Tiger Woods Pre-Tournament Interview - US PGA
BY iseekgolf.com | US PGA Tour | 2005 US PGA Championship | General | 10 Aug 2005
Q: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, two time PGA Champion Tiger Woods joining us at the 87th PGA Championship.
Tiger is playing in his ninth PGA Championship. Tiger, welcome to Baltusrol. You’ve probably been on the course a couple of times. How about some thoughts on the facility and we’ll go to Q&A.
Tiger Woods: Okay. Well, the golf course is playing great. I mean, the rough is up, the fairways are soft, you know, softer than I thought they would be. The greens are a little bit soft, as well. But, you know, boy, you’ve really got to hit your golf ball well here because obviously the penalty is very severe.
Q: Just looking at your record, in ten major victories, it looks to me like you’ve won seven of them on golf courses where you’ve competed before, but your two PGAs, Medinah and Valhalla, looking at them, is it harder to prepare for a major when you have not competed on the golf course before?
Tiger Woods: Well, I don’t think you have any experience on it. And also, how it has played before. I mean, granted, this golf course is completely new to a lot of the guys who played in ’93, obviously with a lot of the new tees, the fairway widths have changed.
So this is basically a new venue for those guys, as well. So it doesn’t hurt me as much, no, but it’s always nice to have more experience on the golf course because you can always draw upon those experiences.
Q: When you have a close call like at the Open this year, the U.S. Open, do you put something like that out of your mind and say, I’m still swinging good, I’m on target to what I want to do and put it out of your mind, or do you use it to get yourself motivated for the next major? Do you get mad at yourself when things like that happen?
Tiger Woods: Well, I hit the ball beautifully all week. I just putted terribly. Look at my stats. People have said, you know, basically, you lost the tournament on 16 and 17 on Sunday. That’s wrong. I lost it all four days on the greens because I did not putt well any day.
You know, my best day wasn’t very good, so that’s normally not the case for me. Usually I’m a pretty good putter day in and day out; I just had a bad putting week the wrong time. And on top of that, it was on the most severe greens we’ll probably ever play on. It’s just a terrible combination there, but to putt that poorly and still have a chance to win the U.S. Open, that’s when you know you’re hitting the ball pretty good. So I was very excited about that, and I continued that at the Western and obviously at the British and the Buick, as well.
Q: How do you feel about the last two holes, 17 and 18, being par 5s?
Tiger Woods: Well, 17 is going to be a three shot hole unless it turns big time downwind and the fairways dry out. Otherwise, no, you can’t get there in two.
The fairways being this soft, balls, you’re making ballmarks on every tee shot so you can’t get a ball down there. It a three shot hole; get it down there with a wedge, attack that flag and you can make birdie.
18, you get the ball on the fairway, you can knock the ball on the green. It’s imperative to putt the ball in play there because you know you have some mid to long irons in there. One of the back pins, there’s a good chance you can make three. Front pins, probably different story, you probably have to putt back from 30, 40 feet, but the back pins are accessible there on 18. It’s very interesting, I’ve never seen anything like that before, 17 and 18 as par 5s, when you have nothing but par 3s and par 4s all the way around.
Q: Welcome to New Jersey.
Tiger Woods: Thank you.
Q: We’ve heard a lot about the swing changes and all of that. What area besides mechanics have you improved on in the last couple of years?
Tiger Woods: I think experience helps, my course management skills, my knowledge of the game. My short game, I’ve learned more shots. I think just overall experience.
I’ve gone through a lot the last couple of years how to manage a round of golf, because I didn’t really have my mechanics last year. I wasn’t really hitting it solid and crisp and clean day in and day out, so I had to somehow manage a score, and those experiences sure helped.
You know, when you have days that you’re off, you can still somehow come up with a good number, and that helps a lot.
Q: You have a chance to win three majors for the second time in five years. This isn’t a question about the swing or different shots you’re playing, but I’m just curious how this year seems different from 2000, from an atmosphere standpoint, from a confidence standpoint, every standpoint but the swing, so don’t mention your swing.
Tiger Woods: I think the atmosphere is nowhere near what it was in 2000 because I had won the U.S. Open by 15 and the British Open by eight, so 23 shots in two tournaments is pretty good (laughter).
This year, I’ve won two major championships. The Masters was a little bit closer, but I won the British by five. The atmosphere was a little different, because on top of that, I’ve done this before; I’ve won three majors in one year. I guess from some of the guys I’ve talked to this week, you know, in the media, just the novelty factor is not there anymore; I’ve already done it. Hopefully I can do it again.
