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Tiger Hopes to Improve on 'Good' Year
During his heydays Tiger Woods was known for coming through in big events. Between 1997 and 2008, the golfer named "Athlete of the Decade" by the Associated Press in 2009 racked up all 14 of his major titles.
But Woods, through personal and health upheavals and changes to his swing, hasn't won a Grand Slam event since the 2008 U.S. Open. Yet the erstwhile unquestioned No. 1 player in the world is enjoying a fine, though quiet, season with three victories and 10 top-25 finishes in only 15 starts, with his best major result a tie for third in the Open Championship.
On the eve of The Barclays, the first stop in the four-tournament FedEx Cup Playoffs, Woods commented on his season and going 0-for-4 in the major championships: "I see it as absolutely it's a good year, but I think winning a major championship puts it into a great year category," he said at the Bethpage Black course in Farmingdale, N.Y.
"I've said that countless times prior. I think that even if you get one win in there, like Ernie Els had a pretty good year this year, but all of a sudden now he wins a major championship and it's a great year. I think that's the difference between the majors and the other events. They're just that much bigger."
Woods, the only multiple FedEx Cup champion with two wins, will be paired in the first round with world No. 1 Rory McIlroy and Zach Johnson, who've each won twice this year, with McIlroy taking the PGA Championship by a whopping eight-stroke margin.
On Wednesday Woods met with reporters for a Q&A and talked more about his season. He had a lot to say about McIlroy, the young Ulsterman who's followed in Tiger's footsteps as the "next great thing" in golf. Here's what Woods had to say.
MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Tiger Woods to the interview room. You come here ranked 1st in the FedEx Cup standings. Maybe just give us some opening remarks about kicking the Playoffs off here at Bethpage Black and the Barclays.
TIGER WOODS: Playing here at Bethpage Black is incredible. Two U.S. Opens here, and this is all the golf course you want. It's a great venue, great fans, and just a great environment to compete in. You know, it's basically like a U.S. Open except for I think No.7 has been changed, but that's about it.
Q. Just wanted to get your comments on Augusta's decision this year.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, they have the inclusion of two females in there is incredible, but I'm very excited for Condoleezza (Rice), being a person I can call a friend, and very excited for her to be able to accept a membership there. I know she's excited about it, and it's going to be fun for her and whatever guests she wants to bring out there.
Q. Have you talked to her?
TIGER WOODS: I haven't, no. I've been a little bit busy.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about the fans out there and what you expect for the 17th hole coming in on Sunday? Do you think the fans could impact you in a positive manner?
TIGER WOODS: Absolutely. They did in '02, and it was great environment to play in front of. It's not just 17, it's all the way around. I mean, in '02 we had that unfortunate tragedy the year before, and everyone came out with just amazing passion and stored up energy, and I think that it was just released that week. For us as players, it was incredible to play in front of and to be able to duel it out with Phil and Sergio. It just made for great theater, I think, for the fans, but it was a great environment for us to play.
Q. What's your game plan for the long par 5 on the 13th hole?
TIGER WOODS: You know, it's different than what we played in '02, but it's the same as we played in '09. It's very simple, just avoid the bunkers on the left, and there's obviously the rough on the right. There's nothing you have to carry, just got to fit it between the two. And then being just over 600 yards, if I hit a good drive there with a little bit of run, I can carry that cross bunker, and if I can carry the cross bunker, I'll go. But if I can't carry the cross bunker, it makes no sense to try and carry it, and then I'll just lay it back and give myself a good number.
Q. From what you've seen of Sergio, how has he seemed different on the golf course now than two years ago? And he's such an emotional player; do you think in some ways that has hurt him as much as it's helped him in some situations?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think I played with him this year at the British Open, I believe, the first couple days, and obviously he played differently then at the British Open than he did last week. As players we all know that once we get rolling, we're rolling. Things build, momentum builds in a positive way, and when you're struggling, things can go the other way, and sometimes it's hard to get out of it. I think that he's had some moments over the last few years where he's played really well, but just like anybody, he's had his moments where he hasn't played well, and that's just part of the game.
Q. Different guys have challenged you or tried to over your career. What makes Rory different in that regard if so?
TIGER WOODS: Well, he's by far the youngest. I was always the youngest against when I played against Vijay, Phil and Ernie, Goose. We went at it for just over a decade. I was always the youngest one out of that group. Rory is considerably younger than I am, but this is another generation. Those guys I just mentioned are all in their 40s, and this is the next generation of guys that are coming up, and Rory is one of them who's in his 20s.
Q. As the only multiple FedEx Cup champion, how would you best explain the playoff environment and playoff pressure and intensity?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it's different because in my opinion they've changed the format over the years. Right now I think we're all playing for position, which is different, going into the reset, going to the last event, the Tour Championship. And before it was just trying to accumulate whatever you can and keep it rolling. Well, now you're playing for a reset, and then again, anything can happen. I believe that Vijay and myself basically shored up wins in the FedEx Cup before we even teed it up at the Tour Championship. So it's a different format and a different system. Unfortunately I didn't play it last year, so this is a little bit new to me.
Q. Having gone through levels of scrutiny and attention more than anybody else when you started winning majors in your youth, what's been your impression of how Rory has started his career at that young age?
