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Win Gives Woods 'Pure Joy'
It had been 30 months since Tiger Woods stepped into the winner's circle, a place that, before 2009, he'd a beaten a path to on a regular basis while racking up PGA Tour 71 titles. But because of injuries, personal upheavals and a totally retooled swing the erstwhile top-ranked golfer in the world hadn't been able to come out on top in a full-field tournament, resulting in the lengthy dry spell.
But all that changed Sunday at Bay Hill in Orlando, when the 36-year-old played steadily down the stretch, closing with a 2-under 70 to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational for a record seventh time.
In the end, it wasn't even close as Woods finished at 13-under 275, beating runner-up Graeme McDowell by five shots. After signing his scorecard, a very happy Tiger met with reporters for the following interview session. Here's what he had to say.
MODERATOR: Like to welcome Tiger Woods, the 2012 champion of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. This is your seventh win here, and your 72nd on the PGA Tour. Do you want to talk about your initial reactions to the win and then we'll have a few questions.
TIGER WOODS: It was just pure joy. You know, it was tough today. It was tough conditions out there, man. Wind was whipping out there. It was changing directions and intensities. Arnold did a hell of a job of getting these greens fast, and they were baked out and some of the hardest pins I've ever seen here. So I don't know what the average score was today, but certainly wasn't anywhere near par. It was a tough day. It was a very tough day. It was a day of attrition. Just got to hang in there and just keep hitting fairways and greens, and there weren't going to be a lot of birdie opportunities out there, but when you had them, I just felt like I had to take advantage of it.
Q. There's got to be a lot of emotions right now, tell me what you're thinking as you complete the job?
TIGER WOODS: Pure joy. Today was, it was a rough day. The conditions, the greens were feisty. Pins were unbelievable. I've never seen pins this difficult and greens this fast and firm. The wind was blustery, changed directions enough and the intensity was tough out there. It was a day of survival.
Q. That walk across the street was full of emotion, as well. How hard was it to contain that within yourself, which I know you always try to do.
TIGER WOODS: It was fun until my ball reached the green. Granted I had a five-shot lead, but I've souped it there a couple of times, and we've had some interesting finishes this year on Tour. So just keeping it over to the left somewhere on dry land, somewhere around pin high and I'll be good. As soon as I did that, then trouble is over.
Q. Can you just talk a little bit about - what does this do to you psychologically? I know you've been talking about the process and the progress and whatnot, but now that you have won this with Sean's teachings and whatnot and taking this forward, what kind of a leap is this for and you where can this take you, do you think?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, this is my second win. So it felt good. This is our progression; we are heading in the same direction. I've gotten better, and that's the main thing, is that if you look at my results, you know, I had the lead in Australia; had the lead in Abu Dhabi; I was there in contention at Pebble; and I was in contention at the Honda. I've been close for a number of tournaments now. And it was just a matter of just staying the course and staying patient, keep working on fine tuning what we're doing, and here we are.
Q. What's been the toughest part about getting back here? Has it been the mental aspect of it over the last two years, injuries, combination of both?
TIGER WOODS: It's by far the injuries, because you can't practice. I haven't been able to put in the time. Can't make a swing change and make all of at adaptations we need to make unless I can practice. I had not been able to do that. So being on the sideline most of last year was tough. And finally started showing signs towards the end of the year in Australia and moving forward. So it's been good.
Q. Joey said that after you hit the shot into 18, you looked at him and you said something, "Yeah" and you were pretty pumped up. Talk about the emotions; you know you've hit it on the green and you know you're going to win this tournament. Just the relief of getting here again. It's been obviously, on the official PGA Tour, it's been 30 months; just the relief of being here again?
TIGER WOODS: It just feels good. As I said, it's just pure joy. The tournament wasn't over until I hit the ball on the green. We've seen what's happened this year with leads. So that's a hole that we are just trying to hit the ball over to the left somewhere, somewhere around pin high, anything on dry land is good, and once that was accomplished, the tournament was over. That's what it was nice to be able to celebrate, and after that, knowing that all I had to do was just stay upright and the tournament was over.
Q. What was the best shot you hit today; what was the most important shot you hit today, if they weren't the same.
TIGER WOODS: Well, I hit a lot of good ones today. I can't say - not one shot stood out, because I hit I thought a boatload of good ones. I had really good control of my ball all day. I was shaping it both ways, changing my traj. Felt so comfortable. No, I can't pick out one shot, sorry.
Q. Not the important one when he was coming at you, any time that you really needed one?
TIGER WOODS: If anything, it was going to be the par putt at 15. I think that was an important putt, because having a three - potentially, three shots around here with these last three holes, he makes eagle, I don't make - say if I soup it on 16 or soup it on 18, three shots is easy to make up. But four is a little bit different. For some reason it just felt a little bit different. That's pretty comforting knowing that if I par the last three holes, he can't win, and he's going to have to make an eagle in there, somehow, and that's just forcing a playoff.
Q. It sounded like that Joey was telling you during some of your tee shots, right leg. What was the swing thought going in there? And yesterday in your press conference, you said when someone asked, do you feel like you have to win, you said, I don't feel like I have to win, but I want to win; now that you're sitting up here with that trophy, was there a part of you that kind of felt like, yeah, I've got to win this?
