Tiger Holds Press Conference at Firestone


On Tuesday morning, Tiger Woods met with reporters and talked about his first golf competition since the Players Championship in mid-May. Woods is in Akron, Ohio, for this week's WGC- Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, a place where he's won seven times.

Woods's inactivity was caused by a mild medial collateral ligament strain in his left knee and a strained Achilles tendon in his left leg, which forced him to withdraw from the Players after only nine holes. He's been in rehabilitation ever since.

Woods will be paired in Thursday's opening round with good friend and reigning British Open champion Darren Clarke, with the duo starting at 1:40 p.m. on the first tee.

Here's what Woods, now ranked No. 28 in the latest World Golf Ranking, had to say during his first media session in quite awhile.

MODERATOR: Good morning. It's my pleasure to welcome Tiger Woods to the Bridgestone Invitational. Tiger, obviously you're a seven-time winner here but we haven't seen you in 12 weeks. I thought I would give you a chance to give us a little bit of an update on your game, injuries, and coming back out this week.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I'm ready to go. Doctors gave me the clearance to go, so here I am. Started back practicing a couple weeks ago, which was nice. I was close to playing last week, but again, docs advised that maybe I'd want to take another week of training and really start pushing it pretty hard, so I did, and I feel good now. It was the right thing to do, and here I am.

Q. How much rust did you feel this morning when you went around for nine? And what are you anticipating in terms of progress this week?

TIGER WOODS: I actually didn't feel any. It's Tuesday. I still haven't been in a competitive environment yet, so that's a totally different atmosphere as you know. But the shots felt very crisp, very clean. I was very pleased. My start lines were good. They were nice and tight, which was good. So everything that we've been working on we're very pleased with today, and just got to keep working at it. Tomorrow is another day to refine it and be ready to go by Thursday.

Q. I don't know if you're claiming 14 and a half major wins maybe after Darren's victory, he said you were a great help to him texting him. Just your reflections on that week and perhaps maybe you could reveal something you said to him?

TIGER WOODS: Well, that's between Darren and I. He's always been a great friend to me, and we've been great friends for a long time going back to when we both worked with Butch a long time ago. It was great to see Darren play well. He's gone through a lot in his life, and to see him - I think he's 42 now, to win an Open Championship and the one that he covets the most, that's very special to him, and the way he did it was very impressive. He went out and played very well and really put it on the boys on Sunday, which was good to see.

Q. Just as a follow-up to that, you might be playing with him this week. Thoughts on that?

TIGER WOODS: That's what I heard. I don't know if that's true or not. I thought normally the pairings come out today.

Q. Normally.

TIGER WOODS: Normally (smiling). Are we playing threesomes or twosomes?

MODERATOR: Twosomes.

Q. Maybe it's tough to answer this: What are the expectations this week given the layoff? And part two, unrelated, are you on any type of ball count or anything in terms of how many hacks in the cages you can take before you go?

TIGER WOODS: No, and same as always, hasn't changed, expectation level.

Q. How frustrating and sort of disappointing to be sitting at home for 12 weeks knowing you can't play golf?

TIGER WOODS: You know, it's - unfortunately, I've been there before. I've had injuries before in the past, and I've been in similar circumstances where I couldn't play golf, just had to continue training and slowly build up to it. It's really not too hard when I really can't play golf at all. That's not so bad. It gets a little more difficult when you get on that cusp and they start saying, you're pretty close to getting going. I was saying, I feel really good. That's when it becomes a little more difficult is when you're itching to go and they're -- you're borderline whether or not you should go or not. That's where I've learned a lesson from the past in not coming back too early.

Q. Can you run us through how your leg feels when you're hitting a golf ball, whether it's 100 percent and so forth? And do you have concerns moving forward at all with the left leg?

TIGER WOODS: The great thing is I don't feel a thing. It feels solid, it feels stable, no pain. As I said, that's one of the reasons why I took as long as I did to come back is that I want to get to this point where I can go ahead and start playing golf again like this. It's been a very long time, and it feels good to go out there today and hit balls like this, go practice and feel nothing and walk around and pretty much do anything I want on the golf course.

