Jul 14, 2020
Tiger Woods Press Conference Memorial Tournament Transcript July 14
Tiger Woods gave a press conference on July 14 about his return to the PGA Tour at the Memorial Tournament. Read the full transcript of his press conference here.
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We’re going to get started here with five-time winner Tiger Woods. We’d like to welcome him into the interview room at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide. Tiger is making his first start in the PGA Tour since the season was suspended in March. So Tiger, if we could please just get an opening comment on the state of your game and how it feels to be back.
Tiger Woods: (00:46)
It feels great to be back. I haven’t played on a tournament venue in a while. It’s been, well, since February. So, it’s been a long time for me. Then to get out there and to play with JT today was a bunch of fun. It’s certainly a different world, a different environment that we’re in. To play practice rounds like this, and to watch as the tour has evolved and has started back, and to see no fans. It’s a very different world out here.
All right. We’ll go ahead and take some questions from the media that we have on the line. If you have a question, please type your name in the chat and I will call on you. We’ll take our first question from Steve DiMeglio of USA TODAY.
Steve DiMeglio: (01:29)
Tiger, just a couple quick … Now you’re going to start going out and traveling amidst COVID and the spiking cases. What is your level of concern dealing with COVID?
Tiger Woods: (01:40)
Steve, that’s the risk that I’m taking. That’s a risk that all of us are now taking. I know the tour has done a fantastic job of setting up the safety, and trying to ensure that all of us are protected and are safe. But it is a risk that we are now undertaking, when you go outside your property and you’re around individuals that you don’t know where they’ve been or what they’ve been doing. But the screening, the testing we’ve done, the protections that we’ve tried to implement on the tour have shown that we’ve had to make adjustments, but it’s a risk that I’m willing to take.
Steve DiMeglio: (02:23)
And last week Justin Thomas said he was giving you a hard time, that you were scared to come out and play the guys. Did you get a bunch of other calls from other players during that time?
Tiger Woods: (02:32)
I got a bunch of texts and a bunch of calls when he said that. And hence, I’m out here. So I’m not afraid of JT anymore. I’ve gotten over that. And here we go.
Steve DiMeglio: (02:48)
Next question from Rob Oller, Columbus Dispatch. Go ahead, Rob.
Rob Oller: (02:57)
Tiger Woods: (02:58)
Rob Oller: (02:58)
You talked about how things are going to be different. I assume that you have talked to enough guys that you could give me a little bit of… fill me in on what it is like to have no fans, everything. A rough not being trampled down, the loss of that. What are your expectations? What have you picked up from them?
Tiger Woods: (03:17)
Well, most of the venues that we’ve been playing at really haven’t had that much rough. Except for Hilton Head, where you can possibly lose a ball in the trees, there really hasn’t been a whole lot of rough. Obviously the rough is up here. But the guys have said that it’s, more than anything, it’s not really the trampled-down lies or anything like that. It’s just, the energy is different. There’s nothing to feed off of energy-wise. That you make a big putt, or you make a big par, or make a big chip, or hit a hell of a shot, there’s no one there. And that’s one of the more interesting things that it’ll be going forward. I think this is going to set up for not just in the short term, but for the foreseeable future, for sure.
Rob Oller: (04:04)
And you’re a guy that’s had more cameras on you than anyone in the history of golf. How did you learn to deal with that, to adjust to that? Was it immediate? Did it take some time? That’s been a hot topic the last couple weeks. The focus on one guy, how long they stay on you.
Tiger Woods: (04:21)
Well, I’ve had cameras since I’ve turned pro. So it’s been over 20-some odd years that virtually almost every one of my shots I’ve ever hit on the tour has been documented. So, that is something that I’ve been accustomed to. That’s something I have known for decades. But this is a different world, and one we’re going to have to get used to.
Rob Oller: (04:47)
Brendan Quinn with The Athletic. Go ahead.
Brendan Quinn: (04:56)
There we go. Hey, Tiger. I’m curious, kind of building on that. When would you say is the last time you played a full tournament in the United States without a gallery?
Tiger Woods: (05:09)
Not a full tournament. I don’t think that’s ever happened for me, but I’ve played a round in DC. When I won the Saturday, we had direct show come through there on that Friday night. And it was hazardous in the morning, and we went out there with no spectators, no volunteers, and just played. That was the quietest round I’ve ever been involved in, in a tournament setting. That’s what the guys are saying now, that it’s a very different world out here. Not to have the distractions, the noise, the excitement, the energy, the people that the fans bring. It’s just a silent and a different world.
