Planet Golf — 02 August 2012 by Bob Sherwin
Tiger at Bridgestone; eyes PGA

MODERATOR: We want to welcome seven-time champion of the World Golf Classic Bridgestone Invitational Tiger Woods. Some comments about returning to a place where you’ve obviously had a tremendous amount of success.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I’m looking forward to being out there. I haven’t played yet, just got here, and from what I hear, it’s in absolutely perfect condition. Looking forward to getting out there.

I’ve played well here in the past, and hopefully I can do it again this week.

MODERATOR: You’re at a point in the season where there’s a lot of golf in a short amount of time, a lot of different events, a lot of different challenges. Just talk about this stretch of golf over the next couple weeks.

TIGER WOODS: Yes, basically seven out of nine weeks, so it’s a lot of golf. We’ve got a lot of big events, so it’s going to be exciting for us as players, and we’re really looking forward to it.

Q. How was Kiawah yesterday and how is that course?

TIGER WOODS: It was really soft. I don’t think it’s going to be like that during the tournament. It rained almost two inches the night before. It’s going to be long. I mean, I think it’s going to be close to 7,700 yards, and that’s a big ballpark. A lot of the holes are crosswind holes. It’s different than what– and Joey has been there a couple times, but he hasn’t seen it like this. Having paspalum greens is different. I’ve only played on paspalum greens one time. But they drain great. They’re going to be firm.

Right now when I played it was slow, but it’s going to be a great test. It’s going to be– I don’t know how the spectators are going to get around this place. First of all, I don’t know how they’re going to get to it. But once they’re there, it’s going to be a great environment.

Q. You obviously had your problems here last year. I’m just wondering, can you compare where you are now compared to where you were a year ago at this time?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I didn’t play most of the summer last year. I was off. This was my first tournament back. I think last year when I played Thursday, that was my first 18 holes walking a golf course, so a little different scenario this year. I’ve had a little better year, and overall just feel infinitely better than what I did physically last year.

Q. I don’t know if you took much time on the Open, but if you did think back on it, what were the positives and any negatives that you wanted to rectify from that?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I felt that my plan was executed correctly for the week. I was right there, right where I wanted to be. I figured I was at 6 starting the day on Sunday, and if I shoot 2 I was going to be in a playoff and 3 I would win outright.

Going along until I got to 6, and it was just– I missed it by a yard, and that one yard cost me three shots on the hole. But still was right there, and then I made a few mistakes on the back nine, as well.

I just felt that I was very close and just needed to play that front nine in 1-under par and maybe the back nine in 1 or 2, and I thought that was going to be good enough to win tournament. It ended up being that was the number– well, the two numbers that I picked for the day.

Q. Changing topics, with the London Olympics at the moment, a few golfers, I guess, are thinking about Rio. You’ll be 40 in four years’ time. Do you allow yourself to think what it would be like to compete at the games?

TIGER WOODS: I’ve got to qualify first. If I get in, it would be great. I don’t know how it’s going to be scheduling wise. We have seven big events right now in this stretch, and we’re adding an eighth. It’s going to be a very, very busy summer for us as golfers. But it’s also the Olympics, and it is a very big event and something that we haven’t historically been involved in. It’s always a first to be involved in something to that magnitude, and if I make it, that would be great.

Q. I don’t know if you’ve had any contact with Adam since the Open, but just what are your thoughts about what happened to him, and do you think that gets people to think about how hard it is to one win major let alone 14?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I haven’t seen Adam. When I was done, he was in the scoring tent, and Ernie was right there talking to you guys. I hadn’t seen him.

It was tough what happened to him, and people are starting to– I think they realize how difficult it is to win out here. Ernie hadn’t won in 10 years. And to win one major is difficult. It’s tough to do. We’ve had a bunch in a row first-time major championship winners until Ernie. It’s tough to do out here.

Fortunately enough, I have 14 and hopefully I can get some more.

Q. What is it like playing a course like this when you’ve had so much success?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I look forward to playing it. This is one of my favorites. It’s straightforward. It’s right in front of you. There’s no tricks. There’s no hidden things. It’s just right there in front of you, and this has been one of the more historic sites on the TOUR. For us to come back here year after year, you can see it when the big three played here in their challenge matches and then obviously the World Series of Golf to what we do here now at Bridgestone. It’s an historic site. The golf course is the same, just longer, and it’s fun to play.

Q. Do you pay much attention to the World Rankings? Is that a big deal for you, or no?

TIGER WOODS: Do I pay attention? Yes. Do I look at it all the time? No. I don’t know how they work.

Q. Neither do I. There’s talk that if you should win this week–

TIGER WOODS: Right.

Q. — which history says you have a pretty good chance, that you would return to the No.1 spot. Would that mean anything special to you?

TIGER WOODS: Well, it would be nice to get back there because obviously it meant that as far as I had dropped, to build my way back up to this point, I’ve had some wins, I’ve had some very high finishes, I’ve been consistent. That’s how you get to be one of the top players in the world. To be ranked as low as I did and then come all the way back to, as of right now, No.2, that’s pretty good.

