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Tiger Has Lots to Say after Long-Sought Win
Tiger Woods grabbed the attention of sports fans world-wide Sunday after securing his first golf title in over two years. In dramatic fashion, Woods closed with birdies on the final two holes at Sherwood Country Club in Southern California to win the Chevron World Challenge for a record fifth time.
Though not an official PGA Tour event, the 2011 winner of the $5 million event in Thousand Oaks will move up in the world rankings. Not only did Woods earn $1.2 million - which he'll donate to his Tiger Woods Foundation, he'll be going from 52nd to 21st after his first victory since the 2009 Australian Masters.
Here's what Woods - a 35-year-old, 14-time major winner - had to say to reporters following Sunday's drought-breaking victory. In the following Q and A, it sounds like he feels okay about returning to forgotten territory and explaining to the media what it took to come out on top against a field of some pretty darned good golfers.
MODERATOR: We're joined by Tiger Woods. Tiger, what a show out there today. Birdies on the final two holes. What a better place to jump back into the winners circle than here where you serve as tournament host. If we could just get some comments.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it feels great to go basically head to head against Zach all day. It was just a bunch of fun for both of us. You know, I took a nice little lead there after the 11th hole, and I messed up 12. Zach makes a great putt at 13 coming down the hill, and then plays an absolutely incredible shot at 14. Because I thought that I was going to possibly get a shot there, if not two if I make my putt. Because if Zach actually makes that putt I don't think he can keep it on the green. Even if he plays low, like 15 feet low, if he tries to take it up high and gets near the hole, you can't keep it the a green. There's too much momentum. He pulled a shot off that I thought turned the momentum around there, and then he goes in and birdies 16, and here we are going down to 17. I knew I needed a birdie there and was able to make one, and then 18 was a nice way to kind of cap it off.
Q. Congratulations, Tiger.
TIGER WOODS: Thank you.
Q. I know the two are closely linked but how does the satisfaction and relief of getting a W today compare with the satisfaction and relief of your getting full fitness?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I felt that in order for me to play the way I know I can play, I had to get fully fit. I had to get healthy and to where I was strong and explosive again so I could practice. It basically starts with that. I was finally able to practice. Then my practice sessions started building and building and building. Then I would play a couple tournaments here and there, and each tournament I started getting better, starting at the Frys to my exhibitions that I did. They're kind of mini tournaments to me. I was treating as such because I didn't play too much. The exhibitions also in Asia, as well as Aussie Open, Presidents Cup, and now here. I got better each week, and that's because I was healthy and able to get the reps in.
Q. What was the distance of that putt on 18? What were your thoughts immediately after that putt dropped?
TIGER WOODS: It was about I think 10, 12 feet right to left. Immediate thoughts? I wasn't really thinking. I think I was yelling. (Laughter.) I don't know if I was, but I think I did. But then I looked and saw kind of the people there, and then my thoughts went to shaking Zach's hand.
Q. What's the significance of this win?
TIGER WOODS: It feels good. One, I've been in contention twice this year, which is not very often. I had the lead at the Masters on the back nine there, and obviously had a chance there at the Aussie Open. So that's my third time with a chance to win it. I pulled it off this time.
Q. Secondly, can you at all compare the emotion with what you felt today winning with what you felt at Kingston Heath when winning seemed to be much more of a regularity?
TIGER WOODS: I don't know. They all feel good, you know. They're not easy. People don't realize how hard it is to win golf tournaments. I've gone on streaks where I have won golf tournaments in a row, but still, each one I don't think I've taken it for granted. And I know because of how hard it is. Some tournaments are easier than others because of how I'm playing. Some tournaments where I'm not playing well and somehow was able to scrap and scrounge every single stroke out of it how and able to wind up on top. Other tournaments I really play well and it will separate. I played well all week. Played well all week. Unfortunately, I just didn't make enough putts yesterday to basically I think either keep my lead or extend it. I made three bogeys on par 5s yesterday, which you just can't do out here. Today I felt if I could play the par 5s four to five under par, I felt like that would be a good number to put some heat on Zach, and then make we'll sprinkle in a couple more here or there. I think I played him at 3 under today, so that's not too bad.
Q. Earlier in the week you mentioned that you had told Notah, when he asked you how you felt coming down the stretch at the Aussie Open you said you felt nothing, and that was the feeling you wanted. What was it like today for you as you came down the stretch? The same nothing feeling?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I felt normal. Felt very comfortable. I've been here so many times that, you know, I just feel very comfortable being here in this position. Was I nervous? Absolutely. Always nervous in that position. But it's a comfortable feeling, and I enjoy being in that position. For some reason, it is kind of a comfort to be in there with a chance to win.
