Tiger’s Quicken Loans National press conference: Tuesday
MARK STEVENS: I’d like to welcome our tournament host of the Quicken Loans National, Tiger Woods. The tournament is moving for the first time here to Prince William County, Virginia, on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club. Kind of talk about — I know you played a practice round out here. First time since the Presidents Cup probably in ’05, potentially. Talk about the course and your thoughts coming in this week.
TIGER WOODS: First off, I want to thank a few people. Obviously, Quicken Loans for their support of this event, Robert Trent Jones Club here for having us here this year the first time, DMV and obviously Prince William County for all their support and it means a lot to us and for the Foundation and what we’ve been able to do for kids. I did a site visit here a couple years ago. Didn’t play it but I just did a site visit and I was really impressed how it looked and how it could actually setup for a stroke play event; excited about the potentiality of it coming together and it finally did. We’re excited to play and it’s a lot bigger golf course than I remember in ’05. We played some more up tees back then but the game has changed in the last ten years. Everybody hits the ball a little bit further. Golf course fits. The greens are running really quick. I mean I was surprising with the rain they had yesterday, the greens are rolling this smoothly and this quick the day after but going to be a heck of a test this week. Obviously, we’re going to have some high temperatures and guys are going to be sweating a little bit.
MARK STEVENS: Also real quick, this is a big event for your foundation, obviously. You’ve got a lot of events planned with the military. Just kind of give us a quick thought on what the military means to you, what the Foundation means.
TIGER WOODS: Well, the military is a very key component to our event. That’s why we wanted to have it from our inception. It’s very important because that’s basically how I was raised. I was raised in a military household. Even my father was retired from Special Forces at the time. I grew up playing the Navy golf course. We played all the military bases around California and I remember getting a little discount dependent fee which was between three and five bucks to play at the time. That’s changed a little bit since then. And so being raised in the military and then obviously we had it on July 4th, July 4th week early on and the military was such a huge component of it. Going forward we’re still going to make it a key component. Given about 20, 30,000 tickets away each and every year to active duty and obviously their dependents and spouses. It’s very important to us that the military gets recognized this week for all their service that they do for this country, domestic and abroad. We wouldn’t have these freedoms that we have if it wasn’t for them.
MARK STEVENS: Thank you. First question here, Steve.
Q: Tiger, when you left St. Andrews you talked about coming back here trying to figure out why the ball wasn’t going as far over in St. Andrews, talking about spin rates and stuff like that. Did you check into that and could you walk us through that process?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah. It’s hotter. It’s not going further. No. We checked into it. I took a week off. I didn’t touch a club for a week. I was down in Albany with my kids and we just went diving everyday and in the water checking out new islands and new keys each and everyday. I did a week of that and started gearing back up. When I geared back up, started doing some testing and found a couple little things but wasn’t anything major, which was nice. It was just — some of my swings just weren’t quite right and worked on a few things and feel pretty good now.
Q: Tiger, on the range you were saying that all you do nowadays is play soccer with your kids. I was just wondering, are they getting any good? Can they beat their dad?
TIGER WOODS: They can never beat me. Never. Never will. Never. But they will wear me out.
Q: You’re getting old. Back to the Hero World Challenge, in December you told us you didn’t have a timetable for the process. Did you even think it would take this long?
TIGER WOODS: I wouldn’t — I didn’t think it would take this long because I thought I would have my short game earlier, which I didn’t at the very beginning of the year and so you can cover up a lot of different things when you’re chipping and putting well. A lot of missteps throughout the years when I’ve changed coaches and techniques, my short game was all pretty good. I didn’t have it at the beginning of the year and hence I had to spend more time hitting golf balls than chipping and putting and so that process of scoring has taken a lot longer because of that. But things are starting to come together. Again, I’m sticking with it, sticking with the process and just trying to make progress each and everyday.
Q: You’re not eligible next week at Firestone unless you win here, I believe. I’m sure that you planned on playing Firestone when you made your schedule. Would you give any thought to playing in Reno if you were not to win this week?
