Monday, March 17, 2008

Tiger tips his cap

PGA Tour: We're here with Tiger Woods, now a five-time champion of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. You had a pretty nice putt on 18 to win for the third time this year. You've got a good streak going. Let's talk about it.
TIGER WOODS: Well, it was just a great day. I hit the ball well all day, and Bart played great on especially the back nine, forced the issue on 18 and by posting 9; all day we were trying to get to 10. I figured 10 at the worst we would be in a playoff. I 3-putted there at 10, and felt like, you know, I still had eight more holes to get to 10 but unfortunately it took me all eight holes. The great thing about the last hole, that was my best swing I made all week with the 5-iron I hit in there. The wind had totally switched. It was blowing off the left on 17, in off the left and now was in off the right on 18. So hit a 5-iron up there and held just a flat hill hold shot and felt great. I gave myself a putt at it. The putt, I was just trying to make sure I got the speed right. Now that green has a little bit more grass on it, and the grain has a little bit more effect on it, and I gave it just a little bit more. I hit the putt down there, and it took forever to start breaking and for the grain to start taking it; but once it started taking it, it went straight right and went in the hole.
Q. You talk so often about this is what you live for, these kind of moments. Can you talk about if you can even remember what generates through your body and mind when the putt goes in and if you even know how you're celebrating?
TIGER WOODS: You know, when Stevie handed me my hat, I was like, "How in the hell did he get my hat?" (Laughter). Evidently, it came off. I don't know how it came off, but it came off. (Laughter).
Q. Pretty dramatically.
TIGER WOODS: I need to see the highlights. I was so into the moment of the putt going in and winning the golf tournament. I kept telling myself, I've done this before, I did it against Phil, and this time it's a little bit deeper into the green and the putt has a little bit more break and it has a little more grain; I've done it before and I can do it again.
Q. Did you find it ironic you were 0-for-20 in putts over 18 feet and all the issues you had with the putting and you were short all week that that goes in?
TIGER WOODS: Well, just had to keep working on my speed. You know, all week I kept telling myself, don't leave yourself a second putt, obviously with the nature of these greens, they were not running too smooth. Like what happened at the 10th hole, I ran it by and that was probably the driest green of it them all and I missed a come backer and that's one of the reasons why I needed to really concentrate on my speed and make sure I didn't leave those putts. That's what I kept trying to tell myself on 18: Don't leave yourself a second putt. Make sure you get your speed right and so if it does miss, it's just a tad.
Q. When you're standing in the fairway on 18, it would be easy to be defensive there. How do you balance that with trying to hit a shot and leave yourself a putt to win; are you torn as to how to approach that?
TIGER WOODS: Well, there are times when you do play pretty conservative but there I played -- bear with me here. I played aggressive to a conservative spot. I wanted to make sure I made a very aggressive swing, and I was aiming at the tower there, which is probably 15, 20 feet left of the hole, just hit the ball on that tower. Because the wind had totally switched, it was in off the left on 17 and now it's in off the right. If I spin that 5-iron, I can't get there. And if I hit it at the flag, so make sure I keep it left of the flag, but be committed to doing it. Reason why I chose that spot instead of further left, because I just saw Sean get it riding on the wind and it ended up over the green. So I really couldn't afford to hit it either way; just make sure I got committed and hit a shot that would give myself a 20-footer. And it turned out absolutely perfect. That was the best thing I made all week.
Q. What did you find on the range this week?
TIGER WOODS: Just same thing I was working on yesterday. It felt good. It was just a continuation of it. And felt like I was able to control the ball again and hit it both ways, which was great.
Q. Can you quantify how much your swing progressed as far as improvement from Thursday, Friday to today?
TIGER WOODS: Well, Thursday and Friday especially, I feel like I had a two-way miss. Yeah, you saw I hit the ball right a lot, but if I stayed back and got committed to it, I hit it left. So I had to try and time my release and my wishy-washiness of the golf ball. My face was rotating too much. I had to get that organized, and I felt pretty good about what I did yesterday. I had a one-way miss, which was great, and today I hit it good all day.
