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November 10, 2020

Tiger Woods

Augusta, Georgia

THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, it is always such a great pleasure to welcome back to the media center, our now five‑time green jacket winner and defending Masters Champion, Mr.Tiger Woods. Tiger, thank you for spending the time with us for a few minutes here in the media.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, thanks, Rob.
THE MODERATOR: 19 months ago, Tiger Woods decisively showed the world what determination and grit and resiliency can accomplish with winning his fifth green jacket.
And the scene on 18 that Sunday, with you embracing your children, and the thousands of Patrons chanting your name was seen by many, if not most, that this was probably one of the most remarkable, exceptional comeback victories in all of sport. Would you take us back to Sunday, April 14th, as you're getting ready to tee up‑‑
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I'm getting chills about it, yeah.
THE MODERATOR: ‑‑ on Round 4, two back, and what the range of emotion was during that round.
TIGER WOODS: Well, it was just a fight and a grind, and just trying to hang in there, trying to make a dent in the lead. Frankie basically had control of it, and then No. 12 happened and everything flipped. And you know, a few guys hit the ball in the water there. I didn't. Made par there. Birdied 13. Birdied 15, 16.
That was one of the most‑‑ I'm still getting chills just thinking about it ‑‑ feelings, coming up 18, and knowing that all I have to do is just two‑putt that little 15‑footer and to see my family there and my mom and my kids and all of the people that helped support me or were there for me in the tough times, and I was walking up there trying not to lose it, and still saying, hey, I've still got to two‑putt this.
Then I walked off the back of the green, to see Charlie there, just opened up our arms, it meant a lot to me and still does. It just reminded me so much of me and my dad, and to come full circle like that, it stills gives me‑‑ you know, a little teary.
THE MODERATOR: This year marks the 25th anniversary of your first appearance in the Masters.
TIGER WOODS: (Chuckling.)
THE MODERATOR: Any thoughts or memories you'd like to share about that first visit?
TIGER WOODS: I got a chance to play on Wednesday with Jack and Arnold, and you know, at the time, I was a little punk college student, and we're playing for some skins, and I didn't have any cash in my pocket, and you know, Arnold makes a putt on 18. Takes all the skins away from us. And Jack and Arnold asked me, "Hey, do you want to go play the Par‑3 Contest?"
I said, "Well, I'm scheduled to go later."
"Hey, just follow us."
Went over with them, went to the Par‑3 Contest, and we played together, and that was awesome. You know, that was one of the most incredible memories I think that I've ever had, and the story that I always tell all the amateurs I've ever played with, on No. 1, I putted off the green on my first hole. Putted right in the gallery. Played with Ollie and chipped it back up and made the putt there, made a hell of a bogey. Then just pumped it right over the top of the bunker on 2 to start my Masters.

Q. Because of the unique circumstances in the world, you've been the reigning Masters Champion for an unprecedented 19 months. What's that experience been like?
TIGER WOODS: It's not how I wanted to retain the jacket for this long. Obviously this has been an unprecedented circumstance we're all dealing with. It's been incredible to have the jacket and to have it around the house and to share with people, but to have it this long, it's not the way I want to have it. I wanted to earn it back in April, but obviously we didn't have that.
But we had an opportunity to play this week, which, you know, early in the year, we didn't think we would have this opportunity. We are all very fortunate to be able to compete, and tonight, and, well, this whole day, is awfully special.
I may never have the opportunity to take the jacket off property again, and so this means a lot to me today, and to have this opportunity to have the Champions Dinner and to be able to host it tonight with all the guys that are here, it's going to be awfully special for me.

Q. Six events since the restart. I'm guessing you're probably not happy with your results.
TIGER WOODS: (Nodding.)

Q. Can you pinpoint what's been missing? What's kept you from contending?
TIGER WOODS: Well, you know, it's been either‑‑ I haven't put all the pieces together at the same time, whether it's I've driven well or hit my irons poorly. Or I've put the ball‑striking together, and I haven't putted well. And then I've had it where I've putted well and I've hit it poorly.
It's just been, I haven't put together at the same time. I haven't played a lot, obviously. You mentioned I only played six events.
But it's been gearing up for the major championships and trying to understand what we have to deal with, you know, this year with COVID and trying to be safe, and I was hesitant to come back and start playing, and that's why I waited as long as I did and came back at Memorial. From there, I really haven't‑‑ as I said, I haven't put all the pieces together, and hopefully that will be this week.

