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Tiger Ready for New Season


Tiger Woods is getting his new 2013-2014 season started in this week's Northwestern Mutual World Challenge. He's the host of the $3.5 million invitational event, which benefits his Tiger Woods Foundation and starts Thursday at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif.

Coming off a five-win season, the top-ranked player in golf will be going against an elite field; all 18 players are ranked in the top-30 in the world. Though this will be Woods' first event of the year, he won't be returning to competition until the PGA Tour's Farmers Insurance Open January 23-26.

Woods is approaching the new just as he always has. "My goals are still the same - keep improving," he told reporters Wednesday. "I feel like I've improved this year more than I did over the previous year. Won five times. That's a pretty good number; no one [else] did that this year, so I'm very pleased at the year overall."

Woods has been stuck on 14 major titles since 2008, when he won the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in dramatic fashion. He's confident he'll secure No. 15 this year, mainly because he's enjoyed success at the non-Augusta National major venues - Pinehurst No. 2 (U.S. Open), Royal Liverpool (British Open), and Valhalla Golf Club (PGA Championship).

"Well, as far as the major championships, I've won at every one except for Pinehurst, and I'm trending in the right way," he said. "I've finished third, second. You get the picture, right? Okay. Okay. So I'm looking forward to the major championship venues this year. They have set up well for me over the years and I look forward to it."

Here's what else Woods had to say during his sit-down with the media on the eve of the World Challenge.

MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome tournament host and five time winner of the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge, Tiger Woods. Thank you for joining us for a few minutes. Congratulations on the start of the 2013, Player of the Year for the 11th time. But we're here this week at a place that I know is very near and dear to your heart as well as the foundation's, so with that, I'll turn it over to you for opening comments on being here this week.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, this is going to be an incredible week. We've got an amazing field over here this week. We've got the golf course in probably the best shape it's ever been in. The greens are certainly as fast and as hard as I've ever seen. It's going to be one heck of a challenge. We've been here for 15 years now, and it's been just an amazing, amazing 15 years. We've had an ability to raise $25 million over those 15 years and build a learning center here in Southern California basically because of this event. With all the sponsors we've had over the years and the volunteers and all the players who have supported us throughout the years have made this event as special as it is. And on top of that, we've helped so many kids around the country and have been able to open up a lot of other learning centers around the country because of this event, so it means a lot to us.

Q. Tiger, can you just talk about why you're moving the event from Southern California to Florida, and just the decision that you had to come to make that?

TIGER WOODS: It's just one of those things where with the golf calendar has changed quite dramatically with our FedEx up ending and then obviously with the Race to Dubai, it's harder to get good players to play, quite frankly. And sponsorship dollars are certainly not exactly easy to come by in these economic times. Tavistock has been - I've played in their tournament for a number of years now, Tavistock Cup, and I know Joe since I've moved on to Florida. So it made sense for us to move. It was certainly not an easy decision. Certainly wasn't an easy decision, but there are a lot of players that are based there in Florida. It will be a little easier for the guys to make a trek out instead of coming all the way out here, to stay right there in Florida.

Q. The public perception of you, Tiger, is that you aren't bothered by what people say or the criticism or any criticism that comes your way whether it's swing change or whatever. Is that true? If so, where does that come from? Did you have to develop that as a child or where do you get that?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think that just comes with playing sports in general. Most of the time if you play team sports, you're hated half the time you play. Every time you go on the road, and especially if you make it into the professional ranks, half the time and sometimes even half the time at home, depends on your performance. But I think it's part of playing sports. It's certainly part of my upbringing and having a father who went through some very difficult times and I did as well.

Q. A couple years ago you talked about Trackman here, and now you've been working with Sean more, I assume using it more. What do you think of it as a tool and the potential to impact instruction for the game in general? Is it something that's more of a tool for guys like you and good players or is it something that could be transformational?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think you try and confirm feel and real. A lot of times in this game what we're feeling that we're doing is not exactly what we're doing. You're asking someone to make a big change of swinging. Say instead of swinging down six, swing down four, and not as far left, all these different things and different components. I just think that you're trying to match up feel and real. And as you make swing changes, you make slight alterations, you start realizing what it does at impact, and what that can translate into in the performance of a golf ball.