Q. We were delighted to hear that you signed up for the Australian Open on Monday. Do you have an affinity for playing golf in Australia?

TIGER WOODS: I've always loved it. I went down there in '96 was my first time down there. It was right there in Sydney, as well, the Australian Club, and I had a great time. I think Norman won that year. It was an eye-opening experience to play in Norman's home country like that when he was really playing well at the time. As everyone all knows, I love playing down at the sand lot courses down in Melbourne. We have the Presidents Cup there, as well. Always had a great time down there, I've vacationed there, as well, up in Louisa Island. It's one of the places I've loved going.

Q. There's quite some names on that trophy, Gary Player has won a record seven times; Nicklaus, six; Norman, five. I dare say it's a trophy you'd love to get your name on?

TIGER WOODS: I'd love to. The feel like the history of that and the champions list is pretty remarkable, really. The Australian Open was one of the biggest events in the world, very close to some of the major championships. It sort of has a ton of history, and this year we've got just an amazing field, and I'm looking forward to it.

Q. Can you tell me about playing at Atlanta Athletic Club yesterday, and what are your memories of the 2001 PGA?

TIGER WOODS: Well, it's certainly way different than when we played in '01. It's way longer. David Toms holed it there with the technology and the ball then versus now. Yesterday we played a center pin from the back tee, and it was 265. Not too many par-3s you play at 265. It's going to be a very trying test. I think there's -- if they play it all the way back from the markers, it's seven par-4s over 450, so it's going to be a pretty long test. But granted, it's going to be hot, so the ball is moving, it's flying. Yesterday the fairways were dry, hadn't got a lot of rain, but obviously that could change. But with it being so hot, the ball was flying, so drive the ball in the fairway, you're probably a club longer just because of the heat, but still, it's much, much longer than what we played in '01.

Q. The rough?

TIGER WOODS: If you drive the ball in the rough, you can't get to the greens. It's Bermuda, and it's high enough where it's going to sit down. It's just that thicky Bermuda where it's just thin enough where the ball just doesn't sit up, it sits down every time, so you're not going to get that kind of lie.

Q. I apologize if I've lost track of this, but you hurt your right Achilles jogging?

TIGER WOODS: Yes.

Q. Somewhere in '07?

TIGER WOODS: End of '08.

Q. The left Achilles, how did you hurt that?

TIGER WOODS: Playing golf.

Q. Just playing golf?

TIGER WOODS: Uh-huh.

Q. And secondly, would you talk about having to be patient when you start to feel the itch to play again? How long have you felt that itch?

TIGER WOODS: Probably the last three or four weeks.

Q. Can you pin it to a tournament?

TIGER WOODS: No, I was just chipping and putting. That was fine. I was able to do that for a long time. That's when I was allowed to hit fuller shots and worked my way up through the bag, started creating shots, hitting different trajectories, different shapes, and then ultimately the driver doing the same thing, and then going out and playing holes. So that process takes a little bit. That was when I was kind of -- a few weeks ago. I've chipped and putted for a while, and I hit something more than a chip and a putt. But then as I started feeling -- the leg started feeling explosive again, had the strength, it's explosive again, so that's when I was cleared to go.

Q. At what point did you start hitting driver?

TIGER WOODS: A few weeks ago, two, three weeks ago, somewhere in there.

Q. Just to take you quickly back down under, you mentioned the Presidents Cup. You obviously expect to be picked if you're fit?

TIGER WOODS: I was hoping to play my way on the team. (Laughter.) I was kind of hoping that, you know? You know, Freddie is just a great captain to play for, and we had a great time at Harding Park last time. We had a great team. You know, it'll be a lot of fun. As of right now, obviously I'm not on the team, and hopefully I can play my way onto it so he doesn't have to use a pick on me.

Q. So have you not got a guarantee or anything like that? And can you just put into words what your feelings are towards the Presidents Cup, as opposed to a Ryder Cup?

