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Tiger Woods News Conference Transcript - 2002

Q. What is it about this championship, this victory that distinguishes it from the other 7 majors you've won.
TIGER WOODS: To play on a public facility such as this. This is -- they've done an incredible job this week of getting this golf course ready. And on top of that the changes they made to the golf course to make this this difficult for all of us. And on top of that, the fans, the enthusiasm they showed the entire week is second to none. And on top of that, the U.S. Open always -- is always a special event, but I think after what has transpired in September here for all the fans, I think that just makes it -- the atmosphere even more special.
Q. Walk through your birdies, bogeys and any saves you had there.
TIGER WOODS: First hole I hit 3-wood off the tee. A pitching wedge that spun off the shelf, and had about a 35-footer, left it short about 6 feet and missed that.
The next hole I had a pitching wedge long, about 30 feet again, left that about three feet short left, missed that putt.
Birdied 7, hit a 3-wood -- 2-iron off the tee, hit a 7-iron to about 15 feet and made it.
Birdied 13, hit a driver off the tee, hit 2-iron to about 20 feet and 2-putted.
And 16, a driver in the left rough, a 9-iron in the left bunker, blasted out to about 8 feet and missed it.
18, I hit a 3-iron off the tee, 6-iron pin-high about 40 feet and ran it by about four or five feet and missed it.
Q. How long does it take you to put this behind you and start working on your links game, and what exactly is that going to involve and what is your schedule between now and Muirfield?
TIGER WOODS: Right now I could care less about that, I'll be honest with you. I want to celebrate this one, this one was hard fought. This was tough. With the conditions being this difficult, and they kept changing, every day we had to play a different golf course. And today two different golf courses, today with the greens running 15 on the stimpmeter, and then they slowed up with the rain, and then the wind died out. So we had two different golf courses again today. It's going to be a while before I start working on my links game.
Q. Can you talk about the difficulty of this course and the challenge that Bethpage Black created and what your overall opinion about the course is now?
TIGER WOODS: Well, from what I've been told by the USGA, this is obviously the longest one, but it's also the narrowest U.S. Open I've ever played. The widest fairway is 28 yards. And on top of that you have 3 holes about 490 plus as par-4s. That's not a whole lot of room to work with. And it just made for a very difficult test the entire week. And you had to -- you couldn't just slap it around and play poorly and contend in this championship, you had to play well. And I was able to do that the entire week.
Q. Today was father's day. Could you sort of let us know what sort of exchanges you had with your dad today, and then the second part of the question is, much has been made about the fact that you won a 'Tiger Slam' as opposed to a Grand Slam. And I know you probably don't think that. How much does that short of cheapen what you've already done and how much does that motivate you to now come and do it in a calendar year?
TIGER WOODS: Well, my dad, I tried to call him this morning, but he wasn't around. So I'll call him when I get home.
I've won the slam before. I've won four major titles in a row and no one has ever done that, not four professional majors. And that's something I'm proud of. You can call it what you want. But when I was at home, I had all four trophies on my mantle, and no other person can say that. So this will be a different type of slam, it being the calendar year. I think the build-up to the British Open will be certainly a lot easier than what I had to deal with going up to Augusta. Dealing with 7 months of every single tournament I played in I got asked that question. What's it going to be like to go for four in a row. So this one now comes month after month, two majors. And I think it's certainly a lot easier from that aspect.
Q. It seemed as though the birdie on 13, at least to many of us was pretty much the end of the tournament. Obviously you had a few holes left. Talk about that and the carry over the rest of the way?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I hit a really nice drive there and hit a beautiful, high cut 2-iron, just barely missed that putt for eagle. I think I had a 3 shot lead at the time, but I still had some tough holes to play. And if Phil makes one or two more birdies coming in, I couldn't afford to make a mistake. So even though I had a 3 shot lead, I still had to keep plugging along. And if I parred out he would have to make 3 more birdies to force it into Monday. And I kept telling myself, just continue doing what you're doing, put the ball where you need to put it and move on.
Q. Do you get a sense when you're in the tournament you're the only variable. When you're playing well, nobody else can beat you?
TIGER WOODS: I don't get a sense of that, no. I don't think people actually understand how difficult this sport is. If you play, you should know. This sport is very difficult. And it's very fickle. You can play well and you can lose. That's just the nature of this sport. You get some breaks that are bad, things just don't happen your way, but you're playing well, and subsequently you don't win. I've played well and not won, the other guy hasn't played well and beaten me for some reason. That's the nature of the sport. Just because I'm not playing well -- just because I'm playing well doesn't guarantee I'm going to win a tournament.
