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Tiger Looks to Finish Better in Next Leg of FedEx Cup Playoffs
After opening with two promising rounds in last week's Barclays - the first event the four-tournament FedEx Cup Playoffs - Tiger Woods didn't fare so well over the weekend at Bethpage Black in New York.
Woods, now ranked No. 3 in the world behind Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald, shot a 68 and 69 last Thursday and Friday to be only three strokes out of the lead, but he slipped down the leaderboard after closing with a 72 and 76 to end up in a tie for 38th at 1-over 285.
Historically a classic closer who, when he took the lead entering the weekend, the vast majority of tournaments were over, Woods has shown a recent propensity of falling out of contention in the late going. In two majors this year - the U.S. Open and PGA Championship - he was tied for the lead after 36 holes but faltered with over-par rounds.
Remarkably, Woods has only five under-par scores in final rounds this year. Three of those led to victories - in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the Memorial and AT&T National. His final-round scoring average is 70.83 and third-round average is 70.62. The only other time in his illustrious career when he averaged over 70 in the last two rounds was in 2010, the year he returned to competition following his marital and physical problems.
Woods is now at TPC Boston for this week's Deutsche Bank Championship. The second leg of the Playoffs starts Friday and has a Monday - Labor Day - finish.
On the day before the $8 million tournament, he played with his good friend and former Stanford teammate Notah Begay III in Begay's annual NB3 Foundation Challenge at Turning Stone Resort's Atunyote Golf Club in Verona, N.Y. Woods and Begay posted a 9-under to help lead the American side to victory in the charity event that pitted U.S. players against their Asian counterparts.
In addition to Woods and Begay, also competing in the three stroke-play matches were PGA Tour players Rickie Fowler and Gary Woodland and LPGA Tour players Cristie Kerr and Lexi Thompson against the teams of K.J. Choi and Y.E. Yang (who Woods and Begay beat), Danny Lee and Se Ri Pak, and Charlie Wi and Yani Tseng.
The winning Americans shared $450,000, and Woods presented Begay a check for $500,000 for his foundation. Begay - who carded five birdies to Woods' four - has raised more than $3 million for his foundation, which helps fund programs designed to fight obesity and diabetes in the Native American community.
On Wednesday, Woods discussed his season to date. "Considering that this time of year I wasn't playing last year, it's been nice to play a full season," he said. "I've been very consistent this year considering I hadn't won in a while. All of a sudden I've got three wins this year. I think that's a positive sign. I've been in contention in a few majors. I've been close. Just got to keep pecking away at it.
"People don't realize that because I sat out for so long last year, I didn't really do any of the work that I needed to do just to improve my game. I was just trying to get healthy. The swing changes that I've been trying to implement are finally to start to take shape. I think that's why this season has been so much more productive and why I haven't had the lows I had last year."
On Thursday, Woods met with reporters and talked further about his season and approach entering the Deutsche Bank Championship, where he and McIlroy are considered the favorites. Here's what Woods had to say about his chances this week, as well as his thoughts on the Ryder Cup in late September at Medinah Country Club near Chicago.
Q. You didn't play in the Deutsche Bank Championship last year, but you're back. How does it feel to be back?
TIGER WOODS: It feels good to be back. Unfortunately last year I didn't make the Playoffs at all and missed out on four big events. It feels good to at least have played well enough this year to basically secure a spot all the way through to East Lake. Looking forward to this week. The golf course is in absolute perfect shape. I mean, it's awesome right now. Sure, it'll dry out a little bit come the rest of the week and get a little bit faster and more difficult.
Q. How did you play today and did you get the kinks worked out?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I played all right today. It's a pro am. I worked on a couple things, but most of the work we're going to do is after the round here, grab a bite to eat, then go to the range and do some work with Sean for a little bit. I'm not that far off. The good news is the green speeds are almost identical to what they were yesterday. I played at Notah's event, so I didn't have to do hardly any adjusting on speeds, which was nice. I got a feel for the pace of the greens right away.
Q. How is the back?
TIGER WOODS: The back is good. The back is good. It was nice to have the treatment there on the weekend and then have Monday off. It's nice this tournament starts a little bit later, so I've got an extra day to kind of get some more treatment at home. I went to Notah's event yesterday, felt great, hit it really well, and had no issues at all.
Q. I heard you won?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, we did. We ham and egged it pretty good, which was nice. Some of the holes that I was out of it Notah was making birdie, and holes he was out of it I was making birdie, so it was good.
Q. Can you talk about 18 and the changes and what do you think it'll do for the golf course and for everyone else in the field?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, you know, it's the tee shot that I'm not real fond of because it's a big finishing hole, and we have some of the longer hitters can't hit driver there. Well, the really long ones can, they just go over the top of the bunker and go to the right fairway and have a little wedge in. But I can't carry the ball 325, 330 in the air, so I'll be playing with a 3 wood and hitting some kind of a long iron or 5 wood into the green. The green is way different. We can't bail left. You bail left and that swale is going to be coming in as I said with a long iron or a wood. It's going to get hot up in that fairway or on the down side in the rough to an elevated green. That's a really, really difficult shot. Based on pin, we've got to figure out where the spot is to miss it. The good news is we've got probably another I think it's eight or 10 yards from over the hazard to the front edge of the green that we can land the ball in, and hopefully that'll be enough to keep it on the green.
