Tiger Woods Pre-Tournament Interview - British Open
BY iseekgolf.com | European PGA Tour | 2005 British Open | General | 13 Jul 2005
Q: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you. We have Tiger Woods for his pre-championship interview.
Tiger, you won here in 2000. Can you tell us your thoughts when you played the course once or twice at the present time, how is the course playing? How are you playing?
Tiger Woods: The golf course is pretty quick. The fairways are fast. The greens are firm and we haven’t got any wind yet. So there’s some warm weather, so it’s baked out the fairways a little bit. From the time I played on Sunday to even today, must have been three rounds, and you can see the fairways are getting firmer and faster, just in those three days. I feel like I’ve hit the ball well all three days. So it’s shaping up well.
Q: Two parts, actually. One, you won the Jack Slam previously when he thought he was going to retire after 2000 here. A little disappointed he decided to come out of retirement at St. Andrews and make you have to do it again?
Tiger Woods: No, it’s been good, every time he’s retired (laughter). I wish he’d keep retiring. I won at Valhalla and at Pebble Beach, and then here. And so hopefully we can do it again. And then Augusta this year. So it’s been very good so far.
Q: The other part, actually, he mentioned that when he won here for his 10th major victory, it was the first time that anybody mentioned he was within three of Bobby Jones’ record. And is that a luxury you’ve gotten to live with, having Jack’s standard up there. Does chasing him kind of feel fitting in the way he chased Bobby Jones around this place?
Tiger Woods: That might be a stretch. Honestly I don’t quite look at it that way. I look at it, for him, I think, only having to go after 13. That’s a different story. He was 13 early in his 30s. So for me to get to 18 and then hopefully beyond that it’s going to take a little longer. It’s a longer process, because he’s won more major championships, because it’s going to take a little longer for me hopefully one day for me to get there. It’s certainly not something I plan on getting to overnight. Just in my 20s I’ve won nine. I didn’t think I would win this many in my 20s. Golfers’ prime years aren’t usually until their 30s. So hopefully I can keep it going, if not get a little bit better.
Q: It seems as though every time a championship course is lengthened, the term that comes out is Tiger proofing. One, do you take that as a compliment, and two, is that what happens, or in truth does it mean that they’re actually playing into your hands?
Tiger Woods: The first part of your question, do I look at it as I guess it all started out at Augusta, didn’t it? They weren’t really too happy when I was hitting driver, wedge into 15, twice (laughter). They weren’t really thrilled by that. So obviously they made a few changes in that course. So I guess that’s when the terminology was first started.
Anytime you lengthen the golf course you have to use driver more often. But anytime a longer hitter any golf course, if a guy hits the ball further, he’s going to have an advantage if he’s hitting it well, even if it’s a short course.
On shorter holes he can maybe possibly take a run at driving to a green or two. Or other guys are hitting driver, you’re hitting a 1 iron or 3 wood in the fairway which is a little easier to hit than a driver.
So any golf course anywhere in the world, a longer hitter is going to have a little bit of an advantage if he’s hitting it well.
Q: Specifically here, have the changes been negated somewhat by the fact that the course is playing so fast and firm?
Tiger Woods: It depends. We haven’t gotten any kind of wind. Because on 4, into that wind, if the wind blows in on 4, that’s really tough to try to carry. 280 yards is not something you can do very easily into the wind, even for the longer hitters. So that narrows up the fairway quite a bit. You either have to go way left or fit it up the right somehow. At least they were nice enough to cut down the rough on the right side. Because on Saturday that wasn’t fairway. They actually cut that back and actually added fairway there because they didn’t think it was really fair to have 280 all the way across.
Q: Think of your connection. Have you ever seriously considered playing Sweden? And if not, what would it take to get you to play there?
Tiger Woods: Yes, I have considered, no doubt about that. I’ve never looked at it as maybe playing a tournament, but definitely going there and having a vacation and playing with some of my friends, that’s about it.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about the intricacy of the bunkering here? And if you could categorize on the scale of amazing achievements, maybe with a little luck sprinkled in your performance in not getting into any of those in 2000?
