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An Interview with Tiger Woods


September 14, 2004

JULIUS MASON: Tiger Woods, ladies and gentlemen, joining us at the 35th Ryder Cup Matches.

Tiger, some thoughts on your practice round out there today and we'll go to Q&A, please.

TIGER WOODS: The golf course is in fantastic shape. Fairways are perfect. Rough, it's kind of spotty a little bit, it has some deep spots as well as some spots that have not come in too well. The greens are smooth, a little bit on the slow side and sort of a little bit softer than I think we were expecting but I think this is only Tuesday. Come Friday I'm sure they will be a little bit firmer and a little bit quicker.

Q. Hal made it pretty clear to us that of course he really likes all of his players but he's putting a great deal on your shoulders and he feels you're the best player on the team and he's going to treat you accordingly. He indicated he said pretty much the same thing to you. How do you feel about that?

TIGER WOODS: It's not any different than the rest of the captains have said. I qualified No. 1 in points every time I've been on. So I think that kind of says it right there.

Q. Kind of repeating what he had said what was the gist of the conversation? Hal basically said 5-8-2 is probably numbers you should not be thought of with Jack and you will of course be judged on your Ryder Cup record and all that. I don't imagine you're being used to talked to in such brusk, blunt terms, if he gave us an accurate characterization of that; how do you respond to that? Imagine you're probably not real happy with 5-8-2 anymore than he is?

TIGER WOODS: No, hey, I've gone out there and played my best each and every time. I watched Hal's press conference and he's right, I've shot 64 and lost. And also, I've played poorly and lost. So it goes both ways.

All I know is I've tried my best. Unfortunately I just haven't got more points for our team. Hopefully this year will be a different story. Hopefully I'll be able to get more points for our team where we can win this thing.

Q. In retrospect, would you have preferred to not have so many different doubles partners, and this week, would you like to play with maybe the same one or two guys?

TIGER WOODS: I get paired up with whoever the captain puts me out there with. I actually have been in situations where I was supposed to sit out and didn't sit out, I got put out there. Other times the pairings have switched because one person wasn't playing well enough to be playing in the afternoon, so that pairing got thrown out and we've changed partners because of that.

Hopefully this year, whomever I play with, we'll go out and win points. If that's the case, I'm sure that our captain will go ahead and put us out there again and continuity will continue.

Q. Going back to what Hal was talking about, as you can tell he gave us some good stuff. It sounds like he was really trying to light a fire under your tail, just about the importance of Ryder Cup. I'm curious if it works and if you find yourself having a different attitude about this Ryder Cup.

TIGER WOODS: Guys, go out there with the same attitude and that's just to win, period. I don't go into any tournament thinking that it would be great to lose. (Laughter.) I think it would be asinine to think that way.

You guys know how competitive I am. I go out there with the intent to go out there and win points for the U.S. Team. That's what I've done or tried to do since my first Ryder Cup in '97 at Valderrama.

Q. One of the other things Hal said is, you know, not your fault, you're as good as you are and other players have looked at you as the guy they want to knock off. Does that motivate you knowing that other guys are coming up against you saying, "I'm playing against Tiger Woods and I'm going to beat him."

TIGER WOODS: That's the way it's been since my first Ryder Cup. I knew that, and I've known it all along. That has not changed. That's not a new revelation you're just throwing out there. That's been there from the very first week. At my first Ryder Cup I was ranked No. 1 in the world at the time. Yeah, there were -- I think that was predominately an attitude throughout every cup I've been on, whether it's Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup.

Q. Do you recall your first Ryder Cup being at all jarring when a poor shot of yours might have been jeered or cheered by the European fans and is that at all difficult to get used to?

TIGER WOODS: No, my first introduction to playing in a team format overseas was the Walker Cup, and I was booed on the first tee. (Laughter.) So I figured it would probably be the same way at Valderrama, but it wasn't anywhere near as bad. People were gracious. They were bipartisan but they were excited when the Europeans would hit a good shot in there. They cheered for our shots when we hit quality golf shots.

Q. At the other captain's press conference, Bernhard Langer made a point of saying that Tiger can only win five points, the rest of the American team has to get the other nine and a half to win. Do we overplay your role as part of this team a little bit?

TIGER WOODS: You know, any person who gets put out there is only in charge of one point. If you get put out there as you said in all five matches, you're only capable of winning five points. It is a team effort. That's what we all realize, this is a team tournament and a team effort and hopefully we can all do our part where we can go ahead and get points for our team.

Whatever matches I play in, whether it's one or five, I will try and do my best to get that point for our team.

Q. As a follow-up, do you get involved in pep talks with other players as well as the perceived leader in points of this team?

