January 29, 2014

Tiger’s Omega Dubai press conference: Wednesday

PAUL SYMES: Tiger, a warm welcome to the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. I know this tournament is very close to your heart, and I’m sure you’re very keen to join in the 25th anniversary celebrations this year. 

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it’s fantastic, getting to go out there yesterday to play with Stephen and Freddie. I hadn’t played with Stephen in a very long time. We were talking about the Walker Cup back at Royal Porthcawl. We go back quite a long way. And obviously Freddie, one of my best friends. So it was quite a day to have all the past champions out there playing and competing and having a great time, having a blast, and from what I hear, each group had a lot of needling going on, so that’s good stuff. 

Q: Were you happy with how you struck the ball yesterday? How is your game?

TIGER WOODS: You know, it was all right yesterday. I hit it a lot better today, which was nice. I feel like I even putted a lot better, too. That was the whole idea. I made a few changes a little bit last night and felt pretty good about what I was doing out there today.

Q: You’ve obviously got a great record in the tournament. Any particular memories that stand out for you?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I made a putt on 18 one time. That was nice. Also I remember one year I shot three straight 64s, and unfortunately only two of them counted because one was in the pro-am. That was the year I lost to Thomas. Just one of those years. 

Q: Do you think the fitness of the game is there to compete for a victory?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I definitely feel fit. There’s no doubt about that. My game certainly was not as sharp as– nowhere near as sharp as I would have liked last week. I was just a fraction off, and a fraction off on a golf course set up that hard, it bit a lot of us, and unfortunately it bit me pretty hard. I think the average score was just over 73 on Saturday, and I shot 79. 

Needed to make a few changes, just a few slight adjustments, and I did that, and I had unfortunately Sunday off, so I had a chance to go home and hit a few shots. I came out here and just wanted to improve every day. Tuesday was better than Monday, and Wednesday was better than Tuesday. Hopefully tomorrow will be even better than today. 

Q: Will you do anything differently this year with a specific view to getting back to winning majors, or do you think that will come if you keep doing what you’ve been doing the last couple years?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think just being patient and putting myself there. You’re not going to win them every year. I certainly look at my career, I haven’t won them all each and every year I competed as a pro. But the thing is, I’ve got to keep putting myself there, and if I can keep doing that, I’ll start clicking a few here and there. The key is to just keep putting myself there. 

These four venues are four venues that I’ve played well at. Three I’ve won at, and one I’m trending in the right way. I’m looking forward to these major championships and this season in general. 

Q: I just wondered your impressions of the course here this week, how it’s set up, how you felt yesterday, and differences you’ve seen. 

TIGER WOODS: You know, I was very surprised at how firm the greens were. I don’t think there’s any overseed in them like there used to be. They used to be a little sandy, a little overseed, and there was grain but not like it is now. There’s some serious grain in these greens. But you get putting downgrain, downhill, they are some kind of quick. 

Luckily for me, the adjustment is not really that great because last week we played on what we thought was kind of concretish. It was very close to what– it was closer to a U.S. Open setup than it was a regular Tour setup, so we had some shots last week that were 5-irons and 7-irons that were bouncing as high as the flag. We aren’t quite used to seeing that at Torrey, unless it’s in the summer during the U.S. Open. 

So coming over here and seeing the ball not jump that high but putting on greens that are just as fast as they were last week, it really wasn’t that big an adjustment. I putted well yesterday, and I putted even better today. 

Q: At the end of last year, especially the TOUR Championship, you talked pretty openly about the year having taken a toll, being tired or had been a long season, a lot of events. I’m curious how you approach it going into this year and how you might try to manage that knowing what you’ve got ahead. 

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, the year basically gets pretty congested for most of the players starting at the British Open and some who play the week prior to the British because then if you play the British Open, then usually some guys have to go play Canada. For me I take that week off, but then it’s Firestone, then it’s the PGA, then a week off, then all four playoff events, and then for the Americans there’s a Ryder Cup and a Presidents Cup every year. That’s something that the Euros or the Internationals don’t have to deal with is a Cup each and every year. You don’t know what continent it’s going to be on, and a lot of travelling right at the very end.

Now with this new wraparound schedule going on, I think we’re all trying to get our heads literally wrapped around it and trying to get a feel for it because I don’t know how far behind I was in FedExCup points when I came back, but Jimmy Walker already has won twice with this new scheduling system. It’s very different. 

Q: If you look at what you did last year, all of your accomplishments, five wins, Player of the Year, where would you rank the fact that you made it through the entire season injury-free? How important was that to you? 

TIGER WOODS: Did you see Barclays? 

Q: Relatively, sorry. 

TIGER WOODS: Okay, relatively, yes. I was pleased to get through the season. Relatively. (Laughter.)

Q: You’ve played in a few Ryder Cups in your career. Where would one in Scotland rank in your career, how excited are you about the prospect of playing on a team led by Tom Watson?