Q. Did it feel any different than the other ones because of everything you've gone through in the last two years? Secondly, take us through your thoughts and emotions once the putt fell on 18.
TIGER WOODS: Any different? It feels great. Kind of hard for me to elaborate beyond that. I know it's been a while, but also for some reason it feels like it hasn't. Because when I was coming down the stretch there I felt so comfortable. I felt comfortable in Oz; I felt comfortable in Augusta. When I'm putting myself in those positions, it is comfortable. As far as making the putt and the feeling afterwards, you know, I think I was screaming something, but it was just that I won the golf tournament. I pulled it off with one down, two to go. To go birdie, birdie is as good as it gets.
Q. Tiger, can you give us an idea of how difficult or troubling the winless streak was and how much that affected you regardless of injuries and stuff? I would imagine it was difficult to keep hearing how you hadn't won in two years.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I got it quite a bit basically every tournament I played in from you guys. Started out, You haven't won in six months, then a year, year and a half, I mean, two years. So it feels good to win a golf tournament; but that's not the reason why I was playing. I'm not playing for you guys or anything like that. Just playing to get the W. At the beginning of the week that's what I said, and I was able to get it.
Q. Not to get all sentimental or anything, but what do you think Earl would say to you today?
TIGER WOODS: He would be proud of the way I hung in and was grinding today, the way I was staying focused on what I was doing. Didn't let anything get in the way of my shot selection and commitment to each shot and the shot shape I was going to play. That's something he's always when he was alive, he was always kind of was harping on me. No matter whether you play the right shot or not, at least be committed to it. So especially when the wind was blowing out here, you can back off and get indecisive. Today I was very committed to each and every shot, whether it was going to end great or not because yesterday I hot good shots and they ended up in bad spots. So what? At least I was committed to hitting the correct shot and I pulled it off. Today I was trying to do that all day, and I was able to do it.
Q. In the summer you were sitting on the couch, legs up, not hitting any golf balls and you can't imagine three or two months later. Probably would have been hard to imagine I guess that you would be sitting here today as the winner.
TIGER WOODS: Middle of the summer when I'm on crutches and on a couch and can't do anything, that's tough. Very tough. Unfortunately, I've been in that position a few times in my career. It's hard. It's hard for me, because I was it's my second stint of missing major championships. I missed in '08 the back half of the majors; this year was a similar thing. Unfortunately I missed the middle section. So it was tough. It was really tough. Probably more difficult than people can imagine. Even '08 was a lot harder than people might think. Because even though I won with my leg the way it was, I don't like missing major championships. I really don't.
Q. You now have a mini off season. I'm sure you'll gear back up again before the next tournament. Is there any disappointment that you're not in the middle of the season, in the midst of a year when you've got tournaments scheduled and you play a bunch?
TIGER WOODS: You know, actually I'm not. I've pushed pretty hard through this section here, starting at just before Fry's. I have taken very, very few days off and I've pushed pretty hard. My mind and my body are wanting a little bit of a break. So I want to shut it down for a couple weeks and give it a chance to just kind of unwind and then start gearing back up for next year.
Q. Today, did you have a number you thought you had to shoot to win?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I thought it was going to be 65 today. The wind wasn't blowing, and, you know, I thought the greens were soft enough. When we got out there, they were quick. They were very quick.
Q. And was that one of the reasons? Because the scores weren't that good.
TIGER WOODS: No, the course superintendant said they were running about 14 today. I think that's quick.
Q. You've never really needed a steppingstone, but you mentioned Jim Furyk from two years ago using this tournament and then of course becoming Player of the Year. Does this sort of like set you up for 2012, and are you feeling any different in heading to 2012 after the win?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I feel pretty good going into next year. I think if I have a good year I should be on the ballot for comeback Player of the Year, so I'm excited about that. (Laughing.) So hopefully next year I can get on that ballot.
Q. What part of your game today do you think carried you through to victory?
TIGER WOODS: I think I was just steady all day. My misses weren't that bad. The only really bad shot I hit all day was at 12. I was trying to play short right of the hole and hit it left. That was terrible golf shot. But other than that, I missed all in the right spots. My speed was decent today on the greens. I wouldn't say it was great. I had some really tricky putts out there. My iron play was pretty steady all week. But I think that I hit two really good iron shots in the last two holes, which was nice. I made two good putts, too.
Q. You didn't make any putts that went a significant length until 17. Talk about your thought process as you get up over this putt after seeing Zach barely miss his putt. How confident were you?
