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Woods 'Plays Well' at East Lake; Has Good Time with Rory
Tiger Woods was very pleased with his opening round in the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. The 36-year-old, 74-time Tour winner carded a 4-under 66 to take a share of the lead with England's Justin Rose in the $8 million tournament.
Paired in the day's final, marquee twosome with Rory McIlroy, who not only led the FedEx Cup points' standings off two straight victories entering Atlanta but is ranked No. 1 in the world, Woods carded six birdies and a pair of bogeys to rise to the top of the leaderboard.
Woods and Rose will be paired Friday, while McIlroy with play alongside another American golf icon, Phil Mickelson; both those players opened with 1-under 69s. (For all of the second-round pairings, visit http://www.pgatour.com/tournaments/r060/tee-times.html.)
After signing his card, Woods sat down with reporters and talked about his opening effort at East Lake. The big buzz entering the Tour Championship revolved around comments made on Wednesday by Greg Norman to FoxSports.com that Woods was intimidated by McIlroy.
"What I'm seeing is that Tiger's really intimidated by Rory," Norman told the website. "When have you ever seen him intimidated by another player? Never. But I think he knows his time's up and that's normal. These things tend to go in 15-year cycles."
After hearing the comments by golf's "Great White Shark," both players pooh-poohed them, with the young Northern Irishman saying, "How can I intimidate Tiger Woods? I mean, he's been the biggest thing ever in our sport. How could some little 23-year-old from Northern Ireland with a few wins come up and intimidate him? It's just not possible."
Woods had a comical take on Norman's remarks, drolly noting about McIlroy, "It's got to be the hair."
After his opening round, McIlroy said of the Thursday outing with Tiger: "It was great. I always say groupings like that, it's a great atmosphere, it's a great buzz, and wish I could have shot a couple shots better. But I'm in a good position going into tomorrow. Yeah, I mean, I'll just go out there tomorrow and give it my best again like I did today."
During the following media session Woods addressed his budding, friendly relationship with McIlroy as well as his fine start in the Tour Championship. Here's what he had to say.
MODERATOR: Tiger Woods joins us in the interview room, after a 4 under par 66. Tiger, quick start, two birdies on the first three holes, and then two coming in on those last four. Comment on the day as a whole for us.
TIGER WOODS: As a whole, I played well today. I hit a lot of good shots. Made a few putts out there, but actually I had a couple of good up and downs, which is nice. This golf course was, I think it was probably gettable today. Because it was playing so hot the ball was flying forever. And you know, with the fairways being soft, just you can drive it in the fairway, you can be aggressive. Just hope you don't get a mud ball out there. Unfortunately, I had two of those out there today. But that's the way it goes.
Q. You were playing quite well today. Your distance control was great, especially on the greens. Do you feel you left a few putts out there?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, but I hit a lot of good putts too. So I'm not really disappointed in that at all. I hit them online, but I just didn't have enough speed on a couple of the putts. The green was snagging it late, and they dove across the front part of the lip.
Q. As you've green more comfortable with what you're doing with the swing, do you feel that now you're able to play, especially short irons with a bit more softness to go at it less hard? It seemed today you were not as violent. Not as hard at it, and the results were good.
TIGER WOODS: Well, I'm hitting - today I was hitting my wedge 160. Is that soft today, 160? Well, that's what I was doing today.
Q. You looked very relaxed on the golf course. Was that the case, and what benefit does that have for you?
TIGER WOODS: I've been playing well. You know, most of the summer I've played well, so I'm very pleased with the things that Sean and I are working on, and it's just a continuation of it. It was nice to get that week off last week and get a little bit of rest. I felt fresh today.
Q. Obviously, there are a lot of courses that suit you. But what is it about this place that you perform so well and seem so comfortable with?
TIGER WOODS: It's one of those courses - I don't know. I've had a few golf courses that fit my eye, but they're all very different. You know, you've got Torrey or Firestone, Muirfield, here, Augusta, they're all very different golf courses, and I've played well on them quite a few times. I think it's just I prefer the old, traditional golf courses like this. Trouble is just right there in front of you. It's very simple, but it's hard. It's rare that you see guys go low here, but it's very simple. Really, not a lot of trouble out here, but guys just have a hard time getting it low out here.
Q. How would you describe the rough, particularly what you found yourself in at 14?
TIGER WOODS: It's long enough, but also it's thin enough that every ball is going down to the bottom. So if you get it in there it's going to sit on the bottom. It's tough to get out of there. I mean, I saw Rory at 13. He missed the first cut by less than a yard and had no shot. It's, as I said, it's thin enough where every ball is going to the bottom, so it's pretty tough.
Q. You mentioned today that the greens were perfect. Would you attribute your play a little bit to the pace of play in such a small field that you were able to get into a rhythm?
TIGER WOODS: You know, we were talking about that out there today, Rory and I. It's so nice to be able to play like this. We wish every tournament had this kind of pace of play, where we can get up and just play. I think everyone enjoys it. No one enjoys playing six hours out there. But everyone enjoys playing at this pace. It's nice and fast, and very little wait, and we're just going. Sometimes it's hard to keep up with the group in front of you. That's nice.
Q. You got a few questions yesterday about the Norman comments, but actually you've fared better than Rory when you've played with him most of the time, going back to Abu Dhabi. I just wonder, does he bring out something in you? Do you step it up a little bit because, obviously, you're not just playing him, but you have performed better than him most of the time.
TIGER WOODS: I enjoy playing with Rory. He's a great kid. Over the years there are certain pairings for me that I've enjoyed, and Rory is one of them.
Q. Following on from that question, how much do you enjoy the playoff dynamic? Obviously, a win takes care of everything, but given the process that you've come through and the fact that it keeps throwing you with Rory, that does provide an added dimension. How have you enjoyed that?
TIGER WOODS: I think that is the whole idea of the playoffs. Trying to get the top players all playing, one, more often, but also in the same group. You figure the top players are going to gravitate towards the top of the points list and hence, you're going to have these type of pairings throughout the playoffs. And it's turned out that way this year. I've had Rory I think three of the four events or something like that. I think it's worked out the way that our tour wanted it to work out.
Q. The birdie putt on 2, did you walk after it because you thought you missed it or because you thought it was going -
TIGER WOODS: No, I wasn't missing.
Q. Your dynamic with Rory, how much of that is he's not afraid to rib you? That he'll give as good as he gets?
TIGER WOODS: A lot of guys are like that. He's not the only one. Contrary to what you you probably don't believe this, but I get along really well with a lot of guys out here. Rory is no different.
Q. There is a sense that some people maybe tiptoe around you. Is that not the case?
TIGER WOODS: As I said, I give it. They dish it, and we have a great time. This is a fraternity out here. That's one of the great things about being out here for 17 years. You get to know the guys quite well.
Q. You've obviously managed this very well over your career, but have you ever at times worried more about the guy you're playing with? I'm not just talking about Rory, but you try to beat the guy you're playing with and you lose track of - Jack has said that him and Arnie would do that occasionally over their career, and sometimes they've realized that, you know, we can't just beat each other. Have you ever fallen into that?
TIGER WOODS: I've done it a couple of times playing against Phil in the final group, and we've gotten run over. We were playing against each other and some guy gets off to a start, and we're 7 under through 10, and next thing you know we're two or three back. It's happened a couple times where we just didn't have the leaderboards, so we don't really know what's going on. We're playing against each other. Next thing you know, you get through nine, and you look at the leaderboard, and it's like hello. Now we've got to get going. Yeah, it's happened a couple of times.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.