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March 25, 2009

Tiger Woods


JOHN BUSH: We'd like to welcome Tiger Woods into the interview room here at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard. Tiger, thanks for joining us for a few minutes. Let's get you to look back at that victory here at Bay Hill last year and comment on the state of your game as you look for win No. 6 here.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, last year was a pretty neat little finish there with Bart. I was in the last group, and Bart had posted a number. The wind switched on 18, which was amazing. It was down on the left, and all of a sudden it came in and off the right. I remember I only had 167 yards and I hit a 5-iron. I remember making that putt. That putt I think was a putt I made in '01 so I just kind of figured the same thing and it went in. It was a good time, it was a good memory.
And coming out here this year, the greens are in absolutely perfect shape this year. The golf course is greener than I think I've ever seen it. The greens are a little bit soft, but overall the golf course is in fantastic shape.

Q. There's been a lot of comments about the way you won and the way you reacted to it, having won 64 times and still slamming your hat down on the ground and things like that. Has there ever been a case where winning was routine?
TIGER WOODS: No, not routine, certainly not. It's so difficult to win out here, and any time you can win, you're obviously going to celebrate. You celebrate in different ways because they're all different. Sometimes you struggle to get in, sometimes you play really well, other times it's close, sometimes you have a nice little cushion. It's all different, and that's what makes it fun.

Q. What did you think when you saw the highlights that night?
TIGER WOODS: Well, one, I didn't know I did it. I was so into the moment that, like I said to you guys last year, Stevie, what the hell are you doing to my hat? I didn't know I had thrown it off, and then I saw the highlights that night, and I didn't know I went that crazy. But evidently I did. I obviously slammed it pretty good.

Q. Apart from changing diapers, what have you been up to in the last week, and how do you feel your game is progressing as we head towards Augusta?
TIGER WOODS: I feel good. I've been hitting a lot of good shots. I played well during the Tavistock Cup this week, and I worked on my putting a little bit, trying to get that organized a little bit more. Just trying to continue getting my feel back for playing again. I played a little bit more this week, and today was a little bit windy towards the end and I started to get my distance back, my distance control back, starting to feel the shots, see the shots, and that takes a little bit of time.
As I said at Doral, it was nice to feel every day, get a little bit better. My distance control got better and better, and this week playing a little bit more, I'm starting to feel that again, which is nice.

Q. An equipment question: The last couple years do you typically change anything in your bag for the week of Augusta, put anything in, take anything out? And if so, do you anticipate doing anything like that this year?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, the only thing I've changed is my 5-wood or 2-iron, and that's a little bit dependent on -- well, one, if it's faster, then I might put a 2-iron in just because I might chase one down there. I used to be able to chase one down there on 7, but that's no longer the case now.
But the only time we really monkey around putting a 2-iron in there is if No. 4 is under certain conditions where it's a perfect 2-iron for me because I hit my 5-wood probably about 10 to 15 yards further than my 2-iron, so I've got to take a little bit off of it. So there's a pretty big gap between my 3-iron and my 5-wood, and in some years on that tee in certain winds, then I'll put a 2-iron in just for that shot.

Q. Anyplace in particular you typically use that 5-wood, any shots that week?
TIGER WOODS: Generally it's on 13. If I don't quite turn it around the corner, I'll probably have 5-wood in there. And 15. Some years I might be able to hit a 5-wood into 2 if I kind it roll it down there a little bit.

Q. I guess you're playing with Harrington the next two days. Of course he's won three of the last six majors. Can you talk about the difference you've seen in him over the last few years as to how he got his game to that level? As far back as I think Bethpage you might have been paired with him in the last round of the U.S. Open. I wonder if you've noticed anything.
TIGER WOODS: It's just confidence. Once you get it done once, it's amazing what that does for you. If you look at Paddy's career, all around the world, how many times did he finish second? But once he learned how to win, how many times has he won since? And once he won a major, he won two last year. It just shows you that you can do it.
The way he's done it, I think that's -- the way he came back after making a mistake there at Carnoustie, his two back nines last year, I believe it was 32 on both of them. To do that on the back nine on Sunday of a major championship, that's awfully impressive.
I think that's just his confidence. You know he works hard. There's no doubt, he's one of the hardest workers that we have in the game of golf. It's just a matter of proving to yourself that once you do it once, it becomes a little bit easier to do it again.

