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April 5, 2011

Tiger Woods


ROB JOHNSTON: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It is always a great pleasure to introduce and welcome our four-time Masters champion, Mr. Tiger Woods. And this year marks Tiger's 17th appearance at Augusta.
Tiger, you have been preparing quite diligently for the Tournament and before we open it up to questions, would you share with us your thoughts about the conditions of the course, if you would, please, and perhaps give us an understanding on how your preparations are going.
TIGER WOODS: Okay. I came up here Monday after Bay Hill. Played quite long. It was about 40 degrees and raining about three inches. I was surprised at how much grass was on the golf course. It was pretty lush.
Came up here this weekend, played Saturday and Sunday and again the same, the golf course is playing really long. Fairways are as lush as I've ever seen them, and the greens are absoultely perfect.
A couple of new greens, but as usual, can't even tell. So the golf course is in absolute perfect golf shape. It will be pretty neat come Tournament time when this place dries out just a little bit. It will play long and I'm sure the greens will get up to speed and with the wind drying it out, it's going to be one heck of a test this week.

Q. Do you have to be a long hitter to win here, or is it just an advantage? Is it just good to be able to hit it long?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I think it's an advantage, but still Woosie and Zach obviously won here. It does help on the par 5s. Zach had one incredible year where he did really well, I think he played, what, 12-under par? It can be done. But it just puts more stress on your wedge game where some of the longer hitters, I played with Cabrera where he takes the corner off 13 with a driver and just hits a little wedge in there. And guys like Phil can cut around there and Bubba can cut around the corner and have short irons in there.
It does help. You can kind of cheat on some of the par 5s and get on the downslope on two and get up near -- if it's downwind, carry the bunker on 8, 13, get around the corner and 15, obviously hit an iron in there. So it does help.

Q. Coming in this year, first time you're not listed as the actual favorite. Some players in other sports use it as motivation; does it matter to you to not be the "favourite"?
TIGER WOODS: Doesn't matter. You still have to play the golf tournament, right? We all have an opportunity. Everyone has the same opportunity as I do and always has been. So just got to go out there and play and see where it adds up.

Q. Where do you fit into that long hitter debate now?
TIGER WOODS: I'm certainly not one of the longest, there's no doubt. But I can still move it out there. I'm not one of the shortest yet. (Laughter).
And when I'm swinging well, I can get on -- I have another gear in there where I can add 15, 20. It's still there. But some of these longer guys, they are there at the 15, 20, and then they have another gear. The sport has changed. Guys are bigger and faster and can certainly move it.

Q. Phil coming in with a win last week; can you talk about the dynamic of keeping momentum going into a major having won the week before. Is there a natural letdown or do you just drive down Magnolia Lane and it kicks in?
TIGER WOODS: I'm probably the worst person to ask for that, because I've only done it I think before the PGA and that was it. Firestone is the week before.
But other than that, I tend not to play prior to a major. I can attest to two weeks prior. (Smiling).

Q. Phil playing well coming into; he had not won since here last year.
TIGER WOODS: Some guys like to play the week prior and get momentum going into a Major Championship week. For me, I like to obviously do well in my last event I played and then practice on some of the things I need to work on and get away from things for a little bit and work on everything in peace.
Two different ways of going about it. Guys have been successful both ways and obviously Phil likes to play the week prior. And he's won four major championships that way. That's his way of doing it and he's been very successful at it.

Q. What do you think of Ian Poulter's opinion -- no chance of finishing in the top five having not shown any consistency early in the season?
TIGER WOODS: Well, Poulter is always right, isn't he? (Laughter).

Q. So do you have more chance of finishing in the top five than he is?
TIGER WOODS: My whole idea is to try to win the golf tournament and that's what I'm trying to do. My whole idea is to prepare. I've prepared all year to peak four times a year and that has not changed, and that's what I'm trying to do.

Q. It cannot have been easy for you up there 12 months talking to us all. In the last 12 months, how far do you think you've come, and does the process of trying to become a better person diminish your ability to become a better golfer?
TIGER WOODS: I'm just looking forward to this week. Last year was last year and this year is this year. I have the same opportunity as everybody else has, as I said earlier. My main focus is to get ready and be prepared and come the first tee shot, be all cylinders go.
As far as being a better person I try to do that each and every day. That will and always will be the case.