Q. Statistically, you look over your career, the first round has not really been‑‑ your numbers are pretty pedestrian, when you look at all your big rounds, a second, third and clearly the fourth. You've broken 70 once I think in the first round. Do you have a mind‑set here? Do you just ease yourself into the tournament or‑‑ I don't know‑‑
TIGER WOODS: You know, Jim, I wish I could pinpoint it and tell you what it is, but I have not historically started off well here.
I think the times I have shot 70 in that first round, I've gone on to win a few of them (smiling). It's just one of those weird things I haven't put together, and the second and thirds round were usually where I made my hay and got myself back into the event or taken the lead in the event.
Hopefully this year will be a little different and I can shoot a little better score and get off to a better start.

Q. A lot of talk about Honorary Starters this week. 30 years from now, it's probably going to be you and Phil. How does that make you feel thinking about that?
TIGER WOODS: You said 30 years from now? That's a long time. You know, the fact that I had an opportunity to watch Byron Nelson and Sam Snead tee off there, and to see even Jack and Arnold and Gary, and now to have Lee start next year, whether it's Phil and I down the road or whatever it may be, it's up to the Chairman, and it's an honor; you start off the Masters. Hopefully that will be us one day, and I'll be hitting bombs past him.

Q. In this unusual situation, it took 19 months to come back to Augusta, and now you will six months until your next Masters. How do you prepare for that mentally and physically?
TIGER WOODS: Well, this year's Masters, it's different. We've never played it in the fall. The grass is different. The conditions are different. The run‑up to this event is different. Normally we have the Florida Swing and gear up for the Masters.
This year is very different, and it's a quick turnaround time; the fact that Augusta National is going to host the next two major championships is awfully special for all of us who have the opportunity to play, and fortunately I won this event, so I get to keep coming back.

Q. You're able to talk about two decades of experience and pull stories like playing with Jack and Arnie back then, but you're also the defending champion. Where do you feel like you are on that continuum, certainly not a ceremonial player, but do you expect to contend here for this week and years to come, or are you past that point where its annual possible?
TIGER WOODS: Do I expect to contend? Yes, I do. I mean, you look at Freddie and Bernhard, they are in their 60s and they seem to contend. Jack contended here when he was, what, 58, or 56, 58, whatever it was.
It can be done. This is a golf course in which having an understanding how to play and where to miss it and how to hit the shots around here, it helps. The golf course keeps getting longer. It gets a little bit more difficult as I've gotten older and I don't quite hit it as far.
When I first came here, it was a lot of drivers and a lot of wedges. Now it's a little bit different and a little bit longer clubs into the holes, but still understanding how to play it definitely helps. That's one of the reasons why you see past champions, like I mentioned Freddie and Bernhard, to be able to contend so late in their careers, and hopefully I'll be one of those guys.

Q. Your win last year was so dramatic, right, and meant so much to you, to the game, so memorable on so many levels, and a big part of that is the galleries and the fans and the way they lift you and root for you?

Q. I know this is hypothetical, but do you think you‑‑ you're playing this year without them. Could you have won it without them? Is it going to be very strange for you this year not having them? Did they help you last year?
TIGER WOODS: Absolutely they did. They helped me win. The support that I had, the energy that was around the property, it was electric that day.
We all miss the energy of the crowds. And yes, this year is going to be very different. It's going to be stark in what we see, our sights into the greens, the energy that you hear from different roars, from different parts of the golf course. I mean, you're on the putting green up on 1 and you can hear eagles down on 13. That's what this tournament is all about, and we're not going to have that this year. It's going to be very different.
It's one that none of us have ever experienced. So we're all going to go through it together at the same time and it's going to be a very different experience, and you know, hopefully one that I can figure it out and be able to replicate what I did last year.

