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Tiger Ready to Go at Muirfield


Tiger Woods says he's overcome an injury to his left elbow that caused him to miss the tournament between last month's U.S. Open - where he finished T-32 at 13-over 293 Merion - and this week's Open Championship. To ensure the elbow heals properly, the 14-time major winner, whose most recent Grand Slam title came at the 2008 U.S. Open, has restricted his preparations to nine holes a day.

"I was always going to just play nine each day," he told reporters Tuesday at the site of this year's Open Championship, Muirfield in Scotland. "And that was the plan, not to push it on the amount of holes, especially on, as I said, on this hard ground. I've been playing a lot at home. But it's Florida, it rains every day, it's soft. It's two totally different conditions. I just wanted to make sure that I'm rested and feel fit and ready to go for the championship."

Woods hopes he has a better experience than he did at Muirfield in 2002. After opening with promising rounds of 70 and 68, he carded an 81 in the weather-wracked third round. Although he rebounded with a 65 on Sunday to finish in a tie for 28th at even-par 284, he's trying to prepare harder this week at the famed Scottish links.

Woods got involved in a little kerfuffle Monday when he was reprimanded by a marshal during a practice round. After playing the front nine Sunday, he planned to do a practice round on Muirfield's home half very early Monday morning. According to a report in The Sun newspaper of London, Woods was ordered off the tee box by the marshal after he hit two drives.

A sign near the tee noted that play on the back nine couldn't start before 7 a.m. to allow maintenance personnel to prepare the course. Woods, who regularly goes out extra early for practice rounds during major-championship weeks, went to the front nine and played a few holes and then returned to the 11th tee and re-started the back nine.

It wasn't a big deal to Woods, who noted during his Q&A Tuesday, "I like getting up early, especially when the sun comes up at 4:00 in the morning here. It's hard to sleep in. And I don't sleep much to begin with . . . I totally understand it."

Here's what else the three-time Claret Jug winner - who despite his inactivity for the past month remains the No. 1-ranked player in golf thanks to four victories in 2013 - had to say during his sit-down with the media.

MODERATOR: Good morning, everyone. We'll get started. I'd like to welcome the three-time Open champion, Tiger Woods. Thank you for joining us this morning. You've had a great season so far, Tiger; four wins on Tour. You must be coming into this week with a lot of confidence.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I'm looking forward to it. What a fantastic championship on one of the best venues. Really looking forward to Thursday. It's playing really fast out there. The golf course has got a little bit of speed to it. Today is a little bit slower. I think somebody might have put some water on it last night. But it's pretty quick, and I'm sure it will get really quick by the weekend. So the golf course is set up perfectly, and really looking forward to it.

Q. At Hoylake you developed a strategy to virtually play without any irons all the way around because it was so hard and running. Will it be pretty much the same this week?

TIGER WOODS: I used a lot of irons, actually. I only hit one driver that week. This golf course is playing similar to that. It's quick. And so far I've played a couple of days now, three days, and I've only hit a couple of drivers here. I remember Jason was playing with me the other day and he hadn't hit a driver yet. A lot of irons off the tees. Some of the holes, 4-iron was going 280. 3-iron is going a little over 300 yards. So it's quick. That's on this wind. So obviously it could change. Like what we had in '02, it could come out of the northeast and it could be a totally different golf course.

Q. Does it matter, the amount that the ball runs on the fairway after it lands has got to be the important thing?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it's being able to control that as best you possibly can. Downwind holes, that if you hit - I've hit 3-wood, I'll run probably close to 80, 90 yards. Sometimes a little bit more than that. And you can chase balls that can go a long ways. And on 17 yesterday I hit 3-iron, 3-iron over the green. And granted, it's just all in the run. It all depends on where you land it. It could land into a slope and get killed or land on the backside and it could shoot forward another 40, 50 yards. And that's the neat thing about links golf, is that it's predictable, but also unpredictable at the same time.

Q. Coming into the week, I want to ask you about confidence and mental toughness, and in particular just coming into majors. I think it's probably one thing to come in when you are winning majors, but when there is a little bit of a streak where you haven't won, you'd think maybe that confidence or that mental toughness would waver. Has yours wavered at all? And if so, please explain. If not, please explain.