TIGER WOODS: Well, Rory has won a few tournaments around the world, not just here in the United States, but he's won around the world, which is, I think, important. It's important to win on different continents against different fields and different grasses and just different environments, different architects, and I think that's important. And I think that's going to serve him well going down the road. As I was alluding to earlier, everyone goes through their periods where they don't play very well. He had a little stretch this year, but he's worked hard, got through it, and is now a major champion.
Q. Playing with him, do you enjoy a pairing like that where there's going to be - you always have mega-attention on you anyway.
TIGER WOODS: Well, it's going to be fun for both of us. I enjoy playing with Rory, and I hope he feels the same way about being in the same group as me. I got a chance this year to play with him at Abu Dhabi in a practice round there, and we really hit it off. He's a great kid and it's great to be around him. What an amazing talent he really is. I just hope that everyone just lets him grow and develop as a player because it's going to be fun to see over the next 20 years how this kid's career is going to pan out.
Q. Continuing on the Rory theme, he has not only two major wins at age 23 but each by eight shots. Does that remind you of yourself?
TIGER WOODS: Well, not the two, no, because my second one I just edged out Sergio by a shot. I won a couple about the same age as he did, and we've seen it before with Rory, once he gets it going, he gets it going. There are a few guys out here on Tour, the guys that I've actually growing up playing against, that once they get rolling, they get rolling. Calc is within of them, Johnny Ray was another one. These guys could just go ungodly low. And I think Rory has that ability, once he gets rolling, he just makes birdie after birdie after birdie. Not afraid to keep trying to push it, to try to shoot lower scores. Some guys have a little governor on them and they'll back off, but there are a few players that just don't have that.
Q. Where are you mentally this week, and I say that because of the weekend, the tough weekend at PGA, you kind of mentioned that you didn't approach it Saturday kind of the same way that you had in the past. I wondered if you had changed anything or if there's any way you've thought about that leading into the Playoffs and the Ryder Cup.
TIGER WOODS: No, actually I didn't think much about it. I was with my kids this week. We were having a blast just having a great time. I just got back to practicing a few days ago. The PGA is the PGA. It's passed. We've got five out of six weeks that are big weeks, and it's going to be a nice little stretch there, and I'm just focused on that.
Q. Speaking of the upcoming stretch, do you think that the format of the FedEx Cup, keeping more bigger fields, top tier players, kind of helps you guys get prepared and ready for events like the Ryder Cup instead of in the past where it was somewhat of a layoff between the end of the season and those events?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it keeps us fresh, but I hope it doesn't get us burned out, as well, playing that much golf. Some of the guys before Presidents Cup when it's overseas will play other events prior to it in other countries to get prepped. This is going to be five, sorry, four big weeks leading up into our Ryder Cup, and it's a lot. It's a lot, especially if you're in the hunt for the FedEx Cup and you're in the hunt to win each tournament. It is kind of nice knowing that the Ryder Cup does start on a Friday, but then again, we've got a lot of functions there, too, coat and tie things that I don't think none of us really like.
TIGER WOODS: If you're playing well, it'll be great. If you're not playing well, I don't think that's - you just don't have a lot of time to work on your game, and you want to be rolling into Ryder Cup with some confidence and obviously some practice and get everything situated with your teammates.
Q. Follow up question on the FedEx Cup. When first underway a lot of guys were taking at least one week off to rest and look forward to the final. Do you have any plans of taking a week off, and do you think somebody could win the Cup taking a week off?
TIGER WOODS: No, I'm not planning on taking any time off this year. It was different on different point structure in which you could take a week off somewhere in there and get a little bit of a break. This is a tremendous amount of golf starting with the British Open on through, and they're all big events, that's the thing. Starting at the British Open you have a major championship, then a World Golf Championship, followed by a major, and then you have four big events here in the Playoffs, followed at the back end with the Ryder Cup. I can see why some guys are taking a break. If they played last week they didn't really have much of a break after the British Open. They had a week off there, and if you play three in a row you're going to need a break somewhere. Wherever it is, it is, and I think some of the guys are taking a break off this week.
Q. I know I was joking, but are you ready to have your ass kicked by Rory at Medinah?
TIGER WOODS: At Medinah? No. (Smiling.)
Q. You've always defined or measured your seasons by performance in the majors, but in that context when you win three Tour events and contend in majors but don't win, do you see that as a good year or do you see it as something else?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I see it as absolutely it's a good year, but I think winning a major championship puts it into a great year category. I've said that countless times prior. I think that even if you get one win in there, like Ernie Els had a pretty good year this year, but all of a sudden now he wins a major championship and it's a great year. I think that's the difference between the majors and the other events. They're just that much bigger.
Q. When you were that young guy going up against the late 30-, 40-year-olds, was there part of you then that I want to see what this is like when I'm their age, have someone challenge me when you're sort of going towards the back end of your career?
TIGER WOODS: I always wanted to be part of that conversation. That's the neat thing about what Jack had done. Jack competed against Arnold and Gary and Casper and then moved on to Watson and Trevino and Weiskopf and Miller. He crossed generations, and when you're a part of that conversation for the better part of 25 years, that's saying something. I was kind of hoping when I started off my career I'd be part of that conversation for that length of time. And right now I think this is my 17th year on Tour, so I've been doing it a while. Hopefully I can continue doing it, something similar to what Vijay has done. Vijay has won, what, more tournaments than anyone else in his 40s, 20 plus events. That would be something nice to do starting four years from now.
MODERATOR: Thanks for coming in, Tiger.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.