that was going to be expanded. We had a game plan for how we were going to do that, and we did it, and I've been able to play and hit balls and hit drivers and go out there and do whatever I wanted to do.

Q. Can you give us a little bit of a clear idea of what the time line of that progression was, when did you take a full swing, hit driver, when was that?
TIGER WOODS: Full swing? Depends what club you're talking about here. The whole progression was putting first. Anybody who has had this procedure done, you can putt the next day. You can hop right out of the recovery room and literally you're okay to putt. But I didn't -- I wasn't allowed to bend over and pick the balls out of the holes. So what we did is I kind of had a little creative idea is that we had normal-size holes in my back yards, and I sand-filled them. So I knew if the putt went in or not, but I never had to bend over and get balls out of the hole. We did that for a couple of months. Then it was chipping and pitching. And then we added, basically about ten yards every day to two days depending on how I felt, how much inflammation was in the area. As I said, my physios and surgeon were in lock step with one another and open communication. Some days, we'll say here for a couple of days and other days, you can go ahead and progress the next day. That's how it went to the point where I was out there hitting drivers a couple weeks ago, and then started playing golf. I wanted to knock off a little bit of rust on the range before I actually went out there and tried not to embarrass myself on the golf course, and I was able to do that, got some holes in. Started feeling comfortable doing that. I think anyone who has had this procedure knows that probably the worst thing you can do is sit, and sitting in a golf cart wasn't the most ideal circumstance. So sometimes I would ride on the back of a court like Freddie does sometimes, you see Freddie on the back of a cart standing up. I was able to do that a few times, and I was able to get in more holes because of that.

Q. What did you shoot?
TIGER WOODS: I broke 50 for nine, first time, just like I was when I was three (laughter). So I'm sneaking up on it. My prime's coming up.

Q. Injury aside, not talking so much about what you had to recover from, but if you can talk about how much you missed; the anxiety, sitting out a couple of Majors and these few months compared with 2011.
TIGER WOODS: Both were very similar because I knew that I could never -- at that point in time, I could not compete at this level, and so it didn't really bother me. As I got a little bit closer to feeling where I could compete, then I was starting to get the itch to compete and play at this level. But I knew that I had to go through my own progression first, and that was as I explained that whole step, that whole process. Once I got back to where I was playing golf and knocking off rust and playing, shaping shots, looking at holes, strategizing how to play them, things started coming back quickly. Lo and behold, here we are.

Q. Did you watch any of the U.S. Open?
TIGER WOODS: I did. I watched a little bit of it, but also watched more World Cup than I did (laughter) golf.

Q. You've obviously had a lot of challenges over the years coming back from various injuries; are there different elements to this coming back off of this, and if so, can you talk about those, and just as a follow-up, because you were able to do so much short game stuff early on, do you expect that to be a little sharper initially than your long game?
TIGER WOODS: Well, this procedure -- let me go back. Pre-procedure, right before I went in, as I explained to you guys before, I wasn't able to function. I couldn't get out of bed. I just couldn't do any normal activities. When I blew out my knee and even had my Achilles problems, I could still do things. I would still be able to function. This was different. Anyone's that's had any kind of nerve impingement, it's no joke. That part was relieved as soon as I got out of the surgery. That nerve impingement, that pain that I was feeling going down my leg was gone. I've heard numerous people talk about it, and I've had people come up to me and say they had the same procedure and got their life back and that's basically how I felt. I was able to do things, and do things that I normally took for granted.

Q. And the short game, putting, chipping?
TIGER WOODS: That I feel very sharp with to a certain extent. Living in Florida, we don't have ryegrass rough. So at least not this time of year. I had bermuda growing in my backyard and I was practicing on that, but that's totally different than chipping out of this stuff. My shots off of tight lies are fine. My putting feels good. I have just got to get used to chipping out of this type of grass and the techniques that I've used in the past.

Q. With your progression and your recovery, playing here this week, one can assume you're going to play The Open Championship; has that been determined, or is this week part of that decision process?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I'm actually probably ahead of schedule than -- well, everyone thought I would be at. We all thought that it was going to be -- the British Open would be my first event back. But I healed fast. As I said, I've had great trainers and great physios help me every day with soft tissue work; the cold baths which was no fun but you've got to do it. When you get treatment all the time, it's amazing what you can do. And also, nutritionally, making sure I eat perfect. Anti-inflammatory meals, all the different things I needed to do to get back. People take -- it's a normality in other sports. If you play football or hockey or any other sport, this is just common. But I think in the golfing world, looking at most of the physiques, it's not really that common. But having friends who are in other sports, it does help what they went through and what they have done and what their protocols are for their teams. You know, here we are.

Q. Do you expect to play The Open Championship?
TIGER WOODS: Do I expect to? Yeah. I'm just trying to get in the Playoffs somehow.

