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Woods Beams after Latest Win


In severe and occasionally bizarre conditions, Tiger Woods proved that he still has the mettle to out-tough the competition. And that he did Sunday at a baking Congressional Country Club, where he won the AT&T National for the second time and for his third victory this year.

Over four days of 100-plus-degree temperatures, on an exceedingly difficult, rock-hard golf course that was ravaged by a fierce storm Friday night which made it impossible for PGA Tour officials to allow spectators onto Congressional, and during a heated head-to-head match-up with a game Bo Van Pelt, Woods persevered, closing with a 2-under 69 to outlast Van Pelt, a brutal golf test and an elite field to notch the 74th victory of his storied career.

Consider Van Pelt among the impressed. "I think he's the only guy to win three tournaments on Tour . . . on three different golf courses, and he was leading the U.S. Open after two days. So I'd say that he's playing the best golf in the world right now."

With his latest win, Woods now trails only Sam Snead on the all-time victory list. He's eight behind "Slammin' Sammy" and, at only 36 years old, has an excellent chance of catching the fabled West Virginian.

Although he broke the tie with Jack Nicklaus on the all-time list, Woods still has to win five majors to overtake the Golden Bear's 18 major titles. His next chance for a Grand Slam victory comes later this month in the British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

On Sunday evening, Woods met with reporters and discussed his week at Congressional and his rediscovered knack for finding his way into the winner's circle. Here's what he had to say.

MODERATOR: We welcome the 2012 AT&T National champion Tiger Woods. Congratulations, Tiger, 74 wins passes Jack Nicklaus on the all time record list. Just first start us off with some general comments on your round.

TIGER WOODS: Well, yeah, I played well today. It was a bunch of guys with a chance on that front nine, and even a few guys pretty far ahead of us made a run. I saw Adam made a run early. But it ended up being Bo and I with I think the last four holes to go. We basically had separated ourselves, and then after we both made birdie at 15, it was just he and I.

And then 16 we both made a couple mistakes there, and 17 was a hole that - it's rare that we caught any fliers out here at all this week, and Bo caught one coming out of that rough. We had a good enough lie where we could have had one of those, but Bo caught one out of there and put it in the wrong spot and made bogey, and I got up and down. And 18 was that was a nice hole. I hit a nice hard fade off the tee, and then I hit a nice sweet little draw in there into the green. It was good to be able to shape it both ways like that.

Q. How good does this one feel?

TIGER WOODS: Oh, it feels fantastic. It was a long week. It was a tough week for the staff. They busted their tails off yesterday, so we only had to play 18 holes today. It could have been really tough. With this heat, everyone that came out yesterday and worked all throughout the night so that we were able to play. We got it in yesterday, and today was, as I said on the green here, it felt like it was just a lot of pent up energy. Everyone wanted to come out and scream and yell yesterday, but there was no one out here. Some of the guys on the putting green were funny this morning. Out of habit they were tipping caps after we'd make a putt and putting their hand up. It was pretty funny. And there was no one out there.

Q. You've passed Jack Nicklaus now, second most PGA Tour wins. What does that mean to you?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I've had a pretty good career. To do it at 36, I feel like I have a lot of years ahead of me. I've had a number of good years in my career so far, and I feel like I've got a lot more ahead of me.

Q. You said earlier this week in your short game you were struggling a little bit. How do you feel like you did this week?

TIGER WOODS: Oh, fantastic. I made a little bit of a tweak, but the bunkers were a little bit heavy this week, and my 60 is not made for this type of sand. I have another one that has a little more bounce, but the fairways are so tight that I didn't feel comfortable hitting pitch shots with my other 60, so I had to alter my technique out of the bunkers when I had a chance. But I feel like I really controlled the putter well this week. I had a lot of good putts, and I had a lot of for some reason I had a lot of putts that were downhill, big, breaking putts, and I hit a lot of good putts this week.

Q. (David) Feherty was interviewing you afterwards and he said that guy that made that par putt reminded me of someone, and you said it was on the right edge. In terms of what it meant to you, I know you've won a lot of these and you've won a lot of tournaments, but this one in particular, now three this year, you passed Jack. There's a lot of significance. It's your tournament. What does it mean to you?