TIGER WOODS: I was actually glad I saw Zach's putt, because I was surprised it hung. The pin is deep enough on that slope I thought it would have snapped at the end, but it hung. I would have missed my putt to the right if I didn't see his putt. So I brought my read in a little bit after seeing his, and my ball held its line all the way up there. I would have easily missed that by a ball, ball and a half high if I didn't see Zach's putt.
Q. You had mentioned at the Frys.com Open, some of the earlier tournaments, you viewed them more as an exhibition as you were fine tuning everything.
TIGER WOODS: No, I didn't say that. I was playing exhibitions after the Aussie Open and the President's Cup, and Singapore, Perth. Sorry. Go ahead.
Q. Along the lines of exhibitions, thought, for the naysayers out there that would say, Well, yes, he is back; he won the tournament. For those people that view it as more of an exhibition and not a true PGA tournament or a major, what would you say to that?
TIGER WOODS: We have world ranking points.
Q. What club did you hit on 18?
TIGER WOODS: I hit a 9 iron. 48 front; 58 hole. I had four more to the base of the hill, so 62 to the base.
Q. I don't know if you heard any of the Tiger's back comments that were being yelled, but what is your reaction? If you didn't hear it, what's your reaction to that?
TIGER WOODS: It's pretty funny, because one of my buddies texted me this morning. And he was saying just an old L.L. Cool J lyric: Can't call it a comeback; been here for years. So that was his thing to me. I can't wait to text him back.
Q. Sort of along the same lines, even though when you had been in contention the last two years, and you have been several times, you've sort of backed up in different places. This time, you must've wanted to at least show yourself, I'm not going to back up; I'm going to go and take it.
TIGER WOODS: I felt very good about my game. That's the difference. I felt very good how I was playing, how everything was progressing from playing the exhibition matches right before the Aussie Open, playing the Aussie Open, playing the Presidents Cup. I got better each and every tournament. That was something I felt today. I kept be looking back at my schedule over the past here, and I thought, I keep getting better. So there is no reason why I can't go out there and post 65 today and go ahead and win this tournament. Obviously I didn't shoot that. That was the intent. But I hit so many good shots this week, which was nice.
Q. You mentioned this tournament has world ranking points; always attracts a good field with its purse and of course the charitable side of it. This week must have been tough though to get a good field coming against Sun City and the Hong Kong Open. I was wondering if you perhaps had to persuade some of your fellow players more than usual?
TIGER WOODS: No, it's hard, because obviously the players who are part of the European Tour, they have to support their tour. Obviously that's a big, big payday for them. So playing the Hong Kong Open, and some of the guys want to be in the same time zone, and go ahead and play in Medibank and still make it a nice check, but also be in the same time zone and getting ready and be in tournament prep. So this is a tough date right before the Race to Dubai. I'm ecstatic the field we got. Got a lot of good players here. Generally in the past we've had more international players that play; this year is pretty kind of American kind of based basically. We'll see. It's all schedule. The Race to Dubai is now part of a new reality for us, and maybe we can work around it somehow.
Q. You often say that you're never satisfied in golf. There is always got something to work on.
TIGER WOODS: Uh huh.
Q. What would you say that you're real pleased with and what's the most frustrating? What aspect do you need to put in time that you're not happy with?
TIGER WOODS: As far as being pleased, I'm pleased with the way that I'm able to fix my swing out there. I know what I need to do to do it right. Couple times out there I hit a couple loose shots, and that's because of where my backswing wasn't where I need to have it and I know it. But under the gun I kind of got back into an old pattern, so obviously I need more reps and create a new pattern. When the pressure was on the most the last two holes, I hit three of the best shots I hit all week. That's very exciting for me.
Q. I think a year ago you had some good scores, and even though you lost in the playoff, you were in the playoff. There was some fairly high expectations for you going into '11. How should those expectations be different after the performance this week going into next year?
TIGER WOODS: Last year I was very one dimensional how I played. I played only right to left. I did not have the swing of position where I could get a left to right ball at all. I somehow putted well that week and got myself into a spot where I had a chance to win a golf tournament, but it was very one dimensional all week. Sean and I tried to fix it last year at that point, but it was just not happening. This year it's exciting, because I'm able to hit both shots and all different trajectories. Last year, when I went to Dubai, after few weeks off and then playing Dubai, you know, I got exposed again because the wind was right to left and I couldn't cut golf ball into it. So this is a very different situation than I was in last year because I played in some serious wind in Australia for two tournaments in a row and I hit it great.
Q. (Question regarding expectations.)
TIGER WOODS: I think there is always expectations. But, so be it.
MODERATOR: Tiger. Once again, congratulations.
TIGER WOODS: Thank you.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.