AT&T National interview: Tiger WoodsJune 26, 2013
MORE INTERVIEWS: AT&T National transcript archive
THE MODERATOR: I'd like to welcome Tiger Woods. Tiger, you're not able to play this week at the AT&T National, but it still means a lot to you and your Foundation. If you kind of want to open with some comments on that, and we'll have a few questions.
TIGER WOODS: Obviously, it's disappointing not to play in my own event. This tournament means so much to us at the Foundation and what we're able to do. We've raised $15 million for the D.C. area with two learning centers here. We have 25 Earl Wood scholars that are from here. To us, it's a very important week. As I said, it's disappointing not being able to play.
On top of that, I am ‑‑ or was defending. Looks like the golf course is in fantastic shape. It's green. It's lush. It's thick. Temperature's up. It's going to present a hell of a test for the guys. I'll be watching.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Tiger, with the elbow this week, how much of it is actually a physical hindrance for you, and how much is just an attempt to rest up for the British?
TIGER WOODS: It's both. It's both. I pushed it pretty good at the Open to play it and to play through it. Made it worse by hitting the ball out of the rough and eventually got to a point where I wasn't able to play here.
I listened to my docs and not touching a club. We're treating it, and eventually I'll start the strengthening process of it. Then start hitting balls to get up to speed for the British.
Q. How confident are you you'll be 100 percent by Muirfield?
TIGER WOODS: 100 percent?
Q. Pick a number.
TIGER WOODS: How about GED, good enough.
Q. What is kind of the status of it? What's the process in terms of treatment?
TIGER WOODS: It's STEM and ultrasound, ice, soft tissue, and anti‑inflams to try to get it down. Eventually, as I said, I'll start the strengthening process here. Hopefully, that will be sooner than later, and then start hitting balls.
Q. When exactly did you tweak ‑‑ I know you mentioned some point during the Players. Can you maybe be more specific which shot it was around?
TIGER WOODS: It wasn't a single shot that did it. It was just playing there, and it didn't feel good then early in the week, but I pushed through it. It progressively just got worse. Got to a point where I was starting to struggle a little bit.
It was nice to have a four‑week break before the Open. Unfortunately, this tournament is in that four‑week gap. It's tough.
Q. Do you regret playing the Memorial?
TIGER WOODS: I wouldn't necessarily say regret. I wish I would have played better so I didn't have so many shots I had to hit.
Q. If you'd have taken Memorial off?
TIGER WOODS: It would have been better, yes.
Q. Tiger, we've seen Adam and Justin win the last two Majors, guys that have been out here a while. Would you be surprised if guys like that who have been through it, been through the grind, and kind of learned how to win were entering their primes and we could see those two guys and a Snedeker or others go on?
TIGER WOODS: If you look at most golfers, prime years are usually in their 30s. It takes a while to learn how to win at this level and learn how to do it consistently. I think you've got to learn what you can and can't do.
There's so much to learn out here, and I think that generally you see some of the guys don't mature into their games until their 30s, and they can have a 10, 12, 15‑year period where they really play well, into their early 40s.
Q. I want to switch gears for just a moment if I could. If you look to your left and look at the young people who have been through your learning center or are getting scholarships thanks to the Tiger Woods Foundation, what goes through your mind?
TIGER WOODS: I'm very proud. I'm very proud of what we've done, very proud of all these kids for ‑‑ you know, we're trying to give them an opportunity, but it's up to them. They ultimately have a choice to make. Do we take advantage of an opportunity and run with it? And these kids have.
We're getting kids going to Georgetown, SC, Berkeley, working at NASA. So we're having some kids that have been given the opportunity, taken the initiative, and have done some just absolutely wonderful things.
This tournament, after my father passed, was a very important event for us with Earl Wood scholars and putting 100 of them into college and then seeing them through. That's what it's all about. We're trying to help as many kids as we possibly can.
Q. As a quick followup, ten years from now, what do you hope they say about the Tiger Woods Foundation?
TIGER WOODS: Well, whether they're ‑‑ ten years from now, hopefully, they've already started theirs and have continued the work and the things that allow them to be successful in their individual careers, and they're doing good work for other humans.
Q. Tiger, not exactly the smoothest segue here, but Nick Faldo recently said that you're struggling mentally on the course. What's your reaction to those comments?
TIGER WOODS: I don't know. I've won four times.
Q. Do you feel like you're struggling mentally at all?
TIGER WOODS: No.
Q. If you wouldn't mind just jumping ahead for a second to Muirfield. Can you give some of your recollections to Saturday last time in '02. The big weather.
TIGER WOODS: It's a lot colder than it is today. It was awful.
Q. What was the worst part of that day?
TIGER WOODS: Teeing off. I mean, it hit ‑‑ when we were on the putting green, we were just about ready to go out. I was playing with O'Meara at the time, and we were just about ready to go out, and it just hit. You can see this wall of rain coming in.
