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December 11, 2007

Tiger Woods


JOE CHEMYCZ: We welcome Tiger Woods to our interview area for the Target World Challenge presented by Countrywide. Earlier today the PGA TOUR announced, Tiger, that you were voted the 2007 PGA TOUR Player of the Year, the ninth time in 11 years. And with that some of the highlights include seven PGA TOUR wins this year, your 13th major victory coming at the PGA Championship; winner of the inaugural FedExCup with wins in two of the three starts in the PGA TOUR playoffs; tied your own record for adjusted scoring average, 67.79 in a single season; 61 career victories on the PGA TOUR, which is fifth all-time.
Again, congratulations on being voted Player of the Year by your peers. I know it's always an honor, especially when it comes from the guys you play with.
TIGER WOODS: Thanks. It's been a great year. Overall, I mean, to get obviously the wins and get the respect of your peers, that's always what you want to have happen. This year was just a fantastic year on the golf course and even better off the golf course.
This year we're excited to host the Target World Challenge here again at Sherwood. Everyone is just as fired up as can be. The golf course is in fantastic shape. Our learning center has been doing fantastic things. We've had about 16,000 kids that have gone through the learning center now since it's been opened, which is forecasted probably twice as much as what we thought. Actually we've exceeded our forecast by twice as much, which has been incredible. Overall we couldn't have had better things happen to the foundation and looking forward to another great week.
JOE CHEMYCZ: This is the ninth year for the Target World Challenge, the eighth year at Sherwood Country Club, and again, the proceeds benefit the Tiger Woods Foundation, and I know that makes you very proud.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, we couldn't have had things happen as good as we've had it over the last ten years. It's been absolutely incredible to have 10 million kids in our Start Something program, and obviously the inception of our learning center and then all the kids who have benefited from that.
We've been able to reach so many kids it's been absolutely incredible.
JOE CHEMYCZ: And the one thing here, over the years, three wins, three seconds, nearly $5.6 million, and in this day and age it's hard to imagine, but you continue to donate your winnings and all of the proceeds that you get here back to your foundation, and that's something to be congratulated, and I know everyone appreciates that.

Q. Having been off competitively for so long, what's your biggest concern? And also, what's the coolest thing you've found out about the young one?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think being off for this long, any time you take time off, just getting back into the competitive flow, just the rhythm of playing a round of golf, it's totally different when you play at home. You can have all the money games you want, you can play with everything on the line, but it's just a little bit different when you get out here and play a tournament.
Hopefully I'll find it fairly soon. Hopefully it doesn't take five, six, seven, eight holes to find it. Hopefully I'll find it in the first two holes and get rolling from there.
But as far as having time off and being at home with Elin and Sam, it's been incredible to see how fast they change, how fast they grow, just the little things. You appreciate the little things, and I think that's the most important thing.

Q. If you look at just your performance on the course, you have one fewer win this year, one less major, and yet it looked like it was a pretty good year if not better than the year before. I wonder if you could just square with that, why the numbers would show last year --
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I think it was a better year this year, even though I didn't quite -- I had a chance probably -- a great chance to win three of the four majors this year. I finished second in two of them. I was just a few shots away from basically doing what I did in 2000, the number of seconds I had, it wasn't that far away. What did I finish, second to Phil, and then the two major championships. If I get those done, get those squared away, people would probably be comparing it to 2000 if not better.

Q. When you do come close like you did at Oakmont and other situations like that, I think you said that you'll go back and reassess what you did that week. What was that process like and what did you find out from it?
TIGER WOODS: Frustrating because I thought I played well enough to win the championship, and that's one of the most frustrating things. I didn't capitalize on my opportunities, like at Augusta I did not finish the last two holes well. What did I play them, like 3-over or 5-over par in three days -- no, 4-over par in two days. I bogeyed 17 and 18 both Friday and Saturday. You can't do that and expect to win a major championship.
And then what I did on Saturday at the Open, not capitalizing on the best ball-striking round I had in any of the four majors, and I wind up with -- what did I shoot, even par or 1-under, something like that? That was a day I could have taken the lead and separated myself a little bit, and I didn't do that.

Q. You talked about fatherhood and the changes, and they come so quickly. What have you noticed? What's been the most fun? Is she talking at all or --
TIGER WOODS: No, not yet. She's only five and a half months.

Q. The recognition factor I would assume, and what do you do at home? Just goofing around or what?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I think the greatest thing is no matter how rough a night it is, sleep-wise, just seeing her smile in the morning, you forget everything. You hear that from a lot of parents, but until you actually get to experience it yourself and actually feel it, then you truly do appreciate it.

