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Tiger Woods Pre-Tournament Interview Transcript

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Mercedes Championships - Kapalua, Hawaii
 
TIGER WOODS: Well, I feel pretty good. Overall I feel like I'm hitting it all right. The whole thing I think is to just drive the ball well. (Lifting hat and numerous photographs taken). I didn't do that on purpose, did I (laughter)?
 
Q. Can you do it again?
 
TIGER WOODS: Did you like that (smiling)?
 
Q. Pretty please.
 
TIGER WOODS: Just thought I might catch you sleeping (laughter). I feel pretty good. My game is all right. I'm pretty excited. I haven't played in a month. I'm excited about playing again. It was neat to get back out there and have shots that actually counted. Even though it was a ProAm, I really haven't played a whole lot. Hit a lot of balls, but haven't really played. It was kind of fun to get out there and chase it around.
 
Q. Changes from last year's tournament?
 
TIGER WOODS: Trying to get my swing a little more rounded. Same as always: trying to get the club down in front. Same thing over and over again that I've been working on, that still needs attention. I still seem to get in the same fault as always, club shaft down, get stuck.
 
Q. New shots for this year?
 
TIGER WOODS: I'm working on a couple. I don't know when I'm going to put them in play. Who knows?
 
Q. What might they be?
 
TIGER WOODS: You'll see (smiling). I've hit them before in competition, but I really haven't hit it down the stretch in a tournament yet.
 
Q. What was the best Christmas present you got?
 
TIGER WOODS: My mom did a great job shopping. She got a lot of sweaters. Nothing really. Didn't really get anything extravagant or anything great. Everyone knows I just like T-shirts and sweaters.
 
Q. Goals for 2001? Can you give us some specifics?
 
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, they're very simple. Just try to get better than what I did last year. That doesn't necessarily mean results; just better as a player. Each and every year that I've played golf, I've become better. That's something I've always said, and something I'm always going to try to do. Come this time next year, hindsight, look back on the year, 2001, am I a better player than I was in 2000? Hopefully the answer is yes. Sometimes it doesn't equate to wins. Like in '98, I wasn't winning as much as I was in '97, but I was a better player. Wins will come when you improve.
 
Q. You won by 15, 11, 8, 5. Was that you or was that everyone?
 
TIGER WOODS: I think I seemed to catch the guys on weeks when they may not have been on their game. Obviously, Grant Waite and I were both on our games. We separated ourselves from the field a little bit at Canada. I shot -- what ? -- 22. He shot 21. You don't really do that very often at Glen Abbey.
 
Q. What about Vijay?
 
TIGER WOODS: You saw me. I really wasn't driving the ball as well as I'd like that week, but I was getting it in play. I was kind of hitting the bunt out there, trying to keep it in play. My iron game was pretty short. My putting felt good. I wasn't driving great. I missed a lot of drives way right and consequently had to throttle by and get it in play. When I did that, I was able to have iron shots in there.
 
Q. The shots you're working on, are they for specific courses coming up or situations?
 
TIGER WOODS: Situations and just different spins coming into the greens with. Depends on what grain you're playing into. The grain is running down, what's surfaces might be, pin locations, these type of things. You can vary your shots, your flight, your trajectory, your divot shallowness, how steep you can come into the ball, produces a different kind of spin. When it hits the green, it reacts differently. These are the things I'm trying to get better at.
 
Q. When you're asked about things you've done, your achievements, you seem not to really spend a lot of time reflecting. Is that any type of self-protection about not getting a place, always trying to get better? 'If I think about what I've done, maybe I won't improve or get better'?
 
TIGER WOODS: I don't really look at it that way. I like to look back in hindsight. I like to look at the things I did right, like when I look at some of the tournaments, I've replayed them over and over again to try and see what is it about my swing or putting, certain chip shots that I may have had, what was it that I was doing right that week, what was I thinking? How come I'm not able to produce that now? Would that be beneficial down in the future? That's kind of how I look at my tournaments. Do I look at it from the standpoint of, 'Will I get complacent?' No. I'm always going to try to get better.
 
Q. Phil was asked about toughening up perhaps the US Open course. Johnny Miller shot 63. He said, 'Everybody else was three over par or higher.' Do you see them going after that record score, just trying to make it impossible? Would it be right for the game of golf?
 
