Featured Golf News
Tiger Shooting for Fifth Green Jacket
It's been since the 2008 U.S. Open that Tiger Woods last won a Grand Slam event. That memorable performance at Torrey Pines near San Diego, where Woods overcame a severely damaged knee and endured 91 holes to finally beat Rocco Mediate in a rare Monday finish.
So it's been nearly five years since Woods has shined on golf's grandest stage, a remarkable fact considering he turned pro only 12 years prior to winning his 14th major title at Torrey Pines. Despite six top-10 finishes in the 16 majors since then, Woods still hasn't gotten that elusive 15th title that would move him to three behind the record mark of 18 majors held by Jack Nicklaus.
But Woods, who in recent years has endured personal and physical travails along with a totally revamped golf swing, is in the best place he's been in recent memory. The 37-year-old has already won three tournaments this year already - moving him to 77 career victories, only five behind Sam Snead's all-time mark - and returned to his former regular haunt as the No. 1-ranked golfer in the world.
So, because of his fine play in 2013, Woods is the odds-on favorite to win at Augusta National Golf Club this week, despite not visiting the Butler Cabin for the champion's green jacket ceremony since 2005.
Nicklaus, for one, believes that the window is closing on Tiger to overtake him. "Obviously the older he gets, and if he doesn't win, it makes my record move out further," Nicklaus said Tuesday.
That said, the Golden Bear thinks Woods can do it. "But I've said it, and I continue to say it, that I still expect him to break my record. I think he's just too talented, too driven, and too focused on that.
"From this point, he's got to win five majors, which is a pretty good career for most people to start at age 37," Nicklaus continued of Tiger's effort to get to 19. "He's played very, very well this spring. I think if he wins here, I think that it would be a very large step towards regaining the confidence that he has not won a major in, what, five years . . . He's going to have to figure it out.
"But I think if he figures it out here, it will be a great boost for him. If he doesn't figure it out here, after the spring he's had, I think it will be a lot tougher for him."
On Tuesday, Woods met with reporters and talked about making that cherished trip again. If he does win a fifth Masters, he'll be only one away from Nicklaus's record of six. Here's Woods he told the media during a lengthy, wide-ranging interview from Augusta National.
MODERATOR: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, it is always a great pleasure to introduce and welcome our four time Masters champion, Tiger Woods, back to Augusta. This marks Tiger's 19th appearance at the Masters. We congratulate you on your sensational season so far, with wins at Torrey Pines, Doral and Bay Hill, and reclaiming the No. 1 spot in the Official World Rankings. Tiger, you know this course as well as anyone, and you are indeed playing exceptionally well. Before we open up it to questions, would you share with us your thoughts on the condition of the course and how your preparations are going for this week.
TIGER WOODS: You got it, Rob. The golf course is in fantastic shape. I came up here last Sunday on Easter and played 18 holes. Played this week, well, 14 holes on Sunday and played nine yesterday. The golf course is playing pretty long. It's pretty dry. But the greens are coming up to speed and they are starting to get there. They have the ability right now, I think, that they can basically put this golf course however they want. They can slow it down. Won't take much to speed it up. And it's going to be, hopefully going to be a dry Masters and we get to have some excitement out there.
Q. Can you talk about No. 7 and 11, obviously those holes have changed dramatically and your scoring; has your strategy changed this year and recent years in particular on how you try to attack those two holes?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I've played the old holes, it was a 1 iron when I first got here back when we used to use 1 irons off of 7. Then it was a 2 iron down there and you'd have somewhere - get down to the bottom, a little flat spot on the right hand side and have anywhere between 9 iron to sand wedge and play that hole. Of years past, when we've had a little easterly wind, I've hit 3 wood and I've hit 4 iron, not exactly a green you hit a 4 or 5 iron into. So it's a tricky little tee shot. They have planted a bunch of trees on the left hand and right hand side.
