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Tiger Ready for Next Step at BMW
On the eve of this week's BMW Championship, Tiger Woods sat down with reporters at the tournament site, Cog Hill Golf Club near Chicago, and discussed a variety of subjects.
Among those was his selection Tuesday by Corey Pavin as a captain's pick on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. The year 2010 will mark Woods's seventh appearance on the American squad, but the first time ever he didn't earn a spot by his performance.
"I wasn't qualified," Woods said matter-of-factly about his winless season and failure to earn enough points to become an automatic qualifier, "and I had my opportunities to play my way onto the team and I didn't do it. I had to rely on a pick, and it's up to the captain to make that decision. It's his choice. The ball was in my court to get the job done, and I didn't do it and had to rely on a pick."
He also talked about his recent work with swing coach Sean Foley, including a terse exchange when a reporter asked about whether he was paying Foley. "That's none of your business," Woods responded to that query.
Here's what else Woods had to say during his Q&A Wednesday.
MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Tiger Woods into the interview room. He's a five-time winner of the BMW Championship. He enters the week No. 51 in the FedEx Cup standings. Welcome back to Cog Hill. Let's get your comments on being back.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it's good to be back. It's even better to be in the event. So it's good to be here. The golf course, the greens are a little bit spotty out there, but other than that the golf course is playing pretty good. The rough is up, and it looks like it's going to be a good week.
Q. What's the biggest adjustment in playing this course since Rees (Jones) did the renovations here?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it's definitely become more difficult. The bunkers are deeper. He's pinched them in a bit. It depends how the fairways are playing, but sometimes you can run it past them. You've got to make a decision before; you can't just basically wail on it all week and be very aggressive. Now it's more strategic. You've got to place your golf ball around here, a lot more fingers on the greens you've got to fire into. But he did a pretty good job. Made it a lot more difficult for sure.
Q. You talked about the greens being a little spotty. Is that more of a cosmetic thing or does it actually affect some of the play?
TIGER WOODS: It does affect the putts, no doubt. It's just we're all going to have to deal with it. It's been a pretty hot summer, and a hot summer and bentgrass greens get a little bit stressed.
Q. You've had less trouble adjusting to pre and post Rees Jones designs than just about anybody, thinking specifically of here and Torrey, which are courses you've pretty much just taken over the lease. Any reason for that? Not to suggest you don't adapt to golf courses in general, but other guys have found those changes much harder to adapt to. I can think of Phil at Torrey, for instance, hasn't sniffed it since the change.
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it's more cosmetic than anything else, especially off the tees. I'm still playing to the same areas, so that hasn't changed. But it's going into the greens. Going into the greens is definitely much more difficult than it used to be. The fingers are definitely more difficult to get after. You've just got to shape your ball correctly. But I'm basically playing from the same spots as I did before the redesigns.
Q. At this point with your game, what would it mean to win this event this weekend?
TIGER WOODS: I'm headed in the right direction. It obviously would be a good step in the right direction, but we've got four days, and just got to keep plodding along.
Q. If on Sunday on the back nine you had an outside, long-shot chance of winning but finishing with pars meant getting to the Atlanta, how would you play it?
TIGER WOODS: Win. Did I answer that too fast? Okay.
Q. Looking down the road, there's been a lot of discussion about whether you should or shouldn't take a Ryder Cup spot if offered. I think a lot of that has center on the extracurricular stuff and the way you might be received over there. It hasn't been that bad here in the States from what I've heard when I've been out there. Was there any pause as far as that goes? And secondary, how do you think you'll be received by the player wives? I can't imagine you've been around too many of them since all this has gone down.
TIGER WOODS: Actually it's been a pretty good reception all around. The British Open was fantastic. The fans were incredible the entire week. And obviously it's going to be bipartisan for sure, there's no doubt. That's what the Ryder Cup is all about. But over the years it's been very fair, and I wouldn't see any reason why with the great golfing fans that are going to be there it would be any different.
Q. The wives?
TIGER WOODS: They've been good, been great.
Q. Have you played with Rickie Fowler, and -
TIGER WOODS: I have not.
