Tiger Woods Interview - 2004 US Open
BY iseekgolf.com | US PGA Tour | 2004 US Open | General | 16 Jun 2004
Rand Jerris: It’s a pleasure to be joined this afternoon by Tiger Woods. Tiger is an eight-time USGA national champion and the winner of the 2000 and 2002 United States Opens. Tiger, the U.S. Open in Long Island; any special connection we can look for this week.
Tiger Woods: I’ll tell you, this is going to be a fantastic tournament with the golf course the way it is, the way it’s set up. I mean, it’s one of the best setups I’ve ever seen. It’s fair, it’s difficult. The winds are blowing this year, so it’s going to be a great test. I’m sure it’ll be one that all the players will certainly enjoy.
Q: ’95 at Shinnecock was your first U.S. Open experience. What have you learned in the nine years since coming back to Shinnecock?
Tiger Woods: Stay out of the fescue (laughter). You know, I didn’t play very well. I think I went through it on the 6th hole. I think I was playing with Nick Price and Ernie, but I’m not really sure. All I know is I wasn’t able to hold the club when I sprained my ligaments in my hand, so I had to withdraw, but it was certainly one that was a great experience because I played some great practice rounds with some major championship winners that year, and it was just a — for my first Open experience it was certainly one that I will always remember because it was such a great tournament.
Q: Could you give us a couple of examples of what makes it such a fantastic setup?
Tiger Woods: Well, I think this year they’ve cut back the rough around the greens a little bit more. Obviously some of the runoffs are fake because you won’t end up on the fairway cut; you’ll actually run off into the primary stuff but it runs you further off the green. It’s shaped more like a links golf course. They’ve taken out the trees and the bushes as well as giving us a little bit more of a chance to chip and run up balls and putt.
Honestly, I can’t remember how I played this thing in ’95, but I know that I run more golf balls up here than any other U.S. Open. I don’t think there’s another U.S. Open like this one. This is very much like a British Open. You can actually putt from 30, 40 yards off the green if you so choose. That’s certainly not the case at any other Open venue we play.
Q: Is it fair to say your putter has been largely responsible for keeping you in contention while you’re bringing the rest of it around? And number two, it looks like Duval is going to play. Wondering what your thoughts are on that or whether you’ve spoken to him in the last few weeks about getting back in the game?
Tiger Woods: The Duval part, I haven’t spoken to him. It’s one of those things where I left a message here and there, but obviously he’s busy, he’s got a different life now. He wants to take a little time getting accustomed to it, one that he’s excited about, too. I haven’t spoken to him about his golf, and I didn’t know he was playing until you guys announced it.
As far as my putter, I’ve putted well all year. There’s only one week I didn’t really putt that well, and I didn’t have any three putts at Augusta but I didn’t make any putts, either. It was probably the one week I didn’t really putt the way I’ve been putting all year.
Q: Last two U.S. Opens here only one person shot under par. They say this course can eat you up if you’re not playing well. For the layman golf fan can you tell us why that is?
Tiger Woods: You look at most of the greens, they kind of repel golf shots, they don’t really accept them. With the knobs in the greens you have a lot of falloffs, good shots with the wind blowing as hard as it is, just one little gust, one yard, means 20 or 30 yards. It can roll off 20 or 30 yards and you have no shot. You’ll do well just to make bogey.
Good shots here sometimes aren’t rewarded at all, and that’s one of the things you have to accept and move on. Every single person in this field is going to go through that and experience it, hit a nice quality golf shot, you thought it was perfect when you hit it, and it ends up in a spot where you’re hoping to make bogey. It’s just part of playing this particular golf course and you have to stay as patient as possible.
As you said, the last two champions are the only people under par. It’s going to keep hanging around. You know par is never going to be a bad score out here.
Q: When you see and read some of the things that are written about what’s wrong with your swing or if there’s anything wrong or you haven’t won a major since 2002, do you block that stuff out or do you get yourself motivated by it?
Tiger Woods: Certainly I try and just kind of take it in, but the problem is you guys keep asking me about it (laughter). Every tournament I go to you keep asking the same questions. I know that I haven’t played up to my absolute peak, but who does week in and week out? It certainly is not from a lack of effort, and I know that I’m going to be making some great progress this year, so I’m pretty excited about it.
Q: What role do you guys see the teachers/coaches playing for you guys at the highest level of golf?
Tiger Woods: It depends. If you’re going to go for a swing overhall or you seek another opinion or you’re looking for a pair of eyes to take a look at something in your swing that you think you’re doing but may not be doing, every person is different, so it’s hard for me to answer that, Craig. It’s one of those things where everybody goes to see their particular person for different reasons. I don’t know what they are.
Q: Has it become more difficult to win majors since you broke on Tour, and if you agree with that, why is that?
