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May 14, 2019

Tiger Woods

Farmingdale, New York

JON DEVER: Good morning, everybody. Welcome back to the 2019 PGA Championship at Bethpage Black. We are pleased to be joined by four-time PGA champion Tiger Woods. Tiger, welcome to what is your 20th PGA Championship. Maybe we start right there. Let me ask you about your first PGA back in 1997, not far from here at Winged Foot. What are your recollections of playing in this championship for the first time?

TIGER WOODS: Well, my first PGA Championship being at Winged Foot is probably the most difficult one. The golf course was everything I thought it was and more. It was difficult. It was hard. You couldn't have had a more fairy-tale ending with Davis holing that putt with his mom there. So it was a fantastic week. Unfortunately I just didn't play well enough to contend, but it was a good year that year. I did win a major, so...

JON DEVER: That counts. Maybe tell us what facet of your game you're emphasizing yourself as you come here to maybe win a fifth, what it's going to take to win a fifth Wanamaker Trophy.

TIGER WOODS: Well, in order to win this one, driving is going to be at the forefront. With the rough as lush as it is, it has grown up a little bit. I don't know how much they're going to cut it down or top it off, but it won't be much.

Fairways are plenty wide because it's wet. It's just you've got to hit it not only straight but you've got to hit it far because, as the week goes on and the greens dry out, the majority of the greens are elevated, and so trying to get enough spin, hitting the ball up to elevation with the greens firming up, you have to be in the fairway to do that.

Q. Tiger, what does it mean to you to have this opportunity for kind of a second act that allows you to have rivalries with a younger generation of players, especially you and Koepka have been one and two in the last two, you've played with Molinari in two majors at the final round. What is that like for you to have that opportunity? And if I could ask a second follow-up, does Koepka remind you, in terms of his athleticism, of a young Tiger?
TIGER WOODS: Well, the first part of your question, it's great to be part of the narrative. My narrative spans 20 years now, just over 20 years. If you look at most of the players or the players that have had the most success on TOUR, you're not measured by like an NFL football player when you get in the Hall of Fame after nine years. If you played out here nine years, you haven't really done that well. You're measured in decades. Arnold Palmer played in 50 straight Masters. It's just done differently.

Because the nature of the sport, we're able to hang around a lot longer and still be relevant. A neat thing about this championship here is that when Jack played in his final PGA in 2000, I played with him, he said he played with Gene Sarazen in his final PGA.

So the fact that golf can span nearly, what, 60, 70 years and playing careers, that's what makes it so special.

Now, Brooksy look like a young me? No, I wish -- I was never that big. I was 130 pounds. But we're both able to generate speed. I was -- I did it differently. I didn't have muscle. I did it through whip and timing. Brooksy has just got pure power, and he's an athlete. He played other sports, and he could have easily been a baseball player.

Players like that who come to golf generally hit the ball far because a baseball bat is so much heavier than a golf club. If you're able to generate bat speed, you can definitely generate club head speed in golf.

Q. When the dust settled on Augusta and the Masters, did it feel different to the other majors wins? It was obviously so many years, so many events. Was it a different feeling, and, if so, how? Or was it just like old times?
TIGER WOODS: I'm not going to say it was just like old times, no. It was very different. I hadn't won in a long time there. I've been in contention numerous times to have gotten it done, but I haven't. And just the way it played out. I mean, it was so different as a whole. You know, because we teed off in threesomes. There was a two-tee start. We went off early. These are things that have never happened in Augusta's history. We could have easily got in a quick 18 after the ceremony.

It was great, perfect sunshine, and normally we're finishing ceremonies and some of the functions not until 11:30, midnight. But now it's perfectly daytime and you can go get a quick 18 in. It felt different on so many different levels. That, my kids were there for the very first time at the big event. They went to the par-3 course, but they had never been to the big event. And then for me to come back and win on top of all that, it just added to it.

The whole tournament, how many guys had a chance to win on that back nine, after Frankie made a mistake at 12. He just opened Pandora's box to who's going to win the championship, and I just happened to be one of those guys.

Q. You haven't gone major to major without playing all that often in your career, but as you look ahead now, is it something you might consider doing more often? And just sort of how do you weigh the need for reps versus the need for rest at this point?
TIGER WOODS: You know, that's a great question because the only other time where I've taken four weeks off prior to major championships is going from the British Open to the PGA. Usually that was my summer break, and take those four weeks off and then get ready for the PGA, Firestone and the fall. So I'm always looking for breaks. Generally it's after the Masters I used to take four weeks off there. Now, with the condensed schedule, it's trying to find breaks.

