Tiger Woods Pre-Championship
BETH MAJOR: Good afternoon. Welcome again to the 113th U.S. Open, being played this year at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. It’s our pleasure to have three-time U.S. Open and nine-time USGA champion Tiger Woods. Tiger, can you talk about playing at Merion? I know you’ve been here and spent time on the course.
TIGER WOODS: It’s a great golf course. It’s just a little bit tricky with some of the blind tee shots and trying to get a feel for what my finish lines are going to be.
The greens are pretty self-explanatory. They’ve got a few waves in them, a few little movements. Not too complicated.
Most of all it’s trying to get a feel for my finish lines and where I want that ball to be as my total off the tee. Some of the tee shots are going to be hit with some long irons or fairway woods and drivers.
BETH MAJOR: We’ll open it up to questions.
Q. Curious how much different the finish lines you’re talking about are when the course gets appreciably softer?
TIGER WOODS: It’s one of the things that, it’s nice to come to be advantageous when I came up here, when I came up on Tuesday of Memorial. It was rainy, it was the ball wasn’t flying very far and I’m hitting the ball in the same spots now, because obviously it’s rainy and soft.
I thought it might be totally different. As I explained at Memorial, that the ball would be running out and we would hit different clubs and different shapes. But it’s going to be the same as what we played on Tuesday.
Q. I saw you and Sergio yesterday on the practice range shake hands. Can you talk about that situation and have you discussed with what he said in the aftermath of that situation?
TIGER WOODS: No, we didn’t discuss anything. Just came up and said hi, and that was it.
Q. Has he apologized for what he said to you?
TIGER WOODS: No. It’s already done. We’ve already gone through it all. It’s time for the U.S. Open and we tee it up in two days.
Q. What comes to mind when you see that famous photo of Hogan? Do you own a copy?
TIGER WOODS: No, I don’t own a copy. That was to get into a playoff. Got about 40 feet and still had some work to do. It’s a great photo, but it would have been an all right photo if he didn’t win. He still had to go out and win it the next day.
So this knowing the fact that he went through the accident and then came out here and played 36 and won on 18, that’s awfully impressive.
Q. Philly is known as a passionate sports town. You played in New York and you had your event here. Is there a special passion when you play in the northeast?
TIGER WOODS: Absolutely. This is one of the great sporting towns in the country. They’re passionate about all sports. We had our event at Aronimink, and it was unbelievable. The fans were incredible. It was electric. And I think this week will be the same thing.
This is our U.S. Open and I don’t think it’s going to be obviously not as many people as it was at Bethpage, but I think it will be just as loud and just as electric, even though they’re not going to be bracketing every hole on both sides, obviously you can’t get there. But I’m sure we’ll hear them.
Q. Can you talk Charlie Sifford and Calvin Peete and how they paved the way for you?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it’s obviously, as you said Calvin and Charlie leading the way for the likes of Lee Elder. It was a tough time for Charlie to go through what he went through, but he paved the way for a lot of us to be where we’re at. I know my dad probably wouldn’t have picked up the game if it wasn’t for what Charlie did.
I’ve always called him my grandpa, the grandpa I never really had. I’ve gotten to know him through the years and it’s been fantastic. We owe a lot to him and all the pioneers that have waved the way for us to be here.
Q. Usually at the Open, par is such a score that people focus on and staying around it is usually a good thing. I’m wondering this week if that changes much or how much it does change with the conditions. Do you have to get a mindset of going lower than you normally would at a U.S. Open?
TIGER WOODS: That’s a great question. I don’t think we have an exact feel for it yet, what we’re going to have to do and what we’re going to have to shoot. The conditions keep changing.
We haven’t dealt with teeing it up in a tournament yet with it raining and drying out for a couple of days and the mud balls appearing. That’s going to be interesting. Especially the longer holes.
The shorter holes, if you catch a ball that’s got a little bit of mud on it, you can’t be as precise. I don’t know how they’re going to get the fairways down or if they’re going to cut the rough at all or if they’re going to have the greens up to speed. They certainly weren’t up to speed yesterday.
Today the putting green was still a little bit slow. I don’t think that it’s going to be that much faster, especially with the forecast with rain on Thursday. It will be interesting to see what the players end up doing the first few days and getting a feel for what the number is going to be.
