THE MODERATOR: We’d like to welcome Tiger Woods into the interview room here at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Tiger, welcome back. Your first time at this event since 2002.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I’m looking forward to it. I think the weather has passed, and I think it’s supposed to be a great week from here on out. I played Spy yesterday, and I don’t think I’ve ever played it this dry and this fast. It was nice. It was really nice.
Looking forward to getting out there today and doing a little bit of work and getting ready for Thursday.
THE MODERATOR: Making your season debut here on the PGA TOUR. Talk about your off-season and the state of your game right now.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I took a little time off and went over to Abu Dhabi for my first event of the year. I played well there. Just working on the same things and hoping to keep building on what we’re trying to do. I feel that my last four events have been very positive, three stroke play and one team event. Everything kind of headed in the right direction, so I’m very excited about it.
Q. If the last two weeks on the PGA TOUR have shown us anything, it’s how hard it can be to play the final round with the lead. You’re historically very good as a front runner. Why do you think that is?
TIGER WOODS: One, it’s hard to win. I think that’s what people realize. It’s very hard to win out here. Being a front runner, everyone’s kind of chasing you. You’re in a position where if you do make a few mistakes, it’s all right because obviously you have shots to play with.
But then again, if you get off to a poor start early, you can still rectify it, but you send momentum down the field. And I think throughout my career, I’ve shot some pretty good rounds when I’ve had the lead. Not too often I think I’ve — not too often I’ve gone over par on the final round when I’ve had the lead, but that’s one of the great things about having that lead though is you have that cushion.
But it also depends on how many guys are chasing you too. If you’ve got a whole wolf pack behind you or one or two guys, it’s a totally different deal.
I think for me, personally, I’ve always been excited about being in that position. One, I know I’ve played well to get there, so just trying to do the same things I did to get there, and hopefully it will be enough.
Q. From the Frys tournament going to the Presidents Cup and playing in a few events. How much better is your health, your game, your mindset, everything just from the Frys?
TIGER WOODS: Just from the Frys alone, it’s been huge. I’ve been able to train again. There are two different deals. Rehabbing and training are two totally different scenarios. I’ve been rehabbing pretty much the entire last couple of years, and I haven’t been able to train. I haven’t been healthy enough. So now I’m healthy enough to do it.
I’ve made huge progress there, hence I can do the things that Sean wants me to do with my golf swing. I’m able to practice literally all day if I want to. For a long time there, there was always some kind of limited ball count. Or I’ve got to get back to treatment, I’ve got to do icing, and stemming and all of those monotonous things just to tee it up and do it again the next day. That’s no longer the case.
So that is one of the reasons why I think I’ve made such huge progress since the Frys is that I’m now training. My body’s feeling explosive again, and consequently I’m hitting the ball further and I think I’m doing the things that, as I said, Sean wants me to do.
Q. Do you have a different approach at age 36 than you did at 26, for example?
TIGER WOODS: Probably, yes, because I think I understand how to get my ball around the golf course better. Just managing my game better than I did then. That’s just allowed me more rounds of competitive golf under my belt.
I’m far better at managing my game now than I was at 26, just like I can say at 16 versus 26. I keep understanding how to play the game. The game has changed a lot. When I first came out, we still had balata ball and the ball moved a lot. Some of the guys were still playing persimmon. The game has changed so much since I’ve been out here, and we’ve all had to adapt to that.
Q. How much of a factor were the course change and the reduction in field size in your decision to come back here? As a related question, how different is it to play in this tournament given the celebrity dynamic of this event?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, that’s not the reason why I’m coming back. I just haven’t played in a while, and it’s been scheduling. Just it hasn’t fit. This time it fits perfectly in my schedule. So I’m excited to be back.
The celebrity part of it, I’ve played — I think I played in the few years, I played with Kevin, I’ve played with my dad, and I played with Jerry a couple of years.
Yeah, it’s different. There are distractions. You know, some guys have the gallery clapping when they’re putting. It’s very interesting sometimes. It can be distracting, there is no doubt. But then again, we play week-in and week-out, and we have plenty of distractions when you’re in the last few groups. It’s just like that for all four days.
Q. It’s been more than two years since your last official victory on the PGA TOUR. Do you feel more internal pressure than you did before?
TIGER WOODS: Not really. I feel very at peace where I’m at. I had to make some changes and that took time, and I’m starting to see the results of that now, which is great. My last four events I’ve really played well.
So I’m just building on that. Everything’s headed in the right direction.
Q. What did the final round in Abu Dhabi tell you about where your swing is and your game right now? Anything that you worked on after that because of the way that round went?
TIGER WOODS: Actually, even though I lost, I was very pleased with the way that was my bad day of ball striking, and it wasn’t that bad. I know the stats show eight fairways, ran through it. I think the stats said I hit six greens, but I putted from off the green four times, so that’s ten greens. I was just right off the green a lot.
