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July 17, 2018

Tiger Woods

Angus, Scotland, United Kingdom

MIKE WOODCOCK: Good morning, everyone. We'll make a start. I'm very pleased to welcome the three-time Open champion Tiger Woods to the interview room.

Tiger, it's three years since you've played The Open. How much are you looking forward to competing again this week?

TIGER WOODS: I'm really looking forward to it. This is our oldest championship, and to come back to such a historic site, just brings back so many great memories. This is my fourth championship here. Just brings back so many great memories from playing as an amateur and, obviously, the two Opens I've played.

So looking forward to getting out there. The course is a little bit different than what it was last couple times we've played it. So it will be a fun challenge.

MIKE WOODCOCK: Tiger, you have a wealth of experience of playing in hard, fast conditions in links golf. Does that give you a bit of added confidence going into the week?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it's just understanding how to play the golf course and how to play these kind of conditions. I think trajectory means a lot. This course can be played so many different ways, which is going to be the real interesting test is how we're going to manage our way around the golf course.

As I was saying to some of the guys a couple days ago, the fairways were faster than the greens. Yesterday not as much because, obviously, the rain that came in, but still they were a little bit quicker.

Q. Tiger, just wondering, in relation to what you were just talking about, the conditions, we obviously all remember '06, when I think you just hit one driver at Hoylake. Is this the place where you could do that, maybe on the par 5s? What's the strategy for what you've seen, provided it doesn't get very wet?
TIGER WOODS: Well, there's not a lot of opportunities to hit the driver just because the ball is going to be rolling 80 yards. It's just hard to keep the ball in play. Even hitting sometimes 4 and 5 irons, they've been running 50, 60 yards.

It's going to be an interesting test to see which clubs we're going to be using off the tees, and a lot of it is dependent on which way the wind blows. So the whole idea of these practise rounds is just to get a good feel for what I'm going to do, and then adjust accordingly based on wind.

Q. As a followup, is there any way -- obviously, if the conditions remain the same, that this could be played in a similar way to Hoylake, the way you strategised for that course?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it could be that way. Either case, I'm not going to hit that many long clubs off the tees, just because I hit a 3 iron on -- what day is today, Wednesday? So on Monday, down 18, I went 333. It can get quick out here. Obviously, we had a little bit of rain since then, but if it just dries out a little bit and gets to where it was on Monday, then you're going to see a lot of guys hit the ball a long way with not a lot of club.

Q. Tiger, some of the young guys just in recent years have seen how dramatically the weather can change over here over the course of the day. For you, is 2002 at Muirfield, that third round, still the most stark example of that that you've seen? And is that still one where you sort of curse your luck a little bit, given how well you were playing?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I had won the two previous major championships that year, and I was really playing well. I think I was only a few back of the lead. I think Stewie went out there early, posted a good number, and was near the last group coming in come Sunday. I hadn't seen a weather change like that of all my years on Tour, not like that, not that quickly. Normally, if it does blow that hard or it does rain that hard, usually there's some kind of lightning involved, and you've got to have stoppage of play. There was no stoppage of play. We had to play on.

I remember Mario was right in front of me, and he was huddled up behind one of the -- I guess one of the boards behind one of the tee boxes on the par 5, wherever that is, like No. 5 or something, and he was behind there freezing. It was cold. It really was cold. Windchill was into the 30s. We just weren't expecting that kind of weather. We heard forecasts that rain might come in, it would be a little bit windier, but not that type of drop.

Q. Tiger, can you compare your confidence levels going into this major compared with the first two this year, given the kind of unique nature of what we're expecting for the play this week?
TIGER WOODS: Well, each tournament I keep coming back to, I keep feeling a little bit better because I'm starting to play some golf again. My feels are much better than they were at the beginning of the year, and I feel like I have a better understanding of my game and my body and my swing, much more so than I did at Augusta.

That's just going to come with a little bit more experience, and I think that I've made a few adjustments, as you've seen so far. I've changed putters. I've tweaked my swing a little bit since the west coast swing. And everything's gotten just a little bit better.

I've put myself up there in contention a couple times. Just need to play some cleaner golf, and who knows?

Q. And just how much have you missed The Open, bearing in mind you've not been here since 2015?
TIGER WOODS: I've always loved playing links golf. It's my favourite type of golf to play. I say that, I love playing here, this type of links golf, or a style of links golf down on the Aussie sand belt. I enjoy this type of golf because it is creative. We're not going to get the most perfect bounces. You know, a certain shot that is hit you think is a wonderful shot down the middle of the fairway could bounce some weird way. That's just part of it. And I think that's the fun challenge of it.

I mean, feel has a lot to do with playing The Open, and I think the guys traditionally over the years who have done well have been wonderful feel players and also wonderful lag putters because a lot of times it is difficult to get the ball close and have a numerous amount of putts from about 40, 50 feet.

