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Tiger Discusses Bizarre Day at Congressional
The powerful storm that swept through the Washington D.C. area Friday night rendered the third round of the AT&T National one of the weirdest in recent memory.
High winds downed trees and wreaked all sorts of damage to the tournament site, Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., causing PGA Tour officials to take the unusual step of keeping all spectators and all but essential volunteers away on Saturday.
As a result, tournament host Tiger Woods had the largest following, estimated at one point to be just over 70. His playing partner, Bo Van Pelt, quipped: "I told Tiger that was a Bo Van Pelt crowd, so I was used to that. I was very comfortable with 10 or 15 people watching me play golf."
Both Woods and Van Pelt carded 67s to be one stroke behind leader Brendon de Jonge (69) entering the final round. Players on Sunday will go off both the first and 10th tees in threesomes. The final round will be open to fans, with those holding tickets to Saturday's round allowed to attend on Sunday.
Teenage amateur Beau Hossler likened the setting to "a junior tournament," while Zimbabwe's de Jonge said, "It was actually really strange out there, took a little while to get used to. It's nice to have people out there and get the buzz and kind of feed off adrenaline. Obviously, we didn't have that today."
Billy Hurley III, who shot a 66 and is two strokes behind de Jonge entering Sunday, commented, "It was different. In some ways it was nice and in some ways it was not nice. It was different. It was a different experience. I don't know that I'll ever have that again. I don't think anyone has ever had it before.
"You know, it was a little strange a couple times, you make a nice putt, and you're like, okay, we'll move on. But at the same time it was sort of peaceful out there and easy to get around."
Normally the marquee player at golf events, Woods is accustomed to thousands of spectators lining the fairways he's playing. Indeed, over the years he's had several run-ins with overzealous fans and prematurely clicking cameramen. That wasn't a problem Saturday at Congressional. "I've played in front of people like this, but not generally for an 18 hole competitive round," he said.
He also noticed that the people broadcasting the event, the veteran CBS Sports crews, were a bit more obvious than normal. "We still had an amazing amount of TV crews out there moving around in their carts and setting themselves right up in my lines and stuff like that," noted Woods. "We had to move a few of those guys out there. That was still prevalent."
Here's what else Woods had to tell reporters Saturday evening after the third round - which was delayed six hours so maintenance crews could clean up the course.
MODERATOR: Welcome, Tiger Woods, to the media center at the AT&T National. Unusual round for a couple reasons. Do you mind just taking us through your thoughts on your round.
TIGER WOODS: Well, it was amazing that we even got it in. The staff, maintenance crew, all the volunteers, picking up twigs and getting everything cleared out so we could actually give it a go today was an amazing effort. They worked hard. They burned the candle at both ends pretty hard to just get us out there today, so that was good stuff. You know, today for me was - it was a day I was five back, try to make a run and get myself in the tournament, and I was able to do that.
Q. When is the last time you played in front of no spectators?
TIGER WOODS: Well, as I was saying to the guys up there, it was very similar to what we faced when we play overseas in practice rounds or when we have dangerous conditions, thunderstorms blow in in the summertime and all the spectators are taken off the golf course and then we go back out and finish in the evening and have a few holes to play, and it's usually like that. I've played in front of people like this, but not generally for an 18 hole competitive round.
Q. What was it like for you given the fact that you are always the one that's surrounded by the most excited spectators and get the most energy and of course distractions from them?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, you know, it was - there's always - there's a good and bad to that. We still had an amazing amount of TV crews out there moving around in their carts and setting themselves right up in my lines and stuff like that. We had to move a few of those guys out there. That was still prevalent.
Q. Is it easier or harder in that situation? And secondly, is there part of you that enjoys it when it's a little more peaceful and quiet out there and there aren't huge crowds and galleries?
TIGER WOODS: You know, it was a day in which - as I said, I started off five back, and I needed to make a run. Whether we have thousands of people or we have a small handful of people out there, it doesn't change the execution of the shot. The shot needs to be placed correctly in the fairway and on the correct side and then fired to the correct spot on the green and then holed. That doesn't change anything. What does change is when I hole a shot like I did on 6, it's not going to be as loud today as it normally is. But that's just the way it is. I played myself into good shape for tomorrow, and as of right now, I think I was one back when I came in here.
Q. Whatever emotion you show on the course, how much is it affected by -
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, but see, I don't really get that fired up on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday. You don't ever see those type of emotions because they just come out, and I think it's just the situation where I play myself into a position where I have a chance to win a golf tournament, and it just happens. I think for me, I just understand I still have so far to go. It's Saturday. What did I have, 20 some odd holes to go, so it's a long ways to go.