Tiger Woods: Two factors in 2000. I hit it well and I got lucky a few times. There’s absolutely no doubt about that, because I should have been in probably three or five bunkers, easily. Just off the tee shots alone, it happened to hop over a bunker and catch a side and kick left or right of it. Little things like that. That happens. Fortunately for me it was happening that week. I got lucky a few times.
So this golf course, it’s kind of funny, you play along here, and you think, what is a bunker here for? And all of a sudden the wind switches and you go, oh, there it is. And I think that’s the beauty of playing here, you always kind of discover some new bunkers, just because the wind conditions change.
I’ve played here in ’95 and ’98 and then 2000 and I’ve had all different type of winds. So I’ve got to experience some of the bunkers that I didn’t think would ever come into play, came into play.
Q: You’ve dueled with Vijay for most of the last year for the No. 1 ranking. What about his game do you respect more? And also if you felt any sort of personal competition with him over the last year, year and a half?
Tiger Woods: Well, first of all, he’s been extremely consistent. Look at the quality of rounds he’s strung together in the tournaments he’s strung together. He’s won a bunch of tournaments. But more importantly he’s been very consistent. Even on the week that he hasn’t won, he’s still been in contention to win the championship. And that’s what you always want to be. You want to be so that even your best stuff is still good enough to win a tournament, and that’s the ideal world. But he’s been able to accomplish that over the last few years.
What was the second part of your question?
Q: Personal rivalry at all?
Tiger Woods: Personal rivalry? You can’t look at it that way, because we don’t play in the same tournaments all the time. When we do play in the same events, you try to get yourself in position to win. And if you’re there and he’s there, it’s going to be a tougher battle. But you need to get there first. And it’s not something that you say, okay, if I beat him I win the tournament. There’s a bunch of other guys that are playing that are really good out here.
Q: The weather forecast is very good for the rest of the week. If the wind doesn’t blow
Tiger Woods: Define good for you.
Q: If the wind doesn’t blow, what do you think the winning score might be? If the wind doesn’t blow, what defenses does the course have?
Tiger Woods: It really doesn’t. The greens are at a speed where you can be aggressive. But the greens are firm, though, which is interesting. It will be interesting to see how tough they’ll put the pins, over the knobs or on the corners. That would be the only defense if the wind doesn’t blow, otherwise the guys will shoot some numbers.
Q: What are you aiming at personally?
Tiger Woods: If I shoot 72 under, I should be pretty good (laughter).
Q: Do you have a preference? I know in 2000 the weather was it certainly didn’t feel like Scottish weather, and obviously it’s pretty hot and dry here. Would you like to see the course playing with full wind and all that, just to get that full blown experience?
Tiger Woods: It doesn’t matter either way. You’ve got to look at the fact that everybody has to play the same course, and there is a lot of luck to the tee times here, too. Hopefully I’m on the good side of the draw, if the wind doesn’t pick up or anything like that when it’s my time to play. But it’s such that at an Open championship you just don’t know what you’re going to get. The wind could all of a sudden pick up. No one ever thought it would blow like it did at Muirfield on Saturday afternoon, not for that few hours. The weather forecast, I think might be a light rain. It wasn’t light. And then they said it was going to drop down in the 30s.
The unpredictability of this event with the weather conditions makes it that much more appealing to all of us. I think that’s why we come over here and we enjoy that, because you don’t know, and you have to play through it and you have to deal with it.
Q: You and other guys are coming basically from the U.S. Open. There’s been a tournament in between. And the USGA’s philosophy is to make the course almost impossible, whatever you want to say, bar the winds. Here The R&A goes out there and you play the golf course the way it is. Do you care one way or the other in the setup and does it matter? Would you say you like The R&A better than the USGA setup?
Tiger Woods: Well, The R&A setup is generally more fair. The way I say generally, because we played Carnoustie that one year (laughter). Otherwise, excluding that year, everything’s been just as fair as can be. And don’t forget, they have to set it up a little bit on the easier side because you don’t know what the wind is going to do.