TIGER WOODS: No, I feel very good about my game. I felt very, very good going into major championships. I've had a pretty good year this year so far; won four times. Even though I haven't won a major championship in five years, I've been there in a bunch of them where I've had chances. I just need to keep putting myself there and eventually I'll get some.

Q. The last time you were here you got caught in that horrendous piece of weather. TIGER WOODS: Really?

Q. Yeah, if I remember correctly. Where would that rank in your bad weather days?

TIGER WOODS: That was the worst I've ever played in. I think because of the fact that we weren't prepared for it, that no one was prepared for it. There was a slight chance of maybe a shower (laughter). Obviously the forecast was very wrong on that. So none of us were prepared clothing-wise. A lot of guys just had golf shirts and a rain jacket, and that was it. That was all they had. I think that's one of the biggest things. The windchill was in the 30s. The umbrella became useless, because the wind was blowing so hard, you couldn't control the umbrella. It was just a cold, cold day. We played through probably maybe 13, 14 holes of it. And then it started easing up towards the end. And by then the damage had already been done to my round. I was already maybe 12 over par, I think it was, until I played 17. It was a tough day all around.

Q. What do you make of the list of winners here over the years? Do you find it coincidence or is there something about Muirfield that brings out the best of that time?

TIGER WOODS: You know, I think it's the quality of the golf course. I mean you have to hit the ball well here. You have to be able to shape your shots. I think it's very similar to look at the list of winners at our last major, U.S. Open, Merion. Again, all wonderful ball strikers. And I think this is the same here. I mean, look at the list of past champions. The number of Hall of Famers that there are who have won here. I think it just goes to show you you really have to hit the ball well. You have to be able to shape it both ways. You can't just hit one way. You have to shape it both ways and really control the shots. Because you're not playing, like you are at St. Andrews out and back or Troon. You're playing almost in kind of a circle, in a sense, because you've got so many different angles and so many different winds, you have to be able to maneuver the ball both ways.

Q. When you have a round like 81 that you had last time over here, do you store it up for your use later on or do you tend to forget it in a hurry?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I've tried to forget it. My goal going in on Sunday was to get myself back to even-par, which I believe I did. Either even par or over par, I was close. That was my goal. I really played well on Sunday. I just happened to catch the weather at the worst time and I didn't play well at the same time. So it was a double whammy. I believe that is the worst score I've shot as a professional. It was a tough one. But that's the way it goes.

Q. Have you analyzed sort of over the last five years, what it is that has prevented you from adding to your major tally? As you say, you've put yourself into contention. You've knocked off wins on Tour. What is it that's kind of stopped you at the majors, would you say?

TIGER WOODS: I think it's just a shot here and there. It's making a key up-and-down here or getting a good bounce here, capitalizing on an opportunity here and there. For instance, this year at Augusta was one of those examples. I really played well, and a good shot ended up having a bad break. So it's a shot here and a shot there. It's not much. It could happen on the first day, it could happen on the last day. But it's turning that tide and getting the momentum at the right time or capitalizing on our opportunity. That's what you have to do to win major championships.

Q. Heading into this one, how is your fitness? Can you give us an idea of what the situation is with your elbow?

TIGER WOODS: The elbow feels good. It's one of the good things of taking the time off to let it heal and get the treatment and therapy on it. The main reason was that coming over here the ground is going to be hard, obviously. And I'm going to need that elbow to be good. And just in case the rough was - well, reports were it was going to be high, and it was going to be lush. I needed to have this thing set and healed. And everything is good to go.

