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August 10, 2011

Tiger Woods


KELLY ELBIN: Four-time PGA champion Tiger Woods joining us at the 93rd PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club. This will be Tiger's 14th PGA Championship appearance.
Tiger, welcome back to Atlanta Athletic Club and to major championship competition. How do you feel coming off of Firestone last week and some general comments about the golf course that you've seen so far, please.
TIGER WOODS: Well, I feel good. I played here last Monday and played the front nine yesterday and the back nine today. Golf course was in perfect shape. I mean, it's -- the fairways are just -- this diamond zoysia is just unreal. It's quick, no doubt, the fairways are quick.
Greens aren't as fast as what we played last Monday, but I'm sure they'll be picking up speed come tomorrow and the weekend. But over all just looking forward to getting out there and competing. It's going to be a hot week and a fun one.

Q. Could you just tell us specifically what facets of your game you've been working on since Akron last week, and also, can you detail your equipment changes since the Masters? Have you tweaked or changed any equipment in the bag?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, let's see. We're working on the same things. Sean and I have been working on exactly the same things since probably end of last year and just refining it, because obviously I hadn't played in while, ever since Augusta I haven't really competed.
So just going back to working on those same things. Last week was good to get out there. I didn't have my feel for my distances the first few days. I was hitting it a touch further, which was a good thing, but didn't have the touch to are hitting the ball pin-high.
But the last couple days I was hitting my ball right on the number every time, which was great. Every ball was pin-high. That was nice to see come the weekend, to get my feel back.
Club wise, since the Masters, I've changed the shaft in my driver. I went away from the Diamana I've used for a long time and went to a graphite design, which I played at THE PLAYERS and last week, as well.
The putter I've bounced back and forth between the method -- the mallet version at Augusta to what I'm using now, which is very similar to my Cameron, and that's about it.
Oh, fresh wedges, but that's nothing new. Same design.

Q. There's a lot of talk coming into this week about having one player dominant golf versus a whole bunch of other players having a chance to contend. When it comes to sports in general, which do you like, to see a Michael Jordan dominate the sport, or have a whole bunch of other teams contend? And what's your take on the state of the PGA TOUR with all these young players having a chance?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I've always been one that enjoyed watching dynasties or rivalries. I grew up in So Cal with the Lakers playing the Celtics. There weren't enough NBA Finals -- one of those teams won the NBA Finals for ten straight years, so that's what I grew up watching. So I enjoyed that.
And then obviously watching the Bulls, Michael winning six in a row. I mean, that's as good as it gets.
So for me and obviously with Derek and the Yankees, being a big Yankee fan, to see what those guys have done, four out of five or four out of six, whatever it was, during that stretch, I've always liked that.
I think the game of golf is cyclical. When I came out here, it was -- Faldo was still playing well, still had Norman and Price, a bunch of guys from Europe, Bernhard was still out here playing well, Ollie. Then you had my generation of Phil, Ernie, Vijay and Goose and Furyk.
And now you have this new young crew coming up. There's probably two generations to that young crew, the guys that are probably early 30s; like Adam is, what, 30, and those guys are probably in their mid 20s; and then there's the teenagers, Ryo being 19, and -- I mean, it's just ungodly how good these guys are at such an early age.
Being here from the States, no one turned pro in their teens. That was unheard of. We always went to college. But overseas it's different. Guys are turning pro at a very young age and getting way more experience than we ever had playing professional golf, and they're better earlier than even my generation.

Q. And the overall state of the Tour right now?
TIGER WOODS: I think the Tour is doing great. It's very healthy. I know that Tim is in the midst of starting his negotiations, so I think with all this excitement of young players coming up. I think it's going to be a very good contract for us.

Q. I know you've won with Bryon before, but what are the realistic challenges you face this week winning a major with a temporary caddie like Bryon?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think I just have to push him up a couple of hills (laughter.) He's going to be a doing a little bit of forecaddying. There's no way in hell he's walking back up at 11. He says, "Good luck, have fun. I'll see you down there. I just want to get the angle how your driver is coming in."
No, I think that we're going to have a great time out there. We're going to have fun. We're going to be competing. He knows my game. He knows how far I hit the golf ball. We play all the time at home, so he's seen me play a ton of golf. So that's nothing new.
Only thing that's going to be different for us is obviously we're in a tournament situation. But as far as understanding me and knowing me and knowing what to say, he's very good at that. He's very good at making a very sly and smart-aleck remark every now and again to sort of loosen me up.
There's some pretty intense situations we've had in the U.S. Amateur in '96, he said some pretty funny things, I'm getting my butt kicked by Steve Scott, and he'd made a sly comment if I hit one good shot.
We've had a lot of fun, and we're going to have fun this week.