TIGER WOODS: I don't think they're going to try and do that because I think the USGA has made a concerted effort over the past three or four US Opens to try and get away from that, try and make the golf courses more fair. I remember the first experiment of that was at Shinnecock, giving us chipping areas. The guys loved it. Hence, we went to Pinehurst. We had no rough, a lot of chipping areas. I don't think they're going to do that. They're in Tulsa, the wind can blow. If you make the golf course unplayable, like it was at Carnoustie, I don't think the fans would enjoy see a winning score in double digits over par.
 
Q. Can you assess the major venues for this year, how they set up for you?
 
TIGER WOODS: I haven't played in Atlanta, I haven't played that one. I have played obviously the other three. I always enjoy playing Augusta. When I played Southern Hills, I wasn't exactly in the best frame of mind that week. It was the week my father was put in the hospital. We also played some pretty -- in some pretty cold weather at the beginning of the week. A little bit different obviously in the summer. I remember the golf course being such a wonderful layout that you need to drive the ball in the fairways because the greens are so severe that you have to put the ball in certain locations or you're going to 3-putt. Lytham, I kind of had an inkling that I could probably play the game at the next level. I made eight birdies in 11 holes in the second round, shot a good round in there, got myself where I made my first cut -- actually my second cut in the British Open. Really shot a good round, really enjoyed playing there. I enjoyed running the ball up along the fairways, playing just a different game. That's the only three I know. I haven't played in Atlanta yet.
 
Q. Lytham was a pivotal moment?
 
TIGER WOODS: It was. I hadn't played well in a TOUR event yet. I've made cuts in majors, yeah, but I really hadn't played well, hadn't shot any good numbers. That second round I really played well. I made eight birdies in 11 holes, kind of blitzed them there for a little bit. If I can do this in a major.
 
Q. Casey Martin, if you were a Supreme Court justice, which way would you come down in the case?
 
TIGER WOODS: Who?
 
Q. Casey Martin's case, going before the court next week. Which way do you think you'd come down?
 
TIGER WOODS: Unfortunately, I have emotions involved, so it would be hard to separate that. I know Casey really well, so obviously my allegiance would be more towards Casey.
 
Q. Another way to put it, what do you see is the best resolution of this, perfect resolution of this case?
 
TIGER WOODS: I don't know. That's a good question. I really don't know. You're going to have to really analyze it and say what is best for the game? It's hard for me to separate the two and try and be as rational as possible because for me, knowing Casey as well as I do, there's a lot of emotions involved that I'm always going to side with him.
 
Q. Are you anticipating it's going to be tougher to get better?
 
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, when you get better -- when you reach, I guess -- when you play for a living, and anyone out here can play, when you improve your game, it's not as drastic as an eight handicap, dropping down a few strokes. It's not going to be that dramatic. It's going to be a little here and there which means it's a shot or two a tournament. Eventually, over an entire year, that's a lot. If you can somehow save a couple shots because of your technique or your attitude, whatever it may be, in the end that means an awful lot.
 
Q. Do you see guys changing their games and attitudes with the new equipment, clubs, Titleist balls? Do you think that might narrow the gap from 12 under to 3 over?
 
TIGER WOODS: I think so. I think the guys now, with the equipment, are hitting the ball further, they're hitting it straighter. David and I were talking about this last week. A lot of the guys, because of the equipment, they're not necessarily hitting their irons better, but they're driving it so much further that now instead of playing 4 and 5-irons into some of these pins, they're playing 7s and 6s. That's a tremendous difference. It's not because they're stronger, more limber, it's just because of equipment. You give the guys just one or two less clubs coming into the green than what they're accustomed to, they're going to make more birdies, lower scores.
 
Q. How do you feel about that as a guy who everybody is chasing?
 
TIGER WOODS: As you know, I play with equipment that's kind of towards the old school style. My lengths are all short. All my lofts are weak, compared to now, they're all old standards. All my irons are short, my driver is short. If I wanted to hit the ball further, I could, put a graphite, technology, hit it 20 further. I can't control the ball. I can't put it on the left side of the fairway or right side of the fairway. I can't control the ball. I can't be as specific because I can't control it.
 
Q. If it means for these guys finding a shot or two a week over the course of a year, that adds up, do you relish what on paper could be tighter competition?
 
TIGER WOODS: It could be.
 