Q. Do you feel in a better place?
TIGER WOODS: I feel almost ready to tee it up on Thursday.

Q. You've obviously had one of the greatest short game shots in the history of the Masters. Wonder how your short game is now and how important it is to winning a Masters Tournament?
TIGER WOODS: You know, Larry, you have to have a short game here. You just have to be able to chip and putt. There's no two ways about it. And I've always said that, yeah, you have to have a short game, but it's imperative that you miss them on the right spots to give yourself a chance.
I think Phil was the perfect example of that last year. He didn't hit it very good for his standard on Sunday. But he missed the ball in absolutely every single perfect place for those pins, and that's experience, and that's knowing where to miss. And he did that, and all of the shots that he made look easy, they weren't that easy, but certainly they were a lot easier than what it could have been.
As far as my short game is, it's progressing. I was able to make a few changes with it technique-wise. I spent a lot of time here chipping and putting and working on it. So feeling very comfortable, and looking forward to getting out there.

Q. The word Tiger-proofing was very fashionable when they made changes to the golf course and you've won since they did all that, but in some ways did the changes they make temper your advantages on this golf course?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I don't hit driver, wedge to 15 anymore. Actually, sometimes out of the trees, I hit wedge out. (Laughing).
Actually it's a term used, but I think it affected all of the long hitters. We certainly had a tremendous advantage on the par 5s, we would get there with irons and some guys were hitting woods and that's a huge advantage where we could hold the greens.
And the greens over the years have been softened up. They are not as severe as they used to be, just because they are so much further back. And I think that's, again, I don't think -- I think it's made it more difficult for all of the long hitters, not just myself.

Q. One thing that struck me yesterday was how excited the patrons get seeing the landmarks, your shot on 16 and Phil's on 13; is it still really cool to be a part of that, a place where the landmarks are almost the same as the players?
TIGER WOODS: I think that's what is so unique about this event is it's the only of the four majors that we play the same place each and every year. You can go back to watching Arnold make charges here in the 50s when it was on TV, and seeing that, and relate to what we are doing now; and each and every year in between. That's unlike any other event.
Because of that, there's so much history that's developed. Guys making putts, guys holing out, guys hitting good shots, bad shots; you remember a lot.

Q. In the last year how much of the adjustments that you've had to make off the course in your life affected you on the course?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it's getting back to playing golf, and getting into the rhythm of that.

Q. You were tied for fourth here last year. Does it surprise you you haven't been able to build on that in terms of a finish?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, certainly, there's no doubt. I didn't think I would have to make a complete swing change, lose coaches, and move on to another one. That's taken a little while to build in new motor patterns. It take as while for it to be laid down and it takes time.

Q. We have a foul-mouthed footballer back in the U.K. called Wayne Rooney. You may have heard of him. He has been suspended for foul and abusive language. Would you like to see suspensions coming to golf for the same thing?
TIGER WOODS: You like to ask questions each and every year, don't you. (Laughter).

Q. Previously when you made swing changes, did you have a lot more time to practice, is that an issue now?
TIGER WOODS: No, that's not the issue. It's just it takes time. It took a long time with Butch and it took a long time with Hank and so far it's taken a long time with Sean. It's taken a long time to develop the patterns and know what the fixes are. I'm finally starting to shape the ball both ways and being able to fix it if I don't. It's just a totally different philosophy than what I was employing before.

Q. Can you just talk about the technique and mechanical changes that you've had with Sean and what kind of impact he's had on you?
TIGER WOODS: Well, we've changed a lot; from stance to grip to where the club is, where he believes the club needs to be throughout the entire golf swing, and obviously what the body is doing. That's way different than what I used to do. And that's been a difficult change. The grip part I got pretty quickly. The posture I got pretty quickly. The other stuff has been more difficult.
Far as being around Sean, he's a great dude, he really is. He knows a lot about a lot. He's very philosophical and always fun to pick his brain.

Q. When you finished second at Chevron, did it give you any false sense that maybe you were closer than you were, and did you have to sort of guard against thinking that, hey, it was just going to come right back when you started this year?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, a little bit, certainly, a little bit, definitely. Because I had played so well for three rounds, and then I was so excited the entire year came down to one shot and I pulled it off, one shot on the 72nd hole when I had to hit it in there stiff, and I did it. Unfortunately I haven't been in the same position where I have had to hit a golf shot where I needed since then on the last hole.
That part was very exciting for me; that the changes I implemented came down and it felt natural at the time and I just need to get back into that position more often so I can experience that.

Q. You mentioned your distance has come back a little bit, or you're not hitting it maybe what you used to. How much of that is the injuries you've had and how much of it is your technical approach?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I'm hitting it just as far. That's the thing. I'm hitting it just as far. I'm hitting it -- it's no problem for me hitting over 300 yards. But there are it guys who flight it 320. I played with Dustin Johnson and Gary Woodland the first two days at Bay Hill. I thought Dustin was long, and I've played a number of times with him and Dustin, he's got nothing on Gary. When Gary steps on it a whole -- it's like, whoa, are you kidding me. His ball is flat, when you think it should be coming down it, it just continues to fly.
He hit a shot on, what is it, 16, and it was a 335 carry with a bunker on the right and he hit the face of it, and he's all bent out of shape that he couldn't carry it. And he said, "I lost the ability to carry 340 now."
Like, sorry, I had never seen that shot. (Laughter) That's the new game. That's what I've said all along, these guys who have played other sports, these guys are both really good basketball players and they both have been able to dunk, and they both have been able to play hoop. And then they decide to play golf instead. So it's neat to see these guys transform into our sport, the power, the transition; they are doing things no one has ever seen on TOUR before.

