Tiger Ready to Go after 15th Major


Tiger Woods says he's in good form heading into the 141st Open Championship, which starts Thursday at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in England.

The three-time winner of the Claret Jug said that he feels comfortable on Lytham's greens, which on Tuesday he called "soft for a links course," but that he's still trying to figure out the shifting winds.

Woods, who bypassed Jack Nicklaus this year to move into second on the all-time victory list with 74, has been in a "major" drought. The 14-time winner of Grand Slam events hasn't won a major title since the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

The reasons for that dry spell are myriad: a fateful car wreck that led to revelations of marital improprieties; his subsequent divorce; injuries and rehabs to his leg; a new instructor (Sean Foley) and revamped swing - all have contributed to his major-less run.

But Woods, whose three British Open titles came at St. Andrews (2000 and '05) and Hoylake ('06) are among his 14 major titles - second to Nicklaus's 18 on the all-time list, seems prepared for the task this week. "I like the things that Sean and I are working on and they are starting to solidify," Woods said. "I'm just trying to get better each and every day."

Here's what else Woods, paired with Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia in the first round, had to say during a sit-down with reporters on Tuesday.

MODERATOR: Good morning everyone. We have Tiger Woods, the three time Open champion, with us this morning. Tiger, can I start by asking, how are you preparations going so far for the championship?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, they're going well. I played Sunday, Monday and now today. We've had two different wind conditions over the three days, which is good to see a golf course play a little bit differently. It was certainly an adaptation that was nice to make. We're looking forward to getting out there on Thursday. The golf course is it's soft for a links course, but certainly by no means soft. But we're making ball marks out there, which is unusual. But overall it's in great shape. They've done a great job of getting the golf course ready and prepared, and it's going to be just a wonderful test.

MODERATOR: The weather is going to play quite a factor it looks like this week.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it's better than what it actually was forecast a few days ago. Tomorrow I think is a bad day. But it's supposed to be not so bad, maybe a couple of calm days. So it should be all right.

Q. You've obviously got a lot of experience from playing in South Africa at the Presidents Cup, and there's a lovely photo of you and Nelson Mandela in the clubhouse at the links when you were there. It's his birthday tomorrow. He's an iconic figure. Can you give us a brief description of how important he is to you?

TIGER WOODS: It was incredible meeting him for the first time in '98. I got invited to his home. I tell the story that it was incredible, because my dad and I, we walk into they said, okay, just go into this living room. And we walk in there and I look at my dad and I said, "Hey, Pops, do you feel that? It feels different in here." He said, "Yeah, I feel the same way." We're just standing there looking at some of the things on the wall. And over in the corner was President Mandela. He was over there just meditating in the corner, and it was just a different feeling in the room. He has such a presence and aura about him unlike anyone I've ever met. He's meant so much to so many people around the world, not just in South Africa.

Q. Speaking of feelings, you obviously are here around the time of the Olympics. You must be pretty excited for your chance to play in the games in 2016.

TIGER WOODS: Well, I hope I can qualify. I'll be - four more years, I'll be 40 by then. It will be something that - I've never experienced. And it'll be something that I've never experienced, and I would love to be able to have a chance to represent my country in playing in the Olympic Games.

Q. Could you talk a little about the par 3 opening hole? There can't be many majors you've started on a par 3. Even psychologically is that something you've got to get in a particular mindset for?

TIGER WOODS: It is different, there's no doubt, because we have to be precise out of the gate and hit the ball a specific number. Normally it's an iron, hybrid, whatever, off the first tee, you can get it basically any distance you want, and you're setting yourself up for the second shot. But this is totally different. And, yeah, psychologically it is different because you have to be on your game right away. And you can't just hit a ball in the fairway any distance you want. You have to hit the ball a precise number. And that is different than what we experience from week in, week out.

Q. You've been here on the Fylde Coast for a few days now, over a week. What's your thoughts on the area? What's your thoughts on the people and the people at St. Anne's and the golf course, as well?

TIGER WOODS: Well, this is my third time here, and the people have been fantastic. I was so excited to come here as an amateur and play and just had just a great time. And '01 was the same, and I feel this week will be the same thing. So they're definitely excited about their sport here, and they definitely come out. I know this is probably I think the smallest piece of property we have in The Open rotation. Not as many people, but it feels - they're a little bit closer to you. Definitely not like St. Andrews, where they're hundreds of yards away. It's a very intimate atmosphere, and I think that's fantastic for us as players.

