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May 5, 2015

Tiger Woods


LAURA NEAL: Just start it how with feels to be back here at TPC Sawgrass, two-time champion at THE PLAYERS.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, thank you. It feels good to be out there. I was a little surprised at how soft the golf course was, and it is obviously slow as of now. It's only Tuesday, but I'm sure it'll speed up and the golf course will get faster. But I was surprised to see it play more normally how it was back in March. It was very soft and very wet as of now.

Q. Were you a lit rusty out there?
TIGER WOODS: A little bit, a little bit, more than anything just a little bit tired. But I think that I've got two days to get ready for Thursday, plus the late tee time helps.

Q. I know you weren't here last year when they had some difficulties with the greens.
TIGER WOODS: That's what I heard, yeah.

Q. Outside of the softness you were talking about, what's the conditioning of the surfaces?
TIGER WOODS: You know, there are a couple little patchy spots out there, but I think that what they're trying to do is let them fill in because they were leaving them up a little bit, putting some water on them, keeping them soft, trying to fill in the spots. The putting green didn't look very good so I thought the golf course might look that way, but it was actually decent. It'll fill in, and I'm sure by tournament time they'll start drying them out.

Q. You had some momentum going at the Masters a month ago. Can you build on that momentum a month later without playing in between?
TIGER WOODS: I would -- I'd like to say yes. I've had some pretty good practice sessions. My short game still feels really good, and I just need -- we made a couple little swing tweaks since then to keep improving, to keep working on it, to keep getting it better, so that part is still a little bit fresh. I'm going to start playing a little bit more now since I'm in some of these events now, not like last week. I'm able to start playing a regular schedule now and start getting after it.

Q. What's the best thing you took out of that stretch?
TIGER WOODS: I think the best thing is to take what I was at Phoenix and Torrey, to go from there to fifth place going into the last day on Sunday, to go with all the problems I had many my short game, all the problems I had with my swing, to put all that and get it good enough to where I was able to give myself a chance. If I would have played a good front nine I would have had a chance going into the back nine. But to go from where I was to being in contention like that, that was a big step. Unfortunately I didn't make the putts on Sunday early, and I also missed a few out there during the first three days that certainly would have helped.

Q. Where do you think you are now?
TIGER WOODS: As I said, some of the swing changes we've made are a little bit fresh, so that's going to take a little bit more time. But I'm very happy with my short game and where it's at and the way I'm putting, the way I'm feeling. As I said, where I was at Torrey and what I was at Phoenix, to go from there to where I'm at now.

Q. When you say you're happy with your short game, is it because you're happy that it's not what it was or happy because it is what it used to be?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I'm happy that I'm able to now create bottom in any spot I want. I'm able to find it, and it doesn't really matter the lie, I'm able to find the bottom, able to use the bounce correctly.

Q. What are your memories of Calvin Peete growing up as a kid, and even those his numbers don't equate with today's credentials, do you think his circumstances warrant him getting consideration for that?
TIGER WOODS: I think what he did was truly incredible. With his arm the way it was, and obviously that's a physical impairment, he was never going to create power, and this is a person that -- God, he hit it straight. It was ungodly how straight he hit it. The ball just didn't move, and this was back in the old balata days when the ball curved a lot and his ball didn't curve. There is a stat not too many people know about, and that is at Muirfield Village he didn't miss a fairway for two and a half years. I mean, over 10 rounds without missing a fairway. Okay, you're going to hit one bad shot somewhere in two and a half years, but he never missed a fairway for two and a half years. I was pretty good with a 7-iron off the tee.

Q. Your memories as a kid?
TIGER WOODS: Memories as a kid? I remember watching him play. I remember watching when he won here and what he did, and certainly he's one of the guys I looked up to certainly, a person of color, being able to do it, especially at the time when there weren't that many out here. Charlie was pretty much done, Lee was pretty much done, Jim Dent didn't really come out on the scene. He was kind of here and there. But it was basically just Calvin. For me as a person of color, it meant something to me to watch him do well.

Q. Hall of Fame, yes or no?
TIGER WOODS: It's tough. It's tough. You look at, okay, numbers, you look at it that way. You also look at the circumstances and the things that he had to deal with, you would say, okay, look at Charlie, what he had to endure, were his numbers 16 wins, 20 wins, 25 pins, 40 wins, did he have that, no, but what he had to endure and what he accomplished and the road he paved for people like me, people like Calvin, people like Lee, Pete Brown, all these guys owe a lot to Charlie and what he did.

