Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club
Grand Blanc, Michigan
Wednesday, July 31
Why don't you start by giving us an assessment of your game this year, where you stand?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I feel as if I've had a very successful year so far, not a great year, but a successful year. I've always said that if you win, you've had a great year, no matter how high you finish in the rest of the events. I've had four wins this year, so it's been a very successful year. Especially after coming off the knee surgery last year, to play this well through the entire year, it's been a big bonus.
Talk about the course here - as defending champion, this is a course you like to play.
TIGER WOODS: I've loved this golf course since I played here in '97. I came here before I was even a spokesman for Buick and fell in love with the place. I love the tee shots and just everything about this golf course.
You're a big sports pans and you played with one of the legends, Al Kaline. What was that like for you?
TIGER WOODS: I asked probably a pretty rude question today. I said, 'You know, when did you retire?' And he said '74;' and I said, 'That's before I was born.' And I felt kind of bad saying that. You couldn't have asked for a nicer guy to play with. You've heard rumors, but you've heard people say that he's a great gentleman and a great spokesman for the game of baseball. I think that does not do justice to how nice of a guy he really is. He's 69 years old, he's out there pounding it. I think he's a ringer with an 8, but that's just me.
TIGER WOODS: On the card it was an 8. Exactly, see. (Laughter.)
TIGER WOODS: He plays. You can tell, he can really play. Even though he's got a little bit of a bad back, he can still get out there and hit some pretty good shots. You can tell that he knows what he's doing. And I think that's the neat thing about being able to play with other athletes, they know how to compete, and you could see it out there. He was grinding a little bit. It was fun to watch.
Would you discuss your decision to go back to your old Titleist driver and what it's going to do for you?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I went back to it just because I wanted to get a little bit of confidence. I haven't been driving the ball that well this year, and I went back to a club that I started playing with after I caved in my Cobra in '97. So this is the same driver.
I've played with it all the way until I switched last year, so this has been a driver that I've had success in the past. I don't hit it as far as my Nike driver, that's for sure, but it's nice to go back to something that I've had some success with. It's like going back to an old putter. Like Watson went back to his old putter this year and had some success and hopefully it will be the same with me.
John Mirlisina, Jr., paid $50,000 to play in today's pro-am with you. When somebody pays $50,000, do you feel compelled to talk to the guy or give him a few tips out there?
TIGER WOODS: No. (Laughter.) No, John was a cool guy to play with. We talked all day. It was really neat to give him a hard time because he liked to give me a little bit of a ribbing, so we had a few exchanges all day, which was fun.
You talked about you need to win a major to have a great year. How well do you think this sets up for you going into the PGA Championship with a pretty strong field here and the fact that you have to shoot well and have confidence to play here?
TIGER WOODS: Well, the greens here are always really pure. I think that's one of the things that we all look forward to playing this golf course; that it's a great preparation for a major championship on bent greens. These greens are always up to speed and they are always rolling smooth. This year they may not be as smooth with the greens being as soft as they are, with all of the traffic in the afternoon, but they are still up to speed. They are plenty quick and they are probably going to get quicker as the week goes on.
TIGER WOODS: Just don't think about who is playing and just try to get yourself on top of that board somehow.
Heard you talk last night about your shot on 18 at the PGA last year being the best out of a bunker. Can you talk about your shot on 16 here, I think it was Friday last year, 266 out of the rough and you had to shape it, does that rank up there as one of your greatest?
TIGER WOODS: No, no. It was a good shot, don't get me wrong, but it wasn't a great shot because it was downwind. It's a shot where I had a flyer lie and it came out flying. If it didn't come out flying, it would have been short and I had an easy pitch up and down. That was the way I was thinking; it just came out perfect.
The shot I had at the PGA, there was nothing easy about that shot. I've hit some shots that I would categorize as great shots just because of the fact that I didn't have any room for error. On that shot last year here I had some room for error.
On the subject of your greatest shots, do you look at sort of a percentage when you're standing over a shot: 'I've got maybe 30 percent chance to pull this off, 50 percent chance'?
TIGER WOODS: I've never looked at it like that, no. You always look at the fact that you have a shot at it or not, and should I play more conservative or should I play aggressively? And a lot of it is gut instinct at that time; how do you feel at that moment. Am I swinging good enough to pull it off? If I'm not swinging good enough I'm not going to try to pull it off. If I am swinging well enough, I'll enter that into the equation, should I even try it.
Part of you likes to hit a home run, so to speak, a grand slam, where even if it is a little bit of a long shot, if the thought of pulling it off, a picture in your mind compels you to take that crack at it, so to speak?
TIGER WOODS: You're talking about winning four majors in a row, my Grand Slam? (Laughter.)
I'm talking about hitting the home run shot, so to speak, the unlikely golf shot.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, some of it comes about out of necessity; you have no other choice. Because the shot that I hit at the Canadian Open against Waitey (Grant Waite), I really didn't have a whole lot of choice there. I had to either pull it off or not pull it off. I either win the tournament or I don't. It's pretty simple. Some of the shots, you have to make a decision: Should I or should I not try to pull it off.?Some shots don't give me any option. You pull it off or you don't.
