Albany, Bahamas – 29 November 2018: Tiger Woods is an imposing presence on the game of golf. He left a major vacuum in the game ever since he was pushed into troubled waters dealing with personal issues and recurring injuries. After undergoing three surgeries on his back, Tiger returned to the game in 2018 under a cloud of uncertainty.
He has since dispersed the clouds with a steady wave of performances that have helped Tiger regain both confidence and success on the PGA TOUR. Victory at the TOUR Championship and top ten finishes at the Open and PGA Championship were enough evidence of his return to the top of the game.
Woods and Hero Moto Corp also sealed a new deal extending their relationship – both Tiger as brand ambassador and Hero as the title sponsor of the Hero World Challenge. The new contract will last through 2021 and the event shall remain in the quaint town of Albany in the Bahamas for the duration of their contract.
We’ll go ahead and get started here. Welcome to Albany, Bahamas, and the 2018 Hero World Challenge. We are joined by tournament host and five-time champion, Tiger Woods, as well as Hero Moto Corp chairman, managing director and CEO, Mr. Pawan Munjal.
This is the fourth year of the Hero World Challenge in Albany, and recently TGR Live announced that Hero MotoCorp would be sponsoring the event for years to come. How does it feel to have that kind of support from a title sponsor?
TIGER WOODS: We’re excited, and we’re excited to have Hero with us for the next four years. They’ve been an incredible partner over the last four, and this is — for us, this was our first international event. Partnering up with an international global company like Hero has been great for us and what we’re trying to do in our expansion of our foundation and our digital platforms for kids, growing it internationally, Hero’s going to be a big part of that going forward, so we’re excited about that part of it.
From just a golf side of it, the players have always enjoyed this event, they’ve always come down and have played, and there’s no better place than having it here at Albany here in the Bahamas. Everyone enjoys it. It’s supposed to be great weather for the rest of the week and we’re going to all have some fun.
Mr. Munjal, I understand that the title sponsorship isn’t the only news of the day, so if you would like to share the rest of it.
PAWAN MUNJAL: Absolutely. As Tiger says, you all know that we already extended the contract for the Hero World Challenge, so this is our fifth year after having completed four, first at Isleworth and three here at Albany. I love it here and I’m sure we all do.
The hint he’s trying to give is that it’s not just the Hero World Challenge contract that we extended, we’ve also extended the contract with Tiger as Hero’s corporate partner. I’m very glad, I’m very glad to announce that. The first four years for both of us have gone very well, I would say great. The association is absolutely wonderful, very appropriate, very useful for both Hero and Tiger and for me personally.
We have carried the brand Hero with Tiger’s brand into many new geographies in these four years, and going forward I’m sure we will be going into many, many more geographies with or without our products, but the brand Hero is surely going across the globe and we’re very happy to attach our brand with Tiger’s.
Q. By sheer numbers alone, you can’t look at this year as your best ever, you’ve probably had a dozen other better performances. What adjective would you put, how was this year different in terms of the way you measure it?
TIGER WOODS: This year as a whole? Probably the most rewarding, because there was a point where, you’ve all heard me say this, I just didn’t know if I would ever do this again, but then to get myself to a point where early on that I showed myself that I could win a golf tournament by finishing second in Tampa, then having the failures at Bay Hill and The Open Championship and PGA, but I just felt I was getting a little bit closer to it. You always hear me say it, it’s a process, but if you look at this entire year, it literally was a process. You saw me have flashes, and then I would rework a few things here and there. Towards the end of the year I just became more and more consistent as a tournament player again.
Q. If you would have finished second at the TOUR Championship, would it still have been rewarding?
TIGER WOODS: Probably not as, no, but I didn’t.
Q. You had few expectations last year. What are your expectations going forwardthis year?
TIGER WOODS: Well, the expectations are much different this year, this upcoming year. Going into this year, in ’18, it was like, okay, let’s see if I can get through the west coast. Well, I missed the cut in L.A., second at a tournament in Tampa, I can make a run to Augusta. Well, let’s see my schedule. I should be able to make it through the summer, that sort of thing.
Now I know that I can do it, now it’s just about managing and making sure I’m fresh for events because I know I can win tournaments again.
Q. Tiger, go back to East Lake, how hairy was that lie over the 17th green on Sunday? What did you do to compose yourself?
TIGER WOODS: Well, the lie was tough because most of the lies we had around East Lake that particular week were all pretty gnarly, pretty high grass. There really wasn’t a bottom and so we were playing more splash shots. That one I hit over to a sparse part of the rough where my bounce was going to get exposed and I just didn’t want it exposed too much, so I used a little bit more leading edge on that shot than normal, and especially for all the shots I had been playing the entire week.