Q. I just wanted to piggy-back on that. You never had a chance to talk to Calvin. Is there something that you would have liked to have said to him if you had had a chance to have that conversation?
TIGER WOODS: No, we never really talked that much. It was a different era -- I was still single digits in age, you know. And then not really -- I guess an early tee when he was kind of on the way out, so I never really got a chance, even when I got out here and even when I played out here as a teenager, he wasn't out here anymore. So I never really got a chance to spend any time with him and our paths never really crossed. It's unfortunate, but other guys -- I never met Peete. Circumstances never allowed that, but Charlie became a grandpa to me and I named my son after Charlie. Lee, obviously our paths crossed, but for some reason a couple guys throughout history are -- Teddy Rhodes, Bill Spiller and all those guys that I wish I would have gotten a chance to meet and a chance to talk to, I never really got that opportunity.

Q. Is there a danger of this whole era being lost because now people look at you as the African-American role model and they don't see you struggling like these gentlemen did before you. Now that they're dying off, what is the danger of being lost, I guess?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, my struggles weren't -- obviously anywhere near what they had to endure, and even at the professional level, like Charlie and Bill and Pete and all those guys when they were trying to get out on TOUR, I didn't have those struggles when I was trying to get on TOUR, but I certainly can relate to when I was a kid and the things that I had to endure just to try and play golf, and I wasn't allowed to play at certain places. That part I can understand and I can relate to. I honestly believe that we don't have any African-Americans out here playing on the TOUR or even a lot on the mini-Tours is because of the advent of the golf cart. That took away a lot of the caddie programs and their introduction to the game of golf, so they never got out of the urban areas and into the -- they stuck more to basketball, baseball -- even baseball has declined a lot, football. That's kind of where it all went to. So they never had that introduction, never had the caddie programs during the summer where you'd go out and loop two, carry 36, hit a few balls here and there. At least you got introduced. You got to watch it, simulate it, you got to be around it. That's all gone. So we don't have the pool of players anymore. We don't have that pool of introduction into the game of golf, and so consequently we don't have, as you get up to the peak, as competition pyramids up to the top, it obviously declines.

Q. The Olympic ranking cutoff is 14 months away. I know it's a long time, but how do you look at that climb that you would have to get to the top 15 from where you are now and might you play more tournaments next year if you are close?
TIGER WOODS: I'm going to play more tournaments from here on out. I'm finally healthy enough to do it. I've got my body in the shape I need to have it in, and a full practice schedule and everything is full go. Still working on some swing stuff and implementing that, but that's just going to happen over time. Making my way up from where I'm at is just going to take consistency, and I need wins in there, which I want to have, but being consistent every time I tee it up. Not something I used to do, and it's something that I've done when I've made my comebacks before is -- the last one I made was a few years ago when I was I think in the 50s and got back up to No. 1. It was just by winning golf tournaments and being consistent, and I was able to do that, eight wins in a couple of years.

Q. How important is the Olympics to you?
TIGER WOODS: It's very important. It's something that's different for us. It's kind of like if you asked what the tennis players, remember the interviews for them when they got introduced to the Olympics, I think it was '96, that was so new to them. It was a new concept, the Olympics, because obviously it was always their four Slams, and for us it's the four Majors. But the Olympics is a big thing, especially it doesn't come around but every four years. But we have so many big events, four every single year, and that's our history. That's what we're judged upon, and for certain sports like tennis, other sports, that is the biggest thing that they have in their sport, and for guys like in tennis, it means a lot to them now. But the first year you got mixed messages from the guys because they're saying, okay, I need the rest, blah blah blah. We have the U.S. Open coming up in a couple weeks, what are we going to do with that. Guys were, should I play, not play. It was a mixed bag. I've heard some things over the years with golf when it got introduced, guys were kind of on the fence about it, but certainly I think it's swaying in the direction of guys all wanting to play in it. Guys want to solidify themselves, play for not only their country and that but also have a chance to do something that hasn't been done in a very long time: Win a medal in golf.