Q. At one point you mentioned the possibility of talking with Sean about maybe reworking your swing to protect your back. Will your game look any different when we see you out there?
TIGER WOODS: We made a few tweaks here and there but nothing major. Nothing that probably you would observe with the physical eye. We look at it on video, and what I'm feeling I'm doing, it looks the same as it did before. I may not -- I probably may not go at it as hard on all shots. I was joking with Cookie -- Cookie just became back from breaking his back, and he was actually hitting it further than I was. So that's not good (laughter). So I'm out there pumping 8-irons 135 and that's all I had; that was frustrating there for a little while. But things have turned around and I've got my numbers back, and this week especially, since it's going to be warm all week, I won't have any problem staying loose.

Q. Your recovery this past couple months, and 2011, you're 38 years old; have you thought about what your plans might be spreading your support for the sport and teaching the younger people the sport going forward?
TIGER WOODS: We have three golf events that we have. We have our World Challenge, we run the Deutsche Bank and we have this event, the Quicken Loans. So we are involved in golf and we are involved in all the local charities in these specific markets. But our foundation is not golf-based. Golf is a vehicle for us to show the world how involved we are in education, and that is our primary focus, and right now, we are in the works -- we just had our new CEO, Rick Singer, and we are involved in talks of taking what we are trying to do -- well, what we have done in the past, domestically, internationally and just trying to influence other countries. We are excited about our immediate future with the foundation. As far as my ambassador role in these events, will still be the same. I'll still be playing the events. I'll still be doing speaking engagements and all the different things that I do at these specific events. But our main and primary focus is to grow the foundation and our educational capacities, not just here domestically, but internationally.

Q. There have been so many young guys that have had such success this year, and to a man, they all say they have been inspired by you. What is it like to look at a rising generation that you have helped create, and as a follow-up, is there any irony in the fact that this thing that you've spawned is a little bit what's making it difficult for you to win?
TIGER WOODS: I feel old (smiling). I'm sorry, but the name escapes me, the Chinese kid who qualified for the Masters last year; he was born after I won the tournament. That's just not cool, you know. (Laughter). That's what's coming, the next generation. And they are taller, bigger, they are more physical, just like in all sports across the board, and golf is no exception. You look at these kids in college, all the long hitters are 6-2 to 6-4. They are just big guys and they can move it out there. But the difference is, you know, as you age and as I've aged, I can't play the way I used to. I was No. 2 in driving distance for a number of years, only behind John Daly. Now if you average over 300 yards, I don't think you're in the Top-10. It's changed dramatically. But, just like MJ, I've got a fadeaway now. I've had to rely on different parts of my game and strategy and understand how course management skills are improved; where to miss it, how to miss it, and obviously the amount of shots that I've learned over the years, not just from my own trial and error but from older players that I've talked to, it's allowed me to be as consistent as I have over the course of my career.

Q. If this wasn't a tournament that benefitted your foundation, do you think you would have come back this week? And is there any danger that the doctors may have told you about coming back too early?
TIGER WOODS: If this wasn't the foundation and our impact that we can have with kids, I probably would not. As I said, our goals was the British Open. I healed extremely fast, thanks to my physios and all my nutrition and all the different things that we did and the protocols; and the MRIs and all the different steps that we have done along the way have allowed me to get to this point. Also, you know, you have to do all these tedious strengthening exercises. I remember some of the guys who had have had the procedure done that had it in other sports, said how important it is to have strong glutes and strong abs -- a strong core going into the procedure, because obviously muscle has memory. That's one of the reasons I didn't was able to bounce back fast. I told you guys when I was here for the last press conference here, when they went in, I had zero arthritic changes in my lower back, and that is not what's shocking to me but doctors as well. All the strengthening exercises I've done throughout the years have paid off and have allowed me to get back quicker and to get back to this point.

Q. Is there some percentage of possible risk that you're taking by coming back early and not waiting for a few weeks or a month or whatever?
TIGER WOODS: Obviously I'm going to get stronger as time goes on. But the risk is minimal, and just like it is with every round we play, we can hit behind a tree root and damage something, awkward lies; the little knickknack things that have happened to us that have played at this level. I'm no different in that regard.

Q. In the past, you've tried every kind of trouble shot known to man and invented some that nobody has ever seen before. Do you think you'll take those kind of shots because of risk? And have you listened to your body enough in the past when it started to warn you of things and how will you treat that issue in the future?
TIGER WOODS: I shouldn't have any issue because I'm going to hit every fairway and every green and I won't have a single problem (laughter). Listening to my body, that's one thing that I have learned, stubbornly, over the years, that I have to do this. And particularly with this injury, this is very different than pushing through my knee injuries in the past. I could play through it. I just couldn't play through this. Nerve impingement, as I said, it's no joke, and as I said, there were days when I would go out and practice, and it's just not quite right; let's just ice it, let's just get away from it and let's get treated, reevaluate, come back the next day and see where we are. Next day, felt great; can we go back another ten yards and hit it ten yards further. Yeah, we can. Perfect. But if I wouldn't have listen to my body, I wouldn't have been able to do that. And as you know, in the past, I probably would have pushed through it and set myself back and then kept pushing harder and harder and harder until stuff breaks.

