JULIUS MASON: Four-time PGA Champion Tiger Woods is joining us for the 104th PGA Championship.
Tiger, this is your 22nd PGA Championship, the last time you were here, you won here at Tulsa. Can you take us back to 2007 and just maybe share some of the memories you had that week?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it was obviously a very different golf course. It was not cold that week. I remember playing behind JD the first day, which was awesome. It was, what, 109 I think that first day? And I asked JD how many waters he drank out there, he said, “No, I had 13 Diet Cokes.”
It was a great week. Very different golf course. A lot of irons and like strange irons. You don’t normally hit a 6-iron off the tee on a par 4, and we did that week.
And they have lengthened it, changed it, and it will be a good test. I’m curious to see how much firmer it gets as the week goes on and this golf course is going to play what Kerry wants it.
JULIUS MASON: How is your body, how is your mind as you come to the second major of the year?
TIGER WOODS: It’s better than the last time I played a tournament, which is good. We’ve been working hard and again, I have days where it’s tough and you know, other days where we can push through it.
But we keep working at it.
Q. In the time between the PGA Championship and the Masters, were you able to keep ramping up the training or was there a post-Masters lull?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, there was a huge lull, Monday (smiling) that was it. That was it. Monday, it was not fun. It hurt. A ice baths and just trying to get the swelling out of there.
Then we went back at it, leg day on Tuesday and we kept going from there. Said, let’s go. Figured the first mountain you climbed was Everest. That’s the steepest golf course you’re going to play and that was the first one you climbed it, and climbed. It’s going to get flatter and better. But still, I still have tough days, and things aren’t going to be as easy as people might think.
But I feel like I’m doing better. I’m having more days in which are better, more positive. Able to practice a little bit longer. So I’m able to do activities and things that I was hoping to do, and I’m finally able to do them.
Q. What did you learn about your new body and maybe its limitations during that week at Augusta?
TIGER WOODS: (Chuckles) it was hurting but I pushed through it. It was more mind than body. I said, I’ve won with a broken leg before. Keep on going out there, keep pushing. I know how to play the golf course. If I can just putt well, you never know. Unfortunately Saturday, I think I had like 15 three-putts.
But it was one of those things, the thing that I was frustrated with is it deteriorated as the week went on. I got more and more tired and more fatigued. I didn’t have the endurance that I wanted. I mean, I shouldn’t expect it because I didn’t earn it. I didn’t go out there and I hadn’t done the work but we were able to put in a little bit more work and it’s going to get better as time goes on. As the months pass and it’s going to get better.
Q. What do you make of Phil not being here? Defending champion, great win last year that he had and here, with all that’s gone on, he’s not here. What are your thoughts?
TIGER WOODS: Well, Bob, it’s always disappointing when the defending champion not here. Phil has said some things that I think a lot of us who are committed to the TOUR and committed to the legacy of the TOUR have pushed back against, and he’s taken some personal time, and we all understand that.
But I think that some of his views on how the TOUR could be run, should be run, been a lot of disagreement there. But as we all know, as a professional, we miss him being out here. I mean, he’s a big draw for the game of golf. He’s just taking his time and we all wish him the best when he comes back.
Obviously we’re going to have difference of opinions, how he sees the TOUR, and we’ll go from there.
Q. Are you surprised at all it has escalated to the point that is it has, where he also missed the Masters, obviously, and we really don’t know what’s next.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it has ramped up very quickly, and I think we were talking about this, if this would have happened 30 years ago, 20 years ago, it wouldn’t have happened as fast. But social media has changed the landscape and how fast things can ramp up, whether it’s real news or fake news or whatever it is, opinions get out there instantly. It can sway very quickly one way or the other. What we are seeing right now in society, it’s very bipolar. There’s really no middle ground, you stand one way or the other. It’s very polarizing.
And the viewpoints that Phil has made with the TOUR and what the TOUR has meant to all of us has been polarizing as well.
Q. You told me a long time ago that you didn’t think golf defined who you are as a person, but I think the resilience you’ve shown in the last year does say a lot about you. How do you think what you’ve accomplished over the last year since the accident might inspire others?
TIGER WOODS: Well, every day is a challenge for all of us. We all have our own challenges in our own different way, right. You wake up to the new challenge, the new day, and you’ve just got to fight through it.