TIGER WOODS: Well, it means a lot for us as a foundation. This week is a very important week for us, and we gain a lot of awareness what we're trying to do and how we're trying to help kids. I've always donated all of my winnings to the foundation, so they're very happy. Yesterday - I'll tell you what, yesterday was a very dicey day for us. We were wondering we could get it in. It was a dangerous situation for all the fans and spectators. That's one reason why we didn't let them in. But my foundation and the grounds crew and some of the volunteers that were here, they busted their hump to get this done yesterday, and I'm just so proud of how everyone came together and got it done. Again, to honor all the military service men and women again this week was fantastic, all 30,000 tickets were given out and everyone came out. It was a fantastic week.

Q. You've won three of your last seven starts. What parts of your game do you feel like have come around over the last two, three, four, six months, whatever the case may be?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, pretty much everything. I remember there was a time when people were saying I could never win again. That was, I think, what, six months ago. Here we are. Four months ago? Four months ago, okay.

Q. It must have been an incredible contrast from yesterday to today. Just talk about that.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, you know what, yesterday was very different for us. But today on 16 tee they got me, a photographer took a picture of my down swing, and I flinched and hit it left.

Q. Pro or gallery?

TIGER WOODS: One of the pros, and then someone took a picture on 17 tee and we had to back off and reset and hit it again. We didn't have to do that yesterday.

Q. In terms of noise, Bo made a comment yesterday when you chipped in on 6 that he felt cheated because usually a nice moment like that was fairly loud and there was nothing. I wonder from a sheer noise volume and the energy you feed off, could you talk about that?

TIGER WOODS: It was very different, but again, I think it's - it was different if it would have been a Sunday, and this was a Saturday. We're just playing for positioning, and we're trying to get ourselves in position to win a golf tournament. Now, if we had that atmosphere on a Sunday as a final round, now, that would have been interesting. As long as I won, I would be okay.

Q. Obviously you weren't here a year ago, but the course's reputation took a bit of a beating. You've played four rounds here. What do you think being back?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I was just talking to the superintendent. They got the conditions they wanted to this week. They softened it up a little bit for us. The first day was by far the most difficult day. It was the most firm. It was the fastest the golf course played all week, and then obviously the heat came in, so that changed things dramatically. Today was just a touch softer than what it was yesterday, the green speeds. They were just a fraction slower. And we were able to spin the golf ball. Even some balls actually came back a little bit if you were hitting into the wind with wedges. Actually they had a little bit of spin. The first day, that - they were bouncing as high as the flags.

Q. (Inaudible.)

TIGER WOODS: It is, it's a fantastic venue. Obviously they've played a few Opens here. You just need the right conditions. This was the conditions that Venturi played in. We didn't quite have it in '97 when I played, and last year definitely was not the case. But this golf course, it's a big ballpark. We changed par out here and made it a 71. That changes things dramatically because that sixth hole is - it's a tough green to hit.

Q. You've always been a guy who's thrived in match play situations in the last handful of holes that's kind of what you were in. I'm wondering first, how much you relish that situation, and then secondly, how much enjoyment - or which do you enjoy more, grinding out pars like you did on 11 and 12 or say a birdie like 15?

TIGER WOODS: Well, we didn't really have it where it was just Bo and I until the last few holes. There were a bunch of guys with a chance. As I said, I didn't see the board until 15 green. That's when I saw after I made my putt, the board was right past the hole, and I was looking at Bo hit his putt, and it flashed up that we had separated ourselves I think at the time three shots.

So it was just he and I with three holes to go, and I figured that it was nice to be able to focus on just Bo and not worry about listening to roars over what anybody else was doing. We were wondering who made that hole in one, if anybody was at 6 and then made the hole in one to jump to 8, but that wasn't the case. So it was just he and I, and I enjoyed it. But the grinding out pars is part of how this golf course was set up. It was set up this week that I fired away from a lot of flags and just lag putted down there and took my chances when I could. But it was tough to get the ball close. Short siding yourself here was an automatic bogey. The greens are just too steep and too fast.

