Tiger’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Press Conference: Saturday
SCOTT CROCKETT: Tiger, thanks, as always for coming in and joining us, many congratulations, an excellent third round 66. It’s got better every round for you. I take it you feel that way within yourself.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I actually played well today. As I was saying out there to some of the guys, it just seemed like I didn’t do a lot of things right, but I didn’t do a lot of things wrong today. It was just very consistent. You know, made a couple putts here and there. I played the par 5s a little bit better. But it was just a very consistent round of golf. I stayed away from trouble, and tried to keep the ball towards the fat side of some of these pins and I think I did a pretty good job of that today.
SCOTT CROCKETT: And no dropped shots is always pleasing in a round.
TIGER WOODS: I made a couple of putts I needed to make for par, but overall it was a very consistent day. That’s kind of basically how I can sum it up.
Q: How much satisfaction do you get out of that consistency?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I hit– it’s fun when I’m able to control the golf ball like I did. I was able to shape the ball both ways and change my trajs along the way. That was nice today. The wind was just picking up enough. It was just enough where every now and again, I had to flight one, and I was able to flight it either way. So that was good.
Q: You mentioned the par 5s outside but you were 1-under going into the back nine for the week; is that where the turn is– is that where you started making your run?
TIGER WOODS: I missed on 8, right in front the green, an easy up-and-down. I messed that up. 10 was a nice way to start the back nine. I had not birdied 10 yet, and I hit a nice drive down there, and I had– it was borderline, I could get a 5-wood there but the wind was coming off the right, so I just banked a 3-wood up in there, held it and 2-putted. On 18, I had exactly the same shot as I hit on 10. I wasn’t quite sure I could hit 5-wood over the front bunker. So I went with 3-wood and just played long, and just tried– like I told Joey, I’m going to hit the same shot I hit on 10, and it worked out.
Q: Are you kind of matching your own expectations for this week?
TIGER WOODS: Say again?
Q: Are you matching the expectations that you had for this week?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I want to be in the same position come Sunday.
Q: Yeah, but 54 holes, are you playing better than you thought you might, or playing as well as you–
TIGER WOODS: I’m about playing– I’m playing well.
Q: Obviously you’ve been working for a long time to get your swing to work at this level, to make it work under pressure. Is this what you need though, now, to have it in this position? You’re leading, you’re tied for the lead and have the final round to put it under the gun?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I tested it at the World Challenge. So that was something. I was in the same position in Australia, and ended up finishing third there. Then at the World Challenge, I was right there with Zach going into the final round and I was able to finish that one off. So things are progressing my last few stroke-play events, so it’s getting better.
Q: I just wanted to know, are you ready for the Masters?
TIGER WOODS: I would like to be a little bit better than I am now.
Q: You played well today, Tiger.
TIGER WOODS: Thank you. But that’s a long way away and obviously I’m building towards that. This is a step in the right direction.
Q: In Dubai last year, you had I think a 66 on a Saturday, and you were in contention coming in Sunday. How do you feel differently, physically, mentally, compared to a year ago?
TIGER WOODS: Well, a year ago, I didn’t have the knowledge that I had about what Sean was trying to get me to do. I didn’t understand all the numbers and obviously the fixes. So when I was playing the World Challenge two World Challenges ago, I ended up losing to Graeme down the stretch. That week I hit the ball well, but it was basically a one-shot pattern and when I got to Dubai, I had the same pattern and unfortunately the wind kicked up, and I lost, I think it was, either six or seven shots on a right-to-left wind because I couldn’t hold it. That basically cost me the tournament. You know, right now, I’ll be able to shape the ball both ways and change my traj along the way, so I’m headed the right direction.
Q: Well played. I think you’ve won seven season openers since you turned pro, and in six of those years, you’ve gone onto win a major. Does that stat mean anything to you? Could you talk about early season momentum and at least how important that is?
TIGER WOODS: I didn’t know that. That’s a good stat, though. It would be good if I won tomorrow then, huh. (Smiling). Yeah, I have a break, so I figured I could practise and get ready for the season opener. I’ve always done well when I take breaks. If you look at my career, when I take an extended break and I come back, I usually play pretty good. I’m able to work at peace and work on my game and get everything situated. When I come to a tournament, I’m pretty ready but also I’m mentally fresh. I don’t play a lot of tournaments in a row because of that. I think that’s more important for me to be at home and practise at peace and get ready.
Q: I think I’m right saying that Sean is not here; have you spoken to him this week? Have you had any communication? If so, what is he saying?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, he’s texted me every day. He says just keep doing what I’m doing. He likes the position the club is in. He likes the move. He can see my through pattern for either shot, and he really likes the release pattern that I’ve got going on. So everything is positive.
Q: Rory spoke about your little 3-wood that you can keep hitting throughout the day, the whole day, without failing once. Is that a new shot that you’ve developed, like the stinger that you had, or is that a new safety shot that you play when you don’t want to hit the driver?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I wasn’t– I didn’t have the clubs– not the club. I didn’t have the club in the right position to play a stinger shot. The club was not in a good position at all, and it’s been like that for a very long time. So now I’ve got the club in a position where I can hit that shot and I can get some heat on it, and get it out there. Given the right conditions, and if I chase it out there with a little bit of a draw, I can almost hit it as far as my driver. So having a club in the right position with some speed is nice. But also, I can drop down and carve it out there a little bit. So depends on the hole. There’s quite a few holes out there today. For some reason just happened to work out today where I had to drop down and bleed it out there, because I had to take some distance off it because a normal 3-wood would go through a corner and just happened to work out that way today.
