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July 16, 2019

Tiger Woods

Portrush, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom

MIKE WOODCOCK: We're joined in the interview room by the three-time champion golfer of the year and current Masters champion, Tiger Woods.

Welcome. Last year at Carnoustie at The Open there was a wave of excitement, of electricity, that went around the venue when you got into the lead on the Sunday afternoon. How much would you like to recreate that this year and go one step further?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it would be great to be in that position. I thought the tournament, whether I was going to win or lose the tournament, came down to the 9th hole coming out of that bunker there, and I pulled it off. And eventually screwed up the next two holes. There went my Open Championship.

But that's -- it was my first time there in contention with the chance to win a major championship in a very long time. And I learned a lot. I applied what I learned at Bellerive. Didn't make that many mistakes, shot a great final round just wasn't good enough to chase down Brooksie. And then at Augusta just kind of put it all together and was just very patient.

MIKE WOODCOCK: And this is obviously a very special week here at Royal Portrush with The Open returning here after nearly 70 years. How much of you conscious of that, being such a historic occasion. >

TIGER WOODS: It's amazing that it hasn't been here in such a long period of time. I know that The R&A has a deal where we go back and forth from Scotland to England. This is just a wonderful golf course. It can play so many different ways, depends on the wind, what it does. Some of the bunkers here, you wonder why in the hell is it there. And then all of a sudden it's in play.

The difference between this layout versus most of the Open rota layouts is that the ball seems to repel around the greens a lot. You're going to have a lot of either bump-and-run chips, chips, or quite a bit of slow putts coming up the hills. But it's an unbelievable golf course.

Q. When the weather gets a little bit chillier, as it might later this week, what adjustments do you try to make either before rounds or while you're on the course just to try to limit the effect that has on your body and your play?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it's just part of, unfortunately, dealing with the procedures I've had, and being a little bit older. It just doesn't move quite as fast when it's a little bit cooler.

But the great thing is playing in an Open Championship, you can do it. Look what Tom did at Turnberry, what Greg did at Birkdale. The golf course is fast enough, even if you're -- you don't have the speed to carry the ball 20 yards anymore, you can still run the ball quite a bit out there. You just have to navigate the bunkers and navigate around the golf course. And that's true, that's understanding how to play an Open Championship.

Q. I just wanted to ask you about the schedule changes for this year on the Tour. The fact that you're playing five tournaments in four months because of all the majors and how you approach the majors. Are you happy with this kind of schedule or would you like something to change?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I mean, as I was describing to you last year, I played too much; I played 17 events. And a lot of it was trying to qualify for certain events, trying to get into the playoffs, trying to qualify for Akron. It was just trying to build a schedule, to get me where my World Golf ranking would get me up there where I'd be in the World Golf Championships and some of the bigger events where I didn't need an exemption into the Masters -- not into the Masters, into the U.S. Open.

So this year I made a conscious effort to cut back on my schedule to make sure that I don't play too much. I want to play here as long as I possibly can. And you have to understand, if I play a lot, I won't be out here that long.

So it's understanding how much I can play, prepping how much I do at home and getting ready. And that's the tricky part is trying to determine how much tournament play I need to get the feel for the shots and also understanding where my body is.

Q. (Inaudible.)
TIGER WOODS: It's just different. I know I've heard a lot of players comment that you get into a rhythm of playing in major championships. For me this is the first time. Normally THE PLAYERS Championship is in May or now it's moved back to March, and there's usually a gap. And when I first started playing on Tour, don't you remember we used to end in the first week in November.

It was a very long season. You could plan three- to four-week breaks, and generally that's what I did. I usually took three to four weeks off after the Masters. I took three to four weeks after The Open Championship to make sure I was ready for the fall.

This schedule is a little bit different. I'm trying to figure it out and trying to play enough golf to where that I can compete and win events.

Q. The Wednesday before the Masters you said your game was exactly where you wanted it to be. Where is your game right now?
TIGER WOODS: It's not quite as sharp as I'd like to have it right now. My touch around the greens is right where I need to have it. I still need to get the ball -- the shape of the golf ball a little bit better than I am right now, especially with the weather coming in and the winds are going to be changing. I'm going to have to be able to cut the ball, draw the ball, hit at different heights and move it all around.