You said last night that the shot at the PGA last year was your best. Do you have a Top 5, three greatest?
TIGER WOODS: No, but that's certainly the best by far.
Have you played Oak Hill?
TIGER WOODS: Have not.
Do you plan on playing it before then?
TIGER WOODS: No, just tournament week.
Do you know anything about the course, impressions of it?
TIGER WOODS: I've just seen it '95 Ryder Cup, that was about it. Only time I've of seen it. Otherwise, I don't really know a whole lot about the golf course.
You'll just be playing it when you get there?
TIGER WOODS: Correct.
The Kissing Bandit on 16, scary, fun or thrilling?
TIGER WOODS: Surprising. She just asked for a photo and she gave me a little hug and a kiss on the cheek.
Your driver, how long are you going to stick with the Titleist and what are the plans for the next driver?
TIGER WOODS: Well, as far as sticking with this driver, I'm just going to play it by ear. It could be out of the bag tomorrow. Could be in the bag for however many months, I don't know. It all depends on whether or not I get a driver that I feel comfortable that I can shape and hit shots with.
This driver, as I said, I'm giving up some distance. I'm going back to old technology. They have come a long way since '97, and I certainly don't hit the ball quite as far with this thing, but it's nice to go back to something that I've had some success with.
With the PGA a couple of weeks away, did you want to get a regular tournament in with it?
TIGER WOODS: Definitely. It's nice to be able to go back and play an event that I feel comfortable at and the holes that I feel comfortable that I feel that I can shape the ball onto and evaluate it from there in my practice sessions next week.
When you're playing this week, are you at all thinking about shots you'll want to have at the PGA?
TIGER WOODS: No.
Or are you just trying to win this tournament?
TIGER WOODS: No. Because I've never played the golf course; I wouldn't have a clue what I need to prepare for. If I play well here and hopefully win, then that will be plenty of confidence going into the PGA.
How did your Titleist driver feel today during the pro-am?
TIGER WOODS: It felt good. It felt good when I played with it on Monday. As I said, it's interesting because we've come so far in technology since '97, it's amazing, that when I rip this thing, it's not going quite as far. I thought I hit some pretty good drives out there. They are not quite as far as I thought they would be, but the shape is back to where I'm familiar seeing again, which is good.
Because you have not won a major, critics will say 'he's slumping' or 'not playing as well as he has in years past,' but how much of it is guys stepping up and meeting the challenge come Sunday, as opposed to years past they have been buckling, choking in a sense?
TIGER WOODS: You know, I think it's just part of golf. I mean, guys are going to play well. It's a matter of you playing well with them, too.
I didn't play particularly well on Sunday this year at the Masters. I had a chance there. And then on Sunday at the British Open, I made a few mistakes on the back nine, which in the end, ended up costing me the tournament. But in the end when we were out there playing, looked like I had no chance with the last three holes to go with Thomas playing so well.
Face it, guys are going to win major championships and guys are going to play well. It's a matter of giving yourself enough chances over the course of your career to win majors. No one has ever done it any better than Nicklaus. He's won 18, but he's also had 19 seconds. If you win half of those seconds, how good of a career would he have?
So it's just a matter of putting yourself there enough times. You're going to lose, that's part of the deal. But if you put yourself there enough times, you're also going to win your share.
You started golfing at a very young age. I saw you on the Bob Hope special. You have a lot of kids out there as fans and I just wondered if you had any thoughts about a kids' clinic or a kids' camp in the future?
TIGER WOODS: A kids' clinic here?
Something for kids.
TIGER WOODS: I've been doing that with my Foundation across the country giving clinics. Now we are building a learning center in southern California, a $25 million learning center for kids, going back to where I played high school golf at.
So I'm trying to do my part with kids. We have the Start Something Program which we've done with Target. It's a mentoring program and schools; we've had over a million kids now involved. So we're getting a lot of involvement, which is pretty neat.
Do you have a Web site?
TIGER WOODS: Yes, we do. TigerWoodsFoundation.org.
I'm sure you would have rather won yourself in England but, how great is this Ben Curtis story and how good is that for golf?
TIGER WOODS: It's a great story. I mean, he really played well the entire week. And granted, he played pretty solid on - I say he played really solid on the front nine, got off to a great start and lost a few shots on the back nine. But if you watch, he stepped up there and made one of the biggest putts of his life on 18, and he poured it right in the middle and he knew that was to give himself a chance to possibly win. Didn't know it was a winning putt, because right at the time he was three back, but at least he was going to give himself a chance. And he stepped up there and made it; he ended up winning the tournament.
I think it's a fantastic story.
Is it amazing to you at all, first time in a major?
TIGER WOODS: It is. I think that that's sometimes maybe a good thing.
I remember the stories that Fuzzy won his first Masters he ever played in, because he didn't know any better. Sometimes innocence is bliss and I think that's where I think that certainly had a helping hand in that. He didn't really understand the whole situation; he just was going out there playing, and nothing to lose and he had everything to gain. Sometimes that's a lethal combination.
