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Tiger Ready to Go in Presidents Cup
If the performance by Tiger Woods in last week's Australian Open is any indication, the controversial decision by U.S. captain Fred Couples to make Woods one of his two captain's picks for the Presidents Cup may be vindicated.
Woods posted rounds of 68, 67, 75 and 67 at a tough Lakes Golf Club in Sydney, finishing in solo third two strokes behind winner Greg Chalmers. As usual, Woods wasn't completely happy with where he ended up on the leaderboard, but recognized that his game is coming around.
"I've just got to keep plugging along. I'm showing some progress," he said last Sunday. "Two holes on the back nine today, and I putted awful yesterday, or I would have been right there."
On Tuesday from Royal Melbourne Golf Club, site of the 2011 Presidents Cup, Woods met with reporters and discussed the state of his game, his thoughts on the historic course and what he expects this week from himself and the American squad. Here's what he told reporters.
Q. Tiger, can you talk a little about the golf course and how you like it?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it's a different routing than what we played in '98. Even though they got new grass on the fairways, it's still playing fairly week. The greens are very quick. Probably more firm than they are quick. And there's definitely a lot of run-out on the greens, and we have to be paying attention to that quite a bit this week.
Q. You were here in '98, obviously you were a young player, but what do you see now, then compared to now and the differences and how do you avoid what happened in '98?
TIGER WOODS: Well, we have had more guys playing this time of year than we did last time. Most of the guys have taken time off after the Tour Championship and didn't really play. You know, some of the guys have been playing either in Oz or they played in Singapore or playing in Fall Series events. At least the guys have been playing this year, than in '98.
Q. A lot of press has been talking about a possible pairing with Adam Scott; what are your thoughts on, that is that a good idea or not?
TIGER WOODS: Well, we have got a lot of matches to be played and won by then. So that's our main focus. If that happens, it happens. But that's in singles. That's way off. We have got a lot of points between now and then, and we have got to take care of our business before that even comes about.
Q. I know it seems like a lifetime ago but what's the difference in your game between now and '98 when you were here before?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I hit the ball a lot further now than I did in '98. That's just the technology. The golf ball is going so much further than it did then. My clubhead speed may be faster back then but the ball didn't go as far. I have way more shots than I did in '98 and a much better understanding of how to map out a golf course and how to play myself around a golf course.
Q. Do you feel a little more -- anyone who is a captain's pick probably feels a bit of responsibility to show that the captain was right, but do you feel that this week a bit?
TIGER WOODS: No, I'm just grateful to be honest the team. Fred could have picked anybody, and I'm thankful that he had faith in me to be a part of the team and wanted me to be a part of the team. A lot of the players wanted me on the team, as well, so that part definitely did feel good.
Q. Can you talk about throwing away your playbook from '98, with what you just said about technology, where do you see balls going on the course and does it change the way you have to play?
TIGER WOODS: Good question, because the fairways have slowed down, you're still playing to the same areas, but we are hitting different clubs. Some of the holes where I would hit 3-iron I'm now hitting 2-iron to the same spot. Other holes where I would hit 2-iron, I'm now hitting 2-iron or 4-iron to the same spot. I think there's one hole that we didn't play, the par 3, at the time it was either 8 or 9, the par 3, back then. Now I'm all confused on the order. That's basically it. The ball is definitely going further. Plus it's hot. The ball is traveling. I know we have got some weather coming in this weekend so that might change things up a bit.
Q. In Sydney last week, you just couldn't buy a putt; do you find these greens more suited to you?
TIGER WOODS: Definitely. They have some speed on these things. I typically have never really putted slower greens well. Even at Fry's a month ago, five weeks ago, six weeks, whatever it was, I putted well but had a hard time getting putts to the hole. My swing is more suited to faster greens, and that's one of the reasons I didn't think I've done well on the golf courses that are hard and fast, majors and other tournaments that are more difficult, speed of the greens are faster. I just feel more comfortable with that.
Q. We are used to seeing you in the red, white and blue; did Freddie explain the green and gold today?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, he did. That was pretty cool. All of that is going to charity so that is fantastic. We are trying to obviously do the right thing and trying to help out as many people as we possibly can.
Q. Are you aware they are Aussie colors, green and gold?
TIGER WOODS: Absolutely. I know this is what you normally where for rugby. You guys have so many rugby teams here, but I know the national team definitely wears it. I've seen it on TV a bunch, especially playing Tri-Nations and the World Cup. For me it's different wearing white pants. Haven't done this I think since I was about eight.