Q: Confidence wise?
Tiger Woods: Confident, I feel just as good, yeah.
Q: When it comes to what you keep in your bag, are you a guy that likes to tinker with loft and lie and swing weight and things like that, and if you do, what kind of thinking goes into those decisions?
Tiger Woods: To be honest with you, my lofts, my lie, my length on my irons haven’t changed since I was 14 years old. So to answer your question, no.
Q: Why not?
Tiger Woods: Why? Because they have worked (smiling).
I’ve won a lot of tournaments since I was 14. I’m not going to change. But I have changed my 3 wood obviously and my driver over the years and trying to keep up with everybody off the tees, but my irons are still very weak compared to today’s standards. They are the standards back in the 60s. People have that so called gap wedge. Well, my pitching wedge is like 51 degrees. My 9 iron is like 45, and that’s like most people’s gap wedges.
A lot of the guys’ pitching wedge is like my 9 irons, so I play with very weak lofts, but they have worked so far.
Q: With the chance of some rain on Thursday or Friday, what kind of adjustments would you make for this course and what type of player do you think that would favor should it rain?
Tiger Woods: Well, I tell you what, if it rains, the golf course is going to get longer. You’re going to have to drive the ball well. You’re going to have to drive it long. Long does help in the fairway here, more so than most golf courses, because it’s 7,400 yards. Too often you play within the first three holes, two par 4s at over 480. That’s kind of a wake up call right out of the gate. You have some good holes you have to start off on.
So the guys who are driving the ball well and on top of that a little bit higher are certainly going to have an advantage; like at Augusta when it rains, you look at most of the guys on that leaderboard, all high ball hitters when it does rain.
Q: We know what a student of the game you are and what a student of Jack’s record you are. What does that mean to you about this place; how do you think about it and how do you feel about Baltusrol?
Tiger Woods: This is my first time here. I played it for the first time last Monday. I didn’t really know a whole lot coming here other than Jack has won here twice and Lee won here in ’93. Other than that, I really didn’t know a whole lot about the golf course.
When I came here, I could see why a lot of people Love this place, because it’s fair. I mean, it’s one of the old school golf courses where it’s just right in front of you. There’s no hidden tricks. There’s no elephant burial grounds that we have to play now on some of the golf courses. I mean, it’s just right in front of you. It’s a very fair test, and you could see how it could get very difficult around here and I could see why some of the guys who have done well, who have played consistently here over the years, have been great ball strikers.
Q: With regard to Hank, can you talk a little bit about your relationship with him and how it’s evolved and why it’s worked, and just a little compare and contrast to your relationship with Butch when you guys were working together? Obviously both worked well.
Tiger Woods: Yeah, two totally different personalities. Butch is very outgoing and Hank is more introverted. Both are very dedicated to what they do. That’s one of the things that has attracted me to both of them, their dedication to the game and to the swing. They both have helped me quite a bit in my career.
You know, Hank is very quiet. He doesn’t say a whole lot. So when he does say something, you kind of like it’s like E.F. Hutton; you listen, because he doesn’t say much. Even when we’re working on the swing, and I’ve got a lot of things to work on, he just kind of sits there real quiet until I get a little frustrated and then I’ll say something and he’s on me about it. Other than that, he’s real laid back.
Q: We’ve seen a lengthening of major tournament courses the last few years. Is moving the tee boxes back an answer, and do you see this continuing and where do you see this heading?
Tiger Woods: I don’t see why it won’t stop, because obviously the golf balls are only going to get faster and longer. Guys are going to get bigger and stronger. Agronomy helps, too, as well. If you get the fairways hard and fast, it’s amazing how much shorter a golf course can play.
We played Pinehurst this year and we thought it was a very short golf course, and it’s not. It was playing close to 7,300 yards, which we thought was short because the golf course was fast. If you get it fast and hard, you can make the golf courses ridiculously long, because they don’t play long.
This week is different. Obviously the fairway is very soft and making ballmarks on every tee shot, even with drivers. I don’t see why they won’t continue making the golf courses longer, just because guys are going to continue to hit it further, and it’s just kind of the nature of the game until they put there’s a speed limit on the faces and on the balls, but we seem to every year find something a little bit faster and a little bit longer. Granted, guys are giving up a lot on the greens by going to harder balls to hit it further, but that’s how the game has changed. It’s not relying upon spin around the greens anymore. It’s about distance off of the tees.
Q: This year began with an awful lot of talk about the Big Five in the game. Does it surprise you at all that here we are at the last major of the year, and of the Big Five, you’re the only one who has contended going down the stretch of any of the majors we’ve had so far this year?