Q. I'm interested in knowing where you are mentally as a competitor with all you've been through physically and otherwise. Are you still patient enough with yourself to see your game through?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, absolutely. I believe that's -- it's obviously a great question because I think if you would have probably asked me that question earlier in the year I would have given you a different answer. I was frustrated early in the year because -- especially at the Masters. Consequently after the Masters, because I just wasn't feeling well. And it's been frustrating.
But now that I'm healthy, it's so much easier to be more patient because I feel good. I have way more energy because I'm not trying to block out pain and trying to ignore that. I can just go out there and just play golf.
As I said earlier, my feels are starting to come back. I've been away from the game for a while, but I'm starting to get the feel of hitting shots and how far the ball is going and just getting that more and more target awareness that just comes from just playing in tournament golf.

Q. So far everyone has come in and talked about the great condition of the golf course, but also how difficult the last four holes are. Obviously you've played the golf course; it's in good shape. Can you speak to the last four holes?
TIGER WOODS: I don't think there's another stretch that I can remember that's this difficult coming in. You have two long par-4s going uphill, you've got a par-3 in which more guys will be hitting lumber, and obviously 18 being as tight as it is for as long as it is, it's a hell of a test coming in.
But if you play those four holes per day, those 16 holes even par, you'll be picking up a ton of shots on the guys. They're going to give us a couple breaks out there, I'm sure, with I think one drivable par-4 on each side. We've got a decent par-5 in which a good drive, you can hit some kind of wood or iron into the green on 11; 12 is a very birdieable hole. Sometimes they're looking at moving the tee up there. But other than that, this back nine is stout. Not only do you have to get the ball in the fairway, but it's also placement on the greens. You can't get the ball above the hole, and there's not a lot of pins out there.
I'm curious to see where they're going to put some of these pins because the greens are just so pitched and how fast they're going to get them because of that.

Q. I presume at this point you've heard some of the comments that Stevie made after Adam Scott's win on Sunday. I'm wondering what your reaction is to those comments. And also, there's a picture of Mark Steinberg and Stevie looking like they were talking presumably yesterday. I'm wondering if there was some message sent from your camp to him.
TIGER WOODS: Well, I was happy to see Stevie and Adam win. Adam has been a friend of mine, and same with Stevie.
I sent Stevie a nice text after completion, play, congratulating him on his win. It was good to see them go out there and play as well as they did.
I mean, Adam played great on Sunday. He drove it on a string, hit every iron shot just where he needed to and he made putts.
I was needling him pretty good this year at the Bahamas about the long putter; I could why he went to it. His stroke's pure. And he's got so much more -- his path is so much better and his feel is so much better. So it was great to see him play that well.
But this is a good week for all of us.

Q. Did Mark meet with Stevie yesterday?
TIGER WOODS: They talked, yeah, absolutely.

Q. (No mic).
TIGER WOODS: They talked. You're right, yeah.

Q. There's been plenty of comments and stories linking Australian's Shane Joel to your role as full-time caddie. You said that Bryon was only ever going to be a part-time option for these two tournaments. Is that likely to happen, and if so, what time frame?
TIGER WOODS: There's nobody I've committed to. Mark was nice enough to talk to me about it and said that Shane is available if I so choose.
But going to the major championship, I'm focused on this. After this event I'll sit down and really look at it hopefully going to the Playoffs.

Q. That's a perfect segue. I was kind of wondering, is there any more pressure on you this week since you've got the kids next week and you're not playing; this is sort of your last at-bat to get points, or it won't really matter what your caddie situation is for the next six weeks.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, just go out there and just play. This is a major, and this is the fun part.
We have four times a year in which we play for these things, and that's all I'm concerned about.

Q. Kind of follows on from that. How much are you relishing having missed the last two majors actually being here on the biggest stage once again?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it feels good to be out here, and I can feel the atmosphere. I can feel the rush of a major championship again. It's a different situation.
It was funny, Sean was trying to get me on the range to hit a couple low, bullet British Open drives. I said, I wouldn't know, I didn't play. It feels good to get out here and hit some shots. I can just feel the atmosphere. It's just different.
When you go into a major championship, it's just different. It's going to be fun.

