Tiger’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic press conference: Wednesday
Q: All right, Tiger, slightly busy afternoon. Thanks for joining us, and welcome back to Dubai. If you can give us some opening comments on being back, the week ahead and we’ll get to Q&A.
TIGER WOODS: It’s great to be back. I haven’t been back here in Dubai in a few years, and again, to see the amount of growth that’s transpired is pretty remarkable. The golf course is about the same. Only change I think is 18, playing with a different angle but the golf course is the same. It’s in great condition. A few little rough spots on the edge of the greens, but the greens are rolling perfectly.
So hopefully the weather will hold off this week and we can get some scores in.
Q: Just want to ask you, if you did have a practice yesterday, could you tell us a little bit about your fitness and how you’re feeling?
TIGER WOODS: I’m feeling pretty good. I’m tired. My mom called me about two in the morning last night and woke me up, and asked me how I was doing. I said, “Mom, you realise there’s a nine-hour time difference?” And so I’ll get a good rest this afternoon and be ready for tomorrow.
Q: You’ve spent the majority of your career signing a lot of autographs and dealing with fans at every tournament, every place you go. Now you’re getting requests for the very same thing from players, a little bit of that going on on the range yesterday. I’m just wondering, what is that like now to have players come up to you asking you for that?
TIGER WOODS: It just means you’ve been around a long time. That’s all it means. This is my, I believe my 21st year on Tour. So been out here awhile. I mean, I’ve been out here actually just a little over half my life.
So you put it in terms like that, it’s kind of easy to see why players who are on the younger side, that some were born after I won the Masters, they are out here.
So it’s just a changing of the guard. My generation is getting older: Ernie, Vijay, Phil, Goose, Jim; and then all the guys who are on the Champions Tour, I played with them, against them, I beat them, they beat me. I look at a lot of the names on our pairing sheets, and I probably don’t know a third of them because, one, I’ve been out, and how fast the Web.com, the guys come and go so quickly now; that it’s kind of hard to keep track.
Q: You’ve spent your whole career not just thinking you could win but knowing you could win golf tournaments. Given the amount of time you’ve been off, it’s natural for you to just come back and get into competitive play and Top-20s, for example. Is that difficult for you to compute mentally; that it’s a different ambition and mind-set now than it might have been previously?
TIGER WOODS: No, because if I’m teeing it up, that’s the goal. Goal is to win it. Over the course of my career, I have been less successful at winning golf tournaments than winning tournaments. But the goal is to win, and that doesn’t change. Whether I’m injured, coming off an injury or I’m playing well, or I’m playing poorly, if I’m in the event, it’s to win the event.
Q: So if you ever lost that ambition, in other words, would it be time to call it quits, than play for just the sake of Top-20s, Top 15s?
TIGER WOODS: No, for me, it’s about preparation. If I can’t prepare to win a golf tournament, I feel ill-prepared to hit the shots and handle the shots down the stretch, and I’m not able to pull them off at home, there’s no reason why I should expect to be able to pull them off out here.
That’s why I take practicing so seriously at home. And I’ve always said that to you guys over the years; that I would much rather practice, than play, at home because I like to have all those shots. So when I come out here, it’s not a surprise. I’ve pulled off all the shots.
Q: Did you get a chance on Sunday to watch the Australian Open final, and if so, have you been in contact with Roger at all?
TIGER WOODS: I haven’t talked to Rog. I texted Rafa a little bit, and he was obviously pretty bummed. He played his heart out and he was just — I think that extra day of rest for Rog really, really meant a lot. Rafa was just a little bit tired, and that what happens, but that’s just the way the draw goes.
Serena is a good friend of mine and we were texting back and forth, so very proud of her for what she did. And for her to battle through the injuries that she’s gone through. And her sister has Sjogren’s, and what she has to deal with on a daily basis, she doesn’t know if she can get up each and every day; forget playing tennis, just to get up.
It’s pretty remarkable that all of them got to that point: Rog being out for that point, Rafa dealing with injuries; Serena, same thing; and then Venus with her autoimmune disease.
Q: Have you ever had time to reflect on what you mean to golf and is that a scary thought, if you ever reflected on it?
TIGER WOODS: You know, I try not to go down that path, because I like to consider myself a player and a guy that is playing out here and competing. I know I’ve been away from it for a long period of time.
But that just got me thinking about other business opportunities, so as far as the golfing side of it, I know I’ve accomplished some pretty neat things over the course of my career so far, and I hope I can continue.
Q: What did you learn from last week that you can bring to this week?
TIGER WOODS: Well, eight-inch rough is not good (laughter).
And so this golf course, it’s going to be tough if it gets windy. It’s going to be tough to hit the fairways and these greens will dry out pretty quickly. They are a little on the firm side already, in certain spots, that are on the firm side. Other spots are on the softer side.
But if we get the winds that we’re supposed to get, then these greens are going to get quick, hard and fast and it’s going to be imperative to hit the ball in the fairway, because you just can’t spin the ball out of this rough. You know, the good news is, at least it will be warmer.
Q: Matthew Southgate, one of The European Tour professionals, has written an open letter to you about how much you inspired him to get into golf through his battle of cancer and how much you remained an inspiration to him. To hear stories like that, that you continue to inspire Tour professionals, what does that make you feel?
TIGER WOODS: It hits you deep. I’ve heard of stories like that. And you have to understand with the background that I have, being part of the military, and I know a lot of guys who have been wounded and who go back for more, even though they have been shot up pretty good. Those, to me, are heros, and I look at that, and for someone to consider a golfer that way is pretty enlightening.
