Tiger Woods Interview: Chevron Challenge

BY iseekgolf.com | US PGA Tour | 2008 Chevron World Challenge | General | 20 Dec 2008

The Moderator: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you all for being here. Among his many other feats, the man to my right has won here four times, he’s our defending champion, but most importantly he’s our host here once again for the Chevron World Challenge.

It’s been a while since we’ve had a chance to catch up to you, so how about just some opening thoughts, the state of your game, how you’re feeling?

Tiger Woods: Okay, well, it’s great to be here. Obviously we have a new sponsor in Chevron and our presenting sponsor Bank of America. As you all know, this is our tenth year, ninth year here, so we’re very excited to be here again.

One new thing to report, I’m sure you guys already have the press release on it, is our World Ranking points for next year, something that we’re very proud of and very excited for for next year, and to have that opportunity I think is going to draw an even better field than we’ve had over the years, and we’re really looking forward to that.

For me, I’ve just been training and trying to get back, trying to get healthy enough to compete next year. Everything has been right on schedule. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

Q: You talked about being right on schedule. Do you have any preliminary idea of what that schedule might be?

Tiger Woods: No, because I don’t – I haven’t hit full shots with my entire bag yet. As far as coming back, I don’t know. I don’t know how it’s going to respond, you know, with repeated practice days and long days of practice trying to get back, and ultimately playing my way into shape. That’s obviously going to take a little bit of time.

Q: Considering the seriousness of the injury, how difficult has this rehabilitation process been for you?

Tiger Woods: Well, on two levels – on one level it’s been absolutely something I’d never want to do again, and then on another part it’s been just the greatest time in the world. For me training every day, it’s been a little rough at times but getting through it. But being able to spend time at home with Sam and watch her grow, it’s something I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do. I would have been playing and traveling quite a bit, so from that standpoint it’s been a blessing.

Q: You hadn’t expected to be able to hit shots until January, so the fact that you’re hitting some shots now, are you a little bit further ahead –

Tiger Woods: In that sense, yes. The leg has responded well, the strength. I’m actually stronger in my legs than I think I’ve ever been. But still, you have to understand the healing process of the ligament. The ligament is only going to heal so fast, and you’ve got to be responsible for your actions, and I can’t stretch that out.

As much as my legs have responded, they weren’t the ones that were really cut. The ligament has a certain amount of healing time, as I said, and that’s something that you have to adhere to.

Q: I’ve got to ask you about Stevie. Can you talk about any further reaction to it?

Tiger Woods: Yeah, what ended up happening is I communicated with Phil, and we have discussed it. I talked to Stevie about it, and he feels bad, what happened. At this point it happened at all, and it’s something that none of us really wanted to have happen, but it’s over and done with and we put it to bed.

Q: Welcome home. Did you not talk to the weather man before you came here?

Tiger Woods: I’ll tell you, this is unbelievable. We wish it could have been better than this, but hey, I’m not playing (laughter).

Q: I was going to ask you about that. How strange is it to host the event but actually not play in it this year?

Tiger Woods: It is frustrating because it means so much to me to come back here to southern California, and the things that – the support we’ve gotten over the years. We couldn’t have built the learning center without the support of the local community and this tournament. None of that would have happened.

So for me not to play, it is frustrating. I want to be out there and competing and trying to mix it up with the boys, but it is what it is, and fortunately it’s not going to happen this year, but I look forward to next year coming back.

Q: You talked about having time with your daughter, and at the same time how difficult the rehab and the injury has been. In your time away from PGA events, did you gain a different perspective or view of the game that you could only get watching it?

Tiger Woods: Well, I certainly have had – as I’ve said to you guys before in the past, when my best is not good enough, I’m not going to be out here competing. You know, I certainly understand that more so now than ever before, because you know, if I had to play this week, my game is not ready for public consumption. I couldn’t display it right you now. I wouldn’t want to. I wouldn’t want you guys to see me out there playing that poorly. I’m just not ready yet.