Q. Given the timing of the circumstances, where does this putt rank with your history of great shots and great putts?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I don't know where it ranks but it got me a victory. (Smiling). The putt was nice. It was great to make the putt, but I was so excited the 5-iron I hit in there to give myself a putt at it. You have to understand, I had not hit the ball well the last three days, and then to have that shot with everything on the line, to hit a shot and give myself a putt at it; you saw Stevie and I celebrate in the fairway, I was so fired up I hit the shot the way I wanted to. Just tried to make sure I kept that positiveness going into the putt. And I felt good over the putt, and I also said, I did it in Dubai, downhill left-to-righter, there's no reason why I can't do it again, and it went in.
Q. Were you as shocked at what happened on 10 as we were? Can you explain what happened on 10?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I got too fixated on the line and I didn't do what I was supposed to do. I kept telling myself all week, you know, watch your pace. That green is more burnt out than the others and I ran it by. It wasn't all that smooth, and I blocked the next one. You know, I kept yelling at myself going to the next tee; that's the reason why you can't leave yourself a second putt on these greens. They are not smooth and you cannot afford to do that, and that's a lesson learned. Unfortunately it happened there on the 10th hole and in the last round. Just a bad mistake.
Q. After these greens, will you put more effort in your putting to get ready for next week?
TIGER WOODS: I feel like I putted good all week. I felt like my stroke was good. Whether they stayed online or not was not up to me.
Q. To the degree that it would be printable, what did Arnold say afterwards when he greeted you?
TIGER WOODS: Well, he said he was proud of me, the way I played. He just says, "It doesn't surprise me you made the putt."
Q. He was telling everybody it was going in when he was standing up on the hill.
TIGER WOODS: Somehow you just get a good feeling sometimes; and he being a player, knows better than anybody. Sometimes you can see it on a person whether they are going to make it or miss it.
Q. Totally different formats, I understand, but was this a tougher grind this week than Tucson?
TIGER WOODS: Tucson was more physically demanding. This week, swing-wise, I didn't really have it, and trying to manage my game around. Yesterday, I was very fortunate to post a good round and not have the leaders run off. Vijay could have played a really good round and separated himself or Nick could have made one more birdie, gotten to 10-under or 11-under par and separated himself. It didn't happen. I got myself back in the tournament, and I felt good about what I had done with my swing yesterday and I hit it great all day today.
Q. You once said the thing you admired about Hogan and Mo Norman is that they owned their swing. How close are you to owning yours?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think I'm starting to understand it, and I think that's what I meant by that. Those guys were able to fix their game, and especially Hogan, because he played tournaments. Mo didn't really play a lot of tournaments. Ben was able to understand his swing probably more so than most players ever could understand theirs and how to fix it. He was one of the first guys to ever do a lot of swinging in the room at night in hotel rooms, to try to figure it out for the next day, have the game plan going out the next day when he warmed up. You know, that's the whole idea of understanding your game so you can fix it on the fly. I made some good adjustments on it yesterday when I was playing. Today I could feel something coming on and made a quick adjustment and got back to dialed in again, which felt great.
Q. Bart was in here before and said that the guys all understand the magnitude of what you're doing, maybe the public doesn't; do you understand it?
TIGER WOODS: I do, yeah. I'm playing. (Laughter). It's a lot more stressful inside the ropes, trust me.
Q. But the streak, tying Hogan now, the whole thing.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, well, tying Mr. Hogan, when I first started my career, there's no way I could ever dreamt I would be here right now. Hopefully if I had a great career and it panned out over a number of years, I might get to that number, but certainly not this quick.
Q. In the first couple of months of this season, now you've kept the streak going, what will it take four weeks from today to be in this same position after Augusta?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I have to keep working and keep progressing and keep working on my game and make sure everything is peaking toward Augusta.
