After Tiger Woods finished his pro-am at CordeValle for the Frys.com Open on Wednesday afternoon, he spoke to the press. Surprise! — there were no surprises. I’d like to call it the Groundhog Day edition. Tiger says he’s healthier, more prepared than his last starts at WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and the PGA Championship, playing 36-45 holes a day, and refined his swing changes with instructor Sean Foley.
Here are highlights along with some asides:
*Photog Allan Henry live-tweeted most of Tiger’s practice round: “TW Fairways & Greens Holes: 18 Par 4 F: 8 G: 12 * 5 wood leaves a short iron in. Too much spin, 20ft left. Putting pace is off, short again.”
*Tiger on the golf course and conditions: “Well, we’ve had a little bit of rain out there, so the golf course was playing a little bit wet. Had a few mud balls out there. The greens are pretty receptive, a little bit on the slow side for now. As the golf course dries out, I’m sure they’ll pick up a little bit of pace. But overall the golf course is in wonderful condition. It was good to get a feel for how it’s playing out there, some of the sight lines, some of the numbers, and overall the golf course is certainly going to be…one, if we get some good weather with no wind, the guys are going to post some pretty good numbers here. So going to have to make a few birdies.”
*Tiger on the strengths of his game at the moment: “I think I’m happy with how everything has progressed from tee to green. You know, I’ve got a chance to practice and work on everything, which has been good, which is something that I hadn’t been able to do for a while. So I have to say I’m very pleased with every facet of my game.”
*And then the weaknesses: “Today I didn’t putt the way that I wanted to. I had a hard time getting the pace. I played yesterday over at The Institute. The greens were much faster than they are here, and I had a hard time getting the ball in the hole. So that’s something I’m going to have to ‑‑ after this little press deal here, I’m going to go out there and putt for a while and try and get the pace a little better.”
*Tiger on why he played poorly at the PGA Championship: “I hadn’t practiced. You know, I spent basically a week to get ready for Bridgestone, and I played Bridgestone and PGA back to back. Not a whole lot of prep time. So I’ve had a chance to practice and really work on my game and had Sean (Foley) come down a few times. And basically just getting my ball count, get the reps in. And that’s where my comfort’s coming back, being able to hit shots and go out and play 36 holes a day. That’s something I hadn’t done because I just hadn’t had the time.”
*Tiger on what’s different this week compared to the PGA two months ago: “I’ve had a chance to prepare, and then obviously after this event I’ve got a few more weeks before I play in the Aussie Open. So that’s more how I’d like to prepare and practice and play in events. So I’m getting back to my normal routine.”
*Tiger on how he’s healthier now than he was earlier this year: “First of all, I’m able to walk the golf course. This is a golf course that I would have a very difficult time walking. As you saw me at Augusta on Sunday, it was difficult. I’ve got my strength back. I got the explosiveness back in the leg. All that’s come back. And that’s just from training and having time to heal. And then once I’ve healed, to train on top of it and build all that back up to where it used to be.
“But then on top of that, I’ve also had to implement swing changes. Can’t do that unless I was healthy. Obviously at the PGA I didn’t play very well, and I’ve had plenty of time to practice and basically continue what we were doing way back in April. We haven’t changed anything. What we’re working on is the same exact stuff. Sean and I are working on the same exact stuff. I just refined it. And I’ve been playing a lot of holes which has allowed me to get my playing feel, my playing instincts back. And it’s been good.”
*Tiger on new caddie Joe “Joey” LaCava: “Well, Joey came out here a couple days now and worked the golf course and got all the numbers. He’s trying to envision how far I hit the golf ball and what I would like to see off of ‑‑ what I would like to hear for certain numbers through bunkers or carries. So he kind of got all that.
“He basically said, okay, just let me know what you want on each hole. And that’s how we kind of did it. So he got a feel for what I liked, or would like to think or see, and he’s got a good understanding of it. But more than anything today is just to take a look. The tee shots are ‑‑ the numbers are pretty self‑explanatory. The greens are a little bit different, though. They’ve got some movement in them and some areas in which you can play away from the flag and feed it into.
“And some of the greens are blind. So it’s kind of nice to be able to see it and get an understanding, because sometimes the yardage book just doesn’t quite do it. But as I said today, more than anything I kind of struggled on the pace, trying to get the feel for it after putting on greens that were running quite a bit faster yesterday. So I still need to do some work on that before I’m ready for tomorrow.
*In other words, Tiger’s putting was very good in his practice round today. (Hmm…I hear a lot of guys are turning to the belly putter!)
*Tiger on Greg Norman and Nick Faldo saying he won’t win another major…here’s the back-and-forth from the transcript:
Q. Tiger, when you see guys the stature of Greg Norman and Nick Faldo saying you won’t win another major again, is that a fair assessment and what do you feel when you hear stuff like that?
TIGER WOODS: I’ve heard that before. It’s not the first time I’ve heard that.
[Ed. note: /The Stare]
TIGER WOODS: I’ve kept on winning them, too.
[Ed. note: /More of The Stare]
TIGER WOODS: I think I just answered that, didn’t I?