TIGER WOODS: Well, kind of funny I won there a couple years ago. I think I won it eight times, I think. Unfortunately, I can’t get an invite there unless I win. I might as well earn one this week and go out and get it done this week. If not, then will I play Reno? No, I won’t. I’ll just go home and get ready for the PGA.
Q: Tiger, how do you balance the big picture longterm view of your game trying to work through these things? Obviously you’re competitive, you wanted to do well in the present but yet you’ve also kind of taken the long view, “I’m going to stick with it.” How do you balance out those two things?
TIGER WOODS: Well, that’s — neat thing is I’ve done it before. I’ve gone through this and unfortunately sometimes I have to get a little bit worse before I can make a giant stride to get forward and go getter. Has it been fun going through this? No, it hasn’t because I’m not scoring obviously. I — I’m not making that one key up and down or a bad shot instead of hitting it on a spot where I can play, spot where I can’t play and, you know, rounds that should be from 74 or so which I used to shoot turn into 70s, they’re turning into 74s if not a little bit higher. So, that’s the unfortunate thing about scoring. You need to have those opportunities and I’ve had chances to make those runs and I just haven’t done it.
Q: Tiger, is there any physical condition that’s hindering the process right now, anything about the recovery from previous injuries that might be limiting that and, also, are you in any type of chronic pain before you swing anytime during the round when you swing, anything like that?
TIGER WOODS: No, not anymore.
Q: Nothing at all.
TIGER WOODS: Not anymore, no.
Q: Tiger, two things. Why do you think these changes, or whatever you want to call it, has been more difficult than some other previous changes?
TIGER WOODS: Well, don’t forget I came off back surgery, changed my golf swing and done a polar 180 and recovering from back surgery. You add those two together it’s a perfect storm and I’ve had to fight through both of those at the same time.
Q: Just a follow-up. You talk about spin rates when you’re at St. Andrews. You’ve always been sort of fascinated with the technical side of the game and aspect going back earlier in your career. What is it about that fascination to get so, I guess, deep into the technical side of it?
TIGER WOODS: I look at it when you can make feel and real the same, that’s always nice. When what I’m working on and the numbers, they don’t jibe or when they do jibe at least have an understanding. So to me that’s an integral part of it. I play with a lot of feel. That’s how I’ve always played the game. It’s also nice to have the data to back it up. “This is what I think this club is doing, this is what I think this ball is doing. Do the numbers match up? This is what I’m thinking I want to change in my golf swing, how do the numbers feel” or if I’m making this good a golf swing, what are the numbers? So that we can always kind of replicate that. That part I do like. But when I get out there in the tournament I’m not really thinking about spin rates or attack angles or any of that stuff. Just trying to hit the golf shot. But in practice I do. I do implement both of them, yeah.
Q: I know this is little consolation to where your game is, Jason Day talked recently about how much you inspired him and there’s a lot of young guys here this week. What does it mean to you or how do you feel when you hear comments like that?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it’s awfully nice. Jason has been a great friend and it was really neat to see him make that putt on the last hole last week and playing with him at the British Open the first couple days he was playing well enough and I thought he had the game to win the golf tournament. He was playing well enough and obviously played with Louis too, as well. This is the next generation. I’m kind of caught right in between, you know. This is the generation that they grew up watching me play and win tournaments and the guys that I used to play practice rounds are all gone. They’re all on the Senior Tour, you know. So, that’s — I’m kind of caught right in between. That’s kind of part of it. Our careers are so long. You get like Arnold and Gary played 51 Masters. I’m not even that old yet. It’s just one of those things the longer you stay out here the more that’s going to happen and now with no Q-School, more the guys coming up from the Web.com, you see all these new fresh faces and you look down the range, you don’t recognize a lot of the guys, but I go watch a Champions Tour event, I know every guy. I played with everyone of them. I had to beat a lot of them to win golf tournaments. It’s just part of being out here for a long period of time. This is my 20th year out here and so I think it’s neat to see these guys who are younger and who can obviously move the golf ball but can play. I think they’re a little bit more seasoned than my generation that came through because I think the Junior Golf is little bit more — little bit stronger than it used to be. Collegiant golf is even stronger. They’re getting a lot more chances to play out here on the regular Tour with sponsor invites. They’ve got plenty of experience. When they come out here it’s not really a big learning curve. They can go out and play right away.