Brendan Quinn: (05:52)
So would you have to go back to your college days to maybe find a round that it was just you and a competitor or two?
Tiger Woods: (05:58)
Well, even college I had a few people following.
Brendan Quinn: (06:00)
Good one. [inaudible 00:00:06:06].
Tiger Woods: (06:12)
You got it.
Next question from Bill Rabinowitz, Columbus Dispatch. Go ahead.
Bill Rabinowitz: (06:15)
Yes, Tiger. Given that it’s a compacted tour, how much urgency does that put … the tournament? Or [crosstalk 00:06:28]
Tiger Woods: (06:27)
Wait, hold on. You cut out. Hold on. You cut out. I’m sorry. You cut out.
Bill Rabinowitz: (06:32)
Tiger Woods: (06:33)
Bill Rabinowitz: (06:34)
Yes. The fact that the tour schedule is compacted. How much urgency does that place to maximize every tournament? Or do you just approach it the way you would any other year?
Tiger Woods: (06:45)
Well, for me, I’ve had to try and maximize every tournament start since I’ve had my last procedure, or back procedure. So I’ve had to manage that, and my levels of play. I mean, I really haven’t played that much since then. So I think that unfortunately over the last few years, that I’ve been used to taking long breaks and long time off, and having to build my game, and build it to a level where it’s at a tour level at home, and then come out and play, and play a few tournaments here and there. So, that’s something I have unfortunately been accustomed to. This was a forced break for all of us, but also one that I’m excited to get back into and playing again.
Bill Rabinowitz: (07:34)
And when you watched, if you watched the Workday, you saw these young players. What’s your impression of Collin, and Viktor Hovland, and those guys?
Tiger Woods: (07:45)
Man, those two in particular have just such bright futures ahead of them. They both hit the ball great. Short game’s only going get better. The putting’s only going to get better over time. And don’t forget, when you’re a rook like those two were last year, it’s trying to get to know the golf courses. That takes a couple of years here and there before that starts kicking in. Generally you start seeing guys start playing a little bit better in the second, third, fourth year after just going around the rotation and have seen these venues.
Bill Rabinowitz: (08:17)
Tiger Woods: (08:17)
Next question from Rex Hoggard, Golf Channel. Go ahead, Rex.
Rex Hoggard: (08:25)
Tiger, given how you played at the match, you seemed to be in mid-season form. And I know it wasn’t a very serious event, but given that you clearly were ready to come out, did you consider it all maybe playing before this week after the restart? And if not, why not?
Tiger Woods: (08:40)
I did. I did consider playing. Trying to figure out if I should play or not. But I just felt that it was better to stay at home and be safe. I’m used to playing with lots of people around me, or have lots of people have direct line to me. That puts not only myself in danger, but my friends and family. And just been at home practicing, and social distancing, and being in away from a lot of people.
Tiger Woods: (09:12)
Coming back and playing the tour, that’s, in my case, over the 20-some odd years I’ve been out here, that’s really hard to say. That I’m used to having so many people around me, or even touch me going from green to tee. That’s something that I looked at and saying, “Well, I’m really not quite comfortable with that. That whole idea. Let’s see how it plays out first.” And seeing how the tour has played out and how they started, and I feel that I’m comfortable enough to come back out here and play again, and I’m excited to do it.
Tim Ferguson, Associated Press. Go ahead.
Tim Ferguson: (09:57)
Tiger, assuming you were watching golf on TV for the last five weeks or so, did you find yourself watching golf like you would, or were you observing other things in terms of the scope of the tournament? And kind of as a sidekick to that, if you had any conversations with any of your friends on tour, what kind of questions were you asking them about what it was like?
Tiger Woods: (10:20)
Well, I think that watching like I normally would, no, I have not. It was more of watching golf to see how it is now. See what our near future, our reality is, and our foreseeable future is going to be. And some of the guys that, when they first played the first couple weeks, it was very, very different. To have no one yelling, no one screaming, no energy, the social distancing, no handshakes. Some guys are used to taking the cap off after every round and doing handshakes. That’s just part of the traditions of the game. That changed. Contacts. How close can I be to my caddie? Those are all different questions that the players are trying to figure out on the fly as we’re trying to get back into our season and participate in our sport at a high level again.
Tiger Woods: (11:12)
Some of the guys feel weird about it. Other guys acclimated to it very quickly. Not having family around out here when you’re at the golf course. What kind of contact are you going to have? Some of the players, “Well, are you going to go work out? Are you going to be able to go work out at a gym?” No, you can’t go to the gyms. What are you going to do here? Face masks. Trying to figure out what are all the guidelines, and the guys are trying to figure out on the fly and also compete. So it was very complicated, trying to get a routine. Well, for most of the players.
