Athens, GA (Mar 29, 2009) -The gods were smiling on NBC Sports today as Tiger Woods pulled out yet another stunning victory, winning at Bay Hill for the 3rd time with a birdie putt on the 72nd hole. Despite throwing a club in anger, as well as three plugged lies, Tiger pulled it out.
Here is the transcript of Tiger's post victory press conference as provided by the PGA Tour and ASAP Sports.
MARK STEVENS: I'd like to welcome Tiger Woods to the interview room. Tiger Woods has now won two straight Arnold Palmer Invitationals presented by MasterCard. If you'll just start off and give some general comments on picking up your first win since your injury and surgery, and then we'll take questions.
TIGER WOODS: Obviously delayed today, and the whole goal today with being five back was to try to cut it to two or three at the turn. I had it down to one through 8, made a great birdie at nine, so I thought I accomplished my goal on the front nine, and then got to two, and how fast could I get it to even was the next accomplishment on the back nine, and it didn't take until 15. I made a putt there and I made a good save at 16, Sean made a mistake, and I took the lead there.
I made a mistake at 17, and I gave the lead right back up, and then we went down 18, and just like Sean was saying earlier, the ball wasn't flying as far. When I hit that 4-iron on 17, I hit it perfect. I flushed it, and it obviously didn't carry. Again, like Sean said, I took one more club, too, as well on 18. I only had 160 yards, 161 yards to the hole, and I hit 7-iron in there, just a little cut 7-iron, because obviously the ball wasn't flying. I carried it up there and spun it back a little bit and made a putt.
Q. Just talk about the emotions of going through the 18th hole, how they were different last year than they were this year considering all that's transpired since then.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, you know, last year was -- I was competing and it wasn't any big gap. I was competing and there wasn't any big comeback or anything. I was out there just competing as usual. This time it was a little bit different. I hadn't been in the mix since the U.S. Open, so it was neat to feel the heat on the back nine again, and got myself into the hunt and into contention. It felt good to make a putt like I did at 14 and again at 15.
Q. Did the heat feel different?
TIGER WOODS: No, it didn't. It's like Stevie was saying out there, this feels like we hadn't left. You can understand sometimes when some of the older players haven't been in contention in a while and they come back and then all of a sudden they put themselves in contention and then they win. You just remember how to do it. It hasn't been that long for me, but you just have that feel of what to do and it's a matter of getting it done.
Q. Can you put in context this win? I know you've won a lot of times obviously, but just put it in context what it means to you just personally, just to come back and win your second stroke play tournament back.
TIGER WOODS: It feels great. As I look back at my three tournaments I've played this year, I've gotten better at each one, and that was the whole idea was to keep progressing to Augusta. I was hoping I could get my game where I could feel hitting shots again because I'd been only on the range and putting at home.
Doral was great for that because I got better each and every day with my feel, and this week I came right out of the gate and I had it just because I had basically got it down at Doral. It feels good to be back, to feel the heat on the back nine on Sunday like that. To have to make a putt at 14 and to make that putt, those are good times.
Q. I guess you didn't really want to come back tomorrow because if you miss that thing we're probably back at dawn patrol and doing all that.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, some guy yelled out "playoff," and --
Q. Before the putt?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah.
Q. Is that when you backed off?
TIGER WOODS: No, some lady yelled out across the lake. I don't know what she yelled. And plus there were flashes going on, too.
Q. Knowing that you had done it on that green two different times on the 72nd hole, does that give you any good mojo?
TIGER WOODS: I tried to think about that but I couldn't because this putt was so different. This putt was uphill. The other two were downhill left to right. This one was uphill; not only that, it was into the grain left to right. The other two putts were kind of similar, but this was totally different. I kept telling myself obviously with the temperature getting a little cooler, this putt is going to be a little bit slower because of that. On top of that, the putt is uphill into the grain left to right, make sure you hit it hard to get it up to the hole, and if anything, if you make any mistake, miss it -- over-release the blade and miss it left so at least it has a chance with all the dew on the ground with the grain that it could snag and come in. I hit a pure putt. I hit it really solid and it held its line all the way there.
Q. Easiest of the three, that one?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, by far.
Q. You've been saying that you expect to win every time you play, but could you have imagined this on January 1 or February 1? Has this been faster than you would have thought you'd come back?
TIGER WOODS: If you said January 1, yeah. I was just kind of hoping I might be able to get back to the Match Play. I just started hitting most of my bag then. I still hadn't hit all of my bag yet. Yeah, if you would have said that on January 1, yeah, this has been a little bit quicker.
But after I started competing at Accenture, you know, I felt like my leg is good, now it's a matter of getting my feel for the game. Doral was just a huge turning point for that, for getting my feel, because I got better each and every day with my feel for different shots, and this week I just came out there and played.
Q. Three plugged lies today?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, four for the week.
Q. How frustrating was that?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it's a little frustrating, no doubt, because they're not easy shots. Not only are they plugged but they're underneath the lip. Three today, and the other one was I plugged it on the fairway bunker on 1 underneath the lip.