TIGER WOODS: Well, there's no guarantee; obviously there's no guarantees on that stuff. But as far as the differences, I think it's just history, and also primarily when we play the Europeans over the years, they don't play our Tour full-time. Most of the players who are playing on the Presidents Cup team from the International side, I think either 11 out of the 12 or 12 of the 12 are members of our Tour, so we see them on a weekly basis. The European side is a little different. And then I think the biggest change is the format. Everybody has to play every day. No one sits out any days. That's probably the biggest thing. There's so many more points, so many more matches, more volatility because of it, and you can get yourself behind but you can come back or you can get yourself ahead and lose it, as well. It's very hard to make up points in the Ryder Cup because of less matches.

Q. When you first disclosed this injury after the Masters, I think you said it was minor, or it was put out that it was minor. Did you think that that was the case, or were you told that it was minor and it just turned out to be worse?

TIGER WOODS: No, it was minor, but I came back and I played at the Players. If I would have sat out probably another maybe week or two, then I would have been playing throughout this stretch. But the Players is a big tournament and I wanted to come back and play in it and probably shouldn't have.

Q. So you clearly made it worse or -

TIGER WOODS: Absolutely. I was back to where I was good to go and put myself back again.

Q. Two things: First of all, I know when you're hitting on all cylinders, you have nine different shots. How many shots can you come up with this week with the little bit of preparation that you've had?

TIGER WOODS: I've been practicing all of them, so that's the thing. Now it's just a matter of pin locations, distances, shape, lie, all that stuff, determining where -- what shot I'm going to play. I've been really working on trying to feel comfortable hitting the ball both ways and not favoring one or the other but feel comfortable hitting it both ways. But primarily I feel of late I've been hitting it more solid and hitting it more flush than I have in the past. I think those are some of the things that Sean and I have been working on are starting to click now and I am starting to really understand what he's trying to get me to do. I had it at the Players on the practice round was the best I had hit it in a long, long time, and then I got hurt. It was like, now we've got to lay off and come back and build up to that point again. We've had some good practice sessions of late, and just got to tee it up on Thursday.

Q. Secondly, you played golf a long time, nearly all your life, and I am wondering, anybody that does something for a long time, it can get stale from time to time. I think that's human nature. Just wondering, what about golf still excites you, what gets you motivated, competition, hitting good shots? What gets you excited?

TIGER WOODS: Trying to beat these boys. That's fun. That's fun. Getting out there and trying to win golf tournaments, being there with a chance to win, whether you win or fail, just being there is just a rush, and it's just so much fun. Trying to pull off the shots that you've done in practice when it matters the most, see what you've got. That's fun.

Q. I'm just wondering how long you toyed with the idea that maybe this would be the perfect place to come back; seven wins, no cut, and could you have gone to Atlanta without a tournament under your belt?

TIGER WOODS: Well, as I said, it was borderline whether I was going to play last week. I was pretty close to being ready to go, and it's like, hey, just give yourself some more days of hitting a lot of golf balls and get your body attuned to that and conditioned to that. So I listened, listened to the docs and took another week off, and thankful I did actually because I feel great now.

Q. Just to follow up on that question, did you plan to play -- you're talking about the Greenbrier Classic and when did you make the decision not to play?

TIGER WOODS: Probably a couple days prior to the commitment, so I guess that would be Wednesday.

Q. It couldn't have been an easy decision, but can you take us through your thought process on parting ways with Stevie Williams and what was your reaction when he said he felt like he wasted the last two years of his life?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I thought it was time for a change. I felt that Stevie and I have had just an amazing run. Steve is a hell of a caddie, there's no denying that. He's helped my career, and I think I've helped his, as well. We've had a great partnership for 12 years, maybe a little bit more than that, won a bunch of tournaments, but I just felt it was time to change things up a little bit. I felt very comfortable with the move. I've got Brian on the bag this week, something that -- Brian and I go way back. We've qualified for - we won the Southern Cal Am, won the U.S. Am, won I think at Torrey. So Brian and I are very comfortable out there on the golf course. I don't have a permanent caddie. Brian is just obviously an interim, and we'll see going forward.

Q. And when he said he felt like he wasted the last two years of his life?

TIGER WOODS: Well, that's what he says and what he feels.