Q: Tiger, publicly you preached patience throughout this entire year with your game. Are you more frustrated privately or privately are you kind of still riding that patience and you’re able to sort of see a light at the end of the tunnel?
TIGER WOODS: Jason, I understand it. That’s the thing. As I said earlier, is it frustrating? Yeah, it’s frustrating not to be able to win golf tournaments. I’m not really there in contention very often and so that part is frustrating. But I know how close it feels and I know that I just need a couple shots here and there and it turns the tide. Every time I’ve had those opportunities I haven’t done it. I remember haven’t capitalized on it and people don’t really realize how close it has been between a person who is winning and a person missing the cut. It’s not as big a gap as people might think. And, as I said earlier, I mean the biggest difference when I first came on Tour, the cut was probably 13, 14 shots from the leader. Now we’re seeing some tournaments 8. So, there’s more guys with a chance to win a golf tournament going into the weekend. It’s even become more of a razor’s edge between somebody finishing 70th and somebody finishing 1st. Obviously I got to cleanup my rounds, convert the opportunities that I have and I just haven’t done it and hopefully I can do it this week.
Q: Tiger, much has been made for sports psychologists, for all sorts of mental side of the game and you’ve been famous for having a strong mental side of the game. Are you doing anything with a sports psychologist, looking back at Buddhism, you talked about in the past? What do you do mentally to make the 74 a 70?
TIGER WOODS: Well, am I seeing a sports psychologist? No. I haven’t for a very long time. As far as practicing Buddhism, yes, I do, I always have. It’s part of my heritage and how I was raised with my mom. So that part hasn’t changed my entire life. There are times when I’ve delved more into it than others. I’ve always done it. It’s how I was raised. It’s what I’ve always known. As far as turning the 74s into 70s, as I was telling Jason, it’s just a matter of making a key putt here or there, my bad shot instead of being unplayable is playable where I can make a par or make a birdie, things of that nature. I just haven’t done that.
Q: Follow that up, obviously at the majors you’re going to get every top player in the world. At any Tour event in one country with Europeans elsewhere you’re going to have less top people to beat there. Something about being able to be in an event like this where you can move up the leaderboard where there’s less resistance?
TIGER WOODS: Yes, but you’re still playing the golf course, whether you’re playing an elite field or little more diluted. You’re still playing the golf course. I still got to play all 18 holes like any other time. I have to go out there and attack it in the best way I think, you know, try and post the lowest number. Obviously sometimes when the field is a little bit stronger you’re going to get more guys that won tournaments at the top. Little bit tougher to win sometimes. Also then, again, some of these events where the fields aren’t as strong guys are just running the tables and free wheeling it and you got to go really low and they don’t really — they don’t really care and go low and the golf courses aren’t set-up as hard. I remember the one time at Flint, driving to the golf course, pull into the golf course and to be in the Top-10 you had to be 8-under. Okay, I haven’t teed off yet, I’m already at the time ten shots back of the lead. 7-under was in 11th spot. That’s the nature of some golf courses and some fields. They’re just like that. Obviously, when you play the major championships or World Golf Championships, setup is a little bit more ifficult.
Q: Have you seen this course, how it’s going to play?
TIGER WOODS: I think it’s going to play a little on the difficult side. But it’s so hot. The ball is flying forever. Holes like 18 are — it’s a driver and wedge at 470. We saw it last week in Canada, Bubba and Jason on 17, I’ve never seen drives down there. But when you hit drives 386 I don’t care what hole it is, it’s pretty short and that’s the nature — was last week and the way it could be this week with it being so warm. We’re supposed to get some rain Thursday. If it’s hot like this the ball is flying. I’m probably a club longer in these conditions than I normally am. We have it this hot down in Florida but for some reason the ball doesn’t quite go as far I think because we’re closer to the ocean and feel more of a breeze. The ball flies forever here.