Q. Could you dunk?
TIGER WOODS: I could grab the rim. That was it. I could get a tennis ball over it, but I could never get close to doing what these guys do.

Q. Phil says driving down Magnolia Lane reenergizes him; did you experience anything similar?
TIGER WOODS: A little bit. A little bit. For me it's not quite driving down Magnolia Lane that does it. It's getting out here on the range or getting to the first tee or walking under the tree and going to the first tee. That, to me, and looking out at the golf course, that's what really gets me fired up.
Driving down Magnolia Lane is just looking at some trees, really (laughter). The golf course is where I do all my work and to me that's what is exciting to me is I love walking into that clubhouse and going straight into that golf course. I'm excited now just thinking about going out there, because that, to me, is the rush, is going out there and playing the golf course.

Q. You've done it a couple of times, how do you know it's time for a swing change?
TIGER WOODS: How? That's a good point. I just know that what I was doing is not as consistent as what I think I can be doing. I won here in '97 thinking that was a great week, but I can't repeat this. That swing I had would not put me in contention each and every week and I need to change that.
So a couple of years later, I changed it and had a nice little run of years. The same thing with moving onto Hank, same deal, I felt that I could go to another level. I felt like I did, and I'm here with Sean and I feel like I can go to another level.

Q. Just to follow up on that, could you or would you want to swing the way you swung in 2000, or could you not because of the physical changes and your body maturation?
TIGER WOODS: First of all, I can't swing that way. It took a pretty good pounding on me knee doing it that way. As you know I tore cartilage and my ACL over the years, so I don't want to swing that way. It's too much pain.

Q. Just to clarify, you mentioned making some changes in your short game; do you mean changes part of this whole process or the last would weeks?
TIGER WOODS: No, it's the process, because the putting stroke, the short game, the swing, the same release has to mirror throughout the entire bag.

Q. Having the experience of watching younger guys hit it 335, 340, what insights does that give you about the way the veterans were watching you and thinking about you when you first arrived?
TIGER WOODS: That's a good point. Never looked at it that way. Now I can certainly see it that way.
You know, but then the flipside of it is that how I look at it now; they can hit it a long way, but I can manage myself around the golf course, that's probably how they look at it too. Just because I hit it further than they did doesn't mean that they can't win golf tournaments in the end. All you have to do is win a golf tournament by a shot.
So it's about making the right decisions, and plodding the ball along, and more so this golf course than anything else, and missing the ball in the right spots.

Q. You showed a lot of improvement at Bay Hill, hit a lot of long, high irons, long irons high; do you feel ready to win this week?
TIGER WOODS: Mm-hmm. (Nodding).

Q. Like why?
TIGER WOODS: Mm-hmm (nodding).

Q. What part of your game is ready?
TIGER WOODS: (Smiling).

Q. Looking at guys coming over from other sports, how much satisfaction do you feel that you played a role in that?
TIGER WOODS: I think that is special to hear guys say that, because it's very easy for them to fall in line and play other sports. You know, I always thought this was a pretty good sport, but growing up, that wasn't the case. It wasn't a cool sport to play. But I think that having more -- other athletes play the game, like a Michael Jordan play the game and expose it that way, has made kids think that this is a pretty cool sport to play. They try and they are hooked too and they love the challenge of it. I think that is pretty neat to see the game change. The game has gotten taller and it has the gotten bigger. Guys are much more athletic and faster.
Looking at Tom Weiskopf back in the day was a giant. Now, every guy is 6-3,6-4. It's a different ballgame.

Q. Can you take us back last year, no one really knew what to expect from your game last year. Did you know what to expect? Because you did get in the hunt there again?
TIGER WOODS: To be honest with you, I didn't. I knew where I could miss the golf ball. That's the key, as I told you guys earlier. It's just about knowing where to miss it here, to give yourself a chance to get up-and-down and make some putts. I did that that week and stayed present, and next thing you know, I had a chance going into Sunday.

Q. Your playing calendar has remained very consistent over the course of your career, how has your game planning for this course evolved over the years, or has it remained fairly simple?
TIGER WOODS: I probably have come up here more since they have moved THE PLAYERS Championship away. THE PLAYERS Championship was such a big event that I spent so much time getting ready for it. I think it was always Bay Hill, PLAYERS. And I spent a lot of time getting ready for it and not being able to come up here.
Now THE PLAYERS Championship moved and in recent years, I have come up here a lot more because of it.

