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Tuesday, June 10, 2008Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods

Player Bio

RAND JERRIS: It's a pleasure to welcome Tiger Woods to the interview area this morning. Tiger is an 8 time USGA national champion and also the winner of the 2000 and 2002 United States Open Championships.

We haven't seen you out here in about six weeks. I understand you had a chance to play some practice rounds yesterday morning, and this morning. Tell us how you're feeling and how you're feeling about your game.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I played last week, actually. I came down here on, I believe it was Wednesday and played, played Sunday, Monday, Tuesday now. The golf course is in perfect shape. It's totally different than what we play here in January. The greens are rolling. You're finding the slopes are pretty significant out here, and we're not used to seeing the ball roll this much.

The greens are perfectly smooth. It's going to be a great test. The way they have set it up with different tees, different lengths. It can play so many different ways that it's going to be very interesting to see how the scores turn out.

RAND JERRIS: This is obviously a golf course where you've had a lot of success. Victories in six of the last nine Buick Invitationals. What does it mean to come to a course where you've had so much success in the past.

TIGER WOODS: I always liked playing here. I played in the Junior World. I played that from 15 to 17. Then I played here in the Buick Invitational.

Even though the golf course was renovated and changed, I still liked the sight lines, didn't have a problem with reading the greens, even though they changed. For some reason I felt very comfortable here.

Q. Well, obviously you're very good at this course. You're so good at it. This past January you won at the Buick Invitational you were the first and the second was a Japanese player, Ryuji Imada, who is one year younger than you, and it was a long way to come, finally he won a PGA TOUR event, and he was the third Japanese player to win. He's been looking forward to play with you again at the U.S. Open. What do you think of Ryuji Imada?

TIGER WOODS: Ryuji and I actually played on the AJGA Tour for a couple of years. And it took a little bit for him to get out here, but we always knew that he had the talent to play out here. He's been in contention a few times, and obviously just won a few weeks ago. It's just a matter of time before he won a golf tournament. He has a lot of talent, it's just a matter of gaining the experience and confidence.

Q. What's your reaction with the pairings situation, one, two, and three in the same group?

TIGER WOODS: I like it. I like the way they did, 1 through 12 the way they did that. I think it's exciting for the fans, exciting for the players. We all are looking forward to it. I haven't heard one negative thing about it yet. Everyone I've talked to just being at home and practicing is really looking forward to seeing all those guys grouped together.

Because we really don't. We're usually spread out. You don't get pairings like that until maybe Saturday or Sunday.

Q. If you could just kind of take us through your routine after you played a practice round as far as the recovery. Do you have to ice your knee? What sort of things do you have to go through as you continue to recover?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I work out. I lift, do my cardio, like I always do. Ice, yes. Stretch, yep. So it's the same.

Q. If I could follow‑up, the idea back when you look at the last layoff, not '02, but '05, in between the U.S. Open, obviously it's a different recovery for you, the layoff, the competitive layoff recovering mentally from your father's death and now the knee. If you could just kind of tell us in your mind the competitive layoff, how you approach the two different layoffs, that one versus this one?

TIGER WOODS: Well, a couple of years ago when dad passed it was ‑‑ coming back and playing was a lot more difficult than I thought, just because everything I did ‑‑ if I take time off and I come back, I always work on my fundamentals. Well, who taught me my fundamentals? It was dad. All the things I had to go through and my preparation for tournaments my dad taught me all those things. Overcoming and getting out and playing and practicing, I didn't want to do that because I'd always think about dad. That was the hardest thing.

Usually people go to work to get away from it. But to me it brought more feelings out when I came to work. So it was a little more difficult practicing and preparing.

This is totally different going through what I've had a procedure done, right after The Masters and now here, you can't compare the two mentally, they're two totally different places.

Q. Everyone is talking about how this week's Torrey is considerably different than the Torrey you guys see in February. What are you going to do with your strategy and course management and how do you feel the course is going to play differently?

