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PGA Championship is a real stress test, says Woods
With the 89th PGA Championship two months away, defending champion Tiger Woods discussed the changes at Southern Hills, how fatherhood will affect his preparations and more in a special media day news conference.
Editor's Note: This is the transcript of the Media Day news conference for the 89th PGA Championship, held June 4, 2007, at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla.
JULIUS MASON: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm Julius Mason, Director of Media Relations for the PGA of America. Welcome to the 89th PGA Championship Media Day.
I'd like to introduce you to the members of our head table, beginning with Rob Correa, Senior Vice President of Programming for CBS Sports; Al Bush, the General Chairman of the 89th PGA Championship; Brian Whitcomb, the President of the PGA of America; and Jeff Benke, the Vice President and Executive Producer of Turner Sports.
We also have a number of special guests in the audience that I'd like to introduce you to, beginning with, from your region, the PGA of America's District No. 7 Director, Randy Hunt; from the South Central PGA Section, President Mike Hammond; and the PGA Section Executive Director, Barry Thompson; from Southern Hills Country Club, General Manager Nick Sidorakis; PGA Head Professional Dave Bryan; Superintendent Russ Myers; from Ludlow, Vermont, the Vice President of the PGA of America, Mr. Jim Remy; from Phoenix, Maryland, the Secretary of the PGA of America, Mr. Allen Wronowski; from Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, PGA of America's Chief Executive Officer, Joe Steranka; and the PGA Championship Tournament Director for this event, front row, Ryan Jordan.
And now, ladies and gentlemen, it's my pleasure to turn it over to a man from Bend, Oregon, the President of the PGA of America, Mr. Brian Whitcomb.
BRIAN WHITCOMB: Thank you to everybody here in the audience who took the time today to come and visit this magical place, Southern Hills, in anticipation of our PGA Championship in two short months. We're so glad that you're here, very appreciative of your interest level.
The PGA Championship has always had a history of great champions, playing on great championship golf courses, and of course, Southern Hills is no exception to that. So it's got a rich history there, and you're going to enjoy that and you're going to see a great new champion whose name will be on the Wanamaker Trophy in a couple months.
You know, history has proven that the PGA Championship has the strongest field in golf, in championship golf, and this year will be no exception. Last year I know at Medinah we had 93 of the world's top 100 players, and we also featured 29 players who had won a combined 53 major championships and a PGA Championship-record 63 international players representing 18 countries.
It's also the only all-professional major championship, and of course we're very pleased and proud to note that we have 20 PGA club professionals that are playing in this Championship. We're very proud of that, that the PGA Championship through its history has rich tradition of club professional involvement and so we're very pleased to say that 20 of our best club professionals will be playing in this event.
I think we all know that the PGA club professionals throughout time have had a very influential role with regards to the greatest players in the game.
We're also very excited about television and what's going on with our television partners, so we're going to have 28 hours of championship coverage by CBS, TNT, and we're going to have viewers in more than 194 countries and territories and a household reach of, get this, more than 520 million who will watch this exciting last major. We're excited about that and very grateful for our television partners.
We're excited about our Championship coming in two months. We hope that you are, too. We're very thankful that you took the time to come and visit with us today, and I hope you sense the excitement as it draws to our Championship.
JULIUS MASON: Speaking of television, let's hear from one of our television partners. From CBS Sports, Rob Correa.
ROB CORREA: Thank you, Julius. This year will be our 17th consecutive PGA Championship on CBS. Our first one was in 1991. We enjoy a terrific relationship with the PGA. I'd like to salute Joe Steranka in particular. We also enjoy a nice relationship with Turner Sports, which makes doing this for four very long days much easier than it could be.
We kick off our coverage with two preview shows, one July 29th and one August 5th. Highlight shows the Thursday and Friday of the Championship, August 9th and 10th, and live coverage on Saturday and Saturday, the 11th and 12th from 2:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
All of our coverage will be in HD, which is terrific. Just a brief story on our ratings, which have been great over the years, but last year was even better than usual, it was our highest-rated PGA Championship since 2002, our third-highest since 1980, and over 33 million people watched part of the PGA Championship on CBS on Saturday and Sunday, really an astounding number. And we look for continuing success this year at the PGA Championship.
Our production team is headed by our Executive Producer Tony Petitti, our Coordinating Producer Lance Barrow, and our Director Steve Milton and about 350 other people. It's just a massive undertaking to do 18-hole coverage for 28 hours. We're very proud of the people that work hard all week.
