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June 11, 2019

Tiger Woods

Pebble Beach, California

BETH MAJOR: Good afternoon. Welcome again to the 119th U.S. Open Championship. It is my pleasure to welcome this afternoon, nine-time USGA champion, Tiger Woods. Among those nine USGA championships are the three U.S. Opens, 2008, 2002, and of course here in 2000, a 15-stroke victory that we all still continue to marvel at. Can you talk a little bit about, certainly, that win but also coming back to Pebble Beach this week in your third U.S. Open here.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it's crazy. It's been 19 years. I still remember most of the shots I hit that week. It was just one of those weeks where I don't know how I pulled it off, but on seaside poa annua, I never missed a putt inside ten feet for a week. I did the same thing at Torrey, too.

So I've putted on poa greens well, and I grew up on it and did that week. It happened to be a very special week. I made everything. And not only that, I was hitting it well. And when I did miss it, I missed it in all the correct spots. So I had the best angles. And again, to be able to putt on greens this steep and bumpy as they get in the afternoon, and not miss a putt in under ten feet was saying something.

BETH MAJOR: Can you talk a little bit about your preparations coming into this week and how you're feeling coming into the 2019 U.S. Open.

TIGER WOODS: Looking forward to it. It's been a while since we played the U.S. Open here. There's nothing like playing a U.S. Open setup here in the Pebble Beach. The golf course is not overly long. It's not big in that regard, but man, it's tricky. The greens are all slanted, very small targets. And if they ever firm up, then we have a totally different ballgame.

Q. Why did you decide not to play today?
TIGER WOODS: Just a rest day. I did the same thing at Augusta. Just trying to save my energy. More important for me to feel energized than it is to go out there and get wear and tear.

Q. (Indiscernible.)
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it was kind of ironic that he said he called 14. But I'm very happy that I proved him wrong.

Q. Growing up in Southern California, you were obviously familiar with Pebble. When is the first time you played it, and what was your reaction after hearing about it?
TIGER WOODS: Oh, the first time I ever played it I played with Pops. And hard to believe that it was under a hundred bucks to play. So my dad made a vow that he would never, ever play a round of golf where you had to play a hundred bucks or more. So luckily it was still under a hundred bucks then. And we got a chance to play Pebble Beach.

Q. What did you think of the course?
TIGER WOODS: I didn't hit it very far. I must have been nine or ten. It was a long, soft, wet golf course to me. But it was cool to see that the same thing we watch every year in, what, February, see where the pros play. And it was always cool for me to go down to Torrey Pines where they played the Andy Williams or LA, playing the LA Open, to go to Tour sites, and play the Tour sites. That's always a pretty neat thrill as an amateur.

Q. A lot of reminiscing this week. Even though it's been so long, is there anything you can take from that week?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, as I was alluding to earlier, in my opening statement, that I missed the ball in the correct spots. The only real trouble I had, I just happened to catch a gust of wind and ended up making a debacle on No. 3 in my third round.

Other than that, you look at all my angles. I did not hit every green. I did not hit every fairway, but I always had the proper angle. And gave me the best chance to get up-and-down. I poured everything in. Hopefully I can have one of those weeks on the greens again.

Q. As you know, this is the anniversary of Payne Stewart's win at Pinehurst. What are your memories of him as a player and person?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, Payne was one of my mentors when I first came out on Tour. We were always -- usually on the other side of the locker from one another. Payne -- we always had these running needles that we used to give one another. We'd always mess with one another's shoes. Whoever had the late time better bring an extra pair of shoes.

We enjoyed doing that a couple of years on Tour. He hazed me pretty good at Brookline and a few other tournaments that we were all together as a team. And that's what made it fun. He was fun to be around. He was one of the jokesters. And as hard as he gave the needle, he could take it. And that's what made it always fun.

Q. Many thanks for sharing that special memory. Can I ask you, given your specific history here, and considering you're now managing your schedule more than ever, how does it feel to be coming back to this particular venue as the 2019 version of Tiger Woods with a chance to add to your collection of majors?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it's not the same body that I had back in 2000. I don't think any of us have the same body we had 19 years ago. But that is -- athletically, that's one of the challenges. How do you compete against kids that were born -- for me, born in the 2000s? They were born after I won this damn tournament.

So that's what's different, what makes this sport so unique, is that you're able to cross so many different generations.

Andy North and I were walking up No. 6 yesterday, and he said what's really cool is he got a chance to play with Bobby Locke, Gene Sarazen, Hogan, and here he is out here playing with us.

As many generations as it crosses, golf allows us to compete for a very long time. There are guys in their 50s out here playing in this event and kids in their teens. That's one of the beauties of this game. And as I've always said, if you're around for the conversation that long, you've done well.