Q. (By Woods' niece, Cheyenne Woods) The U.S. Open is usually one of the most grueling weeks of golf. So what would you do off the course in order to be at ease and relax?
TIGER WOODS: Didn’t expect that.
Well, off the course, we have a great crew at the house and we’re going to have fun. Tomorrow, make sure you’re is it 6:30 dinner? Is that all right? Okay. Perfect.
So just relax and have a good time and get away from it and when it’s time to play, it’s time to play. But overall we’re just going to get away from it and not really watch any golf. When it’s time for me to get ready, I’ll get ready.
Q. Two-part question for you. Do you feel to keep pace here you’re going to have to be 2, 3, 4 under par through 13. And given the routine you guys have of practicing, at a venue where you’re going to be a mile away from the golf course practicing and not hit another shot for some 30 minutes after you leave the practice range.
TIGER WOODS: As far as the scoring, we’re going to have a few a couple of opening short, easier holes, the first two. You’ll see some guys under par there. And obviously got to hang on at three. Three is a drivable par 4. So get through there with your 3 and move on.
And then you’ve got four, which is two good shots and you’ve got a wedge. You’re going to have wedges the first three out of four holes. You’ll see guys off to a good start. You’ve got easier holes through the turn.
But once you get to 14 on in it’s going to be tough, tough to make birdies, especially if they put the tees back at 17, 18. Those are two awfully difficult finishing holes when you’ve got 250 into the 17th and the last hole is 520 and you’re not getting any run.
Yesterday from the back tee I hit driver and 3 iron, I played the up tee with diver and 4 iron, and I hit two good ones. It will be interesting to see where they put the tee markers on that hole.
Q. What about the practice range?
TIGER WOODS: The practice range?
Q. And not hitting a shot for 30 minutes?
TIGER WOODS: It’s going to be different. Obviously I think that it helps that we have a putting green down there down at the range, so we can get some warm up in there, as well. But a lot of the guys are talking about, you know, how early we have to leave to get to the first tee or the 9th tee. What that time is going to be.
That’s the interesting thing is that you don’t want to leave too late, but you also don’t want to get there too early, you cool off a little bit. So that’s a feel thing that we’ve been trying out on the practice rounds, figuring out what the timing is going to be and what the number is going to be. And seeing what we have to allow.
Q. If you had a choice would you like to play an Open down in conditions we’re likely to see this week with the course speed, very soft, as opposed to last year where it was very firm and hard and very dry?
TIGER WOODS: That’s a great question. I’ve played Opens under both conditions where it’s dry and soft. I’ve won on both conditions, which is nice. At Torrey it was dry. Pebble was dry. And Bethpage was soft and slow.
Either one the execution doesn’t change. You’ve still got to hit good shots and get the ball in play, especially now with the rough being wet, it’s imperative to get the ball in play so that we can get after some of these flags and make as many birdies as we can.
Q. Generally speaking you haven’t you won at Bethpage, but you haven’t played as well in some of these older, northeast courses as you have like in California and elsewhere. Do you agree that that’s true, and if so, why?
TIGER WOODS: Well, one, we don’t play that many events up in this area. So that’s one reason.
I play a lot of a ton of tournaments in California and Florida and that’s where a lot of my wins are. The Northeast there aren’t that many events. Done well in Ohio, I guess, but I guess that’s more Midwest.
Q. In Westchester?
TIGER WOODS: I thought Westchester was a quirky golf course with weird angles. I never got a really good feel for that golf course. I played there as an amateur in the Buick and didn’t really do well and just really didn’t suit my eye.
But I’ve done well on other venues.
Q. Just curious if you took anything or what you took out of your last start at Memorial. Secondly, how many drivers do you anticipate hitting this week?
TIGER WOODS: Well, as far as Memorial, no, I didn’t play well. I didn’t putt well. I didn’t really do much that I was real pleased about. But it was just one of those weeks. It happens. And move on from there.
I had a good week of practice last week at home. We had a tropical storm roll through there, I guess it was getting us ready for this one.
Drivers? I hit it on every hole. (Laughter.) What? There are a few drivers here and there. Obviously it’s not going to be that many. But there may be some holes that I have to get it down there because it’s so soft. The fairway is going to widen up because it’s soft and we can be a little more aggressive now.