Tiger Woods: Well, I’m not the only one. Vijay’s done all right, you know, three Top 10s. It’s not like he’s been out of it.
Q: I was talking specifically about the major championships.
Tiger Woods: I know. He’s had three Top 10s.
Q: But in terms of contending for the title.
Tiger Woods: He was there. So was I. Unfortunately Ernie and Goose and Phil didn’t really play all that well, except Goose played great. I mean, he was leading the U.S. Open. So I don’t really know where you’re coming with that question. I mean, he had a four shot lead going into Sunday at the U.S. Open or something like that.
Q: Padraig said that he felt like one of the things that made you so unbeatable in 2000 was you felt like you were unbeatable. I’m wondering, you’ve got a lot more experience now since then, but with experience comes a lot of good and bad memories, and I’m wondering, the memory bank of that kind of stuff, whether it changes the mental challenge of trying to stay on top when you’re not young and bulletproof.
Tiger Woods: Man, you guys act like I hit it great all the time back then. I hit some bad shots.
You know, I’ve been playing this game a long time, you know, since the age of one, so I’ve had a lot of bad shots over my life (smiling). It’s one of those things where once you get out there, you just play and you focus on where you need to place the golf ball. Even last year when I had a tough time placing my golf ball, my main objective was, how am I going to get it there and the shape I want to put on it to place it where I want to place it. Whether I did it or not was a different story, but your focus doesn’t change.
You may have bad experiences, but you block all of that out and put a ball where you need to put it. That’s the mindset I’ve always had.
You know, sometimes my mechanics won’t allow me to do that, and that’s when it’s frustrating, but a lot of times my mechanics do allow me to do that and that’s when I can get it going.
Q: Along the same lines, you’ve said in the past that the media has a tendency to sort of make your great shots seem other worldly and your bad shots seem horrible. Given what you’ve accomplished this year, what new perspective do you have on 2003 and 2004 when you struggled?
Tiger Woods: Well, I was changing a bunch of things. I struggled end of ’97 and ’98 and half of ’99. I went two years with one victory. That’s not very good, especially when I started off the way I did early in my career. So it’s not like I haven’t been down that road before, and I was committed to what I was doing.
I could see my improvement. I mean, that’s where all of you aren’t privy to that. You were not able to see what I was doing on the range at home, when I was at home at Isleworth or around my buddies and the shots I was hitting. It’s like, wow, this is really neat. But can you take to the golf course in a tournament. Well, that’s when I was struggling with it and I wasn’t able to did it.
The experience I had in ’97, ’98, ’99, sure it helped because I’ve been down that road before, and it takes time. I’ve had to stay patient, and going through those changes back then helped a lot this time around. Even though I was beaten up in the press a little bit for making the changes; why would you make a change? Well, I remember having the same conversations with a lot of people in the media back in ’98 and ’99; why would you make a change when you won The Masters by 12? Well, I could win by 13, you know, and I could win more of them. That’s the whole idea. That’s why I made the changes. Hence, I had a nice run.
You know, would you ever want to go back to 2000? No, I don’t want to go back to 2000. I want to become better than that. And that’s why I’m making the changes, you know, to become better. Not to become worse; become better. I’m very pleased.
Q: After Jack’s farewell at the British, you mentioned in your newsletter actually, sort of seeing yourself at age 65, talking about physically, but I was just wondering, other than just the physical conditioning, what do you envision for yourself when you say goodbye in terms of majors or grandkids or fishing trips if you were to take a moment?
Tiger Woods: It’s like writing my obituary already (laughter).
What am I going to do? I think knowing me and how I am, my farewell will be very quiet. I don’t think anyone will probably know until it’s done. I’m not really going to say anything; that’s kind of how I am. I’ll just go out and play it. I’LL walk in here and say, “Guys, I’m done.” That’s probably how I’m going to do it.
You know, my whole objective is if my best isn’t good enough to win anymore, I’m not playing. I couldn’t handle going out there, for me personally, knowing that I played my absolute best and it wasn’t good enough to win anymore, because I know what it feels like when I play my best. I’ve had some W’s, and I don’t know if I could handle that anymore, and it’s time to move on, time to walk.
Q: The club has made a conscious decision to putt Kentucky bluegrass as a consistent item in their rough. What did you think of the density of the rough in terms of other PGA Championships and how you think this will all play out towards the end of the event?