Q. Are you motivated by the idea that there's such a spotlight on you that if you run that thing three or four feet past and miss it that it would become all the talk? I guess is fear a motivator for you, or is it never --
TIGER WOODS: (Shaking head no.) I don't really look at it that way. I looked at it as an opportunity to make sure I got my pace right and to end the tournament.
Q. And the putt that went in, you looked by your reaction that you knew you had enough, that it was going to tumble in and there was a point where you looked pretty sure --
TIGER WOODS: I had a good feeling probably six or seven feet in, once the grain started taking it and slinging it to the right. Once it got going to the right, it got more downgrain and once it got going downgrain, it was going to run out.
Q. Do you remember the first tournament you ever played when you stood over a putt that if you made it, you won?
TIGER WOODS: No, I don't remember to be honest with you.
Q. Is that a feeling, is that the ultimate feeling out there?
TIGER WOODS: I have to say it's knowing that you have an opportunity to end the tournament and it's in your hands, not anyone else's; it's in your hands. Whether you do it or not remains to be seen, and it's like having the ball with a few seconds to go; do you want it or not want it. I would much rather have it in my hands than anyone else's.
Q. When you're out there, you seem so focused, but to the thousands of people out there, it's like the circus came to town. Are you oblivious to the mob that follows you around?
TIGER WOODS: No, I'm not oblivious, no. You hear it and people yelling and screaming, you know, supporting you, you hear all that, yeah. But they are not going to help me hit a golf shot. That's one of the things that my father has always tried to instill in me is no matter how bad someone wants you -- like for example, how he wants me to hit a golf shot or my mom or my friends or media or family or whatever it may be, it's up to me. I have to pull off the shot. I've got to get out there and handle my own business.
Q. Knowing how important it is to have a chance to make the last putt, can you back to yesterday when you made the birdie on 16, which basically kind of got you in the final group -- can you talk about how fun it is to hit a shot like that, to play golf shots? And then secondly, what was your strategy going into it and how did you pull it off?
TIGER WOODS: Well, the shot on 16, if I didn't hit the shot on 15, I probably wouldn't have hit the shot on 16. All week I was kind of struggling with trying to get my face square and it was just rotating too much, whatever. Then I hit that shot on 15 and I could finally feel, I finally did it right. Then when I had the shot on 16, I said, well, it's the same shot, just hold it back in the wind, but just don't hold it as much. And I just kept saying, all you do, you just don't have to hold it as much as you did on 15. When I hit it, I basically hit a release fade, which felt great; and a little 6-iron that just held it against the wind and the wind kind of drifted at the very end. The shot on 15 set up 16.
Q. I know you're busy with your own game, but after the first couple of holes, what did you see in Sean where he kind of got back into it? What did you see that you liked about him today?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, Sean got off to kind of a rough start there. But he fought back and made birdies at -- what has he made birdies at, 14 and 15. He got himself right back and anything can happen on last three holes. Just had to be there. He was right there. I mean, he was right there if Bart or myself made a mistake, he would have put himself right there with a chance to win or put himself in a playoff.
Q. Outside of people like us bringing it up, do you think about this streak much, or is it a matter of win this tournament, No. 7 follows; you win next week, No. 8 naturally follows?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think that's the way you have to play. It's nice to have positive feelings going into an event, but it starts anew. You know, one of the greatest things about our game is if you're playing poorly, the week is over, you get to go down the road and tee it up again and give yourself another opportunity to win.
Q. I don't mean to sound trite at all, but just with regard to winning, is it almost kind of becoming an addiction to some degree? I know it's what you do and you're supposed to do --
TIGER WOODS: If feels good, Mark, it really does. (Laughter). It's why you work all those tireless hours. It's why you get up at 0-dong-30 and log your miles, bust your tail in the gym, there's a reason why is to be in that position right there to fail or succeed, but to be in that position time and time again. Trust me, that's the rush, to be in that position.
Q. With all of the momentum you have right now, what could stop you from continuing the streak, if anything?
TIGER WOODS: All of the players in the event. (Laughter).

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