Q. I was just wondering, given your business interests in Dubai, whether you could ever envision maybe a couple Tour stops and maybe picking up your European Tour card for '09 since they're adding that big tournament on the back end.
TIGER WOODS: That's a good question. I've contemplated that since basically '99 and since I started going over to Europe and playing over there in Europe. I started playing in Germany, I believe, in '99. I've always been one or two short of keeping my status over there, and there's really no way I can keep up the commitment level that I have by playing that much golf on both sides of the continent and all the things that I have to deal with at a venue. It tends to wear you out a little bit.

Q. Switching gears a little bit to talk about the foundation and the learning center and stuff. Now that you're more involved in that with the passing of your father and looking at a new learning center in D.C. and other areas like that, how much does golf actually take part for you? I mean, how much of a factor does that define you by with all the other things that are going on? Is golf just a venue for other things?
TIGER WOODS: Well, golf has always been a vehicle so I could touch others and help kids and make sure that they get to feel and experience the things that -- the lucky opportunities that I've had in my life. I've had mentors in my life, I've had people take an interest in me when I could have easily gone down the wrong path, but they've made sure I've stayed on the straight and narrow. Not everyone has that type of support. We're here to do that.
What golf allows me to do is to do that more on a global scale, there's no doubt, because obviously the recognizability that I've had now, we're able to get more sponsors, more people contributing more dollars, hence we can do more things to help more people.

Q. Some of the programs you have at the learning center, does that sort of help bring out the inner geek in you?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I've always been a little bit nerdy, I guess. That's one of the reasons I guess I went to Stanford. I enjoy the challenge of academics, always have. I enjoy that side of it, and I enjoy analyzing and thinking through the process of trying to figure things out. If you look at the subjects that we offer at the learning center, actually it's not necessarily me, it's actually the kids, they create the curriculum, and it's our responsibility to go ahead and make sure that they are able to be exposed to everything within that subject matter. That's been a task for us but also a fun task, and the people at our learning center, the staff, has been absolutely incredible. From Kathy on down, they've done just a fantastic job of seeing to that.

Q. Welcome back home. I have a question for you -- two of them. First was all, your schedule in early '08, do you plan on playing at Riviera this year?
TIGER WOODS: I haven't looked at my schedule yet for next year. As soon as this tournament is over, within the next week after this tournament, I'll figure out what my schedule will be for my run up to Augusta and making sure I get all the tournaments in that I need to get ready and prepare and make sure everything is on schedule for that.

Q. I just wanted to ask you, your season last year, I was looking at the stats, I think you three-putted 1.9 percent of your greens, which was fifth on TOUR. The previous year you were 116th on TOUR. How in the world do you do that against these kind of players?
TIGER WOODS: Just practice.

Q. Anything specific you focus on?
TIGER WOODS: You know, I had to make so many changes over the past few years with Hank, and multiple changes were all swing changes. I just didn't devote as much time as I needed to to putting, like I normally do. There weren't enough hours in the day really. Once those fundamentals started to become more solidified, I was then able to work on my short game and my putting and that started coming around.

Q. Heading into the season, what are some of the tweaks and changes you've made swing-wise, approach-wise, getting ready to go to LA?
TIGER WOODS: You know, I haven't really done much. I worked a little bit on my short game on some of the things that I found a little bit lacking last year and just tried to basically -- as I started back practicing for this event, try and capture the things that I was feeling towards the end of last season and making sure those feelings were still there.
After this event as I start getting ready for next year, then I'll start to probably work on a couple more things that I need to work on.

Q. The list of players who chase you in the rankings is long. Do you feel like you've been able to increase that gap or do you think the gap is getting a little bit closer?
TIGER WOODS: Well, that's a good question. I think that over the years that if you watch the World Rankings, it's basically who goes on such-and-such a run, and the way the World Rankings is set up right now, wins certainly accrue a lot of World Ranking points, especially when they are the right events. This year I won a couple World Golf Championships and a major championship, and that adds to World Ranking points. If no one is able to keep pace, I'm going to obviously increase the gap.
Winning takes care of everything, basically. The more wins you have, you don't have to really worry about the World Rankings.