Tiger Woods: Well, the rough is really tough out there. The bluegrass is one thing, but I saw them raking it up, and not only are they raking it up, they are raking it towards the tee, so every ball that goes in there is into the grain. It’s very interesting to see how they are setting up the golf course. There’s just one little section probably eight yards across right off the fairways that they rake right towards the tees. Very similar to what USGA does, they always rake it towards the tees so you have into the grain lies, so therefore you can’t control your shot and you can’t normally get to the greens. That’s how they can make the rough play more difficult.
This year is no exception. It’s going to be tough. It’s one of those things where you either hit it down the middle or you bomb it in the gallery over there, stomp it down and you’re all right. I don’t recommend hitting it in the gallery all the time, but it’s a lot better than hitting that bluegrass.
Q: Knowing the history of the game and with the 75th anniversary of Bobby Jones’ Grand Slam coming, what do you know of his achievements, and do you think some of the things he did will ever be matched?
Tiger Woods: His dominance, for such a short span of time, we’ve never seen it since then. To win match play events, that’s not easy to do. It just takes one day that you’re not quite there and some guy is sharp and you’re gone. You know, look at all of the tournaments he’s won in match play. I think that’s what makes his accomplishments so incredible.
And then to go on and to create The Masters and do all of the things he did for the game of golf at such a young age, you know, he retired early, 28. That’s like saying I’m done already. It’s hard to believe he walked that early. He had a lot more to accomplish in life than just golf, and he set out to do that and he did that. That’s what makes his accomplishments, for such a short time, so remarkable.
Q: Colin Montgomerie has had difficult times both on and off the golf course and he showed a lot of strength of character in coming back. Do you think bearing in mind his St. Andrews do you think he’s going to be in contention or any of the other Europeans?
Tiger Woods: I don’t know if he’s healthy.
Q: Well, he’s here.
Tiger Woods: I know he’s here, but I don’t know if he’s healthy after hurting his wrist like he said he did.
Q: He says he is.
Tiger Woods: I said I was healthy before, too (laughter). It’s just one of those things where you have to play and see what happens. You know, the last thing you want to do is come into a tournament where the rough is this high with a hand injury. Hopefully it will hold up. Hopefully he won’t have any problems.
But he was hitting the ball beautifully when I played with him on Saturday at the British. I mean, he hit the ball beautifully. He started driving it like he was when he won all of those Order of Merits, seven in row. If he can do that here this week, there’s no reason why he can’t contend, because this week in particular, you have to drive the ball very well. It’s set up just like a U.S. Open.
Q: You spoke a moment ago about trying to be better than 2000. Is there a part of the game right now that you feel is better than when you played in 2000, and also, do you feel that there’s parts of your game that aren’t anywhere near where you were in 2000?
Tiger Woods: I’d have to say my iron play is probably better now than it was in 2000. My driving is not probably as good because I’m hitting it 20 to 30 yards further now, too, since 2000.
I went back over the tapes middle of this year looking at my drives in the major championships. If I added 30 yards, I would have missed more than half the fairways that I hit. I think that’s the biggest difference is I’m hitting it so much further and harder. My putting is just as good, but it’s been sporadic this year, which is interesting. I normally don’t putt that way. I’ve usually been a very consistent putter over the years. This year is one of those weird years where I either putt great or I don’t putt well at all.
I think my short game is better than it was then, and certainly my mind is pretty sharp. Also, don’t forget the other guys have gotten better as well. They have gone back and really worked on their games and stepped it up and are playing much better than they did then. So it’s a credit to everyone, we are all trying to get better. If you’re standing still, then you’re getting worse, so that’s kind of how you’ve got to look at it.
Q: You mentioned that you’re hitting the ball a little bit further. Would it be fair to characterize you as a physical player in the same way that we would describe a football or basketball player as being physical where you could wear down an opponent over four quarters or four rounds of golf?
Tiger Woods: I think you would have to put that label on Jason Gore, not me (laughter). That whiteout, you know, that could take you deep. I ain’t wearing you out. It might stretch the offense on you a little bit, stretch the defense on me a little bit.
Q: But the strength over 72 holes and maybe even psychologically, how much of an edge do you think that gave you? And Vijay is the same I think.
Tiger Woods: You know, I hear guys all the time saying I’m tired after playing 18 holes. How could you be tired after playing golf? You should never be tired playing golf. It’s just 18 holes. I think that’s how I treat golf; it’s a sport, it’s not an activity. A lot of people do; they are not in shape, they don’t take it seriously. But I came from a different background. I used to run track and cross country so that’s a different background. I had to be in shape and I had to run all the time. That’s kind of my mentality.
