Northwestern Talks Holiday Bowl and Utah Utes

Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald talked about the upcoming Holiday Bowl clash with the Utah Utes

PAT FITZGERALD: Thank you. On behalf of Maury Schapiro, our president, Jim Phillips, our great director of athletics, all our great alums in the state of California, excited to see them. Saw them in Berkeley, great experience.

We are honored to be here at the San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl. Our guys have earned this opportunity. It’s been a long road, a long journey for us this year. Really challenging, challenging season. But our guys really responded well, dealt with the adversity we had to fight through. I’m incredibly proud of them.

I’ve had a chance to get to know Kyle well over our years, being part of the Under Armour family. To watch his team on tape, absolutely outstanding football team. It’s going to be a huge challenge for us. Hopefully we’ll prepare well and come out and put on a good show for everybody here in Southern California.

Our first time obviously here in the Holiday Bowl. To be in San Diego, Mark, thank you, all the great volunteers that make this bowl special. Someone that has had the privilege of playing two bowl games myself, now lead our institution to a number of bowl games, I’m a firm believer in the bowl system. The opportunity it presents for our student-athletes, a majority of our guys have never been to San Diego, this opportunity will be absolutely outstanding for them.

There’s nothing like a bowl game to bring a university together. All of our West Coast alums, to get an opportunity to come here to San Diego to really enjoy, especially for us Chicagoans, the wonderful weather. It was great leaving 32 degrees on the airplane, landing everybody was excited, the weather was bad. I am like, This is pretty good. We’ll take this anyway.

An honor to represent the Big Ten. We found a way to win the West this year. Ran into a tough challenge in the Big Ten championship game. Our guys have earned this great opportunity. We’re honored to be here.

On behalf of our entire football program, thank you for the invitation, thank you so much. Go Cats.

I can answer some questions.

Q. Coaching philosophies in bowl games. Your attitude about how much flexibility you’re going to give regarding curfews. How much for fun, how much for business?
PAT FITZGERALD: I wish I had Kyle’s record. You’re 11-1. Unbelievable. I’m going to ask him after the game what he does.

Quite frankly, I think a bowl game is a reward for a great season. I want our guys to have fun. We’re in finals right now in Evanston. We had practice this morning before I got on the plane to come out. We’ll practice again Wednesday and Friday, Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday of next week. I’ll give the guys about five days off. We’ll come down Christmas night.

I want them for a couple days to enjoy the sights, scenes and sounds of San Diego. Our seniors have been to four straight bowls, four unique places for their lives. I want them to enjoy it, have fun.

But it’s about motivation and preparation. You have to be motivated the right way when you show up for meetings and practice. You have to prepare the right way, especially with a great Utah team that we’re playing. We’re going to have our hands full on the field, we know that. We have to prepare properly to make sure we’re prepared for the game.

I want to bring our family together, our football family, our university family together, really enjoy the moment being here in San Diego.

Q. Holiday Bowl has a history of high-scoring games. Do you think defense might take a night off?
PAT FITZGERALD: It’s funny, we’ve been a part of a lot of interesting matchups throughout our year in the Big Ten, gone into some games and Monday press conferences both defenses are highly ranked. You think it is going to be a low-scoring game. We give up more points than we ever gave up.

Their defense is absolutely outstanding. I can read through the stats. When you pop on the tape, they play tough, they play physical, they play with grit, they play together. It’s really impressive to watch. Then the adversity they’ve overcome at Utah with the amount of injuries they’ve had, especially on the offensive side of the ball, has been so impressive to watch their young players mature, then to win obviously the Pac South.

You pop that on, right, you just go to yourself, Wow, we have our hands full. As you look to this matchup here on New Year’s Eve, I think it really comes down to, quite frankly, typically who executes well based on the way you prepare. I assume both teams are going to prepare really well. You don’t win a divisional championship without preparing well.

I’ve seen some articles, press conferences this year, what they’ve done, really impressive. Going to be a huge challenge.

Q. As you said, four straight bowls for the seniors, first ever Holiday Bowl. What milestone does that say about your program versus where it was five, ten years ago?
PAT FITZGERALD: Well, I say a lot in Chicago: We’re not your father’s Northwestern. Back in the day, it was obviously a different time. Quite frankly, the support that our players received was not where it is today.

