Julius Mason: Two-time PGA Champion Tiger Woods with us, ladies and gentlemen, today at the 85th PGA Championship.
Tiger, some opening thoughts about being in Rochester and we'll go to Q&A afterwards, please.
Tiger Woods: It's great to be here. The golf course is in absolutely fantastic shape. The rough is up this year. And on top of that, you know, some of the changes made the golf course very long, so it's going to be a heck of a test with it being as soft as it is. We are not going to get any run out of the fairways, so it is going to play very long and very difficult.
Q: This course has hosted an Amateur, a U.S. Open, a Ryder Cup. Based on your age and circumstances, it never matched up for you to be here. Is this one of the great courses, the historic courses that you have not played, and has it always been on your radar screen?
Tiger Woods: It has. I've always wanted to play this golf course. Actually there are quite a few of the top golf courses in our country that I have not played and certainly this is one of them.
But obviously, I know Craig because of his brother, Butch and he's always been trying to get me to come up here and I just have never been able to come up here.
It's been a treat to play this golf course.
Q: Based on your first two days of practice, can you talk about how you might play No. 5 and No. 13?
Tiger Woods: 5 was a driver and hopefully I'll have a chance at going for it in two.
13, I hit 3-iron, 5-iron, 9-iron today.
Q: Just on the subject of your driver, you're using the Titleist driver?
Tiger Woods: Mm-hmm.
Q: Do you feel in any way that you are sort of winding yourself back a little bit from the field?
Tiger Woods: I am, actually, yeah. I'm certainly not hitting as far as I did with my Nike driver. But the thing is, I went back to a club that I played well in the past. I had played the same driver since '97 when I caved in my Cobra driver. I didn't switch it until last year at Pebble Beach, so I played with it about four and a half years or so. So it's been a long time.
On top of that, it's been funny, throughout those years, even Titleist was not able to make me a backup that I liked as good as this one. It's like finding a good putter, it seems like it's a little different. You might have 100 putters built exactly the same but don't feel the same. For some reason this one feels just so much better.
Q: Just as a follow-up, for I think five years on Tuesdays at 1:00 is your press conferences at a major, this time it is at 11:30; is it coincidence?
Tiger Woods: I didn't want to stand out there and practice that much. (Laughter.)
I figured the way that I had been playing early and we are further up north than normal, so we should be able to play a little bit quicker because obviously you can start a little earlier.
Q: Yesterday we heard Bernhard Langer saying that in '95, the Ryder Cup fans, he remembers them as being very respectful. He was very happy with the galleries. He said yesterday the same thing, a pretty big crowd for a Monday. What have you picked up from the crowd and have they been hospitable?
Tiger Woods: They have been fantastic, extremely supportive and very respectful. You don't always find that when you get bigger crowds. But this is different. The people here have been very respectful.
It's a lot of fun to play in front of people like that because they also understand you are trying to get ready, trying to prepare. They are out there just to watch, and I think that's the way it used to be. It just hasn't been like that lately.
Q: The way the course is playing right now, the rough is so lush, so long already, it's not even Thursday yet, and it's soft; how is that going to affect your strategy and maybe other guys, how they play the golf course right now this week?
Tiger Woods: Obviously, it's a premium to get the ball in the fairway because you really can't get the ball to the green if you drive it in the rough. Especially what they are doing with the rough. Out there this morning, I don't know if you guys were out there watching or out there early enough to see it, but they are raking the rough up. So they are wisping it up and brushing it back into us, which means we are going to hit shots into the grain; makes it tougher. Any shot you get into the grain, you know you can't get into the green.
Q: Are you any less confident than you were a year ago about the prospect of one day maybe passing Nicklaus' record for 18 majors?
Tiger Woods: I feel the same. I feel like if I keep playing well, keep giving myself chances, I'll get my share and hopefully it will be enough.
Q: Regarding your driver change, can you tell us whether the first hole at St. George's played any part at all in that?
Tiger Woods: No. I've been not comfortable with my driver forever since I went away from the shallow-faced driver that I used early in the year and went to a deeper face, trying to get ?? obviously as the hands get bigger, deeper face, they thin out the walls, and thinner walls you get higher COR's. That's what I want to have happen, get the ball out there a little bit further. But one of the problems with that is that I have always been taught to tee the ball down low.