Our talent will consist of -- there's a few new additions. Our new guys doing their first PGA for us will be Ian Baker-Finch and, of course, Nick Faldo on the 18th tower. Returning will be Peter Oosterhuis, Gary McCord, Bill Macatee, Vern Lundquist, Peter Kostis, David Feherty and, of course, Jim Nantz. It's one we consider to be an all-star team and one that we're very proud of.
But we are the visual medium, so enough talk from me. Look at our tape.
JULIUS MASON: Rob, thank you very much. Now, ladies and gentlemen, after flying all night and taking a little break from the NBA, Turner Sports, Jeff Benke.
JEFF BENKE: Thank you, Julius, and thank you, Rob. We're certainly lucky at Turner Sports to have great partners each year at the PGA Championship with our friends at CBS, so thank you very much. Also thank you to everyone at Southern Hills for having us today. We know you have a 70-year tradition here, and we're thrilled to be able to be a part of it.
Our partnership with the PGA of America spans 16 years and has blossomed to not only include our television coverage of the PGA Championship and the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, but also an ongoing relationship with PGA.com. This year we'll have simultaneous coverage of the Championship, both on the television side on TNT and the internet side again on PGA.com, just like we did last year at Medinah, and I think it's proven that the linear and the digital assets can certainly coexist and grow both properties.
We'll once again employ our PGA.com Pipeline, which was our multi-screen technology that we utilized last year that gave four different vantage points of the course, players, press conferences and PGA instruction. So once again, we'll be doing that.
One of the things we are most excited about this year is that Ernie Johnson will be back in the booth with us, and we're glad to report that he is healthy and doing wonderful, and so we're thrilled to have Ernie back in the booth.
He will be joined, again, by analyst Bobby Clampett and Billy Kratzert and will join him for just a little bit of time up there, as well as our course reporter and then Jim Huber, our essayist and course reporter, will be joining us, as well.
We're thrilled to have that group as part of our 18 hours of coverage. We begin on Thursday and Friday, 2:00 to 8:00 o'clock Eastern, and then on Saturday and Sunday again from 11:00 o'clock to 2:00 p.m. Eastern.
So on behalf of everyone at Turner Sports, our Senior Golf Producer Chris Carmody, our Director of Talent Relations Jeff Ogan, Public Relations Jeff Pomeroy who are here, along with our sales group that we have here and interactive group, we can't thank you enough for having us here, and we certainly look forward to August the 9th. Thank you.
JULIUS MASON: Thanks very much, and now, ladies and gentlemen, let's hear from the King of Tulsa Golf, the General Chairman of the 89th PGA Championship, General Chairman, Al Bush.
AL BUSH: Thanks, Julius. Welcome to everyone here today on behalf of the 89th PGA Championship team and of course our club members. Our club has a great golf tradition. We like these tournaments. This is our fourth PGA, for example. We've had 13 national golf championships, the PGAs being three of those 13, the U.S. Open three times, U.S. Amateur Championship, one Senior Amateur Championship, one Junior Amateur Championship, one Women's Amateur Championship and one Women's Mid Amateur and two PGA TOUR events. That's quite a list. I think it shows that we really do like these events.
And what I like about it, I think most of our golf club members like it, is the fact that it imposes a discipline on the club to maintain itself in this kind of condition. We don't have to rebuild things to have an event.
We just spent a lot of money rebuilding this clubhouse, $21 million, and we spent over $3 million on the golf course. Before we did that, we were at a lower ranking in the Top 100. When we spent this, now we went from 26 to 32. We must have done something wrong (laughing).
I think if you played today you kind of know what's happening to the golf course. We rebuilt 86 bunkers, and we re sodded 82 acres of fairway grass. The greens are absolutely wonderful to play on. They're living entities. They breathe and they live, and I think we've fixed those greens once and for all.
The length of the course is going to be 7,131. We did lengthen No. 2, 3 and 8, so they'll play -- and that's par 70. We're going to stick with the par 70.
There are a lot of ticket packages still available, and you can buy tickets until the very last moment. As a matter of fact, if you wanted to buy a chalet, you could probably still do that. You may not be able to fix the inside and figure out where to put one if you want one, but tickets are available. I know you have this information in your information -- or you can get on the Internet or you can call 1 800 PGA GOLF and order tickets.
As we get closer to the event, I suspect you'll see a last-minute rush to buy tickets. I think the best bargain is the weekly $325, the entire week on this campus. You can tell your people about it, and we'll be happy to talk with them about what we can do.