You know, I wanted to play at Quail Hollow, but to be honest with you, I wasn't ready yet to start the grind of practicing and preparing and logging all those hours again. I was lifting -- my numbers were good. I was feeling good in the gym, but I wasn't mentally prepared to log in the hours.

Coming here is a different story. I was able to log in the hours, put in the time and feel rested and ready. That's going to be the interesting part going forward; how much do I play and how much do I rest. I think I've done a lot of the legwork and the hard work already, trying to find my game over the past year and a half. Now I think it's just maintaining it. I know that I feel better when I'm fresh. The body doesn't respond like it used to, doesn't bounce back quite as well, so I've got to be aware of that.

Q. Tiger, more minorities and young women are taking up the sport than before because of all of the initiatives in place, but that isn't reflected in the college participation numbers. Asians are the only minorities that are showing an increase. What do you think is happening? Why aren't the kids who are taking up the game sticking with it?
TIGER WOODS: You know, that's the question for all of us that's been a difficult one to figure out, to put our finger on. The First Tee has done an amazing job of creating facilities and creating atmospheres for kids to be introduced to the game, but also have some type of sustainability within the game.

But it's difficult. There are so many different things that are pulling at kids to go different directions. Golf is just merely one of the vehicles.

Now, with today's -- as I said, there's so many different things that kids can get into and go towards that honestly playing five hours, five and a half hours of a sport just doesn't sound too appealing. That's one of the things that we've tried to increase is the pace of play and try and make sure that's faster, because most of us in this room, if you've gone probably five minutes without checking your phone, you're jonesing. Kids are the same way; five hours on a golf course seems pretty boring.

Q. Peyton Manning and Kobe Bryant have started their own shows on ESPN+, and LeBron James also has his own show --

Q. Would you consider --

Q. Why or why not?
TIGER WOODS: No. No show. I'm good. I like playing.

Q. You just mentioned kind of growing the game. Maybe that would be a way to do it?
TIGER WOODS: I'm sure it would be, but it's certainly not what I'm going to do.

Q. By winning the Masters, you moved right into the early Olympic qualifying rankings for the Americans. How much will you prioritize that in the next year? Will you definitely play if you do qualify? And could you play an extra tournament or two you normally wouldn't have if it's really close going up to the cutoff next year?
TIGER WOODS: Great questions. Would I like to play in the Olympics? Yes, I've never played in the Olympics, and I'm sure that I won't have many more opportunities going forward at 43 years old now to play in many Olympics. Yes, that would be a first for me and something that I would certainly welcome if I was part of the team.

Getting there and making the team is going to be the tough part. How many events -- how many events do I play, do I add a couple more to get in. These are all questions that will be answered going forward. I just know that if I play well in the big events like I did this year, things will take care of itself.

Q. Peyton Manning said that when you played in the Memorial together last year, you talked at length about his four neck surgeries and how he had to sort of find new ways to make par as a quarterback. I wonder what your recollections were of those rounds with Peyton, and can you relate to those?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I certainly can, because I remember when -- I think when he was traded from Indianapolis to Denver, we played together at Medalist. I said, How's it feeling? He said, Not that great. How many push-ups can you do? I can do six push-ups. He goes out and wins MVP that year.

So just because someone doesn't have the strength to do something, he's going to figure out a different way, and that's what we were talking about when we played, is that I don't have a fastball, he can't zip the ball into those tight little windows or in -- he has to anticipate more. He has to do more work in the film room. I had to do more work on managing my game, my body, understanding it, what I can and cannot do, shots that I see I could pull off or better save it for another day. And more than anything, trying to figure out how to be explosive day in and day out.

For him, we were kind of chiding, I had to do it with let's call it -- play 15 tournaments a year, 60 times. I've got to be ready. He's got to be ready 16 games. Granted, no one is hitting me. That's one of the more difficult things is I'm more like what baseball players feel like during the season. Every day you're playing the game, you're playing it all the time and trying to be mentally fresh and ready.

Peyton did an incredible job, won a couple MVPs, Super Bowl, all with a fused neck. That's ridiculous. It goes to show you how talented he is and how smart he is.

Q. Yesterday in Florida a lawsuit was filed against yourself, your girlfriend and your restaurant over the wrongful death of an employee. His family are holding a press conference about that right now. How do you feel about it?
TIGER WOODS: Well, we're all very sad that Nick passed away. It was a terrible night, a terrible ending, and just -- we feel bad for him and his entire family. It's very sad.

