Tiger Woods Pre-Tournament Interview - US Open
BY iseekgolf.com | US PGA Tour | 2006 US Open | Preview | 15 Jun 2006
Q: What have been your preparations leading up to this week at Winged Foot?
Tiger Woods: Well, I haven’t played a whole lot of tournaments. I’ve had a little time off, as everyone already knows, nine weeks off. I didn’t really do much after Augusta with my father being ill and obviously him passing. So I really did not do a whole lot of things associated with golf. I was with my family for much of the time and just trying to get through things.
The thing that’s been amazing over this break has been the support, the letters that we’ve gotten, the calls, the emails. I mean, it’s been really eye opening and made things just so much easier from all the people who have said some really nice things to us, our entire family and friends and everyone who was associated with that. That’s been warm and near to all of our hearts.
From that standpoint, all the support has made things so much easier for all of us, and I can’t thank everyone enough for that because I’ve never experienced anything like it. It’s been very hard on our family, but I think that the funeral and everything that transpired was I think what Dad would have wanted.
And I’m here to compete and play and try to win this championship. I know that Dad would still want me to go out there and grind it and give it my best, and that’s what I always do. That’s what I will certainly try to do this week.
Q: You had the chance to see a little bit of the golf course. Can you give us your thoughts on Winged Foot West.
Tiger Woods: Well, the golf course is playing so much different than it was the last time we were here. Obviously the trees were not there; the rough is a lot higher; the golf course is much longer. The greens are soft for now, but who knows, they might get even softer with rain coming in. It will play a little bit differently than what we had in ’97.
I wasn’t here for ’84. It’ll certainly play longer than it did in ’97. And whenever it blows here, this golf course can be just unbelievably difficult.
Q: One of the amateurs out here in the field this week, Dillon Dougherty, caddied some of your matches while you were at Stanford. Does it make you laugh to think that someone who caddied for you is out here playing in this tournament with you?
Tiger Woods: I guess I’m getting older. I think it’s pretty neat that he qualified and got in the event and earned his way here. So hats off. This is one heck of a championship to play in, and on top of that, to play at this great golf course, it’s sort of a memory that he will always remember.
Hopefully he can play better than how I played when he caddied for me.
Q: Would you talk about how long you went without hitting a ball, swinging a club, and just talk about the process of when you thought it was time to get back to work, whether you needed to, whether you felt it, what?
Tiger Woods: Well, I took quite a bit of time off. I really had no desire to get back to the game of golf. I think one of the hardest things for me in all honesty was to get back to the game of golf because a lot of my memories, great memories that I have with my dad are at the golf course.
It was hard at times going out there late in the evening like I always do, like to practice, and I remember going out there, and I remember starting back any time you take a time off and start back, you always work on your fundamentals grip, posture, stance, alignment. Well, that’s what I learned from Dad.
So from that standpoint, it was certainly a little more difficult than I had expected. But also then again, it brought back so many great memories, and every time I thought back I always had a smile on my face. As I was grinding and getting ready, it was also one of the great times, too, to remember and think back on all the lessons, life lessons Dad taught me through the game of golf. All these things come rushing back at you.
It’s certainly one of the things you never want to go through, but then again, it brought back so many great memories.
Q: This is a non golf related question but definitely in the news. Ben Roethlisberger’s injury, and you recently went bunge jumping. What is it about professional athletes that are willing to take risks like that and feel the need for adventure?
Tiger Woods: Well, I think it’s anyone, really. If you love I look at it this way: I’ll live once, and I enjoy going for par 5s in two. It’s an adrenalin rush, to compete and try and get ourselves in the biggest mix. It’s a fun thing to have.
I’ve never ridden a motorcycle, so I don’t know what the rush is there, but I’m sure there is. I’ve bunge jumped and done other crazy things. I can tell you my ideas as a kid, but those are worse than what I’ve done now. I’m not going to talk about it, Mom is probably watching.
Q: Two real quick ones: How long did you go without touching a club?
Tiger Woods: Well over a month, easy.
Q: And secondly, are you concerned about rust? You took two months off after knee surgery and you won your first start back. How is this different from that in relation to winning a major, and physical versus emotional?