We’re very grateful, thankful for what we receive. We just moved into a brand-new $270 million facility on the shores of Lake Michigan. Very thankful for that.

This is a reward for our great year. Proud of our seniors. Hopefully we’ll prepare well and play an outstanding Utah team.

Q. Your first time out here. What does the Holiday Bowl mean to your players? Were they curious about what it’s all about in San Diego, the history?
PAT FITZGERALD: Yeah, some of the guys came to me after they heard the announcement they were coming out to the Holiday Bowl. They were like, Coach, these games have been shootouts. It will be a wild one.

Go to class, I’ll see you at practice tomorrow. Whatever.

This is one of those games as a kid from the Midwest you would watch growing up. You dream of going to California, playing in the post-season, getting a bowl opportunity. The great, rich tradition and history here of this great bowl game.

For our guys to be part of it means the world. Four great bowl games for us is spectacular. We’re excited for the opportunity. Wish it was against an opponent that wasn’t as tough as Kyle’s guys. It’s going to be a huge challenge.

It’s an amazing opportunity for our young men. We’re excited for it.

Q. Coach Whittingham has a history with this game. Do you remember what you were doing from 1978 to ’81?
PAT FITZGERALD: 1978, I was four years old (laughter). 1981, I was eight years old (laughter).

I’ll leave that between my mom, my dad and myself. I’m sure I was not the greatest kid. I think I was a little bit of a wild hair. But it was a lot of fun, yeah.

Q. The fact that it is being played on New Year’s Eve, does that add to any of the fun of it?
PAT FITZGERALD: Yeah, absolutely. It’s going to be great playing on New Year’s Eve. I think number one, how about everybody here in San Diego coming out to the game, starting the New Year’s Eve party at 4:00. You can roll out of the game, take a shower, rally, go out and celebrate the new year.

We’re anticipating having a lot of fun. That’s what bowl games are all about. It’s exciting, fun. We get an opportunity to bring our young men, very few have been to San Diego to have this unique opportunity to be a part of this amazing community, to share in the culture, have a lot of fun, hopefully give back a little bit, really experience what bowl season is all about.

Indiana Squeezes Past Louisville

ARCHIE MILLER: Credit Chris and Louisville. Just in watching them on film, I think I said it a couple times, they’ve improved from day one to today as much as any team that we’ve seen. They do a great job on both ends of the floor. I think they’re going to have a fantastic season.

For our guys, I give them a lot of credit. It’s a tough environment to bring anybody in here and play. It’s also finding a way to hang in there when things aren’t going well, make some adjustments on the fly, then finding a way to get to the last couple minutes of the game.

There was a lot of winning plays again. We’ve been in this situation it seems like for the last few weeks. I anticipate it being this way for the rest of the season. So to know a group can finish or find a way to finish with its offense or defense is good.

I’m hopeful, to be honest with you, our team, as long as we continue to stay as healthy as possible, that we can even take it to another level because we have such a long gap in terms of the potential on how much better we can actually get.

But there were some really, really hard plays in the game that guys had to make. I was proud of them. They did a great job.


Q. Rob hits a three to give you your first lead. He hits another one to give you the lead for good. Talk about that.
ARCHIE MILLER: Yeah, Rob did a heck of a job I thought in general. He only turned it over one time, six defensive rebounds. We need him to hunt more shots. He’s very reluctant right now to shoot unless he’s wide open. He’s a good shooter. The two that he hit in the second half were big. I was glad that he read it. Clearly the shot at the top was really well executed. He stepped in and drilled it.

He continues to do a really good job for us. He had a good week. Our Penn State game, this game. He was big in the last four minutes of the game. You need your point guard to be able to do that.

Q. They spurted out on your several times. You got three or four possessions where you could have taken the lead, didn’t get it. What was the message to your team during that time?
ARCHIE MILLER: From a defensive standpoint, continue to bring the energy on the ball. They’re a team that really moves and executes. If you allow them to move and execute, they’re going to get good looks.

The second part was to continue to emphasize defensive rebounding. When we gave them long rebounds or second shots, they made us pay. That was discouraging.

From an offensive standpoint, it was just continue to trust and move the ball. Move the ball, move yourself, let’s get good action. I thought at times being able to play through the post, De’Ron had a great session there, Juwan was good at times feeding in and out.