11 is a way different hole. We didn't have that span of trees down the right hand side that we do now, and the tee was much, much farther up and to the left. We used to be able to hit driver down there. I remember playing with like Seve and Raymond always said to just hit it over where the gallery is, that's the angle you want to come from. Well, you can't get over there any more, the hole is playing to the left. It's a much different hole. We are hitting a good drive, will leave me somewhere between 8 iron to a 5 iron in there, whereas before it was a driver and a sand wedge, pitching wedge.
Q. Congratulations on your No. 1 again. Was there ever a time in the last couple of years, golf is such a mental game, where before you started this surge, you said, I may not get this back? The game is littered with guys who have lost that edge and never got it back. You're getting it back. Was there ever a time you questioned yourself?
TIGER WOODS: No, there wasn't, because I wasn't physically capable of doing it. I wasn't healthy enough. Couldn't practice, couldn't play, sat out major championships and just wasn't able to do any of the sessions that I needed to do to improve. And I was making a swing change with Sean. So all that happened at the same time, so the number one concern, number one intent was, first of all, get healthy, get strong enough where I can practice. And once I started to be able to practice, things turned and they turned quickly.
Q. Health issues aside, how different do you feel coming into this Masters compared to, say, the last three, whether it's your swing, confidence, comfort level; maybe what's the difference between coming into this one and those other ones?
TIGER WOODS: I feel comfortable with every aspect of my game. I feel that I've improved and I've got more consistent, and I think the wins show that. That's something that I'm proud of so far this year, and hopefully I can continue it this week and the rest of the year.
Q. Is that different from the last, say, three years or so?
TIGER WOODS: Well, last year, I won my first event in a couple years at Bay Hill. And you know, so that was a big difference. Since then, I've won six times in 12 months. So those are all positive things heading into this week. You know, playing well in the Florida Swing, winning twice there, and then headed up here, I feel very comfortable with where things are at.
Q. Everybody is saying you're so much happier, you seem more at ease with your life. I wanted to ask you, are you happier and how much is that translating into your golf?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think life is all about having a balance, and trying to find equilibrium and not getting things one way or the other, and I feel very balanced.
Q. Aside from last year, you contended here every year since you last won. How much would you put it on putting for not being able to come through? I mean, is it simply saying if you would have just putted better, you would have won a couple of times?
TIGER WOODS: Absolutely. I was there ball striking wise a few years through that stretch where I think I hit it pretty well. Hit a lot of greens, but just didn't make enough putts. I was there on Sundays with a chance, and unfortunately just didn't get it done. But as we all know, you have to putt well here. You have to make a lot of putts. The other person that theoretically didn't really putt well was Vijay when he won, and he hit more greens than anybody has ever hit to do it. But generally, you have to make your putts. You have to make the majority of the putts inside ten feet, and you've got to be just a great lag putter for the week. You're going to put the ball in some spots, especially if the wind blows the way it is, it's going to be tough to get the ball close.
Q. I've read that winning fixes everything; is that true?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I've said that since the beginning of my career. That's something you guys have asked me about, what does it take to become No. 1, Player of the Year, money title and all that, and I've said that from the very get go when I first turned pro. That was an old quote that Nike put out there and people jumped on it, but that's something I've said since I've first turned pro.
Q. Emotionally, physically, mentally, how much more difficult is it to try to win a major than it is a Tour event?
TIGER WOODS: Well, there's only four. I mean, you can play 30 some odd events. Obviously the opportunities are four more when you play regular events, there's only four of these, and these are always the toughest conditions and also the best fields. So we have a lot of tests for here, as for this championship, the greens are always the biggest key here. Now with the length and the second cut and more grass in the fairways, it tests every facet of your game. That's what major championships are supposed to do. This is our first opportunity of four.
Q. What are your first memories of seeing Amen Corner, that very first time, walking across the bridge? And what makes it such a great stretch of holes?
