Tiger’s Honda Classic press conference: Wednesday
DOUG MILNE: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, like to welcome Tiger Woods to the interview room here at the 2012 Honda Classic.
Tiger, making your first start as a professional here this week. Just a few opening comments if you would, thoughts on being here.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I’m excited to play. This is– had not played this particular golf course in 22 years, I think it is now.
So, it’s been a while. And it’s been redone since. It’s in great shape. Overseed is pretty thick out there. Greens are really smooth, and just a real nice, holeable pace. Wind is not quite up but from what I’ve seen in the past, the wind can blow here.
Q: Obviously several weeks ago, you expressed your disappointment about Hank’s book. Now there’s some stuff that’s come out since, where would you say your disappointment level is based on any of what’s come out and to this point?
TIGER WOODS: Bob, it’s still the same. Nothing has changed in that regard at all.
Q: What do you remember about the days with Chris Couch here when you were kind of playing out of your age bracket against the older guys, and I guess he shot almost nothing and are there any funny anecdotes from way back when, when you were still like Eldrick Tiger Woods.
TIGER WOODS: I think he was 17; I was 14. I believe he had a one-shot lead starting the final day. I turned in 3-under, and I found myself 4-down playing the back nine. I remember bogeying 10. It was over after that, and he ended up shooting 63, I believe. Yeah, he got me pretty good on that day.
Q: What was your initial impression of the Bear Trap when you played it yesterday, and was it easier for you today?
TIGER WOODS: We had a slightly different wind compared to yesterday. I just remember seeing the guys last year hit hybrids on some of the holes, like 17. Obviously they had a pretty good gale into them. We didn’t quite have it playing that long, but it’s still a pretty good challenge. The par3s, 15 and 17, are the challenge.
And you know, there’s really no bail out. You have to hit a good shot. And I know that, what, 15 has got two different tees, and I don’t know what tee we are going to play, maybe both. But both holes, you just have to commit and hit a good shot. I think the hardest pins are the ones up against the bunker, not the ones along the water. Because if you get the ball in the left bunkers there with the pin along the water, you have the green to work with, just bail out left. You hit into those bunkers with the pin up against it, it’s a really tough bunker shot to get close.
Q: You used to play in the Lake Nona/Isleworth match. Wonder now if there’s a new thing, greater Jupiter versus Greater Orlando, how would you size up that match?
TIGER WOODS: I think we are at about 30 pros apiece, somewhere around that total. I know up at Medalist with mini-tour, regular tour, Senior Tour and LPGA, I think we are right around 26 pros alone right at Medalist.
You are going to find your hotbeds. Hotbeds are going to be any place where it’s warm, whether it’s Florida, Cali or Texas. That’s basically where you’ll find a lot of players, and not too many guys are in Cali right now with the income tax where it’s at.
Q: This is your first time playing in your new hometown, yesterday Keegan Bradley said sometimes, there’s disadvantages to playing in your hometown, there might be distractions because you’re actually at home. How do you feel about being here and having this as your backyard, if you will?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I had the same opportunity when I played up in Orlando, I either played the Disney event or I played Arnold’s event. It just nice, nice being at home, sleep in your own bed. We travel quite a bit for our sport, and we spend a lot of time on the road. So it’s always nice to have time to be able to play and stay at home at the same time.
I think it’s great to have an opportunity, because you can have your friends and family come out. We don’t have that chance; we don’t spend half the season at home like most professional teams do. We are always on the road. So it’s nice to have them out and watching and supporting.
Q: To follow up on Bob, I know Mark responded to the fact that the excerpts are out from Hank’s book, but I’m wondering, what’s your reaction?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I’ve already talked about it. So– sorry, Tommy.
Q: Nothing beyond?
TIGER WOODS: (Smiling.)
Q: Sort of related to the book, but the relentless analysis of your swing, your putting strokes, just curious how the unrelenting scrutiny of everything you do and say affects you.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I know. I think you’re one of the guys, too, that does that, too. (Laughter).
It’s part of– it’s part of now I guess who I am and what I’ve accomplished. I think it would have been probably similar if Jack was probably in my generation. Didn’t quite have the media scrutiny that they do now. And it’s just a different deal and I know that a lot of players don’t get the same analysis with their games that I do. But it’s been like that since I turned pro.
