Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Tiger's Tour Championship press conference

Excerpts from Tiger's post-victory press conference...

PGA Tour: Tiger Woods, congratulations. We've got a couple of nice big trophies here for you. First and foremost, winning the TOUR Championship for the second time in your career and winning the inaugural FedExCup. Maybe some opening comments about a great week and a great year for you. You finished the year with seven wins.

TIGER WOODS: Well, I really played well today. I mean, I hit a bunch of good shots. I think the putt at 3 today was a big putt. I needed to make that putt, didn't want to lose two shots back-to-back and give the guys ahead of me all the momentum. You know, that was a big putt to make. And then from there I really played some good golf, got on a birdie run there in the middle part of the round and basically put it away.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Maybe some thoughts on your season. Right now your scoring average is going to be identical to 2000, so obviously those years are pretty comparable.

TIGER WOODS: Yes. You know, I made a lot of improvement. It's interesting how people questioned whether I should try and improve or not or try and change my game, and here we are.

Q. Not to dwell too much on the money, but $11.26 million just got deposited into someplace with your name on it. Is that even jaw dropping to you, given your endorsements and all that? That's a pretty healthy chunk of change and accomplishment.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, you know, for me I don't look at what the purse is or prize money. You play, and when you play, you play to win, period. You know, that's how my dad raised me is you go out there and win. If you win, everything will take care of itself. You take great pride in what you do on the golf course, and when you're able to win events, that's when you can go home and be very proud of what you've done.

Q. Where would you say your confidence level is right now? And have you seen it grown over these last two years? Was there ever kind of a turning point for you?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think the last couple years has been -- I've made a bunch of changes obviously on my swing. But last year as we all know, I think the Western in the second round I really played well. Finally I went back to just playing golf again. I got over all the things that happened earlier, my dad passing, and I finally got back to just playing golf again, didn't have to -- that mourning period was finally -- I felt I was done with it. Once I got back to playing golf, I felt I was back in my rhythm again. And from then on, if you look at my results since then, it's been pretty good.

Q. You've gone 1, 1, 2, 1, 1.

TIGER WOODS: Right. I think my driving has gotten better. I feel as if I'm able to shape the ball in there and actually work the golf ball better both ways than I did early in the year. My trajectory control has been about the same, been pretty good, but being able to shape the ball both ways and being able to land the ball on the number has been good.

Q. You've won 61 TOUR titles. Do you think you've reached your prime?

TIGER WOODS: I don't think so. Well, I don't know when it's going to be (laughter). What do you want me to tell you, it's like January 5th of such-and-such a year? I mean, you don't know. The whole idea is to try and keep improving. When all is said and done, when you rack the cue and go home and retire, you can honestly say these were my best years, when I was at my peak. But when you're in it, you're always trying to improve that a little bit to get to the next level.

Q: How would you assess winning the first FedExCup?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think that overall the FedExCup was a success. I think that there need to be tweaks, yes, there needs to be some tweaks, but I think overall it provided a lot of drama towards the end of the season, especially post-PGA when most of the guys shut it down. You know, post-PGA it's either Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup and that's basically all anyone ever talks about, now that the Bridgestone has moved to the week before the PGA especially.

Q. You said again today that you never imagined this victory at this stage of your career. When you were just starting as a pro, what did you envision as a successful career at this stage?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think that if you have gone through your 20s with just a few majors, it would be a huge success. Most golfers reach their prime in their 30s. Hopefully you can carry that momentum from your 30s into your 40s, especially now that guys are working out and their longevity and their standard of play is longer than it used to be, you feel like you can carry it into your 40s. I didn't see winning this many times in my 20s and now in my 30s. I never would have foreseen that.

Q. You talked about tweaks. Do you have any comments on what tweaks you would consider to make the tournament better? And what's it like, the final tournament for you this year, to go out with such a big bang?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think -- what I described earlier to Fergie here, a couple days ago, I think that when you have 125 exempt players on TOUR and your first event is 144 guys, I thought a playoff was play all year for a smaller field, you're supposed to narrow it up, not have more players. Especially when we have limited field events, invitationals that have smaller fields, more elite, and I just think that the playoffs should be that many players. I think the playoffs you narrow the field down, and when you have 10 percent over what you do on the exempt player list starting off the first event, I think that's too many.

Q. Steve Stricker said he found the last couple of weeks very exhausting, and he almost reached the end of his rope today mentally. How mentally tiring has the last few weeks been for you?