Q. Players and caddies go their separate ways for many reasons. How difficult was it after all those years for you to make the decision on Steve, and then secondly, do you feel that you sort of regret the way that it's unfolded?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, sometimes we all need changes, and this was a change, and as I told you guys earlier, I was at peace with it, and it was a decision and a direction I wanted to go, and that's it.

Q. Do you regret the way that it's --
TIGER WOODS: All I can control is my life and how I feel, and that's it. That's all I can do.

Q. We're five years out from the Olympics. They're taking bids for the course. Going to name a course designer soon. Do you have a bid in? And what do you think, Faldo is pitching this idea of 18 major champions doing the golf course. I was wondering about your take on that.
TIGER WOODS: That's an interesting one. I hadn't heard that one from Nick. You know, I believe -- I think he was going in with maybe a Lorena or something like that, he was looking at doing a co, and Jack was going with Annika, I think.

Q. Norman is with Lorena.
TIGER WOODS: Okay, so it was -- it's something that, yeah, I was taking a look at, but I'm not going to have the time to do that, so I didn't bid for it. Right now I'm fully into my career and fully into playing.
I feel like that the players who are involved in it, Annika is retired; Lorena is retired; Faldo is retired; Jack is retired; I'm still right in the middle of my career, so I'm not going to have time to devote to that.
Other projects where it's going to be less time, but that's one is going to be quite a bit of time.

Q. I wanted to judge your interest as a competitor in the Games, playing, and what type of impact do you think it'll have in this country? We talk about Asia and South America, but in America, will that event spike interest in golf?
TIGER WOODS: I don't think it's going to spike interest in golf as much as it will in the other countries around the world because golf is already pretty strong here in this country.
Other places like China where it's just beginning or in South America where it's just beginning, when they get countries behind it and the golf federation is behind it and government backing behind programs, it's amazing what happens.
What the Chinese have done over the years with their governmental programs for individual sports, selecting kids at very early ages, and next thing you know they're Olympic Gold Medalists, that's what can happen, and I think that's what's going to happen in golf, not necessarily here.
We tend to forget we play three of the four majors here on American soil, so I think that it won't have quite the same impact. Still an impact, but not quite the same.

Q. Given the circumstances of your year, what would it take for you to consider this season a success for you?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I'm finally healthy, so that's a big one. I haven't been in a while, so that's something I'm very excited about finally, that I can come out here and just play and have fun again.
As I said, I was always trying to block out pain. That's not a lot of fun to play through that. It's nice to have a kind of bounce in my step again and walk around these hills and not have to worry about hills. I can just go right up and as I try to find angles, how can I get up this hill.
At Augusta, for instance, on Sunday it was pretty interest.

Q. Would it take a win for you to consider this year a success?
TIGER WOODS: It would be nice. I mean, that's the goal is to win every tournament I play in, so that's not going to change, but I think the first thing is I had to get healthy in order to get back to that level. I hadn't been able to practice, hadn't been able to work on my game with Sean. I've been sidelined for a long time. It all started with being healthy first, and now I can start playing again.

Q. Given your lack of play this year and the fact that you've battled with the injuries, plus your passion for majors, what's your realistic expectation for this week?
TIGER WOODS: A W (nodding head). Do you want me to elaborate? A nice W (laughter).

Q. I see a lot of kids here experiencing the opportunity to be here. Since you haven't been playing much over this year, have you been dedicating any time towards the Tiger Woods Foundation? I haven't heard much about what's going on with that? Could you tell us about some of the great things going on with the foundation?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, we've expanded. We've got a new campus right there in Philly. We launched that this summer. Our new summer programs out there in Orange County at our Learning Center are now full and in effect and we are now full-time during the summer.
We just had 40 military families come out for a couple weeks to enjoy our facility and for the kids to experience that.
You know, we're growing. We're looking at right now expansion into Asia. These are all things that are happening. I mean, I was lucky enough to have had the opportunity to build a learning center and have my dad there before he passed to be able to see what we did, and I would like to do something like that in Thailand before my mom goes. She's not going to go anytime soon; as you know, she's pretty stubborn.
So it'll be something I really want to make happen and make her proud that she gets to help her country in Thailand. So that's what we're looking at right now.

Q. What does loyalty mean to you, and why?
TIGER WOODS: You love loaded questions, don't you? You're a beauty, Tom.
You know, obviously it's trust earned over time, and I think that's the only way I can define it.

Q. You mentioned you're healthy and you're feeling fine and your energy level is up. How do you feel the heat will come into play this week?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it's hotter at home, so this is nice. It's not so hot here. I'm looking forward to it. I had a nice tournament at Tulsa when it was over 110 that week, so hopefully this will be a similar success.