Imagine if they got the greens running at 12, it just wouldn’t work. If the wind blows at all, who could keep the ball on the green. And obviously you couldn’t get close with these slopes. They do the right thing here, they keep it fair and let Mother Nature dictate what the winning score is going to be.
The wind didn’t blow in 2000 and I went low. The wind blew in ’95 and we didn’t go very low. It’s kind of cool when you play it that way.
Q: Going back to the bunkers, how much more fun does it make it for you to plot your way around, to be thinking all the time of what your next shot, next club is going to be?
Tiger Woods: That’s how golf is meant to be played. You have to think. You have to think about your placement. Here, this week, is different than most weeks, because you have to try to get an understanding of how far the ball is going to run, which is an element you generally don’t have to worry about.
There is an element of a little bit of luck, too, on what side of the mound you land on. If you hit the correct shot, though, it will always be okay. And that’s kind of the key. You have to picture a trajectory and shape, and try to hit that shape and that trajectory on your spot and it will be fine. If you don’t, there’s a chance that you can get some pretty bad spots out here.
Q: Does that make it more fun for you to have to play it that way?
Tiger Woods: It’s always more fun when you have to think your way around the golf course, instead of get up there and hit down there, and who cares where it goes. Golf is meant to be more cerebral; you have to use your head to get around. And I think that’s the fun part. And also being creative, as well. This golf course allows you to be creative. It allows you to hit shots that you don’t normally get a chance to hit, especially in the States.
Q: What did you think of the changes in the Road Bunker?
Tiger Woods: Certainly different. The collection area is a lot bigger than it was before. More balls will feed into the bunker. But at least it’s more playable this year. But if you come in there with any kind of steam, the ball is going to roll up against the face, so you still can’t get out. You’ll see guys pitch backwards, putt backwards to get out. You’ll find that probably in a lot of the bunkers out here, if the ball has any kind of steam and it gets up into that face, so that’s not unusual. But at least if you hit the ball in the bunker this year, there’s a really good chance if you got it in the middle part of the bunker you can get it out, no problem. In 2000 that wasn’t the case.
Q: What are your memories of your first visit here as an amateur ten years ago? How many things are there that you could do then that you can’t do now?
Tiger Woods: Well, my first introduction to links golf was Carnoustie and St. Andrews. It doesn’t get any better than that. So I played the Scottish Open, and Carnoustie, and came over here to play The Open Championship. I got paired up in the first two rounds with Ernie. He was the U.S. Open champion at the time, which was really cool. For me that was just a highlight, because back then, yeah, I could hit the ball long, there’s no doubt about it, but I had no idea where it was going. I knew for a fact that I could hit every shot forward (laughter), in what direction was kind of marginal. I didn’t really understand how to play links golf, how to bump the ball on the ground, because I never have.
I grew up in LA on kukui grass. Everything had to be up in the air, and it had to be short. For me to come over and play a different game was so much fun for me, to have to hit chip shots and run the ball on the ground.
I used a lot of that experience that I had in ’95 here in 2000. And when I played No. 6, for example, I hit driver down there every day and I putted from the fairway from 60, 70 yards every day. I never tried to hit one up in the air. And I got it within 20 feet every time. And that’s something that in ’95, that certainly wasn’t the case. I could hit to 60 and spin it in there, and fat it, blade it, and hit it in the gorst somewhere.
I think more than anything, the experience back in ’95 allowed me to have the success I had in 2000, but to have a chance to play such a different, unique game. I never had the opportunity before in the States. I never played a golf course like this. But to run the ball and use any creativeness to get the ball around, I just got such a rush out of it.
Q: Tell me, in that ten year period, other than Muirfield, have you been on a links where the weather has been so severe that you felt that 80 would be a good score?
Tiger Woods: No. It was tough at Birkdale one day, I think it was on Saturday Friday or Saturday Friday, when it blew? It blew really hard. My ball flew back on 11 when they called play. I had about an 8 footer, lagged up to about a foot, started walking up, and next thing I knew I had about four feet, so they called play there. That’s the only time I played in conditions that were really bad.