Tim Ferguson: (11:49)
You’ve been in this situation before too, but I’m sure you saw it Sunday. JT holes a 50-footer. If there’s a crowd around like Memorial usually gets, and they react to it, how much harder is it for Collin to make his putt?
Tiger Woods: (12:03)
A lot more difficult. I just think that the energy … Even, it felt weird as I was watching it on my computer at home. Like 14, when Collin hit the ball on the green there, and granted they’ve never had the tees up there during a Memorial event. But if they were, and it had that same situation during a Memorial event, to have someone drive the ball on the green that close to the hole, I mean, that whole hillside would have been going nuts.
Tiger Woods: (12:35)
So to see JT make that putt, he’s screaming, but no one else is screaming. That, and then when Colin makes it, normally, I mean, he didn’t really have that much of a reaction, but the whole hillside on 18 would have been just erupted. I’ve been there when they’re throwing drinks towards the greens, and people screaming, high-fiving, people running around, run through bunkers. That’s all gone. That’s our new reality that we’re facing.
Tiger Woods: (13:06)
And those guys, JT and Collin, both how they played down the stretch, and separating themselves, and the shots they hit, they got into the world of playing against each other and got into that world. But it’s so different not having the energy of the crowd. And for me watching at home as a spectator, and one that has played this golf course and have heard the energy that the fans bring to these holes in these situations, not to have that, it’s very different. Very stark, really.
Tim Ferguson: (13:43)
Tiger Woods: (13:43)
Tim Ferguson: (13:46)
Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM. go ahead.
Ben Everill: (13:55)
Thanks. Hey, Tiger.
Tiger Woods: (13:56)
Ben Everill: (13:58)
Mate, Zozo proved that after a long break, you can win out of the gate. Should we take that as a way people should be expecting your chances being good this week, or should they be more tempered?
Tiger Woods: (14:12)
Well Ben, I would like to say that I’m going to win the event. That’s my intent. That’s my intent coming in here, that’s my intent going into every event. So, that’s certainly the intentions. Whether that plays out over the next four … well, come Sunday, hopefully that will be the case. It was that one particular week three tournaments ago at Zozo. So there’s no reason why I can’t do it again this week. I just got to go out there and do my work, and make that happen.
Ben Everill: (14:45)
And do you have a plan to counteract what you’ve been talking about, with this no fans and no energy? I mean, because you fed off that your entire career, clearly. Do you have a plan to sort of counter it?
Tiger Woods: (14:54)
I think that for me in particular, that I’m just going to have to just put my head down and play. But it’s going to be different. There’s no doubt about it. For most of my career, pretty much almost every competitive playing around that I’ve been involved in, I’ve had people around me, spectators yelling, and a lot of movement inside the gallery with camera crews and media.
Tiger Woods: (15:22)
Watching the players play over the last few weeks, that hasn’t been the case. That’s very different. And for the players that are a little bit older, and that have played out here for a long time and have experienced it, it is very different. For some of those younger guys, it’s not particularly that different. They’re not too far removed from college, or they’ve only been out of here for year or two. But for some of the older guys, it’s very eyeopening, really.
Ben Everill: (15:52)
Thanks, mate. I might have to go all out cheering in the press box this week.
Tiger Woods: (15:55)
You got it. Thanks, buddy.
Tiger Woods: (15:58)
Yeah, please. Thank you.
Tom Rinaldi, ESPN. Go ahead.
Tom Rinaldi: (16:02)
Tiger, this year-
Tiger Woods: (16:05)
Tom Rinaldi: (16:06)
No sweat. When you played your last competitive round in mid-February, Tiger, how would you describe where you were physically, and where you are now after these five months? Then just on the back end of that, Tiger, just a thought on what it felt to be back out there today.
Tiger Woods: (16:27)
Well, physically I was-
Tom Rinaldi: (16:29)
Yeah, physical question.
Tiger Woods: (16:30)
Yeah. Physically I was very stiff at LA. Was not moving that well. Back was just not quite loose. It was cold. I wasn’t hitting them all very far. Wasn’t playing very well, and consequently finished dead last. So fast forward five months later, I’ve been able to train a lot. I’ve been able to do a lot of things that I hadn’t done in a very long time, which is spend a lot of time with my kids and be around with them. It’s been very different not to have sports, but we’ve been lucky enough to have had Medalists open at home for most of this quarantine period. So it’s been nice to get out on the golf course and be able to play, and keep active that way.