TIGER WOODS: No, I think that - well, the right leg part was it was just a trigger for me as I go back. So just making sure that everything's loaded so I can push and drive and explode, and explode however speed I want and control that rotation. So that was just a trigger we came up with today - or last night, on the range. As far as needing to win, no, you don't need to win; you want to win. I think that's a misperception I think people get into. I think it's just - I know I have a desire to win, and that's why I enter these events is to do that, and ultimately, this week was one of my weeks.
Q. I think a lot of people are going to be asking now, okay, got the win; where to from here? Wondering if you can kind of talk about how excited you are for the future. LaCava said you probably wish the Masters started tomorrow, and you're ready to get back out there, mix it up, and play like you used to play.
TIGER WOODS: I still need some work, and it's going to be good to get a week off and work on a few things. I enjoyed the progression we made this week. Each day there was a little bit of fine tuning here and there, and we were able to make those adjustments, which was good, and especially with the conditions getting more difficult on the weekend. I was able to hit some really good shots the last two days, and that's a very good sign going into Augusta.
Q. There have been critics over the last couple of years who have said that you may never win again; after today, what with you say to those people?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it's my second win.
TIGER WOODS: I got Official World Ranking points, didn't I? You can't win this one, can you? (Laughter)
Q. You've alluded to your confidence by the number of times you've been in contention the last couple of months but what's the difference going into Augusta with a win like this compared if you had not won today.
TIGER WOODS: That's a good question. I've gone into Augusta with wins and without wins. You're looking for one week, that's all. You know, just hopefully everything comes together for that one week. I understand how to play Augusta National, and it's just a matter of executing the game plan. They made a couple little subtle changes out there, but overall the golf course is still basically the same. So looking forward to it.
Q. Does it help at all to see the number of putts go in, from 1 to 3 to 4, and having a full week where you pretty much have it under control?
TIGER WOODS: It does help. There's no doubt, that does help. But this is a steady progression. This was coming. I've been close a number of times, basically since Australia. Just had to stay the course. We all knew the things that we were working on were coming together, and were starting to solidify because the golf ball was not moving, just going so straight and the ball flight is so tight. The hardest adjustment I've had to make is just getting my distances and hitting the ball further.
Q. Is that the only thing missing?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it was, because I'm not used to hitting my irons with some of the longer hitters. I haven't done that for - since over a decade. I went through a number of years where I lost a lot but I was able to still hit my numbers, but a lot of a lot of distance. I've gained all that back and I'm one of the longer hitters out here on Tour again which is nice.
Q. As you say, you felt that this was coming, presumably the timing is absolutely perfect knowing that the Masters is just around the corner.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it's nice, it is nice (smiling). I've won here on a few occasions going into Augusta which has always been a good feeling. I still have got some work to do, but I'm excited about the things that we have accomplished. It's been very good.
Q. And is the bigger signal to yourself or to the rest of the golfing world? Because this victory, you're going to have to accept, is going to resonate around the golfing world?
TIGER WOODS: It's for me personally. That's why I play. As I said, I'm excited about the things that we've been working on, and to see it come together week in and week out, it's getting a little bit better, a little bit better and a little bit better. Some of you guys who follow me just about every round can see the changes. It's been very good, and you know, when push come to shove today, the wind was howling and I had to hit a lot of good shots; I did. It was good today.
Q. So many wins in your career, but given what's transpired, all of the stuff that's happened, the injuries, the time away, where does this rank?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it's not like winning a major championship or anything, but it certainly feels really good. It was nice to win here and with Arnold's involvement in the tournament. Obviously as you all know, my two kids were born here, and without his help and everything he's done for the hospitals here, the majority of the Tour players' kids have been born here. We owe a lot to Arnold, and obviously Dr. Alexander who is here, for what they have done. This is a very important tournament for a lot of us.
Q. You said you didn't need the win, but does it make you feel inside that the hard work has paid off? Is there a feeling of satisfaction?
TIGER WOODS: Absolutely. Absolutely. I just felt that I've been making steps in the right direction. It just had not shown up for all four days yet. And I've been so close to putting it together, and you know, Joey has been - we've been kind of going over this, and it's just like, man, you've been a yard off all year. A yard here and a yard here; a yard here and a yard there; it's just like, man, 65s should be the highest number I could possibly shoot a lot of times. But it's just a yard here and a yard there. I just said, be patient, it's coming. And today when the wind blew like this, to be able to have that type of control, that feels good.
Q. How would you contrast going into today with a 54 hole lead relative to Firestone? Someone said that was 924 days ago, the last win, at Firestone - BMW, sorry.
TIGER WOODS: BMW? I guess they are all slightly different. I've had the lead before and I've won. The goal today with obviously the wind conditions as they were coming out of the west, this is the toughest one we've got. I just felt that anything under par was going to be a very good score today, and that was my goal. It was my mindset today, and after the first hole, my lead went from one to three. So that certainly changes things. So now, let's just try to make a lot of pars, and see what happens. Let's make a stray birdie here and there.
Q. With apologies, putting the cart in front of the horse, but can you put your head around the fact that you head into Augusta, of all places that you can tie Jack for the same number of wins?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, well, that's nice, but I'm looking forward to more of the green jacket part of it than tying Jack, in that regard. Jack's had an amazing career and he's won a bunch of tournaments. But also, he's won more majors than anybody else, either. So I'm looking forward to my opportunities this year. There's four of them this year and hopefully I can peak at the right times for all four of them.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.