Q. Coming back from your surgeries, you always said that when you were healthy, the best thing is it allows you to practice more. When the back spasms started at The Barclays last year, did that force you to come back your practice schedule?
TIGER WOODS: Absolutely. Absolutely. I was not able to practice. I was not able to spend the time out there. I was not able to do the work that I'm accustomed to doing. I would always much rather practice than go out and play 36 holes with my buddies and things of that nature. I like to do a lot of work. And tried to spend a lot of time chip-and-putt, but actually that was the worst thing for me to do because I was more bent over there. The least problem I had was actually driving the golf ball. I remember Freddie when he was at Sherwood and he would warm up with his 5-wood, it was his first club he would warm up with because he couldn't bend over and hit a sand wedge yet. I got to that point, where I would much rather just tee up drivers and hit drivers and work my way back down the bag the other way. But that's not the case now. So I'm back to my normal warm-up routines, normal practice routines and no issues.

Q. You talked last month at Media Day about getting your explosiveness back. When did that happen?
TIGER WOODS: It still hasn't happened, not to where that I'm -- not to the level that I'm used to; not to the level that I'm used to being that explosive. That's going to come in time. We haven't done any explosive lifts that I'm used to doing, so that will happen over time.

Q. You're pain-free, I assume?

Q. When is the last time you were that way or felt this good?
TIGER WOODS: Other than the headache of coming in here?

Q. Wow.
TIGER WOODS: You like that? Because you shaved off this (indicating mustache). (Laughter). It's been a very, very long time. Probably a good two years since I've felt this way, because I had the Achilles, and that went away, and then I started getting this back thing. But the thing is, initially with my back, it was week-to-week. You know, I have good weeks where I felt fantastic, and those were the weeks I actually played well last year. I won five times last year. And then there were weeks where I just couldn't move; what is going on here. And then it started progressively deteriorating from there and it got to a point where I had to pull out of an event and struggle through the last round I played in.

Q. I want to say Barclays at Bethpage is the first one I can remember of the gingerly bending over.

Q. Was there something before that, and if that was the first one, is it all connected even though it might not have been the same thing? Can you kind of do a dot to dot type deal?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, if you look back on it, it was probably around that time when it started happening, but as I said, the symptoms would just go away. Then I was back to hitting practice balls all day, chipping and putting and playing golf all day. I had no issues. And then it would spring up again. I didn't know why. My physio would treat and get me right back to where I needed to be, and off I go again. But the frequency it started happening, started happening at a rate that it forced me to do what I had to do.

Q. That frequency was this year?
TIGER WOODS: Towards the end of last year. You saw me go to my knees at Barclays.

Q. Could you speak a little bit to how -- what you think of how Jordan Spieth has been playing lately?
TIGER WOODS: He's been playing great. For a person to have come out of college and done this well, this fast; and been as consistent. Normally when you're young, you come out and you have your weeks from here to there and you may have two, three good weeks a year, maybe more. It just seems like he's having one every week. He's having Top 10s, seems like every week, he's always up there somewhere. For him to qualify for The Presidents Cup and TOUR Championship right out of the hopper, that was pretty impressive.

Q. How many times have you been to the White House and does it ever get old for you? What is that experience like?
TIGER WOODS: I've been there several -- yeah, several times. It's always an interesting experience. There's umpteen security. There's obviously cameras where you don't know there's cameras, and everything's so well lit. I got a chance to go in the Oval Office and that was a pretty neat experience. I remember talking to President Obama, and he wanted to talk a little bit about some golf and blah, blah, blah, and we started talking about sports. And I see these other guys in the other room, and they are immaculately dressed. And I said, you know, Mr. President, I think I'd better go. He says, "Okay, well, I'd like you to meet my Joint Chiefs." I'm like, oh, my God. I felt awful that I'm holding up a Joint Chiefs of Staff meeting because he wanted to talk sports (laughter).

Q. How much more patient are you now than you were three years ago, six years ago, and how does that factor into the comeback, into expectations or approach every day?
TIGER WOODS: I think with that old adage, with age comes wisdom, and I have certainly become much more patient. I think especially with having two little ones, that has definitely taught me a lot of patience, and it has carried over into my golf on the golf course and as well as off. That part of me has certainly changed over the years. I just remember all the early years on TOUR when I used to run 30 miles a week and just push it, no matter how hurt I was, I would just go out there, still logging all the miles and do all the different things and still play tournament golf and I was winning, but I didn't realize how much damage I was doing to my body at the time. I have to now pick my spots when I can and can't push. Before, when you're young, I just pushed it all the time. But now I've got to listen to my body, listen to my therapist and then get treatment. When I was younger, I didn't need it. So my knee ached a little bit; so what. I'll just run more miles and it will magically go away and just get the endorphins going but that's no longer the case.

MARK STEVENS: Thank you for your time, Tiger.

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