TIGER WOODS: I basically kind of go on, not really stand in front of a forum like this in front of guys and give them my spiel. I would just rather go over to the side eye ball to eye ball and tell them something. That's what I've done in the past. Certainly not one for big speeches, I think that's -- the captain is going to be doing that enough. You know, I'm more than happy to pull guys aside and go ahead and talk to them a little bit.

Some of the guys who are new to this I've talked to them already a few times this week about what they can expect and what they might experience, things that they might go through, things that I've gone through.

Q. What's your prototype for the ideal partner for Tiger Woods?

TIGER WOODS: Fairways, greens and make every putt. (Laughter.)

Q. And how many birdies?

TIGER WOODS: Birdie every hole.

Q. No, seriously, what are you comfortable with in terms of the kind of player?

TIGER WOODS: It doesn't really matter. I've played with all different types of players, guys who have been just as fiery as I am like Steve Pate. Guys who are pretty mellow like John Huston. I've played with different guys, guys who don't really show any emotion, like David at Brookline. I've played with them all.

As long as you're playing well, it's great. If you go out there and you're not playing well, both of us, it makes for a very -- well, not real long day but real short match.

Q. There was a story in the Boston Herald about two weeks ago that you had broken up with your fiancee and I wonder if you can speak to that one way or the other.

TIGER WOODS: Okay.

Q. Let's take it one at a time.

TIGER WOODS: Thanks. No, that's completely false. It's one hundred percent false, actually. It's amazing how the media can quote false things like that and not be held accountable for something like that, which I think is just incredible.

Nothing's happened to us. We're still very happy. We've had no arguments. It's just unbelievable how the media can do that and get away with it.

Q. No arguments, none?

TIGER WOODS: No.

Q. Second, Hal has -- it's a bad segue, but so be it. Hal has made it so clear that he's not going to really let on who you guys might be paired with until, sounds like the 11th hour.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah.

Q. Just wonder if you can talk about that approach compared with maybe other years when you've had a pretty decent idea maybe Wednesday, Thursday and you can get accustomed to it going into the practice rounds.

TIGER WOODS: Well, some captains, we've known months in advance what our pairings might be, and they have actually come to fruition.

This is certainly a different strategy and something that I've never experienced. I was talking to Davis about it earlier and he's been on the team since '93, I believe and he's never experienced anything like that. So I think it is refreshing. We go out there and prepare like we always do for each and every tournament and then when your name is called you go out there and try and get a point.

Q. Hal talked about having Michael Jordan at the dinner last night. How was that experience and what did he say to you guys in general and just another short question is, with all of the cameras clicking in your back swing, how do you handle that? Does it affect your play in the practice round?

TIGER WOODS: The practice round is not too bad because it's going off the entire time. It's in tournament play when it's a little different story, as you guys have seen in the past.

As far as Michael, it's weird, it's weird for me to see people react to him that way because he's just Mike. He's MJ to me. He's one of my best friends. So it was kind of funny to sit back and watch, but it was kind of cool what he said, how excited he is about the event. He was there at Brookline. He's going to be here this week. He was there at Valderrama. He obviously supports our team and our effort. He just wanted to keep reiterating the fact that he's there 100% pulling for us.

Q. You and Davis were 2-0 for one day when Curtis had you together. Could you first explain if there was any explanation you had for why that worked so well between the two of you? Do you mesh well together? And then the other thing I'd like for you to try to explain is the difference in trying to be successful in Ryder Cup competition or any team competition as opposed to trying to win major championships.

TIGER WOODS: First part of your question, Jerry, I think if you usually shoot a 6- or 7-under par alternate-shot and then shoot 11-under par in the afternoon, you generally have a good chance of winning matches, because that's what we did. (Laughing) we played great.

As far as the difference between major championships and the Ryder Cup, yeah, there is certainly a difference, there's no doubt about that. It's a team format. You start noticing it come Sunday how obviously you're playing in team matches which you don't normally do, but come Sunday you just feel a little bit more. Because of the fact you lose a point, you're not only losing a point for yourself but you're losing a point for all of your teammates as well as your captain.

It makes for a different atmosphere. I'll never forget, obviously it's not the Ryder Cup, but the Presidents Cup last year, having to make those two par putts on the second and the third playoff holes, I tried my darndest not to look over to the side because I kept seeing all of this red over there because that was our team and all of the yellow for the International Team, and it was just so hard to try to block that out. It makes things so much more different because we don't ever get a chance to do that. Because if you miss a putt and lose a major championship, you know, so be it. It's just all you do is hurt yourself. Here it's totally different.

Q. I'm sure you've read or heard the perception that the European Team for whatever reason cares more about the Ryder Cup. You've been on the last few American teams, do you have any thoughts on that or is it BS or how do you react to that?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think we on our team, if you guys -- you guys are not privy to what we do in the team room and I think if you guys would be there you would see the excitement level and the unity that we have.