Q: Do you feel that 2005 is like a rebirth year for your game?
Tiger Woods: Well, I think the end of last year was a big step for me, to have put the pieces together and I won a tournament like I did in Japan, which was a big step for me, going through all the changes with Hank. And to start off this year with a couple of early wins before I got to Augusta, which was nice. And then to win a major championship is always nice. So I think for me the process has been arduous, a lot of work, a lot of countless hours on the range, in front of a mirror, trying to get it right and trying to teach my body to do something that it hadn’t done before. And it’s very similar to what I was trying to do back in the middle of ’97 through ’99 middle of ’99. So that took me two years. This time it took me about a year to put the pieces together.
Q: Jack said that he wasn’t aware of Bobby Jones’ record of majors until he won his 10th and suggested that maybe that was an advantage and that you were at a disadvantage because you were expected to challenge his record before you ever won any. How do you look at that?
Tiger Woods: Well, I look at it as a career. In order for me to ever have the opportunity to be lucky enough to have either tied or come near or past Jack, whatever it may be, it’s going to take an entire career. It’s not something that’s going to happen within a short 10 year, 12 year period. It’s going to take a long time. And it took him probably 24 years, or something like that, to win all of his. So it’s going to take me a while. At least I’m heading in the right direction.
Q: Is there anything specifically about this event that lends to a Ben Curtis or Todd Hamilton, someone flying under the radar winning here?
Tiger Woods: I think what you find out is in major championships, if you’re playing well, you’re playing well, and it’s not necessarily just in this championship, either. We’ve had Sean Micheel at the PGA, and it’s just quality guys. It goes to show you how deep the fields are out here. People don’t realize how good these guys really are. It goes to show that anyone who enters the field not only has the opportunity to win, but can win.
Q: As well as you played here in 2000, can you play better given the swing changes?
Tiger Woods: Yeah.
Q: How much better? And how will you play differently given that, if at all?
Tiger Woods: I don’t see how I played differently. You just play the game for what it is and for what the hole gives you. And that’s how you it’s hard for me to say I’m going to play any differently, you know? Because certain holes I was aggressive on last year. This year I may not be, because the wind conditions may switch. They won’t allow me to be aggressive and get down there. Last time I was conservative. This year I might be more aggressive. It all depends on the wind. I know I am swinging well coming into the event. I’ve had some good finishes my last three events, which was nice. It’s a matter of building on what I’ve been doing.
Q: When you talk about trying to get closer or past Jack’s record or the pace that you’ve shown, going through swing changes not once, but twice, so many people are so concerned with doing things that provide a short term return, how do you explain why you’ve always had this kind of patience to take the long way either towards your career or towards your game?
Tiger Woods: Great question. I just have understood that it takes time to put all the pieces together, because you have to you don’t want to have any setbacks. You don’t want any things where, gosh, that was a huge setback there. I look at it as a progression. Am I able to do it on the range? Yeah, I can hit ten balls like I need to. I need to increase that or build on that. Then you play 9 holes with your buddies. Then I can do it for four or five holes, then you can do it for a round. Then you do it for an entire week with your buddies. Now I’ve got to do it for a tournament. Then I can do it for a couple of days. Now I have to do it for four days. Now I need to do it in a major championship. And then you do it in a major championship. Then I have to do it down the stretch in a major to win. And all of a sudden it comes together.
You look at it as a progression. It takes time. And it’s something that I don’t know why I’ve had the patience to go through it. You think that I have gotten frustrated at times, but you’ve got to always take a step back and look at, I’m progressing every day, just don’t have a setback. The time I went through with Butch, that two year period, I didn’t have any setbacks. And this period I didn’t have any setbacks either. There were times, yeah, I didn’t hit the ball that well. But I always had more good shots than bad shots than I did the day before. That’s what you want to happen.
So for me not to have any setbacks in these two processes I went through was huge for me. And trust me, I don’t want to do it again, because it takes a lot of patience and a lot of hard work, countless hours on the range, at home or in front of a mirror, trying to get it right. And it takes a lot out of you.
Q: Tiger, thank you very much.