Tiger Woods Friday Masters Press Conference Transcript
TIGER WOODS: Well, I didn't start off 4-over par. I played a little bit better yesterday. It was a lot easier 70 than it was in '97, '97 going 40-30, it is not exactly an ideal way to shoot 70.
Q. Tiger, tougher conditions today. Tougher pin placements, and you're shooting a lot better. Was it a difference in execution or mindset?
TIGER WOODS: I think I took advantage of situations I had out there. I hit good shots and I made some putts today. Even though I 3-putted twice, I really made my share of putts today. I think one of the reasons why I kept a lot of the putts below the hole, with my approach shots, and that's one of the keys to playing this golf course well, is that if you have an opportunity to keep it below the hole, you're going to have to try and get it in there and I was able to do that.
Q. Can you talk about the challenge of putting on these greens and do they play mind games with you?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think that one of the things that makes these greens so difficult is they are pretty grainy. With the grain kind of going with the slopes, it just accentuates some of the break that you have. Some of the putts that I knew today were downgrain, I tried to play them, obviously a little bit shorter than what I normally would, and they still ran out past the hole. It's just, this golf course, putting on these greens is so demanding because you've got to play so much swing within the putts. You have a simple 10-foot putt and you are playing three feet of break. That's just not normal.
Q. Obviously, the leaderboard is very much bunched up right now, a lot of low numbers. If conditions get as tough as what is expected, with a lot more wind and firmer, what kind of separation do you expect to see?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think obviously, you're going to see the guys who are really playing well, probably separate themselves a little bit more than where it is now. With the tougher conditions, that's just generally what happens. With the conditions a little bit more benign, the guys who are playing marginal can get away with shots and get away with misses. The conditions getting more and more difficult, that won't be the case.
Q. Is the tournament going according to form for you so far or is there more out there for you?
TIGER WOODS: I think I've let a couple shots go, but also, I've made my share of birdies, too, and made my share of putts. It all evens out in the end. I'm very pleased at where I'm at. 8-under par, you can't really complain.
Q. What happened on No. 9? Did you have the right club?
TIGER WOODS: No.
Q. What did you hit?
TIGER WOODS: I hit wedge. I had just -- Stevie and I were arguing about the shot, the shot to play, and I didn't choose the right one.
Q. Friday at Augusta, does the scoreboard matter to you or is 8-under par all that matters to you?
TIGER WOODS: I think I looked up there, just because I'm curious. I want to see what's going on out there. You know, to be honest with you, 8-under par is just 8-under par. You know, in a major championship, that's not bad. I know that this weekend, obviously, it is going to get a little more dry, a little more firm. The golf course is going to get more difficult, and it's nice to be in a position where you don't have to go out there and have to shoot something low on a difficult golf course.
Q. Can you talk about the missed birdie put on 16, what you saw there, and consequently, coming back to birdie 17 and 18, where that leaves your mindset?
TIGER WOODS: The putt on 16, I saw was -- I putted first and I dived it down there and I knew my angle was going to be quicker because I had to throw it up higher on the hill from my angle. I just misjudged it. It's left-to-right, downhill, downgrain and the wind is coming downwind, so it is a quick putt. I ran it by about eight feet. The next one I just blocked. Just a bad putt.
Q. I'm sure you were disappointed, and you walked off quickly, but to birdie 17 and 18, where does that leave your mind?
TIGER WOODS: You know, after 16, going to 17, I just wanted to make sure I got back to at least where I was. If I could just get one of them back I would be happy, and to get two back was a bonus, because obviously, with the pin as accessible as it was on 17, if you drove the ball in the fairway, it is a birdie hole. 18, not exactly the easiest pin to get to. I hit a great drive down there and ended up in the rough, but I had an uphill lie, which I could use the back stop behind the hole as a little friend.
Q. Arnie said this course is as playing as soft as he has seen it in ten years. Are you surprised that these greens still are receptive (inaudible) --
TIGER WOODS: I haven't really been here for ten years, so I can't comment on that. (Laughs). From the years I have been here, the only year I have ever seen it as soft was in '95, when I first played. It was raining the first day. I played with Olly, and other than that, this golf course is usually baked out.
Q. David Duval said with his injuries and whatnot, that with expectations racheted down , do you feed off other people's expectations or is it just your expectations?
TIGER WOODS: If I tried to live off other people's expectations, I don't think I would be at a very, happy guy because I'm not going after the things that I want to accomplish. To me, I think that's the most important thing; that I accomplish the things that I set out to do. It gives me greater satisfaction to do that, but, you know, if you look at it, my expectations of myself are pretty high. So if I can go ahead and accomplish the things that I want to accomplish, I'll be happy.
Q. Is that why maybe it's a little more important to shoot a lower number today, so you would not have to go lower on the weekend if things do get tough?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think with the conditions being as difficult as they could be on the weekend, you could actually see somebody come out of the pack with a good round. If you play a good round, you are obviously going to move up the board a little bit more than you would if the conditions were soft and benign. But it's also nice knowing the fact that you don't have to shoot that to get yourself back in the tournament. Right now, I'm right there in the ball game, and with a great chance on the weekend.
Q. The 3-wood on 8, the approach there, can you talk me through your thought process? And then, what did you think of the result?
TIGER WOODS: I had 253 to the hole, coming out of the rough there. I choked out on it, just tried to hit a little three-quarter 3-wood and just kind of chip it up there somewhere. As I was coming down on my downswing, I screamed at myself: Don't hit it left. And I did. I raked it across it and hit a little bleeder -- I don't know where it landed but probably landed on the right side and rolled up there. Anything to the right is fine. Just don't pull it. So I did.
Q. How much has Chris DiMarco popped up on your radar screen and how much advantage going into the final two days of a major?
