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Woods Still Dealing with Ailing Back; Introduces New Sponsor of His Tournament


At a press conference introducing the new sponsor - and new name - of his tournament, Tiger Woods said it was too early to say whether he'll be able to play in the Masters. Woods is a four-time winner of the year's first major; the 2014 edition will be played April 10-13.

Woods has been receiving treatment for his ailing back; back spasms caused him to withdraw midway through the final round of the Honda Classic in early March. He finished tied for 25th in the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral, and pulled out of last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational.

"For Augusta, it's still a little too soon (to know), to be honest with you," said, still ranked No. 1 in the latest world golf ranking despite his modest finishes and light schedule this season.

"That's kind of the frustrating thing about this. I had a couple weeks off, was getting treatment and trying to get ready for Augusta. As of right now, it's still too soon. As I said, that's very frustrating."

Quicken Loans will be the new sponsor of his tournament in 2015, when it will be renamed Quicken Loans National. It will still be played at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., and be called AT&T National for the final time when it's played June 26-29.

Woods hasn't missed a Masters Tournament since he turned pro. And he hopes to recover from the back problems in time to keep that streak alive.

On Monday, Woods along with PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and Quicken Loans' CEO Bill Emerson met with the media and discussed the $6.5 million National, which benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation and other charities. Here's what transpired during the presser.

MODERATOR: Good morning and welcome. My name is Emily Taylor. I'm the vice president of communications and marketing for the Tiger Woods Foundation. To begin the press conference, I'd like to acknowledge a few special guests who are here with us. Our tournament host venue, Congressional Country Club. We have several board members here today along with the board president, Steve Durante. I'd also like to acknowledge our three charities here today. Rick Kell with Troops First Foundation. Dustin with the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. And from the Tiger Woods Foundation, CEO Greg McLaughlin and tournament director Michael Antolini. Next, to make our formal announcement, please join me in welcoming PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem.

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Thank you for being with us this morning. This is an exciting announcement for the PGA Tour, for all the golf fans here in the Washington area, and for a great company that we're delighted to partner with. Eight years ago the Tiger Woods Foundation got together with AT&T and created a new tournament, the AT&T National. During the last seven years through the hard work of Tiger and the staff, Greg McLaughlin and the staff at the Tour, this event has become one of the premiere events on the PGA Tour, playing at over the years primarily at Congressional and also Aronimink Country Club in Philadelphia, two of the great golf courses on the East Coast.

Along the way, millions of dollars have been raised for the Foundation to help thousands of kids, and a tremendous effort has been made to recognize our military and to support our men and women in uniform. Today we are delighted to announce a new relationship with Quicken Loans as they will become the title sponsor of the Quicken Loans National. I want to thank Bill Emerson, the CEO of Quicken Loans, for his leadership and his executive team, his president and CMO Jay Farner, who is not here, for the hard work that went in to getting us to this point, and how much we are excited about and appreciate this new partnership.

In these first eight years, as I mentioned, an awful lot of work has been done to bring this tournament forward. We are just so pleased that with this announcement the tournament will continue forward in a very stable manner to be able to continue to do the work that it's doing. If I could put this into perspective. I'd like to tick off, first of all from a PGA Tour perspective, why we think today's announcement is so meaningful.

First on the list is the stability of any tournament is based on the strength and commitment of its sponsorship. Quicken Loans is one of the premiere companies in the country in its industry sector, one of the fastest growing, a company that is well respected. When a company of this stature makes this kind of commitment, it sends a great signal that the PGA Tour is the place to be. In this case, the Tiger Woods Foundation is a great partner to have. Secondly, I'm also delighted that AT&T will continue to be involved in this tournament as a founding partner. The combination of their involvement continuing will assist and even further the strength of the tournament. Thirdly, this allows AT&T to move over and sponsor in their home base right down the street from their headquarters the great tournament, the Byron Nelson, in Dallas, Texas. So it's kind of a win win win for everybody.

Also from a PGA Tour perspective, Quicken Loans will become our official marketing partner with the position of official mortgage sponsor of the PGA Tour and the Champions Tour. So there's a lot involved in this announcement that impacts the players, charities and tournaments of the PGA Tour. The Tiger Woods Foundation, because of this announcement, as I mentioned, will allow it to do what tournaments do best. Every great tournament is one that gets better and better every single year. That's been the hallmark of what the Foundation has done here.

You look at the 40 things that can be done better, you have the list, 32 of them get done. Next year you have 40 more. So it goes. I think the Masters is the best run tournament on the planet and that has been their model. With this announcement today, it allows the Foundation to continue to make progress to position this tournament competitively as one of the premiere events on the PGA Tour. Lastly, I'd just like to comment about Tiger as a player and as a host of this event.