Q. If we could go back to Augusta for a minute. You finished late on Friday, and coming off the green you looked as happy as I've ever seen you. I'm wondering if you can remember what you were thinking and feeling then?
TIGER WOODS: You know, I really don't. Honestly, I don't think there was any particular thought, just that I was right there in contention.

Q. That's what I was trying to get. Could you already start to feel it building that early in the week after the Friday round?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it started Thursday when I shot 70. That 70 could have been a lot lower. If I could just clean up the rounds, I'd be right there. And I was able to squeak it out.

Q. Tiger, you seem to be putting in a lot of work on the greens. You came back out for some more putting yesterday and then today, as well. Is somebody helping you there?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, Matt's taking a look at my stroke. Putting on poa is very different than putting on bent. And so just trying to make sure that I'm rolling the ball like I need to for poa.

Q. Why is it -- why is it so much easier for you back in the day obviously when you won here, Torrey Pines, you grew up on it, and yet it's seemingly giving you more trouble here the last couple of years?
TIGER WOODS: Just it doesn't take much to get off line on poa. It gets a little bumpy, you happen to catch those little seed heads start popping up, bent sits down, poa perks up. And good putts look like they should go in don't go in. And you may pull one or push one that happens to bounce back in the hole.

The trick to putting on poa is to make sure they're always below the hole. If you're putting downhill, it's like a Plinko effect, you're going to go every which way. The key is to be below the hole where you can take low lines and try and take the bumpiness out of play.

Q. Just curious how much you think Steve Williams can help Jason Day?
TIGER WOODS: Well, Stevie has been around for a very long time, well before my career, and he was with all those years, they won major championships on the Champions Tour. And obviously we won a bunch of tournaments together. He's got a wealth of knowledge. And I think Jason is trying to tap into that and trying to turn his year around.

Q. Since a lot has changed in 19 years, can you talk a little bit about your strategy this time around?
TIGER WOODS: That part really hasn't changed that much. Because of the golf ball is going further than it did back in 2000, I'm slower than I was in 2000. Apples to oranges, I guess you could say. I am about the same distance. And so the golf course really doesn't play that much differently for me. It's just a matter of putting the ball in the right spots. And the only really tricky thing is the USGA moving the fairway on 11 so far to the left. Usually more right and that greenside bunker is more in play. But there are a couple of holes which you can push the ball down and get it down further and try and take some short irons into these things.

Q. Bethpage for a lot of reasons wasn't your best, but do you feel like this as a ballpark, as a golf course is much better suited to your game right now than a place like Bethpage? And did you think that even at the start of the year?
TIGER WOODS: Well, if I feel good, then I feel like I can play any venue. It's just that when I'm stiff and not moving as well, it becomes a little bit more difficult. Now, this week -- we're all going to be playing from virtually the same spots, and especially if it dries out. The longer guys will be hitting a shorter club; the shorter guys will be able to sneak driver down there. We're all playing from the same spots.

Now, how do you put the ball in the correct position is the key. And these greens, we don't face greens like this, this small and this steep. And so it puts a premium on iron play, because I feel like most of the field can drive the ball in the fairways, they're plenty wide, the golf course is not overly long. Where to put the ball in the right spots so you can have putts at it.

Q. We spend a lot of time writing about your pursuit of Jack's record. I'm just wondering at this point in your life and career how important that is to you.
TIGER WOODS: What's important to me is that I'm back playing again. This game was taken away from me for a few years there. And I miss competing, I miss playing. Now I have an opportunity to do that again, and also to be able to share it with my kids. They don't remember me enjoying the game of golf because all they remember is Daddy on the ground in pain.

And so now golf brings me so much joy, they're able to see that. And if it brings a smile to their faces, it brings a smile to my own.

Q. You kind of alluded to this a few times about how you were feeling at Bethpage. What was going on? Were you just physically sick or maybe just not as limber?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, all the above.

Q. You had a cold or something?
TIGER WOODS: I was in rough shape.

Q. I'm sure you watched what happened to Kevin Durant last night. I'm wondering if that reminded you a little bit of what you put yourself through in 2008 to win the U.S. Open. And maybe if you have any thoughts on why athletes in championship moments are willing to risk significant injury to try to pull off what you did, particularly in 2008?
TIGER WOODS: It was sad. As athletes we've all been there to that spot when you just know it, that something just went, and can't move, can't do much of anything. And you can see it on his face, how solemn his face went. He knows it when things pop. You just know.

And I've been there. I've had it to my own Achilles. I've had it to my own back. I know what it feels like. It's an awful feeling. And no one can help you. That's the hard part. And whether he has a procedure going forward or not, or whatever it is, his offseason, what that entails, that's the hardest part about it is the offseason or the rehab.