So it wasn’t that big a deal. I’m hoping that going forward, that that’s my bad day. If I can have that as my bad ball striking day, then we’re looking pretty good. I’m excited about that. The previous three days were very good. The first day I didn’t make many putts, and the last three days I putted beautifully. Unfortunately, I didn’t give myself any looks on Sunday.
Q. Going back to that 54-hole thing, do you have any recollection of the first one? What that was like, the first time that bullet’s being fired? Whether it was excitement or terror or what emotions, probably all emotions were running through you, but any funny stories about that day?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, there are actually quite a few, actually, because number one I didn’t have a card. So it was big for me to get that card. I needed to finish. If I won that year, I would have gotten two years, but I was trying to avoid going to Q-school. That was a big week for me. Unfortunately, I didn’t win, but I learned from it.
I was surprised what Ed was doing in the final group. It was just different. So that was a good learning experience for me.
I think that overall that really helped me. If I didn’t go through that experience, just like what Kyle went through at Torrey, he probably doesn’t come back and win. What that allowed me to do is understand and feel the heat at this level, and consequently I was able to beat Davis in a playoff and outlasted Payne down the stretch at Disney.
So that helped a lot going through that one tournament. It showed me that one, I could get there, and two, where I needed to improve.
Q. You’re getting to an age where, for some of us, things start going south just a little bit. Do you notice any signs?
TIGER WOODS: I’m not going there. I’m not touching that one.
Q. No, do you have any signs that you’re no longer 22 years old?
TIGER WOODS: Right.
Q. Any signs that you notice in yourself that you’re aging, you’re getting older?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, there’s no doubt. It is what it is. I don’t recover quite as well. I know that I’m sore quite often, just about every day when I’m playing with my kids. They’re not very tall yet, and bending down there and playing with them and building things and doing all those different things, that’s pretty low to the ground, so I do get sore. Something I don’t remember ever being like that.
But there are also ways of training. I understand training way better now than I did then. Wearing myself out for no reason at all, which we all do when we’re younger. I just have to train smarter, practice smarter. Yeah, just more knowledge, really.
Q. You played with Tony Romo a couple times before. Can you just talk about sort of what, from your standpoint, do you think makes him such a good player?
TIGER WOODS: Well, he’s played. He grew up playing the game of golf, and that helps. He’s, as we all know, is a hell of an athlete. He can play just about any sport he wants. He’s one of those gifted athletes that whatever he picks up, he can do. Fortunate for him that he picked up golf at a very early age with his dad, and they’ve always played. They’re always playing together off- season, always going on golf vacations together and playing golf all the time.
He understands how to play. And on top of that, he can really move the ball. With the training that they do and the explosiveness that they have and the strength that he has, the type of training that’s allowed him to be that powerful, translates to golf.
All the athletes that I’ve played with, especially baseball players, the majority of hockey players, they can all move the golf ball. They have just so much more power than we, as golfers, do because of the type of training and the size that they have. It’s cool to see.
He’s playing from the up tees this week, which will be fun. Yeah, that will be good for us. You guys probably don’t know this, but they want to give him a plus three handicap, which is complete BS. I mean, he’s a scratch. I play the scratch every tournament. I’m a scratch.
It will be good for him to come out here and play. He’s competitive, and he’s been grinding hard. It’s been cool to see. He’s been calling me quite a bit. Sending me video of his golf swing, what can I do, what can I do, blah, blah, blah.
He’s into the game because post football, he wants to play golf. He wants to maybe give it a run on the mini tours or The Senior Tour eventually. He wants to do it. He loves it. He loves playing the game of golf. So that’s going to be fun for us to go out there and tee it up together.
Q. I just want to know if Joe asked for the day off so he could go to the Giants parade?
TIGER WOODS: No, he can watch it on TV.
Q. Do you think you’ll be razzing Tony at all?
TIGER WOODS: What do you think (laughing)? Yeah, uh huh.
Q. On the 54-hole lead thing, I wondered if you could share one of your resurrections on a great come back here in 2000. If you start the day five behind, how much do you look at who is leading? In this case, Matt had never won before, how much does that become a factor as you set out to the final round?
TIGER WOODS: There are a couple factors that go into that final round. I had been playing well that previous season, and I believe I won in Kapalua earlier that year. So things were kind of going my way. I was hoping to continue that momentum and get off to a good start, which I did.
Looking at Matt, Matt had never won a golf tournament yet at the time, and I figured if I could just somehow get within one or two of him with a few holes to go, that was kind of the goal. So I figured I had to shoot somewhere 66 or lower to give myself a chance.