Q: Just for the golf geeks amongst us, can you explain your practise swing routine because it looks like you hit everything with a cut, or is it to keep from getting stuck–
TIGER WOODS: Depends. Depends if I take a divot off. If I take a divot, the pattern has to be left and if I shallow it out, have a zero attack angle, it does change. But sometimes it’s more left than others. But generally the pattern is going to be more left, yes.
Q: When you are doing the rebuild of your swing, and obviously it took a little while, was there a Eureka moment where it suddenly clicked when you’re on the range or playing on a course?
TIGER WOODS: No, it wasn’t. It was just a progression. But I think it was an understanding of what my numbers are. That’s one of the things that– working with Sean and going through it, and tidying up my shot pattern. What I thought I was doing, I wasn’t doing. It was pretty eye opening. So I finally was able to get healthy enough where I could get the reps in. Once I got the reps in, everything started coming along pretty quickly, and I think that’s one of the reasons why Australia happened as fast as it did.
Q: And just a follow-up with that, was there ever a moment when you actually thought, I don’t want to do this, because it’s so difficult and it’s better to go back?
TIGER WOODS: No. No. Never.
Q: One of those times when you weren’t doing what you thought, at the PGA, I suppose, you were pretty frustrated trying to do it one way and it didn’t work out. Just wondering, from that point on, aside from the health part, getting healthier along the way, what’s been the biggest improvement since then?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it’s the number of reps I’ve been able to get in. I just got it — it’s one of those things where if you don’t have enough reps under your belt to change your motor patterns, you are going to revert back. You know, I was finally able to get the reps in and once I got the rep count in, then things started coming. My body is remembering these position, because this is what I used to be in when I was a kid. And that’s one of the things that Sean showed me, some video stuff when I was much younger, back in my teenage years, I was in the same impact position. He was like, “It’s amazing, we need to get back there. That’s where you play some pretty good golf.” I said, “Yeah, you’re right. I did.” I’m getting there slightly different with better knowledge, but it’s looking very similar.
Q: How much do you know of Robert Rock?
TIGER WOODS: A little bit but not a lot. I know he– I know I’ve seen his swing. Last year at the U.S. Open, he qualified and just got in and showed up at Congressional at the last minute; and played well, too, actually.
Q: Could you rate your game and confidence out of ten as it is right now, and when was the tournament that you felt better than this, if you see what I mean.
TIGER WOODS: Well, rate my game, I’m not going to do that. It’s getting better; how about that. Where I felt better than this? Probably the World Challenge. I was hitting my irons better than I am now, but I wasn’t driving the ball quite as well as I am right now.
Q: This is your first time here in Abu Dhabi and the Tour has been coming here for seven years; what are your feelings about the course and the fans following you for the last three days?
TIGER WOODS: It was nice them coming out, the start of the weekend, and it was a nice atmosphere today. People were into it. Rory and I, seemed like we played together every day– actually, you know what, we have (laughter). Practise round and three tournament rounds, so four straight days. Each day, the gallery has gotten bigger and bigger and bigger. It was fun, and you could see that everyone was excited to be out there, and the weather is perfect to come out and watch the event. It’s a great leaderboard, so I think everyone is happy.
Q: Just interested, when Sean found those pictures of you, where did he find them, in an old magazine or on your mantle piece?
TIGER WOODS: I don’t know. He just had them.
Q: And was that an important moment, like Peter said, was there a Eureka moment where you thought, that’s the position?
TIGER WOODS: My body remembers it, because I used to do it; I used to do it naturally, then got away from that. And he’s just trying to put me in a position where it’s very natural and as you can see when I get out there, the swing is comfortable, because I remember being in these positions. So that’s one of the reasons why I’m hitting the ball so much further is because when I was young, I was actually pretty long for my age. And you know, I’m starting to– as the club is getting in a better position, I’m stronger than I used to be; hence, the ball is flying further.
Q: I was going to ask you about Robert Rock, which you’ve already been asked; does it make much of a difference going into a last round trying to win a tournament when you really don’t know much about the player who is beside you, his game or things like that?
TIGER WOODS: There’s too many guys up there right now. There’s a ton of guys with a chance to win. You know, we have not separated ourselves from the field. The field is very bunched. I need to go out there and put together a solid round of golf, and I can’t go out there and shoot even par and expect to win. I’ve got to go out there and go get it. This golf course, you can shoot 65s and 64s like some of the guys did today. It can be had; you drive the ball in the fairway, the greens are very flat. So drive the ball in the fairway out there, you can attack a lot of these pins and you’re going to have very flat putts. That being said, I need to be able to post one of those rounds, as well.
Q: You spoke about Rory, playing with Rory; how much do you enjoy being around Rory and Robert?
TIGER WOODS: I haven’t gotten a chance to be around Rory a lot, so this was quite a treat. He’s a great kid, and just an unbelievable talent, but just a really nice kid to be around. He really understands the game. He’s growing. He’s so young, he’s only 22. He’s got a Major Championship behind him. He’s– you can see he’s learning. He’s not afraid to try shots, which is really cool to see, and just a matter of time before he just gains more knowledge. I mean, that’s all it’s going to take, just more experience, just years on Tour and getting the right scheduling, getting the right preparations, the whole thing. That’s just going to take a little bit of time. But he’s on the right track, you can definitely see that. And playing with Robert, it’s always fun. I’ve played with him a lot of times, and we were coming off 18 green, and I said to him, “It’s a little bit quieter out here than it was in 2008 with my knee.” Because when I was hitting shots, you could hear my knee popping all over the place. Yeah, it was much quieter today.