The thing that I think Southern Hills would like to happen is have no rain and no ties. The best thing that can happen is it ends Sunday. We're happy that you're here, and thank you for coming.
JULIUS MASON: Al, thank you very much. I'd like to turn it over one more time to Mr. Brian Whitcomb.
BRIAN WHITCOMB: Thanks again, Julius. We all know that the PGA Championship has enjoyed wonderful theater the last few years of our Championship and all the way through its storied career. It's been fantastic, and the video that was presented just a few minutes ago captured the essence of our PGA Championship. Certainly for the champions, their names are etched forever on the Wanamaker Trophy, there's memories of a lifetime that comes from the season's final major.
This year our defending champion took control at Medinah last year with a birdie on the 1st hole. He cruised to a five stroke victory there, which sealed his second PGA Championship at Medinah and also earned him an honorary membership, if I recall, at Medinah.
His victory was his third in a PGA Championship, which gave him a total of 12 major Championships. He's obviously the No. 1-ranked player in the world, and he's got momentum to make this an even more memorable year in his career. I'm proud and honored to introduce a good friend, a gentleman, a truly good guy, our defending champion, via telephone, Tiger Woods. Tiger, welcome.
TIGER WOODS: Thank you, Brian.
I'm really excited about coming back to Tulsa. I know that they've made some changes. I'm really curious to see what they look like.
I played there when I was -- my first year, my rookie year, in the TOUR Championship, and I played there in the U.S. Open, always found it to be just an extraordinary golf course and one difficult test. So I'm really looking forward to coming back there and defending, and hopefully I can defend it again.
JULIUS MASON: Thank you, Tiger. I would like to introduce our operator for the day's teleconference for some instructions on today's event.
Tiger, just to set the stage for you, we are experiencing a beautiful Chamber of Commerce day today in Tulsa, clear skies and 82 degrees. We had about 96 people play in the golf outing this morning. We have about 130 people with us right now in the Southern Hills ballroom.
Before we go to Q & A, as is tradition with all our defending champions, we'd like to ask you right off the bat, would you like to tell us the due date of your baby, the sex, the name, anything like that?
TIGER WOODS: Sure (laughing). I don't know any of those things, so your guess is as good as mine.
JULIUS MASON: Good answer, Mr. Woods. The floor is open to questions.
Q. There was a lot going on in 2001 when you came here, the Tiger Slam, I think your father was ill. What do you recall about that week?
TIGER WOODS: Well, off the golf course it was one thing, but on the golf course, I kind of struggled a little bit with my game. I really struggled at 9 and 18 getting the speed of the greens. Those were two different greens at the time, and I just found it to be just a test that was a little difficult at the time. I just was not hitting the ball well enough to put myself in position to win the Championship.
Q. Still two months out, when do you typically start honing in on say this particular Championship, and do you plan on making X number of visits here to check things out before you arrive that week?
TIGER WOODS: I usually take it one major at a time, so right now my focus is on the U.S. Open and then the British, and as soon as the British is concluded, I'll be focusing on getting ready for the PGA Championship.
Yeah, I probably will make another visit there prior to the Championship because I haven't seen the changes they've made there, so I want to check that out before I go.
Q. Because the Tiger Slam ended here and because you haven't won here in two tries, you've been such a dominant player, I just wonder, do you feel there are courses that don't fit Tiger Woods, and if so, is Southern Hills one of them?
TIGER WOODS: Just because I haven't won there in two tries? Well, I'm 0 for 2.
Q. You've said in the past that you don't believe that it is course that doesn't suit you; it's just a matter of you just didn't play well enough.
TIGER WOODS: Well, you have to play well. You have to place the golf ball there, and that's off the tees as well as firing it into the greens. You have to place the golf ball correctly, and if you're not hitting the ball well there, you will definitely be exposed.
You look at all the champions who have won there, they've all hit the ball beautifully.
Putting is also an integral part of the game, but you need to get to the putting surfaces first and foremost on that golf course and be in the right position in order to make the putts.
Q. You don't believe the course doesn't suit you, correct?
TIGER WOODS: Correct.
Q. On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you gauge the way you are playing at the present?
TIGER WOODS: Better. I'm not going down that road. I'm not giving 1 through 10 or A B C or whatever it is.
Q. When you come to a place like Tulsa, they ask you about coming in early to look at courses. How much do you really look at a course before, or is this just a situation of how you happen to be playing at that time and that week and that day?