Today it was a good range session. I need another one tomorrow. And hopefully that will be enough to be ready.

Q. What's your reception been like in Northern Ireland and who has been your tour guide?
TIGER WOODS: The people have been absolutely fantastic. They're so respectful. We used to come over here all the time and fish with the late Payne Stewart and O'Meara and I, and we used to go fishing all around Ireland and play golf and enjoy coming over here and playing.

I've never been this far north. Royal County Down is the furthest north I've ever been. This is new to me.

Tour guide-wise, I haven't had a lot of time. Tomorrow -- normally I take Wednesday off, so tomorrow I'll look around a little bit and see a few things.

Q. I remember this time last year you were asked whether The Open was your best chance of winning another major and it seems like a stupid question after you won the Masters. Do you still feel that an Open Championship and the challenges of links golf as you get further into your 40s will offer you the best chance of more majors?
TIGER WOODS: It does. It allows the players that don't hit the ball very far or carry the ball as far to run the golf ball out there. And plus, there is an art to playing links golf. It's not -- okay, I have 152 yards, bring out the automatic 9-iron and hit it 152. Here, 152 could be a little bump-and-run pitching wedge. It could be a chip 6-iron. It could be a lot of different things.

So the more I've played over here and played under different conditions, being able to shape the golf ball both ways and really control trajectory, it allows you to control the ball on the ground. And as we know, it's always moundy. And it's hard to control the ball on the ground.

But being able to control it as best you possibly can in the air to control it on the ground allows the older players to have a chance to do well in The Open Championship.

Q. With the amount you've played the course, do you feel like you've gotten to know it well enough to get around it in a way you'll be satisfied with? And then also you said it's unbelievable. Where do you see this course on the Open rota, if you were to rank it?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think that I've seen enough of it to understand that I'm still going to have to do quite a bit of homework in my yardage book of trying to figure out how I'm going to play each hole with the different winds that are going to be predicted to blow and where to miss the golf ball in the correct spots.

I just think that this venue, it's just amazing it's been this long that it's taken for us to come back here. It's such a great venue. Everyone who's played it, whether it's guys who grew up here or people who have come up here and just have played, they've always enjoyed it. They've always enjoyed playing this golf course.

And I can understand why. It's straightforward. It is tricky a little bit here and there, but overall it's just a wonderful links golf course.

Q. Three months on now since the Masters, have you found that winning that tournament took a lot out of you? And regardless of the physical challenges that you have faced since, have you also found that maybe getting back up to that level is a bigger challenge than you might have thought to try to scale that mountain again?
TIGER WOODS: Well, getting myself into position to win the Masters was -- it took a lot out of me. That golf course puts so much stress on the system.

Then if you look at that leaderboard after Francesco made the mistake at 12, it seemed like 7, 8 guys had a chance to win the golf tournament with only, what, six holes to play. And so it became very crowded.

A lot of different scenarios happened. I was reading the leaderboard all the time trying to figure out what the number is going to be, who is on what hole. And it took quite a bit out of me.

Seeing my kids there, they got a chance to experience The Open Championship last year after their dad took the lead, and then made a few mistakes. And this time they got to see me win a major championship. Charlie was too young to remember when I won in Akron. And Sam was, what, one, when I won at Torrey. So it was special for us as a family.

My mom was still around. She was there, '97, my dad was there, and now my kids were there. So it was a very emotional week and one that I keep reliving. It's hard to believe that I pulled it off and I end up winning the tournament.

Q. Knowing what you know about the rota this year, how will this affect your schedule next year?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it's trying to figure out what is the best way to go about it. Some of the guys have decided to play quite a bit in the fall and get their number up so they don't have to play as much in the spring and the summer, and save themselves for the playoffs. Other players have taken a different approach.