So in that regard, I have a better understanding of where my future lies. But as far as watching the guys, it’s very interesting you say that because I had a harder time understanding what they were going through because I was laid up in bed and not being able to move for so many weeks, not being able to do anything, and to see these guys wheeling on their legs and play, I missed it. I missed being out here and being able to do that.

Q: In the time you’ve had off, how much time have you spent thinking about or working on course design? Obviously you’ve had more time to do that than you would have were you playing. And in terms of the projects you’ve got going, do you have more on the table right now, and do you also envision coming up with any public access courses, as well?

Tiger Woods: First part of the question, quite a bit. With the time off I’ve been able to really be focused on golf course design, and I’ve learned so much over this time. If you look around our house, you’ll see topo maps everywhere, same with my office. So from that standpoint it’s been a lot of fun to work on these three projects.

As far as the future lies, we’re getting projects presented to us all the time. It’s a matter of picking the right ones and working with the right partners on hopefully some great, great sites.

What was the last part of your question? Any public facilities? When I’m done with my potential career, there will be a whole gamut, everything from public to private and everything in between.

Q: You said you haven’t hit full shots with your entire bag yet. Could you talk about when did you hit your first full shot and how many have you hit?

Tiger Woods: As far as hitting full shots, probably the last couple weeks. So obviously I haven’t really progressed too far into the bag. The ball is not going very far, so I kind of know how you guys feel (laughter).

You know, that flag out there 100 yards, boy, that’s a long way. But it is fun to actually get outside and start swinging again and working on my short game. I’ve chipped and putted for a while, but as far as making bigger swings, I’ve actually just started.

Q: Do you have any pain or stiffness or scar tissue?

Tiger Woods: No, the scarring was something – it was just in insertion areas and we had to break that up initially right after the surgery. That wasn’t a whole lot of fun. But as far as everything else, the strength has come back better than ever. As I said, I’m stronger than I’ve ever been in my legs. The range of motion is good. The only difference is I’ve just got to watch that I don’t overdo it so the leg doesn’t swell. But I haven’t had much swelling, I haven’t had much pain. I had a lot of pain initially early on, but lately, no.

Q: I know retirement talk would be a long way off, but did this layoff make you feel like you enjoyed it so much that you could retire earlier?

Tiger Woods: Well, what I tried to answer earlier is I could totally understand walking away from the game. I don’t want to play when I know I can’t play at this level, you know, at the highest of levels. I couldn’t stand it. Right now if you wanted me to go out there and play right now, I couldn’t stand to go out there and not be able to fully compete against these guys and not really give them a run for their money. I couldn’t handle that part of it.

That definitely gave me a better appreciation for my future and leaving the game of golf competitively. As far as trying to make monies off my buddies, I will always do that. But as far as competing at the highest of levels, yeah, I can see – I have a better appreciation for when that day comes.

Q: Is it your intention to try to play a couple events before the Masters, and if so, what kind of criteria are you going to need to get to to make that decision?

Tiger Woods: Well, as far as intention, yes, that’s always been an intent. As far as reality, that’s two different things. I don’t know. That’s the most frustrating thing is the uncertainty. How is the leg going to respond to more hours of practicing, more playing, more holes of play, playing at home? How is it going to recover from day to day to day? All this is unknown. Everyone heals at different rates. I couldn’t tell you and my surgeon can’t tell you, trainers can’t tell you.

It is frustrating from that standpoint because I want to look forward to something, but I just look forward to day by day, and I’ve had to learn how to process that and just kind of focus on what I have to do today, instead of looking down, okay, in a few months I want to be able to do this or I want to play this event. I’ve had to narrow down and be more short-term and goal-oriented.

Q: If it came to that, would you make the Masters (indiscernible)?

Tiger Woods: No, it’s not the easiest place to come back, no. Would I want that scenario to happen? No, I wouldn’t want it to. But if I can play, then I’d like to be able to tee it up.

Q: What have they told you about how you may or may not have to change your swing or how you attack the ball to prevent this from happening again, and how much is there a concern that the repetition that you have to do time and time and time again to practice and play and the stress you put on it that this is just going to be a recurring issue?