DOUG MILNE: We heard Tiger’s comments, if we can just keep the talk to golf.
Q: Ironically I have a golf question, or maybe coincidentally. You worked so much with Sean on your golf swing this last year and so forth, and obviously there’s a percentage of time you spend on your golf swing and a percentage of time you spend on other parts, be it, chipping, putting. What is the percentage now of what you’re able to do with putting and chipping compared to when you first started? Are you up to half and half or 40/60?
TIGER WOODS: I certainly have increased chipping and putting now, now that I’ve got the full swing where I like to have it. I can spend the majority of my time chipping and putting. That’s where I know that I’ve been lacking in my game and where I’ve seen the biggest improvement lately, too, which is good.
Q: And just as a follow-up, when were you able to start saying, okay, I think I’m getting there, and increase it; when was that time period?
TIGER WOODS: Probably after I got back from Oz. I really striped it down there in Oz. Sean was very, very pleased with the way I was able to shape it in that wind and the way I played. Then we can start focusing on different other aspects of my game. There’s only so much time I can do. My time that I’m here at home, I really don’t have as much time as people might think to practice. I’m focused on my kids and they are the No. 1 priority. And if they are around and I have time with them, then I’m not playing golf.
Q: I’m sorry, the book thing is out there and you guys have commented about it; specifically in regards to being a Navy SEAL and considering being a Navy SEAL during the height of your career, was that something you were considering?
TIGER WOODS: I’ve already talked about everything– in the book, yes, I’ve already commented on everything, Alex.
Q: Then I must have missed you answering that question.
TIGER WOODS: Well, I’ve already commented on the book. Is that in the book? Is it in the book?
Q: I don’t know; I haven’t seen the book.
TIGER WOODS: You’re a beauty, you know that. (Smiling).
Q: That’s a fair question, right, you guys are suggesting that there’s something wrong with the excerpts in the book, I’m just trying to find out if that’s true or not.
TIGER WOODS: I don’t know. Have a good day.
Q: Golf question last time out, you know, you talked about the putting problems you had in Arizona and how it could be fixed in a day. First, what did you work on since then in terms of the putting, and secondly, how have some of those missed putts that you’ve had affected your confidence?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I had to go back to putting in the reps, and I did. I spent about almost four hours the other day putting, which was good, two different sessions, two and two with a meal in between.
I just worked on just going back to my old basic with my dad, and some of the things that he taught me. When I looked at the tape, I got away from some of those things. My posture was off; the way the club was releasing was off. A lot of things were off. And just had to start from the get-go, just log in the rep, do my little tee drill that you see me do all the time, and I built it from there.
It started coming back, the flow and the stroke, and started feeling very good.
Q: How much was your confidence affected by some of the misses you’ve had on the shorter putts and things like that?
TIGER WOODS: You know, when I feel off with my alignment and my posture, I don’t make good strokes. I’m sure most people are that way, but I know I am. And once I get my posture and everything lined up, putter just flows. That’s a good feeling.
Q: In the rare times that you struggled with putting earlier in your career, have you noticed the same flaw, or have these things recently been different than what you might have had; you had the occasional tournament where you didn’t make putts?
TIGER WOODS: Right. I would say they are different, because I had three different teachers in my full swing. And the full swing is– when I was with Butch, Butch wanted me to hinge it much more, because that’s what he used to putt. He’s from the old school; you hinge it and you hit it. Hank was more rotational, and Sean is not as much. There’s a blend to all of that, and ironically enough, when I have to make a putt down the stretch on the back nine, all of that’s out the window and I just putt.
The two putts that I made at the World Challenge to win, I didn’t do any of the stuff, I just looked at it and hit it. I know you’ve got to have certain fundamentals, but also again, if I get in the right posture, as I said, all of that can happen. When I get– for some reason, the more the pressure is, when I have to make a putt, for some reason, I tend to revert back into the correct posture. It’s when the heat is not on is when I tend to get a little bit off.