Q. How much preparation did you put into preparing for this major, and what would you say your energy level is right now currently? Are you feeling 100 percent? Just how are you feeling in general prior to playing?
TIGER WOODS: Prior to playing, I feel great. As I was saying earlier, I wanted to be -- I wanted to play a couple weeks ago, just wasn't quite mentally ready to do it. But physically I've been feeling really good. The training sessions have been good. I've been doing a lot of practicing of late, not in sweaters, so this is a little bit different.

I'm excited to get out there on the golf course. We came up here last week, took a look at it in detail and spent a lot of time on it. I played nine holes yesterday, and I'm going to take today off, I'll practice a bit and I'll play nine holes tomorrow making sure I'm ready to go come Thursday.

This is not only a big golf course, but this is going to be a long week the way the golf course is set up and potentially could play. This could be a hell of a championship.

Q. Sort of along those same lines, obviously you can't prepare physically for the majors like you used to, so what has filled that gap over the past three majors where you've been so successful? What has made up for that practice time that you've lost?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think that I can't spend every day working on every part of my game. That's just not going to happen anymore. And so I end up spending a lot of time on my short game, a lot of time on pitching and putting, wedging, and making sure -- I mean, they're all smaller motions of a full motion with the driver. And so I do hit a lot of wedge shots that are -- I end up pulling out a driver and only hitting it, call it, 80, 90 yards in the air, just making sure my swing feels good. I don't load the body like I used to and be as explosive for call it a three-, four-hour period on the range. Those days are gone.

But what I can do is I can hit a lot of wedge shots. I can swing a longer clubs easier and just make sure I have the feel and save it for game time.

Q. Along those lines, how much does stamina play on this golf course? And do you prepare any differently for this course? And part two, your thoughts on John Daly being allowed to take a cart?
TIGER WOODS: Well, the stamina part, this is a bigger golf course. There's a lot of property and -- not -- I wouldn't say not necessarily a lot of movement in features, but there's enough. There's definitely going to be a component to stamina as the week goes on. Four days over a tough championship that is mentally and physically taxing takes its toll.

As far as J.D. taking a cart, well, I walked with a broken leg, so...

Q. What does it mean to you to have received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to be honored like that?
TIGER WOODS: Man, that was an incredible honor. To go to the White House with my mom and Erica and the two kids and all my friends and family that have been there, as I was saying up there on the podium, for virtually my whole life. To have them there, to have them experience it and to get the Presidential Medal of Freedom, it couldn't be more special.

And the fact that the other golfers on that list, Arnold and Jack and Charlie, and Charlie being like the grandpa I never had -- Charlie and I became very close. I ended up naming my son Charlie after Charlie. It was very special and very important to me. The kids were blown away by the history of the White House and just the paintings, how old they are, the history behind them. So it was a neat experience for all of us.

Q. On Saturday at the Masters, you expressed a little concern about the quick turnaround, and obviously this is an issue for you at least once a week on TOUR when you have an early start. You go to bed before those early days just wondering how you're going to feel the next day, and what was your level of concern about it that night going into Sunday?
TIGER WOODS: I feel that way every day. I don't know how sore I'm going to be the next morning. I don't.

That's the fickle nature of having my back fused. Some days I have more range of motion. Some days I don't. Some days I ache more, and sometimes I don't. That's just -- there's more volatility, put it that way. There's more days I feel older than my age than I do younger than my age. That's one of the trickier things. And then you add the golf component to it.

As you said, sometimes quick turnarounds, weather delays, those are all things that will certainly test it, and last year playing at Memorial when I had my first weather delay, that was a big moment for me. It seems pretty simple, but it was a big moment because I hadn't taken time off like that and come back and gone full throttle.

You know, being a little bit older and with the back the way it is, these are all -- there's a lot of concerns, and when it comes to what do I need to do to get ready and be ready to go and sometimes the quick turnarounds may be a little bit more difficult.

Q. Just given that you proved at East Lake that you could win again, and then obviously at Augusta that you could win a major again, is the next logical step for you proving that you can dominate again like you did in your younger years? In the context of a lighter schedule and what you just said physically, is that a realistic scenario for you? And if not, why not?
TIGER WOODS: I'm not looking at it like that. I'm just looking at trying to give myself the best chance to win. What I did last year coming back, I didn't really know much because I didn't know how much I was going to play, what my body needed. Equipment, I kept changing equipment because my body kept changing, swing kept changing. After playing those 17 events, I said, that's too much. That's one thing I knew I was going to play less this year. Now, with the condensed schedule, it's proven not to be the case.