Q. Just referring to experience, like you talked about, do you feel The Open offers you the best chance to win your next major in general terms and also the most chances in future years to win more majors?
TIGER WOODS: Not to be smart, but it is the next major I'm playing (laughter).

Q. General terms.
TIGER WOODS: As far as long term, certainly, I would say yes because of the fact that you don't have to be long to play on a links style golf course, and look what Tom did at Turnberry at 59, I believe he was. So it's possible. Greg was there at Birkdale, I think about 54-ish, somewhere around there, 53, 54. It certainly can be done.

You get to places like Augusta National, where it's just a big ballpark, and the golf course outgrows you, unfortunately. That's just the way it goes. But links style golf course, you can roll the ball. As I said earlier, I hit a 3 iron that went down there to 330. Well, even if I get a little bit older, I can still chase some wood or long club down there and hit the ball the same distance.

So distance becomes a moot point on a links style golf course. But creativity plays such an important role, and you've got guys like Tom playing late in his career, doing well. There's a reason why he won five of these - very creative and hit all the shots.

Q. Tiger, I think you put a 2 iron-like hybrid in the bag this week. Can you talk us through the process of what it's like to get it dialled in for unique conditions like this?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I did put a new 2 iron in play this week. I went down in loft from my normal 2 iron. My normal 2 iron is about 20 degrees. I bent this one down about 17. So I took a few degrees off of it, just trying to be able to have the ability to chase one down there.

I still carry it about the same. It goes 245, 250 yards in the air, but it gets to its final destination much differently. Obviously, it rolls out whereas mine back home, I've generally liked having it 20 degrees because I can hit the ball into the par 5s as an option. This one's not really designed for hitting the ball in the air to par 5s as an option. It's more of a driving club.

I haven't really been able to use it that many times out here because I'm hitting my other irons so far because of the conditions, but if it softens up, it could be a good club. If it doesn't soften up, then I might just add a degree to it and keep it a little softer and not have it so hot.

Q. Tiger, before the injury, you always used to say that any course is tough or brutal gave you an advantage over the field, not that you needed any help during those years. But after the injuries, are there any subconscious part or any fear for tough conditions? Although the rough is not really very penal out here. But is there any subconscious fear about playing tough, brutal courses?
TIGER WOODS: You know, that's a great question because the first week out, when I played at Torrey, I was a little bit worried about the rough because I hadn't experienced the rough yet. I hadn't experienced where I'd swing full out to a complete stop, and I didn't know how my back would handle that. But after that week and going through it -- granted, I hit like two fairways a day, so I was spending a lot of time in the rough. It gave me a lot of confidence because my back didn't hurt. I thought it would be sore. I thought I might feel a twinge, but I didn't feel any of those things. So that was a big boost into the initial part of coming back and playing golf again.

Some of the uneven lies, like I was a little worried about that at Augusta National because in prior years those would hurt because, obviously, I was having some disc issues, and they didn't hurt. So I've progressed throughout the year and had some nice little momentum things, building blocks, and it's been -- I've progressed throughout the year, which is positive.

Q. Tiger, you touched upon it a little bit earlier, your first experience of links golf was here as an amateur in 1995, Scottish Open. How formed and fresh still are your memories of that?
TIGER WOODS: It was one of the cooler things, just staying on that range and hitting the ball to the -- I guess it would be the 100 meter sign. I was hitting 9 irons and 4 irons and 5 irons and just having a blast trying to hit the sign.

You know, I hadn't been able to do that before. I've never played links golf. This was my first time. I remember my dad on the range with me saying, "Are you ever going to hit the ball past the 100 yard sign?" And I said, "No, I'm just enjoying this. Are you kidding me? This is the best." So I spent probably about close to two hours on the range just hitting balls before I even went and played because I thought it was just the best, seeing the ball bounce and being creative and using my mind.

I grew up in Southern California where it's kikuyu grass; nothing rolls. So everything's vertical. So to come here and I remember going down No. 2, and I was about probably close to 120 yards out and bringing out my putter and putting it, I've never done that before. That was one of the cooler moments.

Throughout the day, like on 8, I remember my dad would put a little wager on me, closest to the hole from 100. And things of that -- I've never been able to do up until that point. So that was one of the coolest things. It stuck with me. You see I'm just telling the story now. Those little moments like that, that was my introduction to links golf, Carnoustie and St. Andrews. Doesn't get any better than that.

Q. Tiger, what type of conversation might you have with your caddie? And in light of the unique conditions, does that sort of enhance the value of somebody who's knowledgeable, the right person to have that conversation with?
TIGER WOODS: Well, Joey and I have worked great throughout the years. You know, he walked it on Saturday, and it was quick. It was drier than it is now. And he basically formulated his game plan on his own, and then I'd come and play, and I played yesterday. I played on Monday. Played a little bit on Sunday, but we had a pretty -- I had a pretty solid game plan to where I would play it too, how I think each hole should be played.