Q. Just following on the Steve situation, the day after Adam's win he came out and said he felt that he went a little bit over the top, and you just said you texted him after the win. I'm just wondering if you guys have corresponded at all either via text or in person since that situation?
TIGER WOODS: I think that's between Stevie and myself.

Q. You've talked a lot about needing tournament reps. How important is it for you to get in as many reps as possible and how difficult has it been with all the stops and starts to your season this year?
TIGER WOODS: There have been a lot of stops and starts, and I haven't been able to do what I did today, or the last two days, which is play my practice round, then go out and practice afterwards.
That's been something that's been nice. I can just go out there and hit as many golf balls as I want, putt for as long as I want, chip for as long as I want.
These are things that over the course of years past I haven't been able to dedicate that much time to, so it feels good to be able to feel physically capable of doing that again. And that's the only way I'm going to improve so I need to put in the legwork. I need to get out there and get the reps in.
So that feels good, and it's coming along. As I said, my feel is coming back, something that we as players, we need to have that, have that sense of playing, and I hadn't played a full tournament until last week in three months.
Even when I came off the knee surgery, the reconstruction in '08, the first few tournaments in '09, I wasn't sharp because I hadn't played in a while. It took me all the way until March to get a win.

Q. You're at an age where majors are historically harder to come by. Do you have benchmarks where you'd like to be at age 38, age 40, in order to catch Jack?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, ahead. (Laughter.)
You know, 38, so that's three years, 15. If I win all 15, I'll be looking all right. I would be in good shape, wouldn't I, 29.

Q. When Steve was your guy he never talked to the media or very rarely talked to the media after an event, and last week he said a lot of intemperate things. Were you surprised by that?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah (nodding head).

Q. Since I also write for professional tennis, I hope you don't mind the question. I was wondering if you've had the chance to catch up with your friend Roger Federer lately. He just celebrated his 30th birthday Monday.
TIGER WOODS: Uh-huh, he's old now, isn't he? All of 30 years old, wow.
No, Fed and I, we text all the time, still -- he's been a great friend over the years, and we're always needling each other all the time. I think he's in Montreal this week playing. We've been trying to keep up with each other.
Every tournament he plays in, every tournament I play in, which I haven't been playing a whole lot, so I've been watching a lot of his events. It's good to see him play, and unfortunately Wimbledon just didn't quite work out for him.
But he's feeling fit, and I think that's the thing; he feels good. He just needs to get on a little bit of a run. And the U.S. Open is coming up; I think he's going to do really well. He's always had success on hard courts, so it's going to be fun to watch.

Q. Going back to your definition of loyalty, do you think with the things that Steve has said over the past few weeks, has he proved himself disloyal to you, or do you think the fact that he worked for you for 13 years and he didn't talk very much, that maybe there's just a bunch of pent-up stuff that he's just letting out now?
TIGER WOODS: I'm not going to speculate on Steve. Those are obviously his feelings and his emotions and his decision to say what he wants to say.

Q. Just to go back to something you said earlier, is it possible that this season could end without a win and you could still consider it a success? Is that what you were saying earlier?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, in order to win I had to be healthy. That's what we're trying to get to. Now I can go. Now I can do the work. I can do the practice sessions, and I think that that's the only way that my game will get to where I need to get to.
It's one thing that if I wasn't making any swing changes. I came off of '08 going into '09, I was still under the same coach, same theories, same everything, just had to get back to it.
I hadn't really been practicing a lot, so still learning a new system and understanding what Sean wants me to do, so that's going to take reps. Down the road if I would have gotten hurt and still been under Sean's tutelage for years then that's a different story. I could pick up from there. Here I'm still learning things.

Q. Darren Clarke said you were very supportive of his recent win at the Open. Do you have anything to say about that, and the link possibly with 2000 at La Costa?
TIGER WOODS: What's the last part?

Q. He talked about your friendship going back to 2000, a possible link.
TIGER WOODS: He was working with Butch and so was I, and we struck up a great friendship back then, and it hasn't changed over the years. It's gotten stronger. We've dealt with some things in our lives that have been tough at times, and it's been good shoulders to kind of lean on.
I'm very thankful to have Darren in my life as a friend, and what he did at the British Open was great. He went out there and did what he needed to do to win a championship.
I was very proud of him for how he did it and the person he has been to me over the years.
KELLY ELBIN: Tiger Woods, thank you very much.

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