Tiger Woods: I think it’s become more difficult just because of the fact that the golf courses are becoming more difficult now. They’re narrowing up the fairways and the rough is getting higher. The green speeds have certainly increased, and the fields are so much deeper. You know, we’re just shooting good scores at not only majors but look at week in and week out. So far this year we’ve had two cuts where you have 4-under par after two days, and you have 70-plus guys shooting 4-under par. That goes to show you how deep the fields are. It’s reflected in the majors, the Ben Curtis and Shaun Micheel win, the first two tournaments are major championship wins. That goes to show you how deep the fields are. I think the technique of the players and the equipment has improved.
Q: I heard a quote from your father about the best shot out of the fescue in ’95. He determined it to be fitness for you and that’s part of the revolution on Tour. Do you consider that a turning point in your career, that one shot?
Tiger Woods: No, because we were forced to work out in college before that. I certainly had to work out in college before that. I really wasn’t working out obviously as hard as I do now, but our team certainly had to train, and that’s just part of the process.
Q: More major questions here. In the two years since you last won at Bethpage, what majors stick in your mind? You’ve had some real close calls: Muirfield, the storm, Hazeltine with Rich Beem, Royal St. George’s? Which ones when you relive majors the last two years, what thoughts come to you?
Tiger Woods: All the ones that I had a chance to win. I felt like the one at St. George was the one I should have won. I was playing really well that entire week, and I just had a back nine that I needed to play better, and I didn’t. I didn’t make any putts on the back nine. I had three good looks at putts from 15 feet on in. All I needed to do was make one of those and it was a totally different story. I needed to get some momentum going but I didn’t make any of those putts. That week I was playing really one. Obviously the one at Hazeltine with Rich Beem, that was just a different kind of week, the weather, the delays and different things, but the quality of play at Royal St. George’s is the one I think I should have won.
Q: Are you tired of all the television analysts analyzing your swing? And also, if you were to analyze your swing, what would you tell us?
Tiger Woods: I wouldn’t tell you (laughter). Am I tired of it, yeah? I get asked questions from you guys about what these guys say. A lot of times they don’t have an understanding of what I’m trying to work on or what I’m working on or what they conceive is a nice golf swing. Everyone’s opinion of a nice golf swing is different. Some of these analysts speak from how either they perceive how the golf swing should be or how they used to play. It’s different. Some guys shape the ball differently than others, other guys like to hit the ball differently than others. I think that’s where you have to step out of the box sometimes, which these guys don’t. That’s where it’s frustrating for me and other players, as well. We laugh about it on Tour how these guys think they know everything but they don’t. They’re not out here watching us play every shot, working on the range. They watch one golf shot and they analyze — this is what I like, pretty funny — when they take out a shot, like for me in 2000 and compare a shot that I hit this year. You don’t know if I’m hitting a fade, don’t know if I’m hitting a draw, you don’t know if I’m hitting it high or hitting it low. You don’t know what kind of lie I have, and you try and compare those two swings, and it’s totally different. You can’t compare those two golf swings.
I try not to do that myself because when I look at swings back in 2000 I have to remember what kind of shot I was trying to play in order for me to look at what kind of swings, what kind of technique I should have had at that particular time.
I think that’s where you get into a problem trying to think — trying to analyze things certainly you don’t understand.
Q: Phil was the best player never to have won a major for a long time. Who do you think that falls onto now?
Tiger Woods: I don’t know.
Q: I think it was at the U.S. Open in 2000, they were saying they weren’t sure the competition you were facing was experienced or the same as the competition he had. Now if you look at what Vijay and Phil have done in the last few months, even a guy like Sergio, has it gotten to be a pretty interesting couple of years to look back on?
Tiger Woods: If you look back at Jack’s career, who were the guys winning majors when he came out on here? It was Arnold, Jack and Gary. That was it, three guys.
In my time it’s been Vijay, Ernie and myself have won more than just one major championship in the same span of time. So it’s very similar.
But if you look at Jack’s entire career, 20-some odd years where he had different challenges. That’s what you tend to overlook, overlook the tiny period of time I’ve been out here and guys who have won. If you analyze it that way, it’s very similar.
Q: We are looking forward to your win this week. I have two questions. One is I watched you practice today, and it was interesting, you seemed like you were not hitting to the pin. Was there any reason? And second one is could you tell us what are your feelings about your golf so far this season.
Tiger Woods: I wasn’t firing at pins today on either the golf course or the range. I’m firing at spots where I think the pins are going to be and trying to get a feeling of how the ball is going to react on the greens.
And then on the range I was hitting the ball on the left side of the range and hitting the ball back into the wind because you always want to hit the ball into the wind.
The second part is I felt the season so far has been pretty successful, not great, but certainly successful. I’ve won a World Golf Championship and I’ve had a very good season so far, been very consistent. I’ve had a nice run the last three tournaments I’ve played in, so hopefully that will continue throughout the entire summer.