Q. Yesterday you were talking about your swing wasn't quite right and you were trying to adjust a little bit on the fly. Did you solve that problem at all today or was there still a little tinkering to be done out there?
TIGER WOODS: I felt very comfortable with my swing. I did some good work last night. I hit a few balls and really felt like I was swinging the club like I did the first two days. And I just wanted to go out today -- my warm-up session went really well this morning. I hit the ball very crisp and very solid. I said, do what you did the first two days, go out and hit the ball that way, and you'll be fine.
Q. I'm sure you heard a lot of the cheering for Phil and the sounds of 'Happy Birthday' being sung around the course. Can you talk a little bit about what that was like hearing that and trying to continue through your round, whether there was anything going on?
TIGER WOODS: No, I think that made it a lot easier for me, because obviously he had to deal with a lot more distractions than I did. I heard a few times them singing 'Happy Birthday,' which meant he to deal with an extra distraction. And I didn't have to deal with that. A lot of the fans were obviously up there with him, trying to get him to make a move, on top of that they also wanted to sing 'Happy Birthday.' That made it that much easier for me, and I just wanted to go out there and keep plugging along. And I could hear what he was doing up there. I didn't have to look at the boards. You knew when he made birdie, you knew when he made par.
Q. Tiger, that having been said, you heard that he got a birdie at the first hole. You didn't start the way you wanted to. Can you talk about after the second hole how you regrouped, maybe your experience helped you through the rest of the 16?
TIGER WOODS: I kept telling myself going to the third hole, I'm not playing bad. I hit good shots on the first two holes, I just hit poor putts. And the greens were running this quickly, it's okay, you're going to make a mistake. And I said, you know, get the mistakes out of your system, just continue playing well. I've got to work on my pace a little more. On the third hole I left the putt on the lip. I said you know what, my pace is there again. I figured it out, got my pace back. But I still have to hit the ball in position to give myself some putts. And I did that all day. I hit the ball beautifully. I gave myself a lot of looks, and I converted on just a couple of them.
Q. Are you amazed by the lack of serious opposition today and how do you explain that?
TIGER WOODS: What were you watching? Phil played great.
Q. Still, no one got you.
TIGER WOODS: There's only going to be one winner. But Phil played just an absolutely fantastic round of golf. He just made a couple of mistakes at the end. But anything could have happened, this is a U.S. Open. We've seen this happen before. Last year, for instance. This golf course was set up so difficult. You make one mistake here and there, you're paying a price. And Phil made a mistake at the end, and so did I. I made a few mistakes, as well. But I was able to hang in there throughout the middle part of the round to give myself a cushion.
Q. With your win today gives you 8 majors, moves you up to tie for 5th place, you went by Jones, Hogan, Palmer, Sarazen. Can you reflect on what that means at 26 to be there and having won 8 of the last 12 majors, the enormity of that is a little bit overwhelming to most people, how is it to you?
TIGER WOODS: I think I've won 7 out of 11. The move up on that list is -- as a kid you just dreamt of just winning one. To put yourself in that position, and I've done that a few times. I don't think -- it's so hard to describe how good it feels to win I major championship, because it takes so much out of you, and it's so difficult to do because you have to really play well. And you've got to be at the top of your game in order to win a major championship. You can't go out and slop it around and win. And it's just really neat to look at the guys on the list that I'm a part of now. And hopefully my career will keep being positive.
Q. Can I ask you, not to denigrate the Tiger Slam, which I think was a great achievement, at the same time, with all the focus on a calendar year Grand Slam, which would be a bit different, is it something you feel is doable, is it something you want to accomplish? And I know obviously you want to win the British Open and the PGA, but is that a goal that is something you're looking for and you would like to achieve?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it's certainly doable, because I've done it before. To win all four in a calendar year I think it would just be different, because as I said earlier, that at that one time in my household there was all four major championships right there. And no one else in the world had them but me. And that was a very special time in my life. And hopefully I can do it again, and we'll see what happens. It's going to be a lot of fun going out there and competing at Muirfield to win another one.
Q. Have you played Muirfield?
Q. I think you had 11 or 12 fairways today and 15 greens in regulation. Given the conditions and difficulty, would this be maybe the best ball-striking round you've had in a final of a major?
TIGER WOODS: In a final round of a major, probably, yes. I really didn't miss hit a shot today. I may have put the ball in a spot I didn't want to put it, but I hit it flush, I hit it solid. And I really hit the ball clean today. And that -- to do that in the final round of a major championship, hit it that clean, that flush, it wasn't easy, but I was able to do it.
Q. This round started at 3:30 this afternoon. Number 1, was that a little surprising to you. Number 2, how ticked off would you be if you had to come back and finish this off tomorrow?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I got the description of why they did it. Do you know why?