Q. Three wins already this year, obviously the most on the PGA Tour, but you’ve said yourself so many times in the past that majors are what matter the most to you. How do you quantify a successful season? What do you consider a successful season?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I’ve said this many times in the past. Winning golf tournaments makes it successful, but winning a major makes it a great year. You can go from having a so-so year to all of a sudden winning one major, and all of a sudden it’s a great year because you’re part of history when you do something like that.

Ernie has been consistent this year. I think that he would attest to that he’s playing better, but then all of a sudden it just jumps you into a different category.

Q. If you had to vote for Player of the Year, say, right now, would you take a guy with three wins and no majors or one win that’s a major?

TIGER WOODS: It’s not over yet.

Q. Where are you on the confidence scale?

TIGER WOODS: I feel very comfortable where I am at because everything is progressing. This year I’ve taken the steps headed in the right direction and shot better scores and been more consistent. You know, when you make changes like I’ve made in my game, it takes a little bit of time, and things are starting to click in now. And to have three wins this year, it’s headed in the right direction.

Q. Did you get enough of a look at Kiawah to have a sense for how you feel it suits you? Is it a course that’s going to take some getting used to?

TIGER WOODS: It’s going to take a little bit of getting used to, because one, being seaside, the wind can change. The wind comes out of different directions. It being– the way Pete designed it is for that. There’s so much room out there, but as soon as the wind starts blowing 20, 30 miles an hour, there’s not much room. There’s so many collection areas and where you have to miss the golf ball to give yourself the correct angle. Do you pitch into the wind? Do you pitch downwind? Where do you leave yourself on these different angles? Pete did just a fantastic job in testing us on that.

You know, I need some more practice rounds on it for sure, but I did most of our charting and still would like to see it under different wind conditions because we only played one wind yesterday.

Q. Was it how you expected? Obviously it’s a course with very famous history with the Ryder Cup and all.

TIGER WOODS: Well, I’ve seen the guys play in ’91, but persimmon balls — sorry, persimmon heads and balata balls and they’re hitting 7-irons and Wilson driver, 5-iron. It’s been lengthened a lot since ’91. There’s so many par-4s that are over 500 yards.

But again, we got a bunch of rain the night before, so if it dries out, 520-yard par-4 with no wind, it doesn’t play that far, especially this time of year when it’s this hot.

Q. This is a very provincial question. What are your thoughts on Bethpage?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, we played a couple Opens there, and it’s been just an incredible atmosphere to play there. The fans have always been– it’s a great sporting town to begin with, and they come out in droves. I think that hopefully we’ll get some good weather, unlike the last time we played there.

It’s a great test, especially if it’s dry and fast, because when we played there in ’02, obviously it rained on Thursday. But by the time Sunday came along, this thing was quick. That golf course is– if it’s quick, it’s just so difficult. But when it rains, any golf course becomes not that difficult.

Q. Just a quick summation on your pairing with another three-time winner in Branden Grace.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, that’s– he’s really played well. I don’t know Branden at all, so it’ll be fun to get out there and chitchat a little bit with him and get to know him. I’ve seen him play, I’ve seen him swing, but never been paired with him. From my recollection I don’t think I’ve ever met him. It’ll be a good next couple days for us. I know I am looking forward to it, and hopefully he is, as well.

Q. Considering your victory total here, is this a very– do you use this as a measuring stick of where your game and everything is at the moment?

TIGER WOODS: Well, it’s nice knowing that we have a big event with the best players in the world here right before a major championship. This will be a nice way to get our games ready for obviously next week but also really test us at the same time. Having back-to-back championships like this, it’s a positive thing. We used to have it on the back end after the PGA, and some of the guys were sometimes a little bit burnt out, a little bit fried from playing a PGA Championship.

But this is exciting for us to all be together like this and get ready for a big week this week, but again, an even bigger week next week.

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Bob Sherwin

Bob grew up in Cleveland, an underdog city with perennial underdog teams, and that gave him an appreciation and an affinity for the grinders in golf, guys such as Rocco Mediate, Jhonattan Vegas and star-crossed John Daly. This is the 44th year for Bob as a sportswriter, the first 34 working for newspapers throughout the west, Tucson (Daily Star), San Francisco (Examiner) and Seattle (Times), and the past 10 years as a freelancer. He has covered just about every sport, including golf tournaments, Tucson Open, Bing Crosby/AT&T Pro-Am, the 1998 PGA Championship, the 2010 U.S. Senior Open, the 2010 U.S. Amateur and the annual Champions Tour Boeing Classic. He also writes articles for golf magazines. For most of his 20 years at the Seattle Times his primary beat was the Mariners. He then picked up Washington men's basketball in the winter. He also was the beat writer for the Sonics, including 1996 when they played the Bulls for the NBA title. After a lifetime hacking on public courses, he finally gave in and joined a country club in 2011, the Members Club of Aldarra near Seattle. He won't win the club championship any time soon with his 14 handicap and default-swing slice but he does have a pair of aces – 37 years apart – and in 2009 came agonizingly close to his ultimate golf goal of scoring in the 70s when he finished with an even 80. He lives in Seattle, and spends part of his winters in Marco Island, Fla.

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