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March 26, 2019

Tiger Woods

Austin, Texas

TIGER WOODS: Well, it's not flat, I'll tell you that. It's got quite a bit of movement to it. And it's a great match play course, I can see why the guys like it. You'll see some high numbers here, and you'll see a lot of birdies, that's exactly what a good match play course does.

Q. How good is it to be back in this tournament?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it's been a while. I hadn't played in what, now, six years. I qualified for this event and worked my way back into this field, which is I think pretty positive. And looking forward to getting introduced to this new format. This will be a little bit different than what I'm used to, and still got to win matches and move on.

Q. What do you know about the Aaron Wise's game? Is this a Pac-12 rematch?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I watched him play well when they were in Eugene. And Casey's the head coach there, was my teammate there. He said a lot of good things about him when he was being recruited, as well as when he was in college. Amazing talent. Obviously he won at the Nelson and he has the game to win golf tournaments. I get to go out there and put a lot of pressure on him and hit the ball well and hopefully get the ball in the right spot to make putts.

Q. You've had the challenge of getting to the top, staying at the top and now reinventing yourself and working your way back to wherever you end up. How does that rank compared to the other two in terms of the challenge, enjoyment, your frustration level, whatever?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it was a lot easier to get to No. 1 when I first came out. I had no points and it was just win golf tournaments or basically make the cut and I would rise in World Rankings. That's what I ended up doing, getting off to a good start with my career, and won a few tournaments and was able to ascend to No. 1.

If you ask what the difference is, getting to No. 1 was much easier than staying there. Staying there is hard, because it's the consistency that is needed to remain there at No. 1, you have to win golf tournaments but also your bad weeks can't be missed cuts. They've got to be a bad week be top 10, back door top 10 or something like that, just to maintain points. And for the most part of my career I was pretty good at making cuts and getting World Ranking points and staying up there. I played well in the big events, whether it's the majors, THE PLAYERS, the World Golf Championships, where the field is the toughest, and I was able to play well in those events. Hence, I was able to remain world No. 1 for a long period of time.

This time around is a little different. Just to kind of be ranked where I'm at is, I think, a pretty good accomplishment considering where I've come from in the last year and a half.

Q. What do you like so much about match play?
TIGER WOODS: The only match play that I actually ever played was either in the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cups. And that was the singles, one on one. I really haven't played a whole lot of match play since 2013 and I'm looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to the fact that I just get to focus on one guy. Each and every shot is different, and you don't really care what the rest of the field is doing. I just have to beat the guy standing in front of me.

Q. Is this a tournament where you hope to make it all the way to Sunday or were you just kind of looking to get a few good rounds and whatever happens happens?
TIGER WOODS: No, hopefully I can play well enough to get to that point to where I'm in the finals. It's different because it was either win or go home. This round-robin format being here for three days is a little bit different. Also the fact there's no 36-hole final is a little bit different, for me, anyways. So this is a new event. A new format for me. But still win six matches and you're good to go.

Q. With the new format do you feel the sense of urgency has changed over the first few days where you're guaranteed three days, compared to the old one where it's win or go home?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it is different. I guess you can half a match and still move on. And so that's different. I don't really know the intricacies of it all. I just know that I need to win all three, and I move on. It's not real complicated. Play well and take care of the guy in front of me.

Q. So you mentioned about kind of weighing your opponent. How much do you try to stick playing the golf course, and how much do you like to weigh what the other person is doing?
TIGER WOODS: Well, that's the beauty of match play because there is no definitive answer. You can't put blinders on and play your own game, but also I can't look at my opponent the entire time. It's the ebb and flow of each and every shot, and each and every hole is its own match. And that's something that for the better part of the most of my career is I've been good at is feel what I need to do in that particular moment. Some moments it's just put the hammer down, we've got to be aggressive. And other times it's we've got to play conservative off the tees, conservative off the greens, because my opponent is in trouble. That's all ebb and flow.

So there is no definitive answer of playing your own game or not playing your own game. I think it all depends on the scenario and situation. And it's a very fluid environment.

Q. Is it still amazing to you, Tiger, looking back the last couple of years that you could play seven rounds in five days at a high level?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, the end of last year gave me a lot of confidence that I played as many events as I did to end the season. I was fired, I was tired, but my body held up. So that's something that has been very good. My training has been pretty good. My neck has been feeling better, which is nice. And so I have to play well and beat the guy in front of me in order to have that situation where I'm there on Sunday in the finals. So there's a lot of work to be done between now and then.

