Tiger Ready to Go at Sherwood CC


While the hubbub about the proposed ban on an anchored putter swirls around the golf world, Tiger Woods - who's been right in the maelstrom after he's voiced his opposition to the use of the club and technique - is focusing on his annual World Challenge. The $4 million, limited-field event starts Thursday at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif.

Woods won last year's tournament for the fifth time, closing with a 3-under 69 to finish at 10-under 278, one stroke ahead of Zach Johnson. The event, which has a new sponsor, Northwestern Mutual, benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation. He donated the $1 million winner's share in 2011 to his nonprofit organization, which has received over $25 million over the years through the tournament.

The 18-player field - which has a combined 19 victories in 2012 - boasts several of Woods' teammates on the 2012 U.S. Ryder Cup squad, including Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk, Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson. Also playing are Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Hunter Mahan, Bo Van Pelt, Brandt Snedeker and Nick Watney, along with European Ryder Cuppers Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell.

On Tuesday, Woods, ranked No. 3 in the world with three wins this year, sat down with reporters and discussed this year's World Challenge. He also addressed the ban on anchored putters, a proposed rules change that the USGA and R&A announced Wednesday morning. Here's what the 14-time major winner had to say.

MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome our defending champion and tournament host Tiger Woods into the interview room here at the World Challenge presented by Northwestern Mutual. Welcome back to a tournament that I know means a lot to you just in terms of what it does for the foundation. Just get your comments on another week at Sherwood.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, we're excited. This is our 14th year of hosting this event, and we've done some pretty extraordinary things I think over the years. We've raised $25 million just this event alone. This has been a flagship event for us, and we're very excited to have it here at Sherwood with Northwestern Mutual being our presenting sponsor. We're, again, very excited what this week holds for us. Again, another great field, 11 of 12 Ryder Cuppers from the U.S. side, Graeme and Poults playing, as well, and it's a pretty stout field. I'm just really excited about the overall week.

MODERATOR: You've won this tournament five times. Talk about what last year's win meant for you.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I hadn't won in a little bit there, and it was nice to not only win but to go head to head against Zach and to do it the way I did, that really helped a lot because I had to earn it. I was one down with two to go and birdied the last two. Against a guy like Zach that you know he's not going to go away, that really started the year off for me on a positive note, and I think consequently I ended up winning three times this year.

Q. What's the best part of your game right now, and where is your psyche as opposed to maybe even a year ago?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I think I'm very excited because last year at this point in time I was still not quite where I wanted to be physically. I ended up having a little bit of a problem at Doral at the beginning of the year, but did the prudent thing in not playing at the end. Was certainly well the very next event, which I ended up winning, which was at Bay Hill.

This year has been fantastic in that regard. I've felt good. I've played a full schedule for the first time in a very long time, and just very pleased with what I've done overall with my game. At the outset of the year I didn't really putt well. Towards the end of the year I really started putting well. My short game has really come around, was able to spend less time beating golf balls and more time on my short game, and towards the end of the year I started to really feel like I was becoming more consistent. But obviously there's always things we need to work on, and this off season we have a list of things we want to get done, and that'll start probably maybe a couple weeks after this event, shut it down for a little bit and then start gearing back up again.

Q. You were pretty blunt about what you thought about the long putters when asked about it earlier this year. How much do you think what you've said led to what's going to happen tomorrow?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it's - I was just asked my own opinion, and that was it. I don't know if it carried any weight or not, but I just believe that the art of putting is swinging the club and controlling nerves and having it as a fixed point, as I was saying all year, is something that's not in the traditions of the game. We swing all other 13 clubs. I think the putter should be the same. It should be a swinging motion throughout the entire bag.

I don't know if there's any statistical data on it, but I'm sure there is somewhere, about whether or not anchoring the putter does help on a certain range of putts, especially the guys who have gotten the twitches a little bit. But I think that what - one of the things that I was concerned about going forward is the kids who get started in the game and starting to putt with an anchoring system. There have been some guys who have had success out here, and obviously everyone always copies what we do out here, and that's something that I think for the greater good of the game needs to be adjusted.

Q. The R&A is making some changes to the Old Course, and I'm wondering if you've heard about that, and if you had, if you could put your architect's hat on and tell us what you think about making changes to what you said is your favorite golf course.