I think that's the misconception, the biggest misconception about the Ryder Cup that I think the teams that I've been on is how much so-called, "we don't care". That's not the case at all. We're out there fighting for every point. We're united as a team. We are trying to get this thing done as a unit and pulling for each other. Walking holes when you're not playing, supporting, tapping them on the butt, "Come on, keep going." That's what it's all about.

Q. You and I think most top players playing, planning your year around the majors, can you prepare for the Ryder Cup the same way or given the format is that too difficult to do?

TIGER WOODS: You don't normally play this format. Maybe in the World Cup you do, now with the new format they have put in the World Cup. But other than that, you don't get a chance to practice for this at all. The only thing you can do is probably play some money games with the guys on the team and that's about it maybe in practice rounds.

Q. With golf being an individual sport, Hal had said one thing that people will gauge you on is your record in the Ryder Cup, a team event. Is it fair for one person to be judged in an individual sport based on his record in a team event over the courts of history?

TIGER WOODS: Not necessarily. As I've said, I've played well and lost and what can you do? It's one of the funny things I was talking about this the other day, I'm sure all of you guys probably know what Jack's record is in the Ryder Cup; right? Anybody? No? How many majors did he win? Oh, really? (Laughter.) Okay.

Q. How trying has this year been for you, maybe not so much on the course but off the course for you having to defend your play week after week after week?

TIGER WOODS: I think that's been annoying. Certainly no doubt about that because each and every day, like for instance, I went out there -- a great example of this was at Firestone. I hit 11 fairways on Sunday and I hit two bad tee shots which were way right on the two par 5s and that's all they kept showing. They don't show the fact I hit 11 fairways that day. I hit every other shot just about perfect that day and played a great round of golf.

So the perception, the depiction of my rounds, being critiqued all the time is certainly something that it's been taken to another level. I know that back in '98, I experienced a lot of that from my swing change from '97. But I haven't experienced it to this level in this degree, no.

Q. Do you feel your game is at where it needs to be right now at this point of the season?

TIGER WOODS: I'm very excited about it, yes.

Q. Would you like to be paired with Phil if you were a captain, playing captain at this point, would you pair yourself with Phil and what are the pros and cons of you guys playing together?

TIGER WOODS: I would love to play with Phil. As talented as he is, I mean, how could you not want to play?

As far as the pros and cons, I think we kind of experienced a little bit of that in '99 at Brookline. I was ranked No. 1 and David was ranked No. 2 in the world and he put us out there and we got beat by I think Clarke and Westwood on the last hole, 1-up. So that obviously, it has its pros and cons, throwing two top guys out there, but if you lose, yeah, that's kind of tough.

Also, some of the positives, is you've seen Watson and Nicklaus go at it and they have won matches. Nicklaus and Palmer in the Ryder Cup together. It can be perceived as both ways. But I think if we win matches it will be perceived as a huge plus.

Q. Given your wealth of Ryder Cup experience, do you find that each time you come onto a new team that you assume a little bit more of a leadership role with each team or do you find that you are maybe not comfortable doing that; that's the captain's job and your job is to just --

TIGER WOODS: You know, guys certainly ask me now because I've been on enough teams now to get an idea of what to expect. I've seen it all.

So, some of the guys, for instance Fred Funk or Chad and Chris today were asking me, what can we expect. I gave them my opinion on it. Certainly, I haven't had that before. It's kind of funny, even though I'm the veteran of Ryder Cup play, I'm still the youngest guy on the team. So there's -- you don't want to step on anyone's toes, guys who have been there a long time, such as Davis, Hal as a captain, guys who have been there more than I have, such as Phil. You still want to do the right things.

Q. After Deutsche Bank in your TV interview, you seemed to have a little bit of a gleam in your eye when you brought up the Ryder Cup coming up. Obviously as we've all chronicled, the streak of non-major wins for you, that's obviously been frustrating to you. Can this week be a little liberating to you in terms of embracing this team format and having a successful Ryder Cup and could it perhaps make your year so to speak a little bit?

TIGER WOODS: I think you're looking way too deep into this. I was just giving Hal crap on the air. (Laughter.) That's all I was doing.

As I said over here, that you guys were all kind of critiquing me for hitting it so bad all over the place. I drove it great the entire week and was just giving Hal a little shot saying you might want to consider putting me out there in alternate-shot. I was just having fun, come on. (Laughing).

Q. Just the fact the major season is over, can a successful Ryder Cup and a winning U.S. Team and you having a good Ryder Cup make up for the fact that you didn't win a major this year?

TIGER WOODS: I just want to play well and win points for my team, that's all I want to do. If I can do that, I think it would be great. If I can just add points to our total.

JULIUS MASON: Tiger Woods, ladies and gentlemen.

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