Q. Whether it's equipment or not, do you look forward to it?
 
TIGER WOODS: Plus also the guys are still going to have to make a few putts.
 
Q. When you look back at the things you did right, do you look back at this tournament?
 
TIGER WOODS: I remember playing and not really feeling comfortable with my iron game at all. I mean, I didn't feel good. But I was able to bump the ball along and hit just little half shots. I was able to play so many half shots that it actual -- actually I got a lot of confidence out of that. Taking a 4-iron out from 160 yards, bump one up there into the wind. Today I hit a 7-iron from 110 yards to about three feet. You don't really see me doing that very often. But this golf course, this tournament, with these conditions, make you have to do those type of things. It gave me a lot of confidence when I had to play in other windy conditions throughout the year, that I could pull it off.
 
Q. How do you judge last year on a scale of 1 to 10?
 
TIGER WOODS: Not bad.
 
Q. What number would you give it?
 
TIGER WOODS: Not bad (smiling).
 
Q. Last year Jack, Hal, a couple of guys, said you have to have rivals to make the story complete. Do you see it that way? Do you ever see yourself getting a little bored if things keep going in the direction they're going?
 
TIGER WOODS: No. I don't know what that saying is. Winning never gets old. Let's put it this way: i've never enjoyed losing. I've always enjoyed winning. Hence, that's one of the reasons why I work as hard as I do. I always want to give the best effort I possibly can and put myself in a position to win and hopefully win.
 
Q. (Inaudible)?
 
TIGER WOODS: I'd probably do it differently than most guys do. I don't stand out there and hit 80, a hundred balls, like Vijay does. I don't work that way. My practices are a little bit more focused, a little more concise. I can't sit out there on the range, hit balls for five hours, like he can. He may be focused for the entire time, I don't know. I don't see him practice like that. For me, I physically can't do it.
 
Q. There are a lot of people in golf who would kill to get 20 yards extra off a tee. Why don't you go high tech and add 20?
 
TIGER WOODS: I just said it.
 
Q. I must have been daydreaming.
 
TIGER WOODS: Because I can't control it as well.
 
Q. When do you start thinking about Augusta?
 
TIGER WOODS: I think as the year goes on a little further, especially when you get to the Florida swing. Once we leave the West Coast, I think a lot of the guys kind of start thinking about what they need to do to get ready for Augusta. I don't think I'm any different. Have I been thinking about it? Yeah, I've been thinking about it. I've been thinking about some of the shots I might need. Am I hitting them well now? If I am, keep it that way. If I'm not, try and improve on it. More than anything, going into Augusta, I think it's always beneficial that you're playing well, that you feel like your practices are well, your tournament performances going in there, you've put yourself in contention to win. It does help.
 
Q. There's going to be a debate obviously at Augusta, if you should win, whether that's a Grand Slam or whether it has to be done in calendar year. Would you state your case on what you think? Also, which do you think might be harder to do, all of them in one year?
 
TIGER WOODS: By far, all of them in one year is harder to do.
 
Q. So is it a Grand Slam?
 
TIGER WOODS: All of them in one year? Yes (laughter).
 
Q. If you were to win Augusta this year, is that a Grand Slam?
 
TIGER WOODS: Let me ask you this. Do I hold all four?
 
Q. I went first, though.
 
TIGER WOODS: Do I hold all four?
 
Q. Yes.
 
TIGER WOODS: Then there's the answer.
 
Q. Does it have to be in a calendar year?
 
TIGER WOODS: I hold all four at the same time.
 
Q. You know Martina Navratilova did that, and they wouldn't count it in tennis as a Grand Slam.
 
TIGER WOODS: Hey, everybody's has an opinion.
 
Q. First you have to win it. Then will you let us argue bit?
 
TIGER WOODS: That's fine. Can you do whatever you want as soon as I win.
 
Q. In a year -- a year ago, you were on a roll. You downplayed it saying you weren't in pursuit of Nelson's record because he did it over one year. This was two years. You said that. I'm wondering how you can count that as being two years and this being one?
 
TIGER WOODS: Because we play 42 straight weeks of TOUR events. There aren't 42 straight weeks of majors. There's a difference.
 