Q. You played really well on the weekend at Bridgestone, seemed to struggle the last two tournaments on the weekend. Is it a question of the next step in the process perhaps, putting together those four good rounds? I know you've won three times this year, but getting that consistency that you had before the swing changes?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it's just you can't really look at it as real bad going on this year. At the time, most of the year, I was leading the money list, I was No. 1 in FedEx Cup points and I won three times, so it's not like it's been that bad. It's just a couple rounds here and there or it's an up and down here and there or it's making one putt, which is not good. So that's a good thing.
Q. Could you tell us what you think Davis Love might be going through now in trying to consider these Ryder Cup picks, and how would you approach that problem with so many good players to choose from?
TIGER WOODS: I don't think it's that much of a problem. I think it's a great thing. It's nice that we have some depth, and we have some young talent out there to choose from, and we have some guys that are playing well, too, which is great. And I think that's where - what Paul did in delaying the picks for a couple extra weeks really does help. It can give guys an opportunity to play well in big events, two playoff events, but it also basically showcases guys who are hot, and that's the whole idea is to get guys that are hot. That's the thing that basically Davis and I have been talking about, and I'm sure we'll continue to talk about.
Q. There's so many good players and you only get four picks. Can you give us an insight about how you would go about solving that puzzle?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I'm not the captain, I'm a player, so I think that's -we have assistant captains, and I know he's probably getting some feedback from the players on who they want on the team and who he thinks would gel well with our team. But ultimately it comes down to one guy. It comes down to Davis and what he thinks is best for the team. You know, that's something that's tough being a captain. You've got to make those little decisions, but then it's up to us. He puts the team together, and it's up to us to go out there and earn points.
Q. You talked about the long ball hitters on 18. When exactly did you not become one of the long ball hitters? Do you remember that? And was it due to maturity, back?
TIGER WOODS: Well, probably mid 2000s I wasn't the longest one out here. I mean, the game has certainly changed. When I came our here in '96 and '97 I was long, and I averaged 296. I think there's like 30 some odd guys who are averaging over 300. So it's a totally different game now. You know, the bigger hitters can hit the ball 320 in the air. I don't really have that. I can carry it 300, but that's a different gear. They're taller, they're bigger, and most of the longer guys are 6'3". When I was coming out here, if you were six foot you were pretty much average height, big height. Look at Nicklaus, Palmer, Player, Watson, they're all short compared to the big guys now, and they were long hitters at the time for their era. But these guys are just bigger. I certainly can't carry the ball that far, but I'm still one of the longer ones but not the longest by any stretch of the imagination.
Q. Could you give us a couple of your favorite Ryder Cup moments, and also, have the matches become less contentious since '99?
TIGER WOODS: Some of my favorite Ryder Cup moments? I've had a bunch. I've had a bunch of good ones. Probably it's - I've had individual moments, times when I've played well and had some good times. And even '02 with Davis, Saturday afternoon we went out there and I played probably one of the best Ryder Cup matches I've ever played. I shot 63 with my own ball in the fourball, and we won the match 1 up over Sergio and Westwood, and we were, I believe, 1 down with two to go. It was a big match to turn it to all square going into the singles session. And then obviously '99 probably tops everything, being part of that comeback. First of all, it wasn't very good to be part of that deficit, to have contributed to their side. I lost a few points there, as well. But then to get it back in the singles, which was nice.
Have they become less contentious? I think a lot of it has to do with - it's not the players; that's the thing. We all play the same tournaments, we all play the same big events, and we all know each other very well. I think it has to do with the environment. Sometimes it can get a little bit rough, gallery can get on people. They got on Monty pretty hard at Brookline, and I've had my moments in Europe, as well. It's just one of those things, bipartisan crowds.
Q. Following up on the length, when was it that you realized I'm not the longest guy out here anymore? Was there a specific moment?
TIGER WOODS: Even when I was long on Tour, Daly was still longer. Daly was the longest. I believe he's the first guy to average over 300 yards. But now that's kind of average now. Most of the guys can hit the ball 300 yards. Granted, we've changed equipment. It was balata balls, 43-inch steel shafted drivers. Now the standard driver is 45, graphite. You're taking 60 grams out of a shaft, and the balls are much harder than they ever used to be. You add that and the guys are bigger and stronger and faster, it's a significant jump.