Q: Seven majors without a win. I’m just wondering, does that seem long to you? How long does that seem to you? Do you think that we’ll ever see one guy win seven majors in 11 tries again?
Tiger Woods: Who knows? The second part of your question, I don’t know.
As far as seven majors without one, yeah, it’s a long time concerning the fact that I was winning there, it seemed like just about every other one, but at least I’ve been in contention. If I was not in contention those seven major championships, I would not be happy at all. I had a chance to win two of them. I felt like I had a great chance to win two of them, and I’ve been in there with a chance going into the weekend at just about every one, so it’s just a matter of putting all four rounds together.
Q: Assuming conditions stay the same pretty much all week, through these practice rounds have you developed a specific strategy as to how you’re going to play the course, perhaps more 2-irons off the tee than drivers?
Tiger Woods: It all depends on how you feel, too. A lot of times — a couple times I hit 3-iron off the tee. The very next hole was 370 yards, I’ve got to hit driver just to give myself a 5-iron into the green. The wind is how long. No. 8 is a short hole, 400 yards or what it is into the wind, but I hit driver, 5-iron today. So short holes, somehow with this wind it’s a great design because it’s obviously a prevailing wind, and the short holes play dead into the wind. It seems like you hit about the same club whether it’s downwind or into the greens. It’s not necessarily what you’re hitting off the tees; it’s a matter of positioning the ball obviously in the fairway but trying to keep that ball on the green. If you keep the ball on the green here for 18 holes you’re looking awfully good.
For instance, No. 7, if you can hit that green four days in a row, hats off to you.
Q: I hear a lot of guys have said this, that to win a major you not only have to play good golf but you also have to get a couple of good bounces. Just curious if you can put your finger on the best example of that for you in the majors you’ve won.
Tiger Woods: Well, you look at the British Open I won at St. Andrews, and I didn’t hit into a bunker. That’s luck. I know for a fact I hit two shots right at the bunker. One was at No. 11, I hit it straight right, right at the bunker, hit short of the bunker, hopped over, rolls up and make birdie. If I’m in the bunker I’m pitching out trying desperately to make par.
13 at Augusta, when I won there, I hit the trees there, pitched it out back into the fairway, knocked it on, made birdie. Those are great breaks. Hey, you need to have them. You can’t go out there and expect to play so well that you’re not going to get any breaks. You need to have some good fortune, and that’s just part of the game of golf.
Q: Padraig Harrington was just here, and he said for him playing a tournament a week before a major is competitive practice. You don’t play the week before majors generally. What is your week prior to a major like? What’s the last day of heavy lifting, the last day of range work? Do you have a routine and how did that work coming into this week?
Tiger Woods: Well, I’ve done the same things. I do most of my work early. The main thing, I want to come in here fresh mentally as well as physically. That’s the most important to me. Whether I come in here with my game great or game not so great, whatever it is, as long as I come in here fresh, I feel like I can still win. I’ve come into major championships not hitting worth a darn and I’ve won, and I felt like because I was so fresh that I had plenty of strength to play all four days and stay mentally focused 100 percent on every shot for all four days, and that’s not easy to do, especially with so much pressure, so much riding on the line and with so many different distractions out there when you’re playing, to stay at that level for four straight days, it’s not easy at all. That’s why I usually take the break and try and get myself mentally prepared as well as physically so I have enough energy.
Q: I know nothing is more important than golf this week, but how does it feel to be the hottest celebrity in the chic and fashionable Hamptons? You’re surrounded and inundated with celebrities and right now you’re the hottest one.
Tiger Woods: I don’t know about that (laughter).
Q: Do you have time to take advantage of it?
Tiger Woods: I’m just a golfer, man (laughter). I chase a little white ball around and work on my farmer tan, that’s it (laughter).
Q: In other words, that’s all you’re facing?
Tiger Woods: That’s all I’m working on.
Q: You talked briefly about it at the Memorial and it’s been around the Tour this year, belly putters. Your stance on it, is it just not for you, do you want to see them banned, and your putter length-wise, 36 inches, what is it exactly?
Tiger Woods: 34, I believe, depends who measures it. Scottie measures it completely different than Ping. It depends what company measures it. I don’t know what the answer would be.
As far as belly putters, yeah, I’ve never been a fan of belly or long putters because I don’t think anything should be anchored to the body. I think the art of putting is trying to figure out how to coordinate your arms, wrists and shoulders and hands to swing the blade, and I think that’s part of the game of golf. I’ve never been in favor of — neither one of those two, belly putter or a long putter, as well. I’m sure one day I may need one, but I think that the challenge of it is to just swing the club, just like we do with all the other 13 clubs in our bag is to try and swing the club.
Rand Jerris: Thanks very much for your time. Good luck this week.
Tiger Woods: Thank you.
Source – USGA