Romeo in general continually being aggressive, drawing 10 fouls in the game, that’s what he does. Being able to get to the line 14 times, kept us right in there.

50/50 plays, whether it was a stop or we were able to get a basket, hang in there, then the last two minutes a couple key winning plays.

Q. You were a little bit up and down sometimes in games like this last season, where you had to be patient, wait for the opportunity to get a lead. There’s new guys on this team. What is different about maybe the way they can approach these tight games?
ARCHIE MILLER: I would hope they would think our defense can carry us when things aren’t going well. Doesn’t mean you’re going to shut them out. When you need a run, when you need the ability to get back in the game or you need something to happen, sometimes it’s not offense, sometimes it’s defense.

The one thing that’s been evident with this group, we’re much better, we’re much tougher, we’re much bigger at times on the floor than we’ve been in the past. We’re able to get key stops at times to help us.

I think we had a window about four minutes where I don’t think they got a field goal in that stretch. That’s what you need to have, especially as you start to look towards January and February in the Big Ten. It’s going to be tough. You have to hang your hat on that.

We have a lot of room to free throw on offense. We have to keep getting better there, make the game easy on ourselves. As we continue to elevate that side of the ball with more chemistry, more movement, more sharing, we’ll be even harder to deal with.

I think this team has a leader in Juwan that we trust. I think Zach being back out there continues to give a guy that trust. I think as our new guys have sort of approached the floor, they’re gaining trust a little bit, as well.

Without question, there’s a go-to guy, go-to guys, there’s also the go-to ability to get some stops at times. Not that we’re perfect. We’ve been able to dig in in a lot of games, find a way to get our defense to be able to give us a little offense.

Q. De’Ron had eight points in 14 minutes. How huge is it to be able to have a big guy like him come off the bench and score in the post, make similar passes like Juwan does?
ARCHIE MILLER: When he plays minutes, he gets fouled, you can obviously play through him. I think he’s very shifty in the blocks going against other big guys. He’s comfortable down there. He’s a willing passer, he is unselfish.

His 14 minutes tonight were really, really big. He did a great job. To be honest with you, to credit him, he’s had to fight through that body pain, soreness, getting in shape while you’re injured.

Right now he’s been able to practice the last few weeks really consistent. I think he’s in the best shape he’s been. He’s in the best shape he’s been in. He has another month before conference play starts where he can take one more jump conditioning-wise, which will help him play more minutes.

Without question, De’Ron is a big part of what we’re doing. When he’s able to play a lot of minutes, he gives us another presence on the floor against other big people.

Q. What has made Rob so good in the first couple months of the season? How big has it been to have a guy like that step into that role so quick, so young?
ARCHIE MILLER: Rob, without realizing it, how physically strong he is, how sturdy he is as a guard. There’s very few freshmen guards that can do what he does for 33 minutes in terms of the defensive side of the ball, which we ask him to do.

He’s also a tough kid. You don’t really know how tough a guy is, what they’re made of, until you get them going. He’s taking advantage of the opportunities he’s been given. He’s played well. He’s had a great work ethic about it. He’s also learning how to play point guard in college, a lot different than playing point guard in high school. I think he’s doing a better job running our team.

He’s been a great, great addition to the program all the way around, on and off the floor.

Q. When it comes to Romeo’s ability to drive, either score or get fouled, is that in his bag of tricks despite how he’s shooting on the perimeter, or will that get more effective for him?
ARCHIE MILLER: Romeo is as gifted as it gets in terms of getting to the basket. Shooting the ball well, not shooting the ball well, that’s not his MO. His MO is he’s obviously been a great attacking guard off the dribble. I don’t think a lot of people understand how physically big and strong he is as a freshman, how gifted he is in his length offensively as he’s approaching the paint.

I thought he was as aggressive as he’s been all season tonight. You draw 10 fouls, shoot 14 free throws, that’s pretty impressive against that team as a freshman. He’s definitely a guy that I think sees himself more as an attacking guard than just a shooter.

Q. How do you feel like Romeo is holding up physically? Do you worry about the grind of an entire season?
ARCHIE MILLER: I think the wear and tear of all college basketball players plays a role. That’s why you got to be smart during your opportunities with practice time. He’s diligent in terms of taking care of his body off the floor as well.

