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September 22, 2018

Tiger Woods

Atlanta, Georgia

MICHAEL BALIKER: We'd like to welcome Tiger Woods fresh off a 5-under 65, taking a three-shot lead going into the final round tomorrow. Tiger, just first off, comments on being back in this position with the 54-hole lead and your thoughts going into tomorrow.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I got off to a nice start there. I made some nice putts. Good Lord.

I left myself in good spots, too, so I was able to take a run at some of the putts. Other than No. 3, every putt was uphill, so it was nice. I felt like I could free-wheel it, and they went in.

Q. Aside from having a three-shot lead, in what ways do you feel more equipped to win now than you might have in say March or even July?
TIGER WOODS: Well, in March, I didn't really have a golf swing yet. I was still trying to figure out how to play. My body is so different than it was then, and my equipment is so different than it was then, too, as well, because of my body and because of my swing. I've gone through a lot this year to get myself to this point, and understanding and fighting my way through it, and it's been -- I'm certainly much more equipped than I was in March because of what I've gone through.

Q. The second shot at 16, can you talk about how bad the lie was, and how many times did your back foot slip and why?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah. No. 16, I was just trying to squeeze it up in the left bunker, and that rough turned it open. It came out hot and off it went to the right. That's the only spot I couldn't miss it. I was just trying to make sure I hit it left, and it still grabbed enough where the toe grabbed enough where it opened it up, and I hit it in a bad spot.

Third shot, ironically enough, I was trying to hit it 40 or 50 feet right of the hole and just take my bogey and get out of there, and I went underneath it. The fourth shot was money because I was practicing that in the practice round, hitting a 56 or a 60, and I couldn't quite get it right. So I went with a 60 today, and I made sure I hooked it in there with a little bit of hook spin so that first hop kicked through the grain, and it came out nicely. I kind of went with a hybrid between what I was doing in the practice round, and my foot slipped a lot today. I don't know why. I'll analyze some of the video and some of the stuff, and we'll figure it out for tomorrow.

Q. It's the first time in a while that you're first in the field in strokes gained putting. How confident are you with the putter right now, and the putting seems to have led to success in all facets of your game.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I've been hitting the golf ball pretty well, and I've been streaky with my putter. I've had hot days. I've had hot stretches. But I haven't been consistent day in and day out. This week I have been consistent. My speed has been good. I'm seeing the arc of the putts, and the best part is that I'm releasing that toe, and that toe feels like it's hooking every time. It's a great feeling. I feel great when I've got a lot of release in my hands.

Q. You spoke this week about the importance of getting that W. Now that you have the 54-hole lead and a three-shot advantage, how does it feel, and how vital is it now to go on and get the job done?
TIGER WOODS: It feels great to have worked my way into this spot. You know, this has been a difficult setup. It's a golf course that's very easy to make bogeys, and it's difficult to make birdies. You know, my game plan throughout the week has been very conservative. Make sure I dump the ball 30, 40 feet from the hole and trust my lag putting and get it down there and maybe I might make one or two here and there and make sure I string together a bunch of pars. And occasionally I'll get hot for a couple holes and try and take advantage of it. It hasn't been real complicated. The hard part is trying to hit the ball in the right spots.

I think the best thing about my ball-striking this week that's allowed me to putt well is every time I've missed it, I've missed on the correct angle, so I've had control of it going into the greens, and even when I missed the greens, I had pretty simple pitches where I've had a lot of green to work with.

Q. Any thoughts on going on to seal the deal?
TIGER WOODS: I would love to be able to win this event. I've got a three-shot lead. I've got a bunch of guys behind me that have been playing well and are playing well, and we'll see what happens tomorrow.

Q. Can you talk about familiarity with the course, how significant that is, and also touch once again on your putting and how good you feel about it right now?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I have played this golf course well over the years. I've come in here and I've shot low scores. I've been consistent throughout my career here. I've always enjoyed golf courses that are very straightforward. Hard and straightforward, i.e., Akron. It's not real complicated, but it's straightforward, and it's hard. This golf course is, I think, similar to that. There's no tricks. Maybe just a couple blind tee shots, but other than that, it's just right in front of you.