So that part was tough, and the fact that I only had a two-shot lead. If I don’t get this up and down, it’s a one-shot lead. Playing the last hole with a one-shot lead is a little different. Playing with a 2, I can handle that. And that’s why it was important to get that up and down, because I just bogeyed the last two holes coming off that. Last thing I wanted to do was make three straight bogeys and have a one-shot lead on the last hole and make a mistake again. There were a lot of things going through my head, a lot of different scenarios, like there always are. I’m just running through different scenarios, and the easiest scenario was get this thing up and down and go win it up 18.
Q. Tiger, you suggested earlier that maybe you might have pushed yourself a little bit more this year than you would have expected or that you wanted, especially towards the end. Was the Ryder Cup a breaking point in that sense, and also, has it helped you learn for next year what you’ll do differently?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I was not physically prepared to play that much golf at the end of the year. I had taken days off here or there, tournaments off, just trying to conserve energy and making sure my body is still good. I didn’t want to hurt anything. But I ended up playing seven out of nine to end the year. I got into Bridgestone on the number because of my finish at the Open Championship. So there was a week going into the British Open, I really wasn’t on the list yet. And then I enter it, play it, and then the Playoffs start coming around. And it’s one those years, you guys have been out here long enough, it has never been this hot. Every single tournament, it was just stifling. Starting out in DC, then you go to Akron. Even the PGA was hot for all the days. It was hot in New York, Boston. It was just hot. It was just hard for me to maintain my strength and my weight through all that. I tend to lose a lot of weight when I play. I was exhausted by the time I got to the Ryder Cup. I was worn out mentally, physically, emotionally, but thank God the Ryder Cup started on Friday so I had an extra day to get my juices flowing again.
Q. You’ve had some pretty intense offseason workouts and times working on your game through the years. How does that compare, those days to these days? How do you work on your game, how do you work on your body in this sort of nebulous offseason?
TIGER WOODS: I don’t train anywhere near like I used to. I just physically can’t do it anymore. I took a significant break off after the Ryder Cup, got away from it for a bit. My training sessions have been good. I’ve been getting a little bit stronger. My core and my legs are definitely stronger than they have been, which is a positive. Now I get started working on my game and getting that organized heading into next year. Haven’t really spent a lot of time doing that. I’ve been working more on getting my body ready to handle the rigors of long practice sessions again and getting back to that. So that’s something I’m looking forward to.
Q. Is it different doing it without a coach? Is that a new experience for you? Must be a different feeling.
TIGER WOODS: It is a different feeling and I guess anyone can tell you this as an older athlete, there are some days where you just don’t feel very good. That’s part of the deal. Those are the days I just shut it down. I just don’t push through it. I was explaining last year, on my days I didn’t feel good in years past, I would just go run five miles, make myself feel better. Well, that’s not happening anymore. I’ve got to learn that the body’s just a little different now.
Q. Tiger, when you look at 2019, the first three majors are staged at places where you had great success. Given what you did at the last two majors and you combine that in with where you’re headed, what’s your confidence level like heading into major season this year?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it’s something that — what I did in the last two major championships, I gave myself a chance to win both of them and I was right there. That’s ultimately what we want to have happen. Now it’s about trying to get everything to peak together like I did for those two weeks to do it again four more times. That’s the trick.
As you look at anyone who’s ever played this game, that is the most difficult thing to do in this game. That’s why most people haven’t won a lot of major championships, because it’s so hard to do. Fortunately, I was able to do it 14 times and hopefully more in the future.
Q. Does that define when you’re back, winning another major?
TIGER WOODS: I wouldn’t say so, no. Just being able to win a golf tournament again considering where I was at this point last year and pre that point, yeah, I think what I’ve accomplished this year has been pretty special.
Q. When you get to 2019 proper and you start looking at your schedule, how do you sort of balance the role now as captain of the U.S. Presidents Cup team, and is it still your goal to be a playing captain when you go to Melbourne?
TIGER WOODS: Bernie, over the course of the next calendar year here I’m going to be talking to a lot of the guys. There are a lot of changes that can happen points-wise. The guys can play their way on to the team, off the team, me being one of them.
Would I like to be a playing captain? Yes. There has been that precedent already been set, 1994 when Hale Irwin was captain, but if I remember correctly, the Presidents Cup, that team started four to six months prior to that date, but he already made the team on points. That’s very similar to what I would do. If I make the team on points, yes, I’ll play.
Now, if I don’t make it on points, then it’s up to myself, my vice captains and the rest of the players who are already on the team, who is the best suited to play. If we find — if we think that it’s someone else, then I don’t play. It will be a team decision on who are the next four picks.