Zach plugged it today on 14, as well. There's a lot of sand in the bunker. So if the ball is into the wind then it's probably not going to come out of its pitch mark.
Q. As a segue, you looked pretty upset after the one on 14 despite hitting a superb shot just to get it down 15 feet past the hole. Would it be fair to call that sort of an emotional jump start to the home stretch? You just looked a little agitated.
TIGER WOODS: I was, no doubt, because I just kept saying this is my third plugged lie for the day, and it's just a foot. If it hits a foot higher then it hits in the grass, rolls back and it's an easy bunker shot.
The same thing at 4, if it hits just a foot higher then it's fine, but both of them happened to plug underneath the lip, and obviously I was hot because if I was going to miss it I had to miss it on that side. You had the slope, you had into the wind, you had all the different things that you could get away with, and this is the only lie you didn't kind of prepare yourself for.
Q. I guess you were standing in the back of the room at the end of Sean's press conference. You probably heard his comments about the perceptions of how other players deal with playing against you. Your take on that?
TIGER WOODS: I'm in the wrong position to answer that one because I'm actually the one out there competing, as well. I'm trying to beat them just how they're trying to beat me. It doesn't change. It's just about being there and somehow timing it right and making putts at the right time and pull off shots at the right time. We're all trying to do it. It's just fun, some guys put themselves in contention more times than others, but still, we're all trying to win tournaments.
Q. Two questions: On 16, could you have gone for the green?
TIGER WOODS: No.
Q. Did Sean know that do you think?
TIGER WOODS: I don't know. I don't think he ever looked over there.
Q. Secondly, how much does that jacket help you toward the other one?
TIGER WOODS: It does a lot, because it's a validation of what I've been working on from the physical standpoint of all my lifting and preparing physically but also the work I've been doing with Hank and getting all of that organized. Certainly this win definitely validates all the things I've been trying to do.
Q. At Doral you were hitting the ball really well and didn't make many putts. In many ways, I know you won here so that helps, but in many ways was this more important in that your long game was good but you somehow scored? Going into the Masters, is that the more important thing you to have accomplished?
TIGER WOODS: Well, at Doral I didn't get anything out of my rounds. This week I got probably -- two of the rounds I got probably the max I could get out of those rounds, and that's what you have to do. I didn't do that at Doral, consequently I didn't win the tournament. This week was different. I got a lot out of my rounds of golf, good saves, big putts at certain times, and that's what you have to do in order to score, and I was able to score this week.
Q. So in terms of Augusta, is that more important in a way than hitting the ball nicely off the tee?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I'd like to hit the ball like I did at Doral and putt like I did this week (smiling).
Q. Being greeted by Mr. Palmer on the 18th, what was going through your mind?
TIGER WOODS: It's great to see him. I hadn't seen him all week except for on TV and in interviews. He's busy. He's hosting an event, so it's actually the first time I got a chance to talk to Arnold, so that was awfully nice. He always has something pretty funny to say.
Q. Such as?
TIGER WOODS: Uh-huh (laughter).
Q. What did he say last year? He said, "Remember what I said to you last year?"
TIGER WOODS: He said, "I think your dad would have been proud of how you competed and came back and won the tournament."
Q. Did you really work out twice this morning before the round?
TIGER WOODS: Mm-hmm.
Q. You mentioned that to Sean and I think it blew his mind.
TIGER WOODS: Well, I had a lot of time, plus I get up early. Nothing else to do.
Q. Can you express how gratifying it is to return to the winner's circle after the pain of an operation and months of rehab and being away from the game for the length of time that you were?
TIGER WOODS: It feels great to be -- well, one, it feels great to be in contention again, to feel the heat on the back nine. And then obviously the big bonus is to win a golf tournament. It's always nice to win a tournament pre-Augusta, and I was able to do that again this year.
Q. Will you play this year some tournament in Europe except British Open?
TIGER WOODS: In Europe, no, just the Open Championship.
Q. I just wondered about obviously the green speed was totally different after the rain. You made the adjustment in speed better than he did. Talk about that.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I hit a lot of putts on the putting green that were uphill into the grain to make sure I hit them hard enough. I kept leaving them short, and most of them were lag putts, and I said, all right, I'll drill putts uphill for a while and make sure I get my pace so when I go out on the golf course it won't seem like such a big shot. It worked.
But then again, just like when the greens were dry before the rain, all the greens are different speeds, and I think that's the adjustment that Sean had a hard time making, and we all did. They're all slightly different speeds, and yeah, just kind of had to figure it out and hopefully see the grain and hit your putt accordingly.
Q. With your stance on the 17th bunker shot, were you worried about your knee?
TIGER WOODS: No.
Q. Aside from the 18th hole what was the most significant shot you hit?
TIGER WOODS: The putt I made at 14. Sean looked like he made his putt, and if he makes, I miss, all of a sudden there's three shots. To go from potentially three down to still only one down, then I birdie 15 right back, so that was a huge putt in the whole scheme of things.
MARK STEVENS: Congratulations, Tiger, and good luck at the Masters.
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