TIGER WOODS: It's a little quicker, but not much. The fairways, even though it's summertime here, the fairways really aren't running out that much. I think the interesting thing is you have 6 as a par‑4. They're looking at moving 3 up a couple of days. 14 is going to be up. 13 is way back.

We're playing different distances in the tee boxes than what we normally do for the Buick. So getting a feel for that over the practice rounds I think is pretty important to develop a feel, but also develop a game plan on how to play them.

Q. How would you characterize your greatest advantage on this course and your greatest disadvantage on this course considering your physical state right now?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I feel very good about coming in and playing. I feel good about my practices, my preparation, coming back to a golf course I've had some success at, just really looking forward to getting out there and playing. It's just a matter of getting into the competitive rhythm and flow of the round quicker.

When I played Winged Foot after a long layoff, I didn't get into the flow of the round for three or four holes. You can't do that. You have to get in the flow of the round on the very first hole and find that rhythm of the round. I didn't do that, it took too long. Subsequently, I was over par and always trying to fight back. Hopefully I can find the rhythm in the round a little bit quicker.

Q. Do you think if you could win here given the obstacles with your health that this could be your finest victory, your finest hour?

TIGER WOODS: I have a long way to go before that happens. Sorry, Jerry.

(Laughter)

Q. I'm not saying ‑‑ what I'm trying to say is, put it this way, have you ever faced obstacles this great?

TIGER WOODS: I'm sure I have, it's just a matter of getting out there and just playing. As I said ‑‑ answered his question ‑‑ it's a matter of getting into the flow of the round and the competitive atmosphere and obviously playing well at the same time.

Q. What's your view of the new tee at 13?

TIGER WOODS: Well, we're almost on Black's Beach (laughter). So ‑‑ I don't know, maybe we can hit up and over the cliff to get to the fairway. It's unbelievable how far back that is. That usually is where they start their hang gliding over there. It's hard to believe it's that far back.

But if it plays downwind you know you can get to the fairway. You can't reach it. Bubba came pretty close yesterday, he said it was downwind, he was probably six yards short of the green, rolled it down the hill and got down to that flat spot. But the forecast isn't for any Santa Ana's, so we're not going to have to worry about that. It's a matter of hitting it down there and playing off the tee. You have a big enough fairway. Lay it up in the fairway and hope you won't get it in any divot, because everybody will lay up to the same spot. They're going to move the tee up the other two days, so hopefully that will give us a break.

Q. The PGA paired you and Phil together back at Medinah two years ago the first two rounds. When you think back, what stands out in your memory of those first two rounds; and how much does your playing partners really matter to you when you're playing in a Major the first two rounds?

TIGER WOODS: You know, it's hard to say, because once you tee off, I mean you're in your own little world. You don't really care about what anyone else is doing. You have enough issues going on out there, trying to play a Major Championship venue. It might influence more in a regular event. But there's so many different things going on in a Major championship, all the different distractions and the golf course setup, you're so focused on what you have to do. I don't think the pairing has a lot to do with it. But as I said, regular events I think it does a little bit more.

Q. Back in '06, just what you remember about those first two rounds being paired?

TIGER WOODS: It's like what Jeff says, he didn't realize how much ‑‑ how many distractions there are inside the ropes. And I would say that's one of the things we're going to have to deal with this week. That's part of it.

Q. Is rhythm kind of a euphemism for rust, getting in the flow. When you said it took you a while to get in the rhythm after the layoff, is that an analogy to rust?

TIGER WOODS: It's just how you feel competitively. It's how far the ball is flying, how your body is feeling, shape of shots, what you feel you can and can't hit, what you feel comfortable shaping, your distance control, sometimes it's off a few yards, all these different things you should know that going in very quickly. So hopefully I can get into that rhythm and understand what's going on very quickly.

Q. In the past you've made preparing for Majors something of a science. Now you come in with these circumstances. Is there any sense of the unknown and not feeling like you know exactly what to expect?

TIGER WOODS: A little bit. I haven't played in a while. I haven't played obviously competitively since The Masters. So getting out there and getting into the flow and dealing with the adrenalin, dealing with the juices flying, all these different things that a lot of guys have been dealing with for a little bit and I haven't. I'm excited about it. I'm really excited about getting out there and feeling that.