Q. Is it tougher to win a major now than it was 10, 15, five years ago, and if so, why?

TIGER WOODS: I think the fields are deeper, there's no doubt. And we're having to shoot some pretty low scores in general. But I think that it's - you need to have a hot week at the right time. That's what it comes down to. I think that there are more guys now have a chance to win major championships than ever before, and I think that will just continue to be that way. What do we have, 15 in a row I think it is now. And it just goes to show you the depth of the field. And the cut is no longer 13, 14 shots. It's sometimes under 10 shots between guys making the cut and the leader. So that goes to show you the depth of the field that everything is getting a little bit closer.

Q. I know the conditions aren't the same as they were at Hoylake, it baked out and everything then. But does the course present itself in a similar way and is your game plan similar to what it was that year?

TIGER WOODS: Not it's not exactly the same game plan, no. Got to hit probably a few more 3 woods and drivers here than I did then. At Hoylake the downwind holes I was hitting 3 and 4 irons almost 300 yards at times, just because it's so fast and it was blowing. But this is different. The bunkers are staggered differently here. There's some forced carries to where you have to force it and then stop it or try and skirt past them. You can't just either lay it up or bomb over the top. There has to be some shape to shots. I think that's one of the reasons why you've seen, I think, the list of champions here have all been just wonderful ball strikers, because you have to be able to shape the golf ball both ways here, you can't just hit it one way.

Q. You've used the word "process" to describe the remaking of your swing. If a process has a beginning, middle and end, where are you now in that process?

TIGER WOODS: Somewhere in it. Did that help you out?

Q. More than the end than the middle?

TIGER WOODS: You know, I don't know. When I'm all said and done with my career, I'll know. But right now I'm in it. And I'm just trying to get better each and every day. And that's something that is the process, is that I'm working on my game, and I like the things that Sean and I are working on, and they're starting to solidify.

Q. You've said in the past that The Open is one of your favorite majors. What putts it above the rest?

TIGER WOODS: Well, it's the history of the game, obviously. It's our first one. But I think that shot making creativity is paramount when you play a links golf course. And I think that's something that - it's taken away in, I think, in the modern course design. We don't see that. Everything is in the air. Here you have so many different options, and a five degree wind change changes an entire golf course and changes your entire game plan. It's just, everything is magnified. On the ground if you hit a draw versus a fade, it doesn't just go five yards further, it can go possibly 30, 40, 50 yards further. This is all something you're trying to figure out. Meanwhile what trajectory are you going to hit the golf ball at. That's something I've always enjoyed. I got a chance to experience my first links golf on probably two of the best links golf courses you could possibly experience it on. I played Carnoustie and St. Andrews back to back and just fell in love with it right away.

Q. What are your memories of Lytham '96 when you won the Silver Medal?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I remember I got hot in that second round. I think I made seven birdies on an 11 hole stretch or 12 hole stretch there. I think I posted 66 that day. At the time I tied Ian Pyman's record for low am. And I thought that was a pretty great accomplishment.

And from I think that - The Open Championship that year basically I thought pushed me towards turning pro versus going back to college. I was still kind of iffy about whether I should turn pro or not. But that gave me so much confidence that I could do it at a high level, I could shoot those scores and I could play against the top players in the world on a very difficult track. And later that summer I ended up winning the Amateur.

Q. Of the places that you've been in in a practice round, the horrible places, do most of them beginning with the letter B, as in bunker?

TIGER WOODS: Well, here, yes, because the rough is certainly in play but it's pretty far off, but the bunkers are definitely in play. And you're having, as I said, to either carry them and stop it short of the next one or having to skirt past them. If you happen to pull or push something it will roll up against the face. So that is going to be a great test this week trying to get the ball in play, but also even on the greens. A lot of these things are a lot of the greens are tough to hit, especially a hole like 5. That's going to be a tough challenge.

Q. Is there one bunker that you really don't want to ever see again?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, all of them.

Q. 206?

TIGER WOODS: Is that what there are? 206?

Q. Again, on the bunkers, are they any more difficult at this venue than any of the others, and is it more important to avoid them here than at the other venues?

TIGER WOODS: At any links golf course you've got to stay out of the bunkers, because you can't get to the green. That's just a fact. If you hit the ball in there, it's going to go up against the face, because it goes in there with some steam, and you're pitching it out sideways or sometimes even backwards. But the neat thing about these bunkers is how I think they're raised up a lot so that you can visually see them and then shape the ball off of them. St. Andrews a lot of bunkers you just can't see. But here they're raised up high enough where you can hit a fade or draw, but they're starting points. You can actually see where they begin and end.