Whether I'm dominant or not going forward, that remains to be seen. What I know is I need to give myself the best chance to win the events that I play in, and sometimes that can be taken a little bit more breaks here and there and making sure that I am ready to go and being able to give it my best at those events.

Q. In the last day of the Masters, it was a fantastic win, fantastic day, and I think probably because of the excitement there was some open celebrations of mistakes made by Frankie, balls going into the water, and I don't know your thoughts for this week for the fans going into the week?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, well, Frankie, he hit an 8-iron at 12 and he didn't hit it solid, ended up wet. But Tony hit a great shot. Tony hit it right on his number, right on -- hit the perfect shape, but you could see the wind just hold it up right at its peak, and you could see it get slammed, and that's just enough for it to end up in the water. But he hit a good shot.

As far as this week, this week is going to be a lot of fun with the crowds, the excitement that we've had here the last, what, three events that we've played here. The pairing that I'm involved in. It's going to be just a boatload of fun for all of us.

The fans have certainly shown their rooting interests here over the years and who they want to see play well, and hopefully I'm one of those and can play well at the same time.

Q. You obviously have a history here and have played well in other tournaments, and you mentioned it's a large property, and you mentioned that your swing and your game is different. How are you approaching the way you play this course differently this week compared to when you've played here in the past?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I mean, No. 7 has been lengthened quite a bit since the first time we were here. I remember hitting 3-wood and a 7-iron into that hole. Yesterday I hit driver, 5-wood, and 3-wood and didn't get to the green.

There are more par-4s over 500 yards now than there were then certainly. When we came here in 2002, this was one of the biggest ballparks you've ever seen, and it's only gotten bigger. We used to have the carry the ball over the top there at 9. That's no longer the case.

So there have been some significant changes in length, but when it comes right down to it, if the greens dry out here, this is all the golf course you want because they're pitched just enough where they're going -- you're going to have some tough putts.

Q. With all the people that counted you out and supported you over the years, someone that you really had a great relationship has been Joey LaCava. Just on the golf course and away from the golf course, why have the two of you clicked so well?
TIGER WOODS: That's a great question. Joey, I go back to when I first played with Freddy at the Masters as an amateur. I played with him there, then I played with -- he always played with Raymond, then I played with Freddy and Raymond at Shinnecock and the U.S. Open there, and Joey was one of those guys that said, Hey, ask Raymond this, ask Freddy that. And I was nervous. I was a young little amateur, 19 years old, didn't really know anything.

But he was so great, and as my career has panned on, to have Joey there, for him to have gone, what, 20-some years since Masters was pretty amazing, and for him to have had the stick-to-itiveness to be there through some of my really difficult times, he was great friend. He'd come down, and just to be around.

I was really struggling with being able to walk, and he'd come down, he'd drive the car, he'd help me around the house. He was just an incredible, incredible friend.

Now, our on-course relationship, that's something different. We're very competitive. I believe and still will always believe that LA is better than New York in sports, and we certainly have that disagreement probably every other hole, and we have a good time about it. That's the fun thing about it is that we both are very competitive. We both want to win, and we're going to go out there and try to get it go.

Q. How does the way you feel about your game and your chances compare with the way you felt going into Augusta? And second one would be if you can allow your memory to go back 20 years, how important was it for you to get that second major?
TIGER WOODS: First off, going into the Masters, I felt that my swing had finally turned the corner because I was trying to -- I was trying to make sure that I could hit a high draw and call upon it with driver, 3-wood, 5-wood, any club in the bag, be able to hit that high draw, and I somehow found it. The short game came around, I found something in my grip there, and it just started coming -- pieces started coming together.

Then the week unfolded, and what happened happened.

Going back to winning my second major, that was a big moment because at the time I'd won one major by 12 shots and hadn't won since then, and it was a big deal to get a second major championship and get the numbers to start to accrue. To do it the way I did it, I made a big putt at 17 and made a couple mistakes there. Prior to that with Sergio making birdie on the par-3 and I made double bogey, and a four-shot lead went down to one. To be able to hang in there and somehow get that done, it just helped keep the momentum going from '97 and then not winning anything in '98, and then '99, it just started the momentum, and you can see what happens in 2000, 2001 and 2002. But I think '99 was a big moment to kick start all that transpired.

JON DEVER: Four-time PGA champion, Tiger Woods, thank you.

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