Tiger Woods: As far as recurring, no, because this is something Hank and I have been trying to do is not basically snap my left leg, which I had done. But I kept telling Henry over the years that I can’t stop doing that. My leg won’t – I can’t hold it. And eventually over the last year, I couldn’t do it. I would snap the leg to try and get off of it, and back out my hips, which you don’t want to do. I did a lot of things to compensate for this leg, and just in the last couple weeks to be able to hit fuller shots, it’s stable. It was like, hey, this is what people actually play with; this is kind of nice. And I’m looking forward to having that kind of stability in my leg.

We’ve been trying to play with a softer left leg, but I can’t. There was nothing there. The ACL was – I remember in 2002 when they went in there in December to clean it out and they found out I only had about 20 percent of my ACL left. The fact that I made it this far was amazing without it rupturing, and when it finally did, I played well, but I didn’t play the way I wanted to play, technique-wise, and it was actually kind of nice to be able to, over this process, as I build up, start hitting more lengthy clubs and lengthy shots, see how this thing feels.

Right now it feels great to have that stability in the leg. It feels stronger, more stable. It’s not sliding all over the place; my bones aren’t moving. Things that I was dealing with, I don’t feel that anymore.

Q: I heard you’re doing a lot of swimming. I was wondering if you could talk about that as a form of rehab maybe being different for you. Also you look leaner than at the Open. What are you down to and what are you trying to accomplish there?

Tiger Woods: Swimming, yeah, it’s definitely part of the rehab process, getting in there and recovering or doing my cardio in there, as well. Just the offloading of water helps a lot, helps a lot with the swelling, I guess, the hydrostatic pressure of being in the water helps a lot.

As far as leaner, I am a little bit leaner. I’m glad you noticed. I’m two pounds lighter than I was during the Open (laughter). That’s a pretty good observation.

You know, I do feel a lot better because I’m able to lift differently and my cardio is up now. I’m starting to do a lot more cardio than I did before because I couldn’t do it, the leg would swell too much.

As far as physical fitness, I’m so much better than I was in June.

Q: Is swimming a new thing for you?

Tiger Woods: I’ve always done it, all my life.

Q: Having effectively defied doctors’ orders to compete at Torrey Pines, would you describe yourself as an obedient but frustrated patient over the last six months?

Tiger Woods: Yeah, very, and both. Obedience led to the frustration. As an athlete you’re always used to pushing it, used to getting out there if you’re a little bit injured, a little bit hurt. It is what it is, you go out there and compete and you just go through it.

This is different. You know, this is – when you’re dealing with an injury and a surgery like this, this is a lot more extensive. In order to have that not repeat again you’re going to have to listen to the doctors. I certainly have done that and I will continue to do that.

Q: During your absence there was a search to see who would step forward, and there was a lot of focus at the end of the year on Anthony and Camilo and a little bit of Sergio. I wonder if you could just talk about that and if you’re expecting that to be a challenge, given their age and whatnot?

Tiger Woods: As far as the younger guys, Anthony and Camilo play well. You knew that was coming, their talent. That was just a matter of time before they broke through and won events.

Sergio has become more consistent. He’s playing better. He’s playing all around the world and playing well, so it goes to show you that he’s made improvements.

Paddy, we always knew that he was – once he won one major, and the way he did it, he was going to win it again. It just gave him that kind of confidence, and obviously he won two in a row.

But it was nice to see Paddy play as well as he has. It was just a matter of – as I said, a matter of time. The confidence you get from winning one, and then two just proves it to you that one wasn’t a fluke, and it gives you all that confidence in the world. And look how he did it; he shot 32 on the back nine on both of them.

He got it done the right way. He went out and earned it. That gives you a lot to confidence. To see the young guys playing better only is going to make it deeper next year and more difficult to win events.

Q: Did you vote for Paddy?

Tiger Woods: I did actually.

Q: Why?

Tiger Woods: He won two.

Q: Is that all it comes down to?

Tiger Woods: Yeah.

Q: Do you think at the high frequency that you’ve been winning over the last several years, do you think your absence may have emboldened these guys by allowing them maybe more chances to win?

