CHRIS REIMER: We are pleased to have Tiger Woods, U.S. Team captain for the 2019 Presidents Cup, which as many of you know will return here to the Royal Melbourne Golf Club December 9 through 15, 2019. Tiger, you’ve had a whirlwind couple days here in Melbourne. If you could just share how excited you are to bring this event and to be a captain of this event back in this city.
TIGER WOODS: Well, to be coming here as a captain to one of the greatest cities there is in all of the world and one of the greatest sporting capitals of the world is quite an honor. I’m excited to lead my team here and try and retain the Cup.
CHRIS REIMER: You got out to Royal Melbourne Golf Club yesterday. Talk about that as a venue, and why do the best players in the world —
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, one of the greatest golf courses in all of the world. The layout is fantastic. It’s very tough. It’s tricky. The fans here have been absolutely fantastic over the last two Cups, and we’re expecting a pretty excitable atmosphere and one that’s electric and one that we’re going to have a lot of fun in.
Q. What were you looking for down at Royal in terms of the layout? What specific characteristics interest you down there?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I wanted to see if they’ve changed any of the holes. It’s going to be the same rotation. They’ve lengthened a couple of the holes. But I mean, nothing major. Normally over the course of time, a lot of golf courses get modernized, get lengthened, change different angles, add bunkers, whatever it may be, but they haven’t done that at Royal. It’s the same golf course. It could be fast, it could be hot, it could be cool. You just never know. We experienced all of those things here in ’98 as well as in ’11.
Q. How many Australians do you reckon you could potentially be up against given it’s here at Royal Melbourne?
TIGER WOODS: Well, right now, you’ve got, what, Jason, Adam, Cam, Leish. So right there there’s four, and you just never know what could happen over the course of an entire year.
But you know, the Aussies have always dominated the international team as well as the South Africans. Usually they make up at least half the team. And so I don’t think that will be any different come next year.
Q. Your experience in the Sand Belt speaks for itself. You won the Australian Masters. How much is that experience going to come into play next year if you are on the team?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I think that the way the golf course is set up and the way it’s played, it’s very similar to what we face at an Open Championship, so I think guys who play the Open Championship venues well are going to be successful here at Royal.
Q. Are you going to take it out on the internationals? Are you a bit angry with that loss in Paris?
TIGER WOODS: No, this is a totally different team, totally different players. You know, we could have a different core of guys. Obviously we have a lot of guys in their 20s that have made the last couple teams. But you just never know. I think that we’re going to — each individual Cup, each individual team has their own uniqueness and their own character, and that’s what’s fun about being a part of these teams, that you’re building relationships that you never thought you would have, and relationships that last a lifetime.
Q. What about the buildup? The Australian Open is on beforehand but you’ve got your tournament in the Bahamas, as well. What do you expect some of the Americans to do in the buildup to the Presidents Cup?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I hope they play at the Hero World Challenge. That’s an obvious one.
But we’ll see what happens. We have to figure out some logistical things between now and then. That’s one of the reasons why I’m here, to try and figure that out. We’ve got a few meetings here scheduled later today, and try and get a better plan going forward so that we can get the best field we can at the Hero, as well as getting everyone here from the Bahamas to this tournament, get them rested, getting them prepared and getting them ready to play and compete.
Q. You’ve changed a bit as a player since your last —
TIGER WOODS: Yes.
Q. — visit to Melbourne in 2011. Will you take the same approach to Royal Melbourne next year?
TIGER WOODS: You know, my responsibilities are very different being a captain. When I came down here last time, I was just a player. Now I’m responsible for 12 other — 12 guys — well, hopefully 11 because hopefully I’ll be playing. So trying to get my team ready, to get them prepared, to get them rested so they can go up against a tough International Team, that’s part of my responsibility along with my vice captains.
Q. Do you have your head around how you would handle the dual roles if you’re captain and a player if that comes to pass?
TIGER WOODS: A little bit. I got a little bit of a experience this past year at the Ryder Cup. Jim asked me early in the year in February whether I would be interested in being part of the team, and I said, yes, I would. I’d be a vice captain, I’d be honored to be a vice captain, and that evolved into playing, being a part of the team, and he felt that my role would be better — it would be better for me to be focused on playing, and so, yeah, I had a lot of prep about being a vice captain and being a player, and I was part of a lot of those conversations about who should be part of the team, all the group texts that we were trying to figure out.