Throughout my career here, I've putted these greens well, whether they were the old bent or now Bermuda.

Q. You obviously got off to a fantastic start today and you've done that at times in the past. Have you learned to consciously think about something or not think about something to prolong a streak when you know that four or five birdies in a row and you want to keep it going?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I was trying to make sure that I stayed committed to what I was doing, trying to make sure that if I missed it, I missed on the correct spots. The only shot that I kind of missed was at 7, the tee shot there. It's an awkward landing, and I turned a 3-wood over just a little bit too much and ended up in a bunker, but I had an absolute perfect lie; it was sitting up on a tee.

So yeah, I'll try and hit a straight ball to maybe a little cut over to the right and short. If I happen to hit it dead straight, it could be good, because the lie is sitting so well, and it came out just dead flat straight and ended up nice and tight there for birdie.

Q. In all your top six finishes this year, you've had to come back except for Valspar from four or five back, so you've been chasing. Can you talk about the strategic and psychological advantages of knowing there's no one ahead of you, you're going to know what everyone is doing in the field?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it's -- simple math says that if I play a clean card, the guys behind me have to shoot 67 to force it into extra. That helps. I don't have to shoot 63 or 64 and hope I get help. That's a big difference.

This is a spot I'd much rather be in than certainly four or five back.

Q. How much is getting in the lead and being in this position like old times, and how much of it do you have to re-learn, to get those feelings back?
TIGER WOODS: Good question because I've -- you know, I've felt very comfortable when I got into the mix there at Tampa even though it was very early in my start to this year. And because of that, I felt comfortable when I got to Bay Hill, when I grabbed the lead at the Open Championship. Things that didn't really feel abnormal, even though it's been years, literally years, since I've been in those spots, but I think I've been in those spots enough times that muscle memory -- I guess I remembered it, and I felt comfortable in those spots.

Today was the same. I was tied for the lead going out. We've got a long way to go, and I got off to just an ideal start. I made one at 1 and made a nice curler there at 3, and the next thing you know I was off and running.

Q. You played a lot with Rory on Thursdays and Fridays. How motivated or excited are you to play with him on Sunday with the tournament on the line?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it's going to be fun. We haven't done that that much of late because I've not been there. He has been there, and he's won a bunch of tournaments. So it's nice for us to go back out and play against one another, be in the mix. There was a stretch there in one of the early starts of the Playoffs when I think we had each other in the first three events of the Playoffs. It seemed like we just couldn't shake one another. It was in the old format where the points didn't really change much.

We're in much better shape this time.

Q. When you've won as many times as you have, I'm curious, how do you display all these trophies, and do you have any idea where you would put a new piece of hardware?
TIGER WOODS: It would be somewhere in the house if I happened to go on and win this event. I have a lot of trophies, yeah. It's scattered around through my house, my mom's, the foundation, some other places. I've donated a few to charities over the years. But yeah, I've won over 100 events as a pro, so there's quite a few trophies here and there.

Q. Which ones did you donate to charity?
TIGER WOODS: There was a bunch of times where I think I won either five or six times in a year, and some of the charities wanted to display it, and just go ahead and just keep it.

Q. I wanted to ask you, did today feel normal, or did today feel special, the way you played?
TIGER WOODS: I felt -- well, I felt hot early for sure. I was hitting it absolutely dead flush. The putts I was hitting were going in, and from there, I just tried to just hang in there and tried to make -- I don't know if I could add maybe one or two on that back nine, it would be great. But I figured the guys weren't going to be doing much out there. You look at these hole locations before the day started, because we get them the night before, and I figured a low round would be 66 or 65 today, and I happened to be 6-under through 7, and I'm right where I need to be.

Q. What did you hit on 4 and 5?
TIGER WOODS: 4, I hit an 8-iron up there, and 5, I hit sand wedge.

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