Q. What did you see out of Stricker today and would you be disappointed if that pairing wasn't as successful -
TIGER WOODS: I was pleased and excited to see what Strick was able to do today. He was hitting the ball a long way. I mean, he hit the ball solid, had some distance and had some pop on his swing. The only thing that I was worried about was him trying to hit a ball down and hit the ball into this turf.
This turf is not forgiving. It's pretty hard. He was beating the ball down so that's a great sign. He wasn't sore. Wasn't flinching. None of that. He was great. Hopefully we'll get put out there together. I know that we feel very comfortable with one another and we were talking about it today, there's a certain comfort level about each other's games, and we know each other's games for the years that we have been on these Cups. And knowing how reach other reads putts, I think that helps, too.
Q. Is it decided?
TIGER WOODS: No, it has not been decided. A lot of pairings have not been set in stone. We are going to talk about things this evening and figure things out a bit more, and have a better idea going into tomorrow. Even then, it still could change. But the thing is, we are trying to -- you have a day gap. Usually it's foursomes and four-ball, in a Ryder Cup, you're back-to-back so everybody is trying to get their pairings up a little quicker. Here it can be a little more spread out, you might say.
Q. Is this a course where you put a 2-iron in the bag?
TIGER WOODS: I did put a 2-iron for this week, yeah.
Q. Is it awhile since you've worn these colors -
TIGER WOODS: You had to go there, didn't you, you really did, didn't you. (Laughing).
Q. For the home crowd?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I hear you.
Q. You have a lot of rookies on this team for Presidents Cup, you've played with so many national teams, what is your formula outside the ropes to being a good teammate and maybe an effective leader?
TIGER WOODS: Just have fun. These guys may ask questions but the whole idea is just make them feel comfortable. This is a different environment. We are not at home. We are on the road and this atmosphere will be electric down here. It will be a lot of fun, and just like any road team, you try to make the gallery quiet. We have done that in other Cups before in the past and it's fun when that happens.
Q. Talk about the morale in the dressing room 1998 compared to this year, you said you were gelling pretty well as a team.
TIGER WOODS: It is different because at the time I was the youngest one on the team by far. Justin was older than I think I am by about five years and we might have been the only people in our 20s at the time. Some of the guys like Fred was on that team, Mark O'Meara was on that team, guys that I grew up watching playing were part of that team. So now Fred's our captain, most of the guys I've played with are on the Senior Tour and that's definitely changed and I am no longer the youngest one on the team anymore.
Q. Is there a sense of improved morale this time around?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it's different because most of these guys hve -- well, one, we all know each other quite well and most of the guys have played on other Cups prior to this so that certainly helps. We are familiar with each other in the team room because of that.
Q. Greg Norman has done a lot to solidify the resolve of the national team; what's it like on the U.S. group, have you done anything unique in terms of building the team aspect?
TIGER WOODS: We don't have to do that. We just go out there and just play. The last time I checked, low score still wins. That's the whole idea is to go out there and play every game with your partner. You figure out who your partner is, figure out if you're playing foursomes, what your strategy is going to be, what we are going to do off the tees, balls. Four-ball, just go get it and just go post a low number. Freddie has been great as a captain at Harding Park and he's been great this week. I've been very fortunate to have some great captains in my Presidents Cup career, Jack and Ken Venturi. Three different ways of going about it but three relaxed atmospheres as well.
Q. How fast is too fast on these green? I know you're not carrying a Stimpmeter?
TIGER WOODS: Depends how windy it gets. If it stays like this, then they are fine. But if it starts blowing 30 at this speed, they are very limited on the pin locations. You know, they are fast, yeah, but they are not overly fast. They are not that fast but the thing is, if -- as I said, you get wind, and they are already firm as it is. But to get them too quick with this wind, boy, every pin is going to be the center of the green. We'll see what happens. Plus we are supposed to get some rain coming in so that will definitely slow things up for the weekend.
Q. Greg and Fred both said that at some point it's likely that you will in a team or in an individual, whatever, you'll play against Adam. Would you rather get that out of the way and try to just finish that whole chapter?
TIGER WOODS: It's already done. I addressed it last week and I said, life goes forward, not backwards.
Q. But in terms of playing?
TIGER WOODS: As I said, life goes forward not backwards.
Q. With what you're going through, trying to come back and move forward, how does this event test you? What does it do for you personally?
TIGER WOODS: You know, it's obviously way different. It's not stroke play. I know that whoever my partner is going out there, your mentality is very different than it is in stroke play and you have to make that switch. We have talked about it in the team room and talked about it just hanging out and making the switch from stroke play, some guys play in Singapore and Oz. Flying down here, we were on the plane talking about it. So just making that switch from worrying about your own game to worrying about what ball we use, what are the clubs, blah, blah, blah. It's a different type of animal. As far as testing me, I love it. I love being a part of these Cups. I've been fortunate to be on quite a few Cups over the years, and the friendships you develop, it's just fantastic.