Q. You've probably heard that Golf Digest and the USGA is kind of following up on something you said at the U.S. Open last year when you were asked how a 10-handicapper would do on a U.S. Open course, and they're going to have three celebrity amateurs and another amateur play just a week or so before you guys tee it up there. What do you think of the idea?
TIGER WOODS: I think it's an interesting idea. I think they should play the Monday after the tournament. That's when it's the hardest. A week or two before is not so bad. It's just amazing how the grass seems to grow in the last couple weeks for USGA events.
No, I mean, they'll finally get an understanding of how difficult it is and how narrow the fairways are and generally how fast it is, the overall golf course. The USGA loves to have it quick and demanding.
I think what separates -- what amateurs don't really probably truly understand is the pin locations, how difficult they can be. At Oakmont -- I've played Augusta all these years. I've never seen pins that difficult, and they were actually being nice to us. I think that's the difference is that at say Pinehurst and at Oakmont, you felt you could easily putt the ball off greens. You don't find that feeling very often in tournaments.

Q. People often talk about how fatherhood changes them as a person. I just wonder if you could tell us how you think becoming a father may have changed you as a person and possibly long-term as a player?
TIGER WOODS: Well, me as a person, individually, it's very simple. You start appreciating the little things in life. I've said this before, after my father passed away, I think probably every kid feels the same way, that you feel like you didn't spend enough time with him. I felt that way about my dad. I'd call him all the time and I was there as much as I could be, but you always feel this sense of you didn't really capture each and every day with him.
I wanted to feel that with my daughter. I wanted to feel and appreciate that even sleepless nights and the difficulties sometimes when she gets sick. You still appreciate those days because you don't know when it's ever going to end. I always thought my dad would live forever. I thought he'd be immortal, you know? Obviously we all know that's not the case. I wanted to be sure that I truly appreciate those days with my daughter.

Q. (No microphone.)
TIGER WOODS: I think end of the year probably demonstrated that pretty good.

Q. A couple questions regarding THE PLAYERS Championship. How did switching the dates help, and how has the course changed over the years?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I can understand the date change. The date change was to make it so that it wasn't just the run-up to Augusta, it had its own place, which I think was good.
As far as the golf course changing, it changed quite a bit. I remember when it used to be hard and fast and it became deep rough, and now they've gone away from that and gone to Bermuda rough, Bermuda greens actually. It's changed quite a bit.
The year that I keep looking back at is my Amateur there in '94. It was hard and fast, everything was baked out, and they didn't have the palmetto bushes between -- now they don't have them, but they used to have palmetto bushes between 1 and 2, 10 and 11. You couldn't see through each hole, it was so thick. The guys who have actually played there in the past, comments they have made about how much more playable they've made the golf course, how much more spectator-friendly. There's no doubt about it, it's a better golfing experience for all the spectators. You see more, experience more, feel more, see other holes, which they never could before.

Q. A lot of child stars come to LA and those of us who have been around a long time have seen them, and almost all of them end up burning out; very rare for a child star in this environment who has succeeded. If you were eight years old today would it be a lot harder for you given today's -- harder for you to keep grounded as you seem to have been grounded?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it's all do you love what you do. If you love what you do, then you're not going to experience burnout. I can understand if you're forced to do something you really don't want to do and you don't really have -- you may be good at it but you just don't like doing it, it may be a means to an end.
But for all the people out there who have been extremely successful, they've always loved what they do, from athletes to whatever their job description is. I think if you really do have a passion for it, then you don't ever get burned out.

Q. (No microphone.)
TIGER WOODS: It's no doubt, it has changed and it has become microbial, the focus. I think that's the biggest difference. I've talked to people in my sport, from Jack to Arnold and even to Byron, about how it was in their day, and each one of them says the same thing. We don't know how you do it in your day and age. Well, 20 years from now I couldn't imagine how it would be for some other kid to do it in his day and age. It's just the focus has been absolutely incredible with the advent of 24-hour news and everyone needs to have some kind of angle to stand out. That wasn't always the case.

Q. Playing by and large with a field of opponents that you're friendly with, does that make it more difficult for you to be competitive --

Q. In the new Golf Digest you were quoted as saying if you ruled the game you guys would be playing persimmon and balata. Can you talk about that, and can you speak to whether you think there would be any interest in a tournament once a year where you guys actually use that kind of equipment?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think that any time a player likes to shape a golf ball, understands how to shape a golf ball or bend -- who can consistently hit the ball flush, you're going to want the ball to move more and the equipment to be less forgiving. It puts a premium on quality. There's a lot of guys that just go out there and just hit it, they mis-hit it, but the golf balls and the club heads, they're so forgiving that the ball goes the same distance.
Like my old persimmon driver that I grew up with, it's only maybe 15 yards behind my driver now. If I mis-hit it, it was like hitting a 3-iron out there. It goes nowhere. That's the biggest difference. You have to hit the ball flush, perfectly struck shots. It goes just about the same distance.
You know, if you -- this is a good story. I actually played the 9th hole at St. Andrews in 2000 with a gutta-percha ball and with my old golf ball, which was the first Nike ball I put out there, and I drove the green with my ball. And then with the gutta-percha ball I hit a driver and a 5-iron and just barely rolled it to the middle of the green. Big difference in technology. But that's basically the difference in -- it wouldn't be that big a difference, but there would be certainly a distinct difference. It would be fun to play a tournament that way, there's no doubt.