Q. There's a certain sense of ‑‑ people say there's just no way he can do it. Are they ‑‑

TIGER WOODS: I've heard that before. (Laughter). I've heard that before.

Q. Two questions, have you walked 18 holes since Sunday at Augusta?

TIGER WOODS: No.

Q. Secondly, the record will show that you've had less success in the U.S. Open than the other three, why do you think that is?

TIGER WOODS: Less wins. I've come closer, I think, in more Opens. I've had a lot of high finishes in U.S. Opens, but I've only won two.

Q. Is it harder for you than the other three?

TIGER WOODS: No, if you look at my records it's actually been pretty good over the years. Since 2000 I've had some pretty high finishes, I've only won one since 2000. But I've been there on the back nine on most of them.

Q. If this hadn't have been a Major this week, would you have played?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah.

Q. Could you talk about adjusting to the rough, it's not just heights but tougher types, how much interpretation do you have to do about how the ball is going to come out and how consistent is that?

TIGER WOODS: That's the tricky part. We can get lies in that first cut that sit up where literally you can hit driver off of it. Bubba hit driver off 9 in the rough. Normally it's an automatic wedge. But just happened to get one lie in that one kikuyu patch that it was sitting up. But there are some patches where you're looking more sideways trying to get the ball back to the fairway.

That's just going to be the tricky thing this week is trying to judge that. Marginal lies, can I carry the ball on the green, do I need to run it, do I even take a chance? All these things that we don't normally have to worry about in an Open come into play. I think that's one of the great things how it's set up is that we have a chance of getting to the green and actually catching flyers and hitting the ball over the green, which is different. Most Opens that's never entered into the equation.

Q. It's unclear, Mike Davis hasn't said how many days 14 could play as a drivable par‑4. Were you surprised when he mentioned that prospect or is it something you can see?

TIGER WOODS: Very surprised. We've played 14 back every year. I've always thought that you play to the corner and then on to the green. I never thought the USGA would actually give us a break, give us a chance of making a birdie like that. Also they're moving No. 3 up, too, possibly, over on the left. That makes it interesting, as well.

The setup could be so varied, where certain holes that you wouldn't think are holes you can pick up shots on and you can. I think that's going to be the exciting thing. You have some birdie holes out there. And you do really feel like you should make birdie on those holes.

Q. Your friend Notah Begay is trying to make it back to the TOUR and is struggling with depression. He said you helped him a lot during that time. How did you help him and how did you see or what did you see in terms of his struggles?

TIGER WOODS: Well, Notah, he's been hurt for such a long time. It's been, what, six, eight years he's been hurt. He hasn't played pain‑free until this year. So this is the first time he can actually hit a ball. Notah was in the top‑10 driving distance when he first came out. He lost that ability to hit the ball that far.

So when you have that and then you're playing in pain, you can't bend over, every shot you go at hard there's a chance that you might not be able to get off the ground. That's not a good feeling. And he was ‑‑ he went through some tough times there and had no status, trying to play anywhere he can. He's now pain‑free. It wouldn't surprise me if Notah starts playing really well here. He's got so much talent. Everyone who knows Notah knows he is one of the best putters they've ever seen. It will be him feeling healthy enough to get the ball out there some reasonable distance, and getting some confidence.

He's played so poorly for so long because he's been hurt that it's just a matter of getting out there, feeling better, shooting better scores and getting momentum from there.

Q. How did you help him?

TIGER WOODS: Tried to be there as a friend. I mean he was like a big brother to me when I was in college my freshman year. He made me carry all the bags, made me load up the cars, you know, like all freshmen do, but he's been like a big brother to me. I'd do anything for that guy.

Q. You talked a little bit about your rehabilitation, do you feel like your knee is fully recovered or are you finding you're still holding back when you play?

TIGER WOODS: Is it fully recovered? Probably not.

Q. On the greens, right now they don't seem to be that firm. They may be fast, but they don't seem all that firm. Can they make them firm enough by the time the tournament comes for this to be really difficult for you guys and to keep the scores down?