Is it transformational? I think it is if you understand how to do it. But also not to get embedded in it where you start losing your feel and your touch. Seeing the ball the right number, the right shape, and controlling the right (trajectory) and all the other things. You can't just get locked into just hitting for the numbers. You have to still go out and play off of uneven lies, deal with wind, deal with adrenaline and a lot of different components. It's not just hitting balls out of a hitting bay.

Q. Can you just talk about the state of your game for a moment? What you're happy with, what you're not happy with? Are you as confident as you've ever been coming into this event?

TIGER WOODS: I feel very comfortable. I haven't done a whole lot golf-wise, but I've been training quite a bit, so I'm very pleased at those changes. My feels are starting to come back. That's always something that as you take time off, it takes a little time to get back the feel. I was very pleased with the way I was able to play today, and do a little more work and be ready for tomorrow.

Q. As I'm sure you know, a couple of weeks ago the USGA and R&A came out with a bunch of decisions in the rule book that will go in effect on January 1. The one big one, of course, having to do with video and how it relates to calling in rules violations, etcetera. That one itself might have helped you greatly had it been in effect at the BMW. Can you talk about that rule and also if you think they went far enough?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think that I talked to Tim at length about this, actually ironically enough, over the course of the year. He wanted to make a change a little bit sooner, but couldn't quite get the wording how he needed to get the wording correctly. So he was on board with it long before. Same thing with Peter Dawson. They were on board even before this year. So I think the ruling is such that there is that it certainly is going to help players, but certainly it's not going to save all the players.

Q. You've had a bit of time to reflect on the year. How do you now looking back on it from this little break, how do you look at this year? It was a big start. Petered out a little bit at the end. The majors weren't what you wanted. Now looking at next year, Adam making a big push at No. 1, Stenson's playing unbelievably well. Where do you see next year? How is your motivation? Is it different than it has been in the past? Where do you want to get to and where do you want to go?

TIGER WOODS: It's the same. Just whatever tournament I play in the goals are still the same, keep improving. I feel like I've improved this year than I did over the previous year. Won five times this year. I think that's a pretty good number. No one did that this year, so I'm very pleased at the overall year. I certainly wish I could have played a little better in major championships. I was there at The Masters and there at the British certainly with a chance, but just didn't get it done. The other two I just didn't play well. But winning the Players Championship and then obviously four other events, I think it's a pretty good year.

Q. Just a little addition. Next year you're back at Hoylake. You've won at Hoylake 4 iron, 4 iron; do you think now there are more players like Phil at Muirfield this year just goes for everything and makes it on a Sunday, do you think that strategy maybe isn't as sound as it would have been five or six, seven, eight years ago with the number of guys that are out there and willing to be just fire at pins?

TIGER WOODS: No, it's just hard to pull off. Guys try. If you look at a lot of major championships you'll see guys three, four, five under par on the front nine, getting it going, but you just can't maintain that pace. Phil played a great round of golf, and the rest of the guys just didn't get it done coming in. I was playing with Adam that day, and he looked like he was going to win the tournament through the 11th hole after making birdie there. He was in complete control of the tournament. Then it just completely flipped. It's hard to maintain that pace. That's why you don't see a whole lot of low rounds in major championships on Sunday.

But you see a lot of the guys who are off the pace get off to quick starts because they're obviously aggressive, and they can get it going. As the pressure mounts, it's harder to maintain that, especially, when you know you're one or two back and tied for the lead. But you're five, six, seven holes ahead. What do I do? Should I pull back the reins? Should I continue to fire? If I make a mistake here, it now compounds and gives the guys that many more holes to make up the ground. There's a lot of different components that people don't quite understand. Guys who have won major championships understand those dynamics and how things can flip.

Q. A question regarding the old barroom discussion, are golfers athletes? I'm sure you've heard that forever. Henrik Stenson just missed out on athlete of the year in Sweden to a skier, and I know you know skiers very well now. Just your thoughts on that a little bit, and what kind of an athlete Henrik is in your mind, and how that comes into play as far as sports discussions?