Q. You've been focused your whole life every time we've ever seen you, but there have to be some waves in that lifetime of focus. Right now when you're winning tournaments again and your game is almost where you want it or is where you want it, can you talk about what it is like when you're in that period where your focus is peaking, or is that true?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think that for me I just go out there and I give it everything I have each and every day I play. Some days it's better than others, some days we're just like that. We are all human. I try hard. I try everything I possibly can and give everything I possibly can, and sometimes I don't quite hit the ball well or hit the ball well and not putt well and do everything right and not chip well. Welcome to golf. It's a game that tests our patience, and I've been out here for - I think, what is this, my 17th year, I think? I've been out here a long time, and I understand what it's like to have to grind and fight because each shot means something because it's - the first day, the first shot is just as important as the 72nd hole. They all count the same. That's the mindset I've always had.

Q. When you were giving your acceptance speech, you said you felt a lot of pent up energy out there from the fans who couldn't be here yesterday. Can you talk about that situation on 15 where you're thinking you're going to make that birdie putt and do you anticipate what's going to come from them and do you anticipate feeding off of them?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I was just trying to get that putt close. It was a putt I was just trying to lag it down there to not have a second putt where I could just basically one hand it in there. That was a quick putt. It was nice to see Brendon's putt before me because I was surprised at how much it rolled out the last probably five feet short of the hole, it picked up a little bit of gas and it shot past the hole. Because if I hadn't had seen that I wouldn't have given it probably an extra few more inches. I would have gone a little bit lower. But after seeing that I gave it just a little more cush to throw it out there. If you look at my reaction I put my hand up, come on now snap because I had adjusted my read after watching Brendon's putt. And after it started snapping, then I got a little excited.

Q. Your impressions on Bo's play and the fact that he was able to hang in there and almost take it down to the wire there with you?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I've known Bo a long time. We've gone at it since junior golf and college golf. I've known him for a very long time, one of the greatest guys out here. It was a pleasure to play with him the last two days. We grinded, we competed, and it was just a matter of making the key putt or a key up and down and not making too many mistakes. This golf course was playing like a major championship. I figured it was going to come down to probably the last five or six holes and it ended coming down to, what, the last three holes where the tournament swung.

Q. You've passed Jack now today, and next man on the list is Sam. You're going to Sam's I'll say ancestral home this coming week. Could you comment on that, going to Greenbrier, and moving toward his record?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I'm excited about going to a new Tour spot. I've never been there before. I've heard nothing but fantastic things and really looking forward to it. It's a golf course that's been altered since obviously Stewart won and made a little bit more difficult, and I'm looking forward to getting up there. It feels great to get to 74 wins and obviously pass Jack. I did it at 36 years old, and it's something I'm very proud of.

Q. Can you take us through the second shot on No.12 with the tree right there and how big was that just to stay even with Bo?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I had 65 front, and that was all I was concentrated on. I had to start that ball probably about 20 yards right of the right bunker, wind was coming off my left. I had warned the gallery that, be careful, this club might snap, because obviously I'm hooking it, so I've got to throw it, I've got to putt some speed into it, and I can't - I'm not 100 percent sure I can stop it before I hit the tree. I didn't think I could. And I figured with that much speed I have to put into a 9 iron hooking it 165 yards in the air, it was going to have some speed, and I didn't think I could stop, and I wanted to make sure everyone was okay. I hit it. It came off great, and somehow the 9 iron didn't bend. I'm kind of surprised it didn't. I hit the shot, I tried to slow it down before I hit the tree. Still hit the tree, but I didn't hit it with the full force.