And then as we're playing the hole, we start talking about the spots where we want to hit the golf ball, and I would have to say every hole but one, that we're on the same page, the idea of how to play each hole. So now it's about getting feel for the rounds of golf. Now we've got rain coming in right now, that's definitely going to change a few things, and we might have to alter some of the clubs, but I think the areas that we're playing to should be about the same.

Q. Tiger, after a three-year absence from The Open, how does it feel to be back playing an Open Championship here in Scotland? And were there any points during that time that you felt that you may not ever play in an Open Championship again?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, there were definitely points in time that I would -- I certainly thought I'd never play in this championship again. You know, watching it on TV, it's great seeing it on TV, but it's even better in person. I remember how it feels to come down to the last hole with a chance to win it. And knowing that I may never have that opportunity again, there were some times in there where I just didn't feel very good. But now to have the opportunity to come back to Carnoustie to play here in Scotland again, I've said this before throughout this year, it's been a blessing. There were some times where I didn't think I'd ever be able to do this again, and lo and behold, here I am playing my third major of the year.

Q. Tiger, you found some confidence on the greens your last start, different putter. How is that going to work out here? And does some slower greens help you at this point?
TIGER WOODS: You know, I have putted a little bit better. I rolled it a little bit better there at the National. I did go to that mallet putter; has a little more swing to it. To be honest with you, I've struggled on slower greens throughout my entire career. It's one of the reasons why I think I really like the fact that this putter has grooves in it so it does roll initially a little bit faster and a little bit more true. And it is a little bit hotter.

So for me, it's going to help on these greens for sure because I normally, when I've come over here and I've played on virtually almost every single Open I've played in, I would put lead tape on my putter to try to lead it up and get it a little bit heavier and get the ball rolling. Don't necessarily have to do it with the grooves. And when I putted with the Nike putter, I didn't have to put lead tape on the putter to get a little more weight to it. I could leave it just the way it was. And this is the same type.

Q. Where's the priority with (no microphone)?
TIGER WOODS: For me, it's just trying to get a feel for the speed of this golf course. It was a little bit -- the way Joey described it on Saturday, he was very surprised it was this fast. And then when I played on Sunday, played eight holes, I was very, very surprised at how fast the fairways were, but yesterday they were much slower because it rained.

So I think it's more about getting a feel. I feel very confident with the way I'm rolling the golf ball, but the greens were a little bit slower yesterday, and I'm sure they'll be a little bit slower today with a little bit of moisture on it. Again, I'm going to spend a little bit of time trying to get a pace for it.

Q. As a Japanese media, we are so excited you and Hideki are playing together the first two rounds. What do you think about your pairing for the first two rounds and playing with Hideki?
TIGER WOODS: I think I first played with Hideki here at this championship. I played at Muirfield. He was just new onto the scene. No one really knew a lot about him at the time, but obviously, he's proven himself to be one of the world's best players. He's won numerous tournaments all around the world. Had a hot spell there for about -- almost about nine months, where he won five or six times.

So it will be fun playing with him. I've always enjoyed playing with him. Played against him in Presidents Cups as well. So Hideki and I are fine. We'll get out there and have a good time. I'm sure we'll be kind of grinding and doing our own thing.

Q. No previous Russell Knox experience?
TIGER WOODS: No, I saw -- I met Russell at my tournament, The Hero, at Rosie's house in the little pre-tournament barbecue.

Q. I want to ask, you've seen, whether it's Justin and Berger and Jordan and all of these young kids, you've seen their relationship on and off the golf course, which is something you never really had through junior golf and then turning pro like that. Do you wish you had something like that 20-odd years ago? And secondly, do you see at all where that can be an advantage to them in their own competitive ways?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it's interesting you asked that question because, when I first came out on Tour, I was an anomaly in the sense that no one turned pro at 20, and I know that 20 is no longer like a young person on tour. But at 20 years old, two years into college, most of the players usually went through all four years and then tried to get on tour through the Q school, may not have made it. So it took them a few years.

So most of them, the guys that I grew up playing with were still in college when I first came out on Tour. And then some of them took a few years. The ones I was really close to, it took a few years to get out here. So it's five years that I had been on Tour and they were on Tour. By then, I already played on Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup teams. The guys I had grown up playing junior college and college golf with took a little time to get out here that I was close to.

In the meantime, I was getting close to like Mark O'Meara, Davis Love, Fred Couples, Payne Stewart -- those are the guys I started playing practise rounds with just because I was on those teams together.

So now you have guys that are turning pro at 18, 19, 20, that's the normal age to turn pro, and they're all making it at the same time. So, yeah, you see these guys are really close, but they've been close since junior golf and made it out here on Tour very quickly and almost the same time frame. So I think that's one of the reasons why you see them hanging around with each other all the time whereas I really didn't because it took the guys I knew really well a few years to get out here.

MIKE WOODCOCK: Tiger, thank you for joining us. Best of luck this week.

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