Q. The new shoes, do they by any chance alleviate any of the pain with the Achilles?

TIGER WOODS: You know, they feel comfortable. The Achilles was not the shoe, it was just obviously plenty of years of torque on the knee, and eventually it led to that. It was nice to try and get something that I felt comfortable in. The Free technology is something that I wear every day, and some of the things, some of the aspects, I love training in it, I love running in it, lifting in it, so why can't I play golf in it. So eventually we got together and created this shoe, and walking out there on the golf course, it felt good to feel my foot activated, something that I hadn't felt in a long time. That felt very good, so the whole chain was activated, something that I'd always felt off the golf course but not on the golf course.

Q. You said you don't have a permanent caddie. Is there any chance Brian might be a permanent caddie?

TIGER WOODS: No, no. Have you seen his legs? (Laughter.)

Q. What do you look for in a caddie? What's important for that job for you?

TIGER WOODS: You know, someone that obviously understands the pressure of the game coming down the back nine, someone who probably has been there before and who understands it and can deal with that. It's something that -- I had Fluff prior to Stevie. He's been there plenty of times with Peter, and obviously Stevie with Greg and Raymond, been there plenty of times. So an experienced caddie who's been there before and understands it, knows how to handle the situation. That's something that I will definitely be looking for.

Q. With all the well-chronicled trauma on your leg, is there anything you could have done differently where you wouldn't be in this situation now? Obviously you've trained hard, you've put a lot of miles on the odometer, I guess, which was a discretionary thing, where you might have a little more spring in your step, anything you would have done from a do-over standpoint?

TIGER WOODS: Mechanics probably should have been a little bit better than what they have been.

Q. Early on?

TIGER WOODS: Uh-huh.

Q. How many caddies have applied for your bag? And how long do you think the process of picking a guy will take?

TIGER WOODS: How many? I hear there's been a few. People who are not caddies out here, a ton. So yeah, we've gotten a lot of interesting ones. Yes, a lot of interesting ones. But as far as timetable, I don't have a timetable on that. Right now I'm trying to play this week with Bri, and hopefully next week, as well, and maybe get myself in the Playoffs.

Q. Can we have some names?

TIGER WOODS: No. Was that too fast? Ask me again. (Laughter.)

Q. Thinking about the 12 years with Steve, if I remember, you said that he helped you read the big par putt at Medinah in 1999. Are there other majors or huge tournaments you've won or any tournaments you've won that you think you could directly link to something specific he did?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, he made a good call in 2000 at Valhalla on Sunday on No. 12. Pin was back right, Bob stuffed it in there just probably, what, three, four feet from the hole, and the wind was kind of off the right. I was all set to hit this 8-iron, and Stevie called me off the shot, and it was because the wind at the green had switched, came more in. Obviously if you've been there before, it's the deepest bunker on the whole golf course, and the way I was going to hit that 8-iron it wasn't going to get there, so he called me off. We reset, I hit the ball to the back of the green, made the putt and went on to win the tournament, so that was a big call.

Q. I guess it hasn't been fun sitting at home, but what's the best thing you've done in those three months?

TIGER WOODS: Be with my kids, absolutely. That was by far the best thing.

Q. When you look back at the game at the moment, what's your opinion of the game? Has anyone impressed you?

TIGER WOODS: Obviously Rory has had a huge week there; Darren played well; there have been a ton of multiple winners, new faces out here winning golf tournaments, first-time winners. The game is probably switching a little bit. You had a ton of years there where it was going to be Phil, myself, Vijay, Ernie, Goose, Jim, we were all winning a bunch of the tournaments in there. Now there's a lot of new guys. The game is changing, and it's fun to see.

Q. If I can throw in one more question, do you feel as though you've been missed?

TIGER WOODS: I don't know. Have I? Did you miss me, Bernie? That's all that matters.

Q. Your peers have missed you because your peers are always looking for you on the leaderboard. I think they may have missed you.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, some of my friends have texted me over the weeks I've been off, and that's been awfully nice of them to keep me in the loop and telling me what's going on out here and telling me to get my butt back out here. That's been nice.

Q. Just following up on Stevie, in golfing terms it must have been one of the more difficult things you've ever done, split with him. Did you tell him face to face and how did he take it?