Q. At these last few Opens on the East Coast, where there has been weather, at Bethpage, and you weren’t at Congressional, but there. Would you rather have a week like it is in the West where you know what it’s going to be in front of you and it’s fairly predictable and you know what the challenges are. Does that add something different as you prepare this week?
TIGER WOODS: We play so many events and have to deal with weather, it’s just part of our sport. And we deal with delays, we deal with coming in, going back out, playing 36, finishing up rounds. It’s just the way it is.
You’re not going to get that in the summertime on the West Coast, you know that. It just doesn’t rain. It may be cooler, at Pebble and Torrey and Olympic it can be really cold there.
But you’re not going to get the coolness here this time of year, you have the thunderstorms and you’re going to have to come in on some rounds and go back out. It’s the nature of summertime golf on the east coast.
Q. Just to close up on the Sergio thing. Did he personally apologize to you? I know he issued a statement, but did he personally apologize?
TIGER WOODS: No, we haven’t had time for that.
Q. Okay. And secondly, the deal at the U.S. Open is always that you have to find the best player. You touched on this earlier, if we get the rain and we get a couple of dry days it’s possible that the winner here is the guy that gets the fewest mud balls. Does that ultimately identify the best player? Is there an element of luck down to this?
TIGER WOODS: I think there’s an element of luck anytime you win a golf tournament. You’re going to hit shots that are borderline. You’re going to hit shots that you will get away with and take advantage of them. And it could turn the entire tournament around for the good or for the bad.
Every event that I’ve won I’ve had situations like that. And I think this week will be the same. We’re going to have situations where, if it does dry out through the weekend and hit a few good drives down there and get a few mud balls we’re going to have to deal with it. It’s part of the game, getting up and down, and dealing with some of the situations like that.
The good news is that most of these holes that we’re going to have potential mud balls on we’re going to have short irons in. There’s not like there’s a bunch of holes that are 490 and above. That can be easier. You can get the ball on a little easier with a short iron.
TIGER WOODS: 18 could be, yeah. And you’re firing into the hill. Even if they play the up tee, maybe one or two guys, maybe, can fly that hill and chase any kind of mud that there is off of it. Some guys can carry the ball 320 in the air to do it. But the majority of guys aren’t going to do it. So you’re hitting right into the face of that hill.
If that’s the case, if it does dry out, yeah, you could potentially get a ball that has a little bit of mud on it. But it is what it is.
Q. There was a time when you were 18, younger, is there advice you could give a Gavin Hall about the emotions, the nerves that he’ll feel?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I’ve been there. I was extremely nervous. My first Open was at Shinnecock and I didn’t last very long. I had to withdraw on the second day with a wrist injury.
But I felt it was a fantastic learning experience for me. I got a chance I believe I played with Nick Price and maybe Ernie Els. It was just a great experience for me. And it certainly did help I played practice rounds with Freddie and Raymond and Nick, as well, Price, and it was fantastic.
I learned so much that week. I learned what it takes to grind my way around the golf course like that, watching those guys do it. I applied it when I got out here.
Q. Was it any easier for you going into a major back when you were winning them on a fairly regular basis?
TIGER WOODS: No.
Q. Care to expound?
TIGER WOODS: It wasn’t ever easy.
Q. I’m not suggesting it was easy, just the regularity of winning one a year, one every other year, if you felt you had an extra edge than where you are now, five years out?
TIGER WOODS: No, I felt it was still difficult because the majority of the majors, three of the four always rotated. It was always on a new site each and every year. Augusta was the only one you could rely on from past experiences.
A lot of times, a lot of majors that I won were on either the first or second time I’d ever seen it. So that it was never easy. The practice rounds are imperative. Doing scouting trips are very important, just like it is for this week. I came up here early. And getting a little feel for this golf course. I had to do all that stuff. But then I have to go out and execute and go out and win an event.
Q. The uniqueness of having the world’s top three golfers in the same pairing?
TIGER WOODS: I think it will be fantastic. I was part of that the first time they did it in ‘08. And it was very electric out there. I know they’ve done it a few more times. It’s not very often we get 1, 2 and 3 in one group and 4, 5, 6 in another.