Tiger Woods: Yeah, I mean, I think the two times I’ve taken my longest breaks have been after my knee surgery in 2002 and this past winter, taking, I guess, six weeks off or whatever it was. Both times I’ve come back and I’ve won. It’s just one of those things where it’s your preparation, your practice, your attention to detail when you are preparing. That’s something that I’ve learned and I’ve done very well, I think, in the past, and it’s applied to this stretch.
I’ve had plenty of time to get ready; I just didn’t feel that I was ready to deal with all this and also try and prepare for the Open. I’d much rather kind of deal with it all at once and get it over with and not have to worry about what are you going to do for the Open? Well, I’m already here, so it’s kind of sweet.
Q: Given your father’s feistiness, how do you think he would have thought about you taking this much time off? Would he have wanted you to do that, or did you have an opportunity to talk to him about that?
Tiger Woods: No. Dad was always adamant of whenever you’re ready to play, play. If you’re not ready, don’t play. If you’re not mentally ready to play, you’re not going to be there. So he was always adamant for my entire career as a golfer to take more time off. He thought I always played too much. I played 20 times a year on Tour, he said, “Why are you playing so much?” Because of the things that I had to deal with and the amount of time that I prepare for events, he’s always told me to take more time off.
So for this stretch, I think he certainly would have approved.
Q: I just wonder, you’ve had two days of practice here. Can you talk about the state of your game right now? How are you playing? How did you play the course?
Tiger Woods: I’m very excited the way I’ve played at home and even more excited the way I’ve played here. This golf course is very difficult. You’ve got to be very patient, hit the ball really solid off the tee, but also position your irons well. You can’t have one part of your game missing; you’ve got to have everything come together. I’m very excited the way I’ve played the last couple days, and I’m looking forward to Thursday.
Q: Two quick ones for you: First of all, what came back the quickest in your game as far as the progress of it? And secondly, was there a specific memory when you picked the club back up, a specific memory about your dad going back to what you talked about with fundamentals and things of that nature?
Tiger Woods: When it comes to that, the second part of your question was I had so many great memories of Dad, Dad with the game of golf, things that I kind of had forgotten about. But since I was out there practicing alone, it would come back to me. As I said, it always put a smile on my face. We’re going through a difficult time with Mom and I and our friends and family, but I’d always smile back when I think back to my childhood. It’s one of those things where I’m very lucky to have that. And I can say that with truth and honesty that I have a smile on my face every time I think back to my childhood because not everyone has that. I was very lucky.
Q: What came back the fastest?
Tiger Woods: I’d have to say my ball striking. It’s funny because every time you come back from a layoff, you always hit it great the first day. You never miss a shot the first day back.
The second day it’s some idiot with a club. You hit it all over the planet. But it’s always the third day, how are you doing on the third day. Pleasantly surprised, I actually hit it pretty good the third day, and then it got progressively better. It was nice to see that, for my game to come back that quick.
It wasn’t like I was not thinking about my swing for this time because every once in a while I kind of would think about my game a little bit. So I kind of had I basically had a game plan for what I wanted to do when I came back.
Q: Is this thought of having to play to be competitive, is that overrated?
Tiger Woods: Well, I’ve taken time off and I’ve won, so some guys like to play a lot prior to events and play their way into shape. I’ve always practiced my way into shape. It all depends on the person, it really does.
Q: I was just wondering, Padraig Harrington last week was talking about obviously losing his dad and how therapeutic it was for him to get back on the golf course. I wonder, now that you’ve gotten back on, when you’re out there with your buddies like with Slu yesterday, is it a little therapeutic and get you away from it at all?
Tiger Woods: Yes and no, because as I said, a lot of my memories of Dad come from the game of golf. For me I’m really looking forward to competing because that’s when all of you guys go away (laughter), the gallery goes I don’t mean that mean, but I’m so focused on what I need to do I need to position my golf ball here, need to position my golf ball there that everything else kind of goes away. That’s something I’m really looking forward to.
Q: Last time we saw you at Augusta you were ready to break your putter in half I believe you said.