TIGER WOODS: Yes, I did.

Q. And how did he react when you told him?

TIGER WOODS: We had a nice conversation. We did it after he completed play at AT&T National up in the boardroom, and it was a tough conversation, but we said what we needed to say to each other face to face and man to man.

Q. With all the new faces on the Tour, the new people winning, how would you say that's changed, the atmosphere on the Tour? Do you think there's a different kind of energy now?

TIGER WOODS: I can't tell you. I haven't been out here.

Q. But compared to sort of even when you took a break at the end of '09 and coming back sort of in general, do you think there's kind of a different or more relaxed attitude?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it's just that the guys who were playing really well there from my generation are now in their 40s. We've had Ernie, Goose, and Phil, and Vijay are all 40-plus now. We were going at it for basically 15 years, 14, 15 years at it, and now they're in their 40s, and now we're starting to see guys in their 20s winning golf tournaments. There is certainly a switch. When I first came out here, it was still the Normans and the Faldos of the world doing really well, and obviously Nick Price, so that was the changing of the guard then, as well.

Q. What about sort of the influx of foreigners? Do you think that Europeans or Australians, do you think they have a different attitude towards golf?

TIGER WOODS: I just think the game has become so global. I think that golf is just growing leaps and bounds globally. It's been a flat market here in the States, but around the world it's been tremendous to see with the advent of -- us being in the Olympics, I think that's going to be a huge influx of countries that haven't really taken up the game of golf are now going to be focused on it. I know China is just exploding over there. I've been over there looking at some of the junior golf academies that they have, and it's phenomenal. They all have good swings. You extrapolate that out 15, 20 years from now, it's going to be just amazing. It all started because we're now in the Olympics. It's going to be fun to see. Right now their International Team for The Presidents Cup, I think it's all South Africans, Koreans, and Australians. It's fun to see.

Q. I remember you said a long time ago that the public and fans can overreact when things are going badly and they can overreact when things are going well, also. What should their expectations be for you going into this week and next week and however long the year lasts?

TIGER WOODS: It doesn't really matter what they think. I'm here to try and win the golf tournament. That's what I'm focused on.

Q. I'm just trying to get a sense of what your outlook is. You've been gone for -

TIGER WOODS: Again, I'm just focused on trying to win a golf tournament. That's it.

Q. Kind of along those same lines, I know there's only one major left, but do you feel primed and ready to go after Jack's 18 or is that the last thing on your mind at this moment?

TIGER WOODS: Well, you've got to take it one at a time. That's how I got to 14 is just taking it one at a time and trying to peak for each one. We get four chances to peak per year, and unfortunately I was only able to try and peak for one. Obviously my timetable isn't very long to try and peak for the last one here, but it is what it is, and just try and get it going.

Q. You cited a couple examples where Steve helped you over the years. It would seem it might take a little while for a new guy to work up to that ability to be able to talk you out of something, get to know your game and you. So while that process is going on, do you lose something? Do you lose something there? Are you at a little bit of a disadvantage for however long that takes?

TIGER WOODS: Well, as a player you make the last call, whether it's right or wrong, we have to live with it. Obviously the caddie is there when we want the information, when we want their opinion, but ultimately we have to make the last call. You know, sometimes it's the right one, sometimes it's the wrong one, and as players we've got to live with that. You know, that's the tough part about playing sometimes.

Q. After the Masters you said the diagnosis on your leg was a mild strain and mild sprain and two, three weeks off. After you re- aggravated it at the Players, what was the diagnosis then and was it way worse?

TIGER WOODS: No, it was the same, didn't hurt any more, but unfortunately I put myself back to where I was at Augusta. Instead of just taking a few weeks off, let's just go ahead and take a while off and get this thing healed up properly. And that's what we did.

Q. Amidst all the -- after the layoff and a caddie change, all the uncertainties, what are you most certain of?

TIGER WOODS: I'm excited, excited to compete, to play, and hopefully win the golf tournament.

Q. When is the last time you've felt this good physically?

TIGER WOODS: Years.

Q. How many?

TIGER WOODS: Years, plural. Just plural.

MODERATOR: Good luck this week. Thank you.

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


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