Is This Tiger's Week for 15th Major?


After Tiger Woods put on a heroic performance - overcoming a severely damaged knee and 91 holes to beat Rocco Mediate - in the 2008 U.S. Open for his 14th major, many observers thought it'd be a cakewalk for him to reel off four more Grand Slam titles and tie the all-time mark by Jack Nicklaus.

Incredibly, Woods hasn't won a Grand Slam event since that victory at Torrey Pines. In the interim, he's undergone physical ailments, personal misbehavior and a divorce, and a retooling of his swing with a new instructor, Sean Foley. Despite eight top-10 finishes in majors since the '08 U.S. Open, he hasn't won one.

But Woods comes into this week's PGA Championship on a roll. He's won five times this year - pushing his career victory total to 79, only three behind the record mark of Sam Snead's, and solidified his position as the No. 1-ranked player in the world.

He's also entering Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y., site of the final major of the year, off a win in last week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club. Not only did he put on a dominant performance - his margin of victory was seven strokes against the world's top players, but it he showed the full magnitude of his current game.

On Tuesday, Woods met with reporters at Oak Hill to discuss his revitalized season, his attitude entering the PGA, and what he thinks is needed for him to finally, after a five-plus-year gap, get his 15th major title and fifth Wanamaker Trophy. Here's what the 37-year-old had to say.

MODERATOR: Fresh off a convincing victory on Sunday in Akron, Ohio, four time PGA champion, Tiger Woods joining us at the 95th PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club, this will be Tiger's 16th PGA Championship appearance. Tiger, five wins this year, two top 10s in majors, feel like you're ready to get that 15th major this week?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I feel good. I had a great week last week, I've had a couple nice days of practice. Yesterday was very light. Today did a little bit more work, and you know, still got one more day to prep and prepare. The golf course is in fantastic shape. It's dry now, it's got some speed to it, and the rough is certainly up, and it's clumpy. It's imperative to hit the ball in the fairways and hit the ball on the greens, because it's going to be tough to get up and down.

Q. Just talk about how you think Oak Hill sets up for your game.

TIGER WOODS: Well, I like it. I liked it when I played here in '03. I think it's a fantastic golf course. It's tough. It's right in front of you. Really, no surprises out there. You just have to play well. This is one of those courses where you've just got to bring it ball striking wise. You've got to hit the ball well.

Q. Historically, when you win at Bridgestone, it's given you a bit of a spur the next week into the PGA. Is that how you feel? Do you have that level of confidence? And I think in '03 here, you struggled to hit the fairways. You had some good scores but a lot of it was good chipping, good putting. How are you going to attack this place with the penalty being so high if you miss the fairway?

TIGER WOODS: Well, do I feel good? Well, obviously I feel pretty good about winning by seven and coming here. I feel like my game's pretty good. As I was saying to a lot of you guys last week, that's how I played at the British Open. Only difference is I made more putts last week. I hit it just as good at Muirfield, and didn't make any putts the last three days. At Firestone, I putted well, but I hit the ball just the same. So the last couple days - yesterday I took it easy, didn't really do much, chipped and putted. But today, did a little bit more work and started to get the feel for this golf course, how it's playing.

It's playing quick. These fairways, especially on the left side, they obviously cut it downgrain on the left side so you can get a lot of chase to it. Some of the holes, you run out of room quick. It's playing, even though it's a little bit longer than what it was in '03, it might be playing a little bit shorter because it is drier. The balls are really running out there. How I'm going to attack is I I'm just going to play to my little sections and go from there. I just think that depends on wind and some of the holes, how far I decide to go down on some of these fairways. Obviously sometimes I may lay back with a 5 wood or 3 wood on some of these tees.

MODERATOR: Do you have a feel of how many times you'll pull out the driver this week or is it still to be determined?

TIGER WOODS: Probably between two and five times, and that depends on wind and conditions.