When Tiger Woods started with his dad the Tiger Woods Foundation in 1996, I don't think any of us could envision the impact that it's had in reaching kids, and then later with the National, the impact it's had in recognizing our military. This is something that's near and dear to Tiger's heart. The three centers that have been built around Washington to reach kids are very special. I take note of the last one positioned at Quantico, the Marine Corps base, a place where my dad served during his tenure in the Marine Corps. This work is terrific.

One thing you may not know is the extent to which a player of Tiger's magnitude has on the young players coming up in the game. It's no coincidence that in the last three years as I met with rookies each year who come out on the Tour, in five different occasions I've had a player who is 21 or 22 years old ask me, this is their first year on the PGA Tour, whether they should be thinking at that stage about creating their own foundation and their own fundraising. My usual response is, You might want to think about keeping your card for a year or two (laughter).

But it's not a coincidence that these are young guys who have watched Tiger Woods' career, who were seven or eight years old when Tiger came on the scene. As much as they want to emulate him from a playing perspective, they increasingly want to emulate him from the standpoint of his position of giving back and helping people. Because of that, Tiger now stands with Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, when you think about it, the three greatest players of our generation, and the previous generation in the case of the other two, who have committed themselves over a long period of time to take a PGA Tour event and build it and build it and build it into something very special, whether it's Jack Nicklaus with Children's Hospitals, Arnold Palmer with the Arnold Palmer's Children's Hospital, and now Tiger Woods with the Tiger Woods Foundation.

So we look at this as a great partnership we're announcing today with a great company, but also something that will work to perpetuate the values and the history of what's made the PGA Tour unique in sports. For that today we want to thank Tiger and the Foundation and Quicken Loans as well. Thank you very much.

MODERATOR: Now I'd like to introduce the CEO of Quicken Loans, Bill Emerson.

BILL EMERSON: Thank you. Appreciate it. It's great to be with you guys this morning. On behalf of Quicken Loans and our team members in Detroit and around the country, we're really excited about partnering with the PGA Tour, the Tiger Woods Foundation, and now we're looking forward to bringing a really exciting experience to the Quicken Loans National for both players and fans alike. As the nation's largest online lender and a four time J.D. Power winner for customer satisfaction, we have a high standard on what it takes to take care of clients. What we know for sure is that the PGA Tour and the Tiger Woods Foundation share that same excellence.

When the opportunity came around to be the presenting sponsor of the Quicken Loans National, it made perfect sense for us to do that and put our name in front of such an exciting Tour event. Like the National, we have a tremendous dedication and support for our brave servicemen and women. We do a lot of things associated with that. We try to make it fun. We sponsored the first ever Carrier Classic in 2011. The first time a basketball game was played on an active aircraft carrier. We're involved in NASCAR and try to find a way to leverage wherever possible that opportunity to recognize our servicemen and women.

As a matter of fact, we're sponsoring a race this coming November called the Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500, another opportunity for us to recognize these brave folks. When you think about that opportunity, we also are and have been very committed to hiring veterans and members of the military. We have a dedicated group of people in Detroit that focus only on that. We're one of the nation's largest VA lenders. When you think about all of the things that are going on in relation to that, you think about the opportunity to be involved with the National, with the PGA Tour, with the Tiger Woods Foundation, and to do more as it relates to representing and honoring our servicemen and women, this was just a perfect fit for us. We're very excited about it. We can't thank our servicemen and women enough for everything that they do on a daily basis to give this country the opportunity that it has to live in a free manner.

So I'm excited and proud today as we celebrate the kickoff of this partnership to also say thank you to the servicemen and women in the room today. I'm proud to announce that Quicken Loans is going to donate a combined total of $30,000 to the Tiger Woods Foundation, Troops First, and the IAVA in conjunction with everything else we're doing with this particular event. Last I checked as I was coming in here this morning, I heard the weather report for Washington, another inch or two of snow tomorrow, so I hope you're going to be okay. As a result of that, we're all looking forward to June and some warm weather. We're looking forward to seeing you out at Congressional. Thank you very much. It's great to be partnering with the PGA Tour and the Tiger Woods Foundation.

MODERATOR: Next please welcome tournament host and the founder of the Tiger Woods Foundation, Tiger Woods.