Q. What happened on your wedge into 16? And when you saw it go over the green, did you think you were in trouble? Could you have imagined going to 17 tee still tied with Bo?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I had landed the ball probably about four or five yards too far. That was not where I wanted to land it. I got just a little - I hit the ball just a little too low. I needed to throw it up there with a little more height and a little more cut spin, and I didn't do it. I hit on a rope. And when I got down there - actually before I got down there Bo had already hit his third shot and left it short, and from that point I said, you know what, hey, it looks like it's probably par is going to have the lead going to the last two holes, and I just wanted to leave myself a putt. Don't need to be a hero and try to get it close. I didn't feel that - I just wanted to give myself anything inside 20 feet I could probably hole, and after seeing where Bo had put it just on the fringe, it was definitely the case, don't need to be a hero, just put it on the green and try to make a putt. It was weird because my putt went left at the hole and his putt coming down the hill went left. We both hit great putts, we were talking about that going down 17.

Q. Had you seen his line? Right when you hit your shot you saw it obviously go off the back. He still had to play his third shot. Did you see what he had at that point?

TIGER WOODS: I didn't see it. I didn't go over there. I was perturbed at myself at that time.

Q. You made mention of the fact that a few months ago people were saying you weren't going to win again. To use your word, were you perturbed by that, and also, did your confidence wane at any point?

TIGER WOODS: Well, a lot of media people didn't think I could win again, and I had to deal with those questions for quite a bit. It was just a matter of time. I could see the pieces coming together. Sean and I were working, and we see what's coming, and we can see the consistency, and it's just a matter of time. Just stay the course, and if you look at my ball striking so far this year, it's gotten more and more consistent. That's just - I had basically a year away from it because I was hurt. I couldn't practice. And changing systems. Give me a little bit of time, and I feel like this is what I can do.

Q. Did your confidence wane, though?

TIGER WOODS: Of course the confidence wanes because I wasn't able to practice and I was hurt for a long time. When you're changing systems and have a totally different release pattern, it's going to take some time, and there are times when, yeah, I revert back, but that's happening less and less, and my ball striking is getting better and better.

Q. Does this feel like 2009? You've won the same three tournaments you did that year, and both coming off injuries the previous year.

TIGER WOODS: Well, I had a good year that year. I think I won six times that year. That would be nice if I could get that same total with a couple majors in there (smiling).

Q. The walk down 18, did you hear them chanting to shake the hands of the military members or you just went over?

TIGER WOODS: No, everyone I saw in the uniform this week I shook their hand.

Q. What was the club in?

TIGER WOODS: I hit 9 iron. I don't know what I had to the hole. I had 59 front, and I think it was 28 back, and I was really concentrating on hitting it 70 in the air. That was my number, just hit 70. Just take a little something off a 9 iron and flight it and turn it. Where Bo's ball finished, it was an absolute perfect starting point. He hit it just right on the knob, and I was kind of looking over there before Bo had to hit, and I'm kind of getting a point, where should I start this ball, where should I start this ball and Bo's ball happened to be a perfect aiming point, and I started right on his ball, turned it just a touch against the wind, and when I hit it, I knew it was good.

Q. Were you in better control of your game here or Memorial, and what was the difference?

TIGER WOODS: I think I hit it better at Memorial, but I putted by far better here. I've got to put a plug into Notah. He gave me a little tip when we talked about putting and philosophies early this week, and he got me putting like I used to. That was fantastic.

Q. You won before the Masters, and you won before the U.S. Open. It didn't quite work out at those two events. But with the British coming up in the next couple weeks, I know you have an event before that, but do you feel your game has come around and you can get that next major especially getting a win at such a tough course?

TIGER WOODS: Well, it's going to be totally different shot making and prep. I'm going to play next week, and then I'm going to have to start practicing some different shots and getting used to hitting the ball a little bit lower, a little bit more flighted. It's a totally different game playing links golf. But I still have to have the ability to get the ball up in the air. That's something that we're going to work on. I've got a week - basically two weeks, but one week of prep prior to the Open, and we'll get after it.

Q. I was going to go back to the you'll never win again type thing. People have been making judgments on you for 10, 11 years now, but you're the only one who knows your body and the significance of injury, etcetera. Can you see where people might have been coming from having walked off the course at Doral, is this injury going to happen again and again, not knowing what you know, and then go three out of seven and close to full play?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I won the U.S. Open on a broken leg. I can handle it.

Q. We didn't know it was broken.

TIGER WOODS: I did, though. (Smiling)

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