Q. And also, just given his age -- I mean, you were obviously that young in a Ryder Cup but had a lot of accomplishments already. I'm just curious what you think that will be like for him. In fact, your first one was a foreign-soil Ryder Cup, as well. Can you give him any insight into that?
TIGER WOODS: Well, as far as -- yeah, I was the same age as Rickie when I made my first Ryder Cup, and I played in Spain. We had a -- at the time a pretty veteran team. You know, I think that was one of the nice things for me is that I think the only younger person on that team was probably Justin. Justin and I, I think, were probably the two younger ones on that team. So from that standpoint, it is a little bit different. This team we'll have more rookies than we did on that team. But I think Rickie will handle himself fine. It's a great learning experience. It was for me. To be around a lot of these guys that I had grown up watching play on TV, and now to be a part of a team with them was a pretty cool thrill.
Q. What's the one thing a rookie needs to know before he gets there?
TIGER WOODS: You know, from all the -- from the older guys, from Payne to Mark to everyone that's been on the teams all those years, Freddie, it's just get your rest when you can because early in the week there's going to be quite a few functions. You try to get practice in, try to get your workouts out, and it's a pretty full day, and whenever you can shut down, shut down. It's universal through all the guys. Raymond told me the same thing, all the years he played. Just get your rest when you can and be ready come Friday.
Q. In addition to a lot of cash, the benefits of getting in the top 30 in Atlanta also include getting into all the major championships. Do you think that that's a little bit too much for a guy who maybe gets hot one week or week and a half?
TIGER WOODS: No, it's the system we're playing out here. It is what it is. Is it right? Who's to say, because it's our system, it's what we have to deal with right now. I know we've changed how the points are structured in the FedEx Cup, I think, what, three times now. So there might be some tweaking still going forward.
Q. You talked about how -- making sure you wanted to get yourself advanced every week here in the FedEx Cup. Do you take that for granted at all, the fact that you're having to do this? Or are you still considering winning as the number one priority? How do you balance those two things?
TIGER WOODS: Winning has always been a priority. That's why I'm in our event. I don't play in our event just to play. Why do that? I'm in the event to win the tournament, and that's the goal, and it's always been that way since I was very little.
Q. Was there any concern on your part whether Corey Pavin was going to pick you?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, obviously. I wasn't qualified, and I had my opportunities to play my way onto the team and I didn't do it. I had to rely on a pick, and it's up to the captain to make that decision. It's his choice. The ball was in my court to get the job done, and I didn't do it and had to rely on a pick.
Q. How much mileage do you get mentally coming back to a course where you've had a fair amount of success?
TIGER WOODS: I think it's -- I've won -- certain golf courses I've won a few times, and this is one of them where I've won in different ways, and it's always nice to come back to a venue that, yeah, I've won, but also I've won it multiple times and different ways and have a way of -- I can always kind of go back to that no matter how I'm playing. I can still figure out a way to get it done because I've done it different ways.
Q. Just following up on that, being back here in Chicago, does that help your psyche at all, your confidence, to build on the momentum you talked about with your game?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it's always great coming back here. This is my first Tour event I ever made the cut in, so that always has some great memories for me every time I come back here to Cog Hill.
Q. Getting back to the last three weeks or so, you said winning is always a priority obviously, but are you a little bit proud of yourself that you fought back these last two, three weeks and you're here today and also you made the Ryder Cup?
TIGER WOODS: I'm pleased at the progress I've made in my game working with Sean. That's been nice to see the progress, to be able to go out there and hit the golf ball the way I know I can, know the fixes and understand the concept. That is something I am proud of, and I'm showing some good signs so far and just got to keep building, like I said earlier.
Q. The day before an event like this, do you have a good sense for how you're going to play? Or do you really not know until you get into it tomorrow?
TIGER WOODS: Well, today was more for us as players to take a look at the golf course as well as making sure that our playing partners have a good time. Once you get a feel for how the golf course is playing over the first five, six holes, then it's about the same all the way around, so then we can focus on making sure our playing partners have a good time.