TIGER WOODS: That was different. That was different. Not too often you make a hole in one. And then Super Bowl Saturday.
Q. You started out with five putts in your first six holes, of course helped by the chip in on 6. How good was that to get your short game working so early?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I left myself in the correct spots. Like at 2, the miss had to be left, and it had to be short, and I left myself just an easy bunker shot. It's a bunker shot actually I was trying to hole. The good one was at 4. It was a good save. Hit a terrible tee shot, pulled it left, laid up with a sand wedge, and I had 76 yards to the hole and hit it to about a foot and a half. So that was a good up and down.
Q. If the flop shot at Memorial was a 10, what would today's at 6 would have been?
TIGER WOODS: Well, this one was harder than at Memorial. What year at Memorial? (Laughter.)
Q. This year.
TIGER WOODS: So there's been a few years. Are you talking about 14 or 16 this year?
Q. 16 this year.
TIGER WOODS: Well, 16 this year was more difficult. But the ones at 14, no.
Q. When did you become aware of the storm last night, and what was your first impressions of the golf course, the damage that was done?
TIGER WOODS: Well, when - you could hear it in the hotel, and looking down there at the fountain, it's normally a fountain, but it looked like someone had turned the fire hose on. It was going sideways. It was blowing quite a bit. I turned on the Weather Channel right before I went to bed, and it said gusts up to 60 to 80, and we ended up getting over that. The staff got here early in the morning, and they were buzzing my phone about 4:00 a.m. and saying that it's blocked. So yeah, it was a long day for the staff, and they did - as I said, they did an incredible job.
Q. What was the best part and the worst part of not having galleries following you all day as they usually do?
TIGER WOODS: You know, that wasn't something I was thinking about out there. I was just trying to play. This was a Saturday round. It was a chance to play myself into a tournament. I was five back, and as I said, whether there's a gallery or not, it doesn't change the execution of the golf shot. Ball still needs to be placed correctly around the golf course, and I did that most of the day.
Q. What's your confidence level going into the final round tomorrow compared to what it was going into the final round at Memorial or Bay Hill?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I've been playing well. I played well in those two events, and I've played well in this event. But right now, as I said, when I came here, I was one back. I don't know what I am now. I don't know if Brendon made a couple or made any coming in. It's a bunched leaderboard. There's a bunch of guys up there. I'm happy the way I played, but we're supposed to get another storm in tonight, I don't know, but if we do, then I think the golf course will be a little bit softer tomorrow. Looking at the dots, I think the guys are going to shoot some good rounds.
Q. Last time we were here, Hunter shot 62 in the final round. Even though you won in the end, how far down the leaderboard do you look thinking about who can win here tomorrow with the score you think will get the job done?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think obviously it depends on the conditions. It depends on how - if we get any rain tonight, because there are a lot of tough pins but also some accessible ones out there tomorrow, too, and as I said, if we get the golf course soft like it was today, I think some guys can shoot some good numbers out there tomorrow. But if it blows like it did the first day, not a lot of low scores that day.
Q. Fair to say that was a little different than anything you've experienced out here?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, you know, I was telling Steve O there when I play a practice round it's the same kind of atmosphere, but it's a competitive round and it don't change anything. I still have to hit the same shots and I've got to execute. I was five back to start the day, and I got to where I was two back, and I think I'm one back now.
Q. When was the last time you played a competitive round with so few people in the gallery?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it's usually after you don't finish on Sunday. We have to go back out at - let's say the course is closed and the spectators had a dangerous atmosphere and were sent home, and we have to come out and finish up a few holes. That's the only time. Other than that, it's usually a lot more crowded than this.
Q. Can you think of a regular day like this, or can you even remember it's been so long?
TIGER WOODS: It's been a while.
Q. Do you find you draw energy off a crowd, and on a day like today there's something missing?
TIGER WOODS: The quick answer would be yes, but I found that I didn't feel that way, just because I was five back starting the day, trying to fight my way back into the tournament, and that's what I was focused on. Making a birdie at 1 and 3, whether there was applause or not, now I'm only three back, and let's just keep chipping away at it. That was my focus. It might have been a little bit louder on 6 when I holed that shot rather than 20 people clapping.
Q. Walk us through that chip on 6.
TIGER WOODS: Middle of the fairway, just a perfect little shot. I had 100 yards to clear the bunker, and I was going to hit a low 60 in there and just get over the bunker, and it skipped up to the top, and just hit an awful shot, clipped it and hit it left. I drew a decent lie, not a great lie, and I was just trying to leave myself a putt, just throw it up there and somehow keep it on the top shelf. If I can leave it on the top shelf, I can make it, and it went in.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.