Q. There seems to have been a much bigger differential between the highs and lows of your performances this season, a couple of missed cuts and average performances in the majors. Can you tell us why you think that is the case, the contrast is that much greater?

TIGER WOODS: If I knew the answer I'd tell you, but I don't. I just keep trying to work and keep trying to get better. And I've had a few wins this year, which is good. But also I've had a few poor performances, as well. So I'm just trying to get better, get more consistent. And that's something I'm looking forward to in the future.

Q. In your spare time you've had this week, have you had a chance to look around the local area, and if so, what do you make of this part of the world?

TIGER WOODS: No, I haven't gone out, no. I've been trying to get my rest, trying to get adjusted to the time, and still have my workouts to do. So obviously that and practice takes up a lot of my time.

Q. You could be back to world No.1 on Sunday. Are you surprised, given where you were late last year, that it's come around so quickly, that chance?

TIGER WOODS: No. Help you out?

Q. We've seen you signing autographs with fans this week. You seem pretty happy and relaxed. Are you in a good place right now?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I do that every week, so that's nothing unusual. But, yeah, I feel like everything is headed towards Thursday, and I'm looking forward to it.

Q. You said just now about looking back at those winners having been good ball strikers, have you seen the film of Seve's 65, when he beat Nick Price? And 65 around here in the last round, how do you rate that as a round of golf?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, that was a fantastic round. It looked like they made that big exchange of eagle, birdie. But just the way - his energy to see that day was different than he normally has. He was just into the round and he was shaping his shots, but he was holing everything. He was making putt after putt. Anything inside 15 or 20 was good. Those are special days, and he had that special day at the right time, and against a guy that was playing pretty well, too.

Q. Every time Nick did something -

TIGER WOODS: He just topped him. Those are fun days. I've experienced that on both sides. It's fun when it happens that you're on the right side of it.

Q. With the wet summer they've had, has that made the greens slower? And if they are slower than normal, what do you do to prepare for that? Is there anything you have to be careful of with the mechanics and so on?

TIGER WOODS: They are slower. I think they're running probably just a touch under 10.5, but closer I think to ten, which is probably slow towards our standards nowadays. As far as changing my mechanics, no, I haven't changed anything. I normally add lead tape to my putter when the greens are slow, but I feel I have a good feel for the greens and the pace, so I haven't done that this week. As I said, the biggest difference is we're making ball marks, that's something we don't normally make. And especially if you land the ball short of the green. Today every ball I landed - we were one of the first ones out, and every ball I landed short of the green had a ball mark, and that's very different. With the rain we're supposed to get tomorrow, I think that will be a change for us as players going into Thursday and Friday. And if we don't get any more rain, it will dry out for the weekend.

Q. You mentioned this is a ball striker's golf course, you and have to shape the ball both ways. How appetizing does that make Royal Lytham for you?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I'm looking forward to it. As I said, this is my third time here. I liked it as an amateur. The two years that I played we didn't see it like this. This is different. The rough is more lush. The fairways are softer. The ball is not chasing as much. This is different. It's a slower golf course, but still, nonetheless, it has some mounding in it. The bunkers are penal. And it's just something that we as players are just going to have to just plod our way around. It will be interesting to see which way the wind comes out of because it changes the whole golf course. Two out of the three days I've played in two different winds. I hit, on, what was it, on 7 I hit driver, 7 iron one day, and the next day I hit driver, 3 wood and a wedge. So it can play that way. So it will be interesting to see how it turns out for the rest of the week.

Q. You're saying you enjoy this golf course. It's been 11 years since it's been at Royal Lytham. Do you think it should be back on a more regular basis?

TIGER WOODS: I think so. This is one of their more difficult ones that we play. It's more confined, but I think that as far as shot making it tests us, it tests us a lot, because as I said, we have to shape the golf ball both ways. And it's not just playing Troon and you have right to left going out and left to right coming home. Here you have a lot of different angles. And it really tests your ability to hit shots and hit them the proper distances more so than most links courses.

Q. It's now four years since you won your last major title. Do you ever feel a sense of anxiety over when or if the next one is coming?

TIGER WOODS: No, no. I just try and put myself there. I think that if I continue putting myself there enough times then I'll win major championships.

Q. If not anxiety, impatience?

TIGER WOODS: No, not at all. First of all, I had to go through that whole process of just getting healthy again. Being banged up and missing major championships because of it in a couple year stretch there wasn't a whole lot of fun. I think I missed four majors there just because I was injured. I figure if I'm healthy, then I can prepare properly for major championships and I can get myself there.

MODERATOR: Tiger, thank you very much.

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

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