TIGER WOODS: It's actually interesting, the first bounce is a little bit springy. It takes a pretty good hop, but then it starts stopping. Speed has picked up over the last two days, noticeably. I don't know if they're going to pick up another six inches or a foot come Thursday. But they're starting to get that little sheen to them today.

But it's just a matter of ‑‑ they could get a little bit firmer, but I don't think they really want to. If they play all the tees back for a couple of days I hope they don't get them too firm.

Q. Do you have to guard against seeing a line that you think you saw in the Buick?

TIGER WOODS: Yes.

Q. And you're not seeing here?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, the lines are much higher here now. I'm used to seeing lines a little bit straighter, a little lower, and with a lot less pace. Some of the putts have a lot more swing at the end. They're rolling out a little bit more. Up and over ridges. Like the putt I made this year on 11 you couldn't make that putt right now. It's just too fast. A good putt would be almost to the front of the green. So you can't get away with shots like you did during the Buick.

Q. How much time elapsed between the surgery and when you first saw Kleven and did he have you do anything different prior to the surgery and post‑surgery?

TIGER WOODS: Prior to the surgery I was playing, playing The Masters and then I had my procedure done on Tuesday. Not a whole lot. But afterwards Keith and I started working probably four or five days out, post‑op, and then we've worked pretty good from since then to try to get this thing organized so I can play.

Q. How much of that was different than previous workouts?

TIGER WOODS: It was different because when we'd come off of having a surgery done, you can't go all out. I'm not real good at that. I like to go all out and that's all I know. So holding back the reins is a little more difficult for me to do.

Q. At what point did you know that you were going to come back and play at the Open?

TIGER WOODS: Probably during the week of Memorial. The week prior to Memorial I was not feeling good enough where I was a hundred percent sure I could play all four days. But then my leg started getting a lot better quickly, which was great. I started to do ‑‑ my lifting went way up. My endurance came back. All the different things started coming up. So probably during the week of Memorial.

Q. You normally have such a schedule of time, what is it like to have time when you can't do what you would normally be doing and what's the best thing ‑‑ what are some of the good things that you have done in this time?

TIGER WOODS: There's no way I could have gotten through this without Sam being there. Spending that much time off and away from training and trying to get better, Sam was absolutely incredible, and I had so much fun doing that. It took my mind away from the fact that I had a surgery done and just watching her grow, walking, running now, it's been just the greatest thing in the world.

Q. I wonder if ‑‑ you made some comments I think a week ago about hockey, about how nobody watches hockey anymore. Did you hear about that from some of your hockey friends or Canadians?

TIGER WOODS: Oh, yeah, I've gotten a lot of grief over that. I love the sport. I love watching it, but I don't like watching it on TV. In person it's absolutely incredible, what they're able to do and what they can do. TV doesn't do justice to that. But then, neither does ‑‑ a lot of sports are the same way.

It is what it is. I said what I said and I was trying to be funny about it, but people didn't perceive it that way.

Q. You said earlier you had not walked 18 holes since the surgery. During any of these practice rounds has there been a shot or anything that you felt a twinge or anything that would give you concern or something you didn't like the way that felt in your knee?

TIGER WOODS: It's a little sore, but not anything that I haven't dealt with before.

Q. The USGA in the last few years, at least since 2004 seems to have introduced more uncertainty into its setup for the golf course for the U.S. Open. While Augusta National seems to go the other way, and maybe next year will return some uncertainty to that. First of all, do you agree with that. What place do you think uncertainty do you think it has in the setup for a Major?

TIGER WOODS: Well, what the USGA has done is given itself flexibility. If the golf course is playing too hard, if the wind kicks up, if the greens are getting out of control, what happened at Shinnecock, they don't want to get into that situation again. They have the ability now to move tees up, play holes differently, give guys a chance to make birdie. And even so we've had more flexible tournaments, but the scores have still been over par.

If they played, like Oakmont, given normal USGA pins, I talked to Mike about it, he gave us the easiest pins possible during that Open. If they would have given us the hard pins we probably still would have been playing.