Q. Why is the Bahamas a great place for Hero World Challenge and what are some of your favorite things about the Bahamas?
TIGER WOODS: Well, one of the great things about the Bahamas is for us to come down here, enjoy the weather, come down here and enjoy just the scenery, the clear water. It’s just very relaxed and very laid back. I think anyone who’s come down here to experience Albany here in particular, everyone always enjoys it. The fact that we have a world-class golf tournament, Hero World Challenge, here just adds to the environment.
Q. Two quick things. One, were you able to put on a lot of the weight that you lost throughout the season during these past couple weeks?
TIGER WOODS: I was until I got sick, and then I lost whatever I put on.
Q. When did you get sick?
TIGER WOODS: Started Friday night, Saturday.
Q. And number two, just where are you at with your schedule right now, and is there anything set in stone yet for the coming months?
TIGER WOODS: The only thing set in stone is I’m playing Genesis and the four majors. Other than that, we are still taking a look at it as far as what is — what is too much. Do we know what — seven of the last nine to end my season was too much, what can I handle going forward. I need to make sure that I am, as I said, rested and ready to play.
What I have found through all that, that I feel — I played all my good tournaments when I had time off and I felt rested. If I didn’t feel rested, I didn’t play well. Maybe that’s just being a little bit older, but I think it’s important, and playing seven of the last nine last year was too much.
Q. Tiger, we’re coming up on the 20th anniversary of your first win at Torrey. Just wondering what you recall about that Sunday with Billy Ray and what made him such a tough opponent?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, well, this was a pretty good weekend, I shot 62-65. I remember teeing off, I basically teed off at the same time as the leaders. I was the second-to-last group off on Saturday but off the 10th tee and posted 62. The leaders didn’t do much because it was a little bit on the windier side that day, and lo and behold I find myself there in the lead group.
I go out there and I shoot 65, hit some big drive down 18. Billy Ray kind of lays the sod over a shot down 18 and I stuff one in there and the game’s basically over and I end up making the putt.
That was a big win for me because — you guys know the story, this was the first tournament, Tour event that my dad ever took me to, the old Andy Williams. So for me that was a big deal for me to win a tournament my dad first took me to.
Q. The fear of the Tiger. This time last year we spoke about the fear of the Tiger against some of the younger lot who had not seen you play at your best because they were kids.
TIGER WOODS: That’s — you make me feel old. Yeah, some of these guys were in diapers when I turned pro, so to be able to compete against them now means I’ve been out here a long time, but also that looking back over the course of my career I’ve been pretty successful with what I’ve done and I’ve done it at a high level for a long period of time, and that’s something that I’m very proud of.
Q. Mr. Munjal, I heard a very interesting story about how you followed Tiger when he was on the verge of winning the Tour Championship. Can you just give us a bit of details on that, when he was winning in Atlanta, you were mid air somewhere around Europe?
PAWAN MUNJAL: Yeah, I was on a flight from Delhi to Budapest, and unfortunately the wifi was broken so I had nowhere to actually see livestream the game. I was obviously keen to know what was going on, so I was on the SAT phone every 15 minutes with the ground in Budapest getting the scores. I might have asked the pilot to land somewhere. Things were not going —
Q. Because it was the week after, have you had time to soak in the win at the TOUR Championship?
TIGER WOODS: No, we didn’t celebrate it, didn’t really do anything. I got a bunch of texts that I was trying to return as we got on to the flight and before I fell asleep on the flight, but that was about it. I didn’t really do anything celebratory-wise post-TOUR Championship until I got home because our attention was to get ready for the Ryder Cup in a few days.
Q. Going forward, is there a future for The Match, and just what feedback have you gotten?
TIGER WOODS: I think we’ve got some positive feedback overall. There’s some things in which we can make it better for the viewer, but I think a lot of people turned in and tried — well, tried to watch and then ended up watching.
But I think overall the experience was positive. Obviously there’s some things we can do as far as interaction and as far as play. I wish we both would have played better, but neither one of us putted well that day and there were some tough hole locations out there.
So maybe going forward, just don’t quite have the greens so fast or the pins so difficult, but also as short as the golf course was playing, we should have made at least seven, eight birdies a piece. We just did not.
Q. To follow up on what Steve said a minute ago and just an observation that maybe is on our end more than yours, but you talked about this process for the year and it ends with this great victory, No. 80, and then we’re in Paris the next day getting ready for the Ryder Cup. It almost feels like this big moment, which it was, got shortchanged. Did it feel that way to you at all?
TIGER WOODS: Not at all.
Q. Because you’re in the same boat in terms of having to turn around.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I did a bunch of interviews that post round. I was there at the golf course for a few hours and then went straight to the Ryder Cup hotel where we signed all of our stuff before we got on the plane. Then we got on the plane and we left for Paris.