TIGER WOODS: Well, I can understand a couple of the changes, one being 9. I think the other is at 2, I believe, moving the bunkers more in where they're more playable. We do use the pin over there on the back right, and if we get a left to right wind those bunkers really aren't in play because they're too close to the 3rd tee. But I can see by moving those closer to the green that if we get an in left to right wind, those bunkers now are in play, which is good, because that's our miss anyways is that back pin over that bowl, over that big hump to give yourself an angle at that putt. I believe that's a positive change. Same thing at 9; that's a good change.

I think 17 is hard enough as it is. I don't think we need to make that bunker any deeper or bigger. I know they experimented in 2000, I believe, they made the bunker deeper, then I think it was in '10 they made it more expansive so it was not as deep but more balls would collect into it. They seem to keep changing 17 a lot. It's a pretty hard hole. I think it's probably one of the - it's the hardest one on that whole property. I don't know, I'm not real keen on that one, but it is a hard hole, period, either way, whether they make changes or not. It's going to be a hard hole, a pivotal hole. I know over the years they've changed the rough lines on that hole quite a bit and given us fairway to the right which we've never had. Granted, now we've got to take it more towards the hotel, but at least it gives us an angle to play down the green, which is nice.

Q. As you know, we're always talking about and writing about rivalries, Red Sox, Yankees, UCLA, Stanford, Cal, etcetera, etcetera. When Rory won the PGA, the British European media basically said he's the guy and you're no longer the guy. Do you feel like I want to get out there and just show people what I can still do and beat him?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think I needed to get to a point where, one, I was playing a full season and where I was competitive, not where I was missing big chunks of time, which I had been over the past years, which I did this year. There was quite a few people out there that said I would never win again. Well, starting at this event, I won four times, so that's not too bad. Three wins on the PGA Tour this year, and what I've done, I think, collectively, passing Jack, I think that's a pretty good accomplishment.

But I still feel I have some of my best golf to play, and in order to do that, I had to be healthy, and this year is head the in the right direction. I'm very excited about next year. Rory is ranked No.1. He deserves it. He's won tournaments all around the world. He's had high finishes on top of that, and that's how you do it. He's won a major championship, won a couple playoff events, and won the Race to Dubai event. So those are four big events with great fields in it. He should be very proud of the season he's had, and I'm sure he's excited about what next year holds for him, as well, coming off a great year like this.

Q. When you and your father started this tournament some 14 years ago, it was the right thing to do and you knew you would help a lot of people, but how surprised are you at the impact that you've had on not only young people here but really around the world with what you've done here?

TIGER WOODS: Well, this always has been our showcase event. If we didn't have this event, we wouldn't have had the Learning Center built, we wouldn't have had the expansion that we've had into D.C., Philly, Florida. We wouldn't have these - and look at future expansions in Asia. We wouldn't have this opportunity.

Without this event and without giving the foundation a platform to speak from, all these things that we've done wouldn't have happened. So I'm so thankful for this event and what it has meant to the foundation and the millions of kids that we've been able to affect in a positive way and all the first generation kids that are going to have to college because of this event. That's exciting for us, that's exciting for the foundation, and I know we get a lot of people come out here and support this event, and over the years, whether it's rain, sun, wind, whatever it may be, they've come out and really supported this event. You know, I think that's allowed us, as I said, to expand what we've done, not just in the United States but around the world.

Q. Other than Augusta next year, when you look at the major sites, Merion, Muirfield and Oak Hill, can you talk about how you think you'll do at those courses as you try and get closer to Jack?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I haven't played Merion yet, so that's something I'm going to have to do. Muirfield, I think last time we played it, it was a little bit windy the third day. And Oak Hill, I like the golf course. Unfortunately I just didn't play great that week, and it was a tough track. What Chad and Shaun did were pretty amazing. I'm looking forward to all four events, but as I said, I haven't played Merion yet, so I'm curious to see. I've seen it on TV, saw it during the Amateur and saw how they played it, and it'll be interesting to see how they set it up. I hear different things how they're going to set it up, but it'll be interesting to see if - I know that they've had, I think, a new mower designed to cut the rough lines, so that'll be kind of neat to see.

Q. Rory is about to make an equipment change. You also made an equipment change at a similar point in your life. Talk about the challenges that that brings and whether at this point in the evolution of golf clubs it's not as big a deal as maybe it was in the past?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think that any time you make a change in equipment, it's certainly a big deal. I think it's about how you go at it. Going through the testing process, you know, trying to get the right shaft and the club head, plus ball, you know, it's a challenge, and there's a lot of hitting of golf balls or a lot of testing, a lot of days out there spending by yourself testing. But when you get it right, it's pretty good. I remember for me in 2000 it turned out pretty good with that ball change.