Q: You don’t blame the putter– earlier in your career, you had the same putter for years, and you have switched a couple times. Where does that fit into all of this, the actual putter itself?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, the putter, I had to find a putter that comes off at the same pace as my Cameron did. We had to work on the grooves to make sure that it came off the same speed. Once we got that dialed in and the ball was coming off the same speed, then we are set. And that’s the mallet– whether I used the mallet at the Masters last year, or I’ve used this one, the one with the plumber neck, they are coming off the same speed as my Cameron, and that’s the beauty of it, because I don’t have to make any adjustments for speed.
Q: To follow up on Bob, how much of putting success for you is mechanics versus belief?
TIGER WOODS: It’s both. When I’m in the right posture, all of my lines are good. I can roll the ball pretty good. I think that for some reason, I feel more comfortable when there’s more heat on down the back nine on Sunday, or if I have to make a certain putt. For some reason, I’ve made more of those and I’ve putted better. I don’t know why that is. I wish I knew. I tend to get into the correct posture more frequently when that’s the case.
Q: Just to clarify, you had mentioned that you had looked at videotape and saw you were a little out of kilter. Was that videotape from last week– so you’ve just done this in recent days?
TIGER WOODS: I’ve done it for the past year, just looked at tournaments where I’ve putted poorly and where I’ve putted really well and what’s the common denominator.
A lot of it is the fact that I just have not put in as much time in as I needed to. If I start spend more time doing it, it starts to come around. Just like my full swing, I log in the time, and consequently, I’m hitting the ball really, really well.
Q: You’ve got a couple of holes out there at the house. How handy is that to go out there when you’re thinking about your game, go out and do a little practice; and do your children ever go out there and beat it around with you?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I do spend time out there. But I spend most of my time up at Medalist hitting golf balls and I’m starting to get into where I’m using the practice facility at home a lot more to work on the short game. It’s all putting the pieces together and feeling comfortable with each segment. It’s coming.
As far as getting out there with the kids, yeah, my little boy, he loves to hit balls with me. My little girl, Sam, will just kind of run around and pick the flowers.
Q: What’s the Stimp on those greens at home?
TIGER WOODS: Depends on what tournament I’m going to and what traditionally they have been, and we’ll adjust to try to get me ready for certain speeds. Major championships, we’ll speed it up. West Coast stuff, we’ll slow it down.
Q: Do you have a range number?
TIGER WOODS: Depends on what it is on TOUR. TOUR averages between 11 and 14, so somewhere in there.
Q: What’s the longest club you can hit out there? How much room do you have–
TIGER WOODS: For you, probably about 7 or 8. (Laughter). For me I think it’s about a full wedge.
Q: Quite a few guys use another coach to help with their short game and putting, and obviously you’ve had a pretty good short game and putting for most of your career; have you ever come close to using another person to complement with your swing coach, and why have you not used one up to this point at all?
TIGER WOODS: Haven’t needed one. I think I’ve had a pretty good career. I’ve won my share of tournaments making some putts. So I know what my body needs to be in for that putter to roll the way it needs to roll, and it’s a matter of just getting out there and doing it.
Q: There’s been a number of guys who have blown big leads early in the West Coast and some of the majors over the last four or five years. Just from your own experience, I guess what advice would you give someone who took a three- or four-shot lead into the last round at a major, and how is it different than when you’re starting the day one shot behind; more pressure on you, that kind of thing?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it’s nice when you have that cush because you can make a couple mistakes and still win a golf tournament.
I think when you’re near the lead, more so trailing, and you make those mistakes, you can play yourself right out of it. The beauty of having a lead is that you can make those mistakes and still win. You don’t have to go to overtime; you can still win outright.
But the only problem is if some guys make a run and they get some momentum going, and you are going the other way, you give them a big shot of energy. You’ve seen some of these guys pull off some pretty good low rounds. It doesn’t take much. If you get off to a poor start and the other guy gets off to a quick start, four or five shots can be made up in a few holes.
Even I was four- or five-down to Sean at Bay Hill and within a few holes, he just got off to a bad start, I got off to a good start and all of a sudden it’s a moot point. It all depends on the start.
These guys, except for Kyle, he lost his on the last hole, but the majority of the guys have done it early; have lost what they had early in the round.
Q: What’s your thinking going off with a three-shot lead? How is it different?
TIGER WOODS: Depends. It’s so dependent on weather conditions. You know, some days where a three-shot lead on an easy golf course, you’re doing to have to shoot 66, because you know somebody in the pack is going to come out and shoot 62 or 63. But other conditions, you know, if you shoot even par, you might even increase the margin. So.