Q: Tiger, I don’t know if you saw the final round of The Open but if you do or if you took anytime to watch it at any point are you thinking about the fact that you’re not in that arena where you had so much success? Does it give you anymore motivation to get back, you know, especially at a place like that where you’ve done so well and think to myself, “Hey, that’s where I was”?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah. I didn’t catch any of the final round until the playoff. I was out diving with the kids and when we came back from snorkeling and spearfishing I turned it on and they were just going down 1 and obviously I saw the entire playoff and I didn’t realize how close it was with the guys until I saw the highlights afterwards, how many guys had a chance. I didn’t realize — I checked my phone before I went out and I saw how many guys were going low early. “God, it must be downwind going out.” Most of the guys are between 4 to 7-under through 11 or so, somewhere in there. Lot of guys were going low. “It must be downwind. Good luck coming home. You’re going to have your hands full if that’s the case.” Obviously, it was when I saw the highlights. Do I want to be in that position again? Absolutely. I love being there with a chance to win a major championship and pulled it off a few times. I would love to get there in a couple weeks and hoping that will be the case.
MARK STEVENS: Couple more.
Q: Tiger, a little off topic, we say some low scores at St. Andrews a few weeks ago. There have been 26 career 63s in majors. There’s never been a 62. You sort of had a 62 1/2 at Southern Hills that one time. Any explanation for that? Is there any anything behind why there’s so many of one score, yet no one can break through that barrier?
TIGER WOODS: It’s simple. It’s a major championship. It’s not like it happened very often. As you said, there’s only been 26 of them in the history of all major championship rounds. You look at how many guys that played major championship rounds over the years, that’s not that many. The only — only person I think who came as close as I did is probably Pricey in ’86 when he had the putt on Sunday. It did a horseshoe like mine. That’s the only time I can ever recollect anybody coming close to shooting 62, a major championship. They’re supposed to be hard. Those rounds are supposed to be special. That’s one of the reasons why it’s only happened 26 times when all the thousands upon thousands of rounds have been played. It’s not that big a number.
Q: I’m sure you are hoping and expecting to play well and get yourself into the FedExCup Playoffs but right now your season is wind downing. You only — you may only have two events left. Are you feeling a sense ever urgency or even desperation to perform well and get something out of this season?
TIGER WOODS: No. It’s just one of those things where I’ve had — last year I was struggling through recovery from a surgery. This year still recovering and still trying to make — a big major swing change. Problems with my pattern and short game. I haven’t scored very well. I missed cuts. I haven’t done much in the last couple years and so I haven’t played a whole lot of golf in the last couple years. That’s what Joey keeps reminding me of, “Would you just relax? You haven’t played that much. You think about it, the times you have played and when you’ve been healthy how many tournaments have you been healthy at? It’s not that big a number.” Also he keeps reminding me you won five times two years ago and so it’s not that far removed. So, hopefully I can start playing the way that I know I can play and start gaining some Ws again.
Q: You won four majors in a row so no one else really knows how hard it is more than you do. What did you think about Jordan’s bid at St. Andrews?
TIGER WOODS: As I said, I didn’t see it until after the playoff and after the championship had been won and went through the highlights. I didn’t realize he was that close to either to winning the golf tournament or to get into the playoff. For him to obviously play St. Andrews for the very first time and to see it under different winds like he did and be able to play it that well was very impressive, not to mention he just won the previous week and came in and didn’t really have a whole lot of time to rest and prepare on a golf course that really does help to know how to play it. You have to make a game — a game plan and obviously being able to make a change on the fly and from what I saw the first couple days when I was there, he was able to do that and he played really well. He played in my wave and was a couple groups ahead of me. He had to deal with the wind delay like we did. He still was able to put together — I mean an unbelievable chance to win the golf tournament and it wasn’t very far off. He missed a few putts here and there. People don’t realize that can happen very easily there with the wind blowing as hard as it was and the conditions as difficult as it is. It’s not easy to make those putts. He gave himself a chance.
MARK STEVENS: Thank you for your time, Tiger. Best of luck this week.
TIGER WOODS: Thanks, guys.