Now fast forward to next year, I’ll be a captain, so I’m going to have to defer a lot of information to my vice captains and get a lot of their opinions and also my team, whether or not I can play and do both roles.
Q. What does it mean to you? You’ve achieved so much in your career, but to captain this team, what does it mean to you?
TIGER WOODS: It’s special. You know, I’ve been a part of the Presidents Cup for 20 years. Now to have the opportunity to be a captain and to lead my guys into an environment that’s going to be fun, it’s going to be exciting, it’s going to be electric, and on top of that, on one of the best venues in all the world. There’s really nothing better as a player to evolve into the role of being a captain.
Q. Just on an individual basis, given where you’ve been from physically, is anything you achieve now in your career a bonus, or is the fact that last year you got back to winning, contending in majors, you’d be disappointed if you didn’t add another major championship?
TIGER WOODS: If you would have asked me that question at last year’s Presidents Cup, I wasn’t cleared to make full swings yet, and so, yeah, a lot of the things I’ve gone through this year has been a true blessing because I was in bad shape for a couple years, and my back wasn’t very good, and my life was tough to deal with, with the nerve pain.
Now to have that opportunity that it’s behind me, I’m playing, I’m competing, now being a captain, it’s been truly a blessing.
Q. Mentally, what did last year’s Presidents Cup do for you?
TIGER WOODS: Well, mentally it gave me a shot in the arm. The guys really, they really encouraged me to come back and play. They were offering whatever dinner or practice rounds or practice, I’ll fly down here, let’s just get me part of being a part of the game of golf again. I said, well, I don’t know. I don’t know if I can do it or not. Give me a couple more months, and lo and behold, a couple more months, I’m playing and competing again.
Q. What role would you say that played in your comeback?
TIGER WOODS: It did. It played a significant role. The guys were very supportive, and they were — the text messages and the calls I got this entire year — well, last year, through the Presidents Cup, was very uplifting.
Q. Will you pick yourself, or do you just automatically qualify? Is it a ranking thing, or will you pick yourself?
TIGER WOODS: I’m part of the team either way, okay. After the TOUR Championship, we’ll have our top eight guys, and hopefully I’ll be part of the top eight. If not, then myself and my vice captains are going to have to figure out as well as the other top eight players who are the next four guys that will be best served to be part of this team, to come down here and compete and play against the internationals.
I don’t know if I’ll be a part of that conversation either way, as a player, but as a captain, yeah, I’ll be a part of it.
Q. When Ernie was here, he announced Geoff Ogilvy as one of his assistants. He has such great local knowledge. Do you have anyone in mind for that role, who really knows the Sand Belt courses well?
TIGER WOODS: I have a few names that we’ve been kicking around and trying to figure out what’s best. I have really nothing to announce at this time, but I will shortly, though.
Q. In regards to that question about captaincy and playing, as well, the competitor in you, it comes down to it, the competitor in you, will you just not want to be out there playing?
TIGER WOODS: Of course I do. Of course I do. I want to compete. I want to play. Being a vice captain the last couple years, you realize there really isn’t — you really don’t control the play. You have to sit back and watch. And as a player and as a competitor, you want to always be in control and be able to compete and play. There was no better example of that when Ernie and I went into a playoff, being able to have that opportunity.
I would — I probably would have had a heart attack if I had to watch another play go into a playoff and control the Cup. But I was a part of that, and it’s something I’ll truly remember.
Q. Finally, the United States lost to the internationals in ’98 here at Royal Melbourne; is that in the back of your mind —
TIGER WOODS: Of course it is, yeah. When we came down here, Jack was our captain, and it was late in the year in December. We didn’t have the wraparound schedule like we do now. The guys took quite a bit of time off, and quite frankly, we weren’t prepared to play, and we got smoked. The internationals came out ready, prepared, played, and they drummed us.
My job is to make sure that the guys are prepared, they’re still playing and trying to stay fresh and competitive late in the year.
CHRIS REIMER: You beat Greg Norman in singles, though, that year, right?