Q. After you won the Masters last year, you told us that you had found something, you had found your swing coming into the Masters to be able to hit the draws and shape the shots. Have you found that this year coming into it, and basically what do you think about the state of your game right now?
TIGER WOODS: I was working on a few of the things that I was working on last year coming into the event, being able to hit a high draw. My body is feeling better than I did last year, so it was a little bit easier to hit those shots. You know, hopefully this year, I'll be as consistent as I was last year. You know, last year, I was able to hit a lot of really good iron shots and I putted great. I had a great feel of the greens.
Today, I did a little bit of work on the greens, just like I did last year. I took Tuesday off and didn't play. Tried to get a feel for the greens, and the greens were a little bit slower than I had expected. But you know, with the rains coming up and the forecast, you just never know.
That's one of the neat things about trying to figure this tournament out is Wednesday to Thursday, this golf course changes a lot and what the committee does. Hopefully I get the same feel as I did last year and put it all together.

Q. Going back to 1995, your caddie that day, a local gentleman, said that he asked about you playing with one sleeve of balls, and he was concerned about that. And after the round, you handed him two fresh, unused balls.

Q. And you played one. Do you remember that? Looks like you might. Anything about your relationship with that particular caddie on that day?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I didn't really‑‑ as I said, in college, I really didn't have a whole lot of golf balls. I didn't really switch golf balls that often. That's what amateurs do. We played with balata balls and we hopefully don't hit the ball in the water and we're able to keep it for the entire day.
Do I remember those exact details? No. But that definitely sounds like me. I haven't been one that really switches balls that often. You know, especially then, as I said, when you're in college, we get‑‑ our coach would give us, what, a dozen balls per event. Otherwise, we didn't have any new balls.
So yeah, you saved them.

Q. You Tweeted your delight about Lee Elder being named an Honorary Starter in 2021. Can you speak to the announcement yesterday and your relationship with Lee?
TIGER WOODS: Well, Lee was a pioneer. He was the one that broke the color barrier here and paved the way for players of color like myself to be able to play this event. It's ironic that he did it in '75, I was born in '75, and when I won in '97, he was on the back of the green.
So to have him here yesterday and to be able to see him and have him as our Honorary Starter, it's awfully special and important in the history of the event, but also for me personally, it's probably even more special.

Q. With all the restrictions around, who are you able to have with you here this week?
TIGER WOODS: I have my girlfriend and Rob, and so that's it.

Q. Just with regard to Bryson, I'm wondering how much you see what's going on with him as a flashback to when you came on the scene in'97, with all the length and everyone is trying to catch up to you, and what your fascination is about what he's done to transform himself where he's at right now?
TIGER WOODS: Well, back then, there wasn't the technology to optimize our tee shots and optimize the driver yet. We were just coming out of basically the persimmon days and coming into metal. More guys were switching over to graphite instead of steel. The wound ball was very spinny, and heads were very small, so it was important to hit the ball in the middle of the face.
Well, I happened to have speed and I happened to hit the ball in the middle of the face and was able to have a little bit of an advantage over the guys. But now you have the ability to optimize one club, and to be able to use that driver as a weapon, to hit it basically as for as you possibly can, we just didn't have the technology to be able to optimize that.
And Bryson has‑‑ he's put in the time. He's put in the work. What he's done in the gym has been incredible and what he's done on the range and what he's done with his entire team to be able to optimize that one club and transform his game and the ability to hit the ball as far as he has and in as short a span as he has, it's never been done before.
You know, I had speed, and as you say, in'97, I hit it far. As I got bigger and I filled out and tried to get stronger, it was to not hit the ball further. It was to be more consistent and to be able to practice longer. Actually I got a little bit shorter as I got into my mid 20s and late 20s. Probably the most speed I ever had, I was 20 years old. So 21, I still had a little bit more speed, but as I got a little bit bigger, I didn't hit it as far, but I got better.
What Bryson has done has been absolutely incredible, and we have all been amazed at what he's been able to do in such a short span of time; it's never been done before.

Q. There's a lot of shots around this golf course that can make a player a little uncomfortable. Where does the tee shot around 12 rank and why is that hole so confounding?
TIGER WOODS: Well, some of you guys were out there yesterday watching us play, and at the time we had it into the wind off the left, and I was debating about hitting an 8‑iron, and then it switched and I was going to hit a wedge, and then hit 9‑iron, and that was only in a practice round.
I've hit wedge to the front left pin. I've also hit 6‑iron to that hole. It's been one of those holes where you can't‑‑ there's no other hole that's like that. As simple as it looks, a simple little, as I said, wedge to 7‑iron, but it's amazing what pressure will do, what the angle of the green and that just determine the shots that we've hit. I've done it. I've hit the ball in the water, I've hit the ball in the bunker, I've hit in the bushes. I've been everywhere on that hole.
So, yes, it's one of those confounding holes that you just really can't explain.