But I think Augusta has gone the other way, as you said. All the tees are played back. They tried to move the tee up on 1 and give us flexibility there, move the tee up on 7 a little bit, but they really haven't given us too many opportunities to make birdies. Consequently the scores haven't been as low or as exciting in the back nine.

But traditionally Augusta has always been lower scores than a U.S. Open. I think everyone at the USGA learned what can happen if it gets out of control, like at Shinnecock, and try to make sure that doesn't happen again.

Q. You talked about the competitive layoff and also the physical challenges of coming back after knee surgery. How much more difficult is that at this event as opposed to a regular TOUR event to come back from the knee surgery and from two months of not playing at a Major in these conditions?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I wanted to play at Memorial, just for that reason, to get back and get used to the rhythm and the flow of competitive play, how am I feeling, the shots, how I'm hitting, the tendencies, all the things leading up to the Open. That wasn't the case. So that reality is out. So I just had to change my training a little bit and make sure I was ready for this one.

Q. A question about your website, what's the benefit to you in terms of being able to control the information that flows from your camp and control the message a little bit as opposed to the rest of us speculating?

TIGER WOODS: Well, it's a way for me to basically say exactly what's on my mind. I can say it to a few of you guys, but not all of you. So it is a way for me to communicate, because as everyone knows I'm a little bit shy and a touch guarded at times and this is a way for me to express myself in a way that I normally don't.

Q. I don't think anyone's expecting anybody to go to 19‑under par here. What would you imagine you'd have to shoot to win this tournament this week or anyone would have to shoot?

TIGER WOODS: Well, 18 would be good, then. (Laughter).

Q. What would you guess they might shoot?

TIGER WOODS: Oh, might? We've been trying to figure that out the last few days. As Loren asked about the uncertainty of the set up, we don't know. How many days are they going to play it up on 13? How many days are they going to play it up on 14? Same on 3. Are they going to keep us all the way to the back on 6. We just don't know.

If they play it all the way up, I'm sure it will be under par, without any doubt. If they play it all the way back and move some of the pins around, like on 16, get the left tee box and left pins, well then it makes it a whole lot harder.

It's really hard to answer because I don't know how they're going to play it. If they play it up all days then you'll say under par, for sure. Play it back every day, then you'll probably say over par. But since it's a mixture you don't know what it's going to be.

And it's a little bit frustrating as a player, because you always have an idea what the score is going to be going into the event. But this year it's a little bit different.

Q. Coming into the tournament do you have to create a mindset in which you think you are recovered or is there anything in your game that you have to maybe adjust in accordance to playing with an injury?

TIGER WOODS: I'm good to go. I plan on playing competitive. Come game time on Thursday I'll be ready.

Q. Can you say in percentage terms how fit your knee is now. Have you been told you need to make any adjustments to prevent further problems in the future?

TIGER WOODS: It's feeling better.

Q. Putting hockey aside, any thoughts about the Lakers and Celtics?

TIGER WOODS: Oh, man, we need to get a win tonight ‑‑ we, I'm from LA, so I guess I'm a little bit biased. But it would be nice to see LA get a win tonight and keep home court going.

Q. When you played here at Buick ‑‑ having longer shots into some of these holes now, how will your strategy change, if at all, and how much will you use driver or will you have to use the driver here a lot this week?

TIGER WOODS: I played exactly the same way, actually. The only hole that was different was 14. We played 14 downwind, so it was a 5‑wood. Today I'm hitting 3‑wood to the same spot I was hitting 5‑wood at the Buick. Other than that it's the same shots.

Q. With going with nine the last couple of days, was that something that was planned or is that a product of how you've been feeling?

TIGER WOODS: Both. It's because that's the way I was feeling that's the way I was playing.

Q. You mentioned you have not walked 18. Is there a reason why you haven't walked 18? Could that be an issue when Sunday gets around, four rounds of walking 18 with your knee?

TIGER WOODS: No, I'll be fine.

RAND JERRIS: Thank you very much for your time this morning. Wish you a lot of luck this week.

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