Q. We have heard about changes of swing coaches, the improvement of other players. Have we seen the best of Tiger Woods?

Q. How dangerous a statement is that to make?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I believe in myself. There's nothing wrong with believing in myself. God, I hope you guys feel the same way about yourselves. You know, that's the whole idea, is that you can always become better.

Q. The swing in 1997, why didn't you think you could win consistently with that?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it involved too much timing. My knee was killing me then. That was a very difficult swing on me physically. That's why I knew I had to change it.

Q. On Twitter, is it really you?

Q. And how much importance do you put on social networking?
TIGER WOODS: It's been fun. I was pretty leery to begin with to be honest with you. I was a little leery, because I haven't gone at it that way. I haven't exposed myself to that medium yet. It was quite interesting starting out, because you get all of these followers, and next thing you know, they ask just a variety of different questions and they are all cool questions. They all want to see you do well and it's fun to be able to have that ability to have the direct connection with the fans.
I think that's the medium that's probably the next one, or obviously Facebook, and now it's Twitter. But to have direct access to the fans and be able to basically talk to them directly is pretty neat.

Q. What prompted you to take up Twitter?
TIGER WOODS: You know, I think it was just the new generation. This is new. This is a new forum, and you know, I was leery of it, because guys were saying they were having fun doing it, and you know, they would talk to me about it, I would ask them question and next thing you know, I say I'll give it a shot, and you know what, it is fun.

Q. Does the all-time major record mean as much to you as it did? Has it changed in your thinking given everything that's gone on?
TIGER WOODS: No, I absolutely want to do it. That's the benchmark and gold standard in this sport is 18.

Q. Do you still believe you will?
TIGER WOODS: What's that?

Q. Do you still believe you will?
TIGER WOODS: Mm-hmm. (Nodding with smile).

Q. The time it takes to go through swing changes, did you ever worry about giving up time for winning majors, was that ever a concern?
TIGER WOODS: I felt that taking a step back, or sometimes even two steps back, there's nothing wrong with that if I'm going to make three, four, five steps forwards and becoming better in the end. I'll sacrifice that for a bit knowing that I'll become better.
If you look at my track record, that's exactly what's happened. So it's been -- I think it's been good. I got to 14. Can't be that bad. (Laughter).

Q. The last couple of years, you have contended here every year since your last win and most of the time you have pointed to your putting on Sunday, or at least throughout the tournament as something that's held you back. Do you look at that as the biggest factor that's kept you from winning and what do you attribute that to? And if you could tell us which putter you think you'll be using this week?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, not putting well certainly has cost me a few Masters. And you know, I felt that I had a pretty good shot on a couple of different occasions to win on the back nine and just putting poorly.
I have been streaky here for some reason, and you can't be streaky here. You have to get it going and you have to keep it going. The years that I've won here, I've putted well the entire week. You can't just putt well for 18 holes or even nine-hole stretches. You have to keep it going, avoid 3-putts, and have perfect pace all week.
No matter how you play the golf course, no matter how well you play, you're going to have to make 6- and 8-footers for par. It's just a given here. And some of those years, I didn't make those putts. That's what has kept me out of the winner's circle.

Q. Which putter?
TIGER WOODS: I'm using the Method.

Q. The mallet?

Q. From '97 onward, every time you came here, did you arrive here thinking you were the guy to beat, and do you still feel that way now?
TIGER WOODS: Every year I came here, I was trying to get myself there on the back nine. That's all I wanted to do was just get myself there.
There's so much work that has to be done between now, 63 holes, basically to, get yourself to that back nine. It's so much work.
I just want to be a part of that action and let the chips fall where they may. I just need to be part of that action. That's how you win those tournaments is you just need to be there.

Q. Obviously you were not satisfied finishing second, but were you at least satisfied that you got yourself there?
TIGER WOODS: Absolutely put myself there but just didn't putt well. I wasn't putting as consistently as I needed to those years, and yeah, I hit the ball well and I missed in a lot of the right spots, which allowed me to get to that position, which you have to. And Zach, he made 12 birdies in 16 par 5 attempts, and he didn't wedge them to a foot. You have to make those putts. I just didn't do that. Especially the year against Trevor, I definitely did not putt well on that back nine. I put myself there a bunch of different chances. That year my dad was sick and I tried way too hard on those putts.

Q. Can you give us a message in 142 characters or less for Ian Poulter? (Laughter)?
TIGER WOODS: I think I already did, didn't I? That was less than 142, wasn't it?
ROB JOHNSTON: Thank you for taking time out of your preparations to be with us and very best of luck this week.

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