I think it’s all dependent on weather and the golf course setup. That’s where I think the experience comes into play is understanding what it’s going to take what that target number is going to be.
Q: If we took two normal conditions and benign conditions, and you had a one- or two-shot lead at Hoylake, and at Augusta in 2001, which is the hardest course to protect the lead on, a links– maybe throw in a U.S. Open, too.
TIGER WOODS: Links in a normal condition is probably going to be the harder golf course to protect it.
Augusta, if they were– which they have been the last few years, ever since Zach’s year, they have made a concerted effort to move some of the tees up on Sunday. They don’t tuck the pins, and they give us another yard to work with, which is a lot there. Augusta is one of the golf courses you can make up shots quickly.
Hoylake was not a golf course you could make up a lot of shots. You could play pretty conservative and still win, but Augusta, you can’t, if it’s calm.
Q: Let’s say you’re in the third-to-last group or so, and you’ve got a one- or two-shot lead playing the 15th at Augusta, and you’re in the go zone, do you go?
TIGER WOODS: Absolutely.
TIGER WOODS: Because the guys are going to play the same holes. If they are a couple of groups ahead– if somebody is playing 13; 14 with a good drive is a birdieable hole; 15, a good drive is an iron to the green; 16, with that pin the way it’s at, it’s just a 7- or 8-iron in there, easy pin to make birdie on.
17 is a difficult pin, usually it’s up on the top right somewhere. And then 18, a good drive can leave you where you can actually get the ball close.
So you’re going to have to make some birdies coming in. You saw it last year. It took four in a row just to win; whereas most tournaments, that doesn’t really happen.
Q: The golf course that you play this week, how much do you remember, not remember, recognize, not recognize, from 22 years ago?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I remember 1 and 10. And then 15 and 18. I didn’t remember 17, but 15 and 18. But we played in very different conditions. We played in August with bermudagrass, which is very different than it is now.
Q: You spent the last couple of years rehabbing your game, rehabbing injuries; how well do you feel you’ve rehabbed your image?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I’m just playing. I’m just competing and playing and just happy to be out here.
Q: About your injuries, you’ve tied for 4th in the last two Masters with some distractions, injuries; how do you feel about gearing up for this year’s Masters?
TIGER WOODS: I’m excited. I’m excited to have a full schedule leading up into it, and on top of that being healthy enough to prepare. Very pleased at some of the progress I’ve made, and it’s getting better each and every week, which is good. That’s what we want to have happen, and ultimately try and peak four times a year, and that’s what I’m trying to do.
Q: What’s your mission in the game right now? And just looking at the opposition, or the enemy, as it were, they are younger and stronger and fitter than they are ever were; does that change your mind-set, or does that change the way you go about things?
TIGER WOODS: No, it’s still the same. Still to win every golf tournament I enter. That has not changed since I was in junior golf and there’s no reason for it to change now.
Q: The younger guys, Keegan, they are all in their 20s?
TIGER WOODS: Well, that’s part of generations. There will come a point in time where I will be much older than that, than I am now, and there’s still ways to win. It’s all about shooting the lowest score possible, and understanding how to do that.
Q: Just wanted to back up quick on the putting thing– I think he had a core-type grip on the putter last week; anything you’re playing around with there in terms of shaft or loft or anything like that?
TIGER WOODS: No, I went back to my old PING grip. The way the PING grip is shaped, it allows more swing, so I went back to that.
Q: Two very unrelated here. Is there a better group of young players today than there was ten years ago, or were they the same and just didn’t have enough confidence because you were winning seven, eight times a year?
TIGER WOODS: I think it was tough. When I was playing at that era, we had Phil, myself, Vijay, Goose and Furyk, and that’s a pretty stout little group. We were winning quite a bit of tournaments during that era. You know, some of the guys probably didn’t get the same opportunities, and I think now they have gotten those opportunities; they have learned. And plus, also, I see that a lot of these guys are training.
You forget that 10 years ago, not everyone was lifting weights, which was crazy to think that golfers didn’t lift weights and prepare, but that wasn’t the case. Now everyone has a trainer out here. Everyone is trying to get stronger, fitter, faster. You see what Westwood’s done, how he’s dropped the weight, trying to get stronger and faster and he’s 38 years old.
