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July 15, 2014

Tiger Woods


MIKE WOODCOCK: We'll get started. I'm delighted to welcome the two-time Open champion, and the winner the last time The Open was played here, Tiger Woods. Thank you for joining us. Can you talk about how it feels playing after such a special win last time.

TIGER WOODS: It feels great to come back to Hoylake and to this venue. It meant a lot to me in my life at the time. To come back out here and obviously there are a couple of changes they've made. But overall the golf course is a little bit softer than what it was in '06 but still is playing -- I've played three practice rounds now and have had three different winds. So that's been helpful to be able to see the golf course in different conditions.

Q. What are your memories of the reaction you received from the people in this area in 2006? And how has the reaction been similar this time?
TIGER WOODS: The people are fantastic. I was going through a pretty tough time in my life at the time, and people were very supportive that week. I guess the only bad thing about that week was the protest on 18, if you guys remember that. But other than that it was a fantastic week.

Q. Has it been similar so far the first few days?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, the people have been fantastic. When I came out here Saturday, people were walking and following us. Each day the crowds have gotten bigger.

Q. You said it meant a lot to you because of the circumstances in your life the last time. What does it mean to you this time to be back here and playing?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it's eight years on. My life has certainly changed a lot since then. That was a very emotional week. As you all know, I pressed pretty hard at Augusta that year, trying to win it, because it was the last time my dad was ever going to see me play a Major championship. And then I didn't play well at the Open. Missed the cut there miserably. And then came here and just felt at peace. I really, really played well. On Sunday I really felt calm out there. It was surreal at the time. I've had a few moments like that in Majors where I've felt that way on a Sunday. And that was certainly one of them.

Q. (Inaudible).
TIGER WOODS: It's different. I think different circumstances. My life is very different than it was then. And then on top of that, this is a different golf course than what we played in '06. It was hot, ball was flying. It was very dusty. Now, we're making ball marks on the greens, which we weren't doing then. When I played on Saturday it was running, it was fast. But on Sunday it just -- with the rain it just didn't move. The balls were checking. It played a little bit longer. I didn't play yesterday, just practiced a little bit. And then today the greens were faster today. They were trying to get the greens up by a foot from what we saw on the weekend. And then I think they're very, very close to game speed now.

Q. You're playing not only for Major titles the next few weeks, but also for your FedExCup playoff life. After maybe years of maybe taking that kind of stuff for granted, what is it like? Is it at all invigorating to have a tangible goal, chasing something like that again?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it wasn't that long ago, two or three years ago, where I missed it. It was when the PGA was at the Atlanta Athletic Club, whatever it was. I didn't make the playoffs that year.

Q. But you had an injury then?
TIGER WOODS: Same as this year. I was injured then. I've been injured most of the year this year. The way this point structure is, you can make up ground pretty quickly, with some wins. And if I get in the playoffs and anytime you're in the playoffs, you just win one event and you come out of nowhere to the top five very quickly.

Q. Can you put your finger on the reason why you felt that peace and serenity in '06? And the other occasions when you felt the same thing?
TIGER WOODS: If I knew I'd do it all the time. But it just happens. Maybe because I was in control of my game. The times I've had it I've really played well. Everything was working. I think that in '97 at Augusta I had it going pretty good. 2000 at both the U.S. Open and The Open Championship I had it going pretty good, as well. And that year in '06 was the same. I wouldn't necessarily say it was every day but certainly on Sunday I really felt that my dad was with me on that one round. I said it back then in '06 that it was like having my 15th club. I felt that type of at peace when I was out there.

Q. What is more difficult as a professional golfer to handle, the emotional turmoil or the physical turmoil?
TIGER WOODS: Well, you know, you can have emotional turmoil and still play well. Physically when you're hurt, you're hurt. It's tough to really play well, especially over a long period of time. Golf's a marathon. It's four days, five-hour-plus days of playing and grinding. Yeah, when I've been physically not feeling my best it's tough. You can do it for a day. You can do it for maybe two days, but it's really hard to do it for all four.

Q. Given your limited preparation coming in here, what would be an acceptable finish for you this weekend?
TIGER WOODS: First (laughter).

