MORE INTERVIEWS: WGC-Cadillac Championship transcripts
JOHN BUSH: We welcome Tiger Woods into the interview room after the third round at the WGC Cadillac Championship, 5 under par 67, three birdies right out of the gate, and way to close the round with that nice birdie on 18. Just comments on your day.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it was a nice start, and it was a good battle today. Graeme played well. He just had a couple mistakes there. But holed out on 16, which was a big turnaround. And then I got one stuck up in the tree there on 17, and he picked up three shots right there. After I made birdie on 15, I was looking pretty good with a six shot lead, and with a drivable par 4. Two holes later, it's now cut down to three. 18 was a good hole. I piped a tee shot down there, hit a little 9 iron there and was able to pour that putt in there.
Q. Do you remember the last time you hit the ball this well?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, Torrey. (Laughter) Wasn't that long ago.
Q. Can you walk us through how they identified the ball? When did you know it was stuck at the tree?
TIGER WOODS: When everyone was pointing up there: Galleries, media, officials, markers, everybody was just pointing up in the tree. And it got to a point where I was probably about, maybe 60 yards away and I could see the ball in the tree, identified with binoculars and saw my line on the ball. I took a drop and unfortunately it wasn't the lie I needed to play the shot. I hit a hell of a shot just to keep it on the green.
Yeah, it was a very interesting last couple weeks. I had two lost balls last week and then I got one stuck in the tree this week.
Q. Supposed to be pretty windy tomorrow, more than today. Does that help you or is that a disadvantage when you have a lead like this?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it's important to be playing well. Especially if the wind is going to blow like it is. Excited about the way I'm playing, hitting the ball well, making some putts, and it's just this golf course is getting tricky.
The greens are so hard, so fast, and the downwind rebound downgrain, downhill putts are just unbelievable. The ball just never stops rolling. It's sliding out there a little bit, and I had a couple putts that I thought I made, the wind blew the ball out of the hole and it's going to do that same thing tomorrow, if not more difficult.
We'll see how much water they put on the golf course overnight; if they want to push us, then they can, because they are going to be blowing it up on Monday, so they could.
Q. G Mac's putt on 18, can you talk about what you saw, how difficult that putt was, as you talk about the speed of the greens? And on the broadcast they kept talking about how you like to hit everything left to right now with your swing, do you feel just as comfortable hitting the ball right to left?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I do. And as far as G Mac's putt, if he misses that putt, I think it's about seven feet a little bit right of the hole, it's off the green.
So there's a little ridge that's there, with any kind of momentum, it's going to go off the green. It was a hell of a putt. I mean, if he's going to miss, he's got to miss it left. I thought he was going to probably try and miss it eight, ten feet left of the hole and make sure he doesn't catch that ridge. But he hit a hell of a putt.
Q. Every guy behind you said, 'my only chance is if it really blows hard tomorrow,' which it's almost like, maybe you're not a good wind player. What's your take on that?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I've won a few tournaments in the wind. I think that if you're coming from behind, it's always nice to have tougher conditions. But also when you've got the nice lead, too, it's nice to have tougher conditions and you can make a bunch of pars. We'll see how this golf course is playing tomorrow and we'll see how much water they put on it and how fiery it is.
Before I tee off, I always look at the scored board, there were a bunch of guys between 1 and 3 under par, but no one was doing anything more than that through 13, 14 holes. So we knew that it was going to be a little more difficult today.
And then it started picking up and the temperature started dropping and it became a little bit more dicey, the greens dried out a little bit more because of the wind. And some of these putts, man, it's hard to scramble if the wind is blowing the ball on the greens.
Q. Seemed like 10 there was a change in momentum. How do you feel about that?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, that was a little bit of a switch there. I didn't turn over my 5 wood there and went through the bunker in the rough. I laid up and actually I laid up, I tried to hit the ball up the left side of the fairway, started moving at an angle to fire back into the wind, and it rolled into the first cut but I happened to catch a patch of grass where I could hit it high on the face and put even more spin on it, I could get the ball up in the air. It was nice to hit the ball high on the face a little bit and put a little zip on it coming downwind like that. Caught a little bit of a break there. I made mine and G Mac missed his and that was a little bit of a switch.
Q. I heard you talk about the putt on 4 that allowed to you save par there.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, that was a nice putt. I probably would have missed that putt if I had not seen G Mac's; his hung in. The grain is coming off the right but the wind is coming off the left. I could see his putt get hung up by the wind a little bit and it just didn't break and it just didn't move through probably the last six, eight feet, it just didn't break. And I adjusted my read, moved it down a little bit, and thought the wind might hold it, and I hit the putt and the wind held it perfectly and I went in the hole.
Q. Seems like your distance control now with your short irons has improved a lot since last year. Seemed to be a big issue. Can you talk about maybe when you started seeing that coming, whether it was the off season or earlier this year? Seemed like you hit a lot close.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it was close to the end of the season last year. I just need to continue on with the track that I was working with Sean. I'm hitting the ball further and it's just about adjustments. I haven't hit my irons this far, well, with the new ball, ever, so it's kind of nice to be able to get the ball out there.
I've had to reestablish the new numbers and new feels and just took a little bit of time and I worked on it. It's starting to pay off.
Q. I don't believe you've ever lost a lead this large after 54 holes. How much of what you do on Sunday is paying attention to what the rest of the field is doing and reacting to that, or is it just a matter of playing your own game and not really worrying about anybody else?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it's both. It's both. Sometimes guys get off to early starts and make runs, and sometimes conditions allow that to happen. So I've got to go out there and adjust and go get it.
And there are other times when conditions are so difficult, and you can make a bunch of pars. It all depends on the conditions and what's going on out there, how the course is playing.
As I said, I'll get a good feel going out tomorrow before I tee off from some of the guys, what they are doing out there, and basically see how much water they put on this golf course. And with this wind forecasted for tomorrow.
Q. These three days, you've broken records that have been records that you set that everybody says in the year that is untouchable, the '99, 2000, 2001 era for putts, for birdies. How exciting is that for you because I know you've been telling us for a couple of years, it's coming, it's coming. Has it arrived? Are you pretty much where you thought you would be two years ago?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I'm finally healthy and that has a lot to do with it. I'm able to make changes with Sean and those have been pretty much implemented.
We are just making fine tunes, each and every day you have little bitty adjustments here and there but the major overhauls are done and now I have more time to dedicate to my short game and that's allowed me to win some golf tournaments last year and obviously win at Torrey this year.
Q. Do you feel, in other words, that your game can be just as good as it was in 2000, in 2013?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I don't want it to be as good. That was never the intent.
Q. You want it to be ...
TIGER WOODS: I want it to be better, exactly.
Q. Where you stand right now, what would be a better indication of how well you're playing, the number of birdies you're make, everybody has made a point of how many you've played through 54 holes, would it be the number of birdies or number of shots if you're ahead?
TIGER WOODS: Well, if you make that many birdies, hopefully I'm ahead. I think that it's I've made my share of birdies this week, but also made a few mistakes here and there.
But I'm pleased at how clean the cards have been this week. This golf course was pretty gentle the first few days, guys were making a bunch of birdies out here, I wasn't the only one, but I made obviously a few mistakes here and there.
It's important, in order to get leads in a tournament, you've got to keep the card clean. So far, I've done a decent job of that.
JOHN BUSH: Tiger Woods, thank you, sir.