Farmingdale, New York
JON DEVER: \Welcome back to the 2019 PGA Championship at Bethpage Black. We are pleased to be joined by four-time PGA champion Tiger Woods. Tiger, welcome to what is your 20th PGA Championship. Maybe we start right there. Let me ask you about your first PGA back in 1997, not far from here at Winged Foot. What are your recollections of playing in this championship for the first time?
TIGER WOODS: Well, my first PGA Championship being at Winged Foot is probably the most difficult one. The golf course was everything I thought it was and more. It was difficult. It was hard. You couldn’t have had a more fairy-tale ending with Davis holing that putt with his mom there. So it was a fantastic week. Unfortunately I just didn’t play well enough to contend, but it was a good year that year. I did win a major, so…
JON DEVER: That counts. Maybe tell us what facet of your game you’re emphasizing yourself as you come here to maybe win a fifth, what it’s going to take to win a fifth Wanamaker Trophy.
TIGER WOODS: Well, in order to win this one, driving is going to be at the forefront. With the rough as lush as it is, it has grown up a little bit. I don’t know how much they’re going to cut it down or top it off, but it won’t be much.
Fairways are plenty wide because it’s wet. It’s just you’ve got to hit it not only straight but you’ve got to hit it far because, as the week goes on and the greens dry out, the majority of the greens are elevated, and so trying to get enough spin, hitting the ball up to elevation with the greens firming up, you have to be in the fairway to do that.
Q. Tiger, what does it mean to you to have this opportunity for kind of a second act that allows you to have rivalries with a younger generation of players, especially you and Koepka have been one and two in the last two, you’ve played with Molinari in two majors at the final round. What is that like for you to have that opportunity? And if I could ask a second follow-up, does Koepka remind you, in terms of his athleticism, of a young Tiger?
TIGER WOODS: Well, the first part of your question, it’s great to be part of the narrative. My narrative spans 20 years now, just over 20 years. If you look at most of the players or the players that have had the most success on TOUR, you’re not measured by like an NFL football player when you get in the Hall of Fame after nine years. If you played out here nine years, you haven’t really done that well. You’re measured in decades. Arnold Palmer played in 50 straight Masters. It’s just done differently.
Because the nature of the sport, we’re able to hang around a lot longer and still be relevant. A neat thing about this championship here is that when Jack played in his final PGA in 2000, I played with him, he said he played with Gene Sarazen in his final PGA.
So the fact that golf can span nearly, what, 60, 70 years and playing careers, that’s what makes it so special.
Now, Brooksy look like a young me? No, I wish — I was never that big. I was 130 pounds. But we’re both able to generate speed. I was — I did it differently. I didn’t have muscle. I did it through whip and timing. Brooksy has just got pure power, and he’s an athlete. He played other sports, and he could have easily been a baseball player.
Players like that who come to golf generally hit the ball far because a baseball bat is so much heavier than a golf club. If you’re able to generate bat speed, you can definitely generate club head speed in golf.
Q. When the dust settled on Augusta and the Masters, did it feel different to the other majors wins? It was obviously so many years, so many events. Was it a different feeling, and, if so, how? Or was it just like old times?
TIGER WOODS: I’m not going to say it was just like old times, no. It was very different. I hadn’t won in a long time there. I’ve been in contention numerous times to have gotten it done, but I haven’t. And just the way it played out. I mean, it was so different as a whole. You know, because we teed off in threesomes. There was a two-tee start. We went off early. These are things that have never happened in Augusta’s history. We could have easily got in a quick 18 after the ceremony.
It was great, perfect sunshine, and normally we’re finishing ceremonies and some of the functions not until 11:30, midnight. But now it’s perfectly daytime and you can go get a quick 18 in. It felt different on so many different levels. That, my kids were there for the very first time at the big event. They went to the par-3 course, but they had never been to the big event. And then for me to come back and win on top of all that, it just added to it.
The whole tournament, how many guys had a chance to win on that back nine, after Frankie made a mistake at 12. He just opened Pandora’s box to who’s going to win the championship, and I just happened to be one of those guys.
Q. You haven’t gone major to major without playing all that often in your career, but as you look ahead now, is it something you might consider doing more often? And just sort of how do you weigh the need for reps versus the need for rest at this point?
TIGER WOODS: You know, that’s a great question because the only other time where I’ve taken four weeks off prior to major championships is going from the British Open to the PGA. Usually that was my summer break, and take those four weeks off and then get ready for the PGA, Firestone and the fall. So I’m always looking for breaks. Generally it’s after the Masters I used to take four weeks off there. Now, with the condensed schedule, it’s trying to find breaks.