TIGER WOODS: As far as Henrik as an athlete, I don't really know if he played any other sports, to be honest with you. Generally the guys out here in general are either really good pool players or table tennis players. It's just incredible how many guys are good at one or the other if not both. I'm sure being from Sweden; I'm sure golf was probably not his first sport. He probably played soccer. The whole country plays soccer.

But as far as golfers being athletes, I'd certainly think that is the case more now than it ever has been. You look at how much the bodies have changed and the younger kids are coming out stronger, they're fitter, they're more explosive. They hit the ball a lot further. If you look at the college kids, that's when you see how far the guys can hit it. They hit it farther than we do. As you get out here, you start backing off a little bit. The golf course is tighter, the rough's higher and you need to control the ball. In college ranks, there is no rough, and you just bomb it away. You see some pretty big kids out there launching it. It's pretty neat to see those generations coming through now.

Q. Do you see a golfer in that best athlete of the year category as far as you're concerned?

TIGER WOODS: Absolutely, absolutely.

Q. In terms of injuries and health and things along those lines, how do you combat that? Another year older going forward into next year? You've had some flare ups this year and injuries before that. And secondly, in terms of the majors and being in contention a couple times and not winning, does the frustration come faster or quicker for you because you've been in that position before and have gotten it done and didn't this time?

TIGER WOODS: Well, what part do you want me to answer first? Injuries? Yeah, I think that's just a reality of playing sports. Any athlete who plays any sports is going to get injured. And the longer you play it, the more likelihood you're going to get injured. That's where obviously training and nutrition and work out of your sport helps. I've certainly tried to curve my workout regime over the years. I don't run the mileage like I used to. I don't lift the way I used to. Things evolve. I'm not 22. I'm about ready to turn 38, so things are different and you have to make those adjustments. You know, that is just a reality.

As far as the frustrations in majors do they come quicker? No, you just play. At the Masters, I certainly had a chance because I was right there, and especially on Friday when I looked like I was going to take the lead over Freddy and we already posted. Then 15 happened, and on Saturday morning maybe it made Saturday a very long day. But I was still was right there with a chance on Sunday. At the British Open, I was there and the momentum flipped on probably Saturday afternoon on that second shot I stood up in the wind on 17. If I just turn it over and turn it down that hill and make birdie and (Lee Westwood) doesn't, all of a sudden, I've got the lead. So things can flip like that. That's certainly what happened in most major championships.

Q. Can you talk about Rory's win last week and just in general the challenge for any player trying to fight through a slump?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it was great to see Rory win a tournament. He's been working very hard on trying to make some changes in his game. Obviously, we all know about the equipment change, but he's made some adjustments in his golf swing as well. It's good to see him win, especially, given how it all unfolded. He has to be probably the hottest player out here right now, and Adam Scott in his home country trying to win the Triple Crown, so that was a pretty good win for him. As far as battling a slump, that's just part of playing golf. You play golf long enough, you're going to go through it. Try and get out of it as fast as you can. But we're always going to dip into those periods where we don't play well, don't hit the ball well, don't putt well, things just don't go the right way. You get between numbers on every hole. You don't get the right number. Hit the wrong wind, get a couple gusts. Next thing you know a round that should be in the 60s is now 73 or 74 and you're missing a cut. And it's like I didn't really play that bad.

Then if you make a few changes and if you ever, God forbid, you get injured along the way, that adds to it. Playing through those periods is just part of playing golf. I've certainly had my times where I haven't played well, and certainly I've had to battle my way through it, and you have to stick to it.

Q. Now that the new location has been announced for this event starting next year, do you anticipate any other changes as far as sponsor, field size, date, anything like that?

TIGER WOODS: As of right now, no. But, obviously, things can change. We had to expand our field to get the ranking points so things have evolved in this event. I'm not going to say that we're not ever going to make changes in this event, because we certainly have over the years and we're certainly open to that opportunity going forward. But we're very pleased with what we have right now with 18 guys with world ranking points and especially drawing the field that we're - well, especially this year, the field we were able to draw is pretty spectacular.

Q. Looking at this upcoming year, two part question, the major venues, obviously, you played so well at Valhalla and the major venues coming ahead, how did they fit your eye as a whole? Also, the Ryder Cup and what do you make of Gleneagles and how much are you looking forward to the camaraderie of the Ryder Cup?