TIGER WOODS: Very. Very. That's one of the reasons why -- people questioned why did you take the first week off. I won the PGA and the Bridgestone event, a World Golf Championships and the PGA, those are big events. When you're in contention, it takes a lot out of you. I wanted to be fresh coming into these events. It takes a lot out of you when you're in contention. I think that's what Steve was probably alluding to. It's one thing to play, and if you play four days and you don't play well, it's really no big deal. But when you're in contention, it wears on you all the time. It's not like you can go home and get away from it because you're right there with a chance to win a tournament. It definitely drains you. You know, four weeks of it, for me it was three weeks of it, four for Stricks, it takes a toll on you, not necessarily from the physical side but definitely from the mental side.

Q. You've driven the ball beautifully over the last month or so. Do you think that is the main key to this nice run of four wins and a second? And was there a time when you felt that the driver really kicked in because of the swing change or whatever?

TIGER WOODS: Well, not necessarily, because I didn't really drive it very good at the British Open. I think it's just -- as I said, I was able to shape the golf ball both ways and still hit the ball -- the number I wanted to hit it. I think that's where I needed to make some improvement, and obviously when you start feeling confident and are able to work the golf ball either way, off the tee, into the greens, and you're able to land the ball wherever you want to land it, you start feeding off of that.

Q. Zach came in here and said that dangling any more carrots in front of you was bad news for the rest of the guys in the field. Do all of these things when you add them all together, Player of the Year, Money List, FedExCup, majors, do all those little carrots add up in your head? Does it drive you even more to win them all?

Q. After The Presidents Cup, you've got an extended break and some quality time with your wife and daughter. Just wondered if there was anything in particular you were really looking forward to doing?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, putting the clubs away, not picking them up, not swinging a club, just getting away from it. Like Stricker said, I can't wait to go hunting. For me, I'm the same way, I can't wait to hop in the water and go driving.

Q. As much as Tim was kind of leading you in that direction, I noticed you didn't kiss the Cup on the green. Do you have a policy on which trophies you kiss?

TIGER WOODS: Damn, Fergie (laughter).

Q. Claret Jugs only?


Q. We've got pictures of that, yeah.

TIGER WOODS: There you go.

Q. Secondly, as you look forward to next year, you're defending champion of BMW and here, and Deutsche Bank supports your foundation. Do you see any way around playing four in a row next year?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it's going to be extremely hard, hard on the body and hard on the mind. We'll see what happens. First of all, I've got to qualify (laughter).

Q. For the Ryder Cup or for the Playoffs?

TIGER WOODS: For the Playoffs (laughter).

Q. Running the numbers, you didn't even have to show up this week to still win the FedExCup. I know that wasn't the intent, to miss events, at least the TOUR didn't plan it that way. Do you think the schedule needs to be rejiggered to allow guys like yourself to play two in a row, then have a week off and play two more?

TIGER WOODS: It's not just four in a row, it's playing Firestone followed by the PGA and then you have that week off, and then next week four in a row plus one more, so it's five in a row. Seven out of eight weeks is a lot to ask of guys. They're all big events. Some guys have hometown events and they can go out there and have a great time. These are big events, a World Golf Championships, a major, followed by our new Playoffs system, followed by a Ryder Cup. You can't take an event off. So I think that's what guys were having a complaint with, is that because they're all such big events with such big meaning to them, it's going to be hard for all the guys to play all the events. It'll be easier for the international guys next year because they won't have to play the Ryder Cup.

Q. How important is that when you think about these four events?

TIGER WOODS: Well, they're all big events, like I said. I think that's where the guys would like to have a break, to get recharged, mentally recharged and ready to go for all those events. We have a few Europeans that play on our TOUR full-time, and I'm sure a few of them will probably play in the Playoff system, but not their entire team. We have our entire team playing the Playoff system, which adds to the fact that it's going to be a little more difficult for us to do and then compete in the Ryder Cup the very following week.

Q. You had referenced sort of the light coming on at the Western, putting your dad and the grief behind you and the streak you've been on. You've won 13 of 22 on the U.S. TOUR ending today. I'm wondering, given what you did in those earlier years, '99, 2000, eight-win, nine-win season, where you think this stretch, 14 months, fits in in terms of your best-of list, and if you're as good or better than ever, how you would evaluate it?

TIGER WOODS: I think you would probably say I didn't win as many majors through that stretch, but World Golf Championships along the way. I think that I have a better understanding of how to play the game now by far than I did back then, and I certainly have a lot more shots to get me around golf courses than I did then. That's just seven to nine years of more experience, just understanding all the mistakes I've made and how to improve and how to get myself around the golf course. My course management skills have certainly improved over the years.

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