Q. It frightens me that I'm thinking the same as Doug on this, but the celebration here last year, the celebration when the putt went in to tie at Torrey, I'm thinking of Bob May and this thing when the putt went in or the one at Buick a few years ago when the putt went in. Is that pretty much all spontaneous? When you see that stuff does it entertain you as much as it entertains the fans? Which is your favorite or which is the most embarrassing for a guy not known for his dance moves?
TIGER WOODS: Right. I think like anything it just comes out of you. Whatever happens, happens. You're so caught up in the moment and you're so caught up in the putt and the shot at hand. Nothing else -- the concentration that you have to have at that moment, nothing else really exists, and you're just in that little world. And when you're able to pull it off, the satisfaction it gives you because you know what it took to get there, I mean, I've gone nuts a few times, there's no doubt about that.
The weirdest one probably was the one against Bob May, chasing after it like that, because it looked like I almost left it short. If it fell short I would have really looked like an idiot.

Q. How much influence did your father have on your putting stroke, and could you talk about the nature of that influence?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, Dad had everything to do with my putting stroke. How I putt now is how I've always putted as a kid. I look at the picture, how I get my feel, the drills that I do, everything has been taught by my dad.
When I go out there and practice my putting, like I did at Doral, I didn't putt well, I didn't make any putts, I went back to all my basics that my dad taught me. It's good times, good memories going back to all those different things and remember all those different times. But my dad has laid the foundation for my stroke.
And even I remember in some of the good years I've had in golf, like '99, 2000, 2001, coming back to southern California I'd take my dad out and we'd go putt, and he'd routinely beat me. Anything he said about putting, I'd always listen. He just had a wonderful feel, a wonderful touch, and I really understood how to make the ball roll consistently each and every time.

Q. There's been a lot of commentary over the last week about your decision to go down and play in the Australian Masters and your accompanying appearance fee. That appearance fee is obviously a controversial topic. I'm curious, can you talk a little bit about that decision to go there? Will you possibly play in the HSBC, as well, and just your thoughts on appearance fees in general?
TIGER WOODS: Well, this is the only place that doesn't have appearance fees. Most of the guys get appearance fees to play around the world. I've played all around the world and I've thoroughly enjoyed going. I haven't played in Australia since The Presidents Cup. I've always wanted to get down there and play more in the Aussie Sand Belt because that is my favorite area to play. I've always enjoyed it, and I'm really looking forward to getting down there and playing.
Obviously I know there's some controversy behind it, but I'm really looking forward to getting down there and playing and competing. And as far as HSBC, yeah, I will play the week before.

Q. Do you have enough time to get your putting straightened out the way you want it to be, and is it a case where if you start making a couple it's contagious?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, because I wasn't that far off. I hit the lip 20 times for birdie on the first three days, and that's a lot. Just half of those -- some of those fall in, you get a little bit of momentum, you get a little feel and get some "mo" on your side. I didn't get any of that. To have that many lip-outs and still finish in the Top 10, that's a positive side for my ball-striking. Now I just need to get a few putts to go in, and this week I worked on it pretty good and I feel pretty comfortable with it.

Q. Do you think you've changed more as a person or as a player since you've been on the TOUR?
TIGER WOODS: I think a person.

Q. In what ways?
TIGER WOODS: I think just dealing with things. When I first came out here I was single, now obviously being married with two kids. The brand has certainly grown to where I'm doing golf course design, licensing, just different things that I haven't done before when I first came out here. It was just all golf. I didn't have the balance in my life at the time that I do now, and I didn't know how to. That's where Mark O'Meara was just such a great big brother; to be out here and play with him in practice rounds and just basically have him in my ear to -- how do you get a balance, because when you first come out here I came out here out of college, and I was the youngest one out here for years. It wasn't just one or two years because I came out early. There wasn't a lot of guys my age until probably until I got into any mid-20s when I started seeing the guys I grew up playing with.

Q. Do you ever look back and see mistakes that you made?
TIGER WOODS: No doubt.

Q. On the course, off the course?

Q. What level are you at now?
TIGER WOODS: I think I'm still going to make mistakes, but I think that understanding responsibilities, understanding a life changes, and it's changed for the better, there's no doubt.

Q. Lastly, you don't know how long obviously you're going to be playing out here, but can you see where people might look at this as somewhat of an entering the second stage of your career, halftime if you want to call it that, just because of the nature of how long you were out?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I can certainly see that, no doubt. I've been playing golf for a long time, and it was nice actually to take that break. I didn't want to take that break, trust me. I didn't want to have to go through all the things I went through. But when it's all said and done now, I'm feeling so much better now than I did for years. I don't have to deal with how the leg was.

Q. Do you think you're better equipped on the golf course because of the things you were talking about off the course?
TIGER WOODS: No doubt. To have the stability that I have in my life off the golf course has definitely made me a better person on the golf course.