Tiger Woods: Yes.
Q: How much of your preparation was focused on putting, and how confident are you in that aspect of your game, especially on these greens?
Tiger Woods: Well, quite a bit. I mean, these greens are some of the most severe greens you’ll ever face. I practice my putting quite a bit.
I had a putter fixed. It was not in the same playing position that I had ended the tournament with (laughter), so I had to. Now it’s back to normal.
I’ve done quite a bit of practicing with my putting and my speed and my line and working on my fundamentals again, just making sure you roll the ball correctly at the correct pace here, because bad pace here, you’re going to be punished because of the slopes of these greens.
Q: You said 30 days without touching a club or thereabouts. Have you ever gone that long without touching a club since you’ve been playing?
Tiger Woods: Yeah.
Q: You have?
Tiger Woods: This winter.
Q: And the other thing is, have you given thought to whether when you’re out there in the heat of the moment competing here in this championship, are you concerned at all about the emotional drain that thoughts of your father might exact on you?
Tiger Woods: No, not at all. I’m there to compete, I’m there to win the tournament, and all my energy is going towards that. We’ve gone through a lot already. Hitting a golf ball around like this is actually the easy part. Going through what we had to go through everyone has got to go through it, but it’s never easy.
Q: Along the same lines, I imagine the reception you’ve received from players and caddies has been fairly warm, perhaps even overwhelming. Did you at all give thought to coming back at say Memorial to sort of go through the emotional process of returning to competitive golf and to this arena?
Tiger Woods: I thought about coming back there, earlier, as well as later. I didn’t feel that I could be as focused as I could be to win the championship. As I said, if you’re not focused 100 percent on winning a championship, there’s really no need to go play, so I didn’t. I didn’t come back until I felt that I was ready to win a championship.
Q: In terms of course preparation, which holes do you think are likely not to be hitting driver, and what’s going to dictate whether hit driver on 6?
Tiger Woods: Obviously today was dead into the wind, so I can’t even come close to getting there dead into the wind. If it’s downwind and we get the right pin location, yeah, I’d probably go for it. But there are a lot of holes where I’m hitting 3 wood because of the doglegs. I run out of room hitting a driver and I have to shape it around the corner, which really makes no sense because the fairways get so narrow. So I’ll probably hit about four or five 3 woods out there. 6 could be a 4 iron, 3 iron or driver.
Q: Are you going to be watching out for last year’s winner Michael Campbell?
Tiger Woods: Yeah, I’m playing with him (laughter).
Q: As a competitor?
Tiger Woods: We’re in the same boat. We’re trying to put ourselves in position to win the championship. The first day setting yourself up for the next three days. You know, that’s the way you have to look at it. It’s a long way to go. And I don’t care who you’re playing with or you’re paired up with, you’ve got to play and you’ve got to go out there and grind it away and post a number that will get you in contention and hopefully win the championship.
Q: What do you think about your professional career the last ten years? Were you estimating you would do this much before becoming a professional? Were you expecting these things?
Tiger Woods: Well, I expected to play well, but I obviously didn’t expect to have as much success as I’ve had, to win ten major championships before the age of 30, I did not expect that. I expected to contend in majors and hopefully win my share, but to win ten, no one has ever done that before age 30, so I’m very lucky.
I’ve put myself in position, worked very hard, changed my game to make sure it evolved, kept progressing, getting better, and major championships are where it’s at. I’m very excited that I’ve done well in my 20s, and hopefully in my 30s that I’ll continue to get better.
Q: There seems to be talk about your latest advertisement for Nike. I was wondering whether it was an obvious tribute to your dad.
Tiger Woods: It’s not a tribute to my father, it’s a tribute to all fathers. We’re trying to celebrate Fathers’ Day. Basically this was what was going on prior, well before my father passed, so it’s something that we’re trying to celebrate Father’s Day and make sure that all fathers are recognized and appreciated.
Q: When did you know you were going to be you were ready, that this was the event you would come back and play? When did that decision get made? And also, when you look back at Sunday at Augusta and what you were going through mentally and emotionally, did it have any impact on how you performed that last day?