TIGER WOODS: I think experience does help. It does make you feel more at ease, because I've been there before. I've won majors and I've lost majors. But more than anything, I've been there before. I know how to control my emotions and I know what to expect, what to feel, and what I'll probably experience coming down the stretch with a chance to win. If you have not been there, it was tough. I was very fortunate the year that I won my first major, I happened to play great and separate myself, so it was a different feeling. Obviously, he's playing great, and my hat is off to him. Hopefully he can continue playing well.
Q. Obviously, you have a game plan before you play, how you are going to play this golf course. Are you pushed at all when you see David or Phil's names, does it alter your game plan during a round when players of that caliber are raising the bar?
TIGER WOODS: You know, when you are out there playing, to be honest with you, it doesn't really matter who is up on top of the board because you have to execute your golf shots the way you know that you have to - especially around this golf course. If it's -- obviously, if it's the Top-10 players in the world, all bunched up, it really doesn't matter, you still have to hit the golf shots, no matter who is up on top of the board. I know that, and I've experienced that and I go out there with that mindset.
WILLIAM MORRIS: I'm going to ask you to do your birdies and bogeys next. We've had a request for that and then we have other questions.
TIGER WOODS: I birdied 3. I hit a 3-iron off the tee. Soft pitching wedge in there to about ten feet below the hole and made that. No. 4, I hit a 5-iron to about 15 feet right of the hole, coming down the slope and made that. Birdied 6. I hit a 7-iron in there to about two feet. Made that. Birdied 8. Hit a driver and a 3-wood up there to about 15 feet. 2-putted. Bogeyed 9. Hit a driver and a pitching wedge behind the hole. Missed the putt coming down and had about a 10-footer for my second putt and missed it. 13, I hit 3-wood off the tee, a 7-iron from 212; that went 225. I hit a good bunker shot up there to about six feet. Made that. 15, hit a good drive down the right side. Hit a 6-iron up there to about 30 feet right of the hole and 2-putted. No. 16, I hit an 8-iron past the hole about 20 feet. Ran it by about eight feet and missed it. 17, I hit a driver and a sand wedge to about four feet and made that. 18, I hit a driver and a sand wedge to about eight feet above the hole and made that.
WILLIAM MORRIS: Thank you.
Q. On the subject of the weekend conditions, in the situation that you have now put yourself in, what would be optimum conditions for you? Would you prefer the harder the better for the weekend?
TIGER WOODS: If I'm playing well, yeah. (Laughs). I think with the conditions drying up and firming up a little bit, I kind of like that, just because I feel like I'm playing -- playing good, and that it does help, knowing the fact that I am playing good. But, you've still got to go out there and do it. I saw the dots for tomorrow. They are not going to be easy. The pins are tucked in the corner. Traditional weekend pins. Some of the pins, you probably can't find, but it's going to be quite a challenge. I'm looking forward to it.
Q. You've talked in the past about your Love of the competition, actually loving to go out and play golf. A leaderboard with major wins and top golfers, does it make it that much more exciting on a day when you go out?
TIGER WOODS: Not on Friday or Saturday. But come Sunday afternoon, that's when it -- yeah, it will be challenging and it will be fun. If I can get myself in position, where I'm there, yeah, that will be great. But there's so much more golf to be played until there is, you know, a jockeying for position coming down the stretch, who is going to win. We have so many more shots we need to play before that happens.
Q. The disagreement over the club selection on 9, what did Steve want you to hit and what was the thought process on that one?
TIGER WOODS: It was 106 to the hole. He was afraid of sand wedge coming in there with too much spin, but I was just going to play a little flat hook in there and try and hook-spin it up there. Stevie wanted me to hit a little wedge and hold it back into the wind and make sure I didn't rip it back off the green, even though the pin was on the middle shelf if you land a sand wedge in there with the wrong spin wrong flight, an up-shooter that ball is coming right back off the green with spin. He wanted to play a little more flat shot. I went ahead and hit it, but I wasn't as comfortable as I needed to feel.
Q. The 3-wood on 8, did I understand you to say that was a bad shot?
TIGER WOODS: You said a bleeder up? You hit it left, raked it. Yeah, a little bleeder across, left-to-right (Laughter.) Wasn't that hard?
Q. I'm sure you heard about Hootie's announcement earlier in the week that the par 4s are going to be strengthened when the tournament is over. Just your thoughts on whether you think they need to be strengthened, what kind of impact that might have?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think if they are lengthened, I don't have a problem with that. But I think -- I think what they are going to have to do is if they do lengthen the golf course out substantially, then I think it might be in the best interest to maybe even possibly go back to how it was, with no rough, because now the par 4s are playing like they used to, with the technology improvement. Then it would be interesting to see, with the new trees that they have got out there. Borderline shots would now run into the trees, instead of getting held up, like some of the trees that have been put in now over on 7 would now run into the trees. The trees along 1 on the left, some of the new ones there. It would make the golf course play, I think, how it was intended: Hard and fast.
Q. I would not guess, given normal conditions, I would assume you are hitting the ball on the property, you would not hit more than an 8-iron into the par 4's, would you?
TIGER WOODS: Depends on the wind. If it is not blowing at all, then probably the longest club I'll probably hit, maybe 7- or 6-iron. That's probably generally going to happen on 11. 11 is a pretty long hole, or even 10.
TIGER WOODS: Thank you.
McIlroy gets back on track
There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:
He is well ahead of schedule.
Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.
“Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”
To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”
And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.
After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out.
Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.
“I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”
The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.
The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)
But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.
Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.
Everything in his life is lined up.
Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.
Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore
Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.
Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.
There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.
Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.
The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.
Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again
Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.
Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.
It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.
Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.
While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.
McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call
Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.
Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.
The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.
McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.
McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.