Some challenges are more difficult than others. It doesn’t mean that they are harder or easier than others. They are just different. Mine were different than some others. Some other people have been through much worse than I have. We have seen some pretty amazing — I have seen some pretty amazing things working with the military and what they have done and what they have come back from. Guys have lost limbs and have come back and requalified for Special Forces, and things like that are inspiring.
Yeah, I’m going to be sore. That’s okay but I can still get better.
Q. You’re going to hit more driver here more often than you did in 2007. There’s more short grass around the greens. Do you think this is a better test than one in 2007? Which would you prefer to play?
TIGER WOODS: Now? Given my body? Anything around 6,200 is great. It’s just different. It’s more faster, wide open. We saw how the seniors played it; a lot of balls were hitting and runs off to the sides, where that wasn’t the case when we played in ’07. It was catching in the rough.
But I think that some of the — for me, I think there’s more slope in some of these greens. Obviously there’s more waves in the fairways and hitting very different clubs off of tees. But still, it’s a challenge, and I said earlier, I think Kerry is going to set it up — I think he’s going to do a wonderful job setting it up. It’s going to be hard. It’s going to be fair.
The rough is at a great length. It’s interesting because you can get a ball that comes out hot or you can get a ball that doesn’t come out at all. That’s the great guessing game of playing bermuda, and then with the surrounds being cut down how they are, there’s a lot more grain than we every had to deal with. There are going to be different shots. I’ve seen guys using hybrids, and I’ve seen guys use 3-woods, putts, wedges, 4-irons. You’ll see a lot of different things.
And then the forecast is going to be different every day in this wind. It’s supposed to be all different directions. We’re going to see a different golf course almost every day.
Q. You mentioned that you kind of lost endurance as the round at of the Masters went on. What have you learned about your body or recovery process since it’s going to be able to recover after the rounds and last longer into the tournament?
TIGER WOODS: My team did just an amazing job just to get me to a point where I could play the Masters and I was able to have that opportunity to play. Right after each round, it was like getting back to the house and we have an ice bath ready for you, and off you go, get on the treatment table and let’s keep working at it, keep things going and it was tough. It was hard. It was hard on all of us.
But I’ve gotten stronger since then. But still, it’s still going to be sore and walking is a challenge. I can hit golf balls, but the challenge is walking. It’s going to be that way for the foreseeable future for sure.
Q. With the Foundation, have you considered an event much like the one Bill Dickey used to put on, you remember him?
TIGER WOODS: Oh, yeah.
Q. That would benefit kids all over the country and give people a see a chance to see exactly what the Foundation is doing?
TIGER WOODS: See, we have gotten away from golf-based event. We’ve had fund-raisers that are golf-based events, but our foundation is not based in golf. Our fund-raising is based in golf but our program is based in STEM. So we focus on STEM, getting kids into STEM programs, in a variety of different STEM programs.
But yes, we use golf as a fund-raiser but we are not here to produce professional golfers. We’re here to give under-served kids better chances in life, and I think that’s more important.
Q. How close are you physically now to being as good as it’s going to get based on your injuries?
TIGER WOODS: I don’t know. That’s a great question. I don’t know. There’s going to be limitations. There’s a lot of hardware in there and there’s going to be limitations to what I’m going to be able to do, but I’m going to get stronger. I don’t know how much that is or how much range of motion I’ll ever get back. But sure is a hell of a lot better than it was 12 months ago.
Q. You mentioned all the changes to the golf course. One, do you like those changes, and two, your winning score is 8-under in 2007. Do you envision is being similar? All of the guys mentioned it’s playing tougher then. Do you envision that score maybe being lower?
TIGER WOODS: I think it all depends on where Kerry puts the pins. When I watched the seniors play, there was a lot of balls running off the sides, a lot of chip shots.
But we are getting these young kids hitting the ball high and far. You know, a couple of the par 5s are, what, 630, and guys are knocking it on there in two, some of the guys. Depends on the wind, obviously.
But guys have a lot more power than what we did in ’07. Look at what we did on the range? We can’t use the top end of the range anymore because guys are hitting it down to the bottom. The game has changed a lot and because the game has changed a lot, Gil has done a fantastic job of altering the golf course.
It has a lot more shot options, that’s for sure, and we are going to be tested around the greens a lot. A lot of grain, a lot of creativity, but it still puts a premium in putting the ball in play and in the fairway and somehow below the holes in the right spots. As I said, there’s still a lot of slope on some of these greens, a lot of pitch. But it is kind of nice to see 9 and 18 not cut at a different speed.