Q. Well, tell me. They've told us, but maybe --?
TIGER WOODS: They just told us because the Lakers swept. They didn't have anything in prime time and didn't want to compete against 60 Minutes. So they moved us back. So that's -- there's the story.
How upset would I be if I had to come back Monday? Not really, because if I could walk out of here with the trophy, it wouldn't bother me to come back on Tuesday (laughter.)
Q. Would you like to start earlier?
TIGER WOODS: They used to start earlier, but I guess you can blame everything on LA.
Q. You mentioned the mistakes. There are physical and mental mistakes in the game of golf. Over the four days how many times do you recall making a bad mental decision, not a misread, pulling the wrong club or trying the wrong shot?
Q. In The Masters, how far back do you have to go to find a mental mistake in a major?
TIGER WOODS: I don't know. Sorry, I really don't.
Q. This is a follow-up on that question about mental mistakes. You impress me as someone that has remarkable mental focus, really unusual mental focus. Do you feel that's something that is a natural ability or have you consciously trained yourself to be able to focus out the amount of distraction and crowds that you're constantly dealing with?
TIGER WOODS: I think from at an early age in comparison to other kids at my age, I was able to do it a little better than the others. But also through experience, I've gotten better, as well. I've learned how to get better, how to concentrate more on what I'm doing out there and block out other distractions. And when you come out as an amateur there's no one watching you play amateur golf. And all of a sudden you have thousands of people in professional golf, there's a bunch of different distractions you have to learn how to deal with on the PGA TOUR. And then you have to learn how to deal with that, on top of adding more people in the final pairings. So I've had to gain -- I've gotten better at concentrating because of experience.
Q. Congratulations, it did look tougher than the Lakers beating the Nets. In retrospect, do you think the most important round here you played was Friday in the rain? Secondly, your first few trips to an Open you weren't as successful, and the last -- did you have an epiphany about playing in this event and what happened there, was it a physical or mental thing?
TIGER WOODS: If you looked at -- I'll answer the second part first. If you look at the way I've finished in the major championships -- let's just say the U.S. opens in general, I've gotten better because if you remember back in '97 I changed my swing. It took a little while for it to kick in and then in '99 right before the Byron Nelson, it finally kicked in, all the work that I've done for about a year and a half, finally was put together. And it became more natural. Hence when I came to a U.S. Open, I didn't necessarily make bad decisions, I made them here and there, but I was that much better of a player, where I could hit the ball more consistently in the correct spots. And then from '99 on my record reflects that.
The first part of your question, Friday was extremely important to shoot a good number there. And I was able to do that, especially coming short turn around off Thursday, late in the afternoon, came right back out early Friday morning, playing in those weather conditions, and shoot a round under par. I mean that was tough, but I was lucky enough to be able to do it.
Q. Correct me if I'm wrong, but with this win, for a number of years you've been a professional, you've kept pace with Jack Nicklaus's pace in the Majors, 7 majors. I wondered if you thought about that before the tournament began and if you didn't, do you consider Jack Nicklaus your only rival, because you don't seem to have any contemporary rivals?
TIGER WOODS: No, that was not something I was aware of starting out the week. And as far as Jack being my only rival, I'm not playing against him. Jack quit playing major championships, some of them, a few years back. And these are the guys I've got to try to beat somehow. It's not like I'm winning every one, I have lost. And I don't think anyone realizes how tough it is to win a major championship. You're making it sound like it's so easy, and it's not. You've got to really hit the ball well. And you've got to grind it out and make a lot of putts. You've got to really be committed to what you're doing out there. It's not easy to win. But I've been able to do it somehow.
Q. I guess you've heard such noise as you heard today in a match play situation, but have you ever heard as much noise in a stroke-play event as greeted you on the first and down the first and maybe the second. When someone shouted out to Sergio, as he was about to delay his second shot on the first, 'We love you Tiger'; did you think we don't have much more of that or what did you think?
TIGER WOODS: First of all, no, I've never played in front of galleries such as this, I don't think anyone has, really. This is completely new to all of us, for them to be this excited, from the first tee to the 18th green. They were pretty revved up. But going down the first hole, I was just hoping that the fans wouldn't cross the line with the comments they would use throughout the day. And to be honest with you, yes, they did. There were fans that crossed the line, but the majority of them didn't. The majority of them were obviously excited but respectful. And that's the only thing you can ask is that they don't cross that line and behave that way. There's nothing wrong with showing enthusiasm, there's nothing wrong with that at all, just as long as you're respectful to the players out there as well as the other fans that are in the galleries.
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