And it’s for me it’s been fantastic. Normally we don’t get those types of pairings very often. When you do it just makes it that much more enjoyable for us as players.
Q. How memorable would it be to join Hogan, Nicklaus, to win your fourth U.S. Open on this course with this much history?
TIGER WOODS: It would be nice. We’ve got a long way to go. We haven’t started yet. We’re two days away from the start. We’ve got some work to do.
Anyone who wins this week will certainly be a part of history. Just like it is with any U.S. Open or any USGA event. They do a fantastic job each and every year running every event, and this is their crown jewel.
Q. Just to follow up on the question, you won at Pebble Beach and St. Andrews, is there any extra motivation winning on a course like this where the greats have won, Bobby Jones, and putting your name up along those guys?
TIGER WOODS: It would be nice. We’ve got a long way to go. We’re two days away from the start. I would like to obviously put my name there at the end of the week, but I’ve got to do my work and put myself there.
Q. When was the last time you carried a 1-iron in your bag? Did you like hitting it? What has replaced it?
TIGER WOODS: The running joke out here is, well, when I got here in my teens I used a 1-iron, in my 20s I used a 2-iron, and in my 30s I used a 5-wood. You see where this is going, right? So I think 7, 9, 11. So I’m shaping a 11-wood from about 120 out there, when I get older.
But I used a 1-iron pretty much my entire junior golf career. We all played it was part of the game. 60[-degree wedge]s weren’t around when I first started playing. No one used a 60. It was always a 56, open it up and go from there. Some guys the lowest loft was 54.
But I used one of my dad’s 1-irons for a number of years. I stole it out of his bag and put a steel shaft in it and used it for a number of years.
I used a 1-iron a little bit into my early career on the Tour. But I think when I was 21 I pretty much was resolved to using a 2-iron instead of the 1-iron. I had to take the 1-iron out and put the 2-iron in or vice versa. Now it’s either 2-iron is in or the 5-wood is in.
Q. I believe the 10th hole is going to be your last hole on Friday. And I was just wondering how you would approach that, needing birdie or eagle to make the cut? Do you consider driving that ball off the tee or what would you do?
TIGER WOODS: You know, it’s certainly a possibility, it depends on the conditions. I think that now the conditions are that some of the guys will take a chance, because it’s just going to plug out there. If you fly it on the green it’s not going to be in a bad spot. If it flies short and right it’s not going to be in a bad spot.
If it was dry and fast I don’t think anyone would have taken a chance. Probably Bubba is the only one that could, because he’s cutting and it’s going to land soft. But most of the guys are going to have to turn it over, but now I think some of the guys could go.
Q. With these conditions evolving daily, how does your swing thought change?
TIGER WOODS: My swing shot is still the same. I’m trying to get my ball to shape both ways. I feel very comfortable with it right now. And I’m still trying to get accustomed to the speed of these greens. They’re still slow.
The mindset coming into a U.S. Open is they’re going to be hard and fast and crusty. But that’s obviously not going to materialize this week with this weather.
Some of the guys are already throwing lead on their putters, and getting a little more weight behind it to try and adjust. But I haven’t reached that point yet. But we’ll see what the greens are this afternoon. I’m going to go out and play ten holes and see what they are now.
Q. This is one of the legacy questions which you probably hate, but bear with me. When you look at your standing in the game, No. 1 in the world, 14 majors, when you show up at a tournament that’s a bigger tournament, even with a great one like this with all the great players here, is that pressure or responsibility to carry that a little bit or do you use that as a competitive motivation?
TIGER WOODS: I think I just enter events to win, and that’s it, whether there’s a lot of people following or there’s nobody out there, like how it was at AT&T Saturday last year. Not a single soul out there. It’s still the same. It’s still about winning the event. That’s why I played as a junior, all the way through to now is just to try to kick everyone’s butt. That to me is the rush. That’s the fun. That’s the thrill.
And it’s been nice to be a part of the mix for 17 years now out here and be a part of a lot of great duels and a lot of great battles. And that to me is why I prepare, why I lift all those weights and put myself through all that is to be in those type of positions. It’s fun.
BETH MAJOR: We thank you so much for joining us. We wish you well this week.