TIGER WOODS: You know, I first came out here, a Monday afternoon, in '95. And I played and I hit driver off the 10th, the old tee, when it was farther up and to the right. Didn't know; you know, just drove it down there, drove it right in the bunker. Okay, that's not going to work. You know, play 11, and I couldn't believe how expansive; TV doesn't do it justice how expansive it is from that whole open area on 12 and 13. And certainly, the commentators try and give it justice, but I don't think they really can, of how much it swirls.
You hear guys trying, saying, don't pull a club on 12 until you see both flags on 11 and 12 are moving the same direction. They are never, ever moving the same direction (laughter). You can play - I've played it so many times where I've played 11, 12 and 13 either all downwind or all into the wind. You just - how does that work? You know, you get down there and Bobby Jones has turned this fan on down there and it swirls (laughter).
Q. In the last two weeks when you've gone down 10, have you taken a peak to where Bubba pulled off his shot, and your thoughts on it and do you think it's something that can be done by a right handed golfer?
TIGER WOODS: First of all, no, I haven't looked over there. Don't want to be over there (laughter). Second of all, I think that obviously a right hander could pull that off, because you know, we're cutting it, and lining into the hill. Him being a lefty, it helped being so far down there where I think he hit a wedge in there; that he was able to hook it, but also have the slope from right to left so he could kill it into the hill. Now if it was running the other way and had the slope been going from left to right, at this green speed, he wouldn't have been able to keep the ball on the green. Certainly it helped that he had a wedge, had some loft, be able to curve it and obviously be able to spin it into that hill, and he pulled off an unbelievable shot that will certainly go down as one of the best ones ever.
Q. During your first long reign at No. 1 and when you won the 14 majors, you had the singular focus of not being a parent. The balance that you spoke of in your life, does that work against having the focus that you need for another long reign at 1 and winning all these majors?
TIGER WOODS: No, life is better. Life is better since I've had kids.
Q. How do you juggle that, though?
TIGER WOODS: It's a beautiful juggling act (smiling). I think as people who are all parents in here will certainly attest to that; that's the joy in life and to be able to be a part of their life and watch them grow and help them grow. Getting out there and taking them on the golf course with me every now and again, they will have a great time. To me, that's what it's all about. That's how I was introduced to the game, and that's how I built such a great relationship with my father is to be able to spend that quality time out there on the course like that. I've been lucky enough to have a nice little setup in the backyard, so can hit a few wedge shots and the kids will come out and enjoy it, too, as well.
Q. Rob mentioned it's your 19th Masters. Could you imagine playing in this golf tournament at the age of 14, and how would a 14 year old Tiger Woods have done against this 14 year old?
TIGER WOODS: Well, as I was saying to some of the guys yesterday, I mean, this kid can't play high school golf. He's not in high school yet. So it's hard to believe. When I was 14, I was trying to get on trying to play more tournaments and I was running track and cross country; you know, trying to get homework done. I couldn't imagine not just playing in a Tour event, but the Masters.
Q. But your game at 14 and his game at 14?
TIGER WOODS: You know, I think I was probably longer at the time. Granted, Dustin and I were talking about this, we were the longest of our generations, so it's a different game. But he's so consistent. He was hitting a lot of hybrids into the holes yesterday, hitting them spot on, right on the numbers. He knew what he was doing, he knew the spots he had to land the ball, and to be able to pull it off. Good scouting, good prep, but also even better execution. From a 14 year old to be able to come out here and handle himself the way he's done is just unbelievable.
Q. We always hear about athletes talking about winning championships at different stages of their career meaning different things; what would it mean to you to win this major at this point?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it's -
Q. And how is that different?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it would be nice. That's something that I'm certainly looking forward to the opportunity to do this week. You know, that's one of the neat things about our career; it's so long. We have an opportunity to play basically 30 years solidly at a high level. Some of the guys have come out here at 20 and done well into their 50s. We have very expansive careers and I feel like I'm basically right in the middle of mine. I have a lot of good years ahead of me and I'm excited about this week.