Q. This is your 17th Open championship, and you've won three times in the past. What does it mean for you to be here?

TIGER WOODS: I love this championship. I just think it's so neat to be able to play this type of golf. There's only certain places in the world in which we can. And here and probably the Aussie Sandbelt courses are the only places where we can truly play links-type golf; bounce the ball up, shape shots, and really be creative. I fell in love with it 17 years ago when I first came over here and I got a chance -- my introduction to links golf was Carnoustie at the Scottish Open and St. Andrews were back-to-back weeks. That's as good as it gets. And I absolutely fell in love with it, to be able to dink a 5-iron from 150 yards and bump it on the ground. Or vice versa, have 260 out and hit a 4-iron and it bounces over the green. That to me is pretty neat. Because we play generally everywhere around the world an airborne game where you have to hit the ball straight up in the air and make it stop. Here it's different. A draw will go one distance, a fade will go another, and they're so dramatic. And I just absolutely love it.

Q. You played at Merion with Rory. I wonder if you remember the early days of your start when people began analyzing every result, every swing, that kind of thing. He won a major only six or eight months ago. Do you remember the early days of what it's like dealing with that kind of scrutiny and how you learned to deal with it as you grew up?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I won a major championship my first one out as a professional, and then I proceeded to alter my swing a bit with Butch. And it took me the better part of a year and a half, maybe almost two years before it really clicked in. I was getting questioned quite a bit through that era, that stage of my career, why would you do something to that nature? There's a lot of questions of, why would you change something? And do this, do that, and how could you change something that won the Masters by 12? And, yeah, I've gone through that, that process. I think that for him, he's going through that right now and he's making some alterations. Only he knows it's for the betterment of his game. People obviously speculate and analyze and hypothesize about what he should or shouldn't do, but deep down he knows what he's doing.

Q. What do you think is the percentage or the balance, maybe, of majors that are properly won compared with majors that you look back on which you say that somebody lost it? And while I can't think of any majors that you won that required some contributions from others, if you will, why do you think that happens?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it's very simple, there's a lot of pressure in major championships, and you're also playing under the most difficult conditions. Generally in these majors you're probably getting, what, close to the top 100 players in the world. And you combine the strength of field with the most difficult conditions and with the most heightened pressure, you're going to get guys making mistakes. And conversely, sometimes when you get those conditions you get guys who are playing fantastic. So I don't know if I can give you a percentage on how it goes, but we've seen, throughout the years, where guys have certainly played well and executed on the back nine and have gone on to win. And where also when guys have had leads and made a bunch of mistakes, and have thrown away. It goes both ways. And that's the neat thing about major championships, it can happen. And you just don't know until the back nine on Sunday.

Q. It's Nelson Mandela's birthday on Thursday. Do you have any memories of meeting him or spending time with him that you look back on fondly?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, the first time I ever met President Mandela was in '98. I went down there to play Sun City, and he invited us to his home. And my father and I went to have lunch with him. It still gives me chills to this day, thinking about it. A gentleman asked us to go into this side room over here and, "President Mandela will join you in a little bit." And we walked in the room and my dad and I were just kind of looking around. And I said, "Dad, do you feel that?" And he says, "Yeah, it feels different in this room." And it was just like a different energy in the room. We just looked at each other and just shrugged our shoulders and whatever. And maybe, I'm guessing probably 30 seconds later, I heard some movement behind me and it was President Mandela folding up the paper. And it was pretty amazing. The energy that he has, that he exudes, is unlike any person I've ever met. And it was an honor to meet him at his home. And that's an experience that I will never, ever forget.

Q. We know you are somebody that likes to practice at the crack of dawn before the majors. We understand you were prevented from going out before 7:00 yesterday. Can you tell us the circumstances? Has it been an inconvenience not to be able to practice earlier? Do you think perhaps you were targeted slightly so that more people can see you later in the day?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I like getting up early, especially when the sun comes up at 4:00 in the morning here. It's hard to sleep in. And I don't sleep much to begin with. It's light early. I've always liked coming out here. The golf course doesn't change much; from five in the morning to seven at night, nine at night, it's virtually the same. Peter was explaining that he's having the grounds crew cut it from No. 1 through 18 as a routine, to get them accustomed to that pattern for the championship. That's one of the reasons why he wants us to tee off at 7:00 on the first tee. I totally understand it. I remember at St. Andrews, that Mark, Calc and I would go out there at about 5 a.m. and drop at ball on 2, and play on and come back in. And go back out and putt it at 8 or 9 at night.