[Ed. note: /The Stare Again]
*Tiger loves Australians because they love him: “I’ve always loved playing down there (in Australia)…I just have always loved playing down there. People are fantastic. People are great. They really do understand the game of golf, and they’re sports nuts down there. They’re sports crazy, which is great. They love their sport, and they support every sport, and they have so much knowledge about sports, which is fantastic. So it’ll be a great crowd, especially at the Presidents Cup because I think with how Greg (Norman) picked the team, having I think, what, five Aussies on the team. So that’ll certainly help the atmosphere.”
*I knew this was coming, but it still made me wince:
Q. Tiger, what’s your measure of success this week? By that I mean being able to hit your shots or is it simply just winning? Kind of where are you at in that progression?
TIGER WOODS: Getting a W.
*Tiger on his record-breaking 62 at Medalist GC, designed by Norman: “I hadn’t posted a low round in a long time. So that’s something that it felt good to do, and to be honest with you, it was pretty easy and I left a few out there. So it’s just one of those days where, you know, I’ve been playing so much golf at home. I’ve been playing 36 and 45 holes a day. So trying to get my playing instincts back and just my playing feels.
“And working with Sean, what thoughts are going to be working playing-wise. You can do whatever you want on the range, but actually playing thoughts are a little bit different. And that’s one reason why I’ve been playing so much. And finally, I’ve started to turn the corner. I was starting to shoot some really good rounds, a bunch of 66s and 65s, but I hadn’t taken it deep. And that was fun to actually post a 62 because I ‑‑ it was a pretty easy round. It was just one of those rounds that just ‑‑ it’s hard to believe I shot that because it didn’t feel like it.”
*Tiger on getting his playing instincts back: “I was shut down basically from the Masters until the Bridgestone. I played, what, nine holes at the PLAYERS. That’s not a lot of golf. And I didn’t really practice a lot prior to that.
“So I just need to get out there and get the reps, get holes, hit shots, get the feel for it with the different winds that come up. You know, granted, every day is hot in Florida, but at least we have different winds. And hit different shots, different lies. I had to get all that, and then meanwhile just kind of work my way gradually into what we’ve been doing with Sean.
“Sean kind of alluded to it even today. He said, you’re just kind of stepping up there and just hitting it. I said, yeah, I don’t need to worry about whether I have the club here or here or here or here or here. I’ve kind of done all that legwork and now it’s time to play. And that’s where I needed to to get to, which I hadn’t been able to get to because I wasn’t healthy enough to get there. And that part was frustrating because I know what I can do in the game, and I just needed the time to practice. And that’s why I’m so excited about being here and playing.”
*Tiger on Foley and swing again: “It’s always easy to come back from a layoff when you already know what to do. That’s very simple. I’ve done it before and I’ve done it a bunch of times. But I’m implementing a new golf swing, and in order to do that, you have to get the reps in, and I haven’t gotten the reps in. You know, I have to hit thousands of balls to do that and to where it feels natural.
“But I’ve done that now, which is good. So now, as I said, I’ve been able to do all that, get to the point where I can go out there and just play golf with my buddies and play all day every day, and you know, that’s ‑‑ and not really worry about a whole lot. I can just go out there and play.
*Tiger on why he hired Joey: “Joe is one of the best caddies out here. There’s no doubt. I’ve known Joey since I was an amateur playing with Freddie in the Masters practice rounds, U.S. Open at Shinnecock, and then just playing with him ‑‑ playing with Freddie over the years, whether it be in practice rounds or tournaments. And Joey’s obviously caddied for Davis a few times, too, as well. So known him a very long time, had a very nice comfort level. I like the way he worked, and you know, it’s just one of those decisions where my gut said it was the right thing to do.
“I liked his personality on how he was with his players, how he would step in when need be, and he also knew how to encourage and he knew when to step out.
But each player is different, you know. Freddie’s very different from Davis, and obviously Dustin is a little bit different than both of them, and he’s been successful with all of them.”
*And this is how you get Tiger to smile:
Q. This is kind of a local question here, but the last time you were at a Stanford game they won this week. (Indiscernible).
TIGER WOODS: Do I like where they’re ranked? No. We should be one. Over you guys. Just saying.
As far as my last time I actually went to a game, it was a big game a couple years ago. We lost to Cal, which wasn’t very good.
But I’m excited to see, you know, how this season is going to turn out. This is ‑‑ to have Luck stay another year, which was huge for us and we’re dialed in, and hopefully this will be our season to kind of take it all the way.
TIGER WOODS: Yes. He’s a hell of a lot smarter than I was.
Q. Are you going Saturday?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah. I’d like to. I hope I can get tickets.
Tiger tees of with Louis Oosthuizen and UCLA sophomore Patrick Cantlay on Thursday at 12:10pm PT.
Andres Gonzales continues to pester Tiger with his hilarious, intentionally absurd tweets. I’m waiting to hear back from Andres if they’ve crossed paths yet. Too bad the Tour didn’t put them in the same group or even in the same wave. And too bad Tiger doesn’t have the sense of humor to respond!
Most important, Jerry Foltz is filling in for Erik Kuselias and co-hosting Golf Channel’s Morning Drive with Gary Williams on Thursday and Friday.