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Tiger Ready to Go in Ryder Cup
Tiger Woods is all set to play in his seventh Ryder Cup. The biennial matches between 12-man squads from the United States and Europe will start Friday at Medinah Country Club near Chicago.
Woods has experienced personal good fortune at the lengthy host course, having won the PGA Championship there in both 1999 and 2006. But that won't mean another victory is in store for the 74-time Tour winner.
"I've been here to two PGAs, and it's a different golf course again," he said of the course, which has undergone several recent renovations by architect Rees Jones. "I'm going to need to do my homework so that whoever I go out with, that I will be ready and able to contribute and understand this golf course and how to play it."
Of his six prior Ryder Cups, Woods has helped the Yanks to only one victory, in 1999 at The Country Club in Massachusetts. The USA has won only two of the past eight Cups, including a loss in the 2010 competition at the Celtic Manor in Wales.
This week's festivities began with a team dinner Monday, with practice rounds and other events scheduled until the three-day event tees off Friday morning. The American team is mix of grizzled veterans and rookies, and Woods likes the combination.
"It was fun," said of Monday night. "We have a great mix of guys this year, and it's going to be just a lot of fun. You know, some of the guys have obviously been on teams before. Some haven't. But it was a great team atmosphere last night, and we are going to have a lot of fun this week."
On Tuesday, the 14-time major champion sat down with reporters to discuss his squad's chances to regain the Ryder Cup as well as other topics related to the event. Here's what he had to say.
MODERATOR: Making his seventh Ryder Cup appearance, Tiger Woods, joining us at the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club. Tiger was 3-1-0 in his most recent Ryder Cup appearance in Wales. He also won the two PGA Championships played here at Medinah in 1999 and 2006. Tiger, welcome back to Medinah and welcome back to the Ryder Cup.
TIGER WOODS: Thank you. It's good to be back.
MODERATOR: Comments on hopes for this week? Getting together with the team last night to get things started?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it was fun. We have a great mix of guys this year, and it's going to be just a lot of fun. You know, some of the guys have obviously been on teams before. Some haven't. But it was a great team atmosphere last night, and we are going to have a lot of fun this week.
Q. You missed the last U.S. win in Valhalla where match ups were extremely important; Paul had put together a system based on personalities. Is there anyone in particular that you would feel comfortable being paired with, or is it a situation where you just feel like anybody out there can hit the golf shots?
TIGER WOODS: Obviously we have an idea of what we want to do, but also then again, that can certainly change. I think we are going to go out there and see how today is, and the most important thing about these next two days is just getting to know this new golf course for us. I've been here two PGAs, and it's a different golf course again. I'm going to need to do my homework so that whoever I go out with, that I will be ready and able to contribute and understand this golf course and how to play it.
Q. Wonder if you can speak kind of in general terms about this core of you and Jim and Phil that have played on, or at least qualified on every team since '97, effectively. And secondly, it's kind of a chicken and egg type thing; none of you guys have winning records. Is it because you've been on losing teams, or have you been on losing teams because you don't have winning records?
TIGER WOODS: I think it's both. In order to win Cups, you have to earn points and we certainly have not earned points. And on top of that, I think that Phil, Jim and myself have been put out there a lot during those years. So if we are not earning points, it's tough to have - hard to win Ryder Cups that way.
Q. Hard to believe you guys have been together that long?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it is. It's amazing how close this core is. We have gotten to know each other - not just in the Ryder Cup, but we play team Cups every year with the Presidents Cup, and it's been the same three guys, and for a very long time. Phil has obviously been the longest, since '95. It's been a long time, and we certainly have had our experiences. We can certainly help out a lot of the guys who have never been there before.
Q. In team sports, they always talk about it's the name on the front of the jersey and not the back of the jersey; how did you make the transition from being an individual competing for yourself to being a part of a team and playing for pride and not pay?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it's great. This is very similar to what we did in college. We played for our university at the time. But for us to represent the United States of America and our teammates, it's something else. When you've got - when it gets to a certain point, either Friday afternoon, late in the evening, or Saturday late in the evening, and all the teams are gathered and there's like one group out there, and if you happen to be in that group, it's interesting. It's so much heat on you, which is very different. It's different than playing by yourself. But playing for teammates, it just adds an element that - it means so much more because it is our country, and it is our teammates, and we want to - in all these practice sessions, get to know each other and get our games right and be ready for The Ryder Cup week. It comes down to one moment.
Q. You've experienced some pretty fiery Ryder Cup atmospheres over the years. What sort of atmosphere can the European players expect here in Chicago and how much of a lift can that give the American team?
TIGER WOODS: It will certainly be partisan, there's no doubt about it. It will be loud (smiling). It will be raucous, and it will be fun. It's the same as when we go to Europe. They get into it for their team, and our fans are going to get into it for our team. You know, our sport is such that we don't have home and away matches every time we tee it up. It's not like most sports. So it only happens for the Americans basically every year or the Europeans every other year, home and away. So it's a lot of fun.
Q. You won the two PGAs here obviously. Wonder how often you reflect on the first one and what that meant to your career at the time and of course the run that it put you on going forward from there?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, that was a big one for me, because I changed my swing in '97, and it took basically about a year and a half for it to really get dialed in. And once I got rolling, I mean, I won - I believe I won eight times that year. And to have won my second major was so important; it validated my first and gave me the confidence that I could go ahead and do this with this swing. And lo and behold, 2000 came around and got things rolling after that.