TIGER WOODS: You know, we’re looking forward to it. I don’t think I’m even on the team right now, points-wise. I’ve got to get myself there first. It’ll be fun to play in Scotland. We’ve played at the Belfry it seems like forever, moved around to Spain and Wales. But we haven’t been in Scotland in a very long time. So it’s going to be nice to go there and play at Gleneagles and have Tom as our captain. I think we’ll see how it shakes out the rest of the year and who’s going to be on the squad, who’s not, how young are we going to be, what kind of mix are we going to have, because last year at the Presidents Cup we had a great mix of older guys, middle-aged guys and some new blood in Jordan being only I think 20 at the time. Or was he 19 at the time? He was still so young. We had a great mix there, and we’ll see what this year holds. 

Q: How important is it that America win?

TIGER WOODS: It’s always important that we win, for us anyways. 

Q: You’ve obviously played in the UAE a little bit. This being the 25th anniversary of just this tournament, what are some of your favourite places to play and some of the memories you’ve had over the years?

TIGER WOODS: Well, yeah, I’ve played here and Abu Dhabi. I played only a few courses here. I think down near the airport where they played this tournament one year, I forgot– I don’t know who won that year, but they had super high rough. I didn’t play that year, but I’ve played down there. I’ve played Monty’s course, and obviously up in Abu Dhabi. But I’ve always enjoyed coming over here. 

Fantastic to see the growth from when I first started. We were talking about the 8th tee. It used to be a pretty simple tee shot. You had the building that looked like it had two kind of dumplings on top, and all you do is hit it based on wind, go at the right one or go at the left one, and now you have a huge skyline there. It was that and the Hard Rock Cafe, and those were the only three buildings that existed out here. To see it from that to where it is now and basically have three separate skylines is just phenomenal, and in such a short period of time. Basically it felt like when we first got here, we were in the infancy stages of the development of New York City, just seeing it turning from something flat to what it is now. 

Q: I just want to ask you kind of a local interest question. You’ve kind of split time over the last few years between here and the Abu Dhabi event and wondering how you see that transpiring going forward, whether it’s probably one or the other or it would ever be both or your future plans in that regard?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I like playing both events. I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve played well at both events on top of that. I also like playing at Torrey Pines, too. That course has been kind of good to me over the years. You know, people don’t realise that it does base on scheduling, and sometimes it’s conflicted, and that’s some of the reasons why I didn’t play this event for a number of years is because it was the week of Torrey Pines. 

Q: Over the years you have done a lot of crazy stunts during tournaments, hitting balls from the Great Wall of China and things like that, but one thing that you did which was plastered all over the media was back in 2002 when you hit it from the top of Burj Al Arab. Can you just go back and tell us how it was, because you were the first person or first athlete to go out there and really play a sport over there, and where does it rank with the previous stuff you have done?

TIGER WOODS: I’ll tell you what, it was interesting because it was blowing, and it was blowing 20, 25 miles an hour, and you’re out there on that helipad, it’s moving. It’s moving all over the place, and then the helicopter surrounded me, and you’re supposed to hit shots. Well, typical me, I get a little ADD going, and I start trying to rise this ball up into the camera guy who was sitting out at the edge of the helicopter, and I started rising a few balls up pretty close to him and made him flinch a couple times, which was fun for me. 

Honestly, it was really hard if not impossible to hit the ball solid. I may have hit maybe one ball solid because the helipad was moving so much. It was like you were trying to hit a ball on a boat. It was very interesting. 

Q: Similar sort of question. You’ve spent a lot of time travelling around the world. Is there a bucket list? Is there a tournament you’d still like to win? And is there a golf course in the world you’d still like to play?

TIGER WOODS: Well, there are probably a few courses I’d like to play, one being Pine Valley. I’ve never played Pine Valley. The thing is I hate playing golf on my vacation days. I’d much rather be home with my kids and be doing that than going out on golf vacations. And then when I do have time, it’s usually prepping for tournaments. For me to go out to play some of these great venues around the world, it would be great and all, but just not right now. 

Maybe when my kids get older and they’re travelling with me and we go to these different places and they want to play or they want to go see things and start doing things like that, then I will do it. But now is not the time.

Q: What about a tournament you still want to win, a tournament you haven’t won yet? 

TIGER WOODS: Great question. 

Q: Riviera? 

TIGER WOODS: I won a junior event there. Does that count? It does to me. 

Q: Seahawks or Broncos on the weekend, and why?

TIGER WOODS: I like the Broncos. I’m good friends with Peyton. Peyton is one of my good buddies, and to see– lets be honest; he got scrutinized pretty hard when he left Indy that he would never be the same after his neck surgery, and it’s right, he’s not the same; he’s better. And that’s cool to see. That’s cool to see the hard work that he put in to shut everybody up. 

Q: The round on Saturday, 79, a lot of analysis often happens when you shoot a high score, but I wonder is it easy for you to leave behind if it were not for our colleagues in America? Can you shut it out and it’s nothing?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I’m here.

Q: No concerns at all about how that 79 arrived and whether any issues going forward?

TIGER WOODS: No. As I said, I practiced Monday and I was better on Tuesday than I was Monday and better on Wednesday than I was Tuesday, and hopefully tomorrow that trend continues. 

PAUL SYMES: Thanks a lot, Tiger, and have a great week.