TIGER WOODS: Well, you look at a golf course prior to the week of a Championship for me to get an understanding of what I need to practice. Sometimes like before a British Open you've obviously got to practice your 2-irons or low balls; Augusta is a lot of chip and run; U.S. Open is hacking the ball out of the rough. You have to practice different things, and you want to know what you need to do to go home and get ready for it. Each venue is slightly different. Sometimes it requires more fades than draws, sometimes it requires more draws than fades, and you want to be able to understand what your practice sessions are going to have to entail.
Q. To follow up on Rick's question about this golf course, can you give us more of an indication of what you think of this course from your past visits?
TIGER WOODS: I always thought it was a wonderful golf course. It really tests your ability to shape shots. To keep the ball in the fairway you have to shape it correctly on a couple holes, hit the ball against the hills. It's certainly a golf course you have to maneuver the golf ball both ways, you can't just go out there and hit it one way. You also have to hit it different trajectories, too, which is great.
The greens are -- I can't remember how they were in 1996 for the TOUR Championship, I just remember I was leading one day.
During the Open, I know that obviously 9 and 18 were playing at two different speeds than the other 16 greens. But overall, I think they kept the greens pretty soft that year because it was so hot, they were more bouncy, and I don't really know how they're going to be this year.
Q. Is there a noticeable difference characteristic in how Kerry Haigh sets up a course for the PGA Championship as opposed to Tom Meeks and Mike Davis from the USGA for a U.S. Open?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, two different philosophies. The PGA Championship has always been the one that has always stressed testing the players but always making it fair. The USGA I think has always tried to get as close to that line as they possibly could between fair and unfair. I think that everyone probably realized that they went a little bit too far at Shinnecock. But they always try and ride that very fine line.
But Kerry, I think, does a fantastic job of setting up the golf courses. We are tested from tee to green, and it is always playable and it is always very fair but it's always a stern test.
Q. To follow up, not knowing what the changes have been at Southern Hills because you haven't seen it yet, but what do you think is going to be a noticeable difference this August compared to six years ago for the U.S. Open?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I don't know if they've changed the greens or I don't know if they've changed 9 and 18. I don't know if we're going to play 16 greens at one speed and two greens at another speed. That I don't know. To be honest with you, I don't know if they're going to have the rough as high as they did for the U.S. Open. All I know is they'll probably -- we probably won't be needing to bring any sweaters.
Q. A lot of players remember every hole that they've ever played. How many holes out here do you remember? Do you remember all 18?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah.
Q. And the order they go in?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah.
Q. How about No. 3?
TIGER WOODS: No. 3, I didn't really play that too well (laughter). Yeah, that tee shot kind of got me. I put the ball in the bunker there short twice.
Q. I know your affinity for majors obviously, and you're on top of the heap every year in the World Rankings, but the PGA always brags about having the best field of all the majors. Does that get you extra motivated for this particular event?
TIGER WOODS: No, not extra motivated, certainly not that. I don't think you can be any more motivated for a major championship, it just being a major championship. You are going to be playing against the best, and there are four events that you really want to win per year. You always know going into every PGA Championship, though, that that is the most deep field we get to play in or play against all year.
Q. You'll be happy to know that 9 and 18 have been rebuilt soft enough so that balls don't roll all the way back on the fairways. You mentioned 9 a couple times has given you a lot of problems last time with the different speed. What about that hole caused you so many problems in 2001?
TIGER WOODS: You know, you grind getting ready for the Championship on all 16 other greens. You're so conscious of watching your pace all the time, so once you get to a green and you have to hit it at a totally different use a stroke that you haven't been practicing all week. I think a few of the guys that I talked to from that week were basically thinking that they've got to use two different strokes, one for 16 greens and the other for the other two.
It was just an unfortunate thing because those are two great holes, one being a shorter hole and one being such a great finishing hole. It was a shame that we couldn't play it to how it was really originally designed.
Q. You have a great sense of golf history, great courses. Talk about Southern Hills. How would you rank Southern Hills among the great courses you've played around the world?
TIGER WOODS: It's definitely one of the better tests that we'll ever play. As I said, it's a golf course on which you have to shape shots both ways to keep the ball in the fairway and you've got to place the ball on the greens correctly. It's not overly long, but with Bermuda rough, you don't need to have rough very high around the greens or even the fairways to have it be very difficult. If the greens get up to speed, it's definitely going to be one of the tougher tests that we're going to play.