Q. The game is very popular right now. You are playing beautifully. Phil is playing well, as well. You're 1 and 2 in the world. That being said, since you guys have competed against each other for a number of years, and been on national teams; how would you describe the relationship personally and professionally between you two?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I just got asked that last week actually. We've known each other since - started probably more in'97 when I made The Ryder Cup Team then. We've battled and we've gone head to head quite a few times. Not as much as people might think. As I was saying last week, I actually battled Vijay and Ernie more times, because we played around the world and have gone at it more on a global basis. But Phil and I have certainly battled in a few majors and a few tournaments here and there. We've gotten to know each other over the years by being on these teams each and every year. I've missed one team because I had that ACL reconstruction, but other than that, I've been on every team. Basically it's been the three of us; it's been Jim, myself and Phil since, what, '97, on every team. So it's been a lot of fun.

Q. This course hosted a Ryder Cup, there's been a lot of talk of it possibly in a few years getting a Presidents Cup. How do you think it would set up for an event like that?

TIGER WOODS: Well, it's proven that it's a fantastic match play course. Obviously we've had U.S. Opens and PGAs here, but having the Ryder Cup here, I watched it. It was an incredible event, watching Seve slash it from every place and get up and down, hole chips. I remember that singles match him playing against Lehman, Lehman striped it all day and Seve never saw the golf course but hung in there. That was pretty gutsy, him and obviously Gilford winning a couple matches. It was a great match play course. It was set up that week more towards an Open. I think that's what Lanny wanted. He had a lot of guys who hit the ball straight. I think Curtis was on that team, Corey, Loren, very straight hitters; Tom, and I think that was more catered to that type of golf. But it came down to the very end. If you have a Presidents Cup or a Ryder Cup here, it's a great venue. The people are so into it up here and they love their golf and they are so supportive of it.

Q. To follow up on what you were talking about with Phil, you and Phil and Jim have been the face of American golf for going on two decades. I'm curious who you think might be some of the younger generation of players who can eventually follow in your footsteps. I know you still have many good years left; but some of the young players who you think could be the future of the young generation of professional golfers?

TIGER WOODS: Probably have to say Rickie and Dustin are probably going to make teams, especially Dustin with his length, he's going to make a lot of teams. But there's so much young talent. It's not just U.S. talent. The talent is coming from all over the world now, and at such a young age, especially throughout Asia. That's going to be interesting. But we have a lot of good players coming up, and I think that, as I was saying, Rickie and Dustin and probably a few more other guys I'm probably not mentioning, that certainly will have a chance to make teams for the next decade plus.

Q. I just wonder, you're obviously having as good a year as anybody in the world right now. How do you, with your high standards and the majors being a high target, differentiate what a great year is, for example, right now, with five wins, and whether you can have a great year without a major on the docket for that year?

TIGER WOODS: I think winning one major championship automatically means you had a great year. Even if you miss the cut in every tournament you play in; you win one, you're part of history. This year, for me, I think it's been a great year so far for me, winning five times, and you look at the quality of tournaments I've won, a Players and two World Golf Championships in there, that's pretty good.

Q. If you don't come away here with a trophy, can it still remain a good year for you?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I think so. We certainly have, what, four more big events after this. A lot of things can happen, but I'm focused on this week and trying to win this one.

Q. Last week, you expressed a little concern about the greens here. Can you talk about how far they have come in a week, and what do you see out of them now?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, they have definitely got up to speed. They certainly have sped up. I think they are close to 11 plus now. They have picked up a couple feet, easily, and I'm sure they are going to dry them out and roll them a little bit more and get a little bit more speed out of them. It's going to be a great test. There's not a lot of base to it. Obviously the greens have a little bit of sand underneath. But the balls aren't ripping back because of that. They are just kind of digging in and kind of rolling, so it's a little bit different than we played last week. But that's all feel and understanding. That's one of the reasons why I went around yesterday and chipped and putted so much was to get a little bit more feel for that, and obviously I'll do more of that today and tomorrow.

Q. There have been many occasions over the last five years where you've won the week before a major and then obviously it's not happened. What do you take from those experiences that you might be able to use this time around to be able to capitalize on what you did at Firestone?