One of the things that going away from a driver that is slower and going to a driver that's faster is when you hit the ball and try to play that little heel fade and play, when they are coming back faster, it does not want to come back. A lot of guys who have gone to the faster faces they are teeing the ball up higher. You see how much higher they are between now and ten years ago. Guys cannot work the ball as much now and that's why the game has certainly changed. It's not about curving the shots; it's about getting the thing out there because the golf course is getting so much longer, you kind of give that up.
Q: When you stand on the first tee on Thursday, will it be easy to block out of mind what happened at the Open?
Tiger Woods: Yeah. It's just another golf tournament.
Q: Certainly a bit unique for those watching, we've never seen anything like that from you?
Tiger Woods: I haven't lost a ball on the first hole, either.
Q: A couple years ago, you had a handle on all four majors; obviously you don't now. Do you feel that the gap is closing? Back then it just seemed to be Tiger against everybody else. Is the gap do you think closing between and you the rest of the field?
Tiger Woods: I don't know. Never really looked at it that way, even then and even now. Only thing I can worry about is my own game and not anyone else's game.
Q: A lot of people, maybe including us, wax poetic about the other majors a lot. What do you like about the PGA that makes it distinct and special?
Tiger Woods: Generally we go to some of the most historic golf courses. The golf course is set up very similar to a U.S. Open. Obviously, this year, it's exactly like a U.S. Open. Only difference is it's not firm because of the weather they have had.
General, this has been the tournament that has the best field of the four major championships. So with the field being as deep as it is, it becomes that much more difficult to win because you get more top players in the field.
Julius Mason: Currently 96 of the Top-100 world ranked.
Q: You've had a pretty firm grasp on the Player of the Year award for the last few years but this year is wide open. Is that a goal for you to keep that string alive?
Tiger Woods: It would be nice. It certainly would be nice. But you can't look at it that way. You've got to go out there and keep playing and hopefully you've accumulated enough wins and stroke average and money and all that stuff put together that you'll end up on top from the players' perspective.
I think that's what makes it such a neat award is that it is voted on by the players only. I think when you get the players respect, it just feels that much more special and I hope that I can keep it going.
Q: Of the major championship venues that you competed at, which would you say are among your favorites, and also, what would you say to the members that kind of give up their club for the week?
Tiger Woods: Some of my favorites are obviously the older golf courses that we play, i.e., this one; golf courses that have been around for a while and are very simple. They are not tricked up. It's just right in front of you.
I think those are the best golf courses in the world. I think that's what makes it so much fun to play is that they are just right in front of you. There's no hidden agendas. It's just one of those golf courses that's so difficult. It's just basically come and get me and hopefully it will be enough.
As far as the members giving up their golf course, it's not easy for them today do that. A lot of them play a lot of rounds of golf, and it's a sacrifice from not only the members but the entire community. I think it's not easy to do, because, you know, I'm doing it right now with my tournament out there in southern California, it's not easy. You can't please everybody. You've got to be a little bit of a politician and I think that's what makes it difficult.
Q: Speaking of politicians, I think there's more guys in the Player of the Year race than there is in the California governor's race. I was interested in your thoughts in handicapping the guys that are in that cluster and their ballot appeal heading into this week, with obviously Davis's new development over the weekend?
Tiger Woods: I think five guys have a chance, four or five guys; is that what it is? Is it four guys who have three wins or more? Four, five guys, whatever it is. Basically, it's up to those guys that has a chance.
It's quite fun because anyone has an opportunity to do it and obviously this is a big week. This week, American Express and then THE TOUR Championship will probably determine it. Those are the biggest tournaments we have for rest of the year, and if you can win a couple of those, you pretty much have it locked up.
Q: Aside from your concern about your drivers, are there any other parts of your game that you've been less than satisfied with this year?
Tiger Woods: I think overall this entire year has been very consistent. I haven't really got going with anything. I've been very consistent. I haven't legally gone all that low in the events but I've just been very solid. It's hard to say it's been a bad year when I've won four times. Everyone's been on me for how bad I've played this year. Christ, I've won four times. (Laughing).
Q: Do you believe there are fewer hot drivers being used since your comments of a few weeks ago, and are you satisfied with the voluntary testing that will be in place next year?