TIGER WOODS: Well, as far as the major championships, I've won at every one except for Pinehurst, and I'm trending in the right way. I've finished third, second. You get the picture, right? Okay. Okay. So I'm looking forward to the major championship venues this year. They have set up well for me over the years and I look forward to it. Same with Ryder Cup at the end of the season. I think it's going to be fun to go over there and try to get the cup back. I've never played at Gleneagles. I've never been to that golf course or seen that venue before. I don't know if any of the American guys have or have not. I think most of the European guys at the top have played it in a tournament or two. But I don't think most of us have.

Q. How do you think the quality of competition stacks up right now? Do you think it's as strong as you've seen it in your career? How would you relate it to maybe a top heavy time of 2000 of you, and David and Phil and Ernie and Vijay? But then there might have been?

TIGER WOODS: Maybe (Retief) Goosen in there as well.

Q. Then there seemed to be a gap. I wonder if you can try to compare those two?

TIGER WOODS: I think it's deeper now than it ever has been. There is more young talent. There are more guys winning golf tournaments for the first time. But if you look at the major championships, how long did we go from basically Phil winning and Phil winning. I mean, how many first time winners did we have during that stretch? It's deeper. It's more difficult to win events now, and it's only going to get that way. As equipment has certainly narrowed the gap quite a bit from the elite ball-strikers.

Guys that can really hit the golf ball back in the persimmon days and balata balls moving all over the place. You see more young players throw the ball straight in the air and are very shocked to see the ball get moved by the wind. For a lot of us who grew up playing balata balls, you wanted to get that thing down. You didn't want it up in that wind because it got pushed around like you wouldn't believe. It's a totally different game. Guys have evolved, and I think have become much more aggressive now than they ever used to be because of equipment.

Q. What make a great player (Indiscernible)?

TIGER WOODS: I think it's one of consistency and also just trying to manage your game around a golf course. You don't see shot makers like you used to. The ball doesn't curve like it used to. It just doesn't move as much. But you look at the guys who are pretty good players at the top. They cannot really shape the golf ball necessarily, but they can move their trajectory up and down. I think that's where the shaping has changed. They don't shape it as much from right to left, but more in the altitude. And I think that is the biggest difference is it's evolved to when I first came out here to what it is now.

Q. (Indiscernible)?

TIGER WOODS: Absolutely. You can see they can win all over the world or this person is limited to playing a certain style on certain golf courses and certain venues, certain Tour stops that they get under certain conditions. You can see that they have holes in their game.

Q. This is a two parter going back to the tournament. Just based on the fact that the tournament has been so successful here, was that a hard component of the decision to move it? Because it's not like it hasn't been. Second part, do you feel like on Sunday you might be a little emotional maybe saying goodbye to some of the same volunteers and people who have worked here?

TIGER WOODS: It is going to be emotional. There is no doubt about it. Sherwood, the board here, all the volunteers that come out and support us in sunshine or rain, wind, cold or perfect sunny SoCal days. They come out to support our event and have made this event as special as it has been. I'd say quite frankly if we didn't have this event, we wouldn't have the learning center in Orange County. We wouldn't have been able to open learning centers around the country. This event has been our mainstay over the years. It's allowed us to get a platform for us to talk about what we're trying to do for kids. And Sherwood has been fantastic over the years, and for us to have a 15 year run is a very long run as you know. Most golf tournaments don't stay at one golf course for that long. For us to be here for 15 great years, I foresee certainly an emotional Sunday for sure.

Q. You've tweeted five times over the last two days. That nearly breaks an all time record for you?

TIGER WOODS: I'm hot, aren't I?

Q. You are. This is something that your 3.7 million followers pay attention to. As you know, Lindsey (Vonn) tweets a lot more than you. Is she trying to convince you to connect more with your followers and as a member of the official Olympic network, are you making plans to be in Sochi?

TIGER WOODS: As far as her convincing me to tweet more, yes, she certainly has hinted that, but I grew up in a different era, and it's a little bit different for me. I'm still a little bit old school. I'm kind of getting towards it, but still not quite grasping the whole concept yet, but I'll get there eventually. As far as Sochi, I think that's just day to day. We just don't know how her leg's going to be. We'll just take it day to day, race to race.

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