Tiger Woods: As far as when did I expect to play here, probably a few weeks ago. When I didn’t play Memorial and felt I was close to being ready, but I wasn’t ready to play and win. As I said, if I’m not there to win, then I’m not going. After I made the decision, when I felt I was close to being ready, then eventually my juices got to where I was ready to win again.
As far as my putting at Augusta, you know, it’s just one of those weird things. I had a bad day at the wrong time. The entire day on the putting green warming up, I did not have my speed, and I was trying I did all my little drills to try and get my speed back, I just didn’t have it. I thought, well, hopefully it’ll go away.
Sometimes you get on the golf course and you putt great. That day I putted terrible. It wasn’t because I was trying too hard, I just did not have my speed. If you don’t have your speed at Augusta, you get exposed, and I got exposed pretty good because I could not hit my ball at the right speed for the line I chose.
Q: You talked a little bit about the support you received. I’m wondering what kind of words you heard from some of the companies you work with and what, if anything, you learned about your professional relationships with those companies through this difficult time.
Tiger Woods: As I said, the overwhelming support, the letters and the emails and the phone calls really shocked me. I was very surprised. All the companies that I work with, again, the people that I haven’t talked to in years called. It really was, it was eye opening. It made this time in my life and my mom’s and all the friends that my dad knew and had, it made it a lot easier, it really did.
All those people and the support that we’ve gotten, it made things so much easier to go through. It wasn’t an easy time, but people made it so much easier.
Q: Everybody knows what Sunday is. I’m wondering whether that gives you a little extra spark or you can allow yourself to think about that, and then secondly, you sort of did the whole Lion King “Circle of Life.” On your break you also were best man in a wedding. I was wondering what that was like and maybe you could elaborate on the bunge jumping car crash part of your time off, too.
Tiger Woods: To be honest with you, it was nice to get away for a little bit after the things that we’ve had to deal with prior to that. It was nice to actually have a break and get away.
I asked Dad, “Hey, Pop, do you think I should go?”
He said, “I’m not going anywhere. Get your ass out of here. Go be with Stevie. That’s where you need to be.”
So when I got back, we had a great conversation about it. It was really neat. It’s always special to be a part of a wedding, but also to be the best man. As close as Stevie and I are, you see us on the golf course, but away from the golf course, as close as we’ve become actually it was a little bit of a tear jerker. I was best man at Jerry’s wedding, but honestly, Stevie’s I get emotional talking about it because they’re near and dear to my heart. It’s quite an honor for them to ask me to be a part of something so momentous in their life and something that I will always remember and always cherish the rest of my life.
Q: Sunday factor?
Tiger Woods: Sunday is hopefully a day where I can win the championship. It is what it is. I’ve got three days to hopefully play good golf and put myself in position to where I can win the championship.
Q: I know this might be difficult to boil down, but what would you say your father’s special gift was as a coach?
Tiger Woods: Love (smiling). That’s basically it. The love that we shared for one another and the respect that we had for one another was something that’s pretty special, it really is.
To have had my dad in my life and have him be that supportive and that nurturing, it’s pretty cool because obviously there are times when I would have easily gone down the wrong path, but Dad was always there.
Q: There have been horror stories about the rough. How did you find it and how would you rank it on a scale of US Open severity?
Tiger Woods: Well, it was tough early today. When we played the back nine, they were cutting it, so it became a little bit easier on the back nine. But I think that’s the last time we’re going to see clippers.
Q: Can you talk about the importance of Father’s Day for your growing up? Was it as important as Christmas or something like that? Talk about some of the things you used to do on Father’s Day with your dad. Secondly, can you talk about how much you missed the Tour if you missed it at all, and did you follow it during the break?
Tiger Woods: Did I follow it? Not really. My mind was occupied with other things. As far as Father’s Day, you know what, Father’s Day was actually a pretty cool day because I would always try and beat my dad on the golf course and then come back home and catch the back nine of the US Open. That’s usually how it worked when I was growing up.
It was always a great day when I beat my dad, and then we’d go home and watch the US Open. It wasn’t always a great day when he beat me and then we’d go home and watch the US Open.