Tiger Woods: It's hard to say. As far as the voluntary testing goes, am I happy with that? No. I'd like to see us have mandatory testing, but I understand that's a step in the right direction. At least we are taking a step in the right direction. That's a positive move. Obviously I would like to see it go a little bit more than that, but who knows, we might have to.
Q: People rank majors all the time, compare them in terms of the field or prestige. At this tournament, given some of the Sundays you've had over the last four years, where does this major rank in terms of, I guess, drama and the finish?
Tiger Woods: For me, I've had some pretty tough finishes. I've come out ahead twice and behind on the other.
As an overall, for me coming down the stretch, I've had some pretty interesting finishes here, some pretty tough ones, some good battles and ones that really has taken a lot out of me. It's not too often when a guy goes out and shoots 31 on the back nine and loses and he's tied for the lead going into the back nine. That was probably one of the more special events, that event, shooting that low on Sunday afternoon, going head-to-head with Bob, and obviously my duel with Sergio. Last year I tried to make a run at Rich.
But it's been a lot of fun. I tell you what, having a chance on the back nine on Sunday at any major is an awful lot of fun.
Q: I was talking to Chris Riley out there and he was saying that you guys were talking about how bumpy the greens are, a little bit bumpy. Are they like some California greens and is that an advantage or disadvantage?
Tiger Woods: They are. They are certainly like that. There's a lot of poa on these greens, and as soft as they are, you get heel prints. We were the second group out this morning and we could see where the guys were walking on the group ahead of us.
If that remains the way it is for the rest of the week, the guys in the afternoon are going to be putting on some things that are kind of tough to make putts on. That makes it even more of a demand to try to putt the ball in play on the green because it's going to be hard to get up-and-down because of when you get greens that are perfect from ten feet, if you feel like you hit a good putt on line with the right speed, you feel like you can start walking and pick it up out of the hole. Here a ball is going to have a tendency to maybe jump off line here and there, and that's what's going to make it difficult.
Q: Back to the driver. Can you quantify how it's changed you? I know you've only played one tournament but I think you hit 13 fairways on Sunday at the Buick. Are you a different player now with that driver? Is your life easier?
Tiger Woods: Oh, it's so much easier. (Leaning forward, eyes wide open, enthusiastically) (Laughter.)
It's like going back to an old putter that you feel good with. It's just hard to explain that when you go back to something that you are familiar with and you've had success with, you feel kind of a little bit nostalgic a little bit.
Obviously, I've had quite a bit of success from my ?? this is a driver that I went through my swing change with when I was crossing the line short, to where I'm more on plane now with a square club face, I never switched drivers. I was with this driver for the whole stretch. So it has seen the ups and downs. It has the war marks on the bottom of the face where I slapped a few cart paths with it over the last few years. Yeah, it's a lot of fun going back to something that you've had some success with.
O'Meara was teasing me this week. He brought his old Ping putter that he's been using for last nine years, so he's thinking about putting that back in play.
Q: As significant as your wins have been this season, you still have to admit that your game and you are measured by winning how and how you play at measures. This being the last one, would you have to agree that there is some, as good as you've done, there still is some measuring there?
Tiger Woods: Yeah, I haven't won one. I've come close. Each major, I've had a chance going into the weekend. Sunday at Masters I was right there, a couple shots back. At the U.S. Open, I was a few shots back going into Saturday. And then Sunday, I had a great chance. I've been there, I just haven't won.
That's the way it goes. I've tried. It's not like I'm not trying out there. Sometimes I just can't quite get it done and other times you can, and obviously this year, I've come close and just haven't quite gotten over the hurdle.
Q: Not to belabor a point, but all we hear about is technology and golf clubs and R&D; how is it possible that the world's best player can't get what he needs?
Tiger Woods: Well, you have to understand, that if you have a shallower club face, obviously that club face must be thicker. It's hard to have a thin, shallow face. That's where the problem lies. If you have a shallower face ?? for instance a 3-wood. You can't have the COR be as fast as a three was, as a driver, because obviously the face is shallower.
That's one of the things that I've struggled with is that I like to tee the ball down a little bit and hit those little neck peels down the stretch where I have to get a ball in play.
It's just the face has gone bigger and deeper and you have to hit the ball higher. Guys have changed their swings to accommodate that and I haven't. I like the way my swing is; it's been pretty successful.