TIGER WOODS: Thank you. Well, first off, I want to thank Commissioner Tim Finchem for being here, Bill Emerson, Quicken Loans, Congressional, everyone that has been involved in this for eight years of an amazing event. It's been near and dear to my heart to have this event, and to have Quicken Loans come in as our new partner has been absolutely incredible. It's been done in a very short span of time, too. People don't really realize how hard that is to do. I remember the first year we had to do this event, we put it together in a hundred some days, 112 days. Pretty amazing.

But what's near and dear to our hearts at the Foundation is obviously serving kids, giving them an opportunity to make something of themselves, giving them hope, but also giving them the skills to chase after their dreams. We've had two learning centers in the D.C. area, and now at the Marine Corps base at Quantico. The military has been a stable in my entire life. Everyone probably already understands my father was in Special Forces. I grew up playing golf on a military base. To me it was a natural fit to have the military involved.

We used to play this on July 4th, which was our nation's birthday. To have Quicken Loans and what they've done to support the military and our troops here and abroad, it's been amazing. From us in the Foundation, we are so excited to have this opportunity to have this new relationship with Quicken Loans. It's going to be through 2017. We're going to try and have the board at Congressional meet, votes are in by end of next week, we'll see if we can get this done where we can play on alternate years, '16, '18 and '20. We're very excited about the prospects of that. Thank you very much.

MODERATOR: Now we can open it up to Q&A.

Q. Bill, could you address whether it's important to you that the event be at Congressional and whether it's important that it be in Washington. Tiger, maybe you could take on the Congressional question. You've always preferred that course.

BILL EMERSON: Congressional is a great venue. It's a storied course. We're happy it's going to be at Congressional. If it's every other year, I think that gives us an opportunity to find another great golf course to be able to do it in the off years. To the extent that Congressional wants to be a part of this, we think it's fantastic and we'd love to see it continue. We'll see how that falls and figure out where we go from there.

TIGER WOODS: Exactly what Bill was saying: we're excited to host the event this year at Congressional. What a storied golf course, a U.S. Open site. I've won there, so that helps (laughter). It will be exciting for us to have the tournament in the D.C. area. That's what we're trying to do. Obviously, the vote comes in next week and we'll know whether or not we're going to be playing in '16, '18 and '20. We'd like to keep it in the D.C. community. This is where we started with this event. There's all these options out there and we're looking at all options right now.

Q. Tiger, you said you're looking at other options. Can you be a little bit more forthcoming? In the area?

TIGER WOODS: Certainly in the area, there's no doubt, Potomac being one of them, RTJ. There's a lot of really nice golf courses in the area. We'd like to keep it here. I know when we had to go out of this region for two years because obviously the U.S. Open was here, that's probably the contract of the U.S. Open. We went to Philadelphia. It was a huge success. But this event was started here in D.C. and we'd like to keep it here.

Q. Is the commitment from Quicken Loans to the Tiger Woods Foundation going to be similar as far as dollar figures are concerned? You're opening a new center here. Will it be a similar funding level or more or less as you look forward?

BILL EMERSON: As far as what the funding levels will be, we've committed here to do some things today. As far as how that is going to go forward, I have to check and get back to you. Our commitment to education, our commitment to the military, our commitment to being and working inside of a community, D.C. being one of them, as it relates to what's going to happen here, we have a strong commitment also to Detroit. Being involved in the community, doing things that are beneficial to the Foundation is important to us.

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: The dollars that flow to the Foundation are largely a function of the tournament level, sales in the marketplace. That's grown nicely over the years. The market here has been very strong. One of the reasons we wanted to play a tournament here is because it's a great market for golf. I think we would anticipate it continuing to grow. I think Greg would agree with that, and the staff, in the years to come. You always want to grow. You never want to go backwards. I think that's what will happen.

Q. (No microphone.)

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Virtually every tournament on the PGA TOUR is set up where 100 percent of the net proceeds go to charitable causes. That's the case here. The variable is ticket sales, ProAm sales, hospitality sales, subsidiary sponsor sales. I think it's fair to say as we go forward those numbers will continue to grow. I think $17 million has been raised in a short period of time. It's a very strong charitable effort in the very early years of the tournament. I'm very confident that will continue to grow.

Q. Tiger, I know folks are definitely looking forward to seeing you here in June. I wanted to check on how your back is doing, if you know exactly what's wrong with it, and if folks will be seeing you in Augusta.

TIGER WOODS: For Augusta, it's actually a little too soon to be honest with you. That's kind of the frustrating thing about this. I've had a couple weeks off getting treatment, just working on trying to get ready for Augusta. As of right now, it's still too soon. As I said, it's very frustrating.

MODERATOR: Thank you all for being here today.

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