I mean, if he popped it, then that's six to nine months of rehabbing. That's what people don't see, is all those long hours that really do suck. And why do we do it? Because we're competitors. As athletes our job is to make the human body do something it was never meant to do and to do it efficiently and better than anybody who is doing it at the same time. Well, sometimes things go awry. And we saw it last night with Kevin.

Q. On your short list of things to accomplish, where does the Olympic gold medal place?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, Olympic gold medal would be a hell of a feat. First I need to qualify. It would be exciting if I got a chance to represent the United States in the Olympic Games. I don't know how many more times I get a run at it. Next time I'll be 48. So it's -- I don't have that many chances of playing for the United States in the Olympics. So it will certainly be an honor if I were able to represent the United States.

Q. The rough out here is pretty thick. Is there -- has there been a time in the last year and a half where you've said I better not do what I once was able to do? Are there any limitations that you have in this rough?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I do it all the time. I judge it on each lie and how much force I can put into it and whether I can get away with it. Or sometimes trees are in my way and I've got to slow it down. It's putting on the brakes. It's the massive deceleration. I can accelerate the club as fast as you want, but when the grass decelerates it, then it puts all that training you have to do in the gym on your core and protecting, because that is what's going to happen.

Q. Please compare how good you were feeling about your game before Augusta, before Bethpage, before now, please?
TIGER WOODS: Augusta I was right where I needed to be. I was hitting it high. I could shape it either way, and I could really hit a high hook. I felt very comfortable hitting a high hook with a sand wedge, high hook with a draw, any one of those shots.

And on those greens, to be able to take some of the slope out with curve, even around the greens, spin the ball either left-to-right or right-to-left and flatten those out, it was fun. I had it right where I needed to be.

Bethpage, a different story. I was good going into the week, unfortunately just didn't feel well. And this week I feel like I'm trending in the right direction. I need one more day of prep. I want to see the golf course when it's a little bit closer to game time. I don't want to -- I know they're holding it back. But I just want to see how much are they going to let it go and show us how it's going to be come Thursday.

Q. If you were to compare the course today to 2000, would you say the rough is lower now than it was back then? Because in the videos I've been looking at, you can't even see your shoes.
TIGER WOODS: No, it depends on what spot. Right now I would have to say that it's more clumpy than it was in 2000. In 2000 it was pretty uniform all the way through. Right now they've got some spots where you can draw a good lie. You can get a ball to the green with no problem. And then there's spots where it's just a wedge, hack it out in the fairway and try to get up-and-down from the middle of the fairway. That's probably the biggest difference between uniform and clumpy, between the two years.

Q. About the previous question of Jack's record. To what extent does that figure in your mind, and has that changed at all after Augusta?
TIGER WOODS: If I stay -- if I keep progressing how I am physically and how I'm getting better and better physically the last couple of years, I just need to give myself chances. Hypothetically, let's say I give myself 10 years. That's 40 major championships. That's a lot of majors.

And now the trick is now can I keep myself healthy enough and strong enough and fast enough to endure all that, considering what my body has gone through. And that's where I need help with all my trainers and physios and workout regimes, and hopefully I can make that happen.

Q. Your 20-plus years of contending for these things, when it got down to the back nine, how much time or how much did you study or be aware of your opponent more than the golf course in terms of what they might do right, what they might do wrong? Has that changed over the years?
TIGER WOODS: Well, the person I'm playing with, it's very easy, because they're right in front of me. I can see body language. I can see how well they're hitting it. Okay, some guys may hit the ball in the fairway, may hit the ball in the green, but they've hit two hollow shots. And you know over the course of time they're going to make a mistake.

If you get a guy who's flushing it, then we know that sound, too. He's not going to go away. But as far as looking at the leaderboard and trying to get a feel for that, I've always tried to do that. I've always tried to understand who's up there, what hole they're on, what are the chances, what pin locations are there, what are the chances of them making birdie on certain holes, what do I need to do coming up.

Yeah, I'm always trying to get a real-world feel for what is going on at times.

Q. That must have been different at Augusta. I can't recall another major you won where there were that many possibilities over the last hour?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, there were a ton of possibilities. And the fact that Augusta is -- they do things their own way. So you would have to look at the leaderboard and hear the roars as they posted numbers. And normally -- I'm sorry, not -- now we're able to have people yell from the gallery that somebody made a bogey two holes in front of us because they're on their phones. In Augusta you're listening for roars and people putting the names up and hear the oohs and aahs. That's very different from any other tournament.

BETH MAJOR: Tiger, thank you so much for joining us today. Look forward to watching you this week.

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