TIGER WOODS: I did.
CHRIS REIMER: I just wanted to make sure they all heard that.
TIGER WOODS: I did. That was fun.
Q. We obviously had Ernie here last weekend, and he said that the sledging had already begun between the two teams.
TIGER WOODS: Of course it has.
Q. Who’s better?
TIGER WOODS: Of course we are. We have a great group of guys that love to give the needle, and we’ve had a core group of guys for the last few Cups, and so they’ve gotten to know each other, and the group texts that we’re on, it’s a lot of fun.
Q. Ernie told me that he would pick Joaquin Niemann in his team, so can you give me a word about this young player, Chilean player, 19 years old?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, Joaquin, we gave him an exemption into my event, the National, last year, and he’s one of the most talented young players there. He’s explosive. He’s fiery, and more importantly, he’s a beautiful putter, and I think that’ll serve him well.
Q. Any advice for his career?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, just keep doing what he’s doing. He’s going to win events, and he’s going to be a player that’s going to be on the world stage for a long time.
Q. You mentioned ’98; is it true that you put your hand up to play against Norman in the team room the night before?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it was — I wanted to play against him. Jack and Peter had talked about what kind of pairings would be great for the tournament. We were getting blown out, and so that was one of the key match-ups that I felt like I could handle and I could play, and I felt like I could earn a point for our U.S. side.
Q. And secondly, what are you thinking about preparation? You’ve already said that you want a lot of your players to play in the Bahamas, but would you encourage those who might not get into that field, because it’s a limited field, obviously? Would you encourage them to come and play in Australia just to —
TIGER WOODS: Well, I would encourage them to stay competitive late in the year. That’s what we learned in ’98, is that the guys weren’t competitive. They had shut it down. And so hopefully they’ll play my event in the Bahamas, but if not, stay competitive, stay prepared, stay sharp. You know, there’s a long season. There’s the wraparound schedule, and then within a few weeks, we start up in Hawai’i again. So trying to get the guys to stay sharp when it’s their break time is going to be the challenge.
Q. Ernie was here a couple weeks ago talking about how he hopes that — or expects that the crowd will be predominantly following the international side down here —
TIGER WOODS: Of course they will, and they should be.
Q. Are you prepared for that? That would make a difference to — often the Ryder Cup events in America, the atmosphere being less boisterous for your side.
TIGER WOODS: They should be less boisterous for our side. They should be rooting for their national team. The last two Cups that we’ve had here have been so exciting, the atmosphere has been so — the Aussies have come out and supported the event. But more than anything, they’ve been so respectful, out of absolute — are they going to cheer when their team does well and we don’t make a putt? Of course. But at the end of the day, these are some of the greatest sports fans in all of the world, and they show out and they’re so respectful of all the players.
Q. You had an incredible year. You’ve played, I think, it was the second most amount of tournaments since 2006, so a busy schedule. Presidents Cup at the end of next year, is next year a crazy schedule like this year, or do you tone it down a bit?
TIGER WOODS: I certainly won’t play as many times as I did last year, or last season. I played a lot of events. I qualified for a couple events. I missed the cut in LA, I added Tampa, I had — I qualified for the Akron event. And so it kind of just played out. At the beginning of the year if I would have asked me would I have gotten through all the playoff events, well, I didn’t know I was going to qualify for the playoff events, so that was something that was — I hadn’t really trained for and planned for, and you saw at the end of the year, I was pretty worn out. So trying to pace myself next year and do a better job of that with the entire 12 months, hopefully I’ve learned my lessons this year.
Q. One of your highlights from this year, would it be walking towards the 18th at East Lake with all those people?
TIGER WOODS: Without a doubt, yeah. That was one of the most special moments I’ve had as a player in my entire career. I’ve said this during this entire year, that the atmosphere has been so different. It’s been so appreciative and electric. I have felt that. The fans have been so much more into my rounds. Maybe they realize that I may never have played again, but I’ve come back and started playing again, and they’ve come out and supported the events that I’ve played. But they’ve been so great and so into it, and I think that was the culmination of all this anxiety and just all this anxiousness about my comeback. And to have it all culminate with a win at East Lake, in my last competitive stroke play championship, doesn’t get much sweeter.