Tiger Woods: (17:15)
But as far as physically, I feel so much better than I did then. I’ve been able to train and concentrate, getting back up to speed and back up to tournament speed. You saw how I was moving at the match, and I’ll be able to progress since then. Being out here today has been, and being able to play with JT today, it was a lot of fun for both of us. We play like this at home a lot, so it’s different being on the road. But we played so many practice rounds together and played so many rounds together in the last few years that it was quite normal.
Tom Rinaldi: (17:54)
Tiger Woods: (17:55)
Michael Bamberger, GOLF.com. Go ahead, Michael.
Michael Bamberger: (18:01)
Thank you, Jack. Tiger, good to see you in the virtual flesh. I should warn you, this question, I’m trying to start a movement. The bunker rake is a relatively new thing in golf. It’s only been around for 60 years or so. In the pandemic, a lot of courses have gotten rid of bunker rakes. I’m wondering how you feel about that. Could that be part of the game’s future, playing without bunker rakes?
Tiger Woods: (18:25)
I don’t know. Certainly it has been at my home course, at the Medalist. If the guys happen to be in a footprint or a previous hole explosion that one of the groups ahead of them had been in, we just kick it over, and move it out of there, and move on and play. Whether that works at the elite level, don’t know what that’s going to be like, and what it is for golf course maintenance. What it’s going to be like as far as habitually, where we are as players like you who play the game. We’re used to raking the bunkers. So, it’s very different.
Michael Bamberger: (18:56)
Do you view golf as a fundamentally fair game or unfair game?
Tiger Woods: (19:02)
I don’t think any sport is fair.
Michael Bamberger: (19:06)
I appreciate it. Thank you, Tiger.
Ewan Murray with The Guardian. Go ahead.
Ewan Murray: (19:10)
Thank you, Jack. Tiger, so much has changed in society in general since we last saw you. Can I please ask what you’ve made of the development of the Black Lives Matter movement and the reaction to the George Floyd incident? And maybe more importantly, what was the difference you hope that all makes going forward?
Tiger Woods: (19:30)
I think change is fantastic, as long as we make changes without hurting the innocent. And unfortunately that has happened. Hopefully it doesn’t happen in the future, but a movement and change is fantastic. That’s how society develops, it’s how we grow, it’s how we move forward, it’s how we have fairness. And unfortunately we’ve lost innocent lives along the way, and hopefully we don’t lose any more in the future as we move to a much better place socially.
Ewan Murray: (20:03)
Dylan Dethier with GOLF.com. Go ahead.
Dylan Dethier: (20:11)
Yeah, Tiger, I was wondering, people have been spending all kinds of different time at home during quarantine and lockdown. I was wondering if there’s anything that you’ve been able to do, one or two things that you ordinarily wouldn’t be able to, just because you’ve been stuck at home during this time?
Tiger Woods: (20:29)
Well, there’s a lot of things that I hadn’t done a long time. One was, sport-wise and physically, is that we were playing quite a bit of tennis. That was very different, and something I hadn’t done in a very long period of time because I hadn’t been able to it physically. And the kids enjoyed it. We were able to do that in the backyard. Again, at the time, to have the social distancing and be away from one other, from each other, soccer’s been gone. As I said, for us, we’ve been lucky enough to have had Medalists open, and be able to play, and practice social distancing, and still enjoy being active and be outside. But as far as a lot of things inside the house, well, watch a lot of TV, read a lot of books, and tried to pass the time at times.
Dylan Dethier: (21:26)
What’s the best book you’ve read?
Tiger Woods: (21:28)
Well, one of my favorite authors is Dean Koontz. A California guy, and horror novels, so I read a few of those.
Dylan Dethier: (21:36)
Tiger Woods: (21:36)
Time for a couple more questions. We’ll go to Jamie Weir with Sky.
Jamie Wier: (21:45)
Thanks very much. Hello again, Tiger. I just wanted to get your thoughts on the postponement of the Ryder Cup. Two-part question, really. One, do you agree with it? And two, with everything now skipping forward a year, Italy will be a few months before your 48th birthday. Is that the one you’re targeting to be captain at?
Tiger Woods: (22:04)
As far as captaining, we haven’t looked that far. The world has changed so fast. The fact that we were going to play the Ryder Cup, we’re in position. What are we going to do as far as the vice captains, the team? How are we going to play practice rounds going forward, and gelling as a team this year? All of the sudden, the tour is suspended. We’re not playing, and we still haven’t come up with a plan going forward. How we’re going to figure out the points for now. Not this year, but next year. How many picks is Stricks going to get? Is that going to change, or is it still going to be the same? Where is the points cut-off going to be, or are we going to be accumulating points at all throughout all this? None of that’s been figured out yet.