Q. With that in mind, what thoughts go through your head when you hear this gentleman say that this is your 19th Masters?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, scary. Coming up on my 20th. I never would have foreseen that, when I first came here at 19 years old. It was a bit overwhelming to play here and to be part of the Masters, to stay in the Crow's Nest and accidentally run into the champion's locker room and all those different things. Got to watch Gene Sarazen and Byron Nelson tee off on that first hole, Sam Snead. It was just incredible. To be a part of that, and to see how it's changed over the years, and to have won it, and I got lucky, I won my first professional event here. It was nice to be able to do that and know that I can come back here basically for my entire lifetime.
Q. We're used to seeing you play your practice rounds early in the morning. This year you're going out late. What went into that decision?
TIGER WOODS: Just wanted to mess with you (laughter) (smiling broadly). Did it work? Maybe?
Q. Do you typecast your game as a fit for certain courses, or do you feel like you've got the all around game to eventually win at courses where you might not have had the most success?
TIGER WOODS: I think both. Just because I think that, well, over the course of my career, there are courses where I didn't really feel that comfortable on, but I've won tournaments on, won major championships on. But it didn't necessarily fit my eye, but you still have to execute. There are other golf courses where they really fit my eye and I've had a lot of success on them. So this being one of the golf courses where over the course of my career, I've won or contended a bunch of times.
Q. When you won on a course where it didn't actually fit your eye, what's been the difference for you to overcome that and win?
TIGER WOODS: Just do it.
Q. Short game, putting?
TIGER WOODS: Just figure it out. It's one week and just have to figure it out. A lot of times it's major championships where the golf course doesn't quite work, but you've got to figure it out. You know, one of the courses was Tulsa. That didn't quite fit my eye, but I ended up winning. Hoylake wasn't a golf course that really fit my eye, but I won there, as well.
Q. You're such a face of the sport and probably nowhere more so than here at Augusta; can you share with us your thoughts when it went public that they added a female member or two, actually?
TIGER WOODS: I think it's fantastic. The club, it was the right timing. And well, for me, knowing Condoleezza over all these years, couldn't have had a better person, and got a chance to see her on Sunday. She just finished up playing, I think, with Phil and a couple other people. Yeah, I think it's just fantastic. And the timing's right.
Q. Could you foresee a time when you could come here and be an Honorary Starter? (Laughter).
TIGER WOODS: Okay. What's the minimum age? (Smiling) 70 plus? Or who is the youngest? Jack? No - Jack's the youngest? Jack's the youngest right now. Yeah, that's a long time. Let me just try to get to 40 first.
Q. Taking you back a couple of years to the HSBC Champions when this young 14 year old you're talking about hit that great fairway wood to about ten feet, with you beside him. The impressions he made on you at that moment; and secondly, by playing in the Masters at 14, what is this going to do for him moving forward in his career by playing in this event at a young age?
TIGER WOODS: Well, first off, I think going to China for a number of years now, it's just amazing to see the amount of talent that they have, and at such a young age. They have a lot of players who can play. It's just about giving them enough starts and enough opportunities, and they are going to be, you know, out here on Tour or playing other tours, but they are coming, and he's one of them. To see him hit the ball out there at 12, we knew he was going to be good; we didn't think he was going to be in the Masters in two years. To win a golf tournament and we were talking about it yesterday; that he led the entire way. That's pretty impressive. And to win the Asian Amateur like that, and we were talking about how he made a putt on the last hole from eight feet, you know, what were you thinking? Just making it. He's 14, you know. Good stuff.
Q. You talked early on about how you adjust your approach on No. 10 after seeing it for the first time. What other ways have you adjusted your approach over the years as your game has changed and the course has changed?
TIGER WOODS: First year I played here in competition, it was kind of a drizzly day, and I hit a driver and a 60 degree sand wedge into the first hole. What bunker? You know, that was a different golf course then. 5 was different, carry it over the top of the bunker and have another little sand wedge in there. It was 50/50 I could hit the green with a sand wedge back then, but it was nice having sand wedges in.