TIGER WOODS: Well, the thing is, just keep building. As I said, I have three days to prepare and continue to work on the things that I'm working on and get a feel for this golf course and how I'm going to play it. I've got two days in so far. Still got one more to go, and like to do a little bit more work tomorrow. Overall, I feel very pleased with where my game is at. I've played well in the last two tournaments I've played in, especially coming off a little bit of an injury at The Open and coming back and really played well in the last two tournaments, I'm very pleased about that.

Q. You've obviously been there in the majors this year. What's been the most frustrating part of your game when you've looked at it of not being able to close out the weekends? And what sort of putting advice did Steve give you yesterday when you guys practiced together?

TIGER WOODS: Frustrating part is I've been there and didn't win two of the tournaments that I was right there in. You know, one, I hit a flagstick and I was leading the tournament and ended up getting obviously a penalty there, and that was a tough round on Saturday, but got it around and shot under par, and put myself there with a chance on Sunday and didn't get it done. Same thing at the Open. Steve and I were talking about putting, and some of the things that he likes to believe and he feels. I've actually got to flip it around because he feels everything in his left hand and I feel everything in my right hand, but we believe in how the blade swings and how it moves. I wanted him to take a look at my angles of my shoulders and my arms, facial rotation, things of that nature. You just have to think in reverse with him, because obviously everything is based on his left hand and everything for me in my putting is based on my right hand.

Q. You and Steve ever talk about bow hunting or is it just putting?

TIGER WOODS: We talked a little about that, actually.

Q. I wanted to ask you on that theme of how one major makes it a great year. I want to talk about it from a career perspective. Shaun Micheel, his only career win has been a major, as a player, how would you look at a career like that, just one win, but it was a major, compared with maybe someone who has won eight or nine times, but no major.

TIGER WOODS: It's the biggest events and he won it. He's going to go down in history as a major championship winner. That just puts you automatically into another category. These are the biggest events with the most pressure, the best fields on the most difficult golf courses. On top of that, hell, he hit one of the greatest shots you've ever seen on 18 to finish it off. That's what we all look forward to is having these opportunities, and he capitalized on it when he had it. He beat Chad, and Chad was playing great that day and that week. He just took it right to him.

Q. You had a nice moment with your son after the Bridgestone, and Michael Jordan always said he felt bad for his kids because they might have to live up to trying to be like him. If your son has aspirations to go into golf, have you thought about how you're going to help him through being Tiger Woods' son, if he decides to play?

TIGER WOODS: Whatever he decides, he decides. If he did decide to play golf, so be it. If he decides to play another sport or not play any sports; as long as he's happy and he enjoys his life, I'm there to support and guide him in his life, and that's what it's all about. I was in a different situation with my dad. People think that he pushed me into golf, and it was the exact opposite. He was trying to get me not to play it. Go play baseball. Okay, I'd go play base ball, I pitched. I can't wait to get out of this so I can go play golf. I would run track and cross country and I would run home fast to get to the golf course, those type of things.

I feel in love with golf at an early age; that was just my deal. I think the reason I did fall in love with it was because my dad kept it fun and light, and I just enjoyed being out there. That's what I want to do with Sam or Charlie, if they play golf, no lessons. We are just going to go out there and just have fun, hit it around, laugh and needle each other. He's only four years old, but he still gives me a little bit of grief, which is good stuff (smiling).

Q. Just curious if your bag setup is the same as Firestone or if you made a change, and if so, what do you change?

TIGER WOODS: It's the same setup. I even played the Open Championship with the same setup. I didn't use a 2 iron over there. I just used the 5 wood. I just thought even there, the fairways were actually too fast. I couldn't stop the 2 iron, it was actually going too far. So the 5 wood was a little bit softer. And I used the same setup at Firestone and the same setup here. You know what, I did put in some fresh wedges at Firestone. That's it.

Q. Looking to the finish out here, the closing stretch of this course, what do you make of it as a whole? And then specifically, the 14th hole, the short par 4, what do you make of having a gettable opportunity there?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, there's a few holes in which you're looking at making birdies, on that back nine, especially. 11 is a short hole. 14 is a short hole. Even 13, you're going to have a wedge in there. So there's a few opportunities where you're going to have wedges in your hands and you're going to try to make birdies. But the penalty for going and being a little too aggressive is harsh; it's very severe.