Q. Is that why you’re giving a little bit more of yourself? We wouldn’t normally see Tiger Woods do so many interviews and meet so many fans and host so many dinners. Is that part of being thankful for this comeback?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it is. I’m certainly more appreciative of the game of golf and what it has meant to me and what it has allowed me and given me the opportunity to do. You know, 20 years ago it was a totally different deal. I was trying to just play and compete and beat everyone. Now I’m appreciative of having the opportunity to come back and play again. I’m just so thankful to be part of the game of golf as a competitor again.
Q. Melbourne does like to think of itself as the sporting capital of the world. How big a turnout and atmosphere are you expecting in a year’s time?
TIGER WOODS: There will probably be, what, 40,000, 50,000 people on an old, traditional golf course? Hopefully the weather will be better than it was in ’11 and not so damned hot, or so cold like it was on Saturday. That has a lot to do with the amount of turnout. If we get great weather like we are experiencing right now, 40,000, 50,000 people out there will be fantastic.
Q. Just on your own goals for next year, do you set the bar a bit higher given what you achieved this year?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, because I didn’t know what I was going to do this year. I didn’t know if I was going to make it to the Florida Swing. I didn’t know if I was going to play — how many majors I was going to play in. That was all just fluid and trying to figure that out and on the fly. Well, next year is a different thing. I understand what my body can and can’t do. I have a better understanding of how to train, and my swing has evolved throughout the year as well as my equipment. So everything has gotten better throughout the year, and towards the end of the season I started playing some of my best golf.
Q. Just back on the schedule, do you anticipate starting 2019 maybe a bit earlier than Torrey Pines, somewhere like Kapalua where it does allow you that chance to space out the season?
TIGER WOODS: I like where you’re trying to go. I haven’t quite formalized my plans yet.
Q. Is it a feeling —
TIGER WOODS: But I will let you know.
Q. Obviously you do have a really busy schedule; is there any time in the future that you could see yourself playing in Australia as an individual?
TIGER WOODS: Yes, I mean, I would love to come back over here and play. This is some of the greatest golf there is and some of the greatest fans. I’ve enjoyed coming down here since my first time in ’96, and I’ve just enjoyed it every single time I’ve come down.
CHRIS REIMER: You’ve mentioned there’s a core of the U.S. Team with Dustin and Jordan and Rickie and those players. Who are some of the young up and coming names that perhaps the fans in Australia haven’t heard of that you’ve had your eye on, a Cameron Champ or —
TIGER WOODS: Well, Cam is one of the guys that he’s just electric, how far he hits it. I haven’t seen it in person. I want to see it. Jordan, I got a chance to play with him in Las Vegas this year, and he said he got outdriven by 95 yards, I think, on one of the holes. And so that’s something that — it’s a different generation of guys that are coming through. They’re younger, they’re fitter, they’re stronger, they’re more explosive, and Cam is leading the way on that.
CHRIS REIMER: And how about on the international side maybe some of the players we haven’t seen on the international team.
TIGER WOODS: Well, HaoTong Li is up there, Cameron Smith is now making his way up there. There are a number of guys that are young and are now starting to understand how to play the game, and it’s just a matter of time before they start making these teams on a regular basis, winning golf tournaments around the world, if not major championships.
Q. You’ve played under some massive names; you mentioned Nicklaus before. What kind of captain do you hope to be?
TIGER WOODS: Well, one that leads our team to a victory, one that the guys will have a lot of fun and respect, and one that hopefully I’ll create an environment where it’ll be a moment and a week that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.
CHRIS REIMER: We’ve got a lot of fans here. Just tell them to come to the tournament.
TIGER WOODS: Come on out, please, and cheer for us, too.
CHRIS REIMER: Thank you for your time. Just a reminder there will be transcripts of today’s press conference available. We’ll get those emailed out to you. There’s a great ticket offer right now for Christmas for any of the fans who are out there. Go to PresidentsCup.com. There’s captain’s club tickets available, so take a look, but more than anything, it’s been a great couple of days with you in Melbourne. Thank you for your time. We look forward to seeing you back here in 2019.
TIGER WOODS: Absolutely. Thank you. Thanks for having me.