Q: Do you remember the you first time you beat him?
Tiger Woods: I beat Dad when I was 11. I shot 71 to his 72 at the Navy Golf Course. I birdied 16 and 18, made about a 15 footer, a little right to left. I gave it the fist pump walking off the green and everything. It went in, and we celebrated.
Q: Are your recent adventures with the car racing and bunge jumping and the scuba spelunking, what gives you the biggest rush, and in your conversations with your dad when you came back, what did he think of those activities?
Tiger Woods: Well, he did it for a living, jumped out of airplanes and doing that kind of stuff for Special Forces. That’s what he had to do. He said, “I had to do it; why would you do it?” He was pretty funny about it, he really was.
I enjoy that part of life. I love living it, I love every day of living life to its fullest, and that to me puts a smile on my face every day.
Q: Based on this week there’s a big deal on how far the rough is cut. Further off the fairway obviously it’s going to be longer. Does that change your mindset on hitting 3 wood versus hitting a driver?
Tiger Woods: No, not at all. A lot of the 3 woods are only just because of the angle of the doglegs. I just run out of room. If you’ve got to hook a corner and take it over the doglegs, then you run the chance of it hitting trees over the corners. That to me is there’s really no need to take that risk because most of the holes that I do hit 3 wood on, I’m still hitting between 9 iron and 6 iron into the greens. So it doesn’t really change a whole lot by hitting driver except for bringing more trouble into play.
Q: You just kind of exhibited something about what I’m going to ask you about your dad, but how good is your memory on a golf course? When you come out here on Thursday, will you remember the way the wind might have blown in ’97 or the slope of a fairway? Are you good at recalling things like that at different courses you play?
Tiger Woods: Well, for the most part, yeah. I remember a lot of the bad shots I hit and I remember some of the putts that I did misread, some of the hole locations I didn’t think they’d ever put a pin on that they did. Those are things you just remember and play it back and apply it to this week.
Q: The New York crowds are really loud. You’re going to hear a lot of “do it for your dad,” “do it for Earl,” will you even hear that?
Tiger Woods: I’m sure I’ll hear it because they’ll yell it right in your ear (laughter). As far as draw on it, I’m just going to go out there and be focused on what I need to do. It’s awfully nice, as I said earlier, to get the support. On weeks like this, it’s always nice to get support because the golf courses are so brutal. A lot of times at a low period it’s nice to have the fans out there supporting you and wishing you the best.
Q: Considering the winner of the past two majors, are you starting to feel more of a competitive rivalry with Phil more so than any other player since you’ve been pro?
Tiger Woods: Well, you keep asking me things like that. You have runs where Ernie was there for a little bit, then Vijay, Goose, and now Phil. I suppose as long as I can be part of that conversation, it’s never a bad thing.
Q: Knowing Jack Nicklaus’s affair with his dad and relationship and knowing how he reaches out to people often during times like this, I wondered if he reached out to you and if there’s anything you could share with us that he said to you.
Tiger Woods: Yes. Might I share it with you, no. But yes, Jack did make a phone call. Awfully nice.
Q: Is there a key to winning a US Open? Does it start with patience? Is there any certain word you would tell someone you have to have certain elements to win a United States Open?
Tiger Woods: Yeah, heart, because you’re going to go through periods where it’s just tough. It tests every bit of you. But if you’ve got a heart, you’re going to be all right.
Q: What are you going to miss most about your dad, and can you talk about he gave you a little piece of gold at one time? Do you still carry that, and what is the significance of it?
Tiger Woods: I don’t really carry it with me, no. I’m not going to put gold in my pocket in case I lose it. Am I going to miss my dad? I’m always going to miss my dad, each and every day I live. I’m going to always love my dad and will always miss him, always miss just having a chance to rap with him. It could be about anything, I didn’t care. That was the neat thing about our relationship.
It could be about business or I’m giving him a directive for the Foundation, what we need to do, or it could be about the golf swing or it could be about life, could be about anything and everything. Our relationship was so unique in that we could put on different hats, and there’s certainly something of that that I’ll always miss.
Source – US Open
Photo – Anthony Powter