Q. Along those lines, you've had a ton of success in Chicago, not just here but Cog Hill; any reason why? Does it give you a good vibe when you come back to the area?
TIGER WOODS: I've always loved coming here. I enjoy playing in Chicago, and for some reason, I've just had a lot of success here. I don't know what it is. But I seem to be very, very comfortable here.
Q. You've been on the winning side once in a Ryder Cup. I wonder how much of that experience, how you treasure that in comparison to all of the other achievements within your career, what that means to you?
TIGER WOODS: Well, just I think the way we did it on that Sunday was - no one's ever seen it. And to be a part of that, to be a part of that rush early; I think Hal started us off, and then Lehman and Duval, I think I was fourth or fifth match out. It was just like these matches were just being - not just won, but we were winning by such huge margins. Just blowing these matches out, which added to the atmosphere. It wasn't like you were squeaking out these matches 1 up. There was birdie after birdie after birdie, and we were just rolling. That was certainly an experience that - I've never been a part of anything like that. Never seen a comeback like that in golf, in a team atmosphere. It was something that I will never, ever forget.
Q. In a decade in which you dominated this sport and you look up here and you see Europe, Europe, Europe winning, how does that make you feel, and do you sort of bear any personal responsibility for that, and does it provide you some motivation this week to try and reverse that trend?
TIGER WOODS: Well, certainly I am responsible for that, because I didn't earn the points that I was put out there for. I believe I was out there, what, in five sessions each time, and I didn't go 5 0 on our side. So I certainly am a part of that, and that's part of being a team. I needed to go get my points for my team, and I didn't do that. Hopefully I can do that this week, and hopefully the other guys can do the same and we can get this thing rolling.
Q. Was it weird to see Sergio as a vice captain in Wales, and is it good to have Sergio back as a player in these matches?
TIGER WOODS: It was certainly different to see him out there as a non player, because, you know, he had been around for a while, since, what, the '99 at Brookline was his first one. He had been a part of every one. And for him not to be there as a player was different. But I think that he was at a point in his life and his career that he had to make a decision, whether do I go forward and turn this thing around or not. I think that what he's done over the last couple years has certainly shown that.
Q. Nicolas Colsaerts is the only rookie on the European Team. How do you rate his game, and do you have any good advice for him playing in the U.S.?
TIGER WOODS: Well, Nicolas, I've only seen - I don't think I've ever played with him, or at least I don't remember playing with him. I've seen him on the range numerous times and I've hit balls next to him, seems like just about every time we are at the same event. It's amazing how far he hits it. I mean, he's one of the longest out here. He's got just a beautiful golf swing. It was just a matter of time before he got things a little bit more consistent and he was going to be at this level. And I think he can play at this level for a very long time. He has the game to do it. For him to play here I think is going to be an experience for him, and it will be a good learning experience, and I think one that will certainly help him in his career going forward.
Q. We hear about the influence Michael has in the team room. How much of an influence does he have on you and is there any back story about the first time you met him? Were you nervous around him the way some people are around you at first?
TIGER WOODS: Well, the first time I had ever been around him, he had fed me some beverages (laughter) and the next day was a little bit more difficult than I would like it to be. But I still shot some really good numbers that day, and made an eagle on the last hole to win. So that certainly feels good.
But you know, Michael being who he has been in the sport and what he's done, for him to be a part of - and want to be part of this, is special for us. This is one of the greatest athletes to ever live, and you know, he wants to be a part of golf and be a part of and share with us what he's been through. For us, that's incredible. I think it's hilarious to see him in a cart like in'97, riding around in the back of a cart, because you don't see guys who are 6'6" out here very often. But to have, as I said, to have him be a part of this, it's priceless for a lot of these guys. I guess for me, because I consider him like my big brother, gotten to know him so well over the years, I may take that for granted. But some of the other guys who don't really know Michael, I think it's a real treat for them.
Q. In the last week both Jim Furyk and Paul Azinger have said they think Rory McIlroy is a marked man this week because he's world No. 1 and beating him is worth more than a point psychologically. From your experience at The Ryder Cup, what is it like to be targeted in such a way and how do you think Rory will handle it?
TIGER WOODS: It's part of being consistent. It's part of being ranked No. 1. It's part of winning major championships. You're always going to want to try and take out their best player, and that's just part of the deal. That's a fun challenge. I certainly have relished it over the years and I'm sure he's going to relish it this week.
Q. With your good relationship with Rory, have you offered him any advice on what to expect this week or what it's going to be like for him?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I'm not going to say anything; obviously he's playing for the other team. We can talk about it afterwards (smiling).
Q. What are you expecting from the crowds here? Anything specifically from the Chicago sports fans? People here are very excited about it. The Chicago sports fans will be in attendance?
TIGER WOODS: This is a great sporting town, to begin with, and they obviously have supported the Cubs, White Sox, Bulls, Blackhawks, you name it. They just love sport, period. And for us to come in here and be part of a U.S. Team I think is just going to add to that. We are going to have a great atmosphere here, and it's going to be a lot of fun. I think it's going to be fun for both sides. As I said, it will be obviously more obviously in our favor, just like it is when we go over to Europe. But, hey, it's part of the deal. And you go out there and you play and you execute and you try and win points for your team, and hopefully we can get the Cup.
MODERATOR: Tiger Woods, thank you very much.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.