As far as celebrating the win, I didn’t do that until I got home. Then family, friends, we ended up celebrating and they threw a surprise celebration for me at The Woods. So that was special to have everyone come out, everyone who’s close to me be a part of that. It’s become kind of our, I guess, Jupiter tradition now. All the guys, when guys win, we go there to celebrate. Finally they get to celebrate one of my wins finally, which hasn’t happened.
Q. Secondly, it’s a little unfair to put you on the spot like this in terms of memory, but what would you consider the most remarkable shot you hit this year and why? Maybe the best shot, whatever you want to do.
TIGER WOODS: Well, for how I viewed it at the time, this is in the moment, the shot I hit down 10 at the Open Championship out of that bunker, I thought that this is the tournament, I win The Open Championship or lose The Open Championship on this shot. If it clips the bunker, I lose. If it comes out, I’m going to go ahead and win this thing.
You saw the speed I put into it and the shot I hit. To be able to pull that off knowing that I hadn’t done this in a very long time. I knew this was the moment. This was going to turn and this is how I was going to win this tournament because this is what I’ve done before in the past. There are moments when in a tournament where you know this is the shot that’s going to win or lose the event. Unfortunately, I didn’t win it, but at the time to know it and pull it off, that gave me a lot of confidence going forward, to be honest with you.
Q. Julius Boros became the oldest major winner at 48. Keeping in mind that you are turning 43 and you have time at your disposal, do your fancy your chances to go past the magic 18, because Jack Nicklaus also won his last major at 46?
TIGER WOODS: 46, yeah. And some guys have had success in their 40s, Vijay being one of them, Sam Snead being another and Hogan being another. There’s a precedent for guys having a lot of success in their 40s and I feel I now have a chance to do something in my 40s. It’s just a matter of doing it. I’ve proven to myself that I can put myself in position, something that I’ve been away from the game for a number of years now. But to put myself back in the last two major championships with a legitimate chance to win the tournament, you know, that gives me a lot of confidence going forward, the fact that I put myself there. If I put myself there, then I know I can win it.
Q. Tiger, I’m assuming East Lake was the highlight of the year. Was there a moment before that throughout the course of the season that maybe felt like this is me going over the top, this is me doing what I need to do to win, as you just said?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I think it was taking the lead at the Open Championship, that was just the rush of it all, of fighting my way up to that lead. I know I was mocked a little bit for my game plan with the media and some of the people outside of the game, but I was playing my own game and my game plan was to put myself there with a chance and win the golf tournament. And I did that, I just didn’t win the golf tournament.
Looking back on The Open Championship, that gave me a lot of — that gave me a lot of confidence to go into the end of the summer because I was able to formulate a game plan, stick to my game plan, execute it, and on top of that, put myself there where I was the one leading it at one point on the back nine. I made a couple mistakes, which I then tried to clean up at the PGA, make sure I don’t make those same mistakes, learn from them, and then I applied it again at the TOUR Championship.
Q. Following up on that, there have been so many Sundays where you’ve woken up with the lead, and of course you did so at East Lake. Was it like riding a bike or was it different?
TIGER WOODS: It felt very comfortable. When I was there with a chance to win at Tampa my fourth event in, that — even that felt comfortable being there. So I knew that winning a golf tournament wasn’t going to be some new experience like I had never won before.
What made the TOUR Championship so special is I took the lead on the first day. I made that eagle putt playing with Tommy, that allowed me to feel it every single day that I had to stay on my toes every single day, and I did.
To build on that lead as the week went on, you saw the start I got off to on Saturday, things like that are not easy to do with the lead, and I was able to do it and I was able to maintain it. You add in the whole year and then how that week transpired is what makes it so special.
Q. Tiger, when you were at your worst with the back pain, it seemed when you had off weeks where you were recuperating more than you were preparing for the next event. Can you pinpoint a time this year when that was not the case, where you felt like, hey, I don’t have to just rest and recuperate now, I can actually prepare for the next event, and how big is that?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it was usually when I had a couple weeks off, and so the first week was a chance to rest and the second week was a chance to prepare. As I said at the end of the season, it was a little bit different deal. I felt like I never could rest and always I was chasing being prepared.
So I think that being physically in better shape going into next season is very important in being able to handle the condensed schedule and all the big events we play every month. There’s literally a big event every single month, so physically I’ve got to be in better shape than I was last year to be able to handle that because last year was a moving target, in let’s try and make it through the west coast, let’s try and make it to Augusta. It was always something, it wasn’t the whole year was planned out. This year is different because after — I’m sorry, next season’s different because of what I’ve gone through this year.