Q. How was the challenge at Augusta changed the most for you since you first won it in '97?
TIGER WOODS: Well, there was no secondary cut. There was no force down 11. We were hitting 1-irons and 2-irons off of 7 to get on the upslope. Every green's been redone since I was first there. And used to be down-grained and then it was half into the green, half down-grained, and they always made sure inside the dogleg was the one that was down-grained. That would bait you into being aggressive. Now everything is cut back into you. The bunkers are deeper than they used to be. But the greens are flatter than what they used to be. And that is a little bit -- they're flatter for Augusta. So they're not flat greens but they've given us a little more space to putt and a little bit more space on the greens to have a little bit more room around some of these pins.

Q. It's mostly more challenging?
TIGER WOODS: It is way more challenging off the tees than it used to be. And I remember Raymond telling me just on 9, just hit it as far right as you possibly can. Well, you can't do that anymore, there's a forest down the right. On 11 you try to hit the ball up against the gallery. Well, now there is literally a forest that is there. The fairway used to be 80 yards wide, it's no longer the case.

Some of the strategy has changed. I remember playing practice rounds with Raymond and Seve and Ollie and showing me how to hit a 4-iron around the greens, use a 3-iron. Those shots are gone because the grass is longer. The shots off of tight lies, no one wanted to use a sand wedge back then because it was too tight. Now we have got a lot of players using 62's and 64's and throwing the ball in the air with spin, and the bump-and-run shots are way more difficult because they're stickier.

Q. What are the challenges for the seven rounds in five days (inaudible)?
TIGER WOODS: It will be new for me. When I'm at home, I'm in a cart and more flat ground, and you could play 36 holes in three and a half hours. So it's a little bit different. And this is, as I said, not a flat golf course. And so there's going to be a lot of interesting lies and shapes. It's a good walk.

Q. How would you describe the level of competition now in 2019?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think that equipment has made it smaller. The margin is much smaller than it used to be. Now look at these heads, 460 cc's, you hit the ball anywhere on the face and have it go 300 yards. Before it put a premium on good ball-strikers to hit the ball in the middle of the face each and every time. And there was a distinction between the guys who could do that and the guys who couldn't. And that's no longer the case.

It promotes people swinging harder. Teeing the ball higher, swinging harder and hitting the ball further. And the old shot of hitting just a squeezier, low, heelie cut in play, that's no longer the case. Guys are trying to maximize distance off the tee, to try and carry that number 300, 320, 330 in the air. And it's become a game that's played more up in the air than it ever used to be.

Q. This may be a bit of a follow to that, the players that have had their runs at No. 1 since your last visit here marvel at your longevity, because they know how hard it is, they know everything that goes into it on and off the course. What enabled you to have that unbelievable stretch?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think that it was consistency and the fight to just make it around each and every day and to make the cut and play the weekend and work my way up. And as I said, I was fortunate enough to win big events. I played in some of the more difficult Tour events throughout my career, and I was able to play well in those. And if you could win majors and players and World Golf Championships and win some of the other deeper fields, you're going to accrue a lot of World Ranking points and have a chance to stay up there.

The challenge is once someone attains the No. 1 World Ranking is the amount of time that you have to allocate to practicing and playing. It gets smaller. And it gets a little bit harder and it gets more challenging, and time management skills are the utmost. Now these guys all have their physios, and they're training, they're lifting. So you add in lifting sessions of an hour and a half to two hours a day, plus training table, practice time, practice rounds or competitive rounds and next thing you know it's a ten-hour day. How do you recover from that? And you do that week in, week out, and then you add in a decade of that, it gets a little more complicated.

Q. Have you been to Austin before?
TIGER WOODS: I've been here a few times. And I've been able to play around here a little bit and also visit the campus at UT. Been riding here a couple of times. But it's been a while. It's been, geez, over 10, 12 years since I've been here.

Q. Just that stretch down the water, 12, 13, what are your thoughts?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, with the wind forecast it's going to be off to the left. So the way these greens are starting to firm out, trying to drive the ball on 13 is going to be interesting. And, yeah, there's a lot more room out there than what it looks like off the right side on 13, 14, but still it's a challenge to try and figure out where to miss it, where to place it. And on top of that it's how your match is going. Are you behind, up, is it all square, is it tight, are you leading off, are you hitting second? These are all things that are neat, and I think that everyone who is watching it on TV will enjoy.

Q. Do you feel like you can still intimidate other golfers like you did?
TIGER WOODS: I don't know that I ever intimidated them. I'm not 6'6", 320, but the one thing that I knew that when I was playing at my best is that I was always going to be consistent. And my bad days were still going to be rounds that were around par or under par and I was going to figure out a way to shoot a good score. Whether that put a lot of pressure on the guys or not, knowing the fact that I was going to be as consistent as I was, whether that was intimidating or not, I don't know.

Q. And you said you played here before, you mean Austin Country Club?
TIGER WOODS: I've been here, I've played Barton Creek. I've played a couple of other little places here. But, again, it's been 10, 12 years, it's been a while.

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