Q. Just going back to last year, obviously very important to you for a number of reasons. You've had a lot of highlights in your career, and naming one win that's more important than another would be like asking somebody to name their favorite child. Is it possible to rank what last year meant to you?
 A.Well, I think that '97 was probably the one that stands out, obviously, but with my dad and his heart surgery and coming to the Masters and winning my first major and the way I did it, but last year was more emotional in a different way just because of the struggles I've had and I had never, ever won a major coming from behind.
And here I am in a threesome, which we had never done before on the final day, and we've never teed off that early. These were all a lot of‑‑ never happened before.
My kids were there, and it was just so special and so emotional in a different way. As I said, to come full circle from me being with my dad and seeing my son there and the same embrace, 22 years apart, pretty good bookends.

Q. You mentioned course knowledge and how important it is out here. Phil had a funny anecdote where he was saying to Justin Thomas that once Phil is done competitively, he's going to share a bunch of stuff that would make Justin borderline unbeatable. Are you going to have to wait till you're done competing out here to share knowledge on how to play this golf course?
TIGER WOODS: Well, first of all, he's never going to share that (laughing). We share tidbits as former‑‑ sorry, as past champions, but also we keep a few things, too.
You know, I had the opportunity to, as I said, play with Arnold and Jack, and they were fantastic. I've been able to play here with Seve and with Raymond and the short game stuff that they have shared with me over the years, but also, they held a few things back.
But also, then again, that's all the years of experience and playing under different conditions and different experiences, different circumstances. That's just something also that you have to go through. There's only been one first‑time participant champion. That was, what, Fuzzy in'79. It just doesn't usually happen. It takes a little bit of time to understand how to play it, play practice rounds with the guys, pick their brains, but also we keep a few things.

Q. You referenced the Champions Dinner tonight. What is your favorite memory from all the past Champions Dinners?
TIGER WOODS: To see Gene Sarazen and Sam Snead, and drinking milkshakes, that was awesome. Just to hear the stories of all the guys over the years. The stuff that we say in the dinners stays between us, and that's the most awesome part about it is we keep it in‑house and keep it within the family.
They are awesome stories and a lot of things I can't say here that have been said, but they are awesome.

Q. Can you talk about how different it's going to be teeing off on No. 10 to start your week and how that might change the way you play that nine?
TIGER WOODS: Never been done before. I think when Jack finished in his last Masters, he had to tee off on 10 and finished coming up 9. You know, this whole year has been very different for all of us. For us to be able to have the ability to have this event and play this event early in the year, we weren't looking like we were going to have this opportunity. The fact that we had an opportunity to be able to play; the fact that we are going off two tees, I think it's irrelevant. The fact that we have the opportunity to be able to play and compete for the Masters again, is an awesome opportunity.

Q. Obviously it looks as great as it ever does, but it sounds like it's going to play a little different. You were up here a week or so ago and now again. What's different? Is it there's more bermuda, and what does that mean? How will that affect you?
TIGER WOODS: Yes, there is a lot of bermuda around the greens and the golf course in general. The rye is a little spotty in places and the ball is settling down a little bit. General around the greens, we have the ability to play bump‑and‑runs or play more spinning golf shots. That's going to be a little different this year. The ball is going to be popping up on us a little bit and rolling out.
It is different. I have been up here in the fall a few times and have played it, and it's been like this. But we've never played a Masters like this. So it's going to be very different for all of us, and some of the shots around the greens are going to be a lot more challenging than they have been in the past.
They are trying to figure it out. Especially with the forecast we have coming in, it's going to be a little bit more fuzzy around the greens, and some of the shots, some of the guys have switched wedges this week and gone to more bounce to try and figure this out. It's going to be challenging for all of us.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you, Tiger, very much. We wish you the very best of luck this week.

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