But the golf course is so different. The length, not only the tee angles, but they have changed 13 quite a bit, added a couple trees in there. It's mostly angles, and then trying to make us play from virtually the same spots that the guys from yesteryear played. I think the difference is that the golf balls don't spin as much, so if you want us to hit 5 irons and 6 irons, well, we are not hitting with as much spin. The ball just doesn't spin as much, so it's coming at a different angle. That's obviously one of the challenges. But also a 5 iron now for most guys are about 220 ish. I think Jack hit 5 iron on 16 when he won in '86, and you know, we are hitting mostly 8 irons and 9 irons now to the same number. It's a different game.
Q. Golf would love to see you and Rory McIlroy going head to head on Sunday afternoon; is that personal contest something that is of interest or motivates you in particular, or do you have no particular feeling for who you actually are vying for the title?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I'd like to be there first, and we'll figure out who is there, as well. But my main responsibility is to get there and then be part of that mix.
Q. Congrats on World No. 1. What does that actually mean to you and where does it rank in terms of your overall priorities?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think first it was nice to get back to ranked No. 1. There are a lot of players who try to get there and have never been able to do it, and I've been able to get there a few times throughout my career. And to battle the injuries that I've come through and to get through all that and to win enough golf tournaments and to win consistently enough to get to that point is something I'm very proud of. I'm excited that at this point in my career that I've been able to get healthy and to be able to give myself another chance.
Q. Would you trade the ranking for another major?
TIGER WOODS: Oh, absolutely. Are you kidding me? (Smiling).
Q. What would you have thought at that green jacket ceremony in '05 if somebody said it would be another seven years before you won again?
TIGER WOODS: I wouldn't have been happy with that.
Q. Does it feel like a long time ago?
TIGER WOODS: It does. I put myself in the mix every year but last year, and that's the misleading part is that it's not like I've been out of there with no chance of winning this championship. I've been there, and unfortunately just haven't got it done. I've made runs to get myself in it. I've been there in the mix on the back nine, either not executed, not made enough putts or didn't take care of the par 5s, or whatever it may be. I've been in the mix, just I haven't got it done.
Q. To follow up, how surprised are you by that? I know you always say, yeah, it's very hard to do; but given that you win three in your first six trips as a pro, how surprised are you?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I'm not surprised that I haven't gave myself chances. Obviously not real happy with the fact that I haven't won more. I've been in the mix and as I said, just haven't gotten it done. But the whole idea is to give myself opportunities, and as of right now, I'm tied for second on the all time win list here, so that's not too bad, either.
Q. Is it fair to say that your confidence comes from ball striking; that when you feel like you're flushing it, all of a sudden the chips get closer and the putts go in? Is that true? And secondly, have you ever won a major with a goatee?
TIGER WOODS: Never won a major with a goatee on, no, because it takes a long time for this thing to grow, you know.
Q. Seven years?
TIGER WOODS: It takes a long time (laughter). What was the next part of your question? Okay.
Q. Just the confidence about when you're flushing it, do you find that it puffs your chest out a bit, the chips go closer, the putts go in?
TIGER WOODS: I think it's the overall game. It's prep and winning golf tournaments. I'm pleased at the progress I've made with Sean and the things we've done. To going from where I went from at 58 in the world to get to where I'm at now, I'm pleased with the progress I've made. The confidence comes from being able to do it on the range first, and being able to do it at Medalist back home and come out here and do it consistently and I'm starting to do that. The wins have piled up the last couple years.
Q. You talked about your work with Sean, and golfers talk about when they have that click moment and then they don't have to think about their swing on the golf course. When did that happen for you with this swing change with Sean?
TIGER WOODS: I don't think it has. We're still always messing with things, tinkering around with things. I mean, things are always - golf's fluid. We are always trying to get a little bit better somehow and refine it, and there's always room for refinement. That will never change.