Q. Given that, how much have you had to maybe reinvent yourself, and how much has that gone on this year, and how gratified are you to see their results now with the wins that you've had?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I can still get to the par 5s. The longer par 4s now are, instead of being 460, now they're 520 and 540. Those are the stout par 4s now. So that's changed. What has changed, I think, quite a bit is the carry, the cover number over corners or over bunkers. They used to be staggered at probably about 260, maybe 280 at the tops. Now they're 300 to 320. Those are our carry numbers on most of the holes that have been lengthened or bunkers repositioned. So that part has changed.
But I really haven't had to reinvent how I played because I've always been one of the longer hitters on Tour, just had to be efficient at what I do. Having this - hitting the ball far - I hit the ball far enough to where I can get to the par 5s, and if you take care of the par 5s and you take care of a few more along the way, you're going to have a pretty good tournament.
Q. I believe you've played with a number of guys this year like Tom Gillis and Gary Christian that you've never met before. What's that like compared to guys you're used to playing with?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it's different. It shows the depth of the Tour. The Tour is getting deeper. Most of the guys that I grew up playing with and know better are actually on the Champions Tour now. I know that leaderboard. I know all the guys on that leaderboard. I look at our fields, and I don't know some of these guys. But that's the turnover that we have now. We have more guys coming over from the Web.com Tour, guys coming through Q school at least for now. So there's certainly more turnover in that regard than there has been. But I think it also just goes to show you that there's more depth out here.
Q. Any interesting stories from those guys?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I just think that they're not used to - when they've played with me on the weekend rounds, they're not quite used to the amount of movement and the amount of - well, now the new thing are the cell phones going off. It costs them a shot here and there, and that's what it's done to me in most of the tournaments I've played.
Q. The Ryder Cup in '99 you mentioned the Country Club of Brookline. Have you been back since then, and also, are you starting to enjoy -
TIGER WOODS: No.
Q. You haven't?
TIGER WOODS: No.
Q. They would like to have you back, I'm sure. The team competitions, I know how much the Presidents Cup meant to be, being selected for that, and how that helped your confidence. Are you enjoying the team competitions now that you're aging gracefully as are the rest of us?
TIGER WOODS: It's different now than when I first came out because I wasn't one of the leaders of the team. I was just one of the young guys on the team, just making the teams. It was Davis and Freddie and O'Meara and Payne Stewart. Those guys were the leaders of all the teams that I played on during my first few years on Tour. So we had a very good senior nucleus. Now I'm part of that class. It's Jim, myself, Phil, we've been on every team together since '97. Phil was on the team in '95. So we've gotten together for so many teams now, and now we're part of the veteran crew, which is different.
But it's so much fun to be part of these teams because you get to know the players on a different level. You get to meet them and their families and get to know them and share experiences, and you become very close. Each team has its own personality. Some of the friendships that you make during these Cups, they last a lifetime because you don't get to know these guys on such a level like this, and when you do, it's amazing how many guys you end up playing practice rounds a lot because of these Cups.
Q. What skills or talents or maybe personality characteristics are more important in team competitions like the Ryder Cup than they are in the 72 hole stroke play?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it comes down to - obviously it's about gelling with your partner that you have, but it's also - you just have to putt well. You've got to putt well, because that can change momentum. That can change the tide in matches. But the most important thing that I've seen, because I've been on these Cups where we've lost by a lot and we've won some of the squeakers is you just have to play the 18th hole well. You've got to win that hole, or at the worst halve the hole. You can't lose it. And the times that we were on Oakland Hills and The K Club, and Jack when he was captain at Muirfield, we never won the 18th hole. That can't happen. And when we've won the Presidents Cups by huge margins, we never lost the 18th hole, either. Those matches can be swung there, and you just have to win those - you have to win the hole, or at worst just halve it, because it's amazing what a half a point can do.
Q. I wonder have you ever met Yani Tseng before Notah's event and is there any kind of advice you might give her as she deals with her current struggles?
TIGER WOODS: I had never met her, so it was nice to see her swing, see her play and get to talk to her a little bit. As far as advice, I mean, we're all going to go through those lulls. You play this game long enough, it's going to happen. She's won five major championships earlier than anybody in golf history, so hats off to her, and she'll be back. She's just way too talented, and I'm sure she's going to win so many more major championships and tournaments.
Q. What about Lydia Ko?
TIGER WOODS: How about that, huh? I had heard of her before a couple years ago, and it was hard to believe that a 13-year-old could be that good. But she was, and now she's fully matured at 15 (laughter) and understands how to play now. But it's cool to see these kids with that much talent and what they can do now at such a young age.
Q. Does that remind you of yourself?
TIGER WOODS: I wasn't like that at 15, no.
Q. Talk about your contribution to Notah the last few days.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, Notah has always meant so much to me and his foundation. I enjoy seeing what he's doing and how he's helping the Native Americans around our country who are just fighting, fighting something that can be prevented; type 2 diabetes and obesity are things that we can prevent. A lot of it is education, these kids don't understand. They don't know what to eat and how much to eat, and now with most schools taking out PE they don't play as much, so they're not as active. Notah is trying to change all that, and I just thought that if I could help out in any way that I could, financially I thought that was something that could really help.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.