Q. Can you talk about where is your confidence right now, and just talk about how your confidence has risen and evolved.
TIGER WOODS: It's definitely getting better. As I said, the progress I've made since the PGA has been very good, and I'm headed in the right direction. Obviously the confidence is coming up, and that's just through understanding the concepts, getting results, as well. I've put a lot of hard work into it, too.
Q. A couple of weeks ago I think you said you weren't sure how much you wanted to commit to the new swing ideas with Sean. I think "commit" was the -
TIGER WOODS: Yes.
Q. Where are you with that now, and if you don't commit fully, what does that mean? Will you take parts of it or -
TIGER WOODS: Did you say commit "Foley" or "fully"?
Q. Commit fully, sorry.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, that's one of the things that I had to understand. I needed to understand the whole concept before I committed to what I was doing. It's nice when you get rewarded with results, and the shots that I'm hitting now, it's been a long time since I've been able to do that. That's always a good sign. So yeah, I've committed to the concepts, and more than anything I understand what he's trying to teach. So that's the biggest thing. And then when you're out on the golf course playing, it's understanding how to fix it. That's the hardest part. I mean, you can do it on the range. You get into a rhythm or whatever it is and hit ball after ball after ball, but out here on the course you hit a couple bad ones, how do you fix it? What are my fixes? And knowing the answer and being confident in the answer, that took a lot of time with Butch and it took some time with Hank, and it's taken some time with Sean, but not quite as long.
Q. How long do you think the process of modification will take?
TIGER WOODS: Well, we'll see. It's progress. I'm making progress, I'm making steps, and just got to keep heading in the right direction.
Q. Just a quick follow-up, how different is the concept versus what Hank teaches and what Butch teaches?
TIGER WOODS: Very different.
Q. Just to clarify, how would you characterize your relationship with Sean, your working relationship?
TIGER WOODS: We're working on it.
Q. Is he your coach?
TIGER WOODS: He's coaching me (smiling).
Q. Are you paying him?
TIGER WOODS: That's none of your business.
Q. How formal, I guess, is the question.
TIGER WOODS: Well, it's none of your business, first of all.
Q. You had kind of a fix-it-yourself mentality from probably most of June and July. What took you until August to seek another set of eyes? Was that just a stubborn side of you or what?
TIGER WOODS: Well, let's just say I've been through a lot lately, and I didn't want to have any more information, and I was trying to get adjusted to my new life and what that entailed, and it was enough as it was. I didn't have time to work on my game. I was dealing with a lot of other things. And as I said earlier to Bob, the commitment -- if I had to choose another coach, I didn't have time to commit to that, nor did I want to at that time, that particular time. I was dealing with too many things.
Q. This kind of ties in with that. Do you feel more of a sense of normalcy now with your life, and has that helped? You're talking about your golf game and where you want it to go. Has that helped?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, certainly the life has become much more in balance. That's the whole idea is to have life in balance.
Q. Following up again on the Sean stuff, are you okay with the idea of it taking a while, if it does?
TIGER WOODS: Uh-huh.
Q. You mentioned with Butch and Hank it took a long time for it to kick in. If it does, is that okay with you?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, and that's where experience helps. I've been through it with Butch and I've been through it with Hank. It took, as I explained earlier, I didn't win a tournament -- I won one tournament from here at the Western in '97 until May of '99, a year and a half, almost two years. For Hank it took probably a year and a half before it all -- I started to really get it and went off on a run. So yeah, I've been through it before, and it's taken some time, and I understand that. I have no problem with that, as long as I keep making progress along the way.
Q. I don't know if you saw Jamie Foxx out here today. I talked to him earlier, and he talked about how you guys go way back and he's very supportive of everything you've been through. What's it been like for you to have your peers or other celebrities support you and stand by you with everything you've gone through?
TIGER WOODS: It's meant a lot. It's meant a lot to have people come up to me and just wish me the best and hope that my life heads in the right direction. That means a lot, it really does. I know people have made mistakes in their lives and they can relate.
MODERATOR: Tiger, thanks for coming by.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.