You know, I wanted to play at Quail Hollow, but to be honest with you, I wasn’t ready yet to start the grind of practicing and preparing and logging all those hours again. I was lifting — my numbers were good. I was feeling good in the gym, but I wasn’t mentally prepared to log in the hours.
Coming here is a different story. I was able to log in the hours, put in the time and feel rested and ready. That’s going to be the interesting part going forward; how much do I play and how much do I rest. I think I’ve done a lot of the legwork and the hard work already, trying to find my game over the past year and a half. Now I think it’s just maintaining it. I know that I feel better when I’m fresh. The body doesn’t respond like it used to, doesn’t bounce back quite as well, so I’ve got to be aware of that.
Q. Tiger, more minorities and young women are taking up the sport than before because of all of the initiatives in place, but that isn’t reflected in the college participation numbers. Asians are the only minorities that are showing an increase. What do you think is happening? Why aren’t the kids who are taking up the game sticking with it?
TIGER WOODS: You know, that’s the question for all of us that’s been a difficult one to figure out, to put our finger on. The First Tee has done an amazing job of creating facilities and creating atmospheres for kids to be introduced to the game, but also have some type of sustainability within the game.
But it’s difficult. There are so many different things that are pulling at kids to go different directions. Golf is just merely one of the vehicles.
Now, with today’s — as I said, there’s so many different things that kids can get into and go towards that honestly playing five hours, five and a half hours of a sport just doesn’t sound too appealing. That’s one of the things that we’ve tried to increase is the pace of play and try and make sure that’s faster, because most of us in this room, if you’ve gone probably five minutes without checking your phone, you’re jonesing. Kids are the same way; five hours on a golf course seems pretty boring.
Q. Peyton Manning and Kobe Bryant have started their own shows on ESPN+, and LeBron James also has his own show —
TIGER WOODS: No.
Q. Would you consider —
TIGER WOODS: No.
Q. Why or why not?
TIGER WOODS: No. No show. I’m good. I like playing.
Q. You just mentioned kind of growing the game. Maybe that would be a way to do it?
TIGER WOODS: I’m sure it would be, but it’s certainly not what I’m going to do.
Q. By winning the Masters, you moved right into the early Olympic qualifying rankings for the Americans. How much will you prioritize that in the next year? Will you definitely play if you do qualify? And could you play an extra tournament or two you normally wouldn’t have if it’s really close going up to the cutoff next year?
TIGER WOODS: Great questions. Would I like to play in the Olympics? Yes, I’ve never played in the Olympics, and I’m sure that I won’t have many more opportunities going forward at 43 years old now to play in many Olympics. Yes, that would be a first for me and something that I would certainly welcome if I was part of the team.
Getting there and making the team is going to be the tough part. How many events — how many events do I play, do I add a couple more to get in. These are all questions that will be answered going forward. I just know that if I play well in the big events like I did this year, things will take care of itself.
Q. Peyton Manning said that when you played in the Memorial together last year, you talked at length about his four neck surgeries and how he had to sort of find new ways to make par as a quarterback. I wonder what your recollections were of those rounds with Peyton, and can you relate to those?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I certainly can, because I remember when — I think when he was traded from Indianapolis to Denver, we played together at Medalist. I said, How’s it feeling? He said, Not that great. How many push-ups can you do? I can do six push-ups. He goes out and wins MVP that year.
So just because someone doesn’t have the strength to do something, he’s going to figure out a different way, and that’s what we were talking about when we played, is that I don’t have a fastball, he can’t zip the ball into those tight little windows or in — he has to anticipate more. He has to do more work in the film room. I had to do more work on managing my game, my body, understanding it, what I can and cannot do, shots that I see I could pull off or better save it for another day. And more than anything, trying to figure out how to be explosive day in and day out.
For him, we were kind of chiding, I had to do it with let’s call it — play 15 tournaments a year, 60 times. I’ve got to be ready. He’s got to be ready 16 games. Granted, no one is hitting me. That’s one of the more difficult things is I’m more like what baseball players feel like during the season. Every day you’re playing the game, you’re playing it all the time and trying to be mentally fresh and ready.
Peyton did an incredible job, won a couple MVPs, Super Bowl, all with a fused neck. That’s ridiculous. It goes to show you how talented he is and how smart he is.