When I holed that shot there at 15 and almost hooped it at 16, now all of a sudden, it was game on. I was kind of on the periphery trying to get in it. Trying to get in it. I didn’t birdie 14. I was just trying to somehow get in it. All of a sudden, boom, three shots, two holes, I’m back in the ballgame.
If I could somehow birdie one of the last two, if not the last two, then I would put a lot of heat on a guy who had never won before. You know, luckily I came out on top, and then again, he learned from it and came right back the next year and won — two years later. Yeah.
Q. Given the kind of start nature with the last couple of years and your health and your swing and everything else. What was the value of the start of your season, given that you took two months off from competition and competing again and got right back to where you were when you left?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I think that’s what’s exciting is because before the break that I was forced to take off, I didn’t go into those breaks feeling good about where my game was. I was still making the changes, still trying to get healthy. It was never really there.
This time was different. I came out of it healthy. I went into it healthy, went into it playing well, and then was able to build on it over the break.
Took two weeks off after the World Challenge, didn’t touch a club, and then after that got right back into it, and boom, almost won a golf tournament. So things are progressing.
Q. The win at Chevron, looking back, especially the fashion in which you won, sitting here today, looking back how did that jump start you for 2012?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, that was big for me because I hadn’t won in a while. To do it the way I did against Zach, because Zach wasn’t going to go away. He’s one of those guys that’s just feisty. He’s always trying to stay there.
But like the shot he played there at 14 was just incredible. Off the green, a little pitch — on the green, a little pitch shot, a little cut spinner on top of that. People have no idea how phenomenal a shot that was.
To pull that off put a huge heat on me. I didn’t birdie 16, he did. He’s got the lead, and now he’s in control. So to come back on the last couple holes and do what I did felt really good because I had it done to me the previous year. Graeme went ahead and did the same thing to me, so it felt good to kind of reverse it.
Q. There was an a announcement yesterday that the USGA and RNA are really looking or reexamining implementing a rule that would outlaw belly putters, chest putters. Do you think anchoring the clubs gives an unfair advantage? Would you ever use a belly putter? Do you think being able to putt without anchoring is a fundamental part of the game?
TIGER WOODS: I’ve never been a fan of it. I believe it’s the art of controlling the body and club and swinging the pendulum motion. I believe that’s how it should be played. I’m a traditionalist when it comes to that.
I’ve talked to Peter about this, Peter Dawson, for a number of years and gone back and forth of how we could word it. My idea was to have it so that the putter would be equal to or less than the shortest club in your bag. And I think with that we’d be able to get away from any type of belly anchoring. You can still anchor the putter like Bernhard Langer did against the form. But that’s still the art of swinging the club too at the same time.
But I think you can get away from the belly or the long putter by that type of wording, whether or not they do it or not. And Peter’s looked into it for a number of years, trying to get it to work, and you actually measure everybody’s sand wedge and putter before you go out and play, that’s another thing too.
Q. For so long, for large chunks of your career you made the game look much easier than it had the right to be. Given these injuries and the things you’ve gone through the last several years, do you appreciate the game more?
TIGER WOODS: I appreciate being healthy more. I think when we’re all younger, we feel more bullet proof or invulnerable in that sense, because we heal so much faster. That’s no longer the case. The more we age, the more time we need to heal. So let’s try not to get hurt.
On top of that, throughout all my years of playing, I’ve proven to myself that I can play hurt as well as injured. So that’s kind of a double edged sword because I can go out there and play like I did at the ’08 Open and not feel my best, but still win a golf tournament.
So where’s the line of demarcation do I draw between injury and pain? I’ve proven to myself that I can do both. I can win through both. That’s where I’ve always struggled in the past with that, because I don’t know where that line is, because I can be successful either way.
Q. On the golf part of it, just the simple act of going out to the range, and being involved and playing in a tournament again, all the things associated with golf, is there a greater appreciation given to all the things you’ve gone through?
TIGER WOODS: No, I think it’s more fun now than it used to be because now my kids are becoming at an age now where they want to see daddy on TV. Daddy, you’re going to a golf tournament, are you going to be on TV? And I said, well, I have to play well. Well, daddy, can you please play well?
That to me, I get more satisfaction out of that part of my life now, so golf is more enjoyable than it used to be, for sure.
Q. Working on a steer on the 7th hole at Pebble. Can you tell me, do you like the hole and what makes it special?
TIGER WOODS: I love it when it’s calm. I’ve played it calm, I’ve played it in just awful conditions. I mean, one year, I think the year O’Meara and I were playing together. Mark hit 4 and I hit 5-iron that hole. Not a lot of fun. So when you’ve got to throw a 4 or 5-iron out over the ocean with a little bit of a cut and hopefully it comes back, it’s not real comforting.