I think if you’ve watched him play over the course of the last couple years, you have a feeling he’s at the basket quite a bit, up on the rim quite a bit. He is going to get hit. He takes contact well. He’s not a little guy. He’s not a little guy. He’s 6’6″, 215 pounds. The blows that he delivers, he gives some as well.

We want him to play even stronger, got to get him rebounding the ball a little bit better. I think he’ll be fine with that. I think as we get into Big Ten play, definitely will be something that our team in general will have to deal with, is just the battle of the physical.

Q. You played 10 games in a little over a month. Now you have one in the next 10 days. How does your approach change in terms of practice?
ARCHIE MILLER: It won’t. We have to be mindful of our players. We’re in finals week. You have to be mindful of those guys, giving them enough time, enough attention, making sure their exams are being taken care of.

We’ve always approached the finals week with our team as being able to give them multiple days off to concentrate on the testing. But it’s like I told them, when we work, we’re going to work. We have to get better this week as we approach our next opportunity against Butler. We can take a few steps here if we’re smart in terms of our team.

I think as long as we approach the everyday process the right way, we’re going to continue to get better because we do have a lot of upside and room to grow.

We’ll approach this week as we normally do, exams first, then practice times go to work. Mix up the week with a little of the weekday off to let them recuperate, then get to our Saturday afternoon game up in Indianapolis.

Q. (Question about Justin Smith.)
ARCHIE MILLER: Justin played a terrific game. Our staff and team saw a film from Penn State the other day, he did as good a job on Lamar Stevens as anyone has done all season long.

We were worried about Jordan, his three-point ability, ability to play on the perimeter. We just felt he was too big and too strong for maybe our guards to be able to stay on him.

I’ll tell you what, again Justin has delivered a really good defensive performance. We knew he was going to make some tough ones, not that he’s perfect. I thought he really competed late in the game. He was able to rebound the ball again, nine more rebounds.

If Justin is getting nine rebounds, playing 30 minutes, he gets nine points, doesn’t turn it over, that’s the guy he has to be for us now.

We put him in a couple different positions here in the last game that I think will help him take care of the ball a little bit more, as well.

Q. Romeo, what are some things you’re seeing him struggle with at the line? He still hit a couple shots he had to at the end there.
ARCHIE MILLER: I don’t know what he’s struggling with, to be honest with you, at the line. I think he’s a good free throw shooter. The fact he gets there quite a bit, he’ll only get more comfortable there.

He’s fearless. I knew when he was going up for the late ones in the game he was going to be able to step up because that’s what he does. He’s a gamer. He’s able to finish.

I think more importantly is the amount he’s getting there. That’s the key number for him. He’ll get better as the season goes in making them. He’ll get better just in general because of who he is as a player.

He’s approached the month of December as good as you can as a young guy that has enough on his shoulders. Gotten better in October to November, November to December. Now let’s get December to January. He knows that. He’s got to put himself in a situation where he gets better every month of the season. He has a great attitude.

He’s going to have more opportunities to go to the line, and I think he’ll get better as the season goes.

Q. Were you pleased overall with how you were at the three? The 10 turnovers, something you also are happy with?
ARCHIE MILLER: Defending the three-point line, we weren’t very good I didn’t think in the first half. A lot of it happened with broken plays or long rebounds that we weren’t able to secure. They did a good job of hitting a couple. They have a good shooting team.

I think the second part of it in the second half we did a better job of being able to get there, challenge them, make it harder. Nwora is a really good three-point shooter as well. He’s a difficult matchup. He’s a really improved player. He’s one of the better players we’ve seen all season.

The fact they took so many, the percentage was what it was, you have to say hopefully the law of averages comes back around.

But yeah, I think if you look at the percentages by the game, I don’t know what this new stat sheet looks like, I think they shot 6-15 in the second half, 5-17 in the first half. The second half was a little bit hard. 11-32 with 34% isn’t bad. 38% overall is a much different number when you think about it because their two point field goal percentage coming in, the way the get fouled, coming in with their size and ability to get to the line. They went to the line 13 times, shot 38%.

The Presidents Cup Media Conference

Melbourne, Australia

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 —

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?


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 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.