Would you discuss the significance of the driver to you compared to the other clubs in your bag, because other players will change putters a lot and say that helped them or changed their focus. You seem to be more focused on drivers, would you talk about that?
TIGER WOODS: Well, actually, you know a lot of guys switch drivers out here. We switch wedges all the time.
I haven't switched my putter because I've won seven majors with this putter; I'm not going to give up this putter. But my backup is the one I won the '97 Masters with. That's the one I travel with. So I've had some pretty good success with the two putters. I've only putted with three putters since I've been on tour.
I think what we find is on tour, a lot of the guys switch drivers more frequently now because they keep coming out with newer technology. Guys back when we used persimmon never changed drivers because there was really nothing new. Now every six months there's always something new. Heads are bigger, faces are thinner, faster. You can do things with the ball that you could not do before. And what you find is a lot of guys are switching every six months to a year trying to find that added something.
Do you think about somebody making you new Titleist driver with a (inaudible)?/i>
TIGER WOODS: I've certainly thought about that but that's not what I want to do. I want to go back and get some confidence and understand, this is what I used to win with. I'm going back to that type of club.
It's like I've gone back to I've had two 3-woods since I've been on tour and I kind of rotate them in and out. And every once in a while I go back to one of my old ones that I've won a few Masters with, just to bring it out because I can shape it a little bit more. So every once in a while, you mix it up. It may look the same, but it's mixed up a little bit.
What do you consider to be a better season? This sort of doesn't have to necessarily be focused on you, but for any player, a guy winning six events, but no majors, or let's say three events, one of which would be a major?
TIGER WOODS: A major, by far. I mean, if you win a major championship, it's a great year, simple as that.
And then could a guy be Player of the Year in your estimation without winning a major?
TIGER WOODS: It's hard. We proved that in '98 with O'Meara and Duval. Duval had a better year than O'Meara with more wins, more Top 10s, better stroke average and first on the money list, but did not win the Player of the Year Award.
Would you consider your year to be less than a success if you finished with five wins but did not get that major?
TIGER WOODS: It would be a successful year but not a great year. And I've had great years in the past because I've won major championships, and the years I haven't have been successful years.
This year so far has been a successful year in the standpoint I never thought would I have this good of a year after coming off knee surgery. At the beginning of the year, I'm looking at, am I going to be able to somehow ready to play at Augusta, am I going to be able to play this year; and all of a sudden, to come out and win three of the first four. So I've had a heck of a year with all things considered.
How many drivers do you travel with?
TIGER WOODS: Two.
The Titleist, that's 43 1/2?
TIGER WOODS: Just under 43 1/2.
And the loft on that?
TIGER WOODS: 75. I've played 43 1/2f ever since I was about 13 or 14 and I've stuck with that. I experimented with longer clubs but I just can't play with them.
Before the tournament are you going to get some rest tonight, go to sleep at 10:00, do you get up at 6:00, what is the plan for the day before a tournament? The Wednesday night before a tournament, what does Tiger Woods do?
TIGER WOODS: Go for a workout. Go practice, go for a workout and get some rest.
Yeah, I'll eat. I'll eat my diet that I normally do.
With the emphasis that you do put on majors, a tournament like this, how do you approach it and does the fact that you maybe don't play as many tournaments as other guys keep you fresher and more focused?
TIGER WOODS: Without a doubt. That's one reason why I don't play as many events, so that when I do play, I'm 100 percent ready to play. I'm committed to playing. Some of the guys play so much that in their position, I would find it hard to give 100 percent because I would be tired. That's one of the reasons why I play a very limited schedule. I don't play too many weeks in a row. I'll take some breaks, get away from it, get recharged and come back, so that when I'm playing, I'm ready to compete all out.
When Jack Nicklaus was here for the Ford Senior Players Championship, he was very quick to criticize the evolution and the construction of the golf ball and how that is doing more damage to the game than the actual driver itself. Can you see his point on that?
TIGER WOODS: Certainly. Definitely, yeah.
Any thoughts on the golf ball? Is that something that they are going to have to regulate to where golf courses aren't going to have to be lengthened?
TIGER WOODS: It's hard to say they will ever regress, but I think they will probably put a cap on it pretty soon. I don't think you ever want to regress in technology. You might want to say this is the absolute limit and that's it.
That's what we are doing with drivers with CORs. We'll see what happens, because obviously the ball has improved a great deal. You pick up a ball that you grew up playing with versus what the ball is now, the ball is much harder. Before they used to be wound and now they are solid construction and they are three and four piece balls. So we can mix around and play and actually make a golf ball for each individual player.
Before, with wound ball technology, you could not do that. I think that you had to adjust your game to the golf ball. Now we can adjust the golf ball to your game and I think that's one of the reasons why you've seen the golfers hitting balls a lot further is because they are not optimizing their potential with the launch capabilities of these new balls.
What is your tournament schedule after the PGA and NEC?
TIGER WOODS: I'm playing Boston and then I'm going to go on vacation.
What will be after your vacation?
TIGER WOODS: I guess it will be AMEX and Disney, I guess.