But I went through just a huge process to get to that point. It was very time consuming, but when things go right and you test properly and you find equipment that's better than what you were playing, then you can do some pretty neat things on the golf course. But it's going through that process sometimes, it's tiring quite frankly because it takes a long time, but as I said, it's worth it in the end if you get it right, and over the course of my career I haven't put anything in my bag unless I knew it was already better. But that's just because of all the testing I've done prior to that.

Q. How long a period of time would you say it takes?

TIGER WOODS: For me I'd say sometimes it's taken almost a year, sometimes it's taken just a few weeks. But it's knowing - for me it's knowing that that club or that ball is better than what I was playing with, and it's going to help me in the end while I'm out there. Forget what it does on the range or - it's important what it does on the range, but what is it going to do on the back nine on Sunday? Is this equipment in general, is this going to help me win golf tournaments? If the answer is yes, then it's in the bag. If the answer is no, then it's not.

Q. Did it help to make kind of a slow change as opposed to a wholesale change?

TIGER WOODS: Well, for me, yes. Other guys have done it, other players have done it and have made changes throughout their career, whether it's everything, and I've been successful at it, and other guys haven't. But for me I've been lucky enough where how my situation was with the companies I was involved in, I was able to make those changes over a longer period of time.

Q. I also wanted to ask you, how would you size up Rory's year relative to other great years, whether it was Vijay in '04 or any half dozen of yours in terms of - the major is obvious, but strength of field, that kind of thing?

TIGER WOODS: Well, he won, as I said, two playoff events, Race to Dubai and the PGA and Honda. So he's won some really good events. You just throw out Vijay; Vijay won nine times that year. That's pretty good. (Laughing.) You know, I'm just going to say that any time you win a major championship you've had a great year, and he's done that. There are four guys that have had great years this year in my opinion, and any time you get a chance to be part of history and put your name on the biggest trophies in our sport, it's a great year.

Q. I want to ask about the strength of your mental game. Is that something you have to actively work on from week to week, and if so, what specifically do you do to stay sharp?

TIGER WOODS: As far as my mental practice, I think it's - I derive a lot of my confidence from practice and how my practice sessions go. I'm not one of those guys who play their way into shape and will spend a few tournaments just to get ready and play and practice at events. I'd much rather practice my way and then go and try and win a golf tournament. So I derive a lot of my confidence from practice, and when my practice sessions are good, then I feel pretty good about how I'm going to do that week.

I think for me, something that has worked really well over the course of my career is not playing a lot of events so that I've had time to practice and build up from tournament to tournament and take my breaks throughout the year so that I can tear it down and then build it up again and get ready for each individual event so that I'm fresh and I'm ready to play.

Q. When you were overseas you were asked about the European Tour possibility. Now that they're going to have that rule that counts the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup and with their schedule that just came out, it does appear that there's the possibility you could pull it off if you wanted to. Have you thought about it any more? Is it something that's on your radar at all that you might consider either this year or in the coming year?

TIGER WOODS: You know what, I'll make it real simple; I'm not going to play the European Tour next year. I certainly understand the ruling, and that's nice, but no. That's - it's a bit much for me still. Certainly I've had opportunities over the years, especially when it was at 11 events, I was very close a couple times and could have taken membership up and played it. But still, I'd much - I enjoy playing around the world, and I still always will, but I am going to play this Tour.

Q. (No microphone.)

TIGER WOODS: It wasn't important to me. I think I could have won it a few times. I don't know what that number was. But it just wasn't important to me. My main concern was winning major championships, and I've won 14 of them, and I'm very proud of that.

Q. And that would have maybe taken away from preparation or whatever, adding those one or two?

TIGER WOODS: Mm hmm.

Q. If four guys had a great year this year, how pivotal is it for you to have a great year next year?

TIGER WOODS: Well, that's something I haven't done since, what, '08, so it's something I'm hoping I can do next year. I've won golf tournaments, I've had some really nice years, some really good years in there, but as I said, winning a major championship just takes it to a whole new level. I know how it feels when you win a major championship, and it feels incredible. It lasts with you, and that's something that I would like to have happen again.