Q. Given the fact that you had the elbow injury before this, obviously you haven't practiced as much as you'd like to. Would you have preferred to be out early so that you could've got more holes in?

TIGER WOODS: No, I was always going to just play nine each day. And that was the plan, not to push it on the amount of holes, especially on, as I said, on this hard ground. I've been playing a lot at home. But it's Florida, it rains every day, it's soft. It's two totally different conditions. I just wanted to make sure that I'm rested and feel fit and ready to go for the championship. I've done a lot of homework on the greens each day. And I've taken my time and really got a good feel for them. So that's been good. I just would like to maybe get another wind in, a little different direction. We've had it the same the last three days.

Q. You've never been one to complain about injuries. You go out and play, if you can play. We didn't know about your elbow at Merion until the last day or two. How much did that affect your score? You obviously had a bad total. In other words, was it a type, I shouldn't be in the tournament, or did it matter?

TIGER WOODS: It didn't feel good. It didn't feel good, especially in the rough. That rough was dense and it was lush. You go from whatever it is, let's say 100-some-odd miles an hour to virtually zero. And that's what was the tough part about it. I really couldn't get through it. And it put a lot of torque on it and it hurt. Conversely, just stay out of the damn thing. Put it in the fairway and put it on the green and make your putts. It's not like I was drawing bad lies on those tee boxes.

Q. That's an Open, isn't it? You're going to hit some of the rough?

TIGER WOODS: You're going to hit some in the rough. You just have to stay out of it, though. On a golf course that was set up like that, it was soft. And it was a golf course that you could be a little bit aggressive and get the ball in there and it would land in the fairway and keep it in the fairway. This is different. This golf course is way different. Hitting the ball in the fairway doesn't mean it's going to stay in the fairway. It's got to be hit with the correct shaped shot and trajectory.

Q. You've obviously been qualified for majors pretty much as you came in. I just wonder, for guys like a Jordan Spieth who got in last second, grinded it out Sunday on the playoff. What kind of appreciation do you have for that and/or interest, as you're watching that for guys getting through it, just the drama of that?

TIGER WOODS: I think it's fantastic for him. Being 19 years old and having an opportunity to not only to have a chance to win his first tournament, but the way he did it and went out there in the playoff and got it done. By winning a tournament it gives you so many different opportunities, playing opportunities. Now he's exempt on Tour for a couple of years, he's got a chance to play in the Masters, and here at major championships. Now he's into World Golf Championships. He's into big events now, which when he first started out, he didn't have his card. So quickly to go from that to playing the biggest championships, and be exempt for a couple of years is a pretty fantastic accomplishment.

Q. As a sports fan, do you appreciate kind of the drama of that?

TIGER WOODS: I think it's fantastic. I think it's great for guys to have that opportunity. We went through a stretch there which I don't think a lot of us agreed with, where guys would win tournaments and not get into the Masters. I think to have an opportunity to win golf tournaments and get you into big championships such as this and the rest of the majors, I think that's what makes it so exciting for all those players who have that opportunity on the back nine on that last day.

Q. Do you feel morally there's a difference between a golf club that excludes people on the basis of their sex from a golf club that excludes people on the basis of their race?

TIGER WOODS: I don't make the policies here. I'm not a member, so I'm not going to speak for the club.

Q. Do you feel comfortable playing an Open Championship at a golf course that has those management rules?

TIGER WOODS: We've played the Masters, we've played here. And I don't know of any other places.

Q. Given the difficulty of the golf course and the cast of legends that have won here, do you think it's less likely that we'll see an outsider coming from the pack to win?

TIGER WOODS: You know, you probably can't say that given the fact that over the past, what, five years or so, four or five years, that we've had first-time winners at virtually every single major. The fields are so deep now and the margin between the first player and the last player in the field is not that big anymore; it's very small. I think that's one of the reasons why you're seeing so many first-time winners. Also the equipment has changed quite a bit over the years. The equipment, it's so precise now. This allows guys to basically stack up. When you get that combined with better, more athletic players, you're going to get guys who are winning for the first time.

MODERATOR: Tiger, thanks for your time and best of luck this week.

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