Q. Your season form going into the PGA Championship through the FedExCup playoffs, culminating in the TOUR Championship, your control of the ball, where does that run rank compared to others in your career?
TIGER WOODS: There's no doubt, right up there. I hit the ball very well, and made the putts, which was nice. I really felt like I had control of the golf ball. I could hit any shot I felt like I wanted to hit. Granted, I did have some bad days in there, but I managed to shoot 70 or 69 on those bad days through course management or proper misses.
You know, I think if you look at my career as a whole, when I go on these runs where I won some tournaments in a row, it's those bad rounds that I've turned from 73 or 74 into 70 or 69 or 71. I don't shoot myself out of the event. This year at the end of the year I didn't shoot myself out of any event.

Q. Last week I think you said that after the long break you were looking forward to getting back and competing again. Is that the biggest benefit to taking so much time off is getting sort of the fire back a little bit? And also, what about any physical benefits of taking so much time off?
TIGER WOODS: Well, the mental benefits are the fact that you do feel fresh, you do feel energized, you feel ready to go. We played a lot of golf at the end of last season. Even the week off, you take a week off and people think that you don't do anything. You're at home grinding. You're at home working on your game and making sure it's ready for the next event.
It was nice to actually shut down and not have to work, like today's practice schedule is going to be I have to work on this, this, this, this, and if this goes wrong I've got to worry about this, this and this. Those weeks off, that's usually how it goes.
But here I've been away from the game, got away from it. As soon as I got back into it I felt I was on a clean slate. It felt great.
Physically you can work on things that you never get a chance to work on because in our sport we really don't have an off-season so you're really in I guess it would be a constant maintenance phase. You really don't have a chance to make big gains. You play two, three weeks in a row, you've got a week off, you can't really dedicate a whole off-season to getting your fitness to where you want to have it. Most sports have that off-season where they build up and then they try and maintain that for the season. Well, we try and maintain that for a decade. We don't really have a chance to have the gains that the other athletes do.
After our season is done, generally guys go play in Europe, go to Asia, go to South Africa, go to Australia and support their tours. They're always constantly playing.

Q. A two-parter, but I noticed when you were talking earlier about the season, you spent much more time talking about Augusta and Oakmont, briefly Deutsche Bank, than you did any of the things that you've won. I'd be curious if that's generally your nature when you look back on a year is to figure things out by thinking what you could have done instead of what you did.
TIGER WOODS: The way I answered that question is the comparison, and I wanted to make sure that everyone understood how good a year this was and how close it was to being better than 2000. It wasn't that far away. I mean, just probably, what, four shots.

Q. Following that, though, we spent years here at this tournament asking about your seasons and wondering if -- 2000 has always been the benchmark. In your eyes is it still the benchmark? And if it's not, when did that go away?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think this year was very close to doing that. That's why I was just four shots away.
A couple years ago I think I was, what, four shots, maybe five shots away from winning all four? I've been pretty close the last few years of eclipsing what I did in 2000 as far as consistency. I won nine times, 12 around the world and three majors that year.

Q. What was the benchmark, just the three majors?
TIGER WOODS: The three majors and the fact that I was also able to win 12 times around the world. That's not too bad.
But this year I won -- well, over 50 percent of my tournaments, so that's not bad, either.

Q. How familiar are you with a website that's been around for a few years, TigerWoodsisGod.com, which claims to be the First Church of Tiger Woods? What's your reaction to the basic premise?
TIGER WOODS: I've heard of it, there's no doubt, I've heard of it. I've never been on-line to take a look at it. I think just the name itself, I really don't want to take a look at it.

Q. So are you denying your divinity? Are you officially denying your divinity?
TIGER WOODS: I am so far away from that (laughter).