Q. Last night the International Team went out and had a feed at a restaurant and Greg Norman had to direct traffic, the bus broke down and a funny team bonding incident; did you guys hit the tables last night?
TIGER WOODS: We just hung out, had a great time last night and probably do the same thing tonight.
Q. Did the boys head to the tables yet, have any big wins yet?
TIGER WOODS: We have a good time. (Laughter).
Q. Can you talk about the different balls do you play?
TIGER WOODS: The format has changed, we used to play just the one-ball rule. At RTJ I played with Stricks and we had to play -- that was the first year we had a chance to play two different balls off the tee. Previous to that in The Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, we only had one ball. This way, the guy who is hitting the iron shot to the green is able to hit his own ball, hit his own numbers and he's familiar with it so the other guy is driving. Back in those days I played a very spinning golf ball, and a lot of the times into the wind I would choose my teammate's ball because it didn't spin as much. It all depends. Now all of the golf balls are all hard and all going a long way. Not a whole lot of difference between the golf balls.
Q. Just talk about what last week has done for your confidence and how far you've come since you were picked for the team?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I'm finally healthy. So it's good to be healthy and be able to practice and play. I've played two events. Play reasonably well at Fry's. I was playing more in streaks where I would get into a hot streak for five, six, seven holes, lose it for three holes and then get it back. But that week all the guys went low and I didn't.
Last week was different. I had basically one bad round. Not as bad as the score indicated, if I putted halfway decent, I shoot under par. So it's good to be part of the flow of competitive golf again. When I was at home in between Fry's and the Aussie Open, I was playing a lot, playing 18 -- minimum of 36, sometimes every 54 holes a day just to get my feel back of playing, hitting shots and not really worrying about mechanics and just playing. That's something I was able to do in the past, had not been able to do it for a long time, and those rounds are starting to pay dividends now.
Q. Did you talk to Sean (Foley) at all over the weekend or do you feel like you know enough about the fundamentals that you can fix things yourself?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I always talk to Sean. Actually he texted me a ton. He's trying to watch it whenever he can. He's trying to get an understanding from me and all of his players, basically, the different feels, because a range thought does not exactly equate to a swing thought on the golf course and what I'm feeling on the golf course; what is my body doing, who is the club doing, how does it feel going through the ground, all of these things he's trying to get an understanding of so he has a better picture of it when he comes back and works with me.
Because all of my coaches, range thoughts and range feels don't equate to golf course feels. You have got to figure that out. Trying to get the club in the right position on the range, that feel and that thought does not always work out on the golf course. And yeah, pressure, and a tournament situation, a lot of times that's out the window and trying to develop my new feels in this model, it's been good. Last week was a good test for it. It felt great on the weekend when I needed it.
Q. So do you understand, when you do hit a bad shot -
TIGER WOODS: Absolutely.
Q. Do you know why you did it?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, absolutely, every time.
Q. On the short game, it seemed like it was very sharp last week and it's been up-and-down this year but last week it seemed very sharp. Have you changed anything?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I have, because as I said, my release was way different when I was working with Hank (Haney). Now people say, why would you change your short game, because you had a decent short game prior to that, why would you change that. Well, it's a different release. When I was with Butch I released it a different way and when I was with Hank I released it a different way. A short game shot, it's a very similar motion. I had to get into this model of how Sean wanted me to swing, and my mini-swings are going to be chip shots. Flop shots are different, but as far as normal chip shots, chip-and-runs, those are all the same releases. So I had to learn that new pattern and once I learned the new pattern, that's what you saw last week.
Q. International golf has come along in leaps and bounds in the sort of five to ten years. Talk about the importance of the Presidents Cup and how it's maybe going to catch up with the Ryder Cup if international golf keeps coming along.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it's actually pretty interesting. Over the years, the International Team has been ranked higher than the European Ryder Cup Team. It's been back when Ernie and Vijay and Goose and a bunch of those guys were all inside the Top-10, and one of the years, I think we had six guys in the Top-12 in the world. The International Team has been loaded over the years. So it is growing. We now have a different market with Korea being more prominent, Japan has kind of been there. Only difference is we don't have a Carlos Franco representing South America; we don't have anybody from South America here. But Camilo (Villegas) was close. I'm sure he'll get on the team and he'll be part of that and represent that part of the world.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.