Q. Has it gotten easier for you or harder for you to handle making sure stuff outside of the ropes doesn't interfere with stuff you do inside the ropes?
TIGER WOODS: That's kind of always how it's been. I've always had to deal with circumstances on both, deal with stuff outside the ropes, and once you're inside the ropes it's time to tee it up and time to play. You go out there, and for me I focus, I get into my little world, my little zone and do the best I possibly can for that -- well, it used to be four hours. Now it's five-hour rounds, a five-hour time period, grind it out and win golf tournaments because at the end, to me that's what I want to do at that particular week is win a tournament.

Q. The swing changes and the comeback, when you put it all together, how complete do you feel the package is?
TIGER WOODS: It's certainly coming. It's coming along. I've made some huge, huge strides since what I was at Torrey and what I was at Phoenix, huge. As I said, to go from that to what I was at Augusta, I worked my ass off to get to that point. I really did. I worked hard. To change all that and then go into a major championship basically untested and to do what I did, I thought was pretty good for three days and then obviously Sunday didn't pan out the way I wanted it. Just keep building on that, keep chipping away at it, keep getting progressively a little bit better. I'm on the right road. I've made all the big changes, now it's just incremental changes, incremental implementation and keep building. Eventually it'll click in and I'll have a little run here, and some runs are -- what, two years ago it was five wins. I can get on runs like that.

Q. Even if you were affected (inaudible), would that be a factor this week?
TIGER WOODS: Obviously it does affect me. It is tough. There's no doubt. I'm not going to lie about that. It is tough. And on top of that, this time of year is really, really hard on me. This three-day window is really hard. I haven't slept. It's been -- these three days, May 3rd and through the 5th, today, is just brutal on me, and then with obviously what happened on Sunday, it just adds to it.

Q. On the Hall of Fame criteria, which you're in pretty reasonable shape, they list the majors and THE PLAYERS all in the same category. Are you good with that? How do you frame that I guess is what I'm asking?
TIGER WOODS: I think you could probably honestly say that it's part of the -- it's the TOUR that probably runs it, so that's what they're trying to elevate.

Q. But in another way, is the achievement of winning this anywhere near --
TIGER WOODS: It's different. I think it's different, but I think that it's something you have to pay attention to. You know, you look at what Freddie did, I mean, Freddie -- I think Freddie actually won less tournaments than Mark did, but he had two players, but Mark had two majors in there. Freddie had one major. So is that three to two, or is one, one to two? According to the new system, it's three to two. I think that's how they're trying to make it all look like, but I think that us as players -- I can't speak for everyone, but certainly me, I think you have to look at them in probably two different categories.

Q. Do you look at this tournament any differently than you did in '97?
TIGER WOODS: No, I don't. I think it's really hard. It's really tricky golf course. This is a golf course that it's either -- it seems really easy that week because you're on -- if you're hitting fairways and you hit -- if your iron game is in control, it seems like every ball feeds into the hole. It's very easy to get the ball close. But if you're off, you're not hitting fairways or let's say if you're hitting fairways your iron game is not sharp, you miss it that one yard or one foot, it's collecting in the area, you miss it, and now you've got a three-putt, an unputtable putt. I'm telling you, when you're on, this golf course is -- it doesn't seem that hard. You can really go low. You feel like every round you should shoot 67 or lower, and then you get days where God, I feel like I can't break 75 here. It's one of those places, it's very polarizing, you either have it or you don't.

Q. How long did that wrist/hand injury bother you for after the Masters and is it still bothering you?
TIGER WOODS: No, it's fine. I took a full week, didn't lift at all. I did leg stuff but just didn't do anything with my hand. Completely got away from it, anything with lifting or grabbing and started working -- I was getting treatment every day through that period, and then after that started building up the strength in the hand and the forearm and then eventually the whole upper body.

Q. Where exactly was it?
TIGER WOODS: It was just on the front of the wrist, like the base of the hand, and it was just a joint that kind of slipped out and I put it back in, but it was more the swelling, that we had to get rid of the swelling, so it's a lot of ultrasound, a lot of icing, anti-inflams, get it all out of there, and then we could start progressing and building it up.

Q. How do you know how to put your joint back into place?
TIGER WOODS: I don't know how. It was one of those things where I had it like that and I pushed down on it -- it's just like anything, you crack your back or your neck and it's relief. Before it was like, man, it's stuck. That's what my wrist felt like, it was stuff, and the wrist wasn't moving, and I could feel it getting tighter and tighter and tighter, so it's like a self-adjustment on your spine. I just did it on my wrist.
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