Q. How confident are you that you can contend this week and do you feel like you can win this week?
TIGER WOODS: I feel like I can, definitely. I just have to go out there and do it. I have to do my work. Starts on Thursday and I’ll be ready.
Q. You mentioned your putting at Augusta, particularly that Saturday didn’t go the way you wanted it to. Did you feel like with your physical limitations you’re able to practice enough with the putter to get that club back to a championship level?
TIGER WOODS: No. As far as practicing a lot, no, I don’t do that anymore. Bending over, hitting a bunch of putts like I used to, that doesn’t happen, not with my back the way it is. I have to pick my spots and do my work and get in and get out. I can do different sessions.
I have a great complex in the backyard that I can do different times throughout the day and do like a 20-minute segment here, a 20-minute segment there, another 20-minute segment later on in the evening. I can break it up and do it that way instead of putting for two or three hours in a row like I used to. I just have to do it differently.
Q. You said to Bob, a disagreement with a lot of what Phil has said. From your view, how does he resolve that disagreement or does he have to resolve that disagreement? What do you think?
TIGER WOODS: I don’t know if he has to resolve it or not. You know, he has his opinion on where he sees the game of golf going. You know, I have my viewpoint how I see the game of golf, and I’ve supported the TOUR and my foundation has run events on the TOUR for a number of years.
I just think that what Jack and Arnold have done in starting the TOUR and breaking away from the PGA of America and creating our tour in ’68 or ’69, somewhere in there, I just think there’s a legacy to that. I’ve been playing out here for a couple of years over decades, and I think there’s a legacy do it. I still think that the TOUR has so much to offer, so much opportunity.
Yes, it is, and I understand different viewpoints, but I believe in legacies. I believe in major championships. I believe in big events, comparisons to historical figures of the past. There’s plenty of money out here. The TOUR is growing. But it’s just like any other sport. It’s like tennis. You have to go out there and earn it. You’ve got to go out there and play for it. We have opportunity to go ahead and do it. It’s just not guaranteed up front.
Q. With your event, you have rights fees that you play to the TOUR in some form or another. Do you think Phil, because he had not done events before some of these matches and whatnot, do you think he just didn’t understand the rights fees and how they work?
TIGER WOODS: I can’t speak for him not knowing and understanding that. I’m sure he probably does have an understanding of that because he was the host of the old Bob Hope. So since he was the host of the event, I’m sure he probably understands it, and plus, he hosts the event up there in Napa Valley.
He understands it, and there is — there is a rights fee to having events and understanding it. And we negotiate with the TOUR and whether it’s one-off day events like we have with matches under the lights like I used to do back in the old days, or it’s regular TOUR events, each tournament is different. Obviously there is right fees that have to be paid, and we understand that.
Obviously we go in there as events and try and negotiate that down as low as possible, and try and make as much money as we can for the local events.
Q. And the fees go back to the TOUR players; correct?
TIGER WOODS: Correct.
Q. That’s where they go?
TIGER WOODS: Correct.
Q. From the outside, it didn’t appear, especially based on what was known about your injuries that the Masters was possible and maybe not even this tournament several months ago. When did you make the determination or set the goal to come back, and at what point did you think, wow, there’s a realistic chance I can do it?
TIGER WOODS: Well, when I went up and did the scouting trip with J.T., Rob and Charlie and was able to play, we played all 18 and then went over and played the par 3 course.
Yeah, I did it, but man, it hurt for a couple days. But I was able to do it, and maybe I could work my way into it somehow and just kept pushing and kept hoping that I could somehow figure out a way. I mean, I have to endure some uncomfortableness. But it was — even that week as I played practice rounds, I was still trying to figure out, you know, can I do this over 72 holes, and I was able to do it. Unfortunately I just didn’t have the endurance or the stamina and wished I would have putted better so I would have given myself a chance.
I just think that I’ve put in a lot of hard work with my team, and I believe in them and what they have been able to get me to do. I just have to go out there and obviously do it and hit the golf shots.
Now, I’ve had to alter my golf swing here and there and practice sessions and work on things, and I’ve had to do a lot of shadow swinging in front of mirrors because I’m just not able to handle impact, but I’ve gotten better and stronger since then, and will continue to improve.