TIGER WOODS: Well, except for– few exceptions. (Laughter).
Q: I know the Q-School/Nationwide thing doesn’t really affect you, but what are your thoughts on the fall start to the season as it relates to what impact that might have on the World Challenge?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it’s going to be interesting for us because of the new championship they are going to have down there in South Africa. Obviously The Race to Dubai this year, we were predominately American based, and because of The Race to Dubai, kind of affected a lot of the Europeans not playing; a few did play.
But I think that’s just going to be a challenge going forward is that some of these guys are either playing a full-time, full schedule all the way up to The Race to Dubai, and then after that, they want to take a couple of weeks off before they go down to Oz and play three events down there, which some of the guys did, they played late in the year like Luke did, played all the way I think the week before Christmas.
So it all depends on what they want to do and how they are going to prepare the schedule. It’s a tough time with The Race to Dubai, because it really changed a few things for us.
Q: Have you given any thought to trying to become an Official tournament, part of the fall, in case guys are playing more in the fall and just want to take time off?
TIGER WOODS: We are looking at all different avenues and all different options going forward. We are trying to make the event as good as we can possibly make it. We may have to alter it; we may not. It all depends on the commitments we get from some of these players, and some of their excitement level going forward about it.
Q: It appears as if you are feeling better about your game than you have in the recent past, and with that and the majors record always being a topic, is this something you’ll continue to be very focused on? Is it fun? Is there a lot of pressure? How do you feel about pursuing the major record now?
TIGER WOODS: I think it’s exciting. It’s going to take an entire career to do it, and that’s something I knew starting out. I was lucky enough to have won my first event as a pro, my first major as a pro; and it’s taken me, what, 16 years to get to this point. So it’s going to take a while. It didn’t take Jack overnight to get to 18. The whole idea is getting consistent and putting myself up there enough times.
Nobody in the history of the game has been better at putting themselves in contention to win a major than Jack. You finish with 37 Top-2s, you’re going pretty good. That’s what it takes. You’re not going to win all of them, but you can always be there, and you never know when someone might give you one or two.
Q: Is that still your major goal to hit that major record? Is that what you’re striving for?
TIGER WOODS: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Q: You stressed the importance of training; what are you doing especially for The Honda Classic or in general? How many hours of sleep are you getting? Do you have like a high-protein diet? Shakes? Just a little insight into your regime.
TIGER WOODS: Well, I wish I slept more. I don’t sleep much to begin with. College kind of ruined that.
But as far as my diet, I have a nutritionist. I would say it’s pretty strict, yes. And it had to be even more strict when I was coming back from injury, because obviously you want the healing to increase and you want to have the best possible conditions for that to take place. So my diet was perfect; hated it, but it’s what needed to be done.
As far as my lifting, I lift just about every day, but it’s also based on periodization: When we are going to do it; how long we are going to did it; the amount of reps; the intensity, all of that, is dependent on the events and where we are trying to peak towards.
Q: Before you stated publicly that your goal was to win every time you teed it up, that had not been heard out here in this game before. And now, it seems like it’s being heard here and there a lot more, especially among these younger players. Do you notice that, and what do you think of it?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it’s interesting, because if you’re going into a football game and you said: You know what, I don’t mind finishing top two today; or you go into a baseball game, basketball game, hockey game, that’s fine if we finish second tonight. Would that be crazy to hear that, that type of mentality?
But that’s — I grew up playing sports all my life, and I just don’t understand how that type of mentality people are happy with finishing second or anything below that, when you have the opportunity to finish first.
Q: And have you noticed that that attitude is more prevalent now among the younger players having seen what it did for you, thinking that maybe they can do exactly the same thing that you did?
TIGER WOODS: I’m seeing it more prevalent in the kids who are athletes, kids who played other sports growing up as kids. I think that, as I said, I was one of those kids who played a variety of different sports, and I think that just gets instilled in you. You just try to win. And these kids now who come out, who played baseball or did motorcross like Rory did or played basketball or whatever have you, they played a bunch of sports. So they have that mentality and they are bringing it to golf.
DOUG MILNE: Thank you.