Tiger Woods: I don’t know. That’s up to them, I think. You’d have to ask them. I’ve had a nice little run over the last couple years, and I guess by not being there, I don’t know if it made them feel better about it or not; I don’t know. But you know, they’ve played well. You can see those guys making improvements along the way anyways, it was just a matter of time.

Q: Other athletes coming back from what you’ve had talk about fear, whether it’s fear of not being the same, whether it’s fear that the leg, they’re going to feel it with the swing or a hit or a run. Can you talk about fear?

Tiger Woods: Well, not fear for me because no one is going to be hitting it. A little different than Tom Brady comes back and 350-pound guys are falling at his feet. I mean, we don’t have that in our sport. It’s not that type of fear.

Is there hesitancy? Yes, there’s no doubt. As I’ve progressed through my shorter clubs, hitting fuller shots, you remember what it was like when you hit a full shot, and for me the last time I really hit a full shot was at the Open. It didn’t feel very good. And it’s something that everyone has to overcome and has to go through.

I remember ski racers telling me when they come back from an ACL or any kind of leg injury that they never put the metal down – the pedal all the way down until they had their first crash in practice and walk away from it, and then they know it’s okay. That’s basically how I am with full shots. You have to hit one club at a time and hit it full and feel, okay, I felt nothing there, nice, because the last time I did it back in June, as I said, it didn’t feel very good.

Q: You mentioned in the early weeks after the surgery that you were laid up in bed and couldn’t move the leg. Can you talk about what that time was like, how you filled the days?

Tiger Woods: It was brutal. The first three weeks, the swelling in the leg and the pain, I just can’t – it’s hard to describe to you the pain, and then trying to mobilize it, trying to move it. Oh, the atrophy that went along with it, you know, you had no muscle there, no leg, and it hurt like hell. So the first – you know, I didn’t start feeling pretty good until probably three months after postop, three and a half months, where I felt like I could do most activities, and then about four months out, I felt pretty normal, and now I feel great.

Q: Because of the pain, the excruciating pain that you had down at Torrey Pines, the length of the tournament, the difficult shots that you had to make, where do you rank that victory among all the rest that you have?

Tiger Woods: It was different. I still think my biggest win was at the Masters in ‘97. You know, this one at this Open as well as the Open in 2000 are right there, but for different reasons. I’d much rather do it the way I did in 2000 than the way I did it last year.

Q: Have you watched tape of The Open much maybe during your rehab or when you were laid up? And also, at any point did you marvel at what you were able to accomplish? Have you thought back and wondered how you actually did that?

Tiger Woods: I’m still trying to figure that out. You know, I have watched highlight packages. I haven’t watched the normal coverage of it. I really didn’t want to. Just some of the highlights was nice; that will suffice. I didn’t want to watch shot after shot, my bad ones, and watching the leg – I remember certain shots, how much – how they didn’t feel good, and I didn’t want to relive that time and time and time again.

The highlight packages were mostly putts, so that was totally cool. You don’t have to move much on putting.

Q: Are you aware of when you first injured your knee? And then looking back at the Open, you said you’ve seen some of the highlights. Are you more amazed now that you actually pulled it off?

Tiger Woods: Yeah, am I more amazed? Yes, no doubt. As far as hurting my knee, my knee has always been sore. I used to do really stupid things as a kid. I’m not saying what because my mom is probably watching, so I’m not going to tell her what I used to do. But there were some pretty stupid things, yeah.

Q: Long-term?

Tiger Woods: Long-term this is the greatest thing that could have happened is to go in there and reconstruct it. Now it’s better than it’s been in over a decade.

Q: The actual competition, how much have you missed that, and has that tempted you at all to want to come back sooner than maybe you should?

Tiger Woods: As far as competing, I do miss that. That’s something that I’ve always done. I love competing. I just had to do it in different ways. It wasn’t always golf in there during this rehab process. One way of competing was with myself, can I do the same thing I did in the gym the day before or can I swim a little bit faster, can I ride the bike just a little bit faster, can I lift maybe one more plate, things like that. That was my competition is I had to put it into a different form.