Q. Mastery of the swing, in terms of being able to correct things during rounds and not having to have as much of a hands-on thing with Hank day after day as you did a couple years ago?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think I still need to have an extra pair of eyes there, but as far as understanding what you need to do -- trust is the biggest thing. I was telling Henry that I can always fix it on the golf course, but to know that was a 100 percent fix, and I knew that was going to work, that's a different deal.
Now I do have an understanding that what I do feel, what the shot shape tells me, what the automatic fix is, and I know it's the right fix. I don't have to worry about it. That's huge because you're not always going to have your best stuff and no one is going to help you inside the ropes to figure it out. You just have to figure it out yourself on the fly. That's what makes our game so interesting. It's fluid, it's dynamic, it's always changing and it's always evolving, and you always have to make adjustments on the fly.

Q. I know in the past on vacation and in the off-season you've gone skiing and done some other things. I don't know if you were able to get out and pick up another hobby or do anything this off-season, or what was the most fun thing away from golf you were able to do? Second part, I know you went to the Mayweather fight. Can you talk about the sport of boxing and how much you know about it?
TIGER WOODS: Well, basically I haven't done anything this off-season. I really haven't skied yet. My wife has been, I haven't been. As far as fighting, I've always enjoyed it. I went to Mayweather/de la Hoya, and this one here was absolutely incredible. The atmosphere, I've never seen anything like it, all the singing.
We went to one of the other cards right before that, right before the main event, and everyone was still singing. And when what's obviously happening in the ring, it was over. They were all into it, and just the people who were there to watch from a celebrity standpoint are famous athletes. It was pretty amazing to see that this many people came out to watch this fight. Some are pretty big fight fans. I know that Denzel and Bruce Willis are huge fight fans, obviously Barkley behind me, he goes to every fight.

Q. You've always talked about the tremendous amount of knowledge you have acquired from your father. Is there one thing that stands out that's helping you to become a better parent that you learned from him?
TIGER WOODS: Probably not yet because I haven't really been able to teach. My father was instinctively a teacher. He got the most joy out of helping others. He always felt that he always appreciated how good life could be, actually to teach and help others, and that's actually how he lived his life. He loved it. He always tried to help somebody each and every day he lived. He pretty much did that.
That's something I've done but I haven't been able to do that with Sam yet. She's not quite old enough for me to talk to and to teach her these life lessons, and I think that's going to be the fun part is actually being able to -- my dad turned the simplest little things into lifelong lessons that I will never forget. I can't wait to experience that with Sam.

Q. That was your first official sip of your new drink. I wanted to ask you how has your endorsement philosophy changed from the time you turned pro to now? Did you just sign up with everyone early on? Did you get more involved now, less involved in?
TIGER WOODS: There's no doubt, more involved now. I have a better understanding. Before I had basically no clue, just wanted to make sure that I was involved with the right companies and the right people around me, but still, a lot of it was trusting others instead of understanding and trusting myself. I didn't really have the wherewithal.
Now having been involved here for 12 years, 11 years, a lot of experience, a lot of people I've met not even having to do with sponsors but people who have made just a bunch of money from nothing and the things that they've taught me and shared with me, the process that they went through. It's been very enlightening. I think that's one of the reasons why you see the shift in some of the things I've done lately.

Q. Concerning Dubai and the golf course, the project you're doing there, when is that going to come on-line? And are you going to link that in with the expansion that the European Tour is creating an international headquarters there?
TIGER WOODS: It's going to be -- my course will be fall of '09, and as far as linking with the European Tour, I don't know. I know they're going to have an event there in Dubai besides the Emirates course. I think they have another event there. But they're not going to be playing at -- I think it's next year, I believe.

Q. Well, they're moving the international headquarters --
TIGER WOODS: I'm just saying there's another event going to Dubai.

Q. Yeah, another event is coming in, but that's not going to be on your course then?
TIGER WOODS: No. Maybe in the future.

Q. I just wanted to talk a little bit about because of how well you played this year, your sense of anticipation going into next year, especially with the U.S. Open being at Torrey. Do you look at next year and go, yeah, this sets up --
TIGER WOODS: You know, I really am excited. I missed -- because of my age, I missed one at Riviera, and I was lucky enough to be able to play the one at Pebble. These are places that I've played frequently. Torrey since junior golf, Rivy since junior college and Pebble since my college days. For me to come back to So Cal and play a major championship here, that's as good as it gets for me. Being at home and playing in a major championship, it's probably very similar to some of the other players who grew up and fights like Charles Howell does every year at Augusta, or Vaughn Taylor, they grew up there.
So for me to have one at So Cal at Torrey where I've played there, I've watched old -- what was it, the Andy Williams event there? Yeah, when I was a little kid my dad drove me down there and we watched. Yeah, I just remember how far Andy Bean used to hit the ball (laughter). Yeah, it's pretty interesting.
JOE CHEMYCZ: Thank you. Tiger, again, congratulations on Player of the Year.

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