Q. Looking down the road a little bit further than April, and I asked you this question last year but you weren't able to play in THE PLAYERS. But what is it about that course that's challenged you lately, and do you like the setup in May as opposed to March?
TIGER WOODS: The only time I've played it was in May was that one time, but I enjoyed it. I've always enjoyed the golf course when it played fast. I didn't like it when we had five-inch rough and the fairways were soaked and you'd pick up mud balls. I didn't think that was the way the golf course was designed to be played.
When I really enjoyed playing it was when I was an amateur. It was bone dry in the summertime and the ball was rolling. We had hardly any rough, and every ball ran into those palmetto bushes, which have been taken out now to try and open up the golf course a little bit. I think if they had less rough on that golf course and brought in the pine straw and the pine needles, mis-hit shots -- I remember on 10 or on 1, pull up the left side and run straight into the palmetto pushes. Same thing on 10; if it was a little bit right, it's in the bushes. Now you've got that big rough on the border.
I think the golf course was better when it was faster. I look at the years that I've done well there, it's been the years that it has been fast.

Q. How focused are you on the night before a tournament, and the reason I ask is will you go to the Magic-Celtics game tonight, and what do you think about the Magic's season and their chance to win a title?
TIGER WOODS: Am I going? I'd like to go. We'll see how Sam and Charlie are doing tonight. If everything is good at home, then yeah, I'll probably go.
But as far as the Magic's season, I think they're doing great, considering they lost Jameer for the season, and for them to basically make a run at the No. 1 record in the east is pretty phenomenal.

Q. Has getting every aspect of your game back in order taken about the amount of time that you thought it would take when you came back?
TIGER WOODS: To be honest with you, I think it's taken less time to get my feel back for my game. I thought it would take a little bit longer because I didn't know -- the question mark was to me is how many rounds could I play, so how much golf could I play. Recovering from day-to-day, I didn't know. That's been probably the greatest positive is I've been able to recover from day-to-day and not feel a thing, and therefore I can start working on my feel, and as I said at Doral, it came every day, got a little bit better, got a little bit sharper. You forget certain things, how you play shots and how you think yourself around the golf course.
You wouldn't think that you'd forget, but I made a couple mistakes at the Match Play, firing the ball into the greens, missing the ball on wrong sides, mistakes I don't normally make. But that's just learning, and then applied that at Doral and got a little bit better, and hopefully it'll be even better this week.

Q. You're obviously back playing, but in your mind the standards that you set for yourself, are you not officially back until you win again?
TIGER WOODS: No, I feel like I'm back playing now. I feel like I'm back where I can just go out and play golf, and that's fun. There were so many question marks going into the Match Play and even into Doral, one being Match Play because it is match play and it was my first tournament back, and two, Doral because it was my first stroke-play event, and how could I think my way around the golf course for 72 holes. I hadn't done it. Those are two very positive tournaments. Now I feel like I can just go play golf.

Q. Mr. Palmer suggested to Ishikawa that outside the ropes he should be himself and do other sports maybe. What's your advice to him outside the ropes besides getting a taste of American culture at Hooters or something? What's your advice outside the ropes for him?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think that the most important thing is to find other interests besides golf, other things that you like to do. I think that's always constructive and it's always going to be a positive to help you get away from the game of golf. You don't want to play golf every day. You can think about it every day, but to physically play it every day, I don't think that's always a positive thing, especially at such an early age. I think it's great for him to experience life and grow up and be a teen and do what all teenagers do.
That's something he's going to have to find a way to do, and hopefully he can do that. You don't want to miss those years, because obviously he's not going to go to college, he's not going to experience that life. Now he's in basically the fishbowl, and a lot of people are going to be tugging at him, and I hope he can enjoy being a teen and grow up.

Q. You've won this event five times. Is there something about this course, this venue, that suits your game particularly well, and if so, what is it?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I don't know. I think certain golf courses -- if you look at my record, certain golf courses kind of fit my eye, and this is one of them. I've played well here, and it probably goes back to when I played here in the U.S. Junior. I liked it then, and obviously it's changed a few times since then, but I still like the sight lines. I still enjoy playing this golf course and seeing it. For some reason I feel comfortable here each and every time I play.