Q. Much was made of your weekends at the majors last year, and various people surmising different things. Do you feel more pressure to win majors than you used to?
TIGER WOODS: No. Still the same. These are our four biggest events. They are the best events to play in, the toughest conditions, best fields and the most demanding and challenging. I mean, that's what you want. That's the fun part.
Q. Has your new equilibrium in life changed how you view 19 majors? Is that still as important to you as it was?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it is. I would like to be able to get to that point. It took Jack a while to get to 18, all the way until he was 46 years old. So there's plenty of opportunities for me.
Q. You've shown that you've been more at peace and comfortable in this domain, even in media rooms. Do you believe that it's more winning has led to happiness or your happiness has led to winning?
TIGER WOODS: I think it's just a balance, a balance in life, and I think that's what you're seeing.
Q. Rory said this morning that he could not consider himself as your rival because of all you did, the 77 victories, him six; and 14 majors, and him two. Would you consider him as your main rival?
TIGER WOODS: I think that over the course of my career, I've had a few. You know, certainly Rory is this generation. I've had Phil and Vijay and Ernie and David for a number of years, and now Rory's the leading of this new, younger generation. So yes, definitely.
Q. What kind of interaction or conversation did you have or what kind of questions did he ask?
TIGER WOODS: He asked a lot of game questions, whether it's what am I doing in my game or a strategy on the golf course, practice, playing. A lot of golf stuff. And I was asking him about school and stuff like that (laughter). What classes are you taking?
Q. Did you get a sense of his personality?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, he speaks great English. He's picked it up really well. I'm kind of making a half joke about it, but when I was here, I was getting ready for mid terms and things like that. So what's he doing? Books here or anything? Just golf. No, it was cool to see, just the attitude and just the open mindedness. He's just taking it all in. He's going to learn and become so much better because of this experience and certainly going to grow as a player and as a person.
Q. To what extent do you think the changes in equipment since you first played here as a pro in'97 have altered the need for creative golf, particularly at this golf course?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it's different. We played - the fairways were tighter, much faster. I remember playing practice rounds with Seve and Ollie and Raymond and having them basically school me on how to hit shots with a 7 iron through 4 iron, what spins, what angles, how to roll my hands, how to hold the face, all these different things. We don't play those shots here anymore. The grass is too thick, too lush. So it's a much different game. Guys are bringing out 64 and 62 degree wedges this week, just for this week, because of how lush and dense it is. It's just sticky around the greens. It's so different than what we used to do and what we used to play.
Q. Do you think it's brought fields closer together?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I think it's - well, part yes and no. I think you can look at it the fact that the longer hitters certainly have done well here over the years, but also, it's the shorter hitters like Mike or Zach still have an opportunity to win. Just got to be really good with their wedging. But you still have that opportunity to play so many different ways, but you'd better be precise, either way, whether you're long or you're short. This golf course just demands being precise.
Q. Can you talk about your overall strength and your flexibility compared to eight or 10 years ago?
TIGER WOODS: Well, certainly at 37, I'm not what I was when I was 19 as far as flexibility. I'm far stronger and far more explosive than I was then. Just certainly don't have the elasticity, and that's, you know, a function of age. It's MJ jumping over everybody, and then the next thing you know, he's got a fade away. You have to adapt and you have to play and you have to adjust. That's what we do as players as we mature through the game.
Q. Is the goal of your swing to improve performance or to save your knee from getting hurt?
TIGER WOODS: Both. Both. Absolutely both. Sean and I certainly had a number of talks early on on how we need to protect this knee and keep it healthy. You know, the changes that he recommended, I was very happy with and the biomechanics of it. He researched it and certainly had a bunch of knowledge behind it, or when he suggested numbers and of that nature. We started working on it, and here we are.
MODERATOR: Well, ladies and gentlemen, thank you so very much. And Tiger, thank you for spending time with us, very gracious.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.