Q. Anything less than that would be unacceptable?
TIGER WOODS: That's always the case, yeah.

Q. Can you just give us an indication of where you feel your game is, considering that competitive action you've had the last few months?
TIGER WOODS: It's getting better. Playing at Congressional was a big boost to me. The fact that I was able to go at it that hard and hit it like that with no pain. It wasn't like that the previous time I played. Playing at both the Honda and Doral I did not feel well. But to come back and be able to hit the ball as hard as I was able to hit it. I've gotten stronger since then, I've gotten more explosive, I've gotten faster since then. That's going to be the case, I'm only going to get stronger and faster, which is great.

Q. Given the break that you've had, has it been easier or harder to dial into the demands of links golf?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it's one of the reasons why I came over a little earlier. I went to Geneva for a day with Rolex, but I came here a day earlier than I normally would. To have an extra day in there, as well as possibly taking a day off, if need be. And it worked out. I played Saturday. I played Sunday. And I took yesterday off. And I came back out here today. And as I said, I've seen the golf course in three different winds. And that's awfully nice because I've had to hit completely different clubs off a lot of these tee shots because the winds have been so different.

Q. Can you believe that we've come back to Hoylake without you winning subsequently since 2006? Effectively we've gone around The Open rota and you haven't added to the tally. Is that something that concerns you or you've thought about?
TIGER WOODS: Not until now (laughter).

Q. So what do you think?
TIGER WOODS: What do I think? I wish I would have added a few more. I'm at three and hopefully I get more than that.

Q. You mentioned circumstances being different than the last time you were here. How are you different as a person and a player than eight years ago?
TIGER WOODS: Well, as I person I've gone through a lot, the loss of a parent and having two kids. Life is very different than it was then. I've got a completely different golf swing than I did in '06. A lot of aspects of my game and life have changed since '06.

Q. For the seven years that you had either the Green Jacket or the Jug, did you get it out much in public, either one of them? And if you did, did you notice a difference in the reaction to the Green Jacket or the Jug?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I think that more people wanted to drink out of the jug.

Q. Did you leave with the Jacket on at all?
TIGER WOODS: I did. People wanted to take pictures, but everyone wanted to slam back a couple out the Jug.

Q. Secondly, is it harder for you to win a Major now than it was eight years ago? If so, why, what makes it harder?
TIGER WOODS: I think it gets harder every year, just because the fields get deeper. More guys with a chance to win. What did we have, 16, 17 straight first-time winners and more Major championship winners throughout that stretch. It's just getting deeper. It's getting harder to win. The margin is so much smaller. It's only going to continue to be the case. Guys are going to get longer, they're going to get faster. Guys who are coming out here are bigger, stronger, faster, more athletic. When I first came out here in '97, I think, I averaged somewhere just under 300 yards, 296 or something like that. I walked around with Gary Woodland on Sunday and he said, "Yeah, I finally found a driver and a ball I can hit 320 again in the air." Yeah, in the air. So the game has changed a lot since then.

Q. I want to ask about the Japanese player, Hideki Matsuyama, you played with him last year, what do you think about his future?
TIGER WOODS: I think his future is very bright. He won at Memorial and I played with him actually at Firestone last year, as well. He played well. He's got a lot of game. He's young. He still has a lot of development to go. He's only going to get better. He certainly has a wealth of talent and we'll see what happens.

Q. I know after I think the year 2000 you said, one of the great things when you get up in the morning you can't wait to go to work. You love golf so much. I just wonder in the interim, all the changes, whether you appreciate your job more, appreciate the game more or even sometimes say, I wish I weren't out here?
TIGER WOODS: No, the last part, no. But I do have to say that there was a point in time -- when my knee was bad, it was tough, but I could still chip and putt. I could still go out there on the golf course. This particular injury with my back, I didn't want to do anything. I couldn't get out of bed. I couldn't move around the house. I couldn't do anything. That made me appreciate just how fortunate I was to be able to play at that level for such a long period of time. And do it for the better part of 17 years at a pretty high level. It made me appreciate that a lot more. Because the knee, when I had no ACL, and my leg was pretty trashed, I could actually still go out there and play. I couldn't do it with this injury. I just couldn't do it. I couldn't actually enjoy my life. Just life, the daily things of just moving around. It just wasn't a whole lot of fun.

