Tiger Woods Returns to the Memorial

MAR 28, 2019: Tiger Woods during the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play on March 28, 2019 at Austin Country Club in Austin, TX. (Photo by George Walker/DFWsportsonline)

Tiger Woods has won 82 PGA TOUR events including 15 major championships and five Memorial Tournaments. This week’s Memorial at Muirfield Village Golf Club will be Woods’ first PGA TOUR appearance since the final round of the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club back in February.

Ahead of his return to the PGA TOUR, Woods met with the media.

Below are some of the highlights from Woods’ press conference.

Q: Tiger is making his first start on the PGA TOUR since the season was suspended in March. If we could please just get an opening comment on the state of your game and how it feels to be back.

TIGER WOODS: It feels great to be back. I hadn’t played on a tournament venue in a while, and it’s been since February, so it’s been a long time for me. Then to get out there and to play with J.T. today was a bunch of fun. It’s certainly a different world, different environment that we’re in. To play practice rounds like this and to watch as the TOUR has evolved and started back and to see no fans, it’s just a very different world out here.

Q: Tiger, what is your level of concern, 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: That’s the risk that I’m taking. That’s the 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 we walk on the property and are 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.

Q. 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: 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 J.T. anymore. I’ve gotten over that, and here we go.

Q. You talked about how things are going to be different. I assume that you have talked to enough guys that give you a little bit of — have filled you in on what it is like to have no fans, everything from the rough not being trampled down to the loss of energy. What are your expectations and what have you picked up from them?

TIGER WOODS: Most of the venues that we’ve been playing at really haven’t had that much rough. The guys have — 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. You make a big putt or make a big par or make a big chip or hit a hell of a shot, there’s no one there. 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.

Q. 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 folks, how long they stay on you.

TIGER WOODS: Well, I’ve had cameras on me since I turned pro, so it’s been over 20-some-odd years that virtually almost every one of my shots that I’ve hit on the TOUR has been documented. That is something that I’ve been accustomed to. That’s something I’ve known for decades. But this is a different world and one we’re going to have to get used to.

Q. 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: Not a full tournament. I don’t think that’s ever happened for me. But I’ve played a round in D.C. when I won, that Saturday we had a derecho 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 with 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 different world.

Q. 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: Well, even in college I had a few people following. (Laughter.)

Q. Given that it’s a compacted TOUR, how much urgency does that place to maximize every tournament or just approach it the way you would any other year?

TIGER WOODS: Well, for me, I’ve had to try and maximize every tournament start since I’ve had my last procedure, back procedure. I’ve had to manage that. My levels of play — I really haven’t played that much since then. I think that unfortunately over the last few years that I’ve been used to taking long breaks, 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 playing again.

Q. When you watch — if you watched the Workday, you saw all these young players. What’s your impression of guys like Collin and Viktor Hovland and those guys?

TIGER WOODS: Man, those two in particular have just such bright futures ahead of them. They both hit the ball great. Short game is only going to get better. Their putting is 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 years here and there, and before that starts kicking in, generally you see guys start playing a little better in the second, third, fourth year after it’s gone around the rotation and they’ve seen these venues.

Q. Given how you played at The Match you seemed to be in mid-season form, and I know it’s a very serious event, but clearly you were ready to come out. Did you consider playing before this week after the restart, and if not, why not?

TIGER WOODS: I did. I did consider playing, trying to figure out if I should play or not. But I just felt it was better to stay at home and be safe. I’m used to playing with lots of people around me or having lots of people have a direct line to me, and that puts not only myself in danger but my friends and family, and just been at home practicing and social distancing and being away from a lot of people. Coming back and playing the TOUR, 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 said, well, I’m really not quite comfortable with that, that whole idea. Let’s see how it plays out first and let’s see how the TOUR has played out, how they’ve started, and I feel that I’m comfortable enough to come back out here and play again, and I’m excited to do it.

Q. 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: Well, 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. 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 — well, three tournaments ago at ZOZO. There’s no reason why I can’t do it again this week. I’ve just got to go out there and do my work and make that happen.

Q. 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: 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 look back at when I first started playing the TOUR or right before I started playing the TOUR, we didn’t have TrackMans, we didn’t have launch monitors. Guys were learning how to bend clubs on their knee to try and take loft off of it. That’s now changed. Now you go into — you have all these different launch monitor technologies and you can send up a whole bunch of balls, figure out the shafts, the conditions that you want to optimize carry. What Bryson has done is no easy task. He’s got to put in the time and has 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 part of the most difficult thing to do. The further you hit it, the more the tangent goes more crooked, more along this line. So the fact that he’s figured that out and has been able to rein in the foul balls to me has been equally as impressive as his gains off the tee distance-wise.

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