Q: You haven't won a major yet but you've won four times. People talk about a slump; first of all, how laughable is that? And how difficult is it for you to live up to the expectations that everybody else has for you?
Tiger Woods: Well, the first part of your question, it's been more of an annoyance than anything because I have to keep answering it.
As far as the second part; I think that's just the way it is. If you're successful, people are going to obviously place expectations upon you. I don't think when I turned pro, I mean, even when I turned pro, I didn't think I could have had as positive a career as I've had so far. In '96, I was just hoping to make my card. I had no place to play and I won twice. I've had a very successful year and in a couple more weeks it will be seven years out here on TOUR and in seven years, I've done all right.
Q: I have a business-related question. Just curious how closely do you follow the stock markets and what advice you might have for investors like yourself out there?
Tiger Woods: (Chuckles) Unfortunately I've followed it the last couple of years and it's been great. (Laughter.)
To see red numbers is obviously not good. Things have obviously turned around, which is good. The last couple of months have been pretty productive.
Q: Regarding your year this year, if you have a few minutes Sunday, could you help me get into the same sort of slump you're in? I'd appreciate it?
Tiger Woods: (Laughing).
Q: All kidding aside, when you're not on the golf course, what would you change about your life if you could? I notice yesterday when you came off 18, you could have been buried alive. Would you change any of that? I wonder how that must affect a professional athlete.
Tiger Woods: Well, I think one of the things that I certainly miss from back in my college days is anonymity. It would be nice to have that and be as successful as I have been, but you can't have both. If you're successful, I think that people obviously are going to ?? writers are going to write more about you; hence, curiosity by the public and you obviously get more attention because of that.
Yeah, there's the type of responsibilities that come with success, and anyone who has success in any field is going to have to deal with that. Obviously when you're in front of the cameras and in the media, then you're going to have a lot more attention placed upon you, a lot more pressures and a lot more tugs and pulls, actually, than most. That's just part of it. I have to admit, when I first came out and I turned pro and I've had some success early, I fought it. I wasn't really comfortable with it and I'm still not really comfortable with it now, but I understand it and I accept it. It's not one of those things that you have to like.
You just have to understand and accept your responsibilities, and that's something that I have done. It's nice to get the respectfulness from the fans and everything, but I still feel uncomfortable with that, when that many eyes are looking at you. It's not like you walk around that way at home with eyes looking at you. You know, it just feels a little awkward sometimes.
Q: How much, if any or at all, do you feel a sense of urgency to win here to prevent two through three from going by without winning a major?
Tiger Woods: It really isn't. You can't look at it that way. I'm looking at the fact that I'm trying to prepare myself and give myself the best chance. That's what I've done each and every year, and I've done that in each and every major. The mindset has not changed, whether it was in '99, trying to win one or whether it was in 2000 trying to complete the career Grand Slam or complete the Grand Slam the following year. It's not something that you look at. You have to be focused on what you need to do to prepare and give yourself the best chance, and that's what ?? that's the mindset that you have to have. For me, it's been successful, so I'm not going to deviate from that.
Q: With the drivers what were the two shafts on the Nike that you put away and the 975X that you are playing now?
Tiger Woods: I've experimented between two different shafts. The last one I put away is an Q100. Last year I won the Masters with an X1 and the U.S. Open with a shaft that was about five grams lighter. Still a steel shaft but it's five grams lighter and it gave me a couple extra yards. It comes and goes. Depends on my mood, whether I like it or not, but I certainly do hit it a little bit further with a lighter shaft just like anyone does.
Q: You've made it clear over the years how much you do covet major championships, but is it possible that the longer you go without one, your desire to win one can increase even more? You said earlier it's not like you're not trying; do you ever feel like you're trying too hard?
Tiger Woods: You know, I thought that might be the case, but I've stuck to the same routine, so nothing has changed. I just need to play a little bit better and get some good breaks going my way and get some momentum going.
If I look at the past majors this year, I really haven't got any positive momentum going for a sustained period of time. It's been maybe one round here or six holes here, nine holes there where I get really hot. I just need to it going.
When I won those majors, my previous eight majors that I've won, I've really played well, and I played well for the entire week from the very get-go. Well, except for the one in '97 at the Masters, I didn't play too good on the front nine, shooting low 40. But that's what you have to do in major championships. You can't slap it around and play poorly. You have to play well and be hitting on all cylinders in order to win.