Obviously, you saw it here in the ’92 Open on Sunday when it was howling. Nobody could throw the ball out far enough to the right because they’re just afraid it’s not going to come back, but you have to. For such a little hole, you feel like you should birdie it three of the four days when there’s no wind. It’s just a wedge. But when it starts howling like that, it gets dicey.
Q. Going from the greens that you played in Abu Dhabi to the ones that are here, it’s got to be a big change. Can you talk about how you approach going from really fast greens, like you saw there, to the poa annua you’re going to play on here? Do you make any changes to your equipment or mental approach to how you play on the greens?
TIGER WOODS: Abu Dhabi was actually pretty grainy. They were quick, but grainy. So they’re very similar to what we putt in Florida all the time. That wasn’t as big a change. Coming out here is a bigger change. Also, then again, this is how I grew up. I grew up on Poa. I grew up popping the ball and getting it rolling and having it bounce a little bit here and there. But that’s what I grew up on and I feel very comfortable coming out here.
I think I’ve had my share of success on Poa greens, just the fact because I grew up on it. I know early in my career I didn’t have a lot of success on Bermuda greens because I hadn’t played them enough. One of the reasons I moved to Florida was to get accustomed to playing Bermuda every day and seeing green and playing green. But to come out here and popping it, it’s like second nature.
My stroke does change. I don’t want it to change, but it does. It reverts back to how it was when I was a kid and how I putt. It’s worked out. But as far as equipment changes, no, I don’t change anything.
Q. You added this event to your schedule this year. There’s been rumors that you’re going to add the Honda Classic as well. Can you tell us anything about the upcoming schedule?
TIGER WOODS: I’m playing in the future, I just don’t know when yet. Does that help you out?
Q. Not at all.
TIGER WOODS: Okay, cool. Here to help.
Q. Coming back to the Bay Area and Northern California, is it a homecoming for you? What are some of your favorite holes to play once you come back here?
TIGER WOODS: We didn’t really come down here a lot in college. I did play the State Am here one year, but we only came down here a couple times to play when I was in college. But we played a lot in the Bay Area itself, whether it’s Lake Merced or SF Club or Olympic or Menlo or at home at Stanford.
So coming down here, I know the team’s coming down. So it will be fun to see some of the guys, and some of my old college friends are still in the Bay Area and they’re going to come down and watch.
Q. Some of those Bay Area courses that you mentioned, what are some of your favorites or some of the holes that you talk of when you played in college?
TIGER WOODS: I’d have to say that I truly love playing SF Club. I think it’s just a great golf course. The bunkering is beautiful. It’s very similar to Riv.
But Olympic’s always been hard. That’s a hard golf course, especially when we’ve got to play qualifiers, and coach did not care if it was raining or not and the course was closed. We’re playing.
So going out there on Monday, every Monday we’d either play Lake Merced or SF or Olympic. Those were our rotations every Monday. So going out there, he didn’t care because it was close, he didn’t care. You go out there and you play. Driving rain, raining sideways, as you know it can be cold and we’re out there qualifying. But I’ve certainly got an appreciation by playing those golf courses for sure.
Q. You’ve been credited with inspiring so many other players to play golf, and now 15 years later these guys have grown up and they’re now on this TOUR. They’re the guys who have learned how to take care of themselves and they’re athletes that might have been playing in other sports had they not been inspired. So has it come back and bitten you a little bit that you’ve inspired so many guys?
TIGER WOODS: Well, when I first came out here, I was the only guy in the gym. There was nobody else. Then it was Vijay. We were the only two. We’d see each other each and every week. Well, he played every week. So the weeks I played with him, we’d be the only ones in the gym.
Now everybody’s in the gym. Everyone has their own personal trainer that travels with them or they have a program that they follow. The game is way more athletic. We’re getting guys who grew up doing other sports who have transitioned into golf. That’s what I was saying throughout my career. One day we’re going to get a guy that is going to be like a Bo Jackson, is going to be like a Michael Jordan. They’re going to be that explosive and that good but decide to play golf. That’s what’s going to be pretty cool.
We have a pretty darn good athlete out here in D.J. who can dunk the ball, but what happens when you get one of those truly superior athletes that come out here and decides to play golf and devote himself and has the mental acuity to play? That’s when it’s going to be really cool to see.
I’ll be shrimping it down the fairway and trying to do it a different way. I’ll be the Corey Pavin of that generation. So I’ll be doing it a different way.
But the cool thing about the game is that you can do it so many different ways. You don’t have to be a power player. You can hit it shorter and still get the ball in the hole. You just have to be more efficient.
For instance, we always thought that Augusta was set for the big bombers and play the par-5s well. Well, Zach Johnson proved that wrong. He went for par-5 in two, played 12-under for the week and won the tournament. So there are different ways of doing it.
That is the neat thing about the game. You look at the winners this year, and I think Kyle’s the only long guy of the winners so far this year. So there are many ways of getting the ball in the hole.