Q. The anchoring rule change has been probably prompted by guys winning majors this year. The Old Course is being changed essentially for you guys once every five years. Can you see any possibility that bifurcation of the rules would be possibly a healthy thing for the game?

TIGER WOODS: You know, I understand your point. I totally get it. But I just think that it's nice if we play on a global basis, and I mean global being that everyone plays under the same rules, where the two governing bodies, the USGA and the R&A, they police our sport, and we play under the same rules. And it's nice for amateurs to understand that they're playing by the same guidelines we are. I think to me that's important, and I think that's important for the traditions and enjoyment of the game, that everyone is under the same auspices, and I think that if - we've talked about certainly this over the years, and whether or not you make a change in the golf ball, you slow it down for the PGA Tour, but where is the line of demarcation. Say you have it at the pro level; okay, where at the pro level are we talking about? Are we talking at the club pro level, the mini Tour level, what part of the mini Tour level are you talking about, or are you just talking about the PGA Tour or the European Tour? Even then, they play co sanctioned events all over the world. So it gets very, very complicated. But if you make it global and make it universal, I think that solves a lot of problems.

Q. Let's say you end your career with 20 majors, and let's say 90 PGA Tour wins. It's your birthday next month and we're going to give you an early present.

TIGER WOODS: Thanks, bro.

Q. What do you think going forward for the generations coming behind you, what do you think would be the harder record to break, your total Tour wins or major wins?

TIGER WOODS: Major wins.

Q. Why?

TIGER WOODS: Because they're not easy. Tour events, if you play a lot of events, you can get it done. You can have big years in there. Even a big year in a major championship year, you win four, that would be a big year. But I've had years - I think I've had nine years where I've won five or more events on the Tour, so it's easier to take bigger chunks out of that than it is to get the major championships. I think that you have that understand of horses for courses and you have certain golf courses that really set up well. You can get a major championship run where courses just don't fit you, but you can go and select your schedule for the PGA Tour events and make sure that they fit your game once you understand what golf courses you like over the years, and traditionally you kind of see guys do that over the years.

Q. Maybe not in golf, but what is the closest you've come in your life to having a panic attack or anxiety attack?

TIGER WOODS: Probably watching the birth of my two kids. That's - it's awesome, but it's like, damn, that's a lot of responsibility coming up. And there's no manual, you know? It's just like the doctor gives us Sam and Charlie and said, okay, good luck.

Q. You've famously rebuilt your swing three times. You're obviously a student of the history of the game, as well. I'm wondering, can you name another player who has periodically and radically overhauled their swings?

TIGER WOODS: There have been probably a few guys. Faldo did a pretty big overhaul. He shut it down for over a year, didn't really do much except for practice with Lead, and even then he's evolved over the years. Seve worked with Mac, threw everything out the window that he had done and went to work on something that was very different, very foreign.

Q. With the technology and the advancement of all the equipment, it's supposed to make it easier and more fun for most golfers I assume, right?

TIGER WOODS: Uh huh.

Q. Would you have a problem with having professional rules as opposed to amateur rules, and why not?

TIGER WOODS: I just think it's so much better if we play under the same governing bodies and the same rules. I think it's fun for everybody, and just so that - I mean, we just made a change - I guess it does happen. You have aluminum bats and wooden bats, and the pro ball is different than the NFL - and the college ball is different than the NFL ball. But still, I just think that for us, keeping with the traditions of the game I think is very important, at least to me anyways I think that's important. Whether it's a simple little thing like the 14 club rule or it's playing under the same cc size or CT speed or anchoring, not anchoring, I think it's good for the game.

Q. You said recently that things with the kids are more rewarding now than winning the tournaments. Was there a particular moment or an event that happened where you realized that, and did it surprise you?

TIGER WOODS: No, it's happened countless times. I remember the time at Doral when I three putted 18 and just totally screwed things up, and that hurt quite a bit. I came home, and it was - Sam wanted to play, and I never thought about that three putt until the next day. It puts things in perspective real quick, how important it is being a parent. You know, that's to me the No.1 priority.

Q. You were talking about setting up your schedules for courses that fit you. You didn't play Torrey, but it's potentially open for you. Do you think as a course you have so much history with, you'll go back there?

TIGER WOODS: We'll see. Does that help you out? (Laughter.)

MODERATOR: Tiger, thank you for your time.

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

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