Q. Did you ever think with all the pain and everything else, I wouldn't be out there again?
TIGER WOODS: If I was feeling like that, then I couldn't play again, no. As I said, I actually couldn't get out of bed. It was a pretty -- the people who have had my surgery, they've all said the same thing. It just changes your whole life. It just takes away all the pain. Yeah, you're sore from the incision, but you don't have that radiating pain that goes down the leg. Once that was removed, even though I was hurting from the surgery, itself, I knew I could come back and I could play. It was just a matter of time before I got out here and was able to play at the elite level again.

Q. How will it be to play with Henrik Stenson the first two rounds?
TIGER WOODS: I played with him a lot lately. In the last couple of years I've played with him a lot. Henrik is a great guy. He's fun to play with. He's got a very dry sense of humor. He always tells jokes throughout the whole day. We've always gotten along for a very long time.

Q. You just referenced the quality-of-life issues that you were facing before the surgery. At that point how much fear was there in your mind going -- the unknown? And since, is it a feeling of relief that you now have that you're actually back doing this and feeling good?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, you know, as I was alluding to earlier is that when my knee was bad, I could still do things and I could still -- I could still swing a club. Yeah, it was going to hurt a lot, but I actually could do it. With this back, it just wasn't the case. I just couldn't do it anymore. Once I went through the procedure and I was just sitting there in the recovery room and I just didn't have any of that pain anymore, that was -- as you said, it was a lot of relief. It was a matter of time before I could get strong. Once I started getting stronger, more stable, I could work on my explosiveness, and start getting my speed back. Each and every week I've gotten stronger and faster. Probably not quite at the level that I think I can be at as far as my explosion through the golf ball, but I'm pretty darn close.

Q. Is there any apprehension, at all, at this point, whether it's mental or even physical, that you have to deal with?
TIGER WOODS: I think that's one of the reasons why playing Congressional was such a big moment for me in that regard because I didn't have any setbacks. I could go at it that hard. I could play out of the rough. I could hit shots. I could go out as hard as I wanted to and I didn't feel any of the pain going down my leg like I did before. And I was able to recover each and every day. I think that's the key is, I was able to recover. To go out the next day and feel fresh. In the beginning of the year that wasn't the case. I just couldn't recover from day to day.

Q. There's been no shortage of people suggesting that you will inevitably be too rusty to contend this week, and also time is running out for you to overhaul Jack. I just wonder how much notice you take of that and whether there's any added motivation from that sort of thing?
TIGER WOODS: Not added motivation, no. I think that I've been in circumstances like this before. If you remember in '08 I had knee surgery right after the Masters. I teed it up to the U.S. Open and won a U.S. Open. I didn't play more than nine holes and the Sunday before the U.S. Open I didn't break 50 for nine holes and still was able to win it in a playoff, with an ACL and a broken leg. I've proven I can do it, it's just a matter of putting my game and giving myself the best chances this week to miss the ball in the correct spots, to be aggressive when I can, and obviously to hole putts. That's a recipe you find for every Major championship, but I've just got to do it this week.

Q. If you remain fit would you consider playing right through your 40s or even into your early 50s to beat Jack's record?
TIGER WOODS: Hopefully I have it done by then, but I'm really looking for that cart (laughter).

Q. In relation to the short window between now and the Ryder Cup how much is the Ryder Cup on your mind? Can you articulate how important it is to be on that team? Just as a follow, Tom Watson yesterday indicated he wanted to try to get together with you and chat this week, have you done that?
TIGER WOODS: I haven't talked to Tom, no. But being a part of the Ryder Cup teams over the years, it's special to be on the teams. My first team was in '97. The only year I've missed was in '08. I was hurt at the time. Being a part of the team, whether it's Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup, every year for the Americans you're always a part of the team. You build these amazing bonds and friendships and camaraderie that lasts for life times. And I think that's one of the neat things about being on these teams, you start appreciating it, for me, anyways. To go from one of the rooks to one of the veterans and be part of that whole transition over the years, it's been fantastic. I've been able to be on the teams with basically Phil and Jim for the better part of 17 years or so. Hopefully I can do it again.

MIKE WOODCOCK: Tiger, thank you for joining us this morning. The very best of luck this week.

TIGER WOODS: Thank you, appreciate it.
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