Q: Other than, say, 1 through 18, what would you identify as pivotal holes on this golf course?
Tiger Woods: Well, I think it's ?? obviously because we are starting on two tees, it's a little different, I guess.
I think if ?? if you start on 1, if you take 1 starting out the gates, that's a pretty tough start and obviously your finish. You've got some pretty good holes obviously in between, but I think your start and your finish dictates a lot of how you're going to score. He may have one hell of a round going through 16 holes and all of a sudden you have to play 17 and 18, and if it's into the fan at all, it's going to be tough.
I played with O'Meara and Jay Haas today on the back nine and both of them hit ?? Jay hit his 2-iron into 17 and Mark hit 3-wood. There was no wind. If the wind pops up there, I know I can't carry it up on top if it's into the wind. I was able to barely squeak it up on top today. It's going to be a pretty good finish, whether you have a good round going or not. I think those last two holes will certainly determine who wins.
Q: I'm sure at the moment you won your fourth straight major you appreciated what a tremendous accomplishment that was. Now, looking back, if you do look back on it, do you appreciate it even more, after struggling with the surgery and driver, other things about your game; do you look back and think it's any more special about what it took to get to that point?
Tiger Woods: It wasn't easy. But if you look at anyone who wins, you're going to putt well. If you look back at where it all started at the U.S. Open, look how many putts I made inside of ten feet. They weren't going in on the sides. That's what made it fun. I was pouring them right in the middle.
Then at the British Open, the same thing. PGA, I go out there and shoot 5-under par on the back nine, not slapping it around, I played really well the entire week and shot 18-under par. Augusta, the same thing. The common denominator is you have to play but you have to make putts. That's one of the things I certainly appreciate is how many putts I made back then. Hitting it good, yes, but I was really rolling it pretty good, too.
Q: When you were winning it seemed like those 10-footers, especially the par putts, you were making, and this year, you haven't made as many of those putts. And earlier this year, for instance, Sergio signed a big contract with Maxfli and was playing their ball and he gave it back to them and started playing the Pro V1 with everybody else. You being the flagship of Nike, was it difficult for you to say, "I'm not going to play this diver; I'm going to go back to this old Titleist driver," given your relationship with the company?
Tiger Woods: Yes, it is. I've tried numerous drivers to try to feel comfortable. The common denominator is, sometimes you just need to change it up a little bit or, as I said, O'Meara bringing his old Ping putter. Sometimes you just need to do something like that to give yourself a little bit of a change.
It's not something that I found easy to do. That's one of the things, one of the more difficult decisions I've had to make. But some of the things ?? one of the main reasons is because I just wanted to go back and do something that I was successful at. Granted, I had some pretty bad days with that Titleist driver, too, and that's why I have those marks on the bottom, but I've also had some pretty good days too. It's nice to go back to something that I have some fond memories of, and that's why I did it. But it wasn't an easy decision.
Q: The rough out here, can you tell me another course that it compares with?
Tiger Woods: Another course that it compares with? I don't think we've had roughs this long and this uniform that's been raked up. They did it at the Atlanta Athletic Club, they raked it up a little bit, but not like this. In some spots it's close to eight inches. Last time I checked, that's pretty long.
Q: Have you given Ben Curtis any advice and what do you think of his aroma comment on Letterman?
Tiger Woods: I only heard about that. I haven't seen that.
As far as any advice, no. I just said, congratulations to him. He was leaving Monday of the British and my agent was right next to him and I was talking to him. He passed me the phone and I just wanted to wish him congratulations and well done.
I saw him a couple weeks ago at the Buick. There's really nothing that I can really say. Obviously, his life has changed and he has more responsibilities. One of the biggest things is to try to delegate his time so that he doesn't lose his focus and his preparation and his intensity for competing. That's what the biggest thing is, is that he's got so much more responsibilities and attention than he ever has, it's going to be tough to try and delegate everything and get to where it feels comfortable. This is all new. He's soaking it all in right now. I'm sure he's doing great. He's a great guy.
As far as his comment on Letterman, as I said earlier, I didn't see it. I only heard about it, and trust me, we've had a lot of stories about that.
Julius Mason: Tiger Woods, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much.
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