I'm probably more in line on a Steve Stricker approach. But I learned last year I played a little bit too much, the body was pretty beat up. And after I won in Atlanta, you saw what I did at the Ryder Cup, and I was worn out. And unfortunately my -- I didn't contribute to the team at all in points and we end up losing.

Q. Tiger, two quick things: Physically is there anything that you're dealing with at the moment maybe outside the norm? How do you feel?
TIGER WOODS: Anything outside the norm? No (laughter).

Q. And secondly, and you touched on this a little before. There wouldn't have been too many major venues that you hadn't played before. How does that impact your preparation? What specific changes do you have to do when it comes to how much extra time, that sort of thing?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it does take a lot of time because we have to do quite a bit of homework trying to figure out what the best lines are.

Joey has done just an unbelievable job of getting numbers. He's gone out a number of different times because he knows the weather is going to change, the wind is going to change. Our carries are going to be different. Our ending numbers are going to be different. So trying to figure all that out and then put together a game plan that's going to work.

Last year it was hot, it was fiery, the golf course was quick. A lot of players tried to take advantage of it by hitting driver. I played a different game and tried to play a little more of a conservative, controlled game and put myself up there with a chance.

This year with the weather coming in it's going to be different because we haven't faced this wind yet. The wind has been out of the north, it's been out of the east. And it will be different when it comes blowing.

Q. There will be a few guys here this week with good local knowledge, the likes of Darren, G-Mac and Ricky Elliott. I wonder if you've been getting any advice from those guys?
TIGER WOODS: No, I have not.

Tell you a funny story. I texted Brooksie, congratulations on another great finish. What he's done in the last four major championships has been just unbelievable. To be so consistent, so solid. He's been in contention to win each and every Major Championship. And I said, Hey, dude, do you mind if I tag along and play a practice round? I've heard nothing (laughter).

Q. I just wonder where tournament golf and majors in particular now fit in the life and times of Tiger Woods in relation to the rest of your life here, your foundation? Your family is obviously very important, your business interests. Is it still No. 1 in your life?
TIGER WOODS: No, it never has been. Golf has been a part of my life, something I have done pretty much my entire life but it's never been the most important thing in my life. Mom and dad and my kids have been the most important things in my life. That hasn't changed.

The biggest changes for me is that it's exciting to be able to come back and play championship golf again. I didn't think I could. And to be able to do it again and then come as close as I've come in major championships and have won one just makes it that much more special.

Q. After all the time off that you took before the PGA Championship, the way that the temperature worked out it was body and golf course. I don't know which one was harder then. But I'm curious for this week with the way that the temperature is going to be, all the time that you've taken off, which will be a bigger challenge for you this week, your body or the golf course and conditions?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think the way -- let's go back to the PGA. The PGA was set up so that it was more advantageous to bomb it. The guys who hit it long and were up there. Look at Brooks, what he was doing, DJ, what he did at the end. It was set up more for those type of players.

When you come to an Open Championship it's set up for anyone. Anyone can roll the ball on the ground. You don't have to hit the ball very far. You can actually hear it land and still roll it out there far enough. It opens up the field. The only difference is that when you come over here it's understanding how to play on the ground. It's a very different game. And chipping is different. The lies are tighter.

Guys are changing their wedges all the time trying to go less bounce, trying not to get the skid like they normally would. Quite a few guys have put in 1-irons and 2-irons into the golf bag to try and drive the golf ball.

You make a few changes here and there on equipment but it opens up for anyone to win this championship because it's not overly long. It's not going to be -- even the long holes that are 474, 475, they may be into the wind, you can still utilize the ground and run the ball up on the green, two putt for 40 feet, move on, and it's a moot point.

Q. And your body in these conditions?

Q. Temperature-wise.
TIGER WOODS: Temperature-wise I'm fine, I'm good to go.

Q. There's a real party atmosphere here at Portrush. How would you celebrate later in the week if you were to lock up another Claret Jug?
TIGER WOODS: I've got a few days to work on that part. Let's take it one step at a time.

Q. Have you had a sip of the local Guinness here in Portrush?
TIGER WOODS: This week? No, not this week. In the past...um.

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

TIGER WOODS: Thank you guys.

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