Do I miss being out here? No doubt. I do miss being out here with the guys and playing and trying to win events. But as far as coming back earlier, no, because I don’t – one, I don’t want to go through this process again; and two, I’m not ready yet.

Q: If you can give us a little behind-the-curtain view, post-round each day how difficult was it going back to the hotel and trying to prepare for the next day? And were there doubts in your mind going forward each day about whether you would be able to do it?

Tiger Woods: I was going to play. As far as everyone else having doubts, yeah, there were; you really shouldn’t be doing this and blah blah blah. Okay, yeah, whatever.

Yeah, I was going to get out there and compete. But at night it wasn’t a whole lot of fun. The swelling – there was no kneecap left, and the swelling was big enough where you really can’t see it. And Keith did a hell of a job trying to reduce that, just hours of treatment every night late into the night, just working it, trying to get that swelling out so I could basically cause it again tomorrow. That wasn’t a whole lot of fun, but it had to be done. The only unfortunate thing is it kept getting worse every day, and I got through it somehow.

Q: Having said that, you looked more comfortable on Monday than on Saturday and Sunday. Why was that?

Tiger Woods: Probably because I probably took more pain pills. It wasn’t because of the swelling or the soreness, I just covered it up a little bit better.

Q: Two questions: As a member of the PGA TOUR you were eligible for drug testing even though you weren’t playing. Did the TOUR ever come to your house?

Tiger Woods: No.

Q: Were you expecting them at all?

Tiger Woods: Yeah, actually.

Q: Secondly, there’s been so much speculation since June about so many surgeries that you’ll never be the same. Is there any doubt or any question that you’ll be better than you were before?

Tiger Woods: Well, I don’t want to be the same. I don’t want to do that. I want to become better. I want to become better than I was, and this leg will help me in that process.

Q: Are you preparing yourself emotionally if things don’t go well the first couple of tournaments, if it’s slower than you think?

Tiger Woods: Well, that depends on my practice sessions. I have always in my entire life gained confidence through practice, and that’s what I’m looking forward to. Actually as I said earlier, it’s just the amount of reps and seeing how it all unfolds and how I feel, and as I gain confidence through practice, and that goes from the range to the golf course to home and playing with buddies and playing for five bucks, whatever it may be, with just a little bit on the line, it’s that entire process is something that I’m looking forward to. As I said, I gain confidence, and when I go to a tournament, just because I’m at an event doesn’t mean I’m going to lose what I had at home.

Q: I was wondering about your thoughts on the economy and how that’s going to impact the TOUR in the next few years and even your events, as well. Have you felt it at all?

Tiger Woods: We haven’t felt it. We’ve been very lucky to have great partners here with Chevron and Bank of America and AT&T in D.C., so that’s been – we’ve been very lucky.

Other tournaments, other venues, have not been, and yes, we are feeling it on the PGA TOUR, there’s no doubt. Individual players are feeling it, as well. We’re not immune to it at all, and hopefully we’ll all get through this and everything will turn around and be positive in the future.

Q: In 2010 the USGA is changing the rule for grooves. Is that going to affect what’s in your bag now or how you play golf courses in the coming years?

Tiger Woods: Yeah, it’ll affect what’s in my bag. I can’t have my two sand wedges the way I have them now.

But as far as – I play the spinniest ball on TOUR, so for me, my transition will be a little bit easier than the rest of the guys, guys who play a harder golf ball. They’re going to have to maybe a little bit more of an adjustment, whether they do it with loft.

Some guys are experimenting with 64-degree wedges to try to help them out that way so they can hit fuller shots with more spin, or guys just might be making – actually more mental adjustments in their course management skills, going for greens, because you know you actually can’t get the ball to spin like you used to so it puts more of a premium on putting the ball in the fairway.

With the wedges you can’t blast it out there on the par-5s and expect an easy up-and-down. You’ve got to miss it on the proper side more than ever. But it’ll be very interesting to see what happens, how guys make that adjustment.

Source – Chevron World Challenge




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