I think over the years as I’ve gotten stronger, I’ve gotten more fit. Certainly it has helped because of the days when we have to go 27 holes at a major championship like we did at Augusta. I did that, I played 50 what did I play? I played 54 holes in two days this year at Augusta, and I was fine. Most guys were worn down and I was okay, and that’s a big difference.
Q: You said before that your confidence level is probably the same as it was in 2000 2001. Did it ever waiver in the interim and has it increased in the majors?
Tiger Woods: There’s no doubt about that. When you hit the ball poorly, your confidence ain’t going to be high. The success I’ve had this year has been fantastic for it because there’s nothing like getting some reaping some of the rewards of your hard work. I’m starting to get that now, and that’s exciting.
Last year, the end of last year was a big stepping stone for me, to win overseas and to win my tournament, which is a great springboard into this year. I’ve made some improvements since then, which has helped out even more.
Q: You said you’re pleased with how things have developed; I assume you’re not satisfied. What kind of markers do you use and at what point would you sit back and say all of the efforts you’ve put into the last couple of years have been worth it compared to where you’ve been earlier in your career, say ’99, 2000, 2001?
Tiger Woods: You’re never there. It’s like, people ask me, “Are you there yet?” No. You never get there. And that’s the great thing about it. You can always be better the next day. That’s how I look at golf and how I look at life. You can always, always be better.
When I had my nice run there in ’99 and 2000, I won 17 times, that was great, but it can always be better, right? That’s how you’ve got to look at it. You have to look at the fact that you can become better. If you think you can’t, then walk, because you have no business being out here if you think you can’t get any better. That’s how I approach it each and every practice session, each and every round you play.
Q: Would you have to win 18 in the same amount of time or seven majors in 11 starts?
Tiger Woods: Whatever it is, you win more, and once you do that, you win by one, you win by two; you win by two, you win by three; you win by ten, you win by 11. And that’s what’s fun about it, get out there the next day and can’t wait to get to work and do better than you did the day before.
Q: There is a theory that the longer they make the course, whether it’s here or The Masters or whatever, that fewer golfers can really win. Do you subscribe to that theory? In other words, people are saying that make only 15 or 20 guys are capable at this length of winning here this week.
Tiger Woods: Well, it does eliminate a lot of the guys who can’t hit the ball long and high. You know, when you get to golf courses that are playing soft like this, it certainly does show up. Most of the guys you see at Augusta when it’s wet, most of them are high ball hitters. Chris hits it very, I wouldn’t say very long, but he’s not short, but he’s a high ball hitter; he hits everything straight up, so it helps.
At the U.S. Open, you saw a whole mixture of guys because the fairways were running so fast that anybody could play. When you get golf courses that are soft, and then you add that they are long, you tend to see high ball hitters, and on top of that, most of them are usually long, as well.
Q: Before you mentioned that maybe the novelty wasn’t there, at least the perception; if you were going to win three majors, but if you were to win here, three majors and a second and in that second being in contention really until the 17th hole, how significant would that be in your mind?
Tiger Woods: That would be huge, huge. I mean, to have won three majors in a year, that’s pretty cool. Hopefully it will happen again this year. A long way to go. Got a long way to go before that happens.
Q: First off, did you have any problems finding a parking spot today?
Tiger Woods: Yeah, you noticed that yesterday?
Tiger Woods: Yeah.
Q: Did you?
Tiger Woods: No, the car wasn’t there.
Q: And the last couple of weeks, have you thought that if you made a few more putts at Pinehurst, kind of going back to the last question, or Michael had not made those long bombs on the back nine, have you thought about what you might be looking at this week?
Tiger Woods: No. I didn’t look I swear, I didn’t look at it that way.
I looked at the fact it was disappointing to putt poorly for all four days. Yeah, Michael made some putts, but he did what he needed to do to win the tournament, and I didn’t. I did not put the way I needed to putt all four days to win our National Championship. I hit the ball like I was supposed to, but I just didn’t put like I was supposed to. Michael, he did all facets of his game; he did what he needed to do to win that championship and he did.
For me, it was disappointing because I wasn’t able to have one facet of my game that I think is always pretty good, not to be there. It wasn’t there when I needed it the most, and that was disappointing for me.
Q: You said the atmosphere is not like it was in 2000, but how does the experience of the pursuit compare this year to then?
Tiger Woods: The drive is still the same to go out there and win the championship, put myself there and hopefully come out on top. That hasn’t changed. That’s still the same.
Q: Tiger Woods, folks, thank you very much.
Source – US PGA Championship
Photo Anthony Powter