Q. A couple of bigger picture questions about the TOUR, specifically African-American representation on the TOUR. When you were a year old, there were 12 African-Americans on the TOUR. Today, depending on how you define demographics, there's one. From a racial diversity standpoint, the TOUR seems to have gone backwards. What does it mean to you?
TIGER WOODS: I think it's become harder to play out here. Playing opportunities and development and being able to learn the game and mature in the game has become more difficult. If you look at when a lot of those players started, they started through the caddie ranks. That's now gone. A lot of golf courses have golf carts, mandatory golf carts, and players aren't being introduced to the game how they used to.
And then the cost of getting involved in the game, and then the maintenance of a person trying to play day in and day out, it's not easy. You know, you have to get lucky and have people let you on for free at times. Like for instance, I grew up on a par-3 course. That's how I played. And then also I grew up on a military course. Two places where it wasn't very expensive. And then to get the exposure to develop your game, it's just very difficult.

Q. And a follow-up if I could. I've interviewed some people who are coming up behind you, players on the mini-Tours, also Eddie Payton, the golf coach at Jackson State, a historically black school. They look at you and say, he could do so much more for this cause. He could be more accessible, he could be more tangible, he could use his resources and be there and reach out to people like us. What do you say to people like that who criticize?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I reach out each and every day with my foundation. That's what we do. We don't focus on golf, because that's not the sole purpose of life. Life is not about hitting a high draw and a high fade. It's about being a better person each and every day and helping others. That's what life is all about.
Is golf a part of people's lives? Yes, it's part of my life. But it's not the end of all things in my life. I want kids to be able to have a better life because of their brain and their intelligence and their ability to use that to help others, and if they want to play golf, then sure, we have the means to help them through our foundation, but I'd much rather see them become leaders of tomorrow than see kids just hit a high draw and a high fade.

Q. You mentioned the confidence that Harrington has got going for him. What would be the most difficult thing for him to deal with if he's to win a third major in a row?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it's just going to be, one, the expectations, the responsibilities that come with winning two majors in a row, the questions he's going to get asked week in and week out, and it's going to be months. It has been months because obviously the big break between the PGA and the Masters. I remember in 2000 going into 2001, I won three in a row, the time that it took to get from the PGA to the Masters, it just seemed like an eternity because people kept asking questions each and every -- not just each and every week but each and every day about what do you think about Augusta. It could be October.
But that's just something that he's had to deal with. He's had plenty of months to deal with it, and it's just right around the corner now.

Q. The week of the event what's the most difficult thing?
TIGER WOODS: It's a little bit different. You're going to be hosting the media function there, the golf writers, and the questions of the media outlets I think are going to be up a little bit more than it was the last time he played the Masters, being a two-time major championship winner since then. These things, you try and make time for your practice, you try and make time for your workouts, you try and make time for your rest. It just becomes a little bit more difficult.

Q. You just talked about your workouts. I know you were known for your workout regimen before the surgery. How has it changed a what's a typical workout day for you now with all your other responsibilities?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, when I first started trying to get the leg organized, it was two workouts a day every day, seven days a week. But now it's just one workout, which is nice. I don't have to spend as much time. I've done all the work, now it's just a matter of just maintaining the strength and the speed and explosiveness.

Q. You talked about the putt last year, throwing the hat. Could you talk about the shot into 18? It was a nice little piece of shot-making that you were pretty satisfied with. And also talk a little bit about you probably do more creative shot making things than most guys out here. Talk about how important that is for you.
TIGER WOODS: Well, that was the best shot I hit all week. As I said, I hit the tee shot, it was down off the left, I hit 3-wood way down there, and when we were walking up the hill, it totally switched. It came in off the right. Like I was telling Stevie walking down there, we could make birdie and win this tournament because it's down off the left, and it's a pretty easy pin when it's down on the left. In off the right it's different because if you cut it and try to upshoot it, it's not going to get there. If you're riding the wind, now you bring the back bunker into play. I just chipped a little 5-iron in there, and it felt to sweet to hit that little shot, just a little bit left of the hole, right around one of the signs that we had picked out. It landed right on the sign, and I left myself a putt at it.
And as I said, when it's going down left to right, you felt like you could put a ball inside 15 feet. Now with that wind it was going to be a good shot to get inside 20 feet. It would be a hell of a shot. I gave myself a putt at it and made it.

Q. You do a lot more shot-making than most guys, don't you? Do you see that?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I think that's how I grew up. I grew up maneuvering the golf ball. The golf ball doesn't move as much now. It's like Hank and I were talking about this not too long ago actually. The game of golf has changed with the new golf balls where the ball doesn't move from right to left or left to right as much as it used to. So shot making more now is in trajectory control, moving the ball up-and-down, changing your trajectory to control your distances, rather than shaping the ball into the wind like you used to. It just has changed a little bit, and you just have to obviously change with the times.
JOHN BUSH: Tiger, thanks for coming by.

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