Q. Same year, though, same calendar year.
 
TIGER WOODS: No, but it's different. We play major Championships once every three months, then once a month for three months in a row. I think that's a huge difference rather than playing here, Sony -- where does it go? -- Phoenix, Pebble. I think that's a big difference rather than having three months off, get ready for another site, have another month off, get ready for another site, so forth and so on.
 
Q. Why do you think it would be more difficult to hold all four in the same calendar year as opposed to separate years?
 
TIGER WOODS: Because, one, you have to win the Masters, to start off. If you don't win that, you can't hold them the same year. If you can get hot in the summer, play well at the British Open, start there, win British Open, the PGA, continue your play, win the Masters, all of a sudden you've got a chance to win The Open. But you got hot later in the year. You have to get hot at the right time to win all four in the same year. Have to start out in April.
 
Q. Will you do anything different going into Augusta this than the previous year?
 
TIGER WOODS: Probably not. I'll probably do the same things with my practice schedules, my preparation, same as I've always done for every major championship. The thing that you need to do, I've found, one of the things in talking with Marco, you've always got to be rested going into a major championship. Playing the grind of play, talking to you guys every day, practicing, working out, it takes its toll. A lot of stress for that one week. If you're not rested going into it, you probably won't perform at your absolute best when you need to.
 
Q. Any thoughts about the Sony Open?
 
TIGER WOODS: Yeah.
 
Q. Are you going to play?
 
TIGER WOODS: No.
 
Q. Last few guys that won here have all had pretty good years. Do you give any credence to getting off to a good start, not necessarily this week, but the first few tournaments can set the tone for the year?
 
TIGER WOODS: It's kind of hard because I've done pretty well in this tournament since I first played it in '97. I've had some good finishes here. Can you base that on an entire year? No. It does make you feel good that you get off to a good, solid start. You didn't go out there and finish dead last, shooting 80 every day. To win a golf tournament now on the PGA, you've got to go low. It's always nice to know that you start off the year going low. It builds a lot of confidence, like David did a couple years back, shooting 26 under. Gave him a lot of confidence for the rest of the year, knowing the fact he got off to a good, solid start, went low when he hadn't touched a club in a while, came back out and dominated.
 
Q. What do you think of him coming on board with Nike?
 
TIGER WOODS: I think it's going to be great. It's exciting. Right now it's logistically not the best thing for him, all the stuff he's got to go through right now.
 
Q. Were you consulted?
 
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, yeah, I was.
 
Q. Does Nike come to you and say, 'We're thinking of'?
 
TIGER WOODS: Uh-huh.
 
Q. Did you have to give approval before they went after him?
 
TIGER WOODS: They just wanted my opinion. I said, 'David is a great guy.' I've gotten to know David quite bit over maybe the past two years, spent some time around him. I think it would be great to have him at Nike. I think it would be a great fit for both sides, both David and as well as for Nike.
 
Q. Share the end of the season Golf World story generated a lot of talk. A lot of people said you should have your way, you weren't bigger than the game, you are the game. What do you say to those people?
 
TIGER WOODS: Obviously, they don't understand the game of golf.
 
Q. When you go into this season after eight wins, nine wins, are you thinking ten wins, or are you thinking one win this week?
 
TIGER WOODS: Start at the beginning. Can't win ten this week. It would be a record (laughter).
 
Q. Based on last year, it's a possibility for you. But you look at the year, do you --?
 
TIGER WOODS: I look at it as a whole. I know how many tournaments I'm probably going to play, same amount, which means I don't have a whole lot of chances. You know, the key is, in order to win, you've got to put yourself there in position. That's what I kept telling you guys since I've been out here on tour, that you need to keep putting yourself there. Obviously you are going to get beat, you are going to blow it, good and bad things are going to happen. If you're there enough times, you're going to go to get your share 6 wins. The key is putting yourself there in order to have whatever opportunity there is, good or bad.
 
Q. Would you take your hat off?
 
TIGER WOODS: I just did.
 
Q. Really, take it off.
 
TIGER WOODS: No.
 
Q. After winning eight and nine, are you hungrier --?
 
TIGER WOODS: (Taking hat off.) What happened (laughter)?
 
Q. After the success of last year, are you hungrier to win now or about the same?
 
TIGER WOODS: Still the same. Nothing's really changed.
 
Q. Would say, 'I don't care if I win another tournament this year. I'll just win the Masters'?
 
TIGER WOODS: I couldn't live with myself if I said that. It wouldn't be me.