The forecast was just for maybe some showers, no big deal, whatever. But no one had forecast for the windchill to be in the 30s. For it to be that cold ‑‑ that was the thing. It came out of a different direction. What hole was it? 1, 2, 3, 4 ‑‑ par 3. Mark couldn't get there with a 3 wood, and I was hitting 6 irons and 7 irons earlier in the week. Next hole, the par 5, I was hitting driver, 6 iron on there. I hit driver, 2 iron, 2 iron to the hole that day.
That's the thing. It just got so cold that nothing was working, and no one was prepared for that. No one had enough clothes. Everything was soaked. It got to the point where the umbrella was useless. It was raining too hard, and it was too windy.
Q. Do you look back at it as a curious circumstance in terms of going for the Grand Slam that year and just how much one act of Mother Nature took you out of it?
TIGER WOODS: It's just part of the deal when you play over there. I think that's the beauty of playing the Open Championship.
You can get ‑‑ basically, you could have too early tee times. You could be the guy to tee off at 6:50 or 6:40, whatever it is, the first time, and then tee off at 11:00, get too late tee times and get the worst end of the weather. Or you can get the guy who has the late tee time at 3:50 or whatever it is and has the perfect weather coming in. You just don't know. We just don't know.
I just happened to be at that time when we got the worst of it right when we started.
Q. 12, 14, 15 holes?
TIGER WOODS: Yes, about right. Some of the guys who were in the later groups had a few more holes where they could make up a few more shots, and they did. They survived the tougher conditions and made a couple of birdies coming in, which allowed them to be in the hunt going into the next day.
Q. Was Oakmont No. 8 the first time you ever hit a fairway metal onto a par 3?
TIGER WOODS: No. I hit driver into 4 at Riviera one time.
Q. How old were you, 12?
TIGER WOODS: No. It was in the tournament.
TIGER WOODS: In the tournament. It was cold, rainy, and it was coming right off the ocean. It was just howling. I knew that I had to trap a 3 wood. I didn't want to trap a 3 wood to that green. So I opened up a driver and hit it right along the eucalyptus and cut it back on the green.
It was quite interesting because I tied the hole. I remember Corey was playing a group ahead of us, and we had a little wait. He hit it over to the right and hit ‑‑ I think it looked like a full wedge on the green and made it for par.
Q. Tiger, is there ‑‑ this place has hosted an Open. Is there a balance that you like to strike with it being really tough or being more like a regular PGA Tour?
TIGER WOODS: I would like it to be one of the more difficult PGA Tour events, there's no doubt. This golf course lends itself to that. There's a history of that, and I think that's how it should be played.
Don't make it where it's ‑‑ not U.S. Open, where even par or over par is going to win the tournament. But allow these guys, if they play well and shoot under par score, they're going to move up. I would like to see, if you shoot 2, 3 under par each and every day, you should be in the lead of the tournament.
So that's the balance we'd like to attain. We don't want to get the greens overly quick. They have a lot of pitch to them. And obviously, the rough is nowhere near as high. It's 3 inches, but it's lush. There is a penalty for driving the ball in the rough here, and on top of that, this golf course ‑‑ the fairways are ample wide. There's plenty of room to drive it down there.
Q. Tiger, as you've gone through your 30s and had various injuries to cope with and things you didn't want to turn into injuries, how have you adapted to that? Is even your withdrawal this week kind of an example of learning how to deal with injuries before they become real bad ones?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I've ‑‑ I played with a lot in my early 20s, and no one ever knew about it. I just didn't play in certain tournaments. I took a few weeks off here and there, and that was the end of it. But I played a few events where I really shouldn't have played, and it caused some damage.
I pushed it through tournaments where I ‑‑ there's a difference between being hurt and being injured. It's a delicate balance. I know what it's like to play both, unfortunately. You can play hurt, but playing injured, it can sideline you for a while.
I've gone through that. I've tried to come back when I was still injured, and I've cost myself a number of months where I haven't been able to compete and play out here and do the thing I love to do, which is play against these guys out here.
Q. Tiger, I think when you were asked about the British, you said good enough for your status. What have your doctors told you about a timetable? In a perfect world, would you like to have more time than three weeks?
TIGER WOODS: In a perfect world, I'm dancing right now and doing 360 dunks and doing whatever I want, but that's not going to happen.
I would like to be 100 percent, but I don't know, and it depends on how the body heals. We'll see how it goes.
Q. Tiger, I know there's some uncertainty about where this tournament might be played next year. Is this where you'd like to be back? Are there still discussions about how that might go? Where do kind of things stand with that?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, we would love to be back here. This is a fantastic event, fantastic golf course with a great history. It's obviously up to the members and the board whether we come back here or not. I know we would like to play.
We're obviously going to have more in‑depth discussions once this tournament is over, and we'll see where everyone is.