But I have to just — I look at — I don’t really look at it probably the way he probably wrote the piece, just because of what I have seen in my life with all the Wounded Warriors that I’ve dealt with over the years and I’ve met.
Q: Given that competitive instinct we’ve all seen over the years, how difficult has it been for you to come to terms with the fact the wins aren’t going to come as thick and fast? Are you normally patient or is that something you’ve had to learn?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I’ve had lean years there where I didn’t win. There have been, I think I have, what, ten years where I won five or more tournaments, but there have also been years where I didn’t win thing, and I struggled. I was changing my game and I did not play well.
And so you know, Jason Day said something pretty funny. We were walking in the scoring tent on Friday, and he says, “You know, it doesn’t really matter when you win your four tournaments, whether it’s the beginning of the year or the end of the year. I know we all missed the cuts, but you win four at the end of the year, people think you’ve had a hell of a year.”
But I just like to put myself in contention as many times as I possibly can to get those W’s, and this is a good week to start off doing that.
Q: Is it fair to say that your current swing is one with which your body can cope?
TIGER WOODS: Body can cope with it? Yeah. The simplest thing is I just play away from pain. That’s it.
Q: So there’s no pain?
TIGER WOODS: Play away from pain. (Laughter).
TIGER WOODS: Whether my swing looks classical, rhythmical or it may look unorthodox, I don’t care. As long as I don’t feel that nerve pain. Anyone in here who has ever had nerve pain in their back or anywhere in their spine, it’s like hitting your funny bone a thousand times a day; it’s just not fun. And I would much rather not have to go through that again.
Q: We’ve seen Roger Federer come back from injury to win a Grand Slam; does that inspire you to do the same, given the similarities between yourself and perhaps Roger Federer?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, what Rog has done is he’s been dominant for so long, and then to, not only that, to compete against Djoko, to compete against Rafa; and now Andy is playing well. He’s had, you know, a litany of guys who have won slams. And no one wins slams at his age.
And for him to come back, after having to take that much time off, and for him to get the timing; that’s the hardest part. Those courts were playing quick. You saw his first game, he framed about I think three or four of them. But once he found the groove, once he found the rhythm, Roger came back.
He rehabbed properly and you can tell how fast he’s moving. He’s shortened up points, changed his strategy around a little bit. Didn’t hang around the baseline as long. I mean, as you get older, you change your game and you do things slightly differently, and he did that.
Q: Can you do that, as well?
TIGER WOODS: Am I going to do that? Yeah, I’m not going to be hitting balls like some of these guys 340 out there. I watched Dustin carry a ball last week when it was cold, wet and damp and carried it 335.
Jason and I just looked at each other going, “We don’t have that” (laughter).
So you do it differently. If you look at the list of guys who shot below 60, you realise Jim Furyk’s on there twice. He averages 270 off the tee, shoot two rounds under 60. So it can be done different ways.
Q: There’s a nice video going around of some of your best moments out there. I just wonder if you can talk about some of your fondest memories on this course out here, and 18 that you had this morning, some of the tweaks, do you like?
TIGER WOODS: I like this angle off 18 now. When I first played here, some of us would just tee up with a 3-wood or a driver and try and snap-hook it into 17 and hit a little 7-iron on the green and make birdie that way or eagle, and they got wind of what we’re doing and put some trees there and made us play a little bit longer to add a little bit of length to it, as well.
But this angle is, I think it’s a better angle because you don’t have to hook it. I made a nice little putt there at 18 to, not necessarily to win the tournament outright at the time, but to post a number. I keep telling Thomas that he got lucky when he beat me because I had never done this before, but I shot three straight 64s that week. Unfortunately one was a Pro-Am (laughter).
And so any time I get it going in a Pro-Am and I make a few birdies, there will be a couple strange numbers that Joey will give me, and I’ll hit a ball either in the water or a bunker, and I say, I get it.
Q: At Albany, you said that you would have a limited schedule so that you could look after your body. Now that you’re back, you always played a lot around the world, Japan, New Zealand, Asia, Middle East. Do you see yourself again going out to other parts of the world other than the PGA Tour?
TIGER WOODS: Absolutely. Absolutely. I’ll be around — I love playing around the world. I love seeing other cultures. I have so many friends that are around the world that I’ve gotten to know over these years of going to these places.
You know, quite frankly, I haven’t been able to travel much. I’ve been home in Florida for basically almost two years now. Not really travelling much because I really can’t. Now I’m going to be able to start doing that and I would like to start playing around the world but again, it will be a limited schedule. I won’t be playing a high number of events. I’ve got to save my body and be ready to peak four times a year.
One of the reasons why I’m playing four out of five here is to get more competitive rounds so that come the first full week in April, I’ll have more rounds under my belt and know what it feels like to be ready.
Q: They say that the new U.S. President Donald Trump is the best golfing president that’s been around, I think a three handicap. You’ve been around him quite a bit and played with him and his courses. What do you think of that stat, and also in comparison to other past Presidents like Barack Obama?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I said in a press conference in L.A. that for a person who is 70 years old, I mean, he hits it hard. He really goes at it. I can understand how he can play and be a low handicap player. But I think he might be a little bit more busy now, so I don’t think he’ll be getting as many rounds in. So that handicap might start screeching up a little bit.
Q: Did you play with Barack before?
TIGER WOODS: I have played with President Obama, and we had a great time. We played at the Floridian, right there just north of my house, and just had a great day. Even though it was a little cool, we had just a great day.