14 is drivable. I couldn't get there today, because it was 300, the wind was kicking up and it was into me. I can't hit it 300 yards into the wind in the air, so I laid up. The finishing holes with 17 and 18 are tough holes. Now, today, I hit driver right down the middle of the fairway on 17, ended up in the rough because a little downwind, it gets over that crest and it's out of here, so I hit 3 wood down there and hit a 5 iron on the green. And 18, I hit a 3 wood and a 7 iron on there.

Q. Craig Harmon said last week he thought a lot of players might have trouble reading the greens here this week; there are a lot of subtleties to the breaks. Have you found that to be true and do you think that will be a big factor?

TIGER WOODS: Absolutely. Absolutely. There's quite a few subtleties. Stricks and I were talking about that yesterday as we were hitting putts. These little ridges and little waves in the greens, a little bit of grain here and there; they are tough. They are tricky to read. I'm sure I'll be calling Joey in on a few putts here and there. A lot of putts that had - we were putting to holes, what we thought were the hole location areas. A lot of the long putts had double breaks in them. It's going to be important to hit a lot of greens and give yourself opportunities, because these are a little bit tricky to read, there's no doubt.

Q. You said earlier that five wins this year, even without a major, would still be a great year. Having gone five plus years without a major, have you adjusted your standards at all in what clarifies a great year?

TIGER WOODS: No.

Q. Then would it not be - (laughter) - without a major, still a great year?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah. (Laughter).

Q. Is your 15th major yet proving the toughest one to win, and if not, why not?

TIGER WOODS: It kind of seems that way. It's been probably the longest spell that I've had since I hadn't won a major championship. I came out here very early and got my first one back in'97. I've had, certainly, my share of chances to win. I've had my opportunities there on the back nine on those - probably half of those Sundays for the last five years where I've had a chance, and just haven't won it. But the key is to keep giving myself chances, and eventually I'll start getting them.

Q. In 2003, you called this course the toughest, fairest, you've ever played. Ten years later is that still true about here?

TIGER WOODS: Absolutely. This is a very difficult golf course. But I think what Kerry does and his staff and obviously what Craig has done with maintenance of the golf course, I think that it's always been fair. It's just tough. The rough is up; fairways are perfect; greens are getting up to speed now. It's just a very difficult golf course. I mean, you have to hit the ball well here. When you look at the guys who have won here, they are all really good ball strikers. It just putts a premium on hitting the ball in the fairway and hitting the ball on the greens, because there aren't a whole lot of opportunities out there to make birdie, but there's certainly a lot of opportunities to go the other way.

Q. We see the way fans try to approach you for autographs. Yesterday it look liked when you were going on the range, you went over to sign, did something happen there, and how do you approach that when there's so many people?

TIGER WOODS: Well, the fence almost came down. So they almost knocked the fence down. It gets dangerous. We had a little girl get crushed today, and she was just on the ground crying. People get so aggressive for autographs. And security is trying to be aggressive to protect the little kids up front. You try and sign, but sometimes the adults start running over the little kids up front, and especially on a fence like that, on a hard fence, it can get dangerous sometimes. That was one of those situations where, yeah, it almost fell.

Q. Hunter Mahan was in here today saying that he got a lot of positive feedback for his choice to leave a tournament he was leading to go home to see the birth of his first child. What did you or would you say to him about that choice?

TIGER WOODS: He made the perfect choice. I mean, that's - actually, there wasn't any. The birth of your first child, or any child, for that matter, that takes precedent over anything you do. That's the most beautiful day that you can possibly have in your life is to be there to witness the birth of your child.

Q. Talking about the closing stretch, wanted to get your thoughts on the changes on 15, and the fans getting to pick the final pin placement on Sunday.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, the green is obviously very different. It's a little bit skinnier now and a little bit more severe on the left. There's a ridge on the left that goes left to right, and there's a falloff a little deeper in the green. As far as the fans picking, I think that's fantastic. I was asked this question last week, and I said, you know, what I think it probably would have been better if they got to pick every day and got more fan participation that way. I think it would have been a little bit more exciting for everyone if that was the case. But one day is still good, and it's going to be on Sunday.