Tiger Woods: (22:49)
And quite frankly, a Ryder Cup without fans is not the Ryder Cup. As it is now. Okay? So when the Ryder Cup first started, there weren’t that many people involved in the game, or whether it was GB&I versus the US. But the world has expanded, the event has expanded. And far as I can remember, I’ve always seen people involved in a Ryder Cup, and the chanting, and screaming, and the participation, the bipartisanship that has been part of the sport and part of the event.
Tiger Woods: (23:25)
I think that what they did with suspending it for the year and moving it to next year was the right thing. We couldn’t have an environment in which we could protect all the fans that are going to be involved, and have that type of insurance. So obviously if that’s the case, you can’t have the fans. Well, if you can’t have the fans, it’s not the Ryder Cup. So we did the right thing, of holding off for the year. And now from the US side, we’re going to have to figure out how we’re going to accumulate points, how many points… I mean, sorry. How many players is Stricks going to be able to pick? And figure that out, and build our team from there.
Jamie Wier: (24:06)
You must’ve given some thought, though, to whether you’d like to captain on US soil or on European soil?
Tiger Woods: (24:12)
I did my captain’s thing last year, and it was a lot of work, and I’m sure that I’ll look into that in the future.
Jamie Wier: (24:22)
Thanks, Tiger. Good luck.
Tiger Woods: (24:23)
Yeah. Thank you. Appreciate it.
And we’ll take our final question from Brian Wacker, Golf Digest.
Brian Wacker : (24:30)
Hey, Tiger. Thanks for doing this. Just a couple quick questions, and you’ve touched on this a little bit already. Just curious, as you’ve watched on TV, what have been your observations from a golf standpoint in terms of low scoring, in terms of course set-up, and that sort of thing?
Tiger Woods: (24:49)
Well, the courses have been set up a little on the easier side. Lack of rough.
Brian Wacker : (24:54)
Tiger Woods: (24:55)
The guys have noticed that the pins have been slightly easier. The greens have been more watered. Trying to force the pace of play to kind of move around better. But the guys have just absolutely played unbelievably well, considering the fact that we’ve been suspended for a while. And to see the guys come out in that good of shape. You’ve seen players … Well, initially you saw one of two things. Either guys have come out rusty and not played well at all, and have not played well, or you’ve seen guys that have taken off, and run away with it, and have gone low.
Tiger Woods: (25:30)
The low scores have been low, and cumulatively you see the cuts at three, four under par each and every week on the venues that I know that are traditionally very hard. To see the scores last week here at Muirfield. I’ve never seen anything like that. To see that many guys that low, and on a golf course that I know has always been very hard and very difficult. I think that what the players have started to figure out as they’ve come back and they’ve started getting into the rhythm of playing again, understanding the new environment that we’re now in. It’s been fun to watch, and it’ll be even better to be a part of this week.
Brian Wacker : (26:12)
And secondly, just a follow-up. What do you make of what Bryson has been doing, more from the standpoint of what do you think the future of the sport looks like in terms of distance?
Tiger Woods: (26:24)
Yeah. He’s figured out a way to increase distance and maximize his efficiency with not only his driver but all of his clubs. But in particular, the driver. If I just looked back at when I first started playing the tour, right before I started playing the tour, we didn’t have track bands, we didn’t have launch monitors. Guys were learning how to bend clubs on their knee to try to take loft off of it. That’s now a change. Now you’re going to, you have all the different launch monitor technologies, and you can send a whole bunch of balls and figure out the shafts, the conditions that you want to optimize carry.
Tiger Woods: (27:14)
And what Bryce has done is no easy task. I mean, he’s got to put in the time, and he’s put in the reps, and he’s figured it out. He’s gotten stronger, faster, bigger, and has created more speed. But more importantly, he’s hitting it further, but let’s look at the fact that he’s hitting it as straight as he is. That’s probably the most difficult thing to do. The further you hit it, the more the tangent goes more crooked and more along this line. So the fact that he’s figured that out, and he’s been able to rein in the foul balls, to me has been equally as impressive as his gains off the tee distance-wise.
Brian Wacker : (27:59)
All right, Tiger. We appreciate the time [crosstalk 00:28:03].
Tiger Woods: (28:03)
You got it. Thank you. Thank you. Appreciate it.