Q. For this tournament in particular, do you take any responsibility for like the buzz or the size of the crowds here because it benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation? Is what would you say to people who might be iffy about coming out this week?
TIGER WOODS: I think it's a fantastic event. We're here to watch not only great golf but also this is our opportunity to give back and say thank you to all the servicemen and women who put their lives on the line for the lifestyles and freedoms that we enjoy each and every day.
You look at all those wounded warriors out there, fantastic stories and unbelievable sacrifice. This is an opportunity ‑‑ we give 30,000 tickets away to our servicemen and women, and that's what it's all about is thanking them this week.
Q. I guess because of your injury that you're not playing, do you feel like there's more ‑‑ or there's less of a buzz around the tournament?
TIGER WOODS: I don't know. You guys are in the media.
Q. Tiger, technical question. It's been a crazy week the last few weeks in sports with game 6 in the Stanley Cup and the NBA Finals. We saw what happened to Phil a few weeks ago at the Open. Do you believe that athletes can melt under pressure, even professional athletes at the top of their game? Do you believe in the word choke?
TIGER WOODS: It happens. We've all made mistakes and all messed up with intense pressure. That's what happens in sports. And also, sometimes you see greatness. That's the neat thing about being in situations where you see guys pull off some amazing feats athletically, and other times the simplest, most mundane thing that's routine, they can mess up.
Q. Pretty offbeat question for you. You established sort of the Sunday red as your trademark a while ago, and now you've got this generation of guys who grew up watching you coming out here, and you see all kinds of fashions, guys trying to be pretty distinct with their style out there. Do you feel like you had a part in starting that trend at all.
TIGER WOODS: Definitely not the flat bill. No, not that one. Yeah, I've worn red ever since ‑‑ since my college days basically, or junior golf days, Big events on the last day. I just stuck with it out of superstition, and it worked. I just happened to choose a school that actually was red, and we wore red on our final day of events. So it worked out.
And then I came out here, and I continued it, and I've had a few wins wearing red, and it's not going to change.
Q. I don't know if you saw Justin's shot into the 18th at Merion, but I was just curious when you talk about in terms of big moments. If you happened to see it, what you thought about it, and what that says about this U.S. Open that it was such a great shot.
TIGER WOODS: It's a hell of a shot. It's a 4 iron. That green ‑‑ as you know, it runs away from us. You have a hook lie, and the wind was coming off the right a little bit, and that all lends itself to draw on the ball. The green runs away from right to left and away from us. So anything hit with any kind of motion going right to left is going to run off the green.
Well, originally, when that golf course was designed, it wasn't designed to be played at 13 1/2 on the Stimp. Guys are holding 1 irons and woods into that thing, which is fine, but we're playing it faster now. If you land on that green, it's going to run over the bank. We all know that. You'd have to hit some kind of high slice in to try to hold it.
Then you run the risk, if you leave it short, now you've got one hell of a pitch. But if it runs over the back, it's an easy play, either play the sand wedge or easy little bump and run or use a utility wood like Justin did. You tried to hit a great shot, and you did, and you're going to have an easy pitch, you know that. That's going to happen.
I think how he handled that third shot, that lie, that was a little nasty right there. It's grainy. It's thick. And he had a little tuft of grass right in front of his golf ball. He played it perfectly.
Q. As you play out here longer, does it get easier or harder to deal with the emotions on a Sunday when ‑‑ like if a bad shot or a bad day or the emotional roller coaster?
TIGER WOODS: I don't know if it gets ‑‑ I don't know if it gets easier, but certainly I know how to handle it, and that's just from experience. I know generally what the winning score is going to be, and I think that's the feel of playing it over the years. And who's up there, what the conditions are, what the pins are, and I know what number I need to get to.
When you first come out here, you think you need to birdie every hole coming in, and a lot of times you don't. But try to get to my number, I've been pretty good at calling the number. Whether I get there or not, I think I have a better feel for that just from years of playing.
Q. Tiger, between your four wins this year, Justin winning the Open, Hunter contending at the Open, what does that say about the work that Sean is doing with you guys?
TIGER WOODS: We're all doing pretty good. I think we're having pretty good years.
Q. How much has he helped you?
TIGER WOODS: A lot. To go from where I went to where I'm at now and the way I'm hitting the golf ball, I've got my distance back. Really excited about that.
Q. Tiger, if you were around here any of the next three days, it would probably be a madhouse and logistically impossible. On the other hand, people who have invitationals, Jack, Arnie, when they were players, could be there. Did you give any thought ‑‑ is there any compromise, anything you could do before Sunday? Just seems unusual not to be at your own invitational. But on the other hand, it's really understandable.
TIGER WOODS: I'll be here throughout the week. I'm here and there. It's frustrating for me because I want to play, and I know how the golf course is set up right now too, and I like the setup of it. The years that it's set up this way, I've done well.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks for your time, Tiger.
TIGER WOODS: Thanks, guys. Appreciate it.