Q. What's your thoughts on the use of psychologists in golf, and would you ever consider using one?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I used to use a sports psychologist when I was younger. It does help. There's quite a few guys who have sports psychologists they do use and travel with, and some pretty famous ones are out here. To each his own; some guys want to do everything on their own, no instructor, no sports psychologist, no trainer, no nothing. The other guys need to have the whole boatload. Whatever it takes to become a better player and to shoot lower scores in golf tournaments, I think you have to try and explore that, and I think that you can learn a lot from sports psychologists, there's no doubt. But ultimately, what's going to work on the back nine of Sundays to win tournaments. Hopefully some of these guys have shared experiences with other players and have found things that key - well, keys that actually work and they have put it to good use.

Q. You played a couple of rounds at Merion with Adam and Stevie, and then obviously at Muirfield with Stevie. Afterwards, he was asked what he thought about your game, and he thought it was in very good shape, but he said if there was anything missing, it was that you were not as aggressive as you used to be. Do you feel that that's the case, or maybe it was just the conditions of Muirfield were dictating that?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it's all dependent on the conditions. There the penalty for being overly aggressive and hitting the ball in the wrong spots was very severe. Yeah, I was right there with a chance going into Sunday, and Saturday. I was right there. What was I, one back, whatever it was, going to 17 when I spun that 3 wood in there. That changed the whole momentum of the tournament, but I was still right there.

I just think that certain golf courses allow you to be more aggressive than others. Last week I was a little more aggressive because the conditions were softer. At Muirfield, when you're hitting 5 irons that are going 285, it's kind of hard to be superly aggressive. I hit a couple 7 irons down there off of tee boxes that went 240. It was just a different kind of golf course.

Q. You have a really ambitious workout routine. What do you do during major weeks like this to get ready?

TIGER WOODS: Same. Just prepare. I lift every day. Try and stay strong and explosive and flexible and be ready. I just think that physical fitness over the long haul is key; you just never get tired. When you hear guy saying, I got tired coming down the stretch, that's hard to imagine. It's hard to imagine getting tired playing golf. But that's why you train, and that's why you run all those miles and lift all those weights, so that when you are asked in rain delays to go 36 or whatever plus holes it is, that you feel just as explosive on the last hole as you did the first hole.

Q. At the beginning of the year, there was so much talk about who your caddie was going to be, this, that and the other thing; now that you've won five times, can you talk a little bit about the contributions that Joey has made to your team?

TIGER WOODS: Joey has been fantastic. We've had a lot of fun. We're very similar, very competitive. He's very quiet, but man, he's competitive. I love that. He just wants to go out there and compete and win. And he's into it. We read greens very similarly, so that was - that's been a nice transition. We didn't have to make any transition there. And before that, he was caddying for Dustin, so he was used to hitting the ball - well, I don't hit wedges 155 yards, he had to dial it back a little bit, but he's had experience with guys who hit it very long. Freddie has hit it long his entire career and Dustin hits it long, so he's used to playing that kind of golf. We have gone out there and blended and been a really good team.

Q. Earlier you talked about Rochester being a pretty good golf town.

TIGER WOODS: It is, yeah.

Q. I wonder if you can expand on that, and you talk about fans being supportive. What's a supportive fan to you? What would you like to see them do and not do, and what do you think of the crowds out there so far?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I don't think you need to yell every time the ball gets airborne. (Laughter). As far as - I played here as an amateur over at Monroe, the Monroe Invitational. I believe it's an old Donald Ross course. Man, it's a fantastic golf course. And obviously playing here, this is all you want in a golf course. So this is a great golfing town. The communities come out I wasn't part of the '95 Ryder Cup, but seeing the atmosphere and how loud and how raucous everyone was, and experiencing here in '03 and obviously the last two days so far this week, people are into it. People are into their sport up here, into golf, and it's a great community for golf.

MODERATOR: Four time PGA champion, Tiger Woods.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.


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