Q. Two unrelated questions. Obviously when we have spoken to you over the years, it’s about the result and winning and whatnot. But when you step back and look at getting through 72 holes at Augusta, how much of an accomplishment and did you feel some accomplishment out of that when you got home, even though the result wasn’t what you wanted?
TIGER WOODS: I hear ya. Everyone around me was very happy and ecstatic that I got around all 72 holes. I did not see it that way on Monday. I was a little ticked I didn’t putt well, and felt like I was hitting it good enough and I wish I had the stamina.
You know, it’s a normal, typical golfer, the what ifs, if I would have done this, I would have done that, would have done this.
But taking a step back and looking at the overall big picture of it, it was an accomplishment. But that other side of me that says if I would have done things differently, I could have challenged for that thing. And I know that golf course, and I just — maybe next year will be different.
Q. One on Phil. Sometimes you’ve endured some difficult times over the years. Phil has publicly and privately reached out to you. Curious if you had tried to reach out to him, spoken to him and if you felt compelled to reach out to him at all?
TIGER WOODS: I have not reached out to him. I have not spoken to him. A lot of it has not to do with I think personal issues. It was our viewpoints of how the TOUR should be run and could be run, and what players are playing for and how we are playing for it. I have a completely different stance on, and so no, I have not.
Q. More personally, obviously not going through a very good time —
TIGER WOODS: I don’t know what he’s going through. But I know the comments he made about the TOUR and the way that it should be run, it could be run; it could be run differently and all the different financials that could have happened, I just have a very different opinion on that. And so no, I have not reached out to him.
Q. I had something else, but I wanted to follow up on that. What do you think the TOUR needs to be doing better?
TIGER WOODS: Well, they are obviously trying to give what the top players have –obviously the top players have carried the Tour for a number of years, whether it’s back with Jack, Arnold and Gary or other eras, you know, the top players have carried the tours.
The PIP program or however we are ever going to do something like that going forward, what the incentives are, it’s trying to take care of the players that have obviously done a lot for the TOUR. I think that programs like that will probably alter it a bit going forward and how — how we are able to promote the TOUR.
I mean, the top players are use — that’s one of the things that we have got into arguments, I have, with Jay or Tim over the years is, you know, how we are marketed and used in events that we are not even playing in. So that in itself is an issue right there.
And that stems from conversations I’ve had privately with those guys and shared my viewpoint, and how the top players are rewarded for what they do, not just on the golf course but how they are able to bring so much attention and awareness to our sport, whether it’s through all the different streaming or TV, or the different ways you can view golf. We have our now future groups which we never had before. There’s a reason why they are future groups. I think those guys should get rewarded somehow.
Q. We have a club pro in the field, Wyatt Worthington, only the second Black club pro to play in the PGA, and you probably gave him a lesson at first tee 20 years ago. I don’t expect you to remember that.
TIGER WOODS: I don’t remember, but yeah, I’ve heard the story, yes.
Q. Curious, the progress that’s been made at a very slow rate, what is keeping it so slow? It’s not a new story but is it access, is it funding? What do you see as keeping golf back from getting more opportunities like Wyatt has this week?
TIGER WOODS: Well, if you look at — if you want to go the club pro route, that’s one story. If you want to go minority access or — not access, introduction to the game of golf, I think that has changed quite a bit, and the reason why, I have said this my entire career, it’s the advent of the golf cart, summers.
Used to be the caddies were predominantly non-White and they were introduced to the came through the caddie programs around the country. That doesn’t happen anymore. There are clubs that have caddies but there are not as many anymore with the advent of the golf cart.
Other sports are starting to get these athletes, and the introduction to golf is not happening at a youthful age, and the costs of not just the introduction, but just the maintenance and trying to participate in the game of golf, like I said this at the Hall of Fame is that my parents had to take out a second mortgage for me to be able just to compete at a junior golf level.
It’s tough. It’s tough on families that don’t have the funds to do it. Yes, access is a tough thing, and the USGA has done an amazing job. The TOUR is trying to do a great job there are other organizations that try and do amazing stuff to try to get more minority youth involved in the game and introduced. But how do you sustain that? That’s the hard part is how do you keep them in there for years at a time.
And then you look at the pyramid effect. The more you go up, the harder the competition and the more kids are going to be dropped.
JULIUS MASON: Good luck this week, Tiger. Tiger is playing with Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth at 8:11 a.m. on Thursday.
(Text curtesy of ASAP Sports)