Here is pieces of the Tuesday morning press conference with Tiger Woods at the U.S. Open! The tournament begins Thursday with Woods paired with Justin Thomas and Collin Morikawa for the first two rounds. The group is scheduled to tee off at 8:07 a.m. EDT. Notes were compiled by Dennis Miller.
THE MODERATOR: We are pleased to welcome three-time U.S. Open champion Tiger Woods to the interview area. Tiger, who has won nine USGA championships, is making his 22nd U.S. Open appearance.
Q. In the list of courses that maybe have been the most difficult, where would you rank Winged Foot?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it’s right up there next to Oakmont and I think Carnoustie as far as just sheer difficulty without even doing anything to it. I think those three golf courses, they can host major championships without ever doing anything to them. This one or Oakmont here is either one or two.
Q. Can you talk about your preparation for this golf course based on your previous performances here and the highest winning scores here in the past?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I was able to come up here right before I played in Boston, take a look at the golf course, and I was able to get my sight lines. This golf course is going to be one of the more difficult ones. The winning scores here have never traditionally been very low. I don’t see that changing this week. The golf course is going to be hard. It depends on how difficult they want to set up these pins, give us a chance at it. But with the forecast, it’s going to be difficult no matter what.
Q. How much did a difficult venue like Olympia Fields in your last start help you prepare for Winged Foot?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, Olympia Fields was hard. It was fast, dry, which is unlike this golf course right now. It’s going to obviously dry out, but the rough is very sticky here and very thick and lush. Olympia Fields, the rough was high, but generally most of the lies we had in the rough were down grain, and guys were able to get the ball up near the greens, but obviously the greens were difficult. Most of the lies we’ve had so far this week, they’re not really downgrain, so it’ll be interesting to see how much the USGA will cut the rough down and allow us to try and be a little bit more aggressive and get the ball up around the greens.
Q. How will the experience be different for you at a U.S. Open without fans?
TIGER WOODS: It’s going to be — you know, it’s something that unfortunately this is our new reality. This is something we’re getting used to. It’s not something we like. We want the fans and we want the atmosphere out there, but safety is first.
Q. Coming off the tennis U.S. Open, Serena and Rafa are both in positions to tie some big records coming up, and you’re one of the few people who qualify to answer this. Does it get harder to win a major the closer you get to the all-time mark and why?
TIGER WOODS: You know, I think it gets harder to win as we all age. I think that when you’re in your prime, in your peak years, you have to take advantage of those opportunities so that when you get to the all-time marks, you have the opportunity. I think that whether it’s Rafa or Fed or Serena, they’ve been so consistent and so dominant for such a long period of time, that’s how you get to — you can have those all-time marks. Consistency over a long period of time is the hallmark of those records.
Q. Can you describe what it meant to you after all the surgeries and the years of not winning majors to come back and win the Masters, and was there anything special that you felt that week that you can relate to this week? How do you rate your chances here?
TIGER WOODS: Well, when I won the Masters last year, it was — I was not feeling particularly well prior to that. My neck was bothering me. I didn’t play in Bay Hill. For some reason I felt physically better and my training sessions felt good. I changed shafts in my driver right before the event, and I was able to start turning the ball over. Then all of a sudden I put myself in contention and I wasn’t really — I wasn’t leading but I was near the lead, and each day I progressively got a little bit better, and come Sunday, I put all the pieces together.
Q. Several players here have said that of all the people out on Tour, you feed off the fans more than anything. In that regard, I know you said you miss them, but in that regard, how much do you miss the fans?
TIGER WOODS: Well, for me in particular, I miss the energy and just the positiveness that the fans bring and just that electricity. But that’s something that I’ve been playing in front of for over two decades. That’s something I’ve been a part of, and I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of that. What we’re dealing with right now is not what we all want, but it’s our reality, and it’s the energy that’s just not quite the same without the fans.
Q. Even without the fans, is there something special about coming back to the New York metropolitan area and playing?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I think that this area has some of the best golf courses on the planet, but also what makes coming up here and being a part of these events are the fans and the energy that this entire area brings. They love sports. It’s a shame that we’re not going to have that atmosphere out here this particular week, but obviously everyone will be watching and be supporting at home or wherever is the safest.
Q. A strategy question: With fairways this hard to hit and rough this penal, it seems like everyone is going to be missing a lot of fairways. Do you anticipate hitting a lot of drivers, so you aren’t too far back, or do you anticipate laying back to keep it in the fairway?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, you know, I think a lot of that is dependent on which way the wind is blowing. The forecast three of the four days will be blowing out of the north, and I think that that will make a difference. Some of the tee shots that we hit today, slightly different wind than what we played on Sunday, and so I think that strategy-wise it’s ebb and flow. For me in particular I’m trying to play to certain areas. Whatever club that is, could be 5-wood, could be driver or a 3-wood. I’m trying to play to a specific spot and then move on from there.