Q. What is your fondest PGA Championship memory?
TIGER WOODS: Probably 2000. It probably doesn't really get much better than that, but that's because I got to play with Jack [Nicklaus] in his last PGA. You know, what happened on Friday afternoon on the last hole and to win in a playoff and win three majors in a row, I think that was a pretty good week.
Q. You were the last one, I believe, to win a PGA in a playoff. What do you think of that playoff format, three-hole format, as opposed to sudden death that they have regularly on TOUR?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think I've always thought that the British Open always did it right with four-hole playoffs. I think it would be anticlimactic for an 18-hole playoff because I think you'd lose a lot of interest from the fans like the U.S. Open does because the volunteers have to come back, and logistically it becomes very difficult to do.
And I think the PGA by going three holes I think really did it right because it's usually the more holes you get to play, I just think that the players playing best over that week will end up on top. I think it's more of a fair test than one hole sometimes. A player can hit a fluke shot and the tournament can be over.
Q. This season a little bit different pace on TOUR without THE PLAYERS Championship before The Masters. We're in the meat of the schedule now. Is it a different feel to you this year, and how is it going to be different going down the stretch with the PGA and then of course the FedExCup? Do you have to pace yourself at all?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it's going to be interesting towards the end of the year. It's going to be a lot of golf. I'm pacing myself already just because of the fact that I have a baby coming up. I don't know how much I'm going to play after that or how much I'm going to play before that. A lot of that is depending on what happens and the health of Elin and our child. But the end of the year is going to be a very busy test for a lot of the players on our TOUR.
Q. You mentioned you didn't need to bring your sweater or people won't have to. How do you think the heat will affect the field, and how do you train then for that type of situation?
TIGER WOODS: I live in Florida (laughter), so I don't have to worry about that.
Q. Manhattan, Kansas, is a short drive from Tulsa. I wonder if your father expressed any pride from being from this region of the country and did he speak fondly about being a basketball player at Kansas State?
TIGER WOODS: Oh, yeah, my dad certainly talked about his days at K State quite often actually, and the times that he played in the Negro Leagues for the Kansas City Monarchs. It was a great time for him. Also he talked about that it was very difficult, as well.
Q. Julius mentioned your impending fatherhood and you did, too. Could you talk about how dramatically your life has changed from a year ago to right now and how that's affected your game?
TIGER WOODS: Well, a year ago at this time my father had just passed, and it was I hadn't played until I guess it would be next week, the week of The Open, a TOUR event since Augusta. I just wasn't quite ready. I wasn't quite able to get back into it with my practice sessions because every time I'd go practice I'd always think about my fundamentals, and who taught me my fundamentals but my father.
It was actually hard to get away from it because a lot of the things I ever learned how to do in the game came from my father, so that was probably a more difficult task than actually getting back on the golf course because I have so many great memories of being with my dad on the golf course.
But this time, this year, is totally different, from losing a father to certainly becoming a father, my life is in two totally different places, a polar 180 from one another.
Q. As a follow up, you mentioned you didn't know how much golf you'd play before or after the birth. Do you think you might not play much before the PGA?
TIGER WOODS: I don't know, I really don't know. As I say, that all depends on how Elin is feeling and the health of our child.
Q. But you'll defend no matter what, right?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I hope so.
Q. Major championships, usually the final score is something close to par, 4 , 5 under. Do you enjoy that type of golf in that type of tournament, or maybe do you favor something of a shootout, where the winning score is 13 , 14 under?
TIGER WOODS: I've never been fond of tournaments where you have to shoot 20 under par, 15 under par, anything like that. I've always been fond of events that if you played great golf, you might get to double digits, and if you played a wonderful round of golf and you shot a round in the 60s, you would really move up the board; you were rewarded, instead of going out there and have to shoot a round in the mid 60s or high 60s just to try and keep pace, because I really don't think that does test players in the way I think they should be tested.
I think that playing a golf course in which you have to hit the golf ball correctly, think how you're going to flight the golf ball, how it's going to land, what kind of spin you're going to have on it. I think that is the way to play golf, not just go out there and bombs away and hitting darts and it becomes a putting contest. I think golf is a game that you need to be able to understand how to shoot the golf ball correctly.
JULIUS MASON: Tiger, thank you very, very much for finding some time to share with us today. We'll see you very, very soon, but in August I can promise you that we all look forward to seeing you here in Tulsa.
TIGER WOODS: Thanks for having me.
JULIUS MASON: For those of you